“Me?” Hermione stared at him in astonishment.
Draco appeared too indignant to be able to speak any longer. His hands were gesticulating wildly as though there were so many things he wanted to say all at once that he couldn’t get any of them out at all.
“Me?” She said again. “I’m your mate?”
“Yes!” he finally managed to say and looked ready to fling himself from the closest window. “Christ, did—did this really not even occur to you? I said mate and you just assumed — “
Hermione inhaled unsteadily and thought her legs might give out. She also wanted to cry, but she was certain that was just pregnancy hormones. “But you said — when I asked, you said it didn’t mean anything.”
“That was years ago!”
“Well, I don’t remember ever hearing you take it back.” She thought she might start bawling with relief. She refused to be one of those pregnant witches that just cried about everything, so she instead consoled herself by being angry about how upset he’d managed to make her.
He called her a moron!
No one had ever called her a moron in her entire life.
“Why couldn’t you just say it was me? ‘Hermione, you’re my mate.’ It’s not even very many words. Why does everything have to be these convoluted, generalised monologues where you say things in the most roundabout way imaginable? Can you say anything outright or is rambling another Bloodline Enchantment your ancestors managed to slip in that you just haven’t bothered to mention yet?”
“It’s something of a habit at this point.” Draco was seething. “You try being under an enchantment your entire life and see how good at being direct you are.”
He stepped back and appeared to be on the verge of dissolving into an inconsolable heap in the centre of the floor. “It’s not like I haven’t been trying, but every time I managed to find a way of proposing that didn’t trigger the enchantment, you’d break up with me, and I’d have to start all over again.”
He waved a hand indignantly at her.
Hermione froze and stared at him in astonishment. “You mean, you meant those proposals?”
“All of them?” Hermione was aware that her jaw was hanging unattractively, but she was so flabberghasted she couldn't actually close it.
“Yes. I meant it every time. What did you think I was saying them for?” He appeared to have moved rapidly through all the stages of grief and looked resigned at this point. “You really — you didn’t — It never occurred to you that I was in love with you? You thought it was all just fake?”
Hermione’s heart jumped up somewhere in the approximate vicinity of her vocal chords, and she nearly sniffled.
However, she was still offended that he’d expected her to assume he was in love with her after he’d specifically said he didn’t like her. If that was how it worked, then about half the politicians in the Ministry were apparently also passionately in love with her.
She put her hands on her hips. “You said it wouldn’t happen, that it was out of the question, and acted like I was some kind of simpering naïf for even asking. If you want people to divine that you’re secretly in love with them, maybe you shouldn’t say things like that. Or say it’s a joke after proposing the first time.”
“It’s not as if I planned it,” he said plaintively. “I didn’t think I could develop romantic feelings for anyone. That was the whole idea of the enchantment, to prevent heirs from really falling in love. It’s not like I hadn’t tried to get around it before I approached you. It was supposed to be impossible. When you asked about an actual relationship, I panicked. How was I supposed to know that I’d somehow manage to fall in love with you anyways?”
He made a futile gesture.
Hermione exhaled, feeling as if she’d forgotten to breathe for the last several minutes. Her mind was busily spinning, a sense of giddiness rushing through her down to her toes.
Draco was in love with her. All this time, he’d actually been in love with her.
Not only that, she was his mate. This was a permanent arrangement. No one else, just her.
He was all hers forever and ever.
The day had managed to abruptly transform itself from one of the worst in recent history to possibly the best one she’d ever had.
If she was Draco’s mate, did that make him her mate too? She wasn’t sure about the ins and outs of the biology. Draco would surely know. He’d better. If he was going to go around knowing about his great grandmother’s sex life during pregnancy, it had better be because he was deeply and extensively versed in all things Veela.
She wanted to laugh aloud at the thought of how Lucius was going to react to the news. His determination to control Draco had managed to backfire spectacularly.
But nevermind that. She didn’t want to think about Lucius.
She’d never even thought about being a mate. Despite working in the Magical Creatures Department, it wasn’t something she’d contemplated for herself personally. What did being a Veela’s mate mean exactly? Would this give them secret mate-powers? Were there rituals involved?
“How does that work, with mates? Do you have to bite me or something?”
Draco looked up distractedly and stared at her. “What?”
“For mating,” she said, trying not to look too invested, “do you bite me? Is there a magical bond? Or do we perform some kind of elaborate ritual? Is there an exchange of blood? I’ve never read up on mating.”
“Bite you?” Draco appeared flummoxed. “Why would I — ? No, I don’t bite you. We don’t — mate mate. I mean — “ he blushed, “ — obviously we did but not — ritualistically. You’re my mate because that’s who you are to me. There’s no — biting involved.”
“Oh.” Hermione tried to conceal her disappointment.
Draco’s left eyebrow crept upward, and a glint appeared in his eyes as the air of despondency around him seemed to suddenly evaporate. “Do you — want me to bite you?”
Hermione’s face grew warm. “I didn’t say that.”
Draco shifted, moving towards her in a slow intentional prowl. “I most certainly can bite you,” his voice had a relentless quality to it, “if that’s what you want.”
“What?” Her voice jumped in a most treacherous way as she backed up. “Why would I want to be bitten? Why would anyone want to be bitten?” Her ears were burning, and her face was so warm she thought the room might combust. “I was simply trying to establish the facts of this situation. I haven’t exactly researched it. It’s not like I was ever planning to fall in love and marry a magically repressed Veela.”
Draco stopped short and looked belligerent. “That’s not — I’m not repressed! I mean, technically, I suppose you could call it — you know what? Never mind,” — he waved a hand as though trying to banish the line of thought — “call it what you want. You’re going to marry me?”
He had a very predatory expression on his face.
Hermione drew herself up and nodded, desperate to talk about anything other than the biting fetish she apparently had.
“Obviously. Your family is in dire need of someone with basic common sense, ideally who’s clever enough to remove the two Bloodline Enchantments your ancestors were idiotic enough to cast.”
She tapped her foot, mentally rearranging her calendar to accommodate research on Bloodline Enchantments.
For heaven’s sake. She was going to have to buy a whole new set of calendars.
She sighed, still feeling cheated on one point. “You’re sure there isn’t any kind of mating bite?”
Draco leered. “I’m more than happy to bite you in any way you want me to.”
He was stalking her again. He seemed to do that rather often, now that she thought about it.
An electric thrill shot down Hermione’s spine, and she didn’t even have time to bolt before he swooped in and captured her, kissing her hungrily.
She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and got her legs up around his hips, nearly scaling him in order to achieve the height and angle she wanted.
She had always liked kissing Draco, but she’d never felt that it was something she could indulge herself in. It wouldn’t do to seem overly fond of a fake boyfriend.
However, now he was her mate — Or was it the other way around? She was pretty sure it went both ways. Either way, now she could kiss him as much as she pleased. She made a happy purring sound against his lips as she nibbled at them, tangling her fingers in his ridiculously blond hair.
If she was going to be going around sprouting Veela wings intermittently and being a mate, she was definitely entitled to as many kisses as she wanted. And sex. Real, slow sex with a bed.
She kissed him more vigorously.
“You’ll really marry me?” he said as he dragged her closer, lips hungry.
“Yes,” she said with a little moan, gripping his robes and tightening her legs around his hips.
“Yes. Definitely,” she said breathlessly.
He growled in response.
Oh, goodness, he was possessive. She didn’t know how she hadn’t noticed sooner how very possessively his hands wrapped around her waist and tangled in her hair. The ruthless way his lips found hers, and he drew her tight against his body.
“God. I love you,” he said raggedly. Her heart did a series of somersaults at the words and she gripped him closer.
“You’re not upset with me?“ he said as he peppered her face with kisses.
Well… she blinked up at the ceiling as he carried her to the bed, thinking about the last several hours of emotional turmoil and how her calendar months for the foreseeable future was now in shambles.
Pregnant and engaged in the same afternoon. There was definitely a potential political scandal lurking in there.
She was also apparently looking forward to a reoccurring wing-growing situation. And turning blonde...
Really, turning blonde sounded like the worst part.
“I’m sorry. This isn’t how I wanted to tell you any of this,” Draco was saying. “I had a whole plan, it was going to be so romantic — “
“It’s fine,” she said as he pinned her down on the mattress and began peeling her clothes off. She pushed him just enough to see his face. “That doesn’t matter to me. I just wanted you.”
She inhaled and felt ready to burst. “I just wanted you, and now you’re mine.”
He sighed and dropped his head. “God, I’ve been dying waiting to explain everything and tell you that I love you.”
Hermione felt as though she was turning into liquid gold on the inside. “Well — “ her breath caught in her throat, “— I might as well tell you then, I love you too.”
She felt funny all over just saying it.
Was that really what had been going on this whole time?
Surely not. She was an adult. A successful adult, and the Undersecretary in the Department of Magical Creatures no less. She was much too old and sensible to spend years pining and in denial over someone.
It had only been recently that she had fallen in love with Draco, and not years the way it had felt.
She had simply been — intensely fond and protective of him in times previous. Very fond. That was all.
Draco sank down on top of her with a relieved groan, burying his face in her shoulder and wrapping his arms around her.
Then he just stayed there.
Hermione waited for several moments and he didn’t move.
“Draco, are you — ? What are you doing?” she finally said.
He inhaled, holding her tighter. “I’m basking in this moment.” His voice was muffled but almost drunkenly happy sounding.
Hermione suppressed a laugh. She lay there for a minute with her arms wrapped around his shoulders, then, when it became apparent that he was intending to bask indefinitely, she pulled his head up and drew his lips against hers.
She could feel the curve of his smile against her mouth.
She wrapped her arms around him and kissed him more hungrily, raking her nails through his hair and accidentally ripping his shirt in the process of getting it out of her way.
She bit his shoulder sharply and then nuzzled her face against his pale skin as it marked.
Hmmm. Perhaps she was a bit of a possessive creature herself.
Oh well. Draco didn’t seem to mind at all.
Hermione was dozing in Draco’s arms afterwards when she heard the fiery roar of the Floo down the hall.
“Hermione? Hermione, are you here?” Harry called loudly from her office.
Hermione started and slung her arm over her face, cursing as she remembered leaving her Floo open. She gave a small groan before rousing herself and twisting to find something to pull on.
“Hold on! Be right there, Harry!”
“The fuck does Potter want?” Draco sounded half-asleep, and he refused to budge as Hermione tried to squirm free and grab a robe.
“Some case most likely, I consult sometimes.” She managed to snag Draco’s shirt off the floor and tried to find the sleeves. She raised her voice again. “Just a minute! Wait in the office — “
“Hermione, why are you — “ Harry walked straight into the bedroom just as Hermione sat up to pull on the shirt, while Draco lay, draped across her, refusing to let go and unapologetically nude.
Ron was a step behind Harry. They both stopped and stood staring with expressions of horror.
“Harry! Ron! Get out!”
Hermione’s voice seemed to snap them out of their shock.
“Oh god!” Harry clamped a hand over his eyes.
“Get out!” Hermione shouted again “What are you doing here?”
She rapidly pulled the shirt on, wrenched herself free from Draco and herded Harry and Ron forcefully from her bedroom.
“Someone blind me,” Ron was saying loudly as he was shoved through the doorway. “After this bloody day, I can’t believe you made me come see that.”
Hermione pulled the door closed and then crossed her arms, scowling menacingly at them both. “I certainly didn’t ask you to. What do you want?”
Harry was an even combination of traumatised and offended. “We came here to check on you.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. Of all the days that they’d choose to ‘check’ on her. As if she needed minding anyway.
She scoffed. “Well, as you can both see, I’m fine, and clearly having a better day than you.”
She wrinkled her nose as she paused to fully take in their rumpled appearances.
They were both smeared in soot. Harry’s hair was smoldering on one side of his head, small wisps of smoke still rising from the tips of large cowlick. He smelled like a burning stable.
Her stomach abruptly churned. She clamped her hand over her nose. “What did you two get into?”
Harry looked down at himself. “The auror department was called in to deal with a domestic dispute today.”
“With what?” Hermione looked them over and noticed that a large section of Ron’s red auror robes were blackened. “A dragon?”
“Veela,” Harry said shortly. “A Veela recently immigrated here because of her mate’s job transfer. We were called in because a fight between them resulted in the Veela transforming. She was flying around wailing like a banshee, fireballs in both hands, and her mate was chasing after her on a broomstick, shouting in Serbian. We had to catch and restrain them both and obliviate an entire neighborhood of Muggles before we could sort it out.”
Hermione’s eyes went wide. “Is she alright?”
She realized with a pang of guilt that she’d completely forgotten about Silvaya. Poor Silvaya, she must have been so upset over her mate.
Ron made an indignant sound. “She’s fine. Harry and I are the ones who had to catch her before she flew over London. Had about twenty fireballs flung straight at my head.”
“Anyway,” Harry said pointedly. “After we managed to catch and restrain them, and put out all the fires, then we had to wait for her to drop the transformation and track down a translator since her husband spoke almost no English. We tried to get you called in, but you weren’t in the office. So, after a lot of shouting, and more accidental transformations, we found out it was all caused by a misunderstanding with the Ministry.”
Hermione blinked. “What?”
Harry sighed with the air of a man who had clearly joined the auror department in order to hunt down dark wizards and not respond to domestic disturbances involving fireballs.
“Apparently the Ministry of Magic in Serbia also runs their Wizarding bank. Mr Parchev, the human mate, was supposed to go to Gringotts to set up a separate savings account so he could send home money for his mother, but got turned around and ended up at the Ministry’s Bonding Department and filed for separation from his wife instead. Someone from the Ministry dropped by to tell her and then ran away without resolving the situation.”
Hermione‘s face grew red hot.
“We got them to the Bonding Department so they’re sorting everything out now. The case will be sent over to the Department of Magical Creatures. We were worried when you weren’t at your office, so we figured we’d check that you were alright and catch you up on the situation, since Magical Beings are your thing.” Harry looked at Hermione with a woebegone expression clearly intended to communicate that walking in on her and Draco was dramatically worse than being hit with a fireball.
Hermione scowled and folded her arms. “I said I was coming. You came barging in. If you don’t want to see certain things, you shouldn’t walk into my bedroom without asking.”
“The door was wide open,” Ron said.
Hermione leveled him with her most piercing stare. “I live alone. If I want to have sex with Draco in the middle of my office desk or on my dining room table, I’m perfectly entitled to do so in my own home.”
“Personally, I’ve always wanted to fuck you on top of the piano.” The door of Hermione’s room had swung open, and Draco emerged with a swagger, dressed in his robes but sans shirt, given that Hermione was currently wearing it.
Hermione’s entire body grew warmer, and she emitted a small squeak as Draco’s arms slid around her waist, his chin resting on the top of her head.
Ron looked like he was the one suffering from morning sickness and recoiled from the bannister. “I am never touching anything in this house again.”
Harry just snorted.
“And! I thought you broke up with him,” Ron was pointing accusingly at Hermione as if there could be anyone who’d recently broken up with Draco.
“Yes,” Draco said, a sly leer overt in his tone. “Hermione is my ex-girlfriend. Guess how.”
Harry and Ron just stared blankly.
Hermione rolled her eyes. “He means we’re engaged.”
“Oh!” Harry’s eyes went wide.
“Ugh. No,” said Ron in the same instant. “You swore that dating Malfoy would just be a phase.”
Admittedly Hermione had said that.
She’d never even considered trying to try to explain to Harry and Ron that she was fake dating Draco due to complex political ambitions and mutual benefit. It was just the sort of thing they wouldn’t be able to understand and would try to argue with her about. There’d been no point in even trying, and she wasn’t going to begin wasting her time now.
“It was,” Hermione said in a bland voice, leaning back against Draco’s chest and feeling his arms tighten possessively around her. “Now I’m moving on to a new phase that involves being married to him. Which brings me back to the point that we’re celebrating our engagement right now. You’re intruding. Why don’t you two go home, take a shower, maybe try a hair regrowth potion or two, and leave us be.” She eyed them pointedly. “Unless you want to watch us christen the piano.”
In truth, she thought she might vomit if she had to keep standing there pretending not to be nauseated by the scent of Harry’s burnt hair. Much longer and she was going to be sick on his shoes.
Ron blanched and bolted for the Floo.
Harry stood staring, his eyes narrowed in the very auror-like way that they did whenever he was determined to be suspicious about things that were none of his business. “I’m happy for you Hermione, if this is what you really want.”
Hermione lifted her chin and gripped Draco’s arms around her tightly. “It is.”
Harry gave Draco a look. “You better take care of her Malfoy, I’m her best friend and I’m not going to let anyone get away with hurting her.”
“Thanks for the warning, Potter,” Draco’s tone was dripping acid and she could practically hear the sneer on his face, “I think I would have forgotten who her best friends are if you didn’t find it necessary to remind me every single time I see you.”
Harry appeared unmoved. “Well, he’s all yours, Hermione.”
He gave them one last look and then headed into Hermione's office and vanished through the Floo.
Hermione sighed with relief and cast a spell in order to clear the air.
“The piano, hm?” Draco said after a moment. His voice sent an immediate shiver through her.
His hands unlocked from around her waist and slithered down along her hips, finding the hem of his shirt along her thighs and slipping his fingers under the fabric.
Hermione’s breath caught and a tingling warmth spread through her back and down into her pelvis. “It was your idea. I just wanted them to go away. If Harry stayed any longer, his hair was going to make me throw up again.”
Draco’s wandering hands stilled. “Are you alright now?”
She caught her lip between her teeth and parted her legs for him. “Oh yes,” her voice was breathless.
They’d already had sex twice that afternoon, which should have been more than enough, but somehow it wasn’t and now she was making a rapid list of all the furniture and horizontal surfaces in her house that they needed to christen.
“Clever.” Draco shifted behind her, and she felt his breath against the side of her neck as he brushed his lips along her shoulder and his hands trailed up higher. Hermione bit her lip to hold in a moan and parted her legs further.
“You are terrifyingly talented at somehow getting whatever you want,” he said, his voice low as his fingers moved slowly upwards.
Her breath caught in her throat.
“Not always,” she said with a small gasp as he stroked softly between her legs. “It never seems to work with you.”
He laughed, and the vibrations rippled through her, turning her liquid inside. His fingers slipped into her core. “Oh, it does. You have no idea how well it works on me.”
He steered her over and pinned her against the wall. “You managed to make me fall in love with you, when it was supposed to be impossible. I don’t think there’s a force in this universe that doesn’t eventually bend to your will.”
Hermione started opening her mouth to argue that she most certainly had not ‘made’ him fall in love with her, but he bit her.
It was a sharp nip on her shoulder that made her keen as her knees buckled, but he held her upright and nibbled his way across her shoulders. His other hand splayed possessively, protectively across her lower abdomen.
“My mate.” He growled slowly in her ear.
A shiver ran through her gut and pooled like molten heat between her legs. She bit her lip and nodded.
“I’d do anything you want. I will. Always. Just say the word.” He was breathing heavily against her neck.
His shirt was sliding off her shoulders. She could feel the collar against the small of her back.
She had rather liked the idea of the piano, but she wasn’t sure her legs would cooperate enough to descend the stairs. She supposed the hallway was as good a place as any to christen.
She slipped a hand behind her back and slid it down into his trousers, wrapping her fingers around him. He was already hardening again and she gave a firm pump.
“I want you — I just want you,” she said, breaking off in a low whimper as his long fingers slid deeper and she clenched around him. Her voice died as her whole body trembled. She squeezed harder.
Draco jerked, his hips bucking against her hand as he gave a hissing moan. He pinned her more firmly against the wall with his body and stood a moment, breathing harshly along the back of her neck.
“Do you,” he finally said, his voice somewhat strained, “expect to be this horny for the entire pregnancy?”
Hermione tilted her head back to look up at him and raised an eyebrow. “I might be. Are you up for it, Mate?”
That was one question that she didn’t need him to answer aloud in order to be certain about. The hungry elation in his expression told her everything.