Author's Notes:

So my daughter recently challenged me to slyly drop song titles and band names into one of my stories, so I thought this fic (specifically, this chapter) was a good place to do that, as it's one of the more lighthearted of my tales. See how many references you can find in the text below!

Early-May, 2007

It took another two weeks for Hermione and Draco to find the time to really be alone, what with their last-minute prep of her fifth and seventh-year students for their big, end-of-year exams.

"O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s are stressful enough when you're the one taking them," she complained, as she entered Draco's chambers at his invite, breezing past him with arms full of books, "but I'd never anticipated that being on the other end of things might be equally as busy until I'd started teaching!"

Her baby's father swept around her and lightened her load by taking the books from her and setting them on a side table. "Almost over," he reminded her. "Breathe, Granger. You'll get through this as you always do." After all, it was like this at the end of every year, and they were both no longer neophytes at exam qualification and proctoring procedures.

She settled down onto his sofa before the fire and rubbed over her belly. Carina Rose had been quite active of late, and her weight was beginning to become quite considerable. Hermione's whole body ached on a regular basis now, and lately, she'd been suffering leg cramps and lower back pain. Poppy assured her it was all very normal, of course, including the weird bouts of hiccupping her daughter seemed to be doing in her belly which jiggled her at odd hours, but still Hermione was concerned with how much weight she'd gained. Surely she was bigger than normal?

It certainly felt that way.

She closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the cushions as Draco came and took the seat next to her. "It's just all so bloody exhausting this year," she grumbled.

He laid his hand over hers. "I didn't see you at dinner. Have you eaten anything since lunch?"

Always practical, her Slytherin lover.

"Mmm," she grunted tiredly, falling into his shoulder as the couch shifted with his weight. "Tea. Snack."

"You need to eat," he whispered at the top of her head and gave it a small kiss.

She fell asleep just like that, however, lulled by the fire's warmth, the soft cushions under her, and the comforting, familiar scent of Draco all around.

Hours later, she awoke to find Draco had laid her on her side, taken her shoes off, set a comfy pillow under her head, and covered her with a blanket. The fire in the hearth continued to gently burn, but the rest of the room was dark, indicating all the candles and lanterns had been doused. Chagrined that she'd wasted the first evening off she'd had in a while by sleeping through it, she slowly sat up, stretching, expecting to see Draco nearby, but was surprised to find him gone. No doubt he'd gone off to his own bed already, she thought, with a quick look at the clock on the mantle.

The actual time shocked her.

"Half twelve!" she quietly hissed.

Struggling to her feet, she used magic to fold up the blanket and set it neatly down on the arm of the couch, and then gathered her things in preparation for leaving.

On quiet feet, she tiptoed into Draco's bedroom and leaned over him to place a gentle kiss on his forehead. Silently, she bade him goodnight, and then crept out of his rooms, and back through the castle towards her own.

Along the way, she ran into Helena Merrythought doing the same.

The two women stopped and stared at each other. Hermione hadn't exactly forgiven Helena her deceit, but in that moment, she realised how truly silly it was to hold onto such a grudge for so long. After all, things had worked out for the best for both of them, and it truly seemed as if Helena had learned her lesson.

"It's silly isn't?" Helena said in a hushed tone, stepping forward and closing the distance between them, taking the first steps towards reconciliation. "Us sneaking around like two teenage girls out after curfew, and all for our men."

The thought had Hermione's lips twitching. "I haven't done this since sixth-year," she confessed.

Helena snickered. "I know, right?" She looked back the way she had come and sighed in resignation. "I love Theo, but he's something of a snorer. I can never get a full night's rest with him!"

"Draco's a serious bed hog."

The other woman rolled her eyes. "Slytherin males."

"Only child syndrome."

"Spoilt pure-bloods."

The two shook hands on that truth.

"Well, I suppose I'm off to bed before the Baron catches me," Helena said with a suppressed yawn. "Good night, Hermione."

"Good night, Helena."

They went their separate ways, back towards their rooms.

It would not be the last time the two women met under similar circumstances. In fact, for the remainder of the school year, it became almost a ritual for them to meet sometime around the witching hour while skulking back to their rooms.

In no time, in fact, they'd become co-conspirators in the game of 'castle sneak and ghostly dodge' and even, Hermione liked to think, something like friends.


Late-May, 2007

As the month wore on, Hermione's libido continued to pound away at her. The hormones rushing through her body hadn't eased off, as the pregnancy books said they might. Instead, it felt like she was making up for those lost months she'd been without Draco, lusting after him with a madness that nearly drove her 'round the bend, as Ron might have said.

Fortunately, most of her needs were being well-sated by her lover; they'd certainly gotten up to quite a bit of naughtiness over the past few weeks since they'd agreed to become physically involved once more. To her disappointment, however, they hadn't had actual intercourse yet. His tongue and hands had left no place on her ever-expanding body unexplored, but as for her favourite part of his anatomy...well, it seemed to be content with her hands and mouth seeing to its needs.

Something was holding Draco back from going all the way with her, despite her myriad, increasingly desperate attempts to persuade him to take her to bed and keep her there all night. Consequently, her frustration only mounted after every 'session' they shared, despite achieving orgasms that left her breathless and floating.

She wanted them to become one again, to share the ultimate intimacy, but each time she attempted to seduce him into it, he found a way to turn it around on her.

Things finally came to a head after he'd once more slowed them down during a heavy snog and petting session in his room one night. "Is something wrong?" she asked, panting, her body throbbing for him to use his cock to finish her off. He'd been teasing her clit for the last half-hour with his hand, but had pulled away just shy of actually shoving his boxers to the floor and entering her hard—something she'd desperately needed and wanted right then. "Is there a reason you won't have sex with me now? Is it that you think we're going too fast or...something else?"

Female vanity had her wondering if it had anything to do with how big and bloated she'd become over the last month. Did Draco find her unattractive now that she was whale-sized, with thicker ankles, heavier breasts, and stretch marks carving into the landscape of her flesh? She cringed to think in such shallow terms, but the truth was she'd always been a bit self-conscious of her body, never quite as in-tune with it as she was with her mind. It was obvious that pregnancy hormones had been driving her emotions all over the road since her baby's conception and only exacerbating her insecurities, but it was difficult not to think such things. Men were physical creatures, driven by instinct and social training to seek out beauty, and Hermione felt as far away from 'bewitching' as could be right then.

Draco was quiet for a while, one hand resting on her hip, his gaze riveted on her exposed nipples. He seemed unsure as to how to phrase what was bothering him.

"You can tell me anything," she encouraged him and ran a hand through his soft, blond hair. "I promise to listen, to try to understand."

He bit his bottom lip.

"Just say it," she whispered. "Fast, like removing a plaster."

With a deep breath, he stammered, "If I take you too could...she...Idon'twanttohurtthebaby."

It took Hermione a moment to process what he was saying.

"Oh, that's... Draco, you won't hurt her by making love to me."

He seemed genuinely distressed at the idea, though. "What if I crush her?" he murmured so softly, so pathetically that Hermione felt her heart melt. "Or if I go too deep, would you miscarry?" His throat bobbed with anxiety. "What if I killed her by accident?" His hand moved from her hip to her belly, stroking it with gentleness. "I don't want to lose Carina, not before I've even met her!"

Trying not to laugh with relief, Hermione cupped Draco cheek and forced him to meet her eye. "The books all say it's actually beneficial for an expecting mother to have sex because it prepares her for delivery and makes the birth easier. Besides, Poppy has given me a clean bill-of-health, as has the healer at St. Mungo's, and they both said it was perfectly safe for me to have sex with you right up until the date of delivery."

His mouth dropped open and his eyes went wide. "You asked them about it?"

Her lips curled into a wicked smile. "You didn't think I'd go this long without, did you?" With a push and a shove, she had him on his back and was straddling him, intentionally placing her wet core right over the tent of his erection and giving it a good, slow stroke. The silk of his boxers felt good sliding along her clit. "As long as we're not too rough and I'm careful of the pressure against my belly, we can do this again and again." She stopped as a sudden thought occurred. "You do want to do this with me, don't you?"

His grey gaze softened and his hands reached up to cup her fuller breasts, giving them a light squeeze. "I always want to do this with you, Hermione. Everywhere, in every way. The thought of it has driven me to distraction far too many times, in fact...and in the most inconvenient places." He paused and met her eye once more. "You're sure it's safe?"

His concern for their daughter was sweet but unnecessary. She wiggled her bottom, brushing over his taut length. "Positive. As long as we're not too wild, it's the most natural thing in the world to have sex when pregnant. It'll even make things better for me overall, because sex is clinically proven to boost a woman's immune system, it'll relax me so I sleep better, it'll reduce my overall pain, and your semen contains a chemical that will soften my cervix, making delivery easier on me in the end." She gave him an arch look, daring him to challenge her knowledge on the subject. "So, really, consenting adults having sex is actually an issue of medical well-being, similar to eating your peas and brushing your teeth. Therefore, in the name of us both being healthier, I think we should concede that the experts know what they're talking about in this instance and just do it."

The grin he threw he was positively feral and filthy, and it made everything inside her go tight with immediate need.

"You're talking my boner to sleep, Granger. Let's get to the part where we fuck all night."

He didn't have to ask twice.

Clothing shucked in a hurry, they rid each other of the last doubts, inhibitions, and burdens and just let love be their guide once more.

And it was good.


One week later...

The Quidditch Final had been fierce, but as Draco had predicted back in February, Slytherin won. It had taken four hours and twenty-seven minutes for the Snitch to be caught, though. Not an easy match, and one of the longest in Hogwarts' history.

Draco was, of course, over the moon that his House had finally done the one thing he'd been unable to do during his entire Hogwarts' career: bring home to Q Cup. To his delight, the 'Malfoy Manoeuver' had even been attempted by the Seeker for the Silver Serpents, although the girl had flubbed the attempt, lacking Draco's flair for the dramatic.

After he'd returned from the Slytherin common room, where he'd given his heartiest congratulations to his students at their hard-won victory, Hermione and he privately celebrated his House's triumph in their favourite way...

The tight hold she'd maintained on the headboard had her knuckles going white. Behind her, Draco moved slowly, but there was a barely-repressed urgency in his shallow thrusts and in the grip he maintained on her waist that kept their love-making from being labeled 'tender'. Not that she wanted him to be, as much a slave to their passion as he was in that moment. Still, he was as careful as his lust allowed.

When his blunted teeth clamped down at the place where her shoulder met her throat, however, Hermione's eyes rolled back into her head and she shuddered in his arms. "God," she gasped as he sucked hard on her flesh, feeling a jolt of hot, intense pleasure shoot straight down her spine. "Draco..."

Was that her suddenly whining and pleading for him to sink deeper into her?

He lifted his mouth to tease her earlobe with his tongue. "Do you know how much I love you, my witch," he hissed in her ear as he slid his cock deeper into her, just as she'd asked. Grabbing onto a hunk of her hair, he gently pulled her head back and turned it so he could take her mouth. Hermione whimpered against his lips. "You're everything I've ever wanted, Granger. This is. It's more than I ever dreamed...more than I deserve."

He kissed her then, reclaimed her heart again and again as he continued to move within her.

"Please," he begged between kisses, and in that one word Hermione heard her own misgivings:

Please don't let me mess this up.

Please don't let there be any more misunderstandings.

Please let me keep this.

Please promise not to let me go ever again.

Please love me forever.

Tears pricked her eyes, rolling down her cheeks.

Never had she been this happy. She'd thought it an impossible thing to feel this much love for one person. In truth, after everything that had gone down between her and Ron, she'd believed such a thing beyond her as well, because people who did bad things didn't get second chances, or so she'd always been told, and she'd done more than her share of mean things over the years, regardless of motive and levels of desperation. And yet here they were, she and Draco, two people who each had their own mile-long list of sins, who had done the unthinkable and had an affair...

Maybe their two 'wrongs' made one really big 'right'?

No matter, she'd take it, take him and what he was offering, and never look back again. The past was done with both of them, and this was their future now.

"I love you," she told him as she gasped to catch her breath, feeling the sweat slide down her back. She took his hand in hers and together, they flew higher than any Snitch.


Beginning of June, 2007

As O.W.L.s, N.E.W.T.s, and final projects fast approached, the days became increasingly stressful for the students, but the teacher-proctors had been well-prepared for the worst, thanks to Minerva's series of staff memos on what to expect and how to react to different scenarios that had been flooding the teachers' mailboxes since March.

Still, it was an ugly time. Students cracking under pressure and plummeting into depression was difficult enough, but then there had been a suicide attempt by a Ravenclaw on the afternoon of Draco's birthday and that had put the entire staff on high alert. All personal plans for that day had been canceled as the professors kept vigil on their flocks, stamping down rumours as they flew throughout the castle and reassuring others and discussing the hard topic with honesty and forthrightness when the questions began.

A day later, when the all-clear came down from Poppy, and the student was said to have recovered and a mind-healer brought in to talk to him, Hermione decided a little pick-me-up was needed for the rest of the student body. With Minerva's permission, she called in all her friends from Dumbledore's Army to come the following afternoon, a Friday, and spend time with the children, to lend them some courage and 'pal around'. Classes were canceled for the one day and the Great Hall had been set up with board games and card games, with foodstuffs and punch. It wasn't a party. It was a day to unwind, to meet some heroes, to relax and not think of the following week, the final one for this school year.

"I'll try not to take it too hard that my kids are currently glued to Harry," Neville joked as he came to stand at Hermione's side.

"Mmm," she agreed. "He's a novelty."

"He ever get tired of it?"

"I think Harry was born tired, honestly."

Neville chuckled at that. "Still, he's good with them. Wonder why he didn't take up D.A.D.A."

"Why be tied to one castle when he could chase Death Eaters across the whole of England?" Ron joked, sidling up to them. He handed her a glass of water, which Hermione took with an easy 'thank you'.

"Besides who wants to dodge hot teenage girls all day," George added, squeezing his way between Hermione and Ron and throwing an arm around his baby brother's shoulders. He leaned on Ron like some sort of lazy jungle cat taking up a branch and grinned like a cheeky monkey. "Every man's nightmare, that is."

Hermione laughed, Neville snorted, and Ron wisely said nothing.

"Speaking of dodging," Ginny added, coming up on Ron's other side and leaning her head on his unoccupied shoulder. "Where's Malfoy? Haven't seen him all afternoon."

Checking her watch, Hermione said, "Finishing up castle rounds. We're all taking shifts with the Prefects and the Head Girl and Boy after what happened. He'll be down in another twenty minutes or so."

Neville sighed. "My turn next. Thought I'd given up sentinel duty when I'd turned in my Auror's badge, but I've done more walking the beat for Hogwarts than I ever had for the Ministry."

"But you prefer the work here," Hermione gently nudged him.

"Oh, absolutely! And evading a jinx is much preferred to dodging a curse anyway. Plus, more time off on this job. I can actually get a weekend to myself more than once a month."

"Speaking of how one spends their free time..." Taking a sip of water, Hermione not-so-innocently asked him, "How's Hannah?"

Three sets of curious Weasley eyes turned on their friend. All of them had known Neville had been the brokenhearted bachelor since Luna had left him years ago, but none had guessed he'd finally put that failure away and been successfully dating again. With two words, Hermione had just opened that proverbial can of worms.

Personally, she was hoping for a winter wedding for her friend, and there was no time like the present to push that agenda.

Neville turned a lovely shade of Gryffindor red.

"She's fine." He cleared his throat and nervously fiddled with his collar. "I've...given her earrings."

Ginny, Ron, and George all gasped at that news, clearly understanding the import of such a move.

Her co-worker glanced sideways at her, noting her mischievous smile and tossed one right back at her. "Heard you got your own pair from Malfoy a few months back."

Now it was Hermione's turn in the hot, bright ginger spotlight...which was exactly what it felt like when Ron's eyebrows hit his hairline and he openly gaped at her. Shite, her ex-husband had commented on them when they'd spent Christmas together at the Burrow this last December, and at the time she'd explained she'd gotten them during the staff's holiday exchange. It hadn't been a lie, technically, as Draco had presented them to her during that event, but she hadn't told the whole truth of the matter to Ron. They weren't something harmlessly given to her by her swap partner, Aurora, as she'd implied, but by another man declaring his feelings for her before her divorce had even been discussed with her husband.

Ron's ego would take a hit from this if he put two-and-two together, and it could create some unnecessary bad feelings between them.

Time to channel her lover's inner Slytherin and distract!

Waving her hand in front of her face, Hermione took another sip of her water. "Is it hot in here?" She shot Ginny a 'GIRLFRIEND ALERT-HELP!' glance. "It's really hot, right?"

Bless her heart, Ginny picked right up on the ruse and fell right into the game. "It's pregnancy. It tends to do that to a girl." She shoved Ron and George towards the refreshment table. "Go get us drinks."

"But...'Mione already has one!" Ron argued, even as George caught the hint, too, and tugged his little brother away.

"Close call, there," Neville said with a grin as the brothers walked away.

Hermione elbowed him. "Snake."

"Honey badger," he countered. "Hannah's influence. Besides, I've never liked serpents, as you well know." He faux shuddered. "They're more your thing, I think."

She glanced askance at her friend and conceded to his deviousness with a sigh. "Alright, you win. I won't pry into your relationship anymore. Lesson learned, professor."

"'O' for 'Outstanding'," he joked and they shook on it.

"Speaking of 'x's and o's'," Ginny said, gripping Hermione's shoulders and bodily turning her towards the exit of the Great Hall. "Ground control to Major Tom: we may have a problem."

Ron was talking to Draco in the open doorway.

Hermione's panic switch was instantly flipped. Everyone knew her ex-husband had the temperament of a firestorm: he burned fast, hot, and recklessly until he was either satisfied or snuffed out. Comparatively, Draco was like a red hot chili pepper: no outward flame to mark his danger, but when you bit into him, he badly burned you...and the effects lingered, sometimes causing permanent, irreversible damage.

The two near each other was a meltdown begging to happen.

"Merlin, no," she groaned, expecting the worst.

Just as she was about to march over and head off that explosion, something unexpected happened: Ron held his hand out to Draco. And after a brief hesitation, Draco took it. They shook.

"Oh. My. God," Ginny gasped. "Did I just imagine that?"

"You'd be surprised at how far Ron's come," Harry said, sneaking up behind them and wrapping his arms around Ginny's bulging middle. He kissed her cheek. "We've been talking. The divorce really changed him."

"It made him grow up, you mean," his wife said.

"Mmm," he agreed. "Think he had to lose to understand what it takes to be a winner."

"Looks like Malfoy learned that lesson, too."

"We all did, I think," Neville admitted.

Hermione watched, speechless and stunned, as her former lover and her current lover talked amicably for several minutes. No wands were drawn, no hexes cast, no dirty looks passed between them. At one point, Ron even grinned and seemed to chuckle at something Draco said. The sight brought tears to her eyes.

"I never thought..." she said, but was so overcome with emotion she couldn't finish the thought.

Neville's hand landed on her shoulder and gave her a gentle squeeze in support. The touch was enough to remind her of where they were and that she had an audience of children watching every move any of the former heroes made. Quickly, she dashed at her eyes, clearing them.

"Well, that's my cue, I think," her co-worker said. "Time for my rounds. See you later."

As Neville headed off, Ron and Draco came towards them. They passed each other with a head nod.

On the way back, Draco was called aside by one of the first years in his House and he stopped to help her. Her ex-husband finished the trek alone and came to stand with her, Harry, and Ginny. All of them turned to watch Draco talking to the young girl, helping her with her Exploding Snap technique. He was patient and encouraging as he instructed her flipping cards, and all Hermione could imagine in that moment was how he would someday do the same with Carina Rose.

"He's going to be a great dad," Ginny told her.

"He'd better be," Ron mumbled, and Hermione knew that right there, he'd conceded entirely to her relationship with his former school rival. Whatever else had passed between them in their short talk, there had obviously been acceptance of their new roles in her life.

"Sure he will," Harry added, slapping Ron on the back. "He's got Hermione to keep him in line now."

Surrounded by her three closest childhood friends, her family, knowing they finally acknowledged that she could make her own life decisions, that the course her life would now take included Draco Malfoy, made her feel as if the war was finally over and she was home, at long last.


Author's Notes:

Happy Christmas, my lovelies, and Happy New Year! May your lives be filled with blessings, safety, and love every day!




Next up... Draco's parents learn about Hermione's pregnancy, Theo appears in the nick of time to help Hermione, and is that a ring in Hermione's future?