Although kissing Lucius was nothing like riding a broomstick, riding a broomstick was still very much like riding a broomstick, as Hermione found out later in the afternoon.
After a solid fifteen minutes of kissing, they'd decided to give it a break. None of them wanted to be surprised by the children barging into the library, and Lucius persuaded her to stay for dinner, there would be just the two of them, and a bit of after-dinner kissing. If his plan failed, he told himself, he'd still have the satisfaction of snogging his future wife.
Lucius had just summoned a heavy tome containing a synopsis of French and English medieval wizarding law, which Hermione was curious to study, when they were interrupted by the sound of polite but urgent knocking. The three children trooped into the room, Rose still carrying Vanilla, who was sleeping peacefully in the crook of her arm.
'Grandfather, can we go out and play Quidditch?'
Hermione's stomach sank. She knew, of course, that learning to fly was part of the Hogwarts curriculum, and that both her children were extremely fond of it, but as long as she didn't have to watch, she managed to ignore the thought, most of the time.
Rose correctly interpreted the expression on her mother's face. 'See?' she said to Scorpius, 'I told you. Mum's afraid of flying, and she won't allow us to do it.'
Lucius was looking at her with an amused smirk. 'Is that so?' he asked. 'I begin to understand why certain metaphors don't appeal to you.'
Hermione cleared her throat, aware that she was blushing. 'Do you allow Scorpius to fly?'
'Of course. Only with my explicit permission, though, and only if I'm with him.'
'Oh.' She bit her lip. She loved her children, and if they were in any danger, she'd probably hop on a broomstick (if only to drop on the creature that was threatening them). She might of course delegate the task of supervising them to Lucius, but that would be irresponsible, and moreover it would rob her of his company. 'Well, I,' she began, unsure how to continue.
'If I may propose a compromise,' Lucius cut in smoothly. 'I'll take a few safety precautions and, unless you absolutely refuse to get airborne, you might join me on my broomstick, so we may survey the children together.'
On a broomstick, with Lucius. The possibilities… Hermione's mind boggled. Her throat had gone a bit dry, and so she said hoarsely, 'That's an excellent idea.'
The children ran off to change into outdoor clothes. Lucius and Hermione stared at each other. Both raised their wands. 'I'll do you,' Hermione said, 'If you do me.'
'I'm sure,' Lucius said after a short pause of disbelief, 'that these venerable walls have never been party to a Malfoy being propositioned in such a, well, frank fashion.'
'What – Oh!' Unsure whether to laugh or run, Hermione opted for laughter. 'I didn't mean it that way, and you know it!'
'Pity,' he said, and smirked at her.
She paid him back by giving him fluffy, pink earmuffs, which he had some trouble removing. To his relief, he succeeded before the children returned.
The party of five marched through the park with its bare trees and evergreen hedges and further on into the open grounds. 'That will do,' Lucius said and drew his wand. 'Wait,' he called to Scorpius, who was already sitting on his broom.
Obediently, Scorpius dismounted.
Lucius raised his wand, and a silvery Patronus burst from its tip. Once it touched the ground, it scuttled off. 'Not a word,' Lucius said through clenched teeth.
'A… platypus?' Hermione giggled. 'That's, erm, unusual.'
'Very delicately phrased,' he answered dryly, his eyes on the Patronus, which he was directing with his wand. It left a silvery trail in the shape of a large rectangle. A few complicated wand movements and silent spells later, the ground enclosed by the glimmering rectangle had been cushioned, and an invisible barrier made sure that the flyers were unable to leave the protected area. 'Just the Quaffle and the Snitch,' Lucius said, when a House Elf appeared with the wooden box holding the balls.
Rose looked slightly disappointed. 'I'm a very good Beater.'
'I'm sure you are, Miss Weasley. Show a little consideration for your mother's nerves, though.' He conjured two hoops on opposite sides of the makeshift field and released the Snitch. Within two seconds, the children had jumped on their broomsticks and kicked off the ground.
Lucius turned to Hermione. 'Would you like to sit in front or behind me? Both positions have their undeniable advantages.'
In her growing anxiety, Hermione almost missed the double entendre. 'I think I'd like you to be behind me.' His eyebrows rose. 'Stop that,' she said, half-laughing. 'You'll be able to catch me more easily if I fall off.'
He'd been right, though. Increased safety wasn't the only perk of riding in front of him, with one arm wrapped tightly around her waist. She could sense the warmth of his body seeping into her back through his heavy winter attire, and the movement of his arm muscles against her torso. His thighs enclosed hers, and she felt his cheek warm against hers. All the same, her whole body stiffened when he kicked off. 'Relax,' he murmured into her ear. The hand holding her close to his body stroked her waist. 'Just move with me' – he swerved to the left and pulled her with him as he leaned over – 'yes, like this. And you'll see, it's not as bad as you think.'
After three hours of playing Quidditch – the sun had already set, but Hermione had conjured her trademark spheres of blue light to illuminate the pitch – Lucius firmly pronounced that it was time to go back to the House for a very late afternoon-tea-cum-dinner. The children were eating ravenously, whereas Lucius and Hermione merely had a few nibbles with their tea, saving their hunger for the diner à deux later on. Hugo was fast asleep after twenty minutes, a half-eaten sandwich still dangling from his hand. Scorpius's eyelids were drooping, and Rose's yawns threatened to unhinge her jaw.
'Bed, I think,' Hermione said. Nobody protested. She rose to pick up her sleeping son. He didn't wake up and merely grumbled in his sleep.
Lucius extended his hands towards his grandson and Rose, who had squeezed themselves into one armchair. 'Can she sleep in my room?' Scorpius asked, stumbling up the stairs next to his grandfather.
'I don't think that would be appropriate. You'll be together all day tomorrow, and the day after that. Spending the night together seems a trifle exaggerated.'
'What if I have a bad dream?' Rose protested feebly.
'Vanilla will be keeping you company,' Lucius said. 'A Kneazle on your pillow is as good as an amulet against nightmares.'
'Really.' They stopped in front of Scorpius's room. Lucius tousled his hair and gently shoved him towards the door. 'You will lend Vanilla to Miss Weasley, Scorpius?'
The boy blinked. 'Yes, she can stay with Rose. If I have a nightmare, I'll just go to your room and wake you up. Don't forget to drop the wards, please.'
Since Rose was nodding off while her mother undressed her, Hermione decided that, just this once, the children would have to sleep without previously cleaning their teeth. After a last look into Hugo's room, she finally went downstairs.
Lucius was waiting for her in the dining room. 'Hungry?' he asked.
'You have no idea.' She rose on tiptoes. 'A kiss would be welcome, though.'
They kissed, and then sat down. More kisses followed after they'd finished their starters. The wine didn't make her half as drunk as those slow, deep, languorous kisses, Hermione thought.
Twinky had just served the main course, when thunderous blows against the entrance door made the glass ornaments of the chandelier tinkle against each other.
Hermione frowned. 'What was that? You don't have a poltergeist, do you?'
'Nothing as harmless as that, I'm afraid,' Lucius murmured and got up. 'If you'll excuse me… I'll be back in a minute.'
Shrugging, Hermione took up her fork and knife to cut a piece off her Beef Wellington, whose pleasant aroma was tickling her nose. She jumped, when another round of violent knocking resounded through the house. 'What the…' she muttered to herself, wanting to go out and have a look, but feeling that she'd better stay put and let Lucius deal with whoever was disturbing the domestic peace.
The dining room and entrance hall were on opposite sides of the house, but nevertheless she could hear the sound of raised voices. Somebody shouted 'Expelliarmus!', there was a bang, and then silence.
Hermione shook her head. If she didn't know better, she'd think that voice belonged to… Wand at the ready, she left the dining room at a run and arrived just in time to see her husband binding Lucius to a chair with a length of rope he'd conjured. He twiddled Lucius's wand between his fingers.
'Keep it down, Malfoy,' he said, stepping so close to Lucius that he was almost standing on his toes. 'You wouldn't want ickle Scorpius to wake up, now would you?'
'If I were you, Auror Weasley, I wouldn't want my children to wake up and witness me breaking and entering.'
Hermione stood rooted to the spot, hidden from the group of Aurors by the marble statue of some Malfoy ancestor, barely able to believe that the scene unfolding before her eyes was real.
'Let my children be my concern, Malfoy. Long time no see, eh? Now tell me about the Dark Artefacts.'
'There are no Dark Artefacts in this house,' Lucius growled. 'I have told you repeatedly that the Malfoy collection has been transferred to the family vault at Gringotts, which may only be entered by a Malfoy.'
Ron tsk-ed. 'But that was half a year ago, Malfoy. How can we be sure that you haven't smuggled them back here in the meantime?'
Lucius merely shook his head and looked away.
'I asked you a question, Malfoy.'
He'd already raised his wand and pointed it at Lucius, when Hermione stepped out from behind the statue. 'Auror Weasley,' she called, 'May I see your search warrant?'
Ron froze. 'Hermione? How come you're still here? You were supposed to-'
'Answer my question, Auror Weasley. Where is your search warrant? Show it, this instant.'
'Look, Hermione, you know bloody well that I don't have-'
He fell silent rather abruptly when she raised her left hand. 'For the last time, Auror Weasley. Show me your search warrant.'
Ron took in her pale face and rigid posture and decided that this was not the right moment to start an argument with his wife. 'All right,' he said to the five Aurors who'd retreated towards the door, 'let's go, lads. It seems we're out of luck tonight.'
Fighting the urge to fire a nasty hex at him, Hermione shook her head. 'You are going nowhere, Auror Weasley. At least not the way you think.' Their eyes met for a brief instant, and she thought she saw a flash of comprehension dawn in his gaze. 'Auror Weasley, Auror Rivers, Auror Singh, Auror Beaversley, Auror Hamilton, Auror Zamboni, you are under arrest for trespassing on private property without a search warrant. You are further under arrest for taking away a British wizard's right to free movement and carrying a wand, without having an arrest warrant or the need to act in self-defence. Incarcerum!' She pointed her wand at the group, who suddenly found themselves bound tightly by shimmering golden cords. 'Expeditio auctoritatem!' At this second spell, the six Aurors vanished.
Hermione leaned against the wall, panting heavily. 'I think,' she said, when she'd regained her breath, 'I might be in need of a good divorce lawyer. Finite Incantatem!' The ropes binding Lucius fell away, and she handed him his wand, which had flown from Ron's hand the moment she'd pronounced the spell that effectively arrested him.
Lucius cleared his throat. 'You, er, just arrested your own husband.'
'That's why I need the bloody lawyer,' she snarled.
After checking on the three children, who had heard nothing and were still sleeping peacefully, Lucius retired to his study. He was pretending to be reading, because he hated to admit to himself that he was anxiously waiting for Hermione's return.
Arresting people always meant a lot of paperwork, and so she'd merely kissed him goodbye before she Apparated to her office, in order to get done with the administrative aspect of having taken her husband into custody as soon as possible. 'I'll come back though,' she'd said, squeezing his arm. 'If you want me to, of course.'
Still unable to believe his luck, Lucius had merely nodded.
'Are you sure?' she'd asked, frowning up at him.
'Yes, of course. Forgive me, I'm still feeling slightly dazed.'
That had been an hour ago. Much as Lucius wanted her to come back, he was also aware that there was nothing like a bit of tedious paperwork to help one calm down. A calm Hermione, though, was a frighteningly rational Hermione. A Hermione with an intellect as sharp as a razor, which cut right to the core of every problem. If she found out… Lucius shut the book with a thud and decided to have some brandy instead. Not that he wanted to get drunk – if she asked him as many questions as he expected her to, he'd need to be sober – but he reckoned that a small amount of brandy might help him calm down.
He'd just poured some into a large snifter and taken the first sip, when he heard the telltale crack of Apparition. A moment later the main door closed. Lucius straightened his shoulders and left his study to meet the Soon-To-Be-Ex Mrs Weasley. The chances of that happening had increased dramatically during the last couple of hours. He wasn't quite sure about his own chances, though. Being six feet under suddenly didn't seem all that bad.
'Everything sorted out,' she announced briskly and kissed his cheek.
Lucius allowed himself to relax marginally. 'I'm glad to hear it.' He slipped an arm around her shoulders. She didn't flinch away, but leaned into him. 'And I am very happy to have you back.'
'Well' – her arm sneaked around his waist – 'right now, I can't see why I ought to go home. My children are here, you are here, and I've managed to wreck whatever remained of my marriage. So why not go all the way?'
'All the way?' he echoed. 'Does that mean what I think it does?'
She stopped and turned to face him. 'Lucius, I've been fantasizing about you for two months. Every day. What do you think it means?'
'Exactly. But it doesn't seem quite fair to let me do all the work. I've just single-handedly destroyed my marriage, so would it be too much if I asked you to at least drag me to your bedroom and have your way with me?'
'That,' he said, sweeping her up and into his arms, 'was a lot more elegant than "I'll do you if you do me"!'
Hermione's adrenaline-fuelled bravado lasted until he'd put her down and secured the bedroom door with a few spells.
She looked at the large bed with its intricately carved frame and landscape of snow-white linen, and then at Lucius, and then back to the bed. How many women had he slept with here? Valiantly though she tried to shake off the memory, the words 'frigid cow' persistently echoed in her mind. True, she'd managed a few rather spectacular solo rides these days, with Lucius as her imaginary lover, but in her fantasies he'd always anticipated her needs – the real thing would be different, she'd have to tell him… What if she'd really become frigid? Her skills at faking orgasms had developed remarkably over the years, but she didn't want it to be like that, not with Lucius.
'I don't think I can do this,' she said.
'Can or want to?' he asked, stepping a little closer.
'Can, definitely. And don't tell me it's like riding a broom.'
'A lot simpler,' he said, encircling her loosely with his arms, 'and a lot more complex. Much more dangerous. But also much more pleasant.'
Hermione let her head fall against his chest. 'It's stupid, really.'
'I'd rather describe it as a bad case of stage nerves.' He kissed her forehead and stepped back. 'Why don't we just go to sleep and leave the important decisions for tomorrow?'
'That sounds nice. I haven't brought anything, though.'
'That should be easily remedied,' he said and snapped his fingers.
After a nice, long bath Hermione slipped into the dark blue silk pyjamas Lucius had adjusted to fit her. The bed was still empty when she re-entered the bedroom. There was a fire burning in the grate, but she shivered slightly. Once she'd made herself comfortable under the covers, though, she felt the warmth return to her body. With the warmth came desire, and she thought that maybe her retreat had been a bit premature.
Then the door on the other side opened, and she could see Lucius's silhouette against the bright, yellow light from his bathroom. 'Are you in bed already?' he asked.
She nodded, unaware that he couldn't see the movement in the darkness of the bedroom.
'Yes, I'm here. You ought to come too, it's very cosy.'
He extinguished the lights in the bathroom with a flick of his wand and walked over to the bed. Hermione's breath hitched when she felt the mattress dip under his weight. Maybe she ought to have listened to the voice of reason and gone home? There was a rustle of fabric, and suddenly his voice was very near. 'Cosy indeed. Was everything to your satisfaction?'
'Y-yes. And thanks for the pyjamas.'
'You are most welcome.'
Hermione decided to ignore the insistent protests of certain parts of her body and go for the safe solution instead. 'Good night,' she said.
Lucius reached for her hand, found it and squeezed gently. 'Good night.' He pressed a kiss on the palm. Then another one on her wrist. Then he pushed up her sleeve and kissed the inside of her elbow.
She had intended to stay quiet, but that last kiss elicited a low moan. It was followed by an entirely intentional moan, when his tongue glided over the same sensitive spot.
'Mmmh,' he purred, 'Cinnamon.'
She'd hesitated between the cinnamon and lavender bath oil. Lavender had seemed more sober and hence appropriate for a platonic night's sleep, but the realization that she'd smell like her grandmother's underwear cupboard had prompted her to go for cinnamon instead. Since the night didn't seem to have any intention to remain platonic, though, she had likely made the right choice.
After a few seconds of careful consultation with various body parts, Hermione moved closer to Lucius' shadowy form. Their mouths met in a somewhat clumsy kiss, for they had misjudged each other's position. But then she scooted even closer, and felt his leg slide across her thigh. The next kiss was a lot more satisfactory. 'You shaved,' she said, when they had to come up for air.
'I'm an incurable optimist,' he replied, opening the topmost button of her pyjama top. More buttons followed, and then she felt his mouth descend from her jaw, down her throat and over her breast. His tongue stroked her nipple, and then his lips closed around it in a slow, suckling motion.
For a while she was unable to do anything but moan and whimper and thrust her breasts into his mouth.
'I think,' Lucius said, pressing a kiss on each nipple, 'that a silencing spell might be a good idea.'
Hermione lay back in the pillows and watched the blue glow of the spell wrap itself around the room. It intensified briefly, and then sank into the walls and ceiling. It was only the two of them now, nobody else could hear her. If she was unable now to tell him what she wanted, she'd never get over her inhibitions, she was sure. 'Lucius,' she said, 'I, erm, I really want to make love, but right now I'm not feeling very adventurous. I want to just relax and let you do all the work.'
'That is perfectly all right,' he said amiably.
When the first light of dawn crept up on the hills of Wiltshire, she was kneeling astride his legs, coaxing his cock to hesitant attention.
Lucius raised a feeble arm and squeezed her bum. 'Don't you need any sleep at all?'
Hermione grinned down at him. 'I'm so tired, I could sleep for months. But your cock just begs for reanimation.'
'Hermione, dear, this cock has gone through so many reanimations already – if it were a Buddhist cock, it would go straight to nirvana.'
'That's exactly where it's going,' she replied, lowering herself.
Lucius woke with the distinct feeling that somebody was staring at him. When he opened his eyes, Hermione's face was a mere two inches from his.
'You planned this, didn't you?' she asked, poking his chest with a surprisingly sharp forefinger.
Had he been an uninvolved bystander, he would have awarded her points for tackling him at a most vulnerable moment. He was anything but, though, and so he tried to gather whatever remained of his wits, after she'd shagged them out of him. 'Planned what?'
'Everything. Coming to my office with Vanilla, the invitations, maybe even Rose and Scorpius. You'd better confess,' she added threateningly.
'What if I do?' he asked, realizing that this was not one of his finer moments.
'That depends. If I like your explanation, you might still have a chance.'
Lucius threw an arm across his face. He ought to have ordered the bloody coffin, he knew it. At least he'd stand a chance at a decent funeral once she was done with him. As things were, she'd probably throw his dead body into the lake. 'You're never going to believe me,' he muttered.
Hermione snorted. 'Try me.'
The French doors remained closed, and a fire was burning on the grate, to ward off the chill of a drizzly September morning. The house was blissfully quiet – Scorpius had spent the summer holidays at the Manor, as usual, and for the last three weeks Rose and Hugo had joined him.
Lucius poured himself a cup of coffee and started to read the Daily Prophet's sports section. The more interesting part of the newspaper was waiting for his wife, neatly folded next to her plate. He'd given up fighting for it – she had to leave for work at half past eight anyway, and so he'd just read it later. Not today, though. Today was Sunday, and Hermione didn't have to work. Lucius smiled at the memory of their rather vigorous morning shag and buttered a piece of toast. He did like married life, even though he didn't get to read the important news before half past eight.
The door opened, and Hermione entered the room. She had the same contented look Vanilla wore when she'd successfully outmanoeuvred the House Elves and eaten the Beluga caviar. 'You did that on purpose,' she said, pointing at a love bite at the base of her throat while sitting down.
JUST POPPING IN TO CHECK ON YOU, LUCIUS MALFOY.
Lucius jumped. 'That, erm, wasn't really necessary.'
'Of course it wasn't,' Hermione said, 'That's why I said you did it on purpose.'
ARE YOU ENJOYING MARRIED LIFE?
'Yes, I, er, it's very pleasurable,' Lucius said.
'I know. I like it too, but you know we have guests tonight.'
NO TROUBLE IN PARADISE? NO THOUGHTS OF DIVORCE?
Lucius snorted. 'You must be joking.'
'No, I'm not. We've been planning this dinner for weeks, I can't believe you forgot.'
THE NEW MRS MALFOY SEEMS TO BE QUITE A HANDFUL.
'I'm barely past my prime.'
'I know, darling, but perhaps too much sex is bad for your memory?'
I'LL LEAVE YOU TO IT, THEN. SEE YOU IN SEVENTY-SEVEN YEARS AND THREE WEEKS.
'Maybe. Don't get your hopes up, though. Coming quietly isn't my style.'
Hermione grinned. 'It certainly isn't.'