A/N: Yay! I updated! …FINALLY! ;)
Sorry about that: I feel like a house-elf – the whole slaving away all day thing, lol. I don't like forcing fics, which is one of the reasons this final chapter is so late – that and I ended up rewriting it. Well whatever, it's done now, so enjoy! ^_^
– Part 4 –
.:. The Serpent's Victory .:.
The ministry for magic was terrifying to look at. Hermione Granger stood in front of the lobby booth, just staring at it: the warm, supporting arms of Draco Malfoy keeping her from turning around and running in the opposite direction. This was happening… it was really happening.
'Somebody wake me up.'
Cinderella had had a fairy godmother on her side when she took on the world – she also had a to-die-for ball gown, not to mention a Prince in an outdated fairytale about true love. Hermione wasn't Cinderella. She wasn't even close. She was born with book smarts, grew up in comfortable lifestyle (she was no Malfoy, but in the Muggle world, her parents could afford whatever they needed… short of being loaded), and had her academic plans set in stone the moment she found out she was a witch. In short, she'd never had a reason to complain.
Hermione had also never daydreamed about her picture perfect wedding to the stereotypical prince. That was for girls who didn't want a career, or so she'd told herself. It honestly hadn't occurred to her that women could do both (her parents were old fashioned, despite being open minded).
But all that changed when she started seeing Ronald Weasley. He would push and she would pull: in the end, all they did was argue, as Hermione wasn't ready to give up having a career just because his mother had not mastered the art of not falling pregnant. But he had given her a reason to want a perfect wedding for herself, and that happy ending she'd read about in books.
And look where it got her – cheated on, pregnant to her former school enemy, and facing having to raise her child alone, believing that happy endings were for story books and Harry Potter.
Damn that Harry Potter – he was so deliriously happy about his own life that "fixing" the shambles of other people's lives was instinct with him. And Ginerva "Ginny" Weasley-Potter was his partner in crime. But she supposed she shouldn't be too angry with them: their shared drive had brought Hermione the resolution with Draco that she had right now. She just hoped it lasted.
'Where was I?'
Oh yes: Hermione was about to pass through the lobby of the ministry for magic, on the arm of her fiancé. Draco Malfoy… the name always had rolled off of her tongue easily. She'd called him Draco long before either Harry or Ron had even given up trying to figure out what he was up to with the Death Eaters. Of course, she also called him Malfoy, but the first point still stood.
Walking through the ministry wasn't as much of a spectacle as say, doing so in Diagon Alley, as what the Daily Prophet was allowed to report from here (not to mention take pictures of) was strictly regulated by the ministry. Hermione had two points of reference for being an object of gossip – the times at Hogwarts whenever Rita Skeeter's articles about Harry included her as well, and immediately after the war was over, when the cameras seemed to pop out at her, Harry and Ron, no matter what precautions she seemed to take.
It was far easier avoiding Voldemort and his followers.
"Relax," Draco whispered to her, knowing he was probably wasting his breath.
'Just ignore them,' she thought – a mantra she'd recited to Harry back at Hogwarts.
The curious faces were limited due to the volume of people coming and going on every level. Bypassing the lobby, the atrium, and The Fountain of Magical Brethren on the first level, they only needed to go down to level two – the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, which included the Improper Use of Magic Office, Auror Headquarters and Wizengamot Administration Services. This level also included the Department of Marital Affairs, which was responsible for allowing authorizing marriage licenses, among other things – the Marriage Law and Contract Law Department was a division of this that specifically dealt with the contracts themselves.
Astoria Greengrass had hand delivered Draco a copy of an old decree, not the document stating that Draco's funds would be transferred to Scorpius – that manuscript had arrived via owl, complete with the ministry seal of approval. Even he knew that applying for a marriage licence could take days, and then once it was approved, they would still be prevented from marrying right away. He hadn't slept well the night before, tossing and turning, worrying over this, but this morning, Hermione was the one who needed the reassurance.
They stepped off of the lift – a balding man was peering at them curiously the entire ride – and he took her hand instead of just holding her arm. The office for the Department of Marital Affairs was at the far end, with a waiting lounge shortly before it for people looking to speak with any number of employees. The lounge wasn't full, but the number of people waiting in there seemed incredulous to Hermione. At their arrival, she noted that those who looked up were suddenly alert and she tried to ignore the staring.
A piece with her and Draco had appeared in the Daily Prophet this morning, and without their cooperation, Rita Skeeter had acquired the photos she'd used from their days at Hogwarts. There was a suspicious picture however, that was from the night before Draco's wedding to Astoria – it had been of Hermione and Draco standing out in the cold air and holding each other, just before he'd apparated her away.
'Who'd taken that one?'
A part of her didn't want to know. That had been a pivotal night for her of course, and she found it even more suspicious that Rita could've gotten that picture but mentioned nothing about Émilie.
Hermione snapped out of her reverie at the sound of the unfamiliar voice. Two men were waiting for them in the lounge, but she only recognised one of them. Draco handled the introductions.
Percival Weasley and Padraig Boulstridge had met several times in court – the latter had two clients other than Draco Malfoy, although he didn't deal with them nearly as much. They disliked each other on principle, but probably wouldn't have gotten along anyway. Percy had paying clients, but he also helped out a number of those who couldn't afford a decent lawyer. On the flip side, Padraig was your typical snooty pureblood with no respect for those he considered beneath him – that was a lot of people, apparently…
The point was of course, that they couldn't stand each other.
"I would council against this," Padraig Boulstridge said haughtily to Draco, clearly realising immediately that his client was intending on including Percy in this case. "I do not recommend teaming up with Mister Weasley."
"I disagree," Percy said, pushing his spectacles back up the bridge of his nose with an air of calm. "I believe that in order to do the right thing for the client – in this case multiple clients – working with you would be an acceptable sacrifice for me."
Draco didn't bother to hide the smirk that was creeping over his features. Why, Percival Weasley had just sounded positively snooty, despite the forced calm in his voice. During the course of his betrayal of the Weasley family to the ministry before the war, Draco would never have guessed that Percy would become a lawyer in favour of his previous dream of being minister for magic. The man even did pro-bono work these days – but unlike some lawyers that took that path, Percy had the good sense to know not to dive in head first with that. Pro-bono didn't just mean helping out the needy: it was too easy to get sucked right into a deep dark hole, from which there was no escape.
It didn't pay the bills either.
"The man has a point," Draco said. "The important thing is what's best for the client."
He was patronizing the Weasley, but Percy just rolled his eyes – otherwise ignoring the jab.
"Do you have access to the documents Mister Flint has also had drawn up?" Percy asked Boulstridge. When the man shook his head, he continued. "Well, I do. We each have our own means with which to handle this, and if we pool those resources, this will go much smoother."
"Not to mention faster," Draco said. Reluctantly, Boulstridge nodded his head. "Oh thank Merlin."
It was difficult enough to drag Padraig into something within his own firm – this was practically a miracle. Logic and knowledge was his Achilles heel: they never failed to motivate him.
"Then might I recommend moving this discussion to my office," Padraig suggested. "I can only imagine the difficulty we would have fitting into Mister Weasley's office."
Percy looked like he wanted to retort back, but thought better of it – time and place.
Hermione walked alongside him as they walked the rest of the way to Padraig Boulstridge's office. Once the secretary was told not to disturb them, the door was closed, and everyone was seated comfortable in the side lounge three feet away from Boulstridge's desk (Hermione sat next to Draco, across from Percy, who was two seats away from Padraig), the strangely proper man got down to business.
"In order for the marriage to be legally binding and infallible," Boulstridge said, "it must be approved by a ministry official. Whoever is feeding information to Miss Greengrass is blocking any and all contracts for the next two weeks with red tape and politics. The mole must be in this department," he added. "And we should figure out who they are before proceeding any further."
Hermione sighed. If this was the Muggle world, they could've been married last night – much more efficient, and not reliant on the absence of stringent last minute delays. She frowned as Percy snorted.
"Hang on," Draco held up a hand. "Are you saying that it will be impossible to get a marriage licence as long as Astoria's mole is around?"
"If we go through the official channels," Percy added, "the mole will notice – not to mention the new suspensions on the application process. So our choices are to either go directly to the Head of Department of Marital Affairs with information on the informant – which we don't have – or you apply for a special licence."
"Why is a special licence outside the official channels?"
Percy sighed heavily. "Because it bypasses the procedures that would normally take weeks to go through with a normal licence. But you need a viable reason for that route."
Draco groaned. "This is giving me a headache."
Hermione grimaced slightly as the men continued to bicker, crossing her legs as she leant back in her cushioned seat. She had no interest in taking part of the conversation until she needed to, just taking in what they were saying and running it through her head. A special licence would cut the wait time from three or four weeks down to possibly only a few days. She'd read about them – they were next to impossible to get. But that wasn't even the tip of their problems. Right now, Harry was using his connections to try to track down the mole, but in the meantime, this unseen antagonist was making life difficult.
Astoria definitely thought this one through.
Hermione realised her mind had drifted, and refocused on the discussion at hand as Boulstridge's voice interrupted something Draco was saying. "Sir, it doesn't matter: as long as the courts recognise Scorpius as a product of your marriage, he is in a position to inherit the Malfoy estate. Your ancestors set it in place so that only a male of the lineage could make this claim – you have a daughter by blood, not a son."
"I thought you took care of that," Draco said angrily.
Padraig shook his head. "I had his name forcibly changed because he's not your blood, but the prenuptial agreement you signed with Astoria Greengrass is her loophole into keeping him in your will." He glanced at Percy. "The other business with Miss Greengrass–"
Draco waved his attempt at subtlety away. "He knows."
At Hermione's insistence, both Percival Weasley and Harry Potter now knew about his infertility. The former had seemed necessary at the time but the latter had come up during the conversation that followed Astoria's leave from Malfoy Villa the day before. Draco could still remember the overwhelming torrent of sympathy on Potter's face when Hermione told him – another reason he hadn't slept properly the night before. Of course, he'd told his lawyer because it was a part of the imminent court case – he would just have to endure the feeling of shame if he wanted to use it against his evil ex-wife.
Boulstridge cleared his throat. "Yes. My point is that without the prenupt, it would be fair game and I'd be able to wrangle any form of rights from that woman on the basis of her adultery and mistreatment of you during your marriage. But the prenupt clearly states that in the event of conflicting interests, all monetary and property values are to be passed directly into the next in line of succession, which for now, is Scorpius Hyperion Greengrass."
"Not helping," Draco whined.
Hermione chuckled, drawing the attention of all three men. Draco was about to comment on her uncharacteristic silence when there was a knock at the door.
"Come in," Boulstridge said without turning around.
Hermione sat up straight at the arrival of her Hogwarts friend. Neville Longbottom had been travelling all over the world with his wife, Hannah. The last she'd heard, he was in Egypt. She'd only owled him late last night so wasn't expecting a response anytime soon, let alone the idea that he would arrive at the ministry the next day.
"Sorry to disturb you," Neville said, and Padraig scoffed, making a mental note to fire his secretary. "But I need a word with Hermione."
"Of course," Hermione said, rushing to her feet, taking Neville's arm and half dragging him away.
"Your owl sounded serious," Neville said as he was steered away from the prying eyes of nearby ministry workers and visitors alike.
"I'm grateful you came so quickly," she said. "I thought you were still in Egypt."
Neville shrugged his shoulders. "Harry flooed to my place in El Giza yesterday, so I got the basic idea of what's been going on. I was already back in London when your owl found me. But what can I do that could possibly help?"
Hermione stopped walking, looked around to check that no-one was watching, and then cast the Muffliato and half a dozen other spells (earning a weird look from her friend) just to be on the safe side. "It's about Draco."
Three days on from the start of their fourteen day deadline, Draco found himself again, in a decidedly less than comfortable position. He'd agreed to this against his better judgement – he did NOT want to travel to Australia, let alone meet Hermione's parents. But this wasn't just about keeping up a happy smile for his wife-to-be. This was also about Astoria… the meddlesome intrusive officious interfering bitch.
Émilie Rose Granger wanted to come with them. She hadn't seen her grandparents for weeks…
As Draco and Hermione were about to head out to the apparation point outside Malfoy Villa, Émilie dragged Rosalie with her as she ambushed her parents.
"S'il vous plaît?" She half begged. "I want to see mémé and pépé Granger." [A/N: "Please?"]
"Next time," Hermione promised. "This isn't an all day visit – we'll just be having a quick lunch. Don't give me that look Émilie: you're staying here and waiting for your tutor."
"Tuteur?" Émilie asked, watching as her parents stood in front of the fireplace. [A/N: "Tutor?"]
Despite its obvious attraction, she didn't love Malfoy Villa the way she did her home in France – who wouldn't miss the expansive grounds of White Owl Estate? She missed Helaine Le Chateau with a passion.
"Of course a tutor," Hermione said. "I will not having you hanging around all day, doing nothing."
Émilie pulled a face. She was hoping to go shopping, or meet some other kids her age – her mère and père had promised her as much. But she wasn't surprised that her mother wanted her to study.
"You're going to tutor her to death Hermione," Draco said, shaking his head.
"You can accompany your father in to Diagon Alley tomorrow," Hermione said.
Émilie immediately brightened. "Really? Merci!"
She hugged her mother, her father and then kissed them quickly goodbye as Rosalie motioned for them to return to the sitting room to wait for the tutor. She hadn't been to Diagon Alley before – only ever hearing how amazing it was. She practically skipped out of the room.
"Come on," Hermione took Draco's hand as he shook his head, amused.
He was still getting used to the idea that he hadn't watched Émilie grow into the strange little girl she was today. He hadn't allowed himself time to dwell on it, considering that train of thought always led to remembering what Astoria had done to him. He sighed heavily and allowed Hermione to lead him to the apparation point, where he promptly gripped tightly to her as she took charge of their destination.
They landed some ten feet from a cul-de-sac, turned north and walked through a park to get to the Muggle street Hermione's parents lived on. He was nervous initially, but as it turned out, Mary and Brian Granger were accommodating enough – she congratulated and hugged them more than necessary, while he gave him the "don't break her heart" speech. They had long since gotten over the whole "my daughter is a witch" thing, and Draco was pleasantly surprised by how knowledgeable about the Wizarding world they were, for Muggles.
This was the first time Draco had met the parents of a lover, fiancé or wife, and felt… jealous. They were supportive of Hermione's decisions and didn't drop the "I want more grandchildren" line. He was trying to figure out what dark secrets they were keeping (no-one was this nice) when the topic of the Wizarding war drew his attention like a moth to the flame.
When anyone talked about Voldemort, the Death Eaters and the post-war reformation process, Draco felt like a fly under a magnifying glass. If he didn't steer the topic away soon, he was going to overheat with shame and embarrassment. It wasn't like he regretted putting his family first – no matter how much his parents had screwed up and were continuing to do so. It was more like a resurgence of how he was scrutinized and judged in the days following Potter's defeat of the Dark Lord.
He didn't think he'd ever feel good about the things he'd done, regardless of his intentions.
Hermione didn't see the fear in his eyes, her attention on her mother as they spoke about how they'd been living in Australia the whole time and didn't want to leave when it was all over. They loved it here.
"One day we might return," Mary was saying, "but for now, this is our home."
Of course, all this talk on the war left Draco mentally unprepared for what was coming next: Mary had her afternoon planned around something she called retail therapy and it didn't take much convincing on Hermione's part to accompany her.
So, he endured tagging along behind the Granger women as they went shopping in the local Muggle mall and Mary bought Hermione some things that Draco could never have guessed what they were used for… apparently, they had something to do with the term "hypo-allergenic" – whatever that was. He was so glad when the unintentionally extended visit was finally over. Carrying loads of shopping bags he wasn't allowed to magically shrink and slip into his pocket was exhausting.
Next stop: bed.
Whatever approval the Weasley matriarch had reserved for Émilie Rose Granger did not seem to extend to Draco Malfoy. Molly Weasley was a Prewett through and through – nothing anyone ever said or did could change her mind once she'd set it in stone. In her opinion, the Malfoys were the scum of the earth, and Draco was no exception. For years, people had been talking about the infamous feud between the Weasleys and Malfoys, that Arthur and Lucius hated each other unequivocally. But the truth of the matter was that while it was usually instigated by Lucius, it was more often than not, encouraged by Molly. She was the one who had instilled a strong dislike in her children for anything remotely connected to the Malfoy name.
It was true that the Malfoys had been Death Eaters in the first war, and had returned to the inner circle of Voldemort after his return, but Molly's animosity toward them came from a far more personal reason. Her brothers, Fabian and Gideon Prewett were original members of the Order of the Phoenix, and both were killed by the Death Eater Antonin Dolohov. To make matters worse, at the time of their deaths, Lucius Malfoy had been close with the Dolohov family. They were estranged after Voldemort's return, as the Malfoys were with everyone it seemed, but it did nothing to temper the hurricane that was Molly Weasley.
Hermione Granger knew of the woman's history and her distaste for the Death Eaters in general, but surely she did not see Draco in the same light that she'd view Antonin Dolohov?
Sitting next to Draco and across from Molly and Arthur, in the dining room of Malfoy Villa as they ate their dinner, she wasn't sure about that anymore. This place was her home, for now, and she'd agreed to move here because the only alternative was Malfoy Manor. She didn't want to go there anymore than Draco did. The villa was out of the way, but still within the boundaries of what constituted as London to the Wizarding world.
And, after enduring an afternoon with the Grangers in Australia, Draco wasn't really up to entertaining guests. Hermione could see this – but she was wary about declining the request to share an early evening meal with the Weasleys after how good Molly had been with Émilie. But as she'd just contemplated to herself, it wasn't the same with Draco.
Half way through the meal, Émilie dropped her fork, apologised quickly in French and ducked under the table to grab it. One tug-of-war with Chausie later (the house-elf Draco had acquired without Hermione's knowledge) over who would dispose of it, she re-emerged flushed from her failure and immediately started, shocked at the sudden shift of tension in the adults around her.
They'd been sitting in the dining room for ten minutes – Molly was subtly dropping hints that even Ronald would get, about the differences between good and bad people in war times: how people who hurt others should always get their own in the end, but sometimes one or three of them might just slip through the cracks.
Once Chausie cleared the plates of their meal, Émilie and Rosalie excused themselves – Hermione promising to tuck her daughter in to bed within the next half an hour. She found herself suddenly hoarse and didn't speak up once during the entire meal. Next to her, she felt Draco stiffening more and more with every not-so-subtle word tossed carelessly out of Molly's mouth. He was ashamed of the things he'd done, even though he knew it was the right thing at the time – who was this woman to judge him based on her own life? She was fighting for her family during the war, as was he… he refused to apologise for that.
But like Hermione, Draco had no idea what to say to the Prewett turned Weasley.
"I was looking through some family photos the other day," Molly said, the corner of her mouth twitching, "and I found some old ones tucked away in the corner. Isn't it funny what you find when you're not looking for it?" She opened her purse, pulling out a thick wad of photos and placing them in front of Draco. They were moving pictures – black and white, but moving. "These are the ones with my brothers in them. You should take a look – they were killed by a Death Eater. You knew him: his name was Antonin Dolohov."
"Molly," Arthur said gently. "We should be heading back–"
"They never got the chance to have children," she said, ignoring her husband.
She continued on, with Hermione looking more and more like a frightened animal, while Draco clenched his fists tighter with every insult, until Arthur finally cracked.
"Molly Jane Weasley: that is enough!" Arthur snapped at his wife. "Say good night to our host and hostess: we are leaving."
Molly flustered as she was led away, and Hermione stood up as they left, reacting to the instinct to see her guests off respectfully. But after an apologetic side glance from Arthur, she knew he didn't want her to worry herself over them. It wasn't often that Arthur was angry or embarrassed when it came to his wife, and he needed to nip this in the butt before it happened again.
Still standing, Hermione stared down at her clasped hands.
She had never had any issues with the woman before her split from Ron that merited any kind of hostility. They got along fine enough when she was still going to Hogwarts, when the war started and when she officially started dating Ronald Weasley. But Hermione had never realised just how smug Molly Weasley had been all this time about having been on the winning side of the war. It really hadn't occurred to her that the motherly woman who only exploded for a good cause would be so… annoying to someone who hadn't been a part of the Order of the Phoenix.
For years while still at Hogwarts, she had had this image of Molly in her head, and it stuck there. They said that people changed in the war, and Hermione could see now, that even the most indomitable could fall flat on their faces in terms of etiquette. There was after all, no need for her to be so blatantly arrogant.
"I'm sorry…" Hermione said, sitting back down, feeling as tired as Draco – if not more.
He had bottled his emotions, holding back his reaction; Draco was good at that. No more. He stood up, furiously glaring at Hermione. "You should've told them to go home the moment they came!"
She looked up at him. "What are you talking about?"
"They didn't owl ahead Granger," Draco snarled, walking away from the table, toward the door to the sitting room. He stopped at the threshold and spun around to face her. "Normal people don't just turn up."
"Excuse me? I'll have you know that normal people like to get visitors."
Draco snorted. "There's nothing normal about this situation."
"It's not like Molly to lash out like this," she said. "I would never have anticipated–"
"You're defending that wench of a woman?" He asked, flabbergasted.
"I'm not defending what Molly did!" Hermione snapped. "I'm not making excuses for her either! For Merlin's sake Draco, I'm on your side!"
"Yeah, it certainly sounded like it all through dinner."
She snorted. "I didn't hear you saying anything to her either."
"You're right: why complain about some pathetic mother head for talking trash to me if I'm not going to."
Hermione resisted the urge to snap at his name calling and sighed deeply. "Look, can we just–"
"No, you're right: I'm overreacting." The sarcasm dripping from his tongue made her tremble. "Bloody hell, if I had known things were going to be like this I would've just come straight back to England instead of wasting my time, Granger. All the wealth in the world isn't worth this hassle."
He was pacing – Draco did that when he was nervous or worried yes, but also when he was on the verge of saying something he was going to regret. The fear he'd been harbouring, that Hermione didn't love him the way he loved her, was never stronger than it was right at that moment. He'd spent months getting her and Émilie back to England, and not once had she given even the barest hint to how that made her feel.
In his head, he was starting to sound like the girl in this relationship, so he didn't voice these concerns out loud.
But did it bother him? It pissed him off! He wasn't supposed to be here, fighting to keep the Malfoy estate from a cruel, vindictive bitch – he was supposed to be running the company, earning more than his father ever did just so he could rub it in his face, and revelling in all the perks that came from being a Malfoy. Hermione Granger had not figured into his plans when he was at Hogwarts – sure, he'd gone through a phase or two (or more…) when he wanted to bone her, but he hadn't thought it was anything more than that.
Draco groaned as Hermione stood up, her face streaming with tears that had been unleashed during his pacing. She was shaking slightly and suddenly, he was worried for his safety. This angry woman was a hellcat with offensive spells… but she wasn't reaching for her wand.
"Is that all I am to you?" She growled. "Just a means to keeping your precious Malfoy money? Well fuck you."
Too shocked and prideful, he didn't stop her from leaving. Hermione stormed out of Malfoy Villa… leaving him behind to dwell on what he'd just royally screwed up.
Draco glanced in the direction of Émilie's room, remembering a moment later that Hermione had left her behind as well.
'Maybe she just needs some time alone.'
He banged his head against the wall, ignoring the single tear rolling down his left cheek. He loved that woman, he needed her. He had for a long time: ever since the first time she'd smiled at him after the war. He just hadn't realised it at the time.
Draco was on the stand for over an hour. The Wizengamot was taking into account his age, his upbringing, and the pressure he'd been under while under Voldemort's thumb. But their stern voices and disgruntled faces were giving him cynical thoughts – they wouldn't send him to Azkaban, right? He hadn't been given a choice. He'd just been a frightened teenager trying to save his parents. They wouldn't condemn him for that… right?
It seemed to take forever before Kingsley Shacklebolt, at the centre of those gathered in the benches, read out their verdict.
Cleared of all charges.
Released into his own custody.
The Malfoy estate signed over to Draco Lucius Malfoy.
Draco looked up at them, startled. He was replacing his father as Lord Malfoy?
"Your father has agreed to hand every deed, every estate, and all his earnings over to your name in return for staying out of Azkaban," Shacklebolt told him. "You are now the lord of the manor Draco Malfoy – do not make this court regret its light sentence on your father. Case adjourned."
He sat there, stunned, until a guard unshackled his arms. The dim lights brightened and Draco looked up at them, perhaps instinctually trying to bathe in it as he took stock of what had just happened.
He was free.
In the benches, Harry Potter was leaning in to speak with the minister: his presence today had been to speak on letting Draco go. As he stood shakily, Draco's eyes locked with the girl sitting on the chosen one's other side. Hermione Granger was smiling at him, radiating the kind of warmth he so desired to experience by peering into the light. The smile reached her eyes. It made her glow.
And it was at that moment that he'd realised just how much one smile could light up someone's face.
Draco pulled his thoughts free and shook himself. Wallowing wasn't going to bring Hermione back.
He grabbed a travelling cloak and left the villa, knowing Rosalie wouldn't leave Émilie's side until one or both of her parents came to say goodnight. The wards had been shifted to prevent any and all apparation, so he left via the front gates, strode out to the designated apparation point, and spun on his heels.
The darkness left him and he landed lithely. Draco wasn't entirely sure where Hermione would've gone, given that she hadn't exactly been a social butterfly since her return to England. He tried Potter's place, not comfortable with heading around there, but thinking that if she was looking to get away from her fiancé, she'd go running somewhere he wouldn't want to chase her to.
His next choice was Muggle London – she'd confessed to him that sometimes, when she felt overwhelmed, she liked to mingle with Muggles for a few hours. He found it odd, suffocating, and crazy. The weather had shifted violently, and it was raining of all things. Half an hour after Draco had set out, he decided to head to the Leaky Cauldron. Tom wasn't a gossiper and there were plenty of dark corners to hang his head in as he planned his next move.
And there she was, standing in front of the pub, like she couldn't see it, but staring at the door anyway.
Draco didn't hesitate, pulling off his travelling cloak and wrapping it around the rain soaked woman in front of him. She responded by shivering and leaning into him as he embraced her from behind.
'She's not mad anymore.'
"Hermione," he whispered huskily in her ear. "What are you doing standing in the rain?"
"Thinking," she said softly. "And remembering."
He looked up at the sign above the pub. "About?"
"The first time I stepped through this door. The first time I saw you."
She shivered again. "Your parents were with you, looking stern and annoyed at having to pass through the Leaky Cauldron to get your Hogwarts stuff. I guess they normally used the apparation point."
"Father always said the longer you take to do something, the less time you spend being a Malfoy."
Hermione giggled softly. "Strange one, that Lucius."
"Please come home with me."
She stiffened slightly. "Why are you here Draco?"
He spun her around, finally remembering to cast a protective charm to keep the rain at bay, and lifted her chin to look into her eyes. "Because I'm in love with you."
She'd been crying – the tears were rain swept, but her face was slightly puffy. She let out an indistinct sob and he cradled her face, lowering his mouth to hers. She deepened the kiss, wrapping her arms around him and felt her body warming with unintentional magic. They were both being silly, taking their anger over what Molly had done with each other. Hermione twisted Draco's hair between her fingers, moaning and groping to her heart's content. When he bit her bottom lip she growled.
"Draco…" She murmured, and pried their mouths apart. "We should head back – Émilie and Rosalie will be worried."
Hermione lowered her head to rest on his chest, shivering in the cold air, despite the warmth from her magic, and held on tight as Draco pulled her along with him, apparating back to Malfoy Villa. Once inside, Hermione said goodnight to Émilie like she'd promised and told Rosalie that she and Draco would be gone for the night.
"I've been meaning to show you something," Hermione told Draco, leading him back to the apparation point. "It's a surprise," she added hastily as he opened his mouth to ask what. "You'll understand when we get there."
She held tightly to him again, her arms reaching up behind his back as she inhaled his scent before focusing on her destination, determination, and deliberation before Disapparating, pulling Draco along with her.
She would always love this mode of travel best.
Draco was confused at first; the sense of being thrust into a dusty, unused apartment was the first thing that occurred to him as he tried to figure out what was going on. He looked around, his eyes widening in recognition.
"Isn't it great?" Hermione asked, pulling away from him. "It didn't need much work, especially compared to the villa, but I've been leasing it out for the past six years and the last tenants left it in almost complete pristine condition, thank god. It's empty now and I've touched up the place, just giving it a more welcoming feel to it really. Well," she asked, frowning at his silence. "What do you think?"
Draco nodded his head slowly, taking it in. It was exactly as he remembered: from the tiled floors and the inbuilt kitchen and dining room tables, to the easterly windows and bedroom that was just on a raised level with no more than three steps between the living room and the open bedroom. This was a bachelorette pad… he hadn't really thought about it back then, but it made sense now.
Hermione had just annulled her marriage to Ronald Weasley when she'd bought this place. He remembered tracking down where she lived shortly before the due date for the wedding – he'd done it on a whim, still angry with his situation regarding the arranged marriage with Astoria. Despite his decision to go along with it, it had never been what he truly wanted. Hermione and Ron's announcement on the set date of their wedding had made him jealous, though at the time he hadn't really contemplated why that would be. So he'd found the apartment they'd been renting (another indication that Ron came from a half assed pureblood family) by bribing the Muggle manager – said manager had then contacted him when Hermione bought this place. Apparently, the man had been sleeping with the married owner.
It was how he'd known where to go the night they conceived Émilie.
The idea of some miracle happening here, some repeat of that night – not only in the incredible sex, but the end result of said sex – wasn't lost on him. He wanted that so badly. He needed it.
"Let's not worry about anything tonight," she interrupted.
"Are there wards here?" Draco asked, nodding in agreement with her statement.
"Yes, but they're new – every tenant since I left has been Muggle. I made this one a bit more flexible. The alarms would go off if it was anyone other than me, you, Émilie or Rosalie, or if any of us felt threatened by someone entering the apartment with us."
Draco smiled. "You included me in the ward."
She rolled her eyes. "Of course."
"How did you get a hold of my blood?"
She bit her bottom lip, not sure he wanted to hear the details.
He chuckled. "I think I love you Hermione Granger."
She blushed. "Well, I think I love you too Draco Malfoy."
"Hm." He leant in to kiss her, inhaling her scent as he suckled on her lips. "Mmm… shall we retire to the bedroom?"
She giggled and followed him – he was in a rush to get started it seemed.
The blood wards here were such that even Harry couldn't break through. He'd been coming and going to Malfoy Villa over the last three days, just popping in and out, because he was the Head of the Auror Department. If he tried to apparate in here, he'd end up in a small swamp ten miles away. If he tried to walk in the front door, he would collide with a wall of magic and be Confunded. If he tried to Floo in, he'd find himself in the grate for the Zabini household instead.
She made a mental note to discuss blood wards at the villa with Draco just as she lay back on the bed, closing her eyes as the delicious man assaulted her mouth. His lips moved to her jaw line, and she was just about to start pulling her shirt off when he stopped her.
"Let me," he said huskily, his breath on her skin as he lowered his lips returned to hers.
But instead of pulling her shirt off, he assaulted her mouth once more, one hand on hers, the other gripping her face like he was cupping it. The kiss was sensual, slow, and teasing as he bit her lip softly. She moaned.
And it was that one, erotic tone that drove him on; he gripped her fiercely, almost animalistic, and pulled her shirt off her roughly. Draco moved quickly to her bra as she undid the buckle on his pants. Before she knew it, she was topless and he'd already taken off her jeans, now working on the bottom of her matching knickers. She groaned, sliding backwards away from him as he managed to remove the offending item, exposing her to his eyes; stormy grey eyes soaked in the gorgeous sight before he quickly undressed, lying on top of her, equally naked.
His mouth fell to her right breast, suckling her nipple as he tasted her salty skin. She gasped and moaned at his touch, while he kneaded her other breast possessively. His other hand had made it to her wetness, slipping into her with no effort and scissoring her walls to prepare her.
Draco was never surprised by how ready she was for him: after all, he was a sex god and wouldn't let her forget it. But they hadn't slept together for three nights, and the end of her menstrual cycle was a particularly amorous time for her. Most women were horny during their cycle, but she started to crave him more in the few hours immediately after the bleeding had stopped. She was rougher, almost dangerous, when they had sex at this point, and he took advantage every time.
The moment he added the fourth finger inside of her, enjoying the way she was clenching and unclenching, Hermione pulled him up roughly, distracting him with a fervent kiss before gripping his phallus, hard. He hissed into her mouth, biting down harder than necessary as his engorged muscle responded to her touch. She wasn't being gentle, matching her stroking rhythm with the thrusts of his fingers, and causing his hips to jerk suddenly. She was pushing him over the edge, and this had to stop.
"S-stop," he said, breathing deeply. "I'm so close, too close."
She grinned up at him cheekily. "Then by all means, take me now, Mister Malfoy."
"Merlin, you're fucking asking for it!"
He pushed her knees apart roughly, locking eyes with her as he rammed into her silken heat. She cried out, fisting his hair, and throwing her head back. He used the bed for support, arching his back as he drove harder and deeper into her, with her writhing and screaming his name underneath him. He kept a steady pace, torturing her as she clawed at him, needing more friction, but then started moving faster as his body screamed at him.
Draco gave little thought to the fact that the bed was groaning underneath them and inhaled the scent of sex and Hermione Granger, waiting out his release as she came for a fourth time; his seed spilling into her on the last moan from her mouth. Her body shuddered and she sighed, enjoying the after effects of her orgasm, holding tightly to the beautiful man above her.
"Fuck!" Draco rolled off of her, pulling her with him as he went, and she nuzzled his chest.
Hermione started to drift off immediately, exhausted from the day, not to mention multiple orgasms, but content when Draco whispered in her ear, his breath tickling her skin.
"I love you Hermione."
Five days on from the start of their fourteen day deadline, Émilie spent the morning and lunch at The Burrow – her best friend, Victoire Weasley, had come over in time for lunch. Apparently, Molly was making up for something, according to James Potter. He seemed to think she'd done something wrong.
"Gramma always feeds us breakfast and lunch when mummy or daddy are upset with her."
Émilie couldn't see why.
And to top off the weirdness, the older brother of Albus Potter had been eerily sweet with her and she was on the edge of her seat, waiting for him to go back to normal. She felt so nervous around him now, her demeanour a little more tense as Albus pulled on her hair and she let him, caring more about the creepy way James was following her around.
She couldn't stand this new version of him and it was with sulky reluctance that she said goodbye to her parents, wondering why she couldn't just go to her mémé's home. Rosalie didn't come with her, which was weird, and when Émilie questioned her parents on this, all they said was that she had business to tend to. What did that even mean? Her parents were acting weird. They were working today – whatever that meant – on ridding the world of evil: her père's words, not hers.
Meanwhile, knowing her granddaughter wouldn't have either of her parents to go back to after lunch, Narcissa had offered to pick Émilie up, but when she heard she'd spent the day in The Burrow, she worried. Rosalie came to her rescue and said she'd get her and bring her back to the manor.
The blonde was relieved and thanked her.
She had been wary of the nanny at first, both because she wasn't a house-elf, like all Malfoys were supposed to have, and because she was a Muggleborn witch. But she seemed unusually in tune with other people's needs, like she was some sort of Empath. Narcissa wondered briefly if there was any such thing as she awaited Émilie's arrival by having the house-elves prepare some playthings for her – Rosalie had told her of a few Muggle things she liked, as well as magical toys. Émilie was a strange child, through and through. The little girl took after Draco so much, and thankfully hadn't inherited her mother's dislike of using house-elves.
Narcissa was still unsure how to treat her, having hated Muggles and mudbloods for so long, but this was different somehow. Hermione had given her a granddaughter, and the woman who had actually married her son had only ever given her a headache. Astoria was a vindictive bitch. She'd never say that out loud, given her unwavering commitment to poise and propriety, but her thoughts were not so easily put on display.
She sighed, just grateful that Lucius was also busy today. She wanted to spend more time with her granddaughter without him around. He wasn't very good company these days, mumbling about broken traditions and stupid impure laws.
Narcissa stood up as the floo activated, surprised that only Émilie came through. She was under the impression that Rosalie was almost always with her. The younger witch shrugged her shawl off as the house-elf known as Krepta appeared and offered to take it for her. Émilie just giggled, shaking her head at him and greeted Narcissa happily, speaking in fluent French for a few minutes before calming down and returning to English.
"House-elves are so funny," she stated seriously.
Narcissa laughed softly. "Are you hungry? Thirsty?"
"No thank-you mémé," Émilie said, "I've had lunch. Do you have any games?"
"Of course, Rosalie told me what you like."
"She takes care of me better than mère and père combined."
"I'm not surprised."
Émilie roped her into playing something called Guess Who, a few board games and lamented over the absence of electronic games (Harry had gotten her into them a little while back but she hadn't touched them since James killed her over and over in one of the shooting games he liked so much).
It was almost time for an early supper when Émilie wanted to go through her mémé's closet, her eyes drawn instinctively to the formal dresses she stored for official functions.
Émilie hummed happily to herself, and started to dance slightly to the imaginary music in her head, holding a dress in her hands out like it was her dance partner, her mind overwhelmed with the day's events.
Watching from the other side of the room, Narcissa couldn't help but smile. That awful Astoria had robbed her of having a son, but here was Émilie, a beautiful little girl, and her granddaughter… she honestly couldn't be happier. After everything Draco had gone through, he deserved this bundle of joy. The girl was so poise, so intelligent, and yet still so very childlike. She couldn't get her head around it, so just enjoyed this weirdly happy feeling she had that for the first time in generations (or ever perhaps) that a first born Malfoy was a girl.
Émilie moved over to where her mémé was quietly reading a book. She tried not to frown with annoyance as she looked at her. "Pourquoi faire vous ne pas aimer mon mére?" [A/N: "Whydoyounot likemymother?"]
Narcissa was shocked by the question. She obviously disliked Hermione for her breeding. But what Émilie was asking of her to know was a loaded question, with no correct way of answering. She hadn't expected this from her. She thought about it, the answer coming out diplomatic. The last thing she wanted to do was insult her.
"Your mother and I grew up with different ideals," Narcissa said, keeping her voice even. "In the Wizarding world, most pureblood families look down on people with no magic, and Hermione didn't know she was a witch when she was your age. In the Black family – that's mine – dislike of Muggles and Muggleborns is something we're taught to think and feel, and like a nasty comment, it can stay with us for the rest of our lives."
Émilie nodded thoughtfully and stared into her grandmother's eyes. "What about me? Do you not like me as well?"
"Oh Émilie," Narcissa pulled her into a tight hug. "I love you."
Émilie giggled happily at that and grinned as her grandmother let her go. "Me too!"
Narcissa held onto her, thinking. She pulled away a few minutes later, smiling down at her. "What do you miss most about France, dear?"
"My friends," Émilie said dismissively. "Helaine manor." She started to play with her grandmother's hair absentmindedly. "And then the Musée d'Orsay."
"You like museums?" Narcissa was not surprised that Hermione would introduce her daughter to a Muggle museum, but hoped that Émilie knew about the magical ones as well. She'd heard that her company mixed Muggle and magical artefacts to draw in money which was promptly donated. She got paid to do all this, but it was a non-profitable organisation.
Narcissa knew about the Musée d'Orsay because of her own attempts at being a philanthropist, which had unfortunately fallen short.
"Uh-huh," Émilie said, nodding her head. "Mère used to take me every weekend and on my birthday I'd get to choose which one of the pieces from the magical collections that went on sale at Béziers Maison d'Enchèresto be donated for that month." [A/N "Maison d'Enchères" means "auction house", while Béziers is a Muggle city. So it's called "Béziers Auction House"]
Her birthday was in September, so she always chose something that better reflected a more autumn-like atmosphere. Every year, it was her favourite birthday present. She hoped that moving to England wouldn't change it. She wanted to do the same thing again next time. It was more than just a birthday present, and had become a tradition she could share with her mother. She sighed, throwing her arms around her mémé, burying her face in the woman's shoulder.
Narcissa hugged her back, musing on what she'd said. Hermione was a wonderful mother, if not misguided, but a better mother to Émilie than she'd been to Draco. She'd regretted all that time, standing by Lucius and watching as he pushed their son so far; she was surprised Draco had not gone mad. There was never going to be anything she could do to make that up to him, although she'd tried (another thing she'd failed at since the end of the war). Narcissa was suddenly struck with a thought: she did not want anything like that to ever happening to Émilie. The Malfoy name was cursed now, but perhaps by marrying Hermione, Draco could salvage something of it to give Émilie the life she deserved.
Narcissa stroked her granddaughter's hair, mesmerised by the blonde strands. If it wasn't for Hermione, she wouldn't have this blessing, she would soon be out on the streets because of Astoria. And because she and Lucius had pestered Draco until he married a vile woman who was not above poisoning her own husband. A single tear formed in the corner of her eye, but she wiped at it before it could fall.
This time, she would do things the right way, and not how she'd been raised. She kissed the crown of Émilie's head as she realised the girl had fallen asleep and whispered.
"I'll keep you safe."
Seven days on from the start of their fourteen day deadline, Hermione felt like throwing up.
She had never felt this nervous before, even while awaiting the result of Hogwarts exams or fighting Death Eaters. Both of those problems seemed to pale by comparison to this one.
She was getting married.
Merlin's beard… she was marrying Draco Malfoy!
This was so far out of her original life plan that it was giving her hiccups. Ginerva "Ginny" Potter was attempting to calm her jitters, soothing each and every one of her concerns.
"You love Draco," she said. "Focus on that."
'Life is what happens while you're making your plans.'
Someone said that – she couldn't remember who. Hermione had been planning her life for years and none of it had come to fruition. Getting pregnant out of wedlock apparently did that to a person.
She was standing outside the registrar's office with Ginny, waiting to be led in so that the chosen ministerial from the Department of Marital Affairs could perform the bonding ceremony. Draco was already inside, speaking with the appropriate ministry employees and from the brief look she'd gotten at his formal robes, Hermione was grateful she'd insisted on wearing a soft sky magenta coloured dress with no frills or lace. The neckline was conservative, but she'd had it made to compliment her curves while still looking like it could double as a conventional, formal dress.
Her hair was up and out of her face, falling in ringlets that framed her face: she was comfortable with it, but not entirely sure it was warranted. After all, this wasn't a big ceremony, just containing the appropriate officials and a handful of select family and friends.
Harry came out of the room, took Ginny's hand in his, and whispered in her ear. She nodded and hurried into the room.
"Shall we?" He asked Hermione, offering her his arm.
She smiled and took his arm. "Thanks Harry."
"What are best friends for?"
"Getting their asses kicked."
He chuckled. "I'll be careful not to incur your wrath until you're heavily pregnant with your second child – you won't be able to catch me then." He smiled at her frown. "It'll happen. Come on, let's get you in there."
Draco struggled not to let his jaw drop when Hermione entered the room on Potter's arm. This wasn't some public wedding with all the bells and whistles but… Merlin she looked gorgeous. He wondered briefly if he was under some sort of enthrallment, but snapped out of it once Harry placed her hand onto the arm of her intended.
'Damn, it's really happening.'
He could hardly believe that karma felt he deserved this. Draco kept his eyes on her as the ministry official recited a few legal paragraphs as a result of this being from a special licence. The bells and whistles were on the paper work, the fact that the ministerial witness outnumbered the combined friends, family, and that in order for this to work, the man reciting the bonding spell was unknown to the both of them.
It was all about the ministry covering its butt, really.
Their hands were bound together, magic weaved over them, and a few spells preceded the final line:
"In the presence of these witnesses, with the power of magic and in the name of all things noble and true, I now declare you husband and wife."
Draco leant into kiss Hermione and she held tightly to him. It was done, it was over… she couldn't help but feel both elated and saddened. They pulled apart at the sound of someone clearing their throat, still holding onto each other.
The next five to ten minutes were a blur – it included congratulations and warm hugs. Narcissa was taking Émilie for the night, while Rosalie was heading back to France for awhile (to visit friends and for an overdue, well deserved holiday). Blaise and Pansy Zabini were glad for Lucius's absence: apparently, he had been particularly nasty to them over the years. The only Weasleys in attendance were Arthur, Percy, and George. Ginny and Harry hadn't brought their children, much to Émilie's delight, and the only other people here were Muggleborn…
Hermione was grateful for Harry's interference on that front. Her parents left shortly afterward – despite their overwhelming tolerance of her being a witch, not to mention marrying a wizard, they weren't exactly eager to remain in the ministry any longer than necessary.
Draco hugged his mother goodbye (they had agreed not to mention his father until the older Malfoy got over himself), kissed Émilie fiercely, and then whispered in her ear, "You're a Malfoy now."
Nine days on from the start of their fourteen day deadline, the word was out. People had already started sending Hermione and Draco either well wishes or letters of scorn – the latter mostly from the traditional pureblood families. She ignored them and focused on the well wishes, still giddy with excitement over the events of two days ago. They would be delaying their honeymoon, which was understandable, and once this business with Astoria was over, Narcissa wanted to hold a celebratory feast in light of the small, rushed ceremony that had married them.
Hermione readily agreed.
But she had bigger problems now. The Wizarding world was watching her with a magnifying glass.
Harry had the list of suspects when it came to Astoria's mole narrowed down, but he couldn't be sure without further proof. He didn't want to tell either Hermione or Draco the names of the people on his list until he knew more, frustrating them both.
There was a rumour going around that Astoria Greengrass was trying to take the Malfoy estate – very few people (by comparison) actually knew for sure that it was true, so it made Harry wonder who leaked it. Only an hour after the rumour hit the public ear, Astoria gave an emotional speech to a Daily Prophet reporter and Luna's father had been able to ascertain that it was just a drabble of the woman acting the victim – trying to garner public support.
Draco wasn't looking forward to that issue hitting the stands.
The woman was out for blood.
Meanwhile, Scorpius Greengrass was still being treated like the Malfoy heir by the courts. All the paperwork Draco had gone through with his lawyers had been for nothing it seemed – someone was being paid off, that's for sure. It also didn't help that Astoria was accusing him of only marrying Hermione to keep his inheritance. It was Hermione's idea then, to hold their own press conference, because it seemed the public outcry in favour of Astoria was putting pressure on the minister for magic to cut Draco off completely and immediately.
Kingsley Shacklebolt hadn't been more angry in his life – disregarding previous events with Death Eaters and Cornelius Fudge back in the days when the man was ripping apart other people's reputations just to cover his own ass.
Meanwhile, Hermione agreed to meet up with Blaise and Pansy Zabini in a café of sorts in Diagon Alley. The proof of her marriage to Draco Malfoy had been spread out in the most recent issue of the Daily Prophet, not to mention the Quibbler, and she anticipated the stares, the whispers, and the rumours that came with it. The Malfoy family name was tarnished, but this was information too good not to gossip about – the only girl in the golden trio, not having been seen in public in England for six years, was now married to Draco Malfoy, and with a child out of wedlock no less.
Yes, people had cottoned onto the fact that Draco had fathered a child the night before he married Astoria. The press conference wasn't being held until the next day, but Pansy convinced Hermione to step out into the public eye at least once before that happened. Draco was currently at work, trying to salvage what was left of his ownership, so Pansy and Blaise decided to come along with their best friend's new wife.
"Nervous?" Pansy asked, having tugged on Hermione's arm to keep her moving as they made their way to an outdoor table.
"You're in good company," Blaise said sarcastically and she giggled at him.
He wasn't very happy about this – Blaise preferred the more subtle approach to growing problems. People were like vultures, and gossiping was a form of evil in his opinion. He wished it was Draco dragging Hermione on this outing, but the man was busy, saying he had work to tend to. They didn't need to become walking, talking zoo animals to make this better. The shit had already hit the fan, as the Muggle expression went.
The married couple escorting Hermione were distracting her from the butterflies tossing and turning in her stomach. They sat down, ordered, and waited. It wouldn't be long now. Only a minute later (longer than she'd expected), a reporter from the Daily Prophet approached them and started taking pictures.
"Out of it," Blaise snapped.
The reporter's name was William Farrer, judging by a small badge on his shirt. "Are you really married to the Draco Malfoy?" The man squeaked, ignoring both Blaise and Pansy. "Why isn't he out here with you? I'd love a picture of the happy couple…"
"Wouldn't we all?"
Hermione inwardly groaned at the arrival of Astoria Greengrass. Marcus Flint was holding her arm, his face composed and his eyes averted. Hermione hadn't seen him since that night in the bar when she'd slept with Draco. Looking at him now, he seemed more tired, bored and his hairline was already starting to recede.
Astoria on the other hand, was beautiful and looked like she'd just come from a photo shoot.
"Oh, I'm sure you're curious as to what a happy couple looks like," Pansy said casually. "Blaise and I could show you: you know if you're not too busy plotting world domination later tonight."
Astoria forced a giggle. "Oh Pansy, as usual, you leave me wanting more. But be a good girl and be quiet – I was actually talking to Granger. It's not proper etiquette to interrupt other people's conversations."
"You're not having a conversation," Pansy said, in a sickly sweet voice. "You're interrupting a casual afternoon meal–"
"In a public place," Astoria said. "Where I am entitled to–"
"You're entitled to speak, I'm entitled to speak, Hermione's entitled to speak…" Pansy left her husband out of that, for which he was grateful.
"Then let her speak."
Farrer continued to listen, his Quick-Quotes Quill scribbling out every word being said as he continued taking pictures of the scene before him – the gathering crowd was making both Hermione and Blaise uncomfortable. Farrer seemed to have brought everything with him that he needed for this – had he known that Astoria was planning to come here all along?
"Well well," Astoria said, pretending to care as she focused her attention on Hermione. "As it turns out, that little girl I met was Draco's after all. Isn't that funny?"
Marcus flinched slightly, but Hermione didn't glance at him. What was his problem?
"Not really," she answered through gritted teeth.
"Oh I think so," Astoria continued. "You see, the courts are under the impression that Draco Malfoy is infertile. That was one of his arguments for having Scorpius removed from the Malfoy family tree. And what do you know, lo and behold, he actually does have a child! I'm sure they'll be interested to know how a supposedly infertile man managed to father one."
"You know very well why Scorpius isn't Draco's," Hermione said dangerously. "You cheated on him with Marcus."
Farrer turned suddenly to take a picture of Marcus before returning to the bickering women.
"I was in a loveless marriage and–"
"And Marcus was a sympathetic ear," Hermione finished. "Seeing as though he has no idea what a healthy relationship looks like either."
She'd heard that her old friend, Anastasie Babineaux, whom Marcus had married years ago, was currently in a French hospital like St. Mungo's. She wasn't in her right mind apparently, so Marcus had sole custody of their son, Julien Everard Flint. Hermione regretted losing contact with the woman. Maybe, if she'd tried harder to stay in her life, Anastasie wouldn't be where she was today. She blamed Marcus for the fall from grace.
And, if Hermione was expecting Marcus to respond, she was sorely disappointed.
Astoria however, was the one who was looking increasingly angry. Draco had told Hermione about the times Astoria would boil with anger and spill secrets in the heat of the moment – but it seemed like no-one could anger her like he could. Right now, she was merely on simmer.
Hermione stood up, Pansy and Blaise following her lead as she turned away, making to leave.
"Don't go too far Granger," Astoria said. "The Daily Prophet will want to hear your version on how Draco likes to use women and throw them to the nearest available wolf."
Hermione turned around to face the high society harlot and slapped her hard, across the face. Astoria stumbled backward stunned, but quickly recovered, her wand in her hand the next moment. But Hermione was faster, and deflected the minor hex which she guessed was no stronger than a Tickling Charm. Blaise jumped in then, breaking them up, but the moment he stood between them, Hermione lowered her wand.
Marcus merely watched on, more uninterested than ever, while Pansy placed a placating hand on Hermione's shoulder.
The Daily Prophet reporter continued taking snapshots as Astoria Greengrass shouted obscenities (Marcus had finally taken a firm grip on her wand arm so she couldn't cast anything else) and calling her names that even Ron hadn't shouted at her before.
Astoria's sister Daphne appeared, pushing her way through the crowd, and Hermione braced herself. Marcus released the younger of the sisters and Daphne took her sister's arm. She whispered into the blonde's ear (the older of the two had brunette hair and a softer expression on her face), causing Astoria to go silent. She did however, snarl in Hermione's direction before storming away, Daphne following closely behind.
Marcus paused, his eyes sweeping over Hermione in contemplative silence, before walking away after his temperamental half.
For a moment, Hermione was breathless. She forced herself to calm down, realising Blaise was staring at her intently; he was tense, his eyes scrutinizing her, looking for any sign she was going to snap at him next. She offered him a slight smile and he visibly relaxed. She was thankful he'd jumped up, even though Astoria was nothing she couldn't handle in the wand department. The girl didn't seem to have much power or skill for that matter. The hex she'd used (though non-verbal) seemed to be almost inconsequential, unless she'd actually held back. But considering the woman's vehemence for Hermione's "interference" in her ploy to get the Malfoy riches, she doubted Astoria cared not to hurt her, with or without an audience.
Still, Draco had warned her not to underestimate the woman, so Hermione found herself entertaining the idea again that she had held back. Harry too, seemed to think Astoria was more cunning than direct. But Astoria had risen to Hermione's bait. From Draco's descriptions, she should've risen faster. This was why Hermione thought it safe just to leave. The woman was out of control the moment the slap hit home.
She sighed and turned to face Blaise and Pansy, thinking now on Astoria's older sister.
"That was Daphne, right?" Hermione asked; the ever growing crowd had since dissipated, realising nothing else was going to happen.
Blaise nodded his head. "But she's alright. She has the only level head on her shoulders in that family, I swear."
Hermione nodded, still rattled by what had just transpired. "Didn't she hang out with you lot back at Hogwarts?"
"Sure, but we weren't close. She was friends with Draco, but more often than not, they didn't get along."
Pansy giggled slightly, surprising her. "Because she wouldn't sleep with him."
Ten days on from the start of their fourteen day deadline, the press was given a free pass.
The conference initially wasn't supposed to include Astoria, but she used her contacts in the Daily Prophet to put her name on the guest list. She had left Marcus at home, but Daphne was taking his place for the afternoon it seemed. The girls were whispering in a corner when the press started to arrive.
This entire thing may have been Hermione's idea, but Harry was actually the one who'd organised it. Neville, once quiet and shy in front of cameras, had volunteered to help set up and address the press before either Hermione or Draco got on stage. They were in the ministry – a courtroom on one of the sublevels funnily enough, where Harry remembered being questioned about using a Patronus Charm in front of Muggles during a break from Hogwarts. It had been converted for this conference, so nothing he was looking at as the guests began filing in, reminded him of that harrowing experience.
"I think we have some gatecrashers," he said, counting the heads of the last line of people shuffling in.
"Let them," Hermione said. "It doesn't really matter."
Draco groaned. "Why are we doing this again?"
Harry ignored him, peering out behind the curtain that had been set up at the back of the stage.
"Because Astoria's a right cow," Hermione reminded her husband.
It still sounded weird… a comfortable kind of weird, if that made any sense.
"I know that," Draco rolled his eyes. "But why do we need a press conference? And why–"
Hermione kissed him quickly to shut him up. "Just trust me, okay?"
He sighed. He really wanted to. "Fine, but if anything goes wrong, I'm putting her under the Imperius–"
"I'm standing right here," Harry said grumpily. "Don't talk about illegal activities near me or I really will arrest you."
Hermione patted his arm. "We know, we know."
"I need a drink," Draco said, and stalked away.
There was an open bar after the press conference, but he wanted something now. If he was going to go on stage and purposefully anger Astoria, then he wasn't going up sober. He was practically an expert at holding his liquor, remembering fondly the night he and Hermione had conceived Émilie – he'd been one fine brandy from stinking drunk, but still shagged her brains out with clarity. It was moments like these he was exceptionally proud of.
Hermione was handing a parchment to Neville and nitpicking over Harry's choice of robes when Draco returned, drink in hand.
"Your wife is a nuisance," Harry said evenly. "How you get up in the morning without spending hours chewing your nails is beyond me."
Draco chuckled as Hermione shot a dark look at her best friend. "With great restraint, I assure you."
"Heads up," Neville warned, and they all turned to see Daphne Greengrass sauntering over to them.
Her sister was at the other side of the stage, and pointedly ignoring them, for now.
"Daphne," Draco said curtly. "I'm assuming no introductions are necessary."
The girl shook her hair, dark strands falling into her eyes, but she ignored them. "I'm not here for that Malfoy."
She smirked at him. "To wish you luck of course. If anyone can rile Astoria up and create a public scandal, it's you."
He sneered at her. "And what exactly does that mean?"
She stepped closer to him, shifting her body to whisper in his ear and he gripped his brandy tightly. A moment later, she pulled away, seemingly unperturbed by the glare Hermione was sending her way. "Marcus isn't here," she added, her eyes drifting from Hermione's to Draco's and then back again. "He dislikes being put on show."
"Astoria's all over it," Harry noticed, watching the younger Greengrass kneeling on the edge of the stage and talking adamantly with a group of reporters.
Daphne glanced toward her sister and Draco caught the momentary look of disgust before she schooled her features. "Yes…" She shook herself. "Well, good luck. You're going to need it."
She strolled away, not looking back at them, even as she strode right past Astoria. The blonde, much to her credit, was working the crowd with a little pre-conference charm.
It was enough to make Hermione sick, and she instinctively covered her mouth.
"Come on," Neville motioned to Draco. "We might as well get this over with."
"What did she whisper in your ear?" Hermione asked.
Draco shook his head. "Just a little something she used to tell me as children. Later," he added, when she opened her mouth to complain. "It would take too long to explain and it's show time."
Harry took Hermione's hand in his for comfort as Draco followed Neville on stage. She squeezed it tightly as Neville gave a small speech about why they were gathered here and then handed the two microphones over to Draco and Astoria for the press to ask their questions.
The two purebloods glared at each other, but said nothing about their mutual loathing… that was until the first question.
A reporter Hermione recognised lifted his hand into the air, but didn't wait for permission to ask, "I heard from a reliable source that your marriage only ended because of your temper Miss Greengrass."
"I know how to remain calm," Astoria said evenly.
"You're an unsolicited slut," Draco reminded her. "You don't know anything about restraint."
"I stopped myself from killing you for years," she snarled. "How's that for restraint?"
"What the fuck?"
The press continued to murmur as Draco looked dumbstruck, but Astoria wasn't finished.
"And you suck in the bedroom," she ranted. "I had to get myself off so many times, it's no wonder I cheated on you. Merlin, if only I found you attractive, then I wouldn't have had a problem. You should see yourself naked: it's disgusting. I'm sure that mudblood harridan you're married to thinks you're sexy – animals like it like that I suppose. But I'm a pureblood," she added, like a haughty child. "And I have standards!" She frowned at him and for a moment, he wondered if she was drunk. "What would you say to a little romp," she said, "if we bring your little mudblood on stage, would you fuck her in front of everyone?"
"Don't call her that," he snarled.
Astoria looked startled for a second, unsure of herself. But it passed when the same reporter shouted out "did you really cheat on him Miss Greengrass?"
"Oh yes," she said, unable to stop herself. "Many times."
"And what about the rumours that he's infertile? Care to comment?"
She nodded at the reporter. "Oh yes, my finest work." Her eyes widened inexplicably.
"You're saying his alleged infertility is your doing, Miss Greengrass?"
Astoria nodded, looking like an animal about to be slaughtered. She couldn't stop her mouth from working. "I hated him so much, I had to do it. He deserves to be the last stinking Malfoy on the face of this planet."
Her hands flew to her mouth and for some reason, Draco found it more hilarious than insulting.
"And you, Mister Malfoy," the strangely dressed Daily Prophet reporter by the name of William Farrer said. "How do you feel about all this?"
"Strangely pissed and excited," Draco said, having the same problems with lack of control of his mouth. "I mean, she's clearly evil and vindictive, but seriously, hearing her say all of this in front of you bottom feeding idiots is oddly heart warming…"
The crowd went deadly quiet and Astoria let out an undignified snort, drawing their attention once more. More questions were thrown, answered honestly, and tempers flared. But every time Draco was about to wring Astoria's neck, she'd blurt out more about how filthy everyone was compared to her and they should be grateful she graced them with her presence: he couldn't help but laugh at her.
Hermione wanted to go out there and bring it to an end but stopped herself every time Astoria said something self incriminating… the press was asking her most of the questions and, despite his anger at his ex-wife's answers, Draco looked like he was quite enjoying himself. There was no logical reason why or how this could be happening, as Astoria continued to dig her own grave – she looked terrified, but continued on anyway.
Hermione's eyes drifted away from the scene and she spotted Daphne in the opposite wing, poking her head out from behind the curtain, wand in hand. And the moment Daphne raised her wand, Astoria toppled over the podium, falling inelegantly into the waiting crowd.
Daphne Greengrass had some explaining to do. Having left the spectacle her interference with her sister had caused, she was followed by Hermione, Draco, Harry, and Neville and at Hermione's insistence, stepped into the Malfoy lawyer's empty office – closing the door behind her. She'd cast the spell that had sent Astoria toppling head first into failure and they wanted to know why.
"First things first," she said, looking around to double check they were indeed alone, "nothing I'm about to tell you will go any further than this room, no matter what."
"Agreed," Neville said, looking intrigued.
Harry nodded quickly, eager to hear what she had to say, and Hermione sighed, nodding head as she held onto a dazed Draco.
"He agrees," Hermione added, indicating to Draco. His eyes widened and he moved to disagree but she covered his mouth. "Don't you dear?"
He grunted and she removed her hand. He let out a raucous sigh and kissed her cheek like he was a teenager in love… it was actually a little disturbing.
"How did you make Astoria do all those things?" Harry asked.
"How else do you force the truth out of someone?" Daphne asked patiently.
"Yes," Daphne said. "My sister drinks heavily when she's nervous, so slipping some into her cognac wasn't difficult – she was also slightly inebriated."
"So what was Draco's problem?" Hermione asked, as her husband continued to look too happy with himself – even for a Malfoy.
Daphne shrugged. "It wouldn't do to have only Astoria telling the truth up there. I know he makes her angry just by opening her mouth, but with the press looking up at her and her looking quite pompously down at them it wasn't going to happen. She would've had to have been stinking drunk for that to be possible."
"So you drugged Malfoy too?" Harry asked, smirking.
She smiled at him. "Oh yes."
"The ingredients aren't exactly easy to come by," Hermione said, choosing to ignore her best friend as he revelled in the fact that Draco had made a fool of himself in public.
"I get my ingredients overseas," Daphne explained. "I've been planning this for awhile now and I'm in good with a number of apothecaries."
"Maybe you should start at the beginning," Neville suggested. He'd watched the scene unfold before him silently, also finding it funny that Draco had called Astoria an "unsolicited slut" in front of the press and honoured guests. But he really wanted to hear about Daphne's connections overseas.
Daphne nodded and jerked her head suddenly at the familiar growl to her right. Draco's head was clearing and he wasn't happy.
"Later," she promised him. "You can rant at me and thank me then. But for now, hold your tongue, Malfoy."
Hermione took Draco's hand and pulled him along to sit next to her. The office had never felt more inviting – she wasn't sure how to handle what had happened in that conference, but Astoria's less than graceful fall made her feel better about all of it at least.
Harry and Neville sat on the couch opposite the married couple and Daphne took the one at the head of their group. She inhaled deeply: no matter how confident she was about her plans, she was still alone in the room with an ex-Death Eater, two war heroes, and the brightest witch of their generation (also a war heroine in her own right). She had no idea if any of them were going to entertain hexing her after this, but she had no regrets, and instead of worrying about her safety, she frowned at Hermione.
"Do you remember Anastasie Babineaux?"
Hermione nodded, squirming slightly at the sound of the name.
Daphne continued. "Anastasie was my friend first and for the years she spent married to that arsehole, I was her only friend. Everyone else gave up on her but I never did, and when Marcus turned on her, locking her up, I was the only one who cared to find out what he'd done: he drove her mad. Amongst other things, Marcus created a disembodied voice spell to make her think she was hearing things and was constantly casting temporary and short term versions of the Memory Charm on her to make her think she was losing her memory along with her mind. Eventually, he had the authorities lock her up in an asylum to get her out of the way."
Anastasie Babineaux… Hermione shuddered, a hand on her mouth as she struggled not to cry.
Harry cleared his throat. "Get her out of the way for what?"
"I don't know," Daphne admitted. "I still can't figure out what it is exactly that he's after – but I do know that he's been using Astoria to get it. The entire crap about using Scorpius to get the Malfoy estate was his idea, not Astoria's."
"But I'll bet she lapped it up," Draco scowled.
"Hang on," Neville said, raising his hand like he was back in Hogwarts. "Maybe that is his ultimate plan: to get Draco's money and estate I mean."
She shrugged. "Maybe, but there's no way to tell for sure: if Astoria had won, that wouldn't give Marcus access to the Malfoy estate – it would be in my father's name until Scorpius turned seventeen."
"Cleanly out of the way," Harry mused. "But that doesn't really explain why you slipped Veritaserum to both Astoria and Draco."
"I think it does," Hermione said. "Think about it Harry: if Astoria won, it would all be according to Marcus's plans, whatever that is."
"And we're just a step to that," Draco said, frowning at his old friend.
"Don't look at me like that," Daphne snapped at him. "If it were your friend, I doubt you'd have just sat back and let the arsehole that did it to her get away with it."
His features softened and Draco frowned at her. "You blame me, don't you – for how things have turned out."
"Of course I don't blame you Draco," Daphne said idly. "It was never your fault. You were a good husband, and a loving father, even if you still kept the brusque, spoilt kid act from Hogwarts going."
Hermione chuckled at her.
"See?" Daphne said. "Hermione knows what I'm talking about."
Draco growled. "Explain to me again why you never had time for me before I married your sister?" He asked sarcastically.
"Because I don't date jerks," she said seriously.
That was the last straw. Hermione broke out into fits of laughter, in which Daphne happily joined in at Draco's expense. He just glowered at them until they finally settled down.
"So what now?" Neville asked. "What are you going to do to Marcus?"
"Have him declared unfit," she said. "And for that I need help. I've gotten this far on my own, but I don't have the influence in courts the way you do–" she motioned toward Harry "–or the resources of the ministry at my command."
Harry gave her an uncharacteristic sneer. "I do not command the ministry. That rumour is entirely false and unjust."
Ever since he started his crusade to abolish unfair pureblood laws, some people had been complaining he was being given special treatment because of his war status. They simply couldn't get it through their thick skulls how hard he'd worked to even get the minister for magic to look at his proposals. Kingsley didn't have anything against abolishing said laws, but it was both unprecedented and insane to consider using the ministry to break centuries old blood vows.
He wasn't getting any special treatment… but he supposed if anyone else had asked (with the exception of Hermione perhaps), the minister might've sent them packing.
"Relax," Daphne said. "I don't pay attention to jealous gossip." She turned to face Draco. "I wanted to apologise to you: I didn't know at the time what Astoria had done to you, but I should've kept a closer eye on her, considering I knew how angry she was at being betrothed to you."
He just nodded, not wanting to get into it.
She stared at him, her eyes narrowed thoughtfully. "What are you going to do about it?"
He shrugged. "Nothing I can do."
"You visited a Healer?"
"More than one?"
"Every Healer worth their salt."
"What about abroad?" She asked. "Great Britain isn't the only place with Healers you know. My second cousin's best friend married a Haitian apothecary."
'Merlin restrain me,' he thought, growling softly. He really didn't want to talk about this.
"Apothecary," Daphne repeated. "Jeez Draco: it's a Healer supply store. You go there," she said in her best patronizing voice, "you buy things. They have all the magical medicines available to the public."
Draco just glared at her, while Hermione went over the possibilities in her head. She'd thought about an apothecary when discussing this with Neville and the man was intrigued. She bit her bottom lip, staring at him. "Can you get what we need if you work with Daphne?"
"I was never very good at Potions," Neville said.
"What are you two prattling on about?" Draco asked.
Neville smiled. "Hermione's been getting my help with some Herbology homework."
Hermione patted Draco's arm in a consoling way – he looked slightly alarmed. "He's joking about that part, technically. I was thinking about how Astoria poisoned you–" (Draco looked positively murderous now) "–and I checked her O.W.L.S. Don't be mad at me for telling Neville," she added hastily. "He's helped me come up with a solution."
"Everyone knows you're infertile," Harry reminded him. "Stop taking it so personally."
Draco glared at him (the chosen one was just riling him up) and glanced at the amused looking once upon a time loser and turned back to his wife. "You have a cure?"
It didn't seem possible. But this was Hermione…
"No," she said regretfully. "But I've the next best thing."
"A onetime only get-out-of-Azkaban free card, so I can kill the haughty slag?"
Harry chuckled, interrupting them, and then promptly apologised. "Continue."
"Thanks for the permission Potter."
"Fuck you Malfoy."
"I'd rather sleep with Astoria again, you–"
"Stay on topic gentlemen," Daphne interrupted.
Hermione chuckled. "I think it's cute how they snap at each other like that – almost like they're in love."
They stared angrily at her and she sighed. "I didn't find a way of reversing it, not completely – Astoria really knows her stuff when it comes to potions – but there are a few things Neville's picked up on his travels that I can used to increase your fertility."
Draco gave her a glazed, unimpressed look and she attempted to simplify her meaning.
"Astoria poisoned you, this much is true, and your sperm count is almost non-existent, but your diagnosis was inaccurate: you're not actually infertile."
Twelve days on from the start of their fourteen day deadline, Draco finally got some time away from his work, not to mention the frenzy of reporters over that debacle of a press conference, to really vent at his wife.
"When exactly did you extract a sperm sample from me Granger?"
Hermione sighed. He had started calling her Granger again, which meant he really was angry. It had been two days since Daphne's confession, along with her own, and she'd have thought they'd be able to talk about this before now. The problem was damage control after the conference and their hectic lives. Draco had left both mornings, at seven o'clock, not returning until well into the night. There was a possibility of some big merger between his company and an overseas one, that he hadn't done anything upon coming home other than slip into bed next to her and fall asleep almost immediately. Both times, she'd been wide awake but too worried about letting on that she was – so she faked sleep: not that it mattered.
He'd been too exhausted to yell at her.
The weekend was just starting and he didn't want to get into this with Émilie or even Rosalie nearby, so they had the French witch floo over to Malfoy Manor with Émilie to visit Narcissa while they "discussed" this. The second they were gone, Draco demanded to know what she'd figured out with Neville behind his back. She'd explained that he was not infertile, as his sperm was still producing. However, he couldn't father a child because of the poison in whatever Astoria had concocted. They just needed to get rid of that.
Which brought him to his question of how she'd extracted a sample from him without him noticing.
A blush lined her cheeks at the mention of it and she lowered her eyes. "When you uh… ejaculate, you always close your eyes."
"Of course I do," he snapped. "You ground me out witch, and it's fucking hot." Hermione giggled, despite herself, and he sighed. "Fine, all is forgiven. But you really should have told me."
She nodded, but reluctantly – she didn't regret keeping him in the dark, especially with everything else that had been going on at the time. The idea of actually being able to have more children might've raised his hopes, but she didn't want to say anything until she was sure. Since Daphne had slipped him some Veritaserum, Hermione was even more glad he hadn't known at the time.
"Tell me what you've found," Draco said, bringing her thoughts back to him, and she stared into those stormy eyes of his.
"Do you remember me telling you that digitalis purpurea is poisonous and shouldn't have made you infertile?"
Draco stared at her, confused.
"It's called Foxglove," Hermione said, "and is also known as Fairy Weed, among other things. Remember now?"
"At the New Year's ball in France."
"Yes. On its own, Foxglove is poisonous and potentially fatal, but Neville told me about a few plants that, if used in conjunction with it, prevent it from killing you if you ingest it."
Draco scoffed. "Well she said she restrained from killing me."
Hermione smiled at that. "Yes well, wizards don't know much about DNA, despite the newer introductions of Muggle medicine into some of the healer departments, so they didn't really look close enough. Your sperm production and motility is almost non-existent, so I suppose there's no reason to sue anyone over the misdiagnosis. I only found it because I was looking for it."
If possible, Draco was even more confused. "So, what does this all mean?"
Hermione stepped toward him, running her hands down his chest. "It means stop worrying: I've got it covered."
Fourteen days on from the start of their fourteen day deadline, Hermione was terrified and elated.
Was it even possible?
She was nervous over the impending judgement on Draco's estate and whether or not Astoria had lost enough favour to be overruled, but also elated at the reminder that despite the debacle involved, Astoria had been publically outed. It was less than that woman deserved.
And it was the first time she would see Scorpius in the flesh.
The little boy appeared a little put out, dazed, and confused, which made her feel sorry for him. He looked so much like his mother, and she supposed the reason Draco hadn't noticed this wasn't his son was because he had indeed inherited platinum blonde hair – from who, she wasn't sure. Astoria's hair was more of a pastel blonde than anything. Marcus on the other hand, had dark hair. If he'd passed that onto Scorpius, Hermione was sure Draco would've checked the boy's genetics as early as possible.
Hindsight really was a bitch.
Scorpius was being led into the room by an elderly man that looked like both Astoria and Daphne, and Hermione surmised this was their father – or grandfather by how old he looked. Marcus on the other hand, wasn't in the room and Harry quickly explained to Hermione that he'd been arrested trying to break into a ministry sealed vault.
Harry shook his head as the members of the Wizengamot entered. She missed Dumbledore every time something reminded her of him. He'd been the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot in his day. She sighed and gripped Draco's hand – he was on her left while Harry and Ginny were on her right. Neville was on the other side of Draco (surprisingly enough), and Daphne was nowhere to be seen. She vaguely wondered if and how that girl had gotten Marcus arrested, and where the Slytherin was now.
The members of the Wizengamot were individually introduced (something in the Muggle world that had filtered into the magical after the war was more propriety in court and less inattentiveness when it came to such things – she wasn't sure if, in this case, it was a good or bad thing).
"Scorpius Flint is no longer legally recognised as a Malfoy and will be moved into the custody of Dugart Greengrass until such time that this court decides otherwise."
Hermione let out a satisfied sigh, gripping Draco's hand tightly. Four hours on, they'd finally gotten their act together and decided on a ruling. The only problem was that Astoria wasn't going to Azkaban – she could see how the law wouldn't put that on her, due to lack of evidence, despite her confession and use of a Pensieve, but it was still disappointing.
They filed out, and she greeted the woman waiting in the hallway for them.
Daphne had chosen not to participate – the ministry had her memories, and didn't need anything more from her. She returned the Gryffindor's hug and said goodbye to both Harry and Ginny as they left to go home. Neville nervously said goodbye and dashed off after them.
"Where is Flint now?" Draco asked his old friend before she could say a word.
"Azkaban," Daphne said, grinning slightly at that, but losing the smile at her next pronouncement: "He confessed to having tortured Anastasie to get full custody of their son."
"Julien Everard Flint, right?" Hermione asked.
Daphne nodded. "I'm moving to France to help them out – she's being release as soon as they complete the final psychological exam. France is much more open to Muggle ingenuity and they've got their own wards now."
"What did Marcus really want?" Draco asked.
Daphne smiled sadly. "His sons – both of them. Somehow, he'd gotten it into his head that he'd then have access to both the Greengrass and Babineaux fortunes. He only married Anastasie for her family connections."
"He seemed so sincere that night," Hermione said wistfully, thinking about the night she'd run into that group of Slytherins. "He really sounded like he was happy, and not for wealthy reasons. He thanked me, saying I freed him from having to marry who his parents had wanted him to marry."
"He was happy," Draco said. "He talked about it all the time, saying how much he was looking forward to a life with Anastasie."
Daphne frowned. "Then what went wrong?"
All heads turned as Astoria spoke up. "What are you prattling on about?"
Hermione's eyes widened. "You…"
The blonde witch scowled at her but didn't respond, turning to Draco. "You owe me–"
"Nothing," he interjected calmly. "I owe you nothing Astoria. I'm only disappointed you're not going to Azkaban – it would've made quite the splash on the front page of the Daily Prophet."
Astoria glanced backwards, at the Auror behind her. She hadn't been sentenced to Azkaban, but having her wand snapped was embarrassing enough. For a witch or wizard, losing their right to a wand was beyond humiliating: especially for a stuck up pureblood who thought only animals couldn't use magic. Her father was designated as her caregiver now, and she had no choice but to live in squalor, since the Greengrass assets had been frozen – the ministry was also looking into further corruption in their ranks due to her scheming, and Draco smiled at the thought of them sending her to Azkaban after all.
She frowned at his smile, visibly shaking now, and growled the moment the Auror grabbed her arm.
"And what of me?" Astoria half shouted, her anger breaking through her etiquette. "What am I to have now that you've married the mudblood?"
Draco raised his wand again, furious. "Don't call her that."
She snorted. "If it suits her, then it is what I will call her. You didn't answer me Draco."
He shook his head. "The answer is the same as last time Astoria. You get nothing. All I'll let you keep is your dignity, but if you continue to insult my wife, that will change."
The Auror tugged on her and she screamed at him, having to be pulled away. Perhaps, she would've chosen Azkaban if given the choice… perhaps not. Draco didn't care.
"I've been meaning to ask you Daphne," Hermione said, pretending that Astoria hadn't interrupted them. "What exactly did you whisper in Draco's ear before the press conference? Draco keeps lying to me."
Daphne shook her head at him. "Idiot." She smiled at Hermione. "It was a little idiom I thought of when we were young – I liked him until our first day at Hogwarts, which was when the jerk side of him kicked in."
Draco shot her a dark look, but she ignored him.
"When snakes shed their skin, Slytherins slither in."
Hermione scoffed. "And what the hell does that mean?"
"All for one and one for all," Draco said sheepishly.
Hermione grinned at that. "How very Muggle of you, Greengrass."
Daphne sighed. "I never said it was a very imaginative idiom, Granger."
The months seemed to just fly by. Spring became summer, then summer became autumn and finally, winter rolled around. If Professor Trelawney had survived the final battle at Hogwarts, she'd compare the preparations for Hermione and Draco's "wedding" to the cold hand of death. It was all Narcissa's idea, even though Hermione had gone along with it, to plan a second wedding – one for the cameras and glamorous memories of course.
It was like a Winter Wonderland in the hall they'd rented out, with ice sculptures, a silver and white colour scheme and snowy design – Hermione couldn't get over it. The entire Wizarding world knew they were married – they'd been outed pretty quickly and despite the simple ceremony – so she didn't feel special, not really. But there was something about seeing Muggle gnomes (the garden variety that looked like Santa Claus) incorporated with real one that had been stupefied and dressed up, that made her smile. The Weasley twins had done this once before, and this time, it was a joint effort between George Weasley and James Potter – but how the latter had been able to help, she still couldn't figure out.
To top it all off, the Daily Prophet had done an exposé on them, and it had been incredibly flattering. Hermione decided just to let the little girl inside of her free and enjoy the day. It wasn't every day that someone went to all of this trouble over her, and Narcissa had made an effort to get to know her after all. Narcissa had been extremely pushy about what she was calling the "Malfoy wedding encore" – like it was more show than heart. But she assured Hermione that she at least had her best interests at heart.
Lucius however, was still abrupt with her, but said nothing that would make anyone hex him, and his disappointment in having a half-blood grandchild seemed to have simmered. Émilie had finally grown on him, it seemed.
Neither Hermione nor Draco was quite ready to tell his parents that they had discovered he wasn't infertile after all. There was no need to open that can of worms just yet.
Entering the hall ahead of her mother, Émilie trailed the aisle and then skipped over to Rosalie (who was standing with the Potters), so happy that she didn't fight as James took her free hand in his and Ginny giggled softly at the show of affection.
He leant in and kissed her cheek, making her blush.
She mumbled a hasty "merci" and decided to let him continue to hold her hand. She watched with everyone else as her mother strolled down the aisle, wondering if this was something all adults ended up doing, her eyes flickering to note her father's face: stunned reverie and… love. She had never been happier than she was right now. All that time she'd wanted her parents together, distraught by the impossibility of it all: it didn't matter anymore. She had her family, and as pépé Granger released his hold on her mother, Émilie sighed, deeply content.
They recited their own vows, speaking of love, of family, of loyalty and their memories of each other from Hogwarts – not to mention the fact that they'd both denied their feelings in their own ways. Émilie was disappointed when it was all over, wanting to hear more about her parent's time at Hogwarts and how they would never look at each other the same again.
She got a hug from her parents, both grandparents (pépé Malfoy needed a nudge from her mémé, but relented in the end) and close friends and family, and decided to let her parents off the hook when they disappeared shortly after the ceremonial first dance on the dance floor. They were totally making it up to her later. She was hungry anyway.
"Merci," Émilie said graciously as James offered her a piece of cake on a napkin. "Vous ne pas avoir faim?" [A/N: "You are not hungry?"]
James nodded fervently. "I had a whole slice, but I dropped it. You can have this one."
Émilie was stunned. "Really?"
He grinned broadly. "I don't want it."
She narrowed her eyes and Ginny sighed behind them. "Always saying the wrong thing," the redhead muttered.
"James Sirius Potter, you are an imbecile!" She growled, a truly Malfoy tone to her voice. "Et moi voulait vers un baiser vous!" [A/N: "And I wanted to kiss you!"]
Ignoring James's stunned expression, she turned on Ginny next. "Where are mère and père?" Émilie demanded. "I want to go home!"
"Do not sink to 'is level," Victoire Weasley said, coming up behind her best friend. She held a piece of the wedding cake on a napkin in her hand and was currently staring at it strangely. "'Ee is just an idiot I zink."
"Oi!" James snapped. "Take that back! I'm not an idiot!"
"Of course you're not sweetheart," Ginny said, frowning at Victoire. "Come on, let's find your grandparents Émilie."
The young Malfoy screwed up her face. "Yes, lets."
Victoire sighed as James continued to fume at her.
"Émilie?" Narcissa asked striding over to them. "What's wrong?"
"She's upset," Ginny said, and the older witch nodded, understanding.
"Come on," Narcissa said, taking her granddaughter's hand.
Émilie poked tongue at James as her mémé led her away. "See you later, Potter!"
James huffed, crossing his arms over his chest as Ginny rolled her eyes at their antics.
'Not another Potter-Malfoy rivalry.'
She honestly didn't know which family was more ridiculous.
They'd snuck away, evading every keen eye and flashing bulb of the Daily Prophet and Witch Weekly. Draco and Hermione had left instructions for Rosalie, but it wasn't necessary – plenty of other witches or wizards had offered to take Émilie in for the night. They apparated back to where it had all started, at least as far as the "real world" was concerned, this apartment was still just in Hermione's name, but that would soon change. As soon as their feet hit the floor, they wasted no time in tearing at each other's clothes, leaving them both naked from the waist up when Hermione suddenly stopped.
Draco groaned as she hesitated on the threshold. "What's the problem?"
"Forget that bint," he whined. "This night is about you and me, okay?"
"I keep picturing–"
Draco pressed a finger to her lips. "She's going to Azkaban, and she deserves it. So can we have sex now?"
Hermione frowned at his crude reference. "Will it really come to that?"
Draco shrugged his shoulders. "Who cares?"
Annoyed that she was still ignoring his naked torso as she worried over Astoria Greengrass's fate, Draco scooped her up bridal style and threw her onto their bed. She gave a yelp as she landed and he climbed onto the freshly made sheets, advancing toward her on all fours.
"Forget about that slag," he said, "and focus on the task at hand, Mrs Malfoy."
She arched upwards as he ducked his head, and parted her legs. Hermione lost all ability for rational thought, giving into the pure rapture of having this gorgeous man between her legs. It was somehow different this time, rolling around, naked and in each other's arms – there was no dark cloud above their heads, no vindictive ex to tear them down (Ron had come to their wedding and surprisingly said nothing that would make her want to hex him – as prim and pompous as Lucius had been, but at least bearable).
Feeling her climax coming, Hermione pushed Draco onto his back, grounding him out as she dug her nails into his skin: he came inside of her a moment later. She fell forward, her lips brushing the shell of his ear and she suddenly remembered the conversation she'd wanted to have with him earlier. Hermione held tightly to her husband, a flush of heat pulsing through her body and pooling in her groin. She shifted slightly as Draco's hands lazily trailed her spine and buttocks and whispered in his ear seductively.
Draco pushed at her slightly to look into Hermione's eyes. The shock on his face brought a smile to hers and she felt him harden again almost immediately and squealed as he threw her onto her back.
"I love you, Mrs Malfoy," he growled into her ear, pushing into her with renewed vigour.
Once they had both orgasmed several more times, Draco growled: Hermione called out in French, annoying him. "Oh mon putain de dieu." [A/N: "Oh my fucking god"]
'I really need to learn French.'
X X X
A/N: Phew! And now that that's done, my sister will stop bugging me about updating and I can focus entirely on my other fics, lol. ;) Worth the wait… yes? *bats eyelashes* :)
So… if there were any more mistakes, don't hesitate to point them out (without flaming, of course). Anyway, tell me what you think – was it anticlimactic, boring, exciting… what?
Thank you so much to everyone who's read etc, reviewed, whatever. Dramione is an ocean and it's not easy finding that hook that lures people in – I hope I've entertained and enamoured someone, even if not everyone. So thank you again, and lotsa love! ^_^