Hermione didn't know what to do. Years of fighting Voldemort had not prepared her for an encounter with Narcissa Malfoy. Especially not while her son's hand was firmly clamped to her arse. Hermione's eyes flickered to the closet, where she'd borrowed Narcissa's dress only a few days earlier.
She prayed Narcissa hadn't realized.
"Draco," Narcissa hissed.
"She's the one who showed up here unannounced," he muttered, but shoving his hands into his pockets instead.
"Draco, if you would sit down. Perhaps Miss Granger could return later," Narcissa suggested coolly.
"I don't think so, Mother. If you need to speak with me privately, I'll come by the Manor tomorrow."
Narcissa eyed her son and Hermione. Her mouth fractionally tightened. She gestured tersely to the empty chairs beside her. Hermione eyed Draco. He'd set his jaw, and she could see the stubbornness reflected in his silver eyes. His hand reached out for hers, gripping it tightly and overtly. He tugged her toward the sofa to sit beside him.
"I received an owl not half an hour ago from the Prophet, asking if I had any comment about the quote-unquote 'love triangle' that led to a brawl between yourself and Ronald Weasley this morning." Her nose crinkled. "Is it true?"
"What? The love triangle, or the brawling?"
"Don't be difficult." Narcissa sighed. "The son I raised wouldn't attract such distasteful, lowbrow attention to himself."
Hermione failed to suppress a snort; Draco was always getting into fights and arguments. He positively adored provoking people. Narcissa shot a frosty glare at her twitching lips.
"There's no love triangle other than in Ronald Weasley's pin-sized brain," Draco replied. "And I might have pointed out that fact, and Weasley was unable to control his baser urges in the face of unvarnished truth."
"So it's true," Narcissa replied coolly. "My son has turned into some... public brawler... over a mu-muggleborn who tried to destroy our family."
"Oh, don't be dramatic, Mother. I didn't strike Weasley, or anyone else for that matter. I was just putting on my shirt..." At this disclosure, Narcissa cringed, but Draco continued. "And Weasley struck me in the back of the head. Granger stunned him and called the Aurors and the mediwizards. He's been charged with assault. Even Potter gave a statement in my favour."
Narcissa's eyes fluttered shut. "My God. It'll be in all the papers. Everyone will know all of it."
Until this moment, Narcissa seemed to have ignored Hermione, and Hermione had thought it prudent to stay silent in the face of this awkward family argument.
"Don't you feel any shame?" Narcissa suddenly turned to her and hissed. "You're dragging our family through the filth."
Hermione's cheeks flushed hot, and her hands trembled. Draco felt it; she could feel his fingers tightening around hers and his eyes flickering toward her. She didn't have a chance to respond before Narcissa turned back to Draco and continued speaking.
"Draco, I'm sure that Miss Granger has many positive attributes. But where is this even going? Surely you realize the ramifications of even a brief assignation with the girl. Surely you haven't considered anything... else."
Draco glanced toward Hermione with a worried expression. She understood; he was worried that she expected a grand declaration of marriage and forever and forever. She gave him a reassuring smile, and he seemed to calm.
"I just don't know. I mean - we only really publicly said we're dating today." Draco shrugged. "But it's worth seeing where it's going."
"Oh, listen to yourself, Draco. Allowing things to spiral out of control on the off chance this mu-girl takes a fancy to you in the long term." Narcissa pursed her lips. "This must end. Don't worry, Miss Granger, I'm sure that we can work out suitable compensation in exchange for your cooperation."
"Pardon me?" Hermione's eyes hardened. "I'm with Draco because I fancy him. I'm not going to break it off for a payoff! What sort of person do you think I am?"
Draco's hand began to snake up her arm, gently tracing circles over that sensitive spot at the crook of her arm. When she glanced his way, he was looking at her with a peculiar, soft expression. His eyes grew cold, and Hermione almost felt sorry for Narcissa.
"You see, Granger's got substance - she's not like Pansy. And unlike last time you broke off a relationship of mine, now I am the one in control of the manor. Since Father's death, I've been very generous. I haven't requested you move to the Dower House. I haven't had any problem with you continuing to access the accounts and arrange the finances as you see fit. But if you continue to try to control me..." He paused for effect, looking shockingly similar to Lucius. "I will become significantly... less... generous."
Narcissa's eyes widened. "You've read the will?" At his silence, she finally muttered, "I think perhaps I should go."
"I'll see you tomorrow, Mother. It's been a very trying day for Hermione and I. We need some rest."
She sashayed out without so much as a farewell. Hermione felt her face flame, and felt a vague sense of embarrassment at being witness to such a personal family dispute. Had she come between him and his mother?
"She'll be fine in a day or two, when she needs me at a dinner she's holding." He slipped his hand up to her throat, dragging his fingers gently over her jawline. "You were magnificent."
She raised one incredulous eyebrow.
"No, really. I mean..." He shrugged. "We were so rudely interrupted. Let's go to bed."
Hermione nodded; she understood that, although not yet at the point of declarations or engagements, this was a turning point. Draco Malfoy had - within one day - broken from his family's views, and publicly at that.
As she peeled his shirt off, he pressed gentle kisses along her throat. His fingers were slow and gentle as he removed each piece of her clothing. When finally, slowly, they were fully skin to skin, his long, slender body pressed atop hers, he murmured her name as he smoothed his hands over her collarbone, down her neck, over her breasts and stomach. She shivered as his arms slid beneath her, clamping her to him.
She wanted him inside her, desperately.
"Please, Draco," she whimpered, "Please."
He obliged her, sinking slowly into her body, grey eyes locked with brown. That familiar feeling; of stretching to meet his girth, of the slender plane of his body ebbing against her own. It was like coming home; too perfect to be just a fling.
Especially not after she'd come to know him - not just as someone to have sex with, but as a person.
His thrusts quickened. Her hands roamed down his back, squeezing his buttocks, his legs, his back, and he began to groan and throw his head back. At his undoing came hers; she whimpered and felt herself lose control of her own body. She let out a scream, twisting and stiffening under him.
"Draco... oh, God." She flailed against silk bedsheets, her insides clamping tightly against him. "I love you."
She felt him freeze, and for a moment, she worried that he had been frightened off by her sudden declaration. But then, he was coming, flooding her insides with wave after wave of warm, sticky seed.
His shout echoed through the room. "Oh, Gods, Hermione."
When, a moment later, both were limp and sticky in a pile of intertwined limbs, Draco lifted his sweaty face and shot her a lopsided smile. "I love you too."
Her lips pulled into a soft smile against his shoulder, and she felt one of his fingers twirl around a stray curl. Neither had made a move to uncouple their bodies.
"You'll stay the night, won't you?" he asked, and his voice held a quaver of uncertainty.
She nodded, and he pulled the blanket over them both.
Six Months later...
Hermione carefully wrapped each piece of glassware before packing it into the box.
"You can take the espresso machine. I know I paid into it when I was going through my latte phase, but I've realized that I'm not into poncy drinks. A good cuppa is fine for me," Ginny murmured. "As long as I can have the martini glasses."
"Oh, feel free. Draco's got a load of overpriced crystal barware at his flat." Hermione pursed her lips. "And that poor house-elf polishes it every week!"
Draco, walking out of her bedroom with a box of clothing, shot her a chiding glare. "Honestly? Are you on about Tinky again? She's getting paid."
"You pay your house-elf?" Ginny asked, eyebrow lifted. "I can't imagine."
He set aside the box, warming to the subject. "It was supposed to be a compromise. I pay her, and Hermione stops harping on house-elf rights. Except my dearest girlfriend's always bothering Tinky about workload, and sick days, and vacation time, and the poor thing's been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. We've had to medicate her! St. Mungo's said they'd never seen anything quite..."
The door swung open at that moment. They glanced toward it, expecting Harry to return with the post-moving pizza and beer.
Instead, a stocky redhead shuffled in the doorway.
"What the hell are you doing here!" Ron snapped. "Your peace bond's only ended two days ago!"
"I know," he muttered. "Look, I'll go if you want. I just... I wanted to apologize, okay? Hermione, I know I acted like a right git. And when Mum mentioned you were moving in with him..." He sighed. "It made me realize that it wasn't just a fling. And I've missed you - I've missed just being friends, the three of us, the way we used to be."
Ginny's eyes darted nervously between the redhead and her brunette friend. Draco's jaw clenched at the sight of Ron, but he held his tongue.
"I'm not the only one you treated like rubbish. Don't you think you should apologize to someone else?" Hermione asked tartly.
Ron flinched, and when he finally spoke, the words sounded forced. "Look, I'm sorry, Malfoy."
Malfoy wasn't going to make it easy for him. "For what?"
"For... punching you, I guess. And calling Hermione a bit of a bike because she'd taken up with you."
"I don't recall that being your exact wording, but close enough," Malfoy muttered. "I still don't like you, Weasley, but I accept your apology."
"Ronniekins, if you're going to hang around, could you at least make yourself useful and start packing something? My bridal magazines won't move themselves to Grimmauld Place," Ginny voice brooked no argument, sounding quite like her mother.
Ron nodded, and silently retreated to her bedroom, still looking pink-faced with embarrassment. Hermione felt a flood of relief; it was still awkward, and it would take time, but with time their friendship would be repaired.
Half an hour later, Harry arrived with the pizza and beer. Hermione and Draco took a break from the packing; Draco avoided the too-messy, too-Mugglish pizza, but cracked open a beer. Hermione glanced around the little flat she'd shared for so many months with Ginny. And, she realized suddenly, her relationship with Ron. By now, nearly everything had been boxed against one wall, leaving the place lonely and bare.
"One chapter ends, another begins," Draco murmured, as if sensing her thoughts.
"I think it'll be a good one," Hermione replied, eyes sparkling.
Draco smiled back at her. "I have no doubt about that, my darling."
Author's Note: That's all there is, folks. I figured a simple, short ending would wrap it up - I didn't want the cliched 'everyone has a fluffy white wedding and TEH BAYBEEZ within a month of dating' type of deal, I wanted something more like the lives of my friends. I'm sure it won't satisfy everyone, but hey - AT LEAST I GOT 'ER DONE. Also, totally as an aside, if you're a fan of the Tudors, I expect I'll be posting some Elizabethan smut on here within a month or two.