Originally posted in the 2021 Sounds Like Dramione collection on AO3. Winner Runner Up: Best Intimate Moment
Tags: Emotional Hurt/Comfort, Romance, Falling In Love, Slow Dancing, Happy Ending, Enemies to Friends to Lovers, Wartime, Galleons, Spy Draco Malfoy, Sexual Content
Disclaimer: The characters do not belong to me but are the property of J.K.R. and Warner Bros. No copyright infringement is intended. Thank you to my alpha and/or beta for their time and help.
The prompt for my story was:
"Heaven is a place on Earth with you
Tell me all the things you wanna do
I heard that you like the bad girls, honey
Is that true?
It's better than I ever even knew
They say that the world was built for two
Only worth living if somebody is loving you
And baby, now, you do"
Video Games by Lana Del Rey
A loud crack alerts Hermione to a guest. She hasn't had many of those recently, and if she feels bitter about that, well, she has every right to those feelings.
She walks through her childhood home and out into the back garden. Stepping out from behind an overgrown shrub is messy hair and a flash of light that must be her back porch light reflecting off glasses.
"Harry?" It feels like a dream. She hasn't seen Harry since he picked up the last batch of Wolfsbane, which was almost three weeks ago. "What are you doing here?" she asks, still not sure she isn't hallucinating.
"I come bearing gifts!" He announces, stepping briskly up the garden path, his arms occupied with a large box.
Hermione can't help but smile; seeing her best friend is the best thing to happen in so long. She considers the box and releases a laugh. "I would hardly call a food run a gift. I do go to the Muggle market, you know."
"You doubt me! This is not food, though there are some supplies. But this is something special. Call it a late birthday present." His smile is broad and genuine, and it makes Hermione's chest ache.
Even when she was living at the Order of the Phoenix safe houses with the others, she saw it so rarely. So, it actually makes her a little suspicious.
"Okayyyy. Hey Harry, what was Padfoot's nickname for me?"
His smile fades. "Kitten. You're secret keeper, and I'm the only person you've told."
"Sorry, I know that, but you just…I don't know, Harry, is something wrong? You're smiling like you just won the House Cup."
"I am happy, and I'll even tell you why, but first, maybe you can get us a couple of drinks while I set this up?"
"Okayyyy, but Harry Potter, I expect an explanation."
Hermione walks into the kitchen and grabs two of the Muggle beers Harry prefers and returns to the living room. She's startled to find Harry hooking up a Nintendo. Not the newest model, but a Super NES like she played at her neighbor's house before Hogwarts.
"Yes! I know you're still smarting about the lockdown—"
"It's not right, Harry! I'm one of our best duelists." Hermione sets down their drinks and takes an angry breath in through her nose. They've argued about this before but just thinking about it makes her heart pound.
A cool hand touches her forearm. "I know. Kingsley and Remus know it as well. But you're also our best potioneer. Our only potioneer, actually."
Dropping into one of the armchairs, she sighs sadly. The loss of Snape was only the beginning of the Order's losses. And even though Aurors were required to pass NEWT potions, very few maintained the skill for more advanced potioneering. And they had so few healers that they couldn't give up their time to make potions.
"You are the only person in the Order capable of making Wolfsbane potion, Hermione. We cannot risk you. Not with the way that Greyback and his pack are targeting us. Targeting you."
Hermione shakes with the memory of her last field mission, Greyback yelling her name, commanding his pack to find her. Anti-apparition wards and a mad dash across an open field to take Ginny's hand. Their portkey activating just in time to escape.
An unknown owl had arrived at headquarters later that same night with an unambiguous message. The packs were out for Hermione's blood. The note had also included a specific warning about Greyback's particular obsession with Hermione.
Hermione sighs and shakes her head. She just can't begin to understand why the interest in her over any of the others. She's been told it has to do with her being a Muggleborn, but it just seems absurd to her. But regardless of her mystification over the situation, facts are facts.
"I know, and the logical side of me even agrees. I know I'm both an asset and a liability. It's why I agreed to this living arrangement—even if I hate it. I just feel so…impotent."
"Here." He hands her a controller as the Mario Kart opening fills the telly. "I'm hoping giving your brain a bit of a break will help."
"Not so mindless, did you know Muggle research has shown that playing games like this increases problem-solving, fine motor skills, and hand-eye coordination?"
"Yes…I did know that, how do you?"
"Bloke at the pawnshop wouldn't shut up, but I figured you might find it interesting." He shrugs.
"You figured correctly. If science supports its use, we really should indulge a bit."
Harry stays late into the night, early morning, really. And it's the most fun Hermione's had in what feels like years. As she's walking her best friend to the apparition point in the back garden, he gives her a tight hug followed by a wry smile.
"I miss you 'Mione, and I know you hate this, but remember how I said I was happy?" She nods. "There's an important job that only you can do. You're the only person I trust, and the Order needs this. We need it more than anything else."
"Seriously, Harry? You waited until four in the morning to tell me. What's going on?"
"Umm…yeah, you're the handler for our new spy."
"A spy? Harry, I don't have any training for that. Wouldn't one of the Aurors be better? I'm still basically a kid to most of these people."
"You were specifically requested. Well, demanded, really. And…um…here's the thing, Hermione, the Order doesn't actually know. This is my contact, our contact."
"And who is this contact?"
"He'll be arriving by portkey tomorrow, or erm…I guess tonight."
She puts her hands on her hips. "Harry."
"He knows to be on his best behavior. I actually think you'll find him quite changed if you give him a chance."
"Yes." Harry adjusts his glasses in an old nervous gesture. "Just remember, he came to me at great risk to himself and his family. He was very clear; he will only work with you."
"Hermione Jean Granger, did you just swear?"
"The situation called for it."
"It's going to be all right. We need this. We need you. And if you need anything, you know how to reach me." He pats his pocket where she knows an innocuous-looking galleon sits.
She pats her pocket that contains its mate, and then she reaches out and hugs him one last time. "Go before I decide to hurt you. I need to sleep and prepare."
"Love you, Mione."
"Love you, too."
A crack rents the air, and exhaustion hits Hermione. She can worry about what she will do with Draco Malfoy later when she doesn't feel so fuzzy. Now is the time for sleep.
The swing in the garden of Hermione's parent's home holds a lot of memories for her. Drinking tea with her mum. Sharing stories about magic with her dad. She can almost forget that the world is in shambles and that her parents are gone.
The wards waver, and she feels him arrive. Rather than leave her comfortable spot on the swing, Hermione continues to glide. Her hand is tightly wrapped around her wand, where it's hidden beneath the excess fabric of her dress. After a few moments, Draco Malfoy appears from behind the shrubs that hide her apparition point. It's nice to know the portkeys she made work as designed.
"Granger." Both of his hands are in the air, very obviously wand free, but that only gives Hermione a small amount of comfort. If he's as accomplished as she believes he's come to be, he can likely do wandless magic proficiently.
"Malfoy. Just a quick identity check. Tell me something only you and I would know."
His shoulders straighten, and his eyes lock with hers. When you were lying on our drawing-room floor, I spoke to you just like this. I begged you to hold on because I had heard noises from the dungeon and knew your rescue was imminent.
Hermione throws him out of her mind and takes a ragged breath. "Yes. You did. I've wondered if it was real or just a product of the curse and wishful thinking on my part."
Malfoy gave a brief bow. "Real. Though your mind was quite different then. Have you learned occlumency?"
He nods, his lips twitching just the barest curve, a shadow of a smile. Then, his demeanor turns serious again, and he waves his hand at the garden and house. "Unplottable. Did you do the Fidelius yourself?"
She smiles and gives a small pump with her legs to get the swing moving again. "Wouldn't you like to know?"
"I would," he says, walking up the steps of the back porch. "If you possess that level of skill, it changes a few things."
She snorts. "Like what? That rather than being less than the mud on your dragonhide boots, I'd qualify as equal to that mud? Don't get me wrong, I appreciate that you didn't want us to die two years ago and that you gave me hope when I was certain I would die. But I honestly don't understand why I'm your handler in this. Why would you insist on me? Why refuse to involve the full Order council?"
He crosses his arms. "Did you do the charm, Granger?"
"Of course I did. This is my parent's home. As if I would allow anyone else to perform it."
He nods. "Potter trusts you implicitly, and I am putting my trust in him…therefore, you also have my trust. But, unfortunately, this war has reached a place where those of us who hoped Potter would be able to dispatch the Dark Lord quickly have realized that his task cannot be accomplished without inside assistance. Unfortunately, there are very few wizards or witches who would ever be able to bring themselves to trust me. Still, I hoped, and Potter assured me that you and I could work together despite that. And that perhaps with time, I might be able to prove my trustworthiness."
"Well, you're correct—I don't trust you." She looks at him, really takes in the man he has become. He's taller than the last time she remembers seeing him. He has filled out, no longer gaunt and hollow. Well, maybe a little hollow, the dark circles under his eyes suggest. "But I am capable of seeing that if you come through for us—if this isn't a trick—then this partnership could provide us with the inside track we need." She laughs to herself, trying to picture any number of the Order members and their inability to control their tempers. "As if Ronald could stop himself from hexing you."
"Precisely. I would prefer to be unharmed"—he leans forward and winks—"I'm of more use to you that way."
Hermione nods and places her feet on the ground, stopping the swing. "Why are you doing this? Why change sides?"
"The simplest reason of all. Love."
It had to be some kind of joke. The boy who helped kill Dumbledore, even if it had been part of Dumbledore's original plan, was using Dumbledore's line about love—the irony. "And who do you love, Malfoy?" she asks, trying and failing to keep the skepticism out of her voice.
He's been maintaining a relatively neutral expression, even a bit teasing. At her question, that mask falls away, and she sees it: the exhaustion, the sadness. She sees a man who has reached the end of his line. "My mother. He killed her."
"Fuck," Hermione gasps. Narcissa Malfoy was dead by Voldemort's hand? "I'm sorry, we hadn't heard."
"Thank you, Father, and I are keeping it quiet. I would appreciate your discretion. Just know that she is not the only reason I'm here. Her death was, what is it they say? The straw that broke the camel's back. I was only ever there to protect her."
Hermione feels her mouth drop open as she tries to find words, any words, to give in response.
"Back to the charm," he says as if Hermione isn't still in shock. "I've been sent on patrols in this neighborhood over the last year, and this house wasn't here. I remember the house. It was tidy but vacant."
She wants to ask questions but accepts the subject change for now. "Always good to know I did a good job."
"It's more than that. It was seamless. I didn't detect any of the magic. Makes me wonder what else you're capable of. But we'll have time to discuss that more. Potter said you would have something for me that we could use for communication?"
"I do." Hermione stands, reaches into her pocket and pulls out a small gold galleon. "I've charmed this. Simply tap with your wand and think your message. Its mate will heat and display the message to me."
"Yes. More or less the same one I used back in Fifth Year, but with a few new tricks."
"Only the person it was made for can read the message. To anyone else, it will appear to be a genuine galleon. Even the heat will only work when in contact with your magic."
Malfoy gives a low whistle. "Wow, that's impressive. So how did you do it without me present?"
"Easy, I know your magic. As long as I'm familiar with the witch or wizard, I've been able to make it work."
"So powerful." He murmurs, accepting the galleon. He turns it over in his hand, and Hermione wraps her fingers around its mate and sends him his first message.
Malfoy startles and then laughs. "'The ferret flies at midnight.' Hilarious, Granger."
"I thought so."
He smirks at her and slips the galleon into his pocket. "Before I go, I wanted to see if you would be willing to join me for a drink and also to ask if you possess one of those machines that um…" he waffled his hand. "On the wall?"
"A telly, yes, I have one."
"Excellent and also another machine that connects to it. I saw children using one. They held small devices in their hands and were very animated. It looked as though they were controlling the images on the telly."
"Gaming console? Video games?"
"Perhaps? Do you have one?"
She nods slowly. Now she's really suspicious. Harry had just brought one the previous night. Did he suggest this to Malfoy as a way to bond with her?
"Harry just happens to have set one up last night. What a coincidence? You want to have a drink and play a video game?"
"But it's Muggle."
"I'm shocked! Is it really?" He smiles, and it's beautiful. She's never seen him actually smile before.
"And to make up for it, as I'm afraid it is a rather essential part of my personality, I've brought" —he withdraws a six-pack of New Castle— "beer."
"What's that you say? Would you prefer butterbeer? I thought a bit more alcohol would be preferable."
"Okay, come on inside."
It's like she's walked through the looking glass, and in a moment, Crookshanks will appear as just a floating head and inform her that she's gone mad.
Instead, she just shakes her head and leads Malfoy into her sitting room and boots up the Nintendo.
"Have you ever used Muggle technology?"
He gives her a sheepish look and shakes his head. "It couldn't be that hard, right? I mean"—he picks up one of the controllers and fiddles with it—"this must be somewhat like a wand. It gives the command, so I just need to know the incantations?"
Hermione looks at him thoughtfully. "Yes, that's more or less the right of it. You know you're already doing better than Ron. Ages ago, we tried to get him to play, and he refused to even try."
He scoffs. "Well, I should hope I'm more sporting than Ronald Weasley."
Sadly, she's not all that surprised that he's more willing than Ron. Despite the "liberal" upbringing by pureblood wizarding standards, Ron is still hopelessly averse to most muggle things. He has a horribly fixed mindset about learning new things. But Draco Malfoy has always been creative and a challenge seeker, even if he was a giant prat. Malfoy will probably master gaming in no time.
"Ron has his redeeming qualities."
"Oh right, I forgot that you and the Weasel are a thing."
Hermione chooses to ignore him rather than correct his misunderstanding. It's not like it particularly matters if he thinks she's in a relationship with Ron or not.
"So um…you're already holding the controller, and it's not exactly spells, but rather a combination of pushing the buttons and using the arrows."
He looks down at the grey rectangle. "All right. I'm a hands-on learner. Let's give it a go."
Two hours later, she's pleased to say that Malfoy has figured out the basics of Mario Kart. He can navigate the courses, which he does while also leaning his body as if he were on a broom. He hasn't won a race yet, but he has completed the last few.
"Rematch?" he asks.
Hermione glances back at the clock, it's late, and she really should get some sleep before she has to start the next batch of Wolfsbane the following day. "Yes, but not tonight."
Malfoy nods and sets down the controller. "This was fun. I haven't done anything fun in years."
With a shake of her head, Hermione releases a long sigh. "Me as well."
"That can't be true. You've got a pretty sorry excuse for a boyfriend if you haven't had any fun." He winks and rises, reaches for his cloak where it's draped over the back of the sofa.
"Any fun? Well, I shouldn't be surprised."
"No, my boyfriend. Ron and I…we aren't."
Malfoy's head tilts, his focus entirely on Hermione. "Potter mentioned the She-Weasel, so you're not with him. So you're really not with Weasley? One of his brothers then?"
"Well, that would certainly be awkward, wouldn't it? But, no, I'm not with anyone. I haven't exactly had time given everything the last few years." Or ever…
His eyes flash with some emotion Hermione can't decipher. "Given everything the last few years, I would have thought it was the time to grab on to what you care about most and not let go."
"I'm not saying I disagree with you. Just that, for me, that person isn't Ron or any other Weasley. What about you? Is Pansy back at the Manor worried about where you are?"
His head snaps back, a roar of laugher shaking his body. "Pansy? No, definitely not. No, Granger, there is no one waiting for me," he says, wrapping his cloak around his shoulders and striding for the door.
Hermione follows him out and watches him reach the shrubs that hide the apparition point. He stops and turns to her. "There is no one left that I care about."
The wards waver, and the crack of his disapparition fills the air.
DLM: video games tonight?
HJG: yes, finishing brewing
DLM: see you soon
Malfoy—well, that would be Draco now—has been making regular appearances in her life these past few weeks. She wouldn't say she trusts him, but they are developing a camaraderie. Or maybe rapport would be the better way to put it.
Either way, Hermione finds herself on her back porch, swinging, waiting for Draco to arrive. Today happens to be her parent's twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. She really hopes wherever they are in Australia that they're celebrating and happy. She certainly wants them to be happy. But that emotion feels so far removed from the life she's living now. A life where she is looking forward to Draco Malfoy's company.
As a sort of tribute, she had dragged the speakers to her parent's stereo out to the back porch and put their favorite albums into the multi-disc player on repeat. Her father always preferred his vinyl albums, but she still can't bring herself to handle them. When she eventually restores their memories, she wants to bring them home and have them know she respected their belongings, even in the absence of respecting their memory and autonomy.
The all too familiar crack of apparition startles her, even though she's expecting it. Years of reaction time being the difference between life and death has left her reflexes on a hair-trigger.
She lifts her wand and points it at the shrub shielding the apparition point.
A flutter of a black cloak appears first, then the tall, solid form of Draco. His platinum hair gleams in the moonlight. He's a handsome wizard and only growing more so as he ages. It's quite frustrating, really, to see him looking so unaffected. Yet, she knows better. It's an act, a mask he wears. And it has been slipping more and more frequently since their first meeting. Seeing him as human and not just a villain has been confusing and comforting in turns. She desperately wants to ask him more about his decision to turn on Voldemort. But, unfortunately, every time she tries to maneuver their conversation in that direction, he deftly changes the subject.
"Granger," he greets, both arms up and wand free, just as he has every time he appears. "What is all this?"
Hermione uses the small remote to lower the volume on the stereo and observes him. "If I were to say, 'Yoshi is superior to Luigi,' what would your response be?"
He laughs and breaks into a smile. "I would say 'bullshit, we both know that Princess Peach is the only reasonable choice.'"
His response brings a smile to her lips as well. They've made a bit of a habit out of sharing intel over Mario Kart and Muggle beer.
"You know," he says, "I don't see why you insist on these identity checks. Only Potter and I know this location."
"Imperius," she says with a shrug.
"I am a master occlumens. The Imperius Curse does not work on me."
"Are you so certain? Would you bank your life, my life, your family's lives on it?"
He walks up the stairs and takes a seat on the bench swing next to Hermione, which is new but not unwelcome. "What family I have left are also masters of occlumency and legilimency. And as for why I am so certain, it has been tried. I am resistant."
Hermione turns on the bench, pulling one leg up under her. "Really! Oh, Malfoy, I have so many questions."
"I'm sure you do. But first, could I impose on your hospitality and request one of those delightful beers you keep stocked?"
"Oh, yes, of course. Accio beer!" She flourishes her wand, and she sends an extra non-verbal push to release the refrigerator door, followed by the two beers floating through the open window.
"Thank you, and I have one more imposition. Those of the Dark Court believe I am away until tomorrow on a task for my father. Would it be possible to stay here? I'm meant to be out of the country, so I would prefer not to risk being seen."
She turns the request over in her mind. "Yes, you can stay. But what will come of tomorrow when you haven't performed whatever duty your father requested?"
Malfoy cracks the tops of both beers with a pretty bit of wandless magic. "I think you'll appreciate this. I have a great deal of information to share with you, some of which will be arriving in the middle of the night tonight, and I must be present to receive it."
"I do appreciate that, but my question still stands."
"Have you not figured it out yet? Or does it seem so far outside the realm of possibility that you haven't even considered it, I wonder?"
"I've considered transfiguring you into a peacock to get you to shut up."
"Well, that would be quite ineffective, as peacocks are noisy bastards." He laughs and takes a drink. "No, that won't be necessary. The reason I am not concerned is that this is the task my father sent me on. He has long suspected that I am less than satisfied with his decisions around our continued service to the Dark Lord. This past week he confronted me and then offered his assistance."
"Fuck, Malfoy, what if he lied!?" She really needs to but back on her swearing.
He raises an eyebrow. "He made an Unbreakable Vow with me."
"Who was your binder?"
"I'm not able to say as part of the vow. But I want you to know that they are firmly on your side of this war and have a vested interest in my survival."
"No, neither of them knows you are my contact. I was cautious."
Hermione nods, letting this new information settle into her mind. Lucius Malfoy is now also an agent of the Order. He and Draco are both part of the inner circle surrounding Voldemort. Their odds of success have just risen quite a lot.
"You're right. I never would have guessed your father would defect." She takes in Draco's profile. He's watching the plants in the garden sway in the breeze. He looks calm and reserved like he always does, but there are small things that look different. His hair isn't quite as perfect as usual, the circles under his eyes are more pronounced, and he isn't clean-shaven. "Is everything okay, Draco?"
She watches his throat bob as he swallows a pull of his beer. Then, finally, he gives her a wry smile. "I have not been okay for a very long time, Granger. But to answer the question you're really asking is that since you saw me last, I have been the target of several less than pleasant punishments."
"How do you know you're resistant to the Imperius Curse?"
"Because my Aunt Bella has tried and was…unsuccessful."
"Does she know she was unsuccessful?"
"Mmm…" Hermione takes a sip of her beer and turns to look out at the garden. She's been doing her best to keep her mother's flowers alive, and her father's little vegetable garden could use a good weeding, but it's producing a nice crop of tomatoes currently. She reaches for the remote and turns the volume on the music back up.
"Do you still dance, Granger?"
"It's been a while, but yes, I imagine the skill has not been lost."
Draco stands from the bench and holds his hand out. "May I have this dance?"
Hermione stares at his hand, long pale fingers, a tracing of scars, and even a burn. The hands of someone who uses them. She reaches out and places her hand in his. "You may."
Draco leads her out onto the stone patio below the porch while the stirring opening of strings and horns to the Embassy Waltz from My Fair Lady plays. He gives her a moment to move in his arms, just two half-speed boxes, and then the pressure of his hand changes, taking her into the full tempo of the song. The waltz is always faster than she expects, and she stumbles just a little.
"Eyes up here, Granger. Let me lead."
Hesitantly, she looks up and finds Draco smiling down at her. She's always thought his eyes were a steely grey, but this close, she can see the ring of deep blue that circles the outside of his iris and the flecks within. Eyes like Sirius Black. Probably eyes like his mother.
"See, much better. Ready for a spin?"
She's not, but she nods and finds herself stepping out, under and back into his arms. Draco Malfoy's arms. She lets him lead her around the garden patio in clean box steps and small turns, though she suspects that Draco could do more with this if she had more skill. It gets her wondering what other dances he knows.
Hermione stumbles and steps on his toe, earning her a laugh. "Pardon?"
"Many styles of dance. Don't worry"—he spins her out—"I wasn't using legilimency, you just had that look on your face like you were solving a puzzle and that I might be said puzzle." He brings them to a careful stop and slowly bends her back into a shallow dip, then brings her upright, stepping back but keeping her hand. He bows and softly kisses her knuckles. "Thank you. I can't remember the last time I danced."
"No, thank you. I…I actually don't quite know what to say."
"Hermione Granger, at a loss for words. This must be a first."
She huffs. "Well, it certainly doesn't happen often."
A squeeze to her fingers alerts her to the fact that he is still holding her hand. She looks down to their fingers as the song changes and the opening to 'In My Life' plays. "Gra—Hermione, is that all right? May I call you Hermione?"
"If I can call you Draco, then yes."
"I'd like that. I realize it may"—he clears his throat, his perfect composure slipping—"Would you like to keep dancing? I don't know this music, but it feels nice."
"Yes." She pictures her mother and father swaying together to this very song, laughing, a little drunk on wine—in love. Her parents loved—love each other very much. The world goes a little blurry, and her eyes sting as she steps into Draco and wraps her arm around his neck, twining the fingers of her other hand into his. His strong arm settles around her waist, and she can feel his breath at her temple where his cheek is just making contact. It feels wonderful just to be held. "My parents loved the Beatles."
"Your parents like insects?" His voice rumbles through his chest, confused.
"No, not beetles, the Beatles. That's the name of the music group we're listening to. They haven't been together for decades, but their music is just…"
"Yes. I understand." He nods against her. "Hermione?" He's still swaying with her, but his grip on her tightens. "What happened to your parents?"
She signs and settles her cheek against his chest. "I sent them away. Wiped their memories and sent them away." The tears that have been gathering in her eyes break free and slide down her cheeks.
"Fuck, I'm sorry." He holds her closer. "I'm so sorry. We're going to stop this. Stop him. I promise."
Hermione has been holding in so much for so long, but it's in the arms of someone she has thought of as her enemy since she was eleven years old that she finally breaks down.
"I couldn't bear them being used to find me. They never would have agreed to leave without me, and I couldn't leave, Draco. I couldn't leave Harry and everyone. But I couldn't risk them being captured. Tortured. Killed."
"Shhh, it's okay. You did the right thing. You did. Remember I told you I'd been sent to this neighborhood? Surely you know they sent me to find them. You did the right thing."
They're not swaying anymore. He's just holding her, and it's like every tear Hermione has held in for the last two years is finally releasing. All over Draco. But if he minds, he doesn't say a word. He just holds her tighter and lets her sob.
The intel arrives via Hermione's floo, which is not connected to any network, but Draco assures her it's okay. Part of the plan.
The parchment details a trip to Gringotts that Voldemort will accompany Bellatrix on. It also includes a memory, which must be from Lucius, but Hermione doesn't have the luxury of a Pensieve to check.
She sends off a quick message to Harry. She is able to keep her eyes open just long enough to get confirmation that he will pick up the memory in the morning.
Morning arrives in a burst of smells. Bacon, something buttery, and something fresh and zesty. It might be the first morning Hermione has left her bed with a smile on her face.
"Harry! You didn't have to make…oh my goodness. Mal—I mean, Draco!" Hermione stands at the entrance to the kitchen, frozen, absolutely shocked. "You can cook!?"
Hermione's father's blue apron is folded over and tied around Draco's waist. His shirtsleeves rolled up, collar loosened, and a spatula hanging from his elegant fingers.
"I can cook," he agrees and flips a pancake into the air. He sets the pan back down to let the cake finish cooking and turns to her with a smile. "With and without magic, if you can believe it."
"I almost can't. If I weren't seeing it with my own eyes, I'm not sure I would. Draco Malfoy, you are just full of surprises."
He flips the pancake into a waiting dish, which goes back into the warming drawer, and pours out the next. "I find I quite enjoy surprising you."
Hermione doesn't know what to say to that, so she stays quiet and finds a clear spot to hop up onto the kitchen island and watch him finish making breakfast.
"How are you feeling today?" he asks, turning back to the cooker.
She looks down at her bare feet, dangling and bumping the cabinet as they swing. "I'm not sure. Better maybe. Thank you for being so understanding last night. I'm quite embarrassed to have so completely lost control. It was my parents anniversary, you see—"
He flips the cake, moves the pan off the heat, and steps in front of Hermione, so close that he's practically standing between her legs. "Hermione," he says, a hand squeezes her shoulder. "You are allowed to be human. You were in a safe location with an ally. There is no better place to allow yourself to release your pain. Better like you did than out on the battlefield or while running an operation."
She nods but doesn't really feel it.
"I mean it."
"I guess. I know it makes the most sense. My mum once told me our psyche protects itself. Apparently, I feel safe with you. Who would have ever believed that?"
His other hand comes to rest on her forearm. "I feel safe with you too."
"Perhaps, but I don't see you turning into a broken mess."
"No, but you've seen me laugh, smile. Did you know I slept the whole night last night? I haven't had an undisturbed night of sleep in years."
His hand on her shoulder slides down her arm and then to her waist. Hermione feels pressure against her knees and parts them further as Draco's hands wrap around her hips, pulling her into him.
"When I'm with you, I feel like my life is worth living."
"Hush, Granger," he breathes the words across her lips. His fingers tighten, digging into her hips, and his lips whisper across hers, gentle, the barest of touch. Hermione lets herself lean into his touch, his presence. She caresses his lips, so soft and full. Not that she's ever imagined a moment like this with Draco, but it's so much more than she would have thought. His body is warm and firm, and he holds her like she might disappear if he doesn't. Their lips break apart for breath, but he's still so close, and she doesn't want it to stop. Unconsciously, her tongue slips out to moisten her lips and grazes his. A heady groan vibrates through him into her, and he's tilting her head, kissing her. Not gentle this time, but deep, and his tongue tastes of citrus. She thought he was already holding her close, but now it's like he's enveloped her. Her legs wrap around his waist, and she feels him, hard and hot, pressed against her.
"Hermione," he moans, his lips tracing across her jaw to her pulse. "Gods, tell me this is okay," he says as his hand slides beneath her sleep shirt and grips her thigh.
Her hands have started doing their own wondering, circling the buttons of his oxford and loosening them. She's caressing his chest, and his hand is making its way between her parted thighs when the crack of apparition sounds from the garden.
"Oh my god! Harry!"
Draco stumbles back from her and starts buttoning his shirt. "Fuck, I completely forgot Potter was coming this morning. Fuck. Hermione, I'm sorry if I was too—"
"No, I enjoyed…um…that."
He smiles crookedly. "As did I. I'd actually like a repeat performance," he says, taking a step closer and then jumping back at the slamming of the door from the back porch. "Later." He winks.
Hermione struggles to regain her equilibrium after what was the most moving kiss she's ever experienced in her short life. She just hopes Harry can't tell. That is not a conversation she is ready to have—ever.
She hops off the counter and is gathering plates when Harry strolls into the kitchen.
"Ooo, breakfast. Wait, who cooked?"
Hermione ignores him and takes the plates to the small breakfast table.
"I did. Got a problem with that Chosen One?"
"Oh good, no, no problem, unless Hermione had made it."
"Be nice, Harry. My cooking has vastly improved compared to when we were living out of that dreadful tent."
"If you say so. What are we having?"
Later, Harry and Draco depart. Harry first, though he seems to hesitate, only finally leaving at Hermione's urging.
Before Draco leaves, he takes Hermione's hand. "I meant what I said earlier." He leans in and kisses her. Then, just as she wants to press for more, he steps back with a giddy smile. Kisses her knuckles and turns, disappearing with a crack.
Mario Kart & sangria at 9:00?
I'll be there
HJG: It takes two
DLM: I can tango, Granger
HJG: Will you teach me?
DLM: Want to see you
HJG: I'm here
It's been a few days since Hermione has heard anything from Draco, which isn't entirely out of the norm. Though since they shared their first kiss, there have been more. And more.
Really, Draco is so much more than she expected. Considerate, thoughtful, dexterous…
It's mildly embarrassing how easily he coaxes sensations from her body she didn't know it was capable of feeling.
The weather is mild and warm as summer approaches. She figures if she's going to be thoroughly lost to all the ways that Draco Malfoy moves her to distraction, she might as well enjoy the view. Or at least this is how she justifies creating a little oasis in her garden to star watch from while she drinks wine on the full moon.
She deserves a reward after all the brewing she's done. Wolfsbane of sufficient quantity and quality to serve the entire two-natured membership of the order and several families they are protecting. Harry collected the potion that morning, so no one will need her tonight. She can just enjoy looking up at the stars and watching the moon.
The wards shiver, surprising a slightly tipsy Hermione, as she rushes to sit up. She wobbles a bit before catching herself.
"Goodness, Granger, are you drunk?"
She smiles up at Draco. "No, not drunk, just tipsy. Though I haven't tried to stand up, so time will tell."
He gracefully folds himself down onto the blanket next to her and takes one of her hands, pressing a soft kiss to her palm. "You look beautiful tonight, Hermione," he says, his words a whisper against her wrist before he places another kiss.
"I…I wasn't"—she swallows back a moan— "expecting you." She trips over the words as he continues pressing his lips to her skin, working his way up her arm.
"So, this is what you do when I'm not here? I half expected to find you playing video games."
Affronted, Hermione tries to pull her arm away, but he holds firm, his lips working their way across her exposed collarbones.
"I'm teasing you, Granger. I know you work hard." She lets herself relax and enjoy the gentle press of his lips and hands as he guides her to lay back down. "Do you remember your constellations?"
"A few, though it's too bright to see many."
Draco pulls out his wand and moves it in a complicated pattern. Slowly a canopy of darkened sky appears above them. It's like all of the light pollution has been filtered out.
"Beautiful magic," she says, tucking into his side.
"My mother and I used to sit out in her garden and look at the constellations. It's a Black family tradition—like my name."
"Mmm, yes, I remember Sirius explaining it a bit."
"My cousin. We weren't supposed to speak of him or my aunt, but when we were out in the garden, just the two of us, she would tell me stories from when they were all children."
"Me too, but I know this is what she would have wanted. I used to tell her about you too, you know?"
"What!? No, you did not."
"I did. Mostly to complain, but also to question what I was taught. How could what they said be true and you exist?"
"It can't be."
"No. I just wish I had questioned it all sooner. Before it was too late."
"It's never too late."
Draco cuddles her closer and takes her hand in his, apparently done with their discussion. He guides her hand up to point at a cluster of stars. "What's that one?"
He nuzzles her neck and plays with the zipper of her sundress as she names the constellations he points out.
"And this one?" His tongue traces down her neck, and he pulls the zipper down, loosening the bodice of her dress.
"Draco," Hermione moans the name of the constellation as he pushes the dress down and away, kissing across the swell of her breasts.
He kisses her skin as he exposes it little by little until her dress and knickers are discarded off the blanket. She's so absorbed in him and how he makes her feel that she doesn't realize his robes are gone until they're skin to skin.
Draco's hand slips between them. His knuckles lightly graze over her center, and she gasps against his lips. He kisses her slowly, finding just the right way to touch her. Hermione feels that building pressure and arches into Draco's hand. She's so close when he takes his hand away and settles on top of her.
"I want you," he whispers, rocking his length against the cradle of her hips.
"Me too, want you…that is," she trips over the words, and he murmurs a soft laugh against her neck.
His wand appears, and a quick charm is cast over her abdomen.
Hermione breaths deeply to calm her nerves, hoping he doesn't notice, but the gentle hand caressing her cheek and jaw tells her he has.
"We don't have to do this. It'll kill me, but I don't want to if it isn't right. What I feel for you, this isn't about just relieving stress or being afraid of tomorrow."
She doesn't have words yet, but that is what she needed to hear. She stretches and captures his lips. Her arms wrap around his shoulders and legs around his hips, encouraging him forward. "For me too. Please, Draco."
His forehead rests against hers, staring into her eyes for a breath. He kisses her slowly and fills her even more so until they're fully connected. Hermione draws in a slow, deep breath releasing the last of her nervous tension.
She opens her eyes, unsure when she'd closed them, and there's Draco, his focus entirely on her. "Are you okay?" he asks. She can see the slight tremor in his arms as he fights to hold still, to let her adjust.
She shifts under him, changing the angle of their connection, and that too-full feeling eases as Draco moves deeper into her. "More than," she says and stretches up to kiss him. And then they're moving together, her breaths almost too fast, and she's flying. Her whole body coils tight, and then a burst of warmth, and she's a mass of pure sensation.
Draco holds her as they both come down, and they look at the stars until their need for each other rises again. Time has slowed yet seems to dilate as they spend the night making love beneath the stars.
Later, when the sky streaks with grey light and her muscles are stretched and delightfully sore, Draco carries her to the bedroom. He slides in behind her, the big spoon to her little one, and holds her close.
He's still there when the sun shines brightly through the window, and everything feels just a bit more right in the world.
Life continues as it has, with the exception that now after a few beers and rowdy matches of whatever video games Hermione can get her hands on, Draco pulls her into his arms.
His intensity matches and even surpasses hers. Neither of them has put words to it since that night in the garden, but it's all building toward something. She doesn't feel quite ready to have that conversation. So instead, she lets him kiss her until she sees stars and make love to her until she forgets that they're in the middle of a war.
But it all comes back to her as soon as he has to leave. Which is always too soon.
At least she has the prep for the Diagon Alley & Gringotts operation to focus on. They may not know when yet, but it pays to be prepared. They expect the notice to be short and injuries to be extensive. So she's been working diligently to create a large stock of all the potions they may need, including a few new offensive weapons she's been working on. Think Muggle grenades meets magical potions.
It bothers her how excited she is about her destructive creations. But there's no time for those feelings. They're at war.
She feels his presence as he crosses the wards and then his weight as he climbs into the bed.
"You shouldn't be here," Hermione whispers into the dark.
Draco stretches across her, hands everywhere, lips seeking hers, and then he's filling her. There's nowhere else in the world she'd rather be.
"Tell me, Hermione, tell me," he begs, and she's so close.
"It's you, it's only you, I lo—" his mouth captures her words as the world breaks apart.
Later, as the first streaks of light turn the night to blue darkness, he holds her in his arms and kisses her forehead. "Everything I do, Hermione, everything—"
"It's you, Draco. Only you."
The wards shiver, the crack of apparition, and before Hermione can get out of bed to greet him, Draco appears in her doorway. He peels off his robes, kicks off his shoes, and slides between the sheets.
Draco takes her in his arms. "You're all I can think of," he says against her mouth, and the world dissolves away in waves of bliss.
Later, sweat-soaked skin cooling in the night air, they both ignore what they know as best they can.
He shouldn't be here. Hermione knows it, and so does he. But the only place they can be who they really are is here.
"It's getting harder to go back."
"It's getting harder to let go."
Hermione nods in acknowledgment. Narcissa has been dead for nearly six months, and despite all the intel and Draco's rise in Voldemort's ranks, the war feels like it's at a stalemate. They're all waiting for that moment when it will all finally come to a head.
DLM: Diagon is a trap!
Hermione casts her Patronus, not caring that it may be seen, and warns the team leader.
HJG: Are you okay?
Hours later, in the middle of the night, the galleon finally burns.
DLM: Alive … portkey
Hermione rushes out to the garden and waits and waits, and then she feels the wards shift, and Draco collapses at her feet.
Hermione tucks the blankets around Draco. He's alive, stable, and now, sleeping comfortably. But the curse he was hit with has done severe damage to both his nervous and muscular systems. It's not one she's seen before, and she's really just guessing at treatment at this point. But her diagnostics indicate he's improving, and that's more than she'd dared to hope when he arrived in the garden.
She's just putting on a pot of tea when she feels someone enter the wards.
"Hermione! Hermione!" Harry's frantic voice calls. She runs to the front of the house where he walked through the wards rather than apparating in. She barely opens the door before Harry drags her down the entry path and through the wards. "Quickly, Hermione, we don't have much time."
"Harry, wait, I can't leave. I have Dra—someone I'm caring for."
"Thank Merlin, he made it here?"
"He did. Now, where are you dragging me?"
"His father knows what he was hit with, but I can't bring him through the wards."
"Oh, yes, yes, of course." She jogs across the street and into the park, where she sees Lucius Malfoy. He's under a glamor, but it's fading in and out. Without hesitation, she grabs his forearm and apparates.
They land in her apparition point in the garden, and she pulls him out of the way, so Harry doesn't land on them.
"Miss Granger," Lucius says the words politely, but she can see the tension in his eyes. "Is my son here?"
"Yes, he here, um…Lord Malfoy. Follow me." Hermione leads the way out of the garden and into the house.
"Given the circumstances, I believe Lucius will be just fine," he says, following closely behind her.
She takes him to her bedroom, where she has Draco settled, explaining along the way what she's done for him already.
Lucius rushes to Draco's side and casts a diagnostic. Hermione inspects it alongside him, pleased that Draco continues to be stable and appears to be improving. Lucius visibly relaxes next to her and grips her forearm.
"Thank you. You did very well. There are two additional potions he will need."
Hermione listens as best she can, though she's reeling from the compliment from, of all people, Lucius Malfoy.
"If you don't have the powdered unicorn horn, I have a large store at the Manor."
"I would, of course, appreciate any ingredients you can provide, though I think I probably have enough to make at least one batch as you described." She hesitates, then takes Draco's hand in hers, squeezing it gently. "I'll go get started."
She releases Draco's hand and leaves to head to the basement where the laboratory is set up. She looks back before shutting the door and sees Lucius take the same hand she'd held. He slumps over, the always pristine, unflappable aristocrat replaced by the concerned father. It's exactly what she needed to see today. The reason they are all fighting to end this.
Hermione trudges up the stairs from the basement and collapses at the kitchen table. Harry brings her tea and a copy of the Daily Prophet, or what passes for the Daily Prophet these days.
End of a Bloodline – End of an Era
The headline reads, and Hermione turns to him in confusion. "What bloodline?"
"Malfoy. And Black, actually, though they don't mention it. Lestrange, too, if our intel is correct."
"I don't understand; Draco isn't dead."
"No, but as far as the wizarding world is concerned, he is. Both Lestrange brothers are dead thanks to Lucius, Fred, and George."
"Rabastan cast the curse that hit Draco. In his rush to protect his heir, Lucius accidentally blasted a building apart that fell on both brothers. Almost got Bellatrix too, a real shame that. But at least it was believable. He claims no one suspects him and that he'll be able to behave a bit erratically without drawing the wrong kind of attention."
"That's interesting. What about our side?"
"Couple of minor injuries. Draco's warning saved a lot of lives. He saved Tonks, by the way. That's how he got hit with whatever that was."
Hermione nods, absorbing the information. Draco hadn't been awake long enough to say more than a few words, most of which didn't make sense given all the pain potions he was currently ingesting. Though he should be waking soon. "Is Lucius still here?"
"No, he was summoned but plans to return as soon as he can. He promised a large donation to your ingredient stores."
"He thanked me, told me I did well." She's still floating in a place of disbelief when it comes to Lucius Malfoy.
Harry sips his tea, his eyebrows down as they do when he's turning something over in his mind. "I don't know all the details of what happened to Narcissa, but it changed them. For the better, though no one deserves that kind of pain."
"If the Death Eaters think Draco's dead, what's next?"
"Not just the Death Eaters, Hermione, everyone. The only people who know he's still alive are you, me, Lucius, and Tonks. Tonks has promised not to say anything. She's family, after all."
"Wow, okay. So, the world thinks Draco is dead."
The stairs creak, and a blond head appears at the kitchen entrance. "Eh, my death has been greatly exaggerated."
"Draco! You shouldn't be out of bed."
"I heard Harry…wanted to come get a briefing."
Harry starts to stand, but Hermione waves him away and gathers the things to make Draco a cup of tea.
"The long and short of it is you'll be staying here with Hermione for the duration. Your father has agreed to continue bringing intel, and when the time comes—assuming you're on the mend—you'll come with us to finish this."
"I'd better, Potter. I made a promise—"
"As have I. We'll both be there, and we'll make him pay for what he took."
Hermione doesn't like the sound of that one bit but resigns herself to the things she can control. Which at this moment includes very little.
Intel continues to flow from Lucius, but Hermione can tell Draco is getting antsy. Now he knows what she's felt for these long months. All the sex certainly helps, though.
Since Draco regained his strength, they've hardly left their bed. They've also taken to sharing more of the small details of each other's lives. Draco has always seemed so cool and in control, but it's over these weeks of his recovery that Hermione meets a quieter, more intellectual side of him. She also learns that he avoids being vulnerable at nearly all costs, except now, with her. This, in turn, has given her the strength she didn't realize she needed to do the same.
"Someday, I'll take you to the castle in France," he tells her as they battle to reach the castle in Super Mario Bros.
"A castle? You have a castle?" she asks, laughing and losing track of the game. "Does it have a moat?"
"Watch out for that—" his warning comes too late, Luigi gets taken out by a turtle, and the restart screen appears. Draco drops his controller and reaches for her. "It does have a moat. But I'll let you in on a secret," he whispers in her ear. "We cast warming charms on it and like to just float and swim. Not too many enemies it can keep out."
"When we go, we won't have any enemies."
Hermione's sitting on the kitchen counter watching Draco put the finishing touches on a casserole. It turns out he's an excellent chef, and the quality of Hermione's meals improves significantly when he joins her in their meal prep. Lucky for her, that's often.
He slides the dish into the oven and turns to her. "You keep looking at me like that, and we won't eat."
"Not true. The food is now cooking, and we have at least an hour to kill. Did you know it's a real turn on watching you cook?"
He closes the distance between them, stepping between her knees. The pads of his fingers are points of heat through her thin dress. "Is that so?"
"It is," she says and starts to push him away so she can get off the counter.
He stops her with a shake of his head and a squeeze to her hips. "Stay. I have a little kitchen fantasy I've been dreaming about."
He drops to his knees and parts her legs further, fingers tickling up her inner thighs. His breath catches as his fingers reach her center. "Gods, Hermione, you're not wearing knickers."
Hermione moans at the heat of his breath on her bare skin. "Seemed redundant. Besides"—she sucks in a breath as his tongue parts her—"you keep vanishing them. Oh, gods, Draco," she sighs with pleasure as his tongue laps at her slowly, lips lightly sucking between strokes. Hermione struggles to catch her breath. She's completely out of control, something she's never let herself be with anyone until now.
Draco uses his hands on her hips to pull her closer to him, his moans vibrating through her. She loves him like this, totally absorbed in his task. It makes her want to beg him to never stop. It makes her want to drop to her knees and return the favor. The thought of him hot and hard slipping between her lips sends her flying.
The casserole ends up a little burnt around the edges.
"Hermione?" Draco's words tickle her drowsy mind.
"Do you know why Potter hasn't gone after the Dark Lord yet?" His fingers brush loose curls away from her face.
She rolls her head up from where it rests on his chest. Before Diagon Alley, she never would have admitted this, but they've come a long way. That trust she wasn't sure she'd ever develop where he's concerned is now an essential part of the relationship they share. So, she tells him the truth. "Yes. I do."
"I know we've been careful about what you tell me, but as far as they're concerned, I'm dead. I can never go back."
He interrupts her before she can tell him that she shouldn't but will, and curious to hear his argument, she lets him continue.
"Just hear me out. I keep getting this feeling like there is something I know that you need. But I don't know what it is. My mind keeps going back to Potter. Like I've heard something, but my brain won't quite put the pieces together."
Hermione's never been one for divination or premonition. However, since leaving Hogwarts, she's learned more and has to admit that there are a lot of things she still doesn't understand about the magical world. Things that Draco seems to know and understand instinctively. A perk of growing up with magic, she knows.
"Okay. There are two things left that Harry must destroy. We have access to one but no way to destroy it, and we have not been able to gain access to the other."
"And what are these things?"
"One is contained within Harry; the other is the snake."
"The snake. Nagini?"
Draco sits up abruptly, displacing Hermione from her comfortable place against his side. She sits up slowly, pulling the sheet with her to stay covered. Draco stares blankly out the window at the dark night sky.
"Draco, are you okay?"
His head turns to her and meets her eyes with an intensity that has Hermione scooting back. "Have I told you why my mother was killed?"
Hermione shakes her head and leans against the headboard to help her keep her bearings. They've never really discussed what happened. She only knows that Voldemort had killed her and that it had destroyed what little loyalty Draco had for the cause. "No, you have not."
"My mother did something to the snake." He slips out of bed and walks to the closet. "Did you know she used to be human—Nagini—and is trapped in that form?"
"What!? No, wait, what do you mean did something? Did she tell you what?"
"As a matter of fact, she did," he says, tugging on a pair of boxer briefs. "And it was in that message that she urged me to reach out to the order… why might that be? I've wondered but didn't want to risk…she clearly knew more than she let on."
"You can't imagine how important this is!"
"As she died for it, yes, I can. She is the reason I said only you. It was her request. She didn't indicate why. Only that she was certain that it was important for the two of us to work together."
"Could she have known I brew the potions for the order?"
"Possibly, but I'm sure that's not what she meant. I have a vial of the potion."
"Did Nagini survive the potion?"
"Yes, but she is much changed."
"We have to get dressed!"
"I am dressed. You need to get dressed," he says, smiling. "This is the thing that's been missing, isn't it? I can feel it."
"Yes. This is it."
Lucius arrives the next day to help prepare Harry for the ritual and potion. Since she saved Draco's life, Lucius has been polite to her, but she can't shake the feeling that he dislikes her. Though why that would have changed just because they are no longer supporters of Voldemort, she doesn't know, except that she had hoped it would. That he might be able to see her as more than a mudblood. She knows what it means for her and Draco if Lucius cannot see her as more.
Rather than dwell on it now, of all times, she keeps busy making sure everything is set until there is nothing left to do. Finally, she runs out of reasons to stay in the house and has no choice but to go out into the garden and wait with them for Harry. She finds the backdoor ajar, and their voices float in.
"Really, Draco?" Lucius' voice is almost disbelieving, though he doesn't sound angry.
"Really, what?" Draco responds, and Hermione starts to step away from the door.
"Hermione Granger? You couldn't have picked some more controversial?"
Her name stops her. She knows she shouldn't eavesdrop, but she needs to know what comes next. She's felt herself growing more and more attached to Draco, and if his father won't allow it, well, better to know now.
"I don't know what you mean."
"Do I look stupid to you? You're clearly in love with her, and it appears to be mutual."
In love with me?
"And if it is?"
It wasn't an answer, but what Draco's words suggest leaves Hermione breathless.
"I would be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed," Lucius says, and pain lances through her until he speaks again. "However, I know your mother would approve, and I find her opinion means more to me now than my father's voice in my head. Raging as he did about our bloodlines and heirs. You are my son and a good man, Draco."
"Thank you, Father."
Hermione backs away, knowing she's invaded too much of their privacy. But it was worth it. She hasn't had a lot of time to think about her feelings for Draco, but hope blooms in her heart that when this is all over, there is a future for her with Draco.
Later that night, she finds a small velvet box tucked into the nightstand drawer. She resists opening it but knows it wasn't there before.
Draco slips into bed hours later and wraps his arms around Hermione. Harry is Horcrux-free, and they are all exhausted, but this means that Voldemort has no more soul fragments to keep him immortal. She knows she should be excited and focused on that, but all Hermione can think about is the conversation she overheard and the box that sits in the nightstand on Draco's side of the bed.
"I know you overheard us," Draco says, his lips brushing her ear.
"Don't be. You found it, didn't you? In the drawer."
Hermione pulls away and stares down at Draco, ready to deny it, but sees him smiling softly up at her. It's a new smile, something that feels like it must only be for her. "I did."
He reaches out and takes her hand, playing with her fingers. "Did you open it?"
"Good girl"—her whole body clinches with his praise—"It must have been so hard resisting. Why don't you grab it now? Let me show you." He kisses each fingertip and releases her hand.
She's tingling all over and can't quite get her muscles to respond. "I…I. Are you sure? I know I shouldn't have listened in or gone into your drawer."
"I'm sure, and I'm not upset." When she still doesn't move, he leans over and retrieves the small box. "It's for you. Not yet, but when this is over." He twists and spins in between his fingers before finally flipping open the top.
"It's a Black Family heirloom. I've already checked it for curses. It's clean." He turns the box and shows Hermione a ring with a large blue sapphire surrounded by diamonds set in a delicate web of goblin silver. "It was a gift to me from my mother when I reached majority, meant for my future wife. Of course, there are Malfoy heirlooms as well, things that I hope will someday belong to you, but this" —he lifts it out of the box— "is for you. I've known for some time now that it could only ever belong to you."
He cups her jaw, wiping away tears she didn't realize were spilling from her eyes.
"It's beautiful. But Draco—"
"You should know, if you haven't figured it out yet, I love you. I'm in love with you."
She wakes the following day to Draco rustling around in the closet they've been sharing these past few weeks.
Stifling a yawn, Hermione asks, "What are you doing up so early?"
"Nothing, you should go back to sleep."
"But you're getting dressed. Are you going somewhere?"
"Um…Harry will be meeting me" —The wards shiver with Harry's arrival— "now."
"Oh. And what exactly are you two planning to do?"
"Nothing for you to worry about." He kisses her and encourages her to lay back down. "Get some more sleep. I kept you up late last night. Harry mentioned that the safe houses need more dreamless sleep. If I'm not back when you wake up, my father left supplies to makes several large batches."
Already feeling the pull of sleep, Hermione agrees with a nod. "I love you, Draco."
He kisses her again and then her forehead. "I love you, too. Get some more sleep."
HJG: When will you be back?
HJG: I'm getting worried
Hermione paces across the living room, back and forth, back and forth. It's been almost twelve hours since Draco left with Harry.
Twenty-four hours since they had given Harry the potion to destroy the Horcrux that had been attached to his soul for almost his entire life.
And if she has to wait one more minute without any word on what is happening, she will break all of the promises she made and apparate to Grimould Place and demand answers.
The wards shiver as she starts to gather her things, but it isn't Draco she senses. It's Harry. It's not supposed to be Harry, or at least not Harry alone.
Hermione runs for the garden just as Harry stumbles out from the apparition point.
"He's dead," Harry says. His voice is flat, and his eyes unfocused. He reminds Hermione more of Luna than of himself.
The stress and anxiety have caught up to her, and she feels herself dissolving into a blind panic. She grabs Harry's shoulders and shakes him. "Who's dead? Where is he!?"
Harry's eyes are glassy, and his skin is deathly pale. "Voldemort. He's gone. We did it. Um…he's at the Ministry, I guess."
She knows she should feel like celebrating, but her stomach is a ball of lead. "He's gone." She takes a deep breath and tries to pull herself together. She finally really looks at the boy standing in front of her. She pulls her hands away from his shoulders, and they're slick and red with blood. "Harry, you're covered in blood! Oh my god! You're covered in blood! What happened?"
"Not sure"—he wobbles a bit and catches himself on Hermione—"Draco blocked, and Bellatrix was throwing slicing curses. I feel funny."
"Draco, isn't he here?"
"No, Harry, he isn't here."
"Hermione, I think I might need blood replenishing—"
She's realized it too. She doesn't see the wound, but Harry's growing faint. She Accio's the potion from the pantry, dumps it down his throat, and starts tugging off his robes, looking for his injury. "Please, Harry."
Harry's color looks a little better, and she finds the gash that's causing his blood loss on his back. "He's supposed to be here. He's supposed to be here."
She casts a skin-sealing charm and reaches for another blood replenishing potion before dropping her head into her hands. She doesn't have time to break down right now. If Harry is this hurt, she's sure she'll be receiving orders soon to help others. But she needs a moment. If Draco isn't here now, he may never be again, and a world without him isn't one Hermione can even contemplate. So, she doesn't. Instead, she pushes him back and down, occlumency snapping into place so that she can do her job.
"Harry, where is everyone? Where are you and I needed?" Despite her efforts to push him from her mind, one last question slips through. "Where is Draco?"
She sees Harry's mouth open, and then his eyes go wide.
"I'm right here, love, right here," Draco's voice sounds from behind her, and everything crashes, her occlumency, her determination, the world. Because Draco is leaning on the door jam, filthy, bloodied, and alive.
The rest of the day is a blur of healing and celebration, but at the end of it all, she and, a very much alive, Draco are back in her parent's home curled up together on the sofa, controllers in hand, video game streaming colors across the telly. He kisses her temple, and for the first time in her life, she thinks she might understand what heaven is, because she's pretty sure it's here.
"Daddy, why does Grand Père look so funny?"
Hermione covers her mouth, trying to hide the laughter bubbling up her throat as Draco's lips twitch into a barely concealed smirk before trying to answer their daughter.
"Your Grand Père isn't very good at interacting with Nana and Papa."
"Oh, but Nana and Papa are the best!"
Unable to contain herself any longer, Hermione laughs and reaches out to take Cassie from Draco's lap. "They are the best, and Grand Père is trying very hard. He's still getting used to being around people who can't use magic."
Draco kisses her blonde curls and then Hermione's cheek. "I'm going to go rescue Greg and Helen, or maybe my father. Either way, I'm breaking out the elf wine."
"Okay, love, we'll be here."
It still feels like a dream, this life they have. That it also includes her parents is still almost more than Hermione can believe. It had taken nearly a year after Voldemort's fall to restore their memories and the help of someone unexpected, Lucius. He'd worked side-by-side with Hermione to carefully untangle the magic from her parent's memories. And when her magic had become less stable with her surprise pregnancy, he'd taken over entirely.
"Delightful Muggles—Robert and Helen," the man in question says, taking Draco's seat and holding his arms out for Cassie.
"You'd think, Grand Père, you would be more comfortable having a conversation with them."
Lucius sighs and gives her a wry smile. "So long as we discuss Cassie, it's fine. I cannot be expected to engage in meaningful discussions on Muggle oddities."
"What are odd, um…odd-ties?"
Lucius turns Cassie to face him. "Automobiles and the infernal telly are oddities."
"Father, I have it on good authority that you have an appreciation for the telly."
"Fine, perhaps not the telly. But you'll never convince me that airplanes are a reasonable means of travel."
"I'm considering learning to fly them," Draco says, winking at Hermione.
Lucius harrumphs and stands with Cassie. "I'm getting her broom. Would you like to practice flying a reasonable way?"
"Yes, yes!" Cassie is up and running to the garden shed before anyone can object.
Lucius strides after their little girl, and it is another surreal moment.
Draco returns and hands her a glass of wine. "Never thought you'd see a sight like that, did you?"
Hermione's father walks over to join Lucius and Cassie, both grandfathers standing on either side of the little girl as she balances on her small training broom.
"No, I didn't, but now that I do, I don't want to imagine life any other way. It's better than I ever even knew was possible."
"I love you, Hermione Granger-Malfoy." Draco wraps his arms around Hermione, rests his chin on her shoulder, and holds her while watching their family.