Chapter 4 –

When Hermione awoke in the lovely guest room at the crack of dawn, wearing only the man's white shirt that she'd found hanging in the painted white wardrobe, she debated whether to make a quick escape or to stay and have the breakfast that Draco had promised when they'd officially parted at her door the night before. Her anguish was due mostly to an extreme case of embarrassment, and not a little trepidation about what a morning meeting with Draco might bring. After what she'd seen in the darkness of his room, she was desperately torn about how to handle the whole thing…

Three hours of tossing and turning in the most comfortable bed in which she'd ever slept had Hermione ready to tear her hair out by the roots. Being truthful with herself and similarly honest with Draco, however, were two different things. Their post-dinner amorous encounter had left her itching for contact. It had been nearly five months since she'd felt the touch of a man, and she was, without doubt, a healthy, physical young woman. Her own hand, she knew beyond question, would not be enough to satisfy the ache she was feeling, so she didn't even try. The buzz in her blood reached such a level that she couldn't help but rise from her bed and move toward the door – and Draco's open invitation to use it, should she be in need.

Her feet, seemingly moving of their own volition, took her to his bedroom. Her hands, without a conscious command, twisted the doorknob and pushed the heavy wooden door open. Her eyes, adjusting quickly to the darkness aided by the bright glow of moonlight through the windows' sheer drapes, saw that the man in the immense, cream silk-covered bed was thrashing about. Her ears, attuned to the only sound save the crash of ocean waves, heard his moans and utterances. Her mind, finally clearing from her own haze of unfulfilled arousal, understood in the space of seconds what was happening. "Hermione!" she heard, and with a prayer that it had been his cry of release and not an acknowledgement of her presence, she fled the room in an instant.

She had returned to her bed, breathing heavily and more aroused than she could remember being in all her life. If there were ever proof of the truth of Draco's attraction to her, what she'd just seen was undoubtedly it. He'd sounded desperate – feverish, even – in his apparent need for her. As wanting as her own body was, Hermione's rational mind was wondering how the reality of her could possibly stack up to his expectations, and how they'd both reached this point of aching desire for each other so quickly. Was it just the lack of a regular partner, she wondered, or could there be something between the two of them that was truly so simpatico, so right, that had led them to this point so swiftly? At this moment, she was too shaky, too scared, and too mortified at having intruded on such a private moment to find out.

Her inner Gryffindor chided her for being cowardly, the tiny voice urging her to go back to the room she'd left so hastily and take the proverbial bull by the horns. The rational and logical portion of her brain that had nearly been sorted into Ravenclaw two decades ago urged her to be deliberate and circumspect, considering all potential courses of action and their likely outcomes. The fact that she'd been the one to put the brakes on earlier would also make her seem like a flake, she thought, if she decided to make a move on him now. The tiny cunning part of her that would have thrived in Slytherin told her to use what she knew about Draco's need for her to her advantage, to gain everything she could from what she'd seen and heard. And the very little bit of Hufflepuff in her felt just a smidge of guilt that she'd wanted a man other than the one she'd vowed to love, honor, and cherish, 'til death do them part. A quick internal reminder that the louse had cheated on her, however, quickly banished that uncomfortable sentiment. So, that left her with the dilemma unsolved: what to do, what to do?

Unable to reach a definitive decision, Hermione went with the passive one and did nothing. She stayed in the luxurious bed that had been afforded her for the night, tossing and turning fitfully, and catching only moments of dream-interrupted sleep throughout the long, hot night. That those dreams were filled with steamy kisses and lingering caresses from a tall, slim, white-blond man did not escape her conscious mind.

After what seemed like the shortest and longest night she'd ever spent – at least since the horrors in the forest during what would have been her seventh year – Hermione was awakened by the ever-increasing amounts of sunlight streaming through the windows. That's when her latest internal debate had begun.

A bold knock on her door and a pleasant tenor voice calling her name startled her from her on-going argument. "Hermione! Are you up?" Draco asked through the closed door.

Shit, she thought. I guess it'll be less odd to stay than it would be to go.

"I am, Draco," Hermione answered. "Hold on a second." After reluctantly dragging herself out of bed, a quick glance through the clothing in the wardrobe turned up nothing in the way of a dressing gown, so she transfigured the shirt she'd worn into a knee-length bathrobe, retaining the fabric's original composition while shifting its color to a deep rose pink; changing it to silk or satin would have required more time and effort than she cared to expend at the moment. She pulled the door open and saw that Draco was carrying a large tray of food; he'd obviously intended to bring her breakfast in bed.

Draco's face bore a broad smile and he nodded toward the far side of the room. "May I?" he asked, seeking permission to set the feast on a low table near the pair of brocade arm chairs that sat in front of the French doors leading to a balcony. At her nod of assent, he placed the tray, containing Greek omelets, crusty toast made from artisanal bread, fresh fruit, strong coffee (in keeping with the Greek custom), homemade strawberry jam, and a tall carafe of orange juice on the glass surface. He called for Juji, who arrived with a pop to ensure that they had all the appropriate china and utensils.

Hermione had been very quiet, not speaking other than her first acknowledgement of his presence at her door. Draco had, on the other hand, kept up a steady prattle in describing the meal that he'd prepared for them. She distantly heard him disparage his own skill as a cook, saying, "I'm not much use in the kitchen, with the exception of breakfast. I make a mean omelet, so I hope you'll enj…" He stopped abruptly, looking at her intently.

"Is everything all right, Hermione?" he inquired, concern pulling lines into his forehead.

He thought she looked upset, or maybe troubled. He was slightly mollified when she shook her head lightly and pasted a smile on her face.

"I'm fine; I just didn't sleep terribly well last night."

"Was the bed not to your liking?" he wondered, adding, "I'll replace the mattress with a different type if you stay again."

"Oh, not necessary, Draco. The mattress was perfect. I just… had a lot on my mind, I guess." She shrugged and added a strained laugh that she thought he probably accepted. After all, he didn't know her that well, yet.

Draco was worried, now. He'd come on a little strong and he hoped that she hadn't been angered or offended by his forwardness. Although, he recalled, she hadn't been pushing him away, at least until the last moment. Deciding to stick to his pledge to play this straight, he confronted the potential problem head-on. "Did I do something to upset you?" he asked quietly and urgently.

"No, Draco," she reassured with a hand on his arm. "Really, I was just… restless."

He laughed lightly, and thought he'd tease her just a little to further lift the mood. "Well, you should have come over to visit, then."

The flicker in her eyes told Draco that she was debating something, and seemingly having finally reached a decision as to how she would proceed, Hermione met his eyes directly and didn't release her gaze. "I… did."

He stopped dead in his tracks, accidentally spreading some of the jam that he'd been adding to his toast over his thumb. All the color, what little of it there was, drained from Draco's face, and just as quickly, he flushed hotly, ears, cheeks and neck suddenly bright pink. "Uh…"

Hermione smiled and reached for his hand, the one with a light coating of strawberry preserves, and lifted the sticky digit to her mouth. Keeping eye contact, she opened her mouth and guided his thumb in, wrapping her lips and tongue around it and sucking softly, then swirling her tongue to clean off every last bit of the sweet spread. She couldn't help but notice that Draco's breathing had quickened and his hand was trembling slightly.

He was certain that she had to have noticed the heavy gulp of air that forced his Adam's apple to bob, and he stared slack-jawed as she released his finger from her mouth, pulling his hand away and allowing her teeth to lightly graze it as it passed slowly through her lips.

"I take it that you weren't kidding when you said that you were attracted to me, were you?" she asked, keeping hold of his hand.

Draco couldn't do more than shake his head. He was happily stunned at the quick turn of events, but not yet sure how this scenario might play out. He thought it best to wait and see what Hermione wanted.

"Good," she said. "I'm very happy to hear that."

He dared not move a muscle as she rose from her seat, still holding his hand in hers, and moved to stand immediately beside him.

"You see, the real reason that I couldn't sleep last night was that I was so… wired after our little make-out session, that I just couldn't stand it."

Hermione lifted his hand to her mouth and kissed his palm. "I know that I'm the one who said we should stop last night, but I… spent three hours re-thinking that decision before I went to see you. I must admit that I was a little… freaked out when I saw what you were doing."

He opened his mouth to offer some explanation, some excuse, but she stopped him with her fingers over his lips.

"I wasn't turned off; to the contrary, I was immensely aroused by the idea that you were so turned on by me that you couldn't help touching yourself. I… didn't want to embarrass you. And, I suppose, I didn't want you to think I was… some slag, either." She paused for a moment when he shook his head in denial and made noises of protest. "But the thing is, Draco, I'm really attracted to you too, and I'm tired of having a horrible, boring sex life. We've found so many things in common already, and I was hoping that maybe… you and I might be compatible that way, too."

Draco was trembling in his effort to maintain his self-control and he wondered if she was shaking inside as much as he was. If he had to guess, he'd lay odds that she'd rarely been so sexually forward, based on her comments that her ex-husband had been a boring, vanilla lover. He surmised that the creep had focused more of his energy on getting off than in pleasing his partner. If her reaction to him was any indication, this witch was a tiger waiting to be un-caged. He found himself desperately hoping that he had the proper key.

He took her pause as an opportunity to stand, and gathered her close to him. He used his free hand – she still hadn't relinquished her hold on the other one – to lift the curls near her left ear, and he ran the tip of his tongue along the outer edge, breathing warm puffs against her neck. "I'm more than willing to find out," he whispered. "Are you?"

He could feel the nod of her head, and the tilt of her chin toward him, and that was all the acknowledgement he needed. He took their joined hands and reached behind Hermione's back to tug her flush against him, not at all embarrassed that his suddenly evident arousal was pressing insistently into her stomach, and fastening his lips to hers in a way that threatened that he'd never let go. His kiss was firm and lush, and Hermione's responding whimper seemed to be one of delight and pleasure. He couldn't help but think that she had the softest, sweetest, most pliable lips he'd ever tasted.

Draco's fingers threaded through her curls and his palm cupped the back of her head, ensuring the she was pressed close at every possible point. As he molded his lips against hers, Draco tried to convey all the passion and want he was feeling while not coming on so strong as to scare her away again; it was a delicate balance, considering his consuming level of urgency. It wasn't long before his gentle bussing of her upper lip and insistent tugging at her lower lip gave way to full capture of both, and he flicked the tip of his tongue against hers when she gasped at the feel of his fingers trailing along the nape of her neck.

Draco loved kissing; it was an art as much as a knack and he poured his soul into expressing himself as a lyrical performer. Their kiss was every bit as much a dance between them as their waltz had been, and the precision with which he used his mouth, lips, tongue, and teeth resembled the skill required of a concert pianist's fingers on ebony and ivory. While he maintained the bulk of the control, it was clear that Hermione was responding in kind. One really can't, after all, kiss alone, he recognized. When he felt her tease her tongue along the roof of his mouth, extracting a delicious shiver, Draco knew that being with her would be something he'd never forget; she was not a recipient, but a full participant. As much as he despised that the thought crept in at this moment, he couldn't help it; the comparison between this woman and his former wife left the latter sorely lacking.

While he had no intention of relinquishing his hold on Hermione's lips at the moment, Draco wanted nothing more than to expand his exploration of the delectable witch in his arms. He gently tugged away the hand she'd been holding (so tight that it had started to tingle) and stroked his fingers along her spine. The relatively thin cotton of the bathrobe she'd transfigured told the story that there was nothing underneath but sweet, soft woman. He used gentle pressure to trace and massage each of her vertebrae from neck to the soft swell just as her derriere began, and back again. By the third pass, she was trembling in his arms, particularly as he'd dipped slightly lower each time, ending with his hand gently resting fully on her firm and luscious right rear cheek.

He was glad that she had been far from idle; Hermione had used the opportunity to trace his strong, broad shoulders and lean, lithe back, gently massaging the muscles that had become rigid in his anxious expectation. Draco relaxed under her tender touch and separated his lips from hers only because he reattached them to other parts of her body, paying particular attention when he quickly discovered how much she was aroused by his light suckling on her neck and shoulders. He wasn't sure exactly how it had happened, but the robe's belt had come undone, allowing the sides of the wrap to part and ensuring that his access to her sweet flesh was nearly unimpeded. He grasped the edge of the collar in his teeth and dragged it further down her shoulder, growling in appreciation as the swell of her breast was bared to him.

He dropped to one knee and pressed his head against her ribcage, the barely-covered undersides of her breasts grazing the top of his head. He was overjoyed when he felt her hands in his hair, tugging him against her. He tilted his head upward and feathered tiny kisses in a row from left to right, across the breadth of her torso. Draco lifted his eyes to meet hers and whispered his prayer. "Please…"

As he waited for her answer, he felt her lean away slightly and was momentarily devastated for the loss, until she moved her hands to his chest, running them appreciatively along his collarbones and firm pectorals before she began to unbutton the linen shirt he'd donned. Draco felt a huge smile coming on and could do nothing to stop it. He hoped that she saw the real joy in him at that moment. He heard her laugh and wondered what had amused her.

"Draco, if you don't let go, there's no way for me to remove your shirt," she teased.

He was stunned to find that his hands had latched on to either side of her waist, and his grip was quite firm, as if he were expecting her to squirm away at any second and was desperate to forestall that possibility. He felt color rise on his cheeks and he loosened his hold on her, dropping his hands only long enough to allow her to push the fabric over his shoulders and down his arms, mere seconds at the most.

He sought permission in her eyes to fully release her robe from its perch on her own shoulders and wasn't sure whether he was thrilled or deprived when she shrugged the garment off and allowed it to fall to the floor, leaving her fully nude; as delighted as he was at the result, there was a big part of him that had wanted to rip the thing off her himself. He silently pledged that he'd earn another opportunity to do that very, very soon, assuming that things progressed as he was beginning to hope.

"Merlin, you are lovely," he told her, moving closer once more to kiss, nip, nuzzle, and lave her from clavicle to navel, rising from his kneeling position to sweep her into his arms and carry her to the bed she'd left only minutes before.

He concluded that she was nearly as eager as he when he felt her hands on his belt buckle, releasing the metal clasp. He found her fingers to be remarkable deft as they found and made quick work of his trousers' button and zipper, all without actually touching the aching, turgid organ that sprang free from its confines. He had never been so grateful for the Healer's orders to go sky-clad as he was in that moment; the fewer separations between himself and Hermione, the better, he thought. Draco pushed the black linen trousers over his hips and kicked them off. He'd been barefoot, thankfully, so he didn't embarrass himself by getting the legs tangled in shoes. "Please," he whispered again as he rolled to his side to partially cover her body with his own.

When Hermione reached into the small space between them to trail her fingers lightly along his erection, Draco was sure he'd go off right then. The remarkably different feel of the touch of a woman's hand, particularly this woman's hand, from his own over the last several weeks was enough to make him feel like a teenager again. He grunted, sounding decidedly male, and she gripped him slightly harder. "Not yet," he begged. "It's been a while, you know."

"I know. Me, too," she quietly acknowledged, although he'd guessed that was true without her confession. She hesitated a moment, then spoke again. "I, uh, wonder if you might be open to a request."

He lifted an eyebrow in question, but rather than speak, he wrapped his lips around a nipple. He thought she probably got the message that he was open to suggestion, anyway. If there were any doubt, he nodded, keeping the bud in his mouth all the while, creating a fabulously intense counterpoint to the strong suckling that his tongue had already begun.

"Let's… go for it, then see where it takes us from there," she proposed, gasping at the mirrored feelings tugging at her breast and in her core as his hand traveled down, seeking its heat and finding her completely slick and ready. He loved the way she bucked against the heel of his palm, seeking friction wherever she could find it. He was beginning to think that "tiger" wasn't even close in describing the beautiful beast he was hoping to unleash.

"Gods, woman, I love the way you think," Draco declared breathlessly. He was eminently certain that he'd be able to muster up more than one performance for this glorious witch. Stopping sometime this week would be the difficult part, he thought. It almost, however, stopped him cold when he recalled that, not so many weeks ago, he'd despaired over the idea that even touching a Muggle-born would require that he'd need multiple potions and spells to have a hope of even getting stiff. He pushed that thought aside forcefully, the pulsing and wonderful aching in his groin more than sufficient proof that he'd been horribly, ridiculously, entirely wrong. That unusual happenstance made him deliriously cheerful. This woman had him more ready, willing, and able (he hoped) than he'd been in any cogent memory.

Draco crawled up over Hermione's supine body, graceful as a lynx, and kissed her deeply, wrapping his tongue around hers and probing her mouth deeply. He backed away slightly after a moment. "Tell me, Hermione. Tell me what you want," he ordered, his voice thick, heavy, and deep.

"All of you," she answered with the slightest tremor. He chose to believe it was not fear or trepidation, but desire. "Take what you want, Draco."

He didn't need to be asked again. Draco knelt on his haunches and stroked her thighs firmly but gently with his strong hands. He nudged them apart further, though she had given him no resistance. "I want to see all of you, Hermione," he explained. He admired the trimmed triangle of dark chestnut and the pearly pink folds that seemed to twitch under his steady, appreciative stare. His gaze drifted up over her ribs to her full breasts, tipped in dusky rose, and her long, graceful neck. He could see that her dark amber eyes were examining him just as closely as he was her, from strong shoulders down to firm chest, barely dusted with fine golden hair, to taut abdominals and wiry, blond trail leading to his thick, fully-engorged penis, its purple head twitching and throbbing visibly. He could feel how tight his quadriceps were, tensing in anticipation and readiness.

He bent to trail his lips and tongue from her chin, down her neck, along her breast, pausing to swirl her nipples, each in turn. He smiled at her response when he sucked hard, and gasped as loud as she had when he felt her hand gently fondling his sac. He thought he'd die from the pleasure when she rolled his testicles gently, then firmly grasped his shaft, stroking from base to tip. When her thumb determinedly brushed his frenulum and glans, he grasped her wrist to stay her movement, or it would be over before it began.

Draco pulled away slightly, a broad smile on his face, and leaned down further to twirl his tongue around her pearl, teasing her opening with two long fingers. When she tilted her hips to find more contact, he gave her what she wanted and fully buried both digits in her hot, tight cavern. His mouth nibbled lower to taste her essence and he buried his tongue as deeply inside her as he was able while she voiced her pleasure. When he barely tickled her rosette with a fingertip, he thought she would spontaneously combust, so intense was her reaction. He guessed, rightly, that she'd never been touched there intimately. Weasley, he definitively concluded, was a lousy lover, and hadn't a clue what he'd given up.

Hermione was whispering and urging him on, saying, "Please, Draco, take me now. I need you inside me."

Having reached a point where there was nothing more he wanted than to find her depths, Draco sat on his heels once more and wrapped his hands around Hermione's hips, tugging her thighs and center along his own, and positioning his erection against her opening. When he made eye contact with her, he saw trepidation. "Trust me on this; you'll feel every stroke exactly where you want it," he promised. When she breathed and nodded, he thrust hard, sheathing inside her in one firm, sure stroke. She was very wet and very ready, and he felt only the natural friction that he expected. He watched as her eyes went wide with realization.

"Oh gods, that's…. perfect," she declared, apparently surprised at feeling his length rubbing along her sweet spot from tip to base with his first movement.

When his second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth strokes did the same thing, he thought she might pass out from the intensity of her panting. He changed the angle a little by leaning forward and lifting her up with an arm around her shoulders until she wrapped her arms around his neck, allowing slightly deeper penetration for himself without sacrificing her sensation. He suckled on her neck and gently kneaded one breast while using his other arm as a brace under her hips. He could feel her muscles quivering and heard her whisper in his ear, "I'm so close, Draco. Harder, please!"

Never one to refuse a lady's request, Draco snapped his hips against hers with more force and speed, feeling a desperate tension building in his own center. He was certain it wouldn't take more than a few more strokes to bring them both. He kissed her deeply again, then pulled back fractionally, pleading, "Come for me, Hermione. I want to see you come."

After three more deep thrusts, Hermione stiffened in his arms, her breath hitching and a long, sensual groan ripping through her chest. He followed her two thrusts later, locking his hips fully against hers to bury himself to the hilt inside her and shouting his release in the form of her name. He collapsed against her for a quick second, then rolled to his back to relieve her of his weight, doing his level best to keep them connected, moving his slim hips rapidly and shallowly to prolong their mutual pleasure for as long as possible.

Draco craned his neck to kiss her tenderly, and wrapped his arms around her tightly. "I'm not letting you go," he told her with a chuckle, "except to eat and pee."

Hermione lifted up from his chest to meet his eyes. "That was… spectacular," she said, blushing to the roots of her hair and lifting her hands to cover her face in embarrassment.

"Oh, no you don't!" Draco chided, pulling her hands away. "You are beautiful and we were fabulous together. Don't you dare be embarrassed over something we both wanted."

"It's just that… oh, Merlin, how do I say this?" she asked rhetorically.

"You can say anything you like to me, Hermione," Draco told her, his tone surprisingly sounding much more serious than he'd intended.

"I've… never had an orgasm from intercourse before. This was very… special," she added quietly.

Draco gathered her close again, fully engulfing her in his embrace. "I'm sorry," he whispered, kissing the top of her head.

Hermione was clearly confused. "For what?"

"That you've not had the satisfying love life that you deserve. That your ex-husband clearly wasn't worthy of you. That I didn't get to know you a dozen years ago." He caressed her back, trailing his fingers along the curve of her buttocks. "I know this happened… a little sooner than either of us expected, but I really hope that it doesn't create any strain between us. I've come to feel quite strongly for you in an admittedly short time, and I obviously can't deny how attracted I am to you, and not just physically."

Hermione interrupted him with a little tickle to his ribs, causing him to capture her hand in his and kiss her fingers before she sent him into a wave of guffaws. He was horribly ticklish and he preferred she not know that just yet. A man had to have one or two defenses left to him.

"I'm serious," Draco continued, stopping to kiss her forehead. "I don't think I've ever connected quite so well with any woman, mentally, intellectually, socially, and certainly, physically." He punctuated the last with an upward thrust of his hips, and Hermione's thigh was poked by his reawakening penis. He was relieved and delighted when she laughed, low and throaty.

"Ready for another round?" she offered, crawling up over him and straddling his hips. Draco held up a hand to stall her for a moment and summoned his wand with a silent Accio. He cast a durable contraceptive spell, one that would allow them to play safely for the whole day if they wished. She smiled appreciatively as he turned his attention fully back to her.

"Absolutely!" he promised, enthusiastically joining her in a scorching kiss.

When they had finally awakened after a late-morning nap, it had been so long that even the stasis charms on their breakfast had given up the ghost. "Round Two" had been as steamy and energetic as their first time had been, but "Round Three" was the one they'd both remember with the greatest joy. After a short nap, Draco had awakened Hermione with sensual massage and adoring kisses, and they had spent the next hour giving each other tender, sweet pleasure. Months later, Draco would tell her that he had counted it the first time they'd made love.

After a particularly steamy shower, they had eaten a light lunch on the beach and dozed nude in the sun, taking full advantage of Draco's handy shielding spell, until late afternoon. Hermione was thrilled over the prospect of never having to glop on that horrible, sticky lotion again. The privacy of the locale also had her over the moon with the idea of no tan lines.

As lovely as their unexpected weekend together had turned out, Hermione wanted to get back home before Ron brought the children back, which would happen around six o'clock. Draco had opened the Floo for her use, and they had left each other reluctantly (after three abortive attempts), kissing long and deep each time and with Draco's heartfelt plea to see her again soon – very soon.

When Hermione awoke the next morning, her sitting room was filled with orange lilies, and another note from Draco. She'd felt giddy (and a little sore in places that hadn't had so much use since she'd delivered her last child), and happy, and debated long and hard whether to keep all the new developments to herself and relish them privately, or scream her joy from the rooftop. She had compromised, telling Ginny first, then Harry a couple of days later about how quickly her "friendship" with Draco Malfoy had progressed.

Ginny's reaction had been more positive than Hermione could have hoped. She was clearly still furious with her brother and wanted the woman she'd always think of as her sister to find real happiness. She'd relished the idea that her brother would be so cheesed off over Hermione's blossoming relationship with the man he hated more than any other; it was fitting karma for the hurt he'd caused.

Harry, whose role in kicking off the treaty between the former enemy camps still surprised him as much as anyone else, had been no less supportive, and had tamped down any remaining skepticism when he saw how happy Hermione was and witnessed, first-hand, Draco's sweet and sincere expressions of interest and affection. He'd been in Hermione's office when the third delivery of the week of a small posy of coral roses arrived with a note that simply read, "Thinking of you, D.M." He had also eavesdropped on the other side of the door, having arrived only seconds after Draco, when the wizard had passionately greeted Hermione and begged her to accompany him on a lunch date, saying, "I couldn't wait until Saturday to see you again." The breathlessness and desperation in his voice had been too real for even the best Slytherin poseur to affect.

His only caution to Hermione had been to encourage her to introduce the idea of a new man in her life slowly and deliberately to her children. He and Ginny offered to host a Sunday brunch, inviting not only Draco, Hermione and her children, but Pansy, Blaise and their son, Arturo, who was the same age as Hugo. Hermione agreed readily, recognizing the wisdom of the larger group as being less threatening and momentous than a dinner alone with Draco. If things continued to progress as they had, that event would come soon enough.

When Hermione had relayed the Potters' invitation, Draco had been enthusiastic about the idea, commenting, "I think it's time." He'd been glad, too, that his dearest friends had been included, noting that their broader objectives of building more social alliances would be well-served by the opportunity to introduce their children while they were still young and friendships could be forged without learned prejudices.

Draco's strategy for the day had been simple: be nice, ask questions, and bring presents. The latter action might have brought him a degree of grief from some quarters with accusations of trying to buy the children's affection, had he been foolish enough to bring extravagant gifts. Instead, he had been thoughtful and conservative. He'd brought a wizarding coloring book for each of the six children, including Ginny and Harry's three, the grand total of his expenditure, including the accompanying color-applying wands, being a whopping one Galleon and four Knuts. His foresight, considering another dreadfully rainy day, had been most fortuitous, and the parents had been at least as happy for the timely occupation as the kids. When four-year-old Arturo had invited his "Uncle Draco" to sit with him to help with the correct shades of brown and grey for his owl, the tall wizard had unhesitatingly dropped to the floor, cross-legged, and engaged in a lively and amusing debate with the tot over the creature's eye color. He had laughed heartily and agreed readily to the compromise of one gold and one green orb.

Draco's easy camaraderie with one boy had made the other children more comfortable, and before long, he'd been stretching from his seated position to share his sought-out opinion on the best colors for everything from Grindylows to Bowtruckles to the ribbons around a unicorn's neck. Harry was amused to see his own children tug on the wizard's shirtsleeve, asking "Uncle Draco's" advice, and Hermione breathed a great sigh of relief when Rose and Hugo enthusiastically followed suit.

At Draco's suggestion, Hermione had agreed to allow him to escort them home from Harry's house, and Hermione had invited him to stay for dinner, treating them all to burgers on the barbecue since the weather had finally cleared. By silent assent, the couple had refrained from overt displays of affection, but it seemed that Rose, at least, was more intuitive than her mother had anticipated, questioning Hermione about the nature of their relationship after the wizard's departure. Hermione had nearly choked when the child had asked whether Draco was going to be their new daddy, prompting a diversion from Hermione (which Rose had deftly deflected) about how she knew of such concepts.

"Mummy," she'd said, "don't you know that after a divorce, kids get new mummies and daddies? It happens all the time!"

Hermione had been flabbergasted and speechless for a long moment, until Ron's daughter had, in perfect imitation of her irritated mother (arms akimbo and lips firmly pursed), pressed her original question once more. She'd tap-danced and obfuscated, but couldn't bring herself to outright lie. "Draco is a very good friend to Mummy right now, and I like him very much. If we keep liking each other, and you and Hugo like him too, then, well, maybe. But not just yet. Okay?"

That seemed to mollify the child and she skipped off to get ready for bed, humming – dreadfully off-key, just like her father – the melody of the latest Weird Sisters hit.

Having already settled Hugo in bed, Hermione was finally free to absorb and process everything that had happened during the day. As she sipped a glass of the terrific red wine that Draco had given her, she marveled at the unmitigated success the day had been.

Adding Blaise's family to the event had been a master stroke of genius, for which she'd eternally bless Ginevra Potter's name. It had helped to break the ice with the children, had given the parents something to coo over, and had allowed Draco to show that he had a natural and warm manner with children. While that hadn't been a specific goal by any means, it had happened organically, greatly easing Hermione's mind about the man and his motives. Better still, he'd demonstrated clearly that it wasn't just for show when he'd been firm enough to admonish his godson gently when he got a little too boisterous, while knowing when it was time to leave the children to their own devices and pay appropriate attention to the adults in the room.

Hermione had been just as happy about the way the Zabinis had responded to Harry and Ginny's invitation. They hadn't hesitated for a second, and had been friendly and charming throughout the afternoon. Pansy, Hermione quickly discovered, had a wicked sense of humor and Blaise was masterful in his ability to tease Draco about anything and everything, showing no mercy. While she couldn't see them being the kind of incredibly close friends that Harry and Ginny were, she felt optimistic that they could build good relationships. And Draco had been as warm, witty, charming, and attentive as she could have hoped while still respecting her children's presence. All in all, it had been a very good day.


Six days, nine Floo calls, three notes, four lunch dates and one heavy make-out session later, Draco was sitting in his mother's gazebo at eleven o'clock in the morning, sipping tea and nibbling a raspberry scone while Narcissa prattled about her latest shopping trip to Paris, and studiously avoided all mention of anything relating to Draco's marital and familial situation. Draco suppressed a snort, thinking that the one time he really wanted to talk about what had been happening on that front, his mother was not playing along.

When she paused to sip her own tea, Draco sucked up his courage and plowed in. "Mother," he said, "I'd really like to talk to you about something, if you have a little time."

"For you, dear, I will always have all the time you need. What's on your mind, love?"

"More accurately, 'who' would be the question. Hermione Granger," he answered, and he recognized immediately that he'd been unable to prevent a smile from crossing his face at the mention of her name.

His mother noticed, too. "I see," she said, grinning madly into her teacup. "You know I don't like to pry, Draco, so just tell me what you want me to know."

Holding back another rude noise, Draco simply lifted an eyebrow. They both knew how utterly untrue her statement had been. "Of course, Mother, you are the very soul of the disinterested bystander."

She had the grace to blush and waved a hand at him, barely missing swatting his shoulder, and encouraging him to get on with it.

"As I'm sure you've heard, I've been seeing Hermione for the last few weeks, and it's been, ah, going… well," he hemmed and hawed.

"I see," Narcissa repeated, peering at her son over the rim of her Lenox china. "Go on," she urged, biting the inside of her lip to forestall an untimely eruption of laughter. She had indeed heard a couple of very interesting stories from Pansy, whom Draco continually confided in, and whom he regularly forgot to admonish about keeping their conversations private, especially from his mother.

Draco's nervous energy had reached a fever pitch and he rose, pacing the open-aired structure rapidly. "We're, uh, getting on well," he repeated.

"So you said."

He opened his mouth to speak and closed it again, three times, before finally allowing coherent words to form. "I like her. A lot."


"I could really see a future with her."

"That's lovely, dear."

"I'm going to ask her to see me exclusively."

"How do you think she'll respond?"

"I think she'll agree. I hope she will."

"Then what?"

"I can really see a future with her."

"I know, dear. You've said that."

"I think I could really love her."

That was a bit more than Narcissa expected to hear, and she swallowed thickly. "That's wonderful, dear," she replied in a whisper.

"How could I have been so wrong, Mum?" Draco begged, finding his seat heavily and raking his hands through his hair.

"About what, Draco?"

"Muggle-borns. Blood supremacy. All of it. She's an amazing woman, an incredible witch. Even if things between us don't work out, I wouldn't have missed this opportunity to get to know her."

"We were all wrong about many things, dear. And we've paid heavy prices for that. You have an opportunity to begin to right many of those wrongs. Just be sure that your relationship with Miss Granger is based on what's real and important to you rather than on expediency, even at the expense of your legacy. Your heart is worth more than any inheritance, Draco, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise," she told him vehemently, grasping his hand tightly as she spoke.

"I've come to realize that, Mum. The decisions I'll be making over the next few weeks will be guided by my conscience and my heart, not my pocketbook. I make that promise to myself as much as to you." Unspoken but no less important was his implied promise to Hermione.

"So, when can we expect to meet Miss Granger?" Narcissa wondered.

"I'm not quite ready to do that within the next couple of weeks, but soon, I think, depending on how she responds to my proposal."

The flash in Narcissa's eyes was fleeting but unmistakable.

"No, Mother, not yet. I meant about seeing each other exclusively," Draco warned with an internal sigh at her lack of subtlety.

"You said 'yet,' Draco. Does that mean you anticipate a time when that will happen?" She couldn't keep the eagerness out of her tone.

"Mother, would it make you happy if I say 'yes'?"

"Only if it makes you happy, dear."

"I think it very well could," he replied thoughtfully.

On the heels of their successful brunch gathering at the Potters' house, Pansy consulted Draco about the possibility of organizing another group outing to a dance hall or night club. He'd been, if not enthusiastic, accepting of the idea, knowing it would be met with approval from the one person he was currently most interested in impressing. He gave Pansy the okay to proceed, telling her that he'd take care of inviting Hermione.

Thus it was that the next Friday night found a group of more than a dozen Hogwarts alumni gathering once again at the Swish & Flick for an evening of drinks, dancing, and conversation – to the degree that was possible in the typically crowded, noisy venue. The Potters, Longbottoms, Zabinis, Notts, Finnigans, Thomas-Finch-Fletchleys, and Draco and Hermione occupied a large corner booth in the darkened space, couples sitting together and former House-mates intermingled with erstwhile rivals.

Fortuitously, this evening had been the once-monthly "Lovers' Night" at the Swish & Flick, and the normally eardrum-splitting volume levels and heavy wizard rock beats were replaced by sultry, sensuous melodies and a decibel count that allowed for conversation without shouting. That had suited everyone just fine, but was particularly welcome to Draco Malfoy.

While he and Hermione had met for lunch several times, and shared numerous Floo calls and owl-delivered notes, they had not had much real private time where he could indulge in one of his new favorite pastimes, namely running his hands and lips over the aforementioned witch's fine form. They'd also not had an opportunity to repeat their amorous encounters since the unexpected overnight stay on Crete. ("Not with the children in the next room, Draco!" Hermione had warned more than once, causing him to wonder how that would be handled should their relationship continue to progress. Hadn't the woman heard of Silencing Charms, for Merlin's sake?) Draco was hopeful; he'd arrived through the Floo just in time to make way for the departure of Molly Weasley and Hermione's children. That suggested the possibility they'd have the house to themselves for the night, a most welcome prospect.

Draco had wasted little time in getting Hermione into his arms. After one drink apiece, he'd invited her to dance and they'd stayed on the dance floor for several songs, swaying to tunes that could well have been in their own heads for how much attention they paid to the tempos, rhythms, and styles that had actually filled the air.

Their cuddling, nuzzling, and caressing had not gone unnoticed by the other members of their party. Daphne Nott had made the first mention, wryly observing, "Draco seems to have gotten over my sister," to which her husband had retorted, "Draco was never as into your sister as he is to this witch."

The non-Slytherin contingent could only take Theo's comment at face value; they'd never seen Draco and Astoria together in a similar situation and had no basis for comparison. The confirmation from the Zabinis seemed to satisfy their curiosity, as Pansy made an affirming comment. "Draco's never been into any witch as much as this one, dears, me included." Their short-lived, though fiery, dalliance during sixth year had been the stuff of legend, at least in Pansy's mind. Surprisingly, their life-long friendship had not suffered for the brief relationship that both now put down to an outrageous excess of hormones and emotional need. If anything, their platonic connection had been strengthened by the fact that they'd been just what the other required at their own darkest moments.

Now, though, it was clear that the new couple on the dance floor had found something worthwhile and special in each other, and again, no one was surprised when the pair left rather early in the evening, begging fatigue.

Neville had reduced the entire group to giggles and guffaws when, after their departure, he'd said, with a smirk as wicked as Draco's, "They're headed for bed alright, but there won't be any sleeping going on."

Delightfully wicked Neville had not been wrong. When Hermione had begun to divest Draco of his shirt even before they'd stopped the spin of Apparition, it was clear that their mutual desire would result in an explosive encounter.

"Remind me to thank Molly again for taking the kids tonight," she gasped into Draco's ear, as they stumbled together into her bedroom.

"Remind me to send her flowers," Draco replied with a deep chuckle as he unzipped the form-fitting deep coral sheath dress Hermione had worn, dragging his lips and tongue down her spine as her tawny flesh was exposed. "Gods, you smell so good. I could just eat you up."

"Who's stopping you?" she teased breathlessly, while doing her level best to get her shaking fingers to cooperate in the task of unfastening his belt and releasing the zipper and button on his trousers. She finally succeeded, but not without a little help from some spontaneous wandless magic.

Draco dropped to his knees after peeling her dress to the floor, dragging her red silk knickers with him on the way. She balanced on one high-heeled, sandaled foot as he palmed her thigh and lifted her leg to hook her knee over his shoulder, opening her fully to his attention. He buried his nose in her soft curls and stiffened his tongue to tease her pearl, torturing her deliciously by alternating licks, swirls and devastating suction. Hermione's trembling, barely held in check by Draco's firm hands on her hips, became shattering when he relinquished his hold to caress her silk-covered breast, his thumb brushing firmly over the nipple. She gasped at the sensation, gripping his silky blond hair to steady herself as he removed the garment to gently massage one breast, then the other.

His hand traveled to her core and he traced her opening, never letting up his delightful assault on her clitoris. When he felt the shaky buckling of her knees, he wrapped his arm tightly around her back, both grounding her and pulling her fully flush to him, allowing his tongue to travel along her slit. Draco hummed in pleasure as he tasted her. "So sweet, my love," he murmured, rising just enough to lift her and tip her back onto the bed. He kicked off his shoes, pushed off his trousers, and crawled over her, kissing her deeply as she wrapped her arms around his neck.

With strength and determination that surprised him, Hermione gripped his hips tightly with her knees and rolled to flip them over so that she was on top. With her wand, she cast a spell to light several candles, setting the room aglow. It was then that Draco noticed the wooden cheval mirror near the window, and the erotic reflection that it displayed.

"Look, love, how beautiful you are – how perfect we are together. Watch," he whispered to her, lifting her directly over his erection and guiding their joining. They established a slow, steady rhythm, both transfixed by the sensual combination of feeling and sight as his thick erection disappeared over and over again into her opening. Draco's hands trailed along her back, her thighs, her shoulders and came to rest once more in languid caresses on her breasts.

Hermione felt delicious pressure begin to build as his tip stroked her sweet spot over and over, and she leaned forward slightly, increasing her leverage and speed as she rode him. Her change in position meant that she could no longer see the image in the mirror, but Draco could, and the powerful image of their bodies joining so completely and intimately fueled his own want. "Gods, love, I need you," he groaned.

That was enough for Hermione. Hearing his passion and feeling his organ swelling and pulsing within her while he met her downward thrusts with his upward pushes sent her tumbling over the edge, a perfect whiteness blinding her and sending shockwaves from head to toes.

Draco pulled her down against his chest and kissed her hungrily, adding more fuel to his burning desire. He flipped them over quickly and pushed her legs up while taking position on his knees and intimately reconnecting them, leaning his torso back. "Watch," he repeated, his voice strained with emotion and arousal. "We belong together like this. Perfect," he gasped, burying himself inside her fully and thrusting deeply. He shuddered, spilling his seed in her depths, and dropped as gently as he could to cover her completely with his body. "Perfect," he whispered again, kissing and nibbling at her neck and earlobes.

"Perfect," Hermione agreed, wrapping her legs around his thighs to pull him tightly against her. In moments, both were asleep, still tangled in each other's arms.

When morning sun streaming through the drapes awakened Draco, he grunted pleasantly at the heavenly sight beside him and, utterly unable to resist, he shifted his hips to bring his morning erection in contact with Hermione's delectable derriere, nestling it in her cleft. She pushed back against him instinctively, humming happily in response. He lifted her curls away and kissed her neck, sucking and nipping gently. Suddenly, he drew away sharply, with a deep intake of breath.

"What?" Hermione wondered sleepily.

"I'm so sorry; I completely forgot," he wheezed, a look of horror in his eyes.

"What?" she repeated, leaning up on her elbows, totally confused.

"Protection. Last night."

"Oh, is that all?" she asked, soundly terribly amused.

"Well, I know I'm not exactly a baby-making machine with my history, but we shouldn't take chances," he said, sounding chagrined and concerned.

"Don't worry, you goose, I'm on the potion and have been for a long time. We're safe," she told him with a pat on his arm and a broad smile. She was surprisingly comforted by his concern, feeling that their budding relationship was taking precedence over some of his daunting problems. "And if it did happen, would that be such a disaster, considering what you've been through?" That statement surprised her as much as it did him. Where the hell did that come from? Hermione wondered.

Draco stared at her. "Well, it certainly wouldn't be horrible, but that's not exactly what I had in mind for building my family."

That statement left her feeling affronted and uneasy. She pulled away slightly.

"Ah, shit, I've done it again, haven't I?" he said, running his hand through his messy hair. "Hermione, that didn't come out right. I can't seem to speak articulately when you're near me," he stated, tugging her close again. "I meant that it just wasn't the proper order of things, not that I wouldn't want that with you." His voice dropped to a whisper and he cuddled her tightly, speaking into her ear and tickling her with his warm breath.

"The more I think about it, the more I feel like building a family with you could be exactly what I want. I just want both of us to be sure, and I want you to feel as committed to me as I'm beginning to feel toward you. In fact, I was going to talk to you about this later today, but this seems the perfect time," he told her, shifting her around so that they were face to face. "I would be so happy if you would agree to see me exclusively. I don't want to see anyone else, and I'd like to see if this is a relationship that we can make work, for the long term. I know I'm ready, and I hope you are, too."

Hermione searched his eyes and found nothing but warmth and sincerity, and something that hinted at emotion deeper than physical passion. She traced his brow and cheekbone with her finger, smiling softly, her touch lingering on his jaw as she considered his request.

"If you had asked me that question two months ago, I'd have called St. Mungo's to have you involuntarily committed," she ribbed, "but it's clear to me that we have something worth investing in here. You've grown up, and so have I, and it saddens to me think that we were both so closed-minded and prejudiced for so long that we failed to see how compatible we might have been, even just as friends." She leaned in and kissed his lips gently. "There's undoubtedly something here between us and I'd like nothing more than to see where this ride will go."

He grinned broadly in response and growled in her ear. "There's definitely something between us," he confirmed, shifting his hips to push the tumescent object against her thigh. "I can't get enough of you. Let's celebrate," he proposed with a chuckle.

She groaned in frustration. "Oh, Draco, I'd love to, but look at the time!" she warned, glancing at the magical cuckoo clock on the wall. "Molly will be back with the kids in less than an hour."

He nibbled on her shoulder. "That's okay. I can be quick."

"But I'll need a shower, too."

"Me, too. Even better idea, as a matter of fact!" he decided, shifting away to gather her in his arms and carry her into the bathroom. "Shower sex is my favorite kind." He laughed as Hermione tucked her head into his shoulder and groaned her acquiescence.

Forty-five minutes later, the two had dried off and were finishing getting dressed when the Floo chime sounded, giving warning of an in-coming call. It was Ginny Potter.

"Hermione, are you up?" she called out.

Dashing into the sitting room, Hermione finished buttoning her blouse as Harry's wife stuck her head through the green flames. "I'm up, dressed, and ready for Molly and the kids," she confirmed.

"Is he still there?" Ginny stage-whispered conspiratorially.

"Yes, Madam Potter, I'm still here, but I'll be leaving shortly," Draco acknowledged with a smirk, sauntering around the corner into view of the fireplace.

"Oh, uh, hi, Draco! Good morning," she greeted with a rivaling twist of her own lips.

"Yes, it is," he agreed, wrapping his arms around Hermione's waist from behind and sharply tugging her flush against his chest, earning an elbow to his ribs when Ginny snorted in amusement.

Hermione twisted to face him. "You don't need to go, you know. The kids are going to need to get accustomed to seeing you around."

Draco regarded her carefully for a moment. "Are you sure? You don't mind them seeing me here?"

She shook her head. "Of course not. They're too young to understand the implications, anyway. If we're going to make this work, we all need to develop our relationships. Might as well start now," she reasoned.

He shrugged happily. "Fine by me. What say you, Mrs. Potter? Any objections?" he asked the image still peering out of the fireplace.

"Who am I to stand in the way of l'amour? I just wanted to give you a heads-up that Molly will be there in about thirty minutes. Should give you time to get everything sorted."

"Thanks, Gin," Hermione answered. "We're fine. Do you know if they've had breakfast yet?"

Ginny laughed loudly. "Are you kidding? We are talking about my mother, you know."

Hermione shook her head in acknowledgement. "Too true. Dumb question. I'll just make something quick for Draco and me, then. I'll call you later, sweet," she added, signing off the call.

"Later, love!" Ginny replied, pulling away from the Floo connection.

The arrival of Molly, Hugo, and Rose forty minutes later had given them plenty of time to have a quick breakfast of tea and scones. The children had been happily surprised to see Draco and had dragged him to the sitting room to show him what Uncle Harry had taught them about Wizard's Chess. This Saturday morning visit had been the first of several over the next two months, during which Draco had become closer to Hermione's two tots and they to him, to the point that Rose and Hugo had each taken to asking their mother nearly every day when "Uncle Draco" would be visiting again. Rose had asked her mother why he kept sending big bouquets of red tulips, and wondered whether she might have some flowers too. The next day, Draco had sent, along with red roses for Hermione, a small arrangement consisting of one red, one yellow, and one pink rose addressed to "My Little Rose with love from Draco." The child had been over the moon for days.

The new couple had built a new habit of taking lunch together at least three times a week, and both had had to buy additional supplies of Floo powder to accommodate all of the back-and-forth calling. It was now commonplace to see Draco and Hermione out together in Diagon Alley and tongues had started wagging over the new developments. More than one gossip column had featured a picture of the two cuddling together in a booth at one restaurant or another, and there was rampant speculation over the nature of their relationship. Both kept their counsel when asked, and had only told their closest friends about their now-exclusive arrangement. None of them had been particularly surprised, and Pansy Zabini, in particular, had worn a smug expression every time they'd had occasion to meet. Draco had taken to rolling his eyes rather than commenting, though the silly grin he wore belied his irritation.

Hermione was still reluctant to allow Draco to stay overnight with the children in the house, so their private time together had been limited to a handful of serious necking sessions and one rather memorable weekend when Ron had taken the children for their regularly scheduled monthly visit. Hermione had jokingly complained that they'd only left the bed for meals and bathroom breaks, while Draco had reminded her that they'd eaten easily half of their meals in that same bed, feeding each other and, at least once, getting rather creative with methods of consuming whipped cream and chocolate sauce. He'd begged for a repeat performance on that.

The coming weekend was to be the next time that Ron would take the children and Draco told Hermione not to make any special plans; he had made arrangements for the two of them to spend the weekend away together. No matter how many times she asked, begged, cajoled, or threatened, Draco wasn't talking. "It's a surprise," was all he would say. He wouldn't even give her a hint about appropriate clothing, telling her that it had been handled for her.

When he arrived on Friday evening, just minutes after Ron's departure with Rose and Hugo, he'd been carrying only a book, which turned out to be a Portkey. "Here, love, it activates in one minute," he said just ten minutes after his entry into her sitting room. Her protests of being unready had gone ignored. "You're perfect, and everything you will need is already where we're going. Hush," he told her, kissing her into quiet as the travel device activated between them.

When they landed together, Hermione immediately recognized their surroundings. He'd returned them to the beach house on Crete, where they'd had their first extended date and where they'd first made love. The house was filled with red and white roses, and the patio was decorated with a potted primrose, which Draco told her he would plant in her garden. A warming charm kept away the slight chill of the October evening, and a white linen-draped table for two was awaiting them under the stars. Draco took Hermione's hand, kissed her palm, and led her to her seat.

"My lady, won't you make yourself comfortable?" he offered, checking quickly to ensure that everything he'd requested and arranged had been executed to perfection. A nervous smile lit his face as he noted all the pieces were in their proper places. A bottle of Louis Roederer Cristal 1990 Champagne sat in a sterling silver standing ice bucket and Lalique crystal flutes were waiting to be filled. Salade Frisee with a red wine vinaigrette waited, chilled to perfection, on the table under stasis charms. A crusty baguette and sweet butter sat in the middle of the table.

"I thought we could have a nice, private dinner under the stars tonight, love. I hope everything will be to your liking," he noted earnestly.

"Well, Draco, it seems that you've come to know my tastes quite well," she observed with a laugh. "This is my favorite salad."

"I try to pay attention," he replied, taking a bite after she'd sampled from her plate.

"Clearly, you've done a good job of it."

"When something – someone – is important to me, I commit to doing my very best," he stated very seriously.

"Draco, is something on your mind? You seem a little tense," she observed.

He took her hand in his and squeezed it briefly. "I'm fine, love. Just want to make sure you're enjoying this."

"What's not to enjoy? A beautiful setting, wonderful food, perfect company – a rather lovely bottle of champagne on ice…" she observed.

"Yes, well, the champagne will be served momentarily. Clashes with the red wine vinaigrette - don't you agree?"

"You do have an extremely valid point there, Draco. Too sharp for the delicate bubbles!" she noted with a smile. It was clear that he had something on his mind, she thought, but she would be patient and allow him to get there in his own time. She did, however, have her suspicions.

"Are you ready for the main course?" he asked.

"Whenever you are," Hermione agreed.

Draco tapped his wand against the table, signaling the house-elf, Juji, to clear their dishes and bring the next course. Plates of grilled lamb chops, rosemary roasted potatoes, and sautéed broccolini appeared before them.

"Oh! Just perfect!" Hermione exclaimed.

Draco smiled at her obvious delight. He knew lamb was a rare treat, considering it was something her children didn't really care for. "Is it done to your liking?" he asked as she cut into one of the perfect little chops.

"Medium rare, exactly the way I love it," she grinned at him, then turned her attention back to the fragrant meal.

Draco took a moment to open the champagne with a deft twist of his wrist, not spilling a single drop. He filled both flutes and handed one to her. "A toast – to my beautiful, brilliant Hermione, and to thousands of evenings just like this."

She tapped her flute gently against his and sipped. "Ohhhhh, Draco. You spoil me dreadfully. This is… outrageous!"

"Nothing but the very best for you, love," he answered, saluting her once more with his glass before taking a sip of his own.

He hesitated a moment, obviously trying to work out how he wanted to say what was on his mind. He watched her closely for a moment and reached for her hand once more. "I'd like to revise that toast, if you don't mind."

She laughed. "Well, if you wish, but I thought it was perfectly lovely."

"It was fine, but it wasn't everything that I meant," he began. "'Just like this' is really only part of the picture. And it's also not enough. I don't want to wait a minute longer to make you mine and to be yours, entirely," he told her, slipping from his chair to perch beside her on one knee. "Everything I've ever thought I wanted or needed in my life, I finally found in you. I promise you my fidelity and honor, my attention and affection, my devotion to you and your children, and if we're so blessed, our children. Most of all, I promise you my love. If you'll have me, I'll pledge you all of me, for all of my life. Will you, Hermione? Will you marry me?"

Hermione stared at him, agape. His question had not been entirely unexpected, but his words were more than she'd dared to hope. The emotional intimacy and passion had continued to grow over the last couple of months, and she undoubtedly had found herself daydreaming more than once of a more permanent future with the blond wizard who had burrowed his way into her heart and under her skin. He'd told her that he loved her, but usually in a passionate moment. It was in his eyes, though, that she now saw the truth of it. He was in as deep as she was.

"Oh, Draco!" she cried, joining him on her knees. "I want nothing on this earth more than that. Yes, I'll marry you." She might have tried to say more, but her words were cut off by the fervent and adoring press of Draco's lips against hers. As his hands threaded through her curls, holding her close, he murmured words of love against her mouth. "Always, forever, my love. I can't ever see my life without you."

She grinned through her joyous tears and pulled away slightly to tell him what was in her heart. "I love you, Draco. I do. It's been unexpected and crazy and wonderful, and I can't imagine my life without you as my center. Only my children mean as much to me as you, and I hope we can add to our family together."

He kissed her again, pouring everything he could into their connection. A few moments later, he pulled away suddenly. "Oh!" Draco exclaimed, a horrified expression suddenly overtaking his joyful smile. "I can't believe I forgot – what an idiot!"

"What?" Hermione giggled at his distress, watching as he patted his pockets.

Relief flooded his features as he found what he was looking for. He pulled a small velvet box from his trousers and opened it for her to see. "I guess I need to ask again," he noted. "Will you marry me, Hermione, and accept this as a token of my promise and my love?"

The ring was delicate and beautiful, and exactly to her simple taste. A slim, knife edge platinum band was crowned by a two-carat oval diamond flanked by two quarter-carat trilliant-cut rubies. "It's perfect – I love it, and I love you." She held out her hand, stunned that it wasn't shaking nearly as much as she feared it would, and he slipped the ring over her finger. The fit was perfect, as was always the case with rings made in the wizarding world, and the stones sparkled and glowed brilliantly in the moonlight.

Draco took her hand in his and kissed the ring on her finger, then assisted her in rising from their kneeling position, enfolding her in a tight embrace. "Thank you, Hermione. You've made me happier than I've ever been in my life."

She leaned back slightly and traced his jaw with a finger; he seemed to love when she did that, shivering pleasantly every time she touched him in that manner. "We make each other happy. We'll build our family together, and find even more joy in that," she promised.

Draco hesitated for just a moment and guided her back to her seat. "There's something more that I want to say to you about that, Hermione, just so that there's no question in your mind about my motives. I know we've talked a little about the requirements of my inheritance, but I want you to know that it has absolutely nothing to do with my proposal. I want children with you, but if you want to wait five years, or even ten, it wouldn't matter in the least to me. We won't ever want for anything, and I couldn't care less about keeping the Malfoy bequests. What matters to me is being with you, being a good step-father to Rose and Hugo, and us eventually having a baby or two of our own, but on our timing, not what my great-grandfather's will stipulates."

"I know, and I never would have agreed to continue seeing you if I thought otherwise. You've proved your sincerity and your feelings through your actions, and I have no doubts. We'll have our babies, on our own time, and as far as I'm concerned, we can start working on it right away. I know how much you want a child of your own, and it's a gift that I can, and want to, give."

Draco looked at her in awe and admiration. "You are the most amazing woman I've ever known, but I'm serious, there's no rush," he told her, adding, "as long as we can do lots and lots of practicing."

"I don't foresee a problem there, you delicious beast," she teased, rising to reseat herself on his lap. She wrapped her arms around Draco's neck, tickling along the nape, and kissed him thoroughly. "In fact, I think we should go practice now. We're pretty good, but I'm an overachiever – always striving for perfection."

He rose, lifting her easily into his arms, and they abandoned their dinner in favor of other, more physical passions. The champagne bottle, however, was not left behind. Hermione's navel was an innie, after all.

Telling family and friends about their happy news had taken nearly all day that Sunday, and had been met with enthusiasm and hearty congratulations all around. The only exception, predictably, was Hermione's ex-husband. He'd not been upset at the idea of his former wife remarrying, per se, but the idea of her being wed to Malfoy was thoroughly unthinkable. Had he any sensitivity, he'd have recognized the same level of hurt that he'd caused with his affair and on-going relationship with Lavender Brown. He'd threatened to sue for full custody of their children and had only been dissuaded when every member of his family had told him they'd never speak to him again should be go that route. He'd reluctantly abandoned the idea, but had grumbled incessantly about his kids' minds being poisoned by "the ferret."

Wedding planning was the next step, and they easily and mutually decided on soon and simple. While the ceremony wasn't unimportant, it was the marriage that mattered infinitely more than the wedding. Draco and Hermione decided on a small wedding in Malfoy Manor's smaller ballroom in four weeks, inviting no more than about fifty of their closest family and friends.

An early December wedding called for lush fabrics, hearty flowers, and rich, comforting foods. Hermione selected dresses made of velvet for herself and her two attendants, Ginny Potter and Pansy Zabini, and left the menus and flowers to her mother and future mother-in-law. The "married" part was her concern.

She and Draco spent hours writing and perfecting their vows, while sticking to the standard, Ministry-approved ceremonial structure. The final versions were emotional, heartfelt, and deeply personal. In the lovely suite that Narcissa had set aside for her use during the week prior to the wedding, Hermione read her notes one final time:

When you came back into my life six months ago, I could have never guessed at the depth and impact of that moment. What began on a dance floor became the path to my future, my life, and my most cherished dream. You showed me that a man is not his name, but his soul. You taught me how to see past our filters. You proved that the greatest love can be born of any origin. You helped me to understand that trust is sprung from the simple act of telling the truth. And you helped me find the real center of my heart, body, and soul with your words, your touch and your actions. Draco, I promise you my heart, my body and my soul because only when I share them with you am I everything that I can be.

Feeling satisfied that she'd captured what she wanted to say, Hermione rolled the parchment and tied it with the red velvet ribbon that would hold it secure until it was time to read it at the ceremony. Across the hall, ensconced in his own study, Draco was putting his own thoughts to parchment for the last revision:

I never really understood what it meant to completely love someone until you came back into my life. All the odds were stacked against us, but when I came to know your heart and your soul, it made me want to fight for something - for us - for the first time in my life. I found so much more than love with you, Hermione. I found the courage to be the man I could only be with someone so pure of heart beside me. You make me want to be a man of belief and conviction and depth. You make me want to share my own heart and soul. You helped me to understand what it means to share my body for something far beyond physical. For your love, I would and will relinquish everything else that I am or have. Only with you am I really a man - heart, body, and soul. Only with you does my life have meaning and purpose. I know now that my life only began on the day I opened my heart to you.

Draco's throat felt strangely constricted as he re-read his words once more. They represented an outpouring of emotion that he'd only ever shared with Hermione in their most intimate moments, and he was a little concerned that this was too personal to share with the congregated guests. Moments later, a knock on the door told him that he'd run out of time to do any re-writes. With resolve, he rolled the parchment and tied it with a black velvet ribbon. This was what was in his heart, and this was what he'd say to his bride, no matter who was listening. Courage would, finally, win out.

Taking their honeymoon on Crete had been Hermione's request, but Draco had agreed whole-heartedly. Some of the most important and memorable moments of their relationship had happened at the lovely beach house, so it seemed fitting that they would begin their life as a married couple in that same spot.

They had spent the day after the wedding reviewing the stack of wedding photos that Narcissa had forwarded via eagle owl early that afternoon. They included images of both Draco and Hermione as they prepared for the ceremony, Draco in formal black robes trimmed with black velvet, his white shirt brighter than new-fallen snow (of which there was plenty, a large storm having hit during the reception), and Hermione in an ivory velvet gown, simple and elegant in design with a fitted bodice, sweetheart neckline, long sleeves, and gently flaring A-line skirt, edged with tiny pearls at the neck and trimmed with faux fur at the cuffs and hemline. Pearls graced Hermione's ears and she wore a simple Juliet cap of pearls in her hair.

Hermione's attendants had worn dresses similar to her own, but in rich crimson velvet and with a straight skirt. Draco's attendants, Blaise and Theo, had worn traditional black formal robes. The ceremony had been brief, but had contained the three elements most critical to the couple: an exchange of personal vows, a hand-fasting rite, and a full magical bonding. Regardless of what any ancestor's will said or what would become of the Malfoy fortune, only infidelity could break the bond between them. Further, they had seen to that stipulation with a full fidelity vow, which the consequences of breaking were dire in the extreme.

Now, relaxing in the barely cool Mediterranean air, thanks to the open French doors in their bedroom, the newlyweds cuddled in the afterglow of yet another languorous session of love-making. Hermione toyed absently with the light trail of dark blond hair on Draco's abdomen, and cleared her throat.

"I have something to tell you, Draco," she began.

He kissed the top of her head and hummed his acknowledgement. "What's that, love?"

"I know we talked about it before the wedding, but I was very serious about it."

"Okay," he said with a huge yawn.

"Am I keeping you up?" she teased.

"Already did that, three times today," Draco reminded her with a very smug grin.

"Jerk." She swatted him playfully, then snuggled in closer. "I'm trying to be serious here."

"I'm sorry. Please, continue." He was trailing his fingers up and down her spine in a vain attempt to cajole her into a fourth round of lovemaking.

"I stopped taking the potion three days ago," she confessed. "Please don't be angry with me."

"What potion?" he wondered aloud from his sex-addled brain.

"The potion, you dolt."

"Oh. Okay." He pulled away just enough to look at her face. "Why did you think I'd be angry?"

"Because I didn't tell you about it first," she explained.

"Hermione, it is your own body. You can make those decisions on your own. And you know that it's something I want someday, anyway. The timing, as far as I'm concerned, is up to you. There's no reason for me to be angry. Besides, with all the problems I've had, it will probably take a while for you to get pregnant, so it's probably not a bad idea at all to get started." He yawned again.

"You're sure?"

"Positive. Now let me sleep for a half hour so I can wake up and fuck you silly again." Draco snuggled more deeply into the pillows and wrapped her more tightly in his arms. They were both asleep, wearing nothing more than sated, happy grins, moments later.


Three days later, Draco and Hermione were sipping espresso after breakfast when Draco set his cup down firmly and said, "I have a proposal."

"Uh, we're already married, remember?" she teased, wiggling her be-ringed fingers at him and pointing to the wide platinum band on his left hand.

"Different, more specific proposal, Mrs. Malfoy," he clarified, leaning over to kiss her briefly.

"Speak, Mr. Malfoy," she instructed.

"I think we should go home today."

"Are you not having a good time here?" Hermione asked, concerned that he was getting a little bored with doing nothing but eating, having sex, and sleeping.

"Oh, no, I'm having a marvelous time. There's nothing better than hanging around with my new bride, shagging her rotten, and dining on fabulous Greek cuisine," he refuted her concern, with all sincerity and seriousness. "The thing is," he hesitated, "I miss the kids. Can we go home and spend some time as a family?"

Hermione launched out of her seat and dropped into Draco's lap, peppering his face with kisses. "You, Mr. Malfoy, are perfect. Yes. Let's go home this afternoon."

"Just this afternoon?"

"Yes. I just need you to shag me rotten one more time before we leave."

"Ah, good idea. I think I can do that." He chuckled when she took off running at full steam, dashing after her and catching up just in time to tackle her to the bed. Deep rumbles of laughter mixed with high-pitched squeals for several minutes, then gave way to breathy moans and gasps of pleasure. A panted "Oh, Draco, yes!" was followed quickly by a decidedly male groan, then silence as the lovers dozed peacefully.

The new Malfoy family settled in to their routines over the course of the next few weeks, with the children getting more and more comfortable with their new step-father. They'd taken to calling him "Daddy Draco," much to Ron's ire. He had, however, been reasonably civil when he'd come to pick up the children for their monthly weekend visits. Ron had had his own news to share a couple of weeks earlier, when he'd told Hermione that Lavender was pregnant and they'd be getting married soon. She'd told him that she was happy for him; whether he was entirely happy for himself was in question.

The news, however, had prompted an idea, and Hermione decided to approach Draco about it once the children were in bed for the night.

"I've been thinking about something, love," Hermione began.

"When are you not thinking about something, Hermione?" he teased.

"Well, true, but this is another one of those specific somethings," she retorted.

"I'm all ears."

"What would you say to selling this house to Ron and Lavender and buying something of our own?" she asked in one breath.

Draco shrugged. "Fine by me. We could probably use a little more space anyway. I'll call an estate agent in the morning."


"Yeah, really. Any thoughts on where you'd like to live?" Draco asked.

"I don't have a real preference, but probably not right in London. Something a little more in the country, I think. How about you?"

"I think that's a great idea. Maybe somewhere between London and Wiltshire would be nice," Draco opined.

"Perfect, and we should look for a place with at least four bedrooms, maybe up to six."

Draco stopped short. "What? Are you…?"

"Oh, no! I'm sorry. I didn't mean to get your hopes up. I'm just thinking for the future, Draco."

"Right, of course. Perfectly sensible. I agree."

"Good. I'm glad," she noted. "I did have another idea, though, that we should discuss."


"I think we should see Healer Hubert together, just to be sure."

"It's only been seven weeks since you've been off the potion. I'm sure it'll take longer than that," Draco said.

"You're probably right, but since we know you had some genetic concerns, it couldn't hurt to have the two of us get a little check-up and some advice to be certain we're doing everything we can." She waited for a moment, watching the concern on her husband's face. "Besides, I really want us to have that baby as soon as we can."

"Can we 'practice' some more tonight?" Draco wondered, leaning in to nibble on her earlobe.

"Of course we can. Silencing charms are all in place. Last one to the bed's a rotten egg!"

Two days later, Draco and Hermione Malfoy were seated in the waiting room of Healer Hubert's office, anticipating their first appointment as a couple. Draco had visited two or three times since he and Hermione had started dating, but the appointments had been more general in nature, ensuring that his basic reproductive health had not deteriorated. This time, the newlyweds were there with a purpose.

"The Healer will see you now," his medi-witch announced, opening the door and ushering them in.

Healer Hubert stood as the two entered, extending his hand first to Hermione, then to Draco. "Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Malfoy. Make yourself comfortable." He waved at the armchairs behind them. "Draco, good to see you again."

"Thanks, Healer, for seeing us today. As I mentioned to you in our Floo call, Hermione and I have been married for almost two months, and we want to start trying to get pregnant as soon as possible," Draco summarized.

"Very good. Well, Mrs. Malfoy, can you tell me a little about your medical history, specifically as it relates to reproductive health?"

"Certainly, Healer, and please do call me 'Hermione.' I have two children from a previous marriage, and both pregnancies were fairly routine. I had a little high blood pressure during the first one, but that was corrected easily with a low-dose potion."

"Did you have any difficulty conceiving, Hermione?" he asked, taking notes as she answered.

"No, not really. Both children were conceived within about four or five months of our intention."

"For genetic identification purposes, what is your blood status?"

"I'm a Muggle-born."

"What have you been using to this point for contraception?"

"I was on the potion for several months, but I stopped taking it a few days before the wedding. I really don't see any point in waiting too long. We want to have a baby, and I'd like for all my children to be fairly close in age."

"Fair enough. Are your menstrual periods regular?"

"Like clockwork."

"When was your last period?" the Healer asked.

"About a week ago," came the answer, surprisingly from Draco. When the Healer's lips quirked in amusement, Draco defended his comment. "What? I pay attention to these things."

"Not a problem, Draco."

"Hermione, do you drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes?

"I've never smoked, but I do have an occasional glass of wine."

"That's fine, but you'll want to limit that to no more than a glass a day."

"No problem, and if it helps, I can give that up."

"Not an issue for now. Let's table that for the time being. When was the last time you had a gynecological exam?"

"About eight months ago, for regular screening."

"Were any issues found?"

"No, my Healer said I was very healthy."

"Good. Now, for the both of you - Tell me, how frequently are you having intercourse?"

Draco coughed. "Uh, we're newlyweds, you know."

Healer Hubert laughed. "More than once a day?"

"Well, not since the honeymoon," Draco answered with a little squirming in his seat.

"For the short-term, that's not a problem, and it may not be an issue at all with the two of you. I'll want to do an exam on Hermione, and do the usual testing on you, Draco. Who'd like to go first?"

Hermione stood. "I will."

"Great. Draco, you're welcome to join us in the examining room, if you wish," Healer Hubert offered.

"Thank you, I'd like to, as long as I won't be in your way."

"Doesn't take much room to wave a wand over a reclining patient!" he noted with a laugh.

He guided the Malfoys into the examining room and settled Hermione onto a cushioned table. "Just put your arms up over your head and relax. I'll do the rest," he instructed, and began tracing his wand in patterns over Hermione's body. Five minutes later, he'd reached a conclusion.

"You're as healthy as a hippogriff, Hermione. I don't see anything that could preclude you conceiving easily, at least from your end."

"That's great news, Healer. Thank you," Draco spoke.

"Now for you, young man. Up on the table."

Another series of wand movements and several minutes later, the Healer had a conclusion. "I don't see any major change from our last appointment, and that's generally good. Obviously, we still need to get a sample to test motility and sperm counts. Would you like your wife to assist you?" the Healer asked.

"Uh, sure," Draco replied, standing to move to one of the Privacy Rooms.

"Okay. You know the drill, Draco. The two of you can meet me back here when you're done."

When they were settled into the room with the door locked, Hermione asked, "So, how am I supposed to 'assist' you?"

"Pretty simple, actually. You, uh, help me get off and catch my ejaculate in that plastic vial," he explained with a grin, pointing to the labeled container on the side table. "This is so much better with help than on my own." He kissed Hermione briefly, then stepped away to remove his trousers.

"The only thing to remember is that the ejaculate can't be contaminated with any other substance, so that means no direct genital contact and no oral, either. It's basically just using your hand," he instructed.

"I can do that," she agreed, gently running her hand along his already swelling penis. "That doesn't mean I can't kiss you at the same time, though."

"Of course not. You can kiss me all you like. There's no doubt that will be a good thing." The tone of his voice was serious, but his smile was teasing.

"So, I just kiss you, and stroke you till you come?"

"Uh huh, that's about it."

"Like this?" Hermione wrapped her fingers around his thick organ and began a slow, steady rhythm of upward and downward strokes, running her thumb over his glans with every pass, spreading the little bit of clear fluid that had already gathered there.

"Yeah, just like that," Draco breathed heavily, recapturing her mouth in a deep, soulful kiss.

Hermione continued to stroke, increasing both speed and pressure as Draco's breathing became more labored and rapid. From her experience with the man, she knew it wouldn't be long. She reached for the vial with her other hand as she teased his sac with her fingertips. She repositioned her grasp over his shaft and pumped rapidly a few more times, feeling the organ begin to pulse and swell in its final push to orgasm. She felt him gasp into her mouth and knew it was time. She positioned the vial over the head of his penis and captured his emission into the sterile container, sealing it as soon as he was done.

She bent her head to take him into her mouth for a moment, prolonging his pleasure for that brief interlude.

"You are deliciously naughty, wife," Draco drawled, running his fingers through her hair for a moment, then pulling her up for a final kiss.

"I'm glad I could help," she replied, smiling wickedly.

Draco pulled on his trousers and reminded her that they needed to get the vial to the Healer as quickly as possible. They returned to his office and waited for him to join them. In their short private moment, Draco leaned over and whispered in Hermione's ear, "I owe you one."

She couldn't help but laugh. "No repayment necessary. Consider it my donation to the cause, although I won't refuse the return favor."

Healer Hubert returned a moment later, retrieving the vial and telling them he'd be back in a few minutes with test results.

After what felt like the longest ten minutes of their lives, the Healer returned, and he was not scowling. That probably meant reasonably good news.

"What's the verdict, then?" Draco asked.

"Things are looking pretty good, everything considered. Your sperm counts are a tiny bit low, but your frequent intercourse accounts for that. Motility is fine. All of the other tests showed in the nominal range. I think the two of you have a very good change of conceiving."

"How good?" Hermione asked.

"I'd give it about an eighty percent probability, based on both your combined genetics and the specific test results."

"Really? That's great!" Draco enthused.

"Is there anything specific we can do to help things along?" Hermione wondered.

"There are a few strategies that help. For the most part, you should be careful about having intercourse too often. That reduces sperm counts. If, for now, the two of you can limit Draco to four orgasms a week, you'll increase your chances markedly. Draco, keep on with the clothing strategies, keeping your testicles as cool as possible. As for position, I know it can be a little unimaginative, but the missionary position is the best for conception. After Draco ejaculates, stay on your back for at least ten to fifteen minutes and keep your hips tilted back. Other than that, just do what comes naturally."

"Thank you, Healer Hubert. We appreciate your guidance and advice," Draco said, and rising together, the couple left hand in hand.

Several Weeks Later….

"You know, Ginny warned me that your goal was to bed me."

He twirled a long, pale finger through a long, dark curl. "Did she, now?"

"Yes, well, not exactly, but that was the implication."

"And now?"

She shrugged. "I told her that I'd be last on your list, but that I liked the way you moved your hips," she confessed, making a sound that could have been interpreted as a giggle if she were ten years younger.

"Are you still of that opinion?" he wondered, kissing a line down her shoulder and upper arm. She could feel the smile in his lips.

"Oh, now I know exactly how good you are with them. I'm not likely to release you from my grasp."

"Hmm. I kind of like that idea." He tugged her more fully into his chest, kissing the back of her neck as her curls fell away.

"Hey, I need to keep my hips tilted for another ten minutes," she protested lightly.

"I have a feeling that this batch was particularly potent. I'm quite sure I've managed to plant that seed this time, wife of mine," he boasted, nibbling her earlobe. "And on the off-chance that I didn't, I'm quite willing to try again. And again, and again, and again. And one more time after that." His words were punctuated with kisses and she could feel the rumble of his chuckle, deep and low in his chest.

"The kids will be so excited to have a new brother or sister," she noted.

"Well, at least it won't be a surprise. You've been promising for two months now, so they're at least as eager as we are."

"I really hope it worked this time," she added quietly.

"Me too, sweet. For some reason, this time felt… different. Deeper, or something." She swatted his arm at the slightly crass comment.

"Hey! That's not what I meant. I wasn't talking about the act. I was talking about the feeling. It was exceptionally… connected, between you and me, I mean. It's always really great with us, but this was… I just can't find the words. All I know is that I don't want to let you out of my arms."

"Draco Malfoy, romantic extraordinaire," she teased. "But I know what you mean." She paused. "Did you ever feel this way with Astoria?" she asked, so quietly that he had to strain to hear her.

"Never. Not even close," he answered vehemently. "You know I didn't love her. I had sex with her with the intent of procreation only, especially in the last half of our marriage. She wasn't unattractive to me, but she didn't… complete me. I think the reason this will work, aside from the genetics, is that we make love. I'm convinced that that will be our spiritual advantage. The gods will answer our prayers. And she wasn't you. I feel like what I share with you is the essence of life."

Draco was sated and sleepy as they continued to murmur to each other. "I'm going to have a short kip, sweet, if that's okay," he told her through a yawn. She kissed the arm that he'd kept wrapped around her and drifted away into her own thoughts while his warm breath ghosted over her bare shoulders.

Three Weeks Later…

Draco was helping his stepchildren, Hugo and Rose, get dressed for school while Hermione finished her shower and preparations to get to work. He'd taken them through the Floo and returned to their comfortable home to join his wife for a quick breakfast before heading off to the day's business. He entered the kitchen and found that there was something – not food – resting over his plate. A sprig of pussy willow.

Hermione stood behind him, watching from the doorway. He'd heard her clear her throat and turned with eyes wide and watery.

"Really? Are you sure?" he pleaded, feeling his knees shake with anticipation and his stomach churn with desperate hope.

She nodded, happy tears spilling over her cheeks and onto her broad, elated smile.

He closed the distance between them in two long, swift strides, lifted her in his arms and twirled them both around. "I'm going to be a daddy!"

The Beginning.

Flower Meanings (taken from various sources including Wikipedia and .com):

Campanula and dark pink roses – gratitude

Olive greens - peace

Viscaria – an invitation to dance

Ferns – sincerity

Blue periwinkle – early friendship

Acanthus plant – the arts

Forsythia – anticipation

Orange lilies - desire

Coral roses - passion

Red tulips – a declaration of love

Red roses – true love

Red, yellow, and pink roses together – joy, excitement, and grace

Primrose – everlasting love

Red and white roses together - unity

Pussy willow – motherhood

In case you're curious, Louis Roederer Cristal 1990 Champagne is quite rare and very special. The quoted price is $14,730 per bottle. Only the very best is good enough for Monsieur Malfoy and his lovely bride.

Font notes for UnseenLibrarian (and anyone who'd like to find them):

In the PDF version of this document (given exclusively to UnseenLibrarian as her gift, so no, don't ask for it!), Draco's notes are shown in "Dragon" font (not kidding; that's what it's named!).

Hermione's notes are in "Liorah BT."

Pansy's notes are in "PegsannaHMK."

Narcissa's notes are in "PhoenixScriptFLF."