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Don't Take This Sinner

Chapter Text

No one thought it would be easy: adapting to life after the war, rebuilding wizarding society, learning to live with what they had done. The Ministry was in shambles; rogue Death Eaters were still causing trouble across the country and beyond; and the weight of actions carried out in the name of war was a heavy burden on the shoulders of those who had survived. But, they’d all been trying.

It had been nearly two years since the end of the war, and collectively the wizarding world had been putting their lives back together, picking up the pieces and fitting them into the holes that had been left as well as they could. Hermione had gone back to school, finishing out her N.E.W.Ts with perfect scores and taking up a job in the Department for the Control and Regulation of Magical Creatures. Harry and Ron had entered the fast-track Auror program and were nearly through their probationary periods, ready to begin their careers in earnest. Ginny had also finished school and then accepted a Chaser position on the reserves of the Holyhead Harpies - and even then she played more games than she sat out.

And yet…

Now another threat was upon them, another problem, shattering apart everything that they were trying so desperately to build and hold on to.

Looking around the large dining table at the remaining members of the Order, faces stoic and eyes sad, Hermione couldn’t help but think that no matter how difficult they had all figured it would be, no one was expecting anything quite like this . Unfortunately, based on the fact that she could feel the splintered wood digging into her fingers from clutching the table so intently, it seemed like she really had heard correctly. That, and the fact that she never could have dreamed up anything this horrible. It was another stark reminder that just when things were finally starting to level out, they would never truly have peace and stability. Her entire life in the magical world had been full of shocks and stumbles, and this one seemed like the biggest of them all.

Molly Weasley broke the silence.

“Kingsley - I do believe I’ve misunderstood you. I seem to have heard that you expect our children to get married with absolutely no choice as to who their future spouse will be, and that if they fail to comply, they could face imprisonment ?!” Her voice, which had started off careful and modulated, rose in pitch and intensity until she was standing at the table, hands on her hips, glaring down at the much taller man seated across from her.

Kingsley cleared his throat uncomfortably. He shifted slightly in the seat and then pulled back his shoulders, seeming to regain some of the confidence he had forgotten in the presence of the Weasley matriarch. “As I said before, Molly, this was not my choice. But many people are unhappy. It’s been nearly two years now and our population has not increased in the slightest. In fact, we are now declining at a rate that means the entirety of magical blood could be wiped out in only a few generations. The Ministry has spent quite a long time now trying to figure out the best solution. Finding compatible matches for any young eligible wizards and witches will ensure that we continue on our strongest gene lines and on top of that we will be matching based on many different factors.” It sounded like he was reciting a script. “Hopefully, due to our rigorous process, almost all of the candidates will be, uh, pleased with their spouses. This way, we will be guaranteed strong magical children and thus a strong future for our entire community.” He exhaled sharply and crossed his arms, facing down the distraught members of the Order, daring any of them to question him

Hermione, who had been processing this information and its implications, decided that she could no longer keep quiet about her feelings. “Kingsley! This is government mandated rape .” She snapped, raising a finger in the direction of the older wizard, who leant back slightly in his chair. “No matter what steps you take to pair us up… it’s not right! What if we never agree to consent to sleep with our spouses? Will we be thrown in jail or will you Imperius us - since you’re only really a step away from that anyways!”

Kingsley coughed uncomfortably. “Ms. Granger. Hermione. Arranged marriages have been part of magical culture for decades, and muggle ones as well. Do you disagree that at least some of these couples end up happy and in love with their partners? Absolutely no one will be forced to have sex... that would be... I could never condone that. I would resign before we got to that.” Despite trying to sound cheerful, Kingsley mostly sounded defeated. He was a parrot here, nothing more. “The only contractual obligation you will have is the marriage and, of course, producing at least two children - though, couples who have more than two will be rewarded monetarily as per the terms of the contract. The Ministry will give everyone ample time to get comfortable with their spouses and the arrangement before they are required to produce evidence of pregnancy, two years from the date of the wedding, which must be completed within three months of the bill passing. You are a smart witch, Hermione - you know that theoretically no sex is required in order to conceive a child with another person. In fact, St. Mungo’s has been studying muggle reproductive technology for the past year or so hoping we could find a different answer to the problem, and so they have quite a few different methods to choose from.”

Hermione was still fuming, but held her tongue. It was absolutely unfair, an abuse of power. It was not right and not alright and she wanted to scream about the injustice. But Kingsley had clearly given in here - she thought belatedly that he probably would be forced to marry with this law as well - and so what was the point in her shouting at him more? She snapped her eyes up to Harry, begging him to do something, to say something, to fix this. He peered back at her, calculating.

“What about those of us who are already in relationships, Kingsley?” Harry asked, and Hermione felt her heart soar. Yes! Brilliant Harry! She and Ron had just been waiting for the right moment to get settled into a relationship. First she had been at school, and then he had been so busy with Auror training. But they could start now, and fall in love quickly, and get married and she would have everything she wanted - mostly. She hadn’t wanted kids this quickly, but that was a small compromise she might have to make.

“Very good question, Harry.” Kingsley smiled gently at the man before continuing. “Because of the process of matching, the Ministry is convinced that everyone will end up with a partner who is compatible to themselves in a way that should be agreeable to everyone. Presumably, if you are compatible with your current partner, they will likely be the person chosen for you. This has been taken into the equation of compatibility. But of course, nothing is guaranteed.” His answers, Hermione thought, sounded rehearsed. Written out in government lingo and dished up in Kingsley’s large smooth voice. The politics of it all were starting to make her dizzy.

“Well then.” Kingsley stood, brushing off his robes and pulling a wand out from his sleeve. “If all of the unmarried individuals will reach out their hands-” Hermione opened her mouth to speak again, but Kingsley shot her a stern look and collectively the table conceded, “I’ll just take a small sample of DNA and be off.” Kingsley swished his wand across their outstretched palms and the group let out a collective wince as he scored open their skin, siphoned out a few drops of blood, and stitched them back up. “Thank you all for your understanding.” And with that, Kingsley was gone.

“The last time someone took my blood, Voldemort was brought back to life,” Harry quipped, clearly trying to keep the mood up around them. Molly shot him a look and he winced, smile falling. “Just saying.”

The table was silent for a moment, Hermione staring incredulously at Harry and Ron, Molly now weeping into Arthur’s shoulder, George resting his head on his hands on the desk, and Ginny staring down at her empty ring finger. “It just isn’t fair, it isn’t right!” Wailed Molly, and though Hermione often thought the older witch had a tendency for dramatics, she couldn’t help but agree in this moment that she felt exactly the same way.

Later that night, the four of them sat crowded around in a circle on the floor of Ginny’s bedroom. Hermione had pushed her camp cot off to the side and they had settled down in a pile of blankets and pillows to discuss the afternoon’s events.

“It’s just not right!” Hermione repeated again, and Ron sighed, reaching a hand to awkwardly pat her knee. “I just, I don’t see how they can do this. After everything we’ve been through, don’t we all deserve some peace?”

Harry and Ginny were curled up together, fingers tightly intertwined. “I’m sorry, Gin.” Harry mumbled into her mass of red half-braided hair. “If I’d proposed a year ago, neither of us would be in this position…”

Ginny was silent for a moment before she shook her head against his chest. “I think we’re pretty compatible. I’m just... I’m just not going to be worried about it. And if we don’t get each other well then… we’ll just elope to America.”

Ron snorted softly. “Mum would never let you.”

“Well, Ron , I’m an adult and Mum can’t tell me what to do anymore-”

“Can you two just be quiet for a minute?” Hermione sighed, putting her head in her hands. “I’m trying to think here. Not everyone is as lucky as you and Harry, Gin!” Mercifully, Ron and Ginny stopped their bickering, but try as she might the solutions Hermione was coming up with were all less than ideal. She wasn’t running off to hide in the muggle world. She needed magic, needed her friends. It would be worse than a death sentence, especially with her parents still lost in Australia. She didn’t think eloping to America would solve the problem either, seeing as how she loved her job and was pretty sure the ministry would find them in an instant. “I don’t know, I don’t know how...” Finally, it happened, a soft sob bubbled up from her chest and she couldn’t help but let it out. “I don’t know how to fix it.”

Ron leaned over and wrapped his arms around her, tall and lanky and smelling like cinnamon. He rocked her slowly as she cried for the life she had never realized was in jeopardy, for her friends who may have to give up everything, for her freedom and the fact that she didn’t want to be given to someone like a piece of property. “Mione,” he mumbled into her hair, pausing and inhaling before letting his feelings out in a single anxious breath, “I have been in love with you probably since we were eleven years old, even if I didn’t want to admit it. I’m sorry we haven’t gotten to this yet, haven’t made time. But look, compatibility? We’ve got that, right? How else could we have put up with each other?” He waited until she nodded against him and kissed the top of her head. “You’ll see. We’ll get married and have little curly redheaded babies in no time.”

It was supposed to be a comforting thought.

Hermione wasn’t sure why she suddenly felt even worse than she had before.

Hermione barely slept. Ginny was tossing and turning and throughout the Burrow she could hear people getting up and stomping around. Staying over here always made her feel like she was a child again, getting ready to head back to Hogwarts and spend another year actively trying not to be murdered by a psychopath. In fact, the only reason she was staying there was because Kingsley had said the results would be around in the morning. Apparently the highest ranking Ministry officials had spent the night rushing between houses, collecting DNA and processing it. It was supposedly so people wouldn’t have a chance to run away, or to get married shotgun style to someone who would not technically be “compatible”.

It was atrocious.

After a few restless hours, she finally spotted the sun on the horizon and decided enough was enough, there was no point lying there feeling sad. She slipped from the room, careful not to wake up Ginny who had only really fallen asleep an hour before, and padded down the stairs. Hermione couldn’t stand being useless; luckily in this house it was an easy thing to avoid.

Molly was rushing around the kitchen, murmuring to herself. Hermione was catching things like “what on earth” and “they’re still children!”, “if Dumbledore were still alive - rest his soul” and “if my kids aren’t happy”, so she yawned loudly as she entered the kitchen to alert the older woman to her presence.

“Oh! Hermione, dear. Good morning. You’re up early.” Hermione nodded, shrugging and moving further into the kitchen.

“Couldn’t really sleep, honestly. Is… is there anything I can do?”

Molly smiled sadly and handed her a bowl filled with half-made pancake batter. “This just needs two eggs and a slosh of milk. Handful of chocolate chips - above the ice box. If you could mix it up for me, that’d be lovely.”

Hermione took the bowl and got to work, digging for ingredients and adding them to the large wooden bowl. She dug a whisk out of a drawer and got to work. Magic probably would have been easier and faster, but there was something so therapeutic and comforting about doing it by hand. It reminded her of lazy Saturday mornings with her mother and endless hours of baking.

“Hermione..” Molly was clearly trying to say something important, but not looking the younger woman in the face. “Arthur and I… well, we always hoped that you’d marry Ron, legally become part of our family. These past few years we figured the two of you were just, well, taking your time. We can’t fault you on that. Anyways, dear… While I truly hope you two will be matched up, I’m not so naive to think we should believe in fairy tales.” The woman sighed and put down the bowl she was holding, turning resolutely to Hermione and moving closer to the girl. “But, no matter what happens, no matter who this horrid law makes you marry, I want you to know - we all want you to know - that you are a part of this family. No matter what, do you understand me? I would love for it to be legal, we all would, but, well. You’re losing enough today. You won’t lose us too.”

Hermione couldn’t help it. She put down the bowl and covered her face with her hands and cried, really truly cried, for the second time in twelve hours. She hadn’t been this weepy since after the war when she kept thinking about everyone who they had lost. Molly tsk’d and stepped closer again, wrapping her arms around the taller girl and rubbing her back consolingly until Hermione had finally stopped shaking with tears.

“Alright. Now, let’s get this breakfast all ready for the troops, shall we dear? Nothing else to do now, much as well keep busy.”

It all happened too fast. Hermione and Molly had finished cooking, spread the food out, helped dish it up, eaten with the rest, and then set it all to clean. Before she even really had a chance to process, Hermione was sitting at the dining room table, and the lot of them were watching the window with a mixture of trepidation and anxiety. All she really wanted to do was get her name and retreat back to her tiny flat and sleep until all of this was over. The sooner they got the letters the sooner she could presumably make that happen.

Ginny was the first to spot the bird - she gulped but stood anyways, facing the terror and heading for the window, propping it open to let the majestic Ministry owl in. The creature flew to the table and waited as Arthur, with shaking hands, untied the large stack of letters, before swooping off back the way it had came. Ginny shut the window and returned to the table just as Arthur was finished handing out the letters, and took hers with a deep breath.

“How should we, uh?” Harry asked, looking around. George had apparated in halfway through breakfast and now joined them at the table, looking dejected and apprehensive about restarting his nonexistent social life. Harry had a hand consolingly on Ginny’s knee, and Ron was sitting close to Hermione, though not touching her.

“We’ll go around. One by one, George and then Ron, then me, then Harry and Ginny. Say the name, whoever it is.” She looked around amongst those gathered and they nodded their assent. It wasn’t like there was a better option. Besides, if all had gone well, Ron’s paper would answer her’s and Harry’s would answer Ginny’s. She was forcing her hope down as deep as it could go.

“Right then.” George cleared his throat. “Here goes nothing.” Sliding a thumb under the seal, he popped the letter open and then unfolded the parchment inside tantalizingly slowly. He frowned as he read the name, reading it again before looking back up with half a shrug. “Win Urquhart? What kind of a name is Win?” He peered around the table to see if any of his siblings knew who the girl was. Hermione was frowning and tapping a finger on her lips.

“Ravenclaw. I think a year or two above us. She was a prefect, if I’m thinking of the right Win.”

George sighed a little. “Great. A Ravenclaw prefect. Well, there goes any chance I had of having fun again.” Arthur cleared his throat and George dropped his shoulders and managed to flash a small smirk. “Just trying to lighten up the room! Tough crowd.” Despite his best efforts, his voice sounded strained.

“Ron?” Hermione prodded.

The redhead cleared his throat and nodded, and repeated George’s motions, popping the seal on his letter. He was faster in pulling the parchment out and Hermione inhaled deeply as he did so, waiting for the joy and elation she was anticipating that she’d be feeling about her upcoming engagement. The circumstances weren’t ideal, but she could still make the most of it. Ron wouldn’t try to hold her down, or to own her. He could be supportive, and she could still be free, mostly.

Ron frowned.

He peered down at his paper again before balling it up and throwing it across the room where it bounced off the wall.

Hermione felt something snap somewhere inside of her.

“Ron!” Molly admonished, shooting a look at her son. “Who was it?”

Ron smacked his fist down onto the table, ready to shout, but a look from his father had him flushing red in shame at the outburst. Finally he sighed, defeated, looking down at the worn wood under his hands. “Hannah Abbot. It’s not… I mean, she’s nice? But I just…” He trailed off, feeling lost, and forced his eyes to remain on the table. Hermione could see them glistening at the edges and she didn’t want to push him. They’d deal with this later. They had more to do.

She had to pull the band-aid off and figure out who she was spending the rest of her life with.

Swallowing thickly and forcing herself not to cry, Hermione opened her letter as well and slid the paper out, hands trembling, entire body wound up tight. She forced herself to take a deep breath and reminded herself that she had survived, no, she had won a war. The vision of curly redheaded babies was gone already, shattered like a fragile window. What more damage could a name do? She could handle a husband. Probably.

The name on the paper was not what she expected, and she choked out a sob before she could help it, slapping her hand up to her mouth.

“Hermione?!” Molly gasped, reaching across the table. Hermione yanked the paper back, clutching it to her chest, and shook her head, tears already pouring from her eyes.

“I’m so sorry, I’m so so sorry...” She managed to whisper, feeling shock course through her system. Her veins were on fire and her throat was closing. What had she done? What had she done? She just ruined two of her best friends lives. With one piece of paper, three words in thick black ink, she had ruined the best chance at happiness and family that her best friend had.

Forcing herself to brave, to be strong even though it was the last thing she felt, she lifted her eyes across the table, and met a pair of green ones behind black framed glasses. Fight or flight. She chose fight - she was a Gryffindor, after all. “I’m so sorry,” she said again, hoping she wouldn’t have to say the words.

“Hermione? What’s wrong? Who is it?” Harry pushed, and just as she opened her mouth to say it, the weight of the situation crashed down on Ginny and the redhead woman let out a cry, and then began to openly sob.

Hermione dropped her paper on the table and pushed it over to where Harry and Molly and Ginny could all see it.

Harry James Potter .

Already it felt like the world was closing in, like she couldn’t breathe, couldn’t get air. Her heart was thudding in her chest and her entire body itched, begging her to run. Panic was rising in her system and she fought it down with everything she had. It could be worse, she tried to tell herself. She knew she could live happily with Harry. She trusted him with her life, and he with hers. They had been friends for nearly ten years now and he was part of her life, for good. No, she didn’t love him like a husband, she didn’t desire him - the mere thought made her anxious all over again. Relationships had been built on less.

But he had also never had a real family; an orphan with no loving relatives. He deserved a wife who he loved, really and truly, and who loved him back. He deserved Ginny.

Harry was staring at her still over the table, one arm holding his sobbing girlfriend to his chest and rocking her back and forth. Finally, he seemed to make a decision and nodded once at Hermione. “This is not your fault.” He managed to say loudly enough that she heard him. “If not you, it could have been anyone. I’ll be honoured to be your,” here, he stumbled over the word, “your husband.” His voice had cracked and he too looked like he was going to cry at any minute, but between a sobbing Ginny, a desolate and slightly panicking Hermione, and a Ron growing angrier by the minute, someone needed to keep their cool. Harry had always been good at that.

“Ginny.” Molly said, gentle but firm after a few minutes. “Ginny you have to open your letter.” She placed a hand on her daughter’s back, rubbing softly. Ginny shook her head and burrowed further into Harry’s chest. “You need to know.” Molly tried again, tucking long red strands of hair away from Ginny’s face. Still nothing. “Shall I open it for you?” She asked, and this time Ginny nodded, unwilling to look up. Her body still shook with sobs but she had quieted down, though she was still letting out small whimpering gasping breaths. Her life as she knew it had ended in that moment - how much worse could the answer to this be?

Molly looked at Arthur, who nodded once to reassure her, and she opened the letter, sliding out the parchment. She read the first few lines, descriptions of the law, what needed to happen, what this magical binding contract meant, and then her eyes landed on the name and her face went white as a sheet. Molly’s mouth opened, and then closed, and she lifted a hand to her heart, shaking her head. “It can’t. It must be a mistake. It must…” Unable to help herself, the Weasley matriarch stood, clutching the letter tighter in her hands, crinkling the thick parchment. “I’ll write to Kingsley this instant. This, it’s not possible!”

“Mum.” Ginny’s voice was quiet, broken and sad, but unflinching. “Mum, tell me who it is.”

Molly hesitated for a long moment before sitting back down in defeat.

“Draco Malfoy.”

All hell broke lose.

Chapter Text

Ron’s anger level seemed to shoot through the ceiling. Hermione had to physically grab his arm to stop him from storming out the door on some mad quest to find someone to pay for this injustice. Harry too had stopped his pain in its tracks and was now holding onto Ginny, arms wrapped around the girl in a way that came off as fiercely protective. Molly was pacing back and forth, crumpling the letter into a smaller and smaller ball, clearing trying to figure out what to do to stop this. Even Hermione was starting to feel like the nervous energy that had been steadily building up inside of her was going to explode at any minute if she didn’t do something big to stop it.

Arthur was the only one of them that hadn’t moved. He was still sitting at the table, staring down at the wood, hands clasped in front of him. No one had noticed.

“He killed Dumbledore!” Ron was now screaming, and Hermione had thrown all of her energy into trying to calm him down. It wasn’t helping anyone.

“No, Ron. That was Severus Snape, remember? A man who just happened to not be evil at all?”

“This is different , Hermione!”

“You don’t know that! Remember how terrified he looked, at the manor?”

“When you were being TORTURED!” Ron was red faced, with a vein throbbing on his neck. Hermione could see that his knuckles had gone white from the way he was gripping the chair that he was now standing behind, clinging to as if it were the only thing holding him up. He looked terrifying and terrified.

“Ron. RON! This is not helping, you screaming like this!”

“Why are you defending him, ‘Mione? You out of everyone should know he isn’t worth defending!”

Hermione was not calming down at all, she realized. Ron bringing up Malfoy Manor had brought the pain in her arm soaring back to life, and her muscles seemed to be tightening, waiting for the next Cruciatus. He didn’t realize, she tried to tell herself, as she took deep breaths and tried to drown out the chaos of the house and dug her fingernails into her palms. He didn’t realize what he was doing to her because they had barely spent enough time together since the war for him to notice that she hadn’t gotten over it quite as well as she kept telling them all that she had.

Harry was the one who noticed, in the end, that she was standing in the middle of the room with her eyes shut, breathing in small short gasps, tears leaking out of her eyes. Harry was not always the most perceptive person, but when he did eventually notice things he always did whatever he could to fix them.

“That’s enough.” He didn’t shout or raise his voice above Ron’s anger or Molly’s mutterings. He just spoke clearly, calmly, full of authority. Harry was a natural leader. There were reasons why so many had followed him in the first war, and surviving a curse from an evil dictator wasn’t the only one. Even Ginny seemed to react, finally taking a deep breath and lifting a hand to wipe the snot and tears from her face. Harry looked around now that their eyes were all on him, sans Hermione’s, and nodded once before he spoke. “Right. Clearly this is something that needs to be addressed. Arthur, if it’s alright with you maybe the two of us can go to the Ministry and explain this situation to Kingsley and see what can be done?” Arthur nodded in assent, still silent, and left the table, presumably to go get dressed. “Ron, mate, George left about twenty minutes ago when this all happened and I’m honestly a little worried that he’s going to do something stupid and get himself killed. Can you…?” Ron also nodded and followed his father out of the room.

With the chaos now mostly gone, Hermione was able to take a real deep breath and open her eyes, staring over at her friend. She didn’t quite feel like she could speak yet, and the room was still spinning precariously around her, but it was a step. Harry was able to smile slightly at her before he continued.

“Gin, what can we do to help?”

The redhead thought this over for a moment, pulling back from Harry and continuing to rub her hands over her blotchy damp face. “I’m going to get my broom. I need to smash some bludgers around, I think.” Harry smiled easily at his girlfriend.

“Brilliant plan, Gin. Hermione, I assume you don’t want to go with Ginny?”

Hermione felt like she could have laughed at that, and the realization that she had real emotions again after the shocking terror of a few minutes earlier was a welcome feeling. “No, absolutely not. But, why don’t I go to the Ministry with Arthur, and you can stay here and fly together? I’m good at the bureaucracy stuff, and flying would do you good as well.”

Harry hesitated over this for a minute, because Hermione still looked quite shaken up, but he relented when she placed her hands on her hips and stood her ground. Eventually, Harry stood and walked around the table to wrap her in a tight hug, and she forced herself not to break all over again at the thought of what was to come. “We’ll talk about all of this tonight, okay Hermione?” She nodded and then watched him leave before making her way around the table to Ginny, wrapping her arms around the seated girl in much the same way that Harry had just hugged her.

“You have nothing to worry about, Gin. He’s yours, always, and I’ll do whatever I need to do to make sure you two can still be happy.”

Ginny nodded in her arms and sniffled, but did not cry. “Thanks, Hermione. I know you two would never, that you don’t… but, I just…” Hermione nodded in understanding and kissed the top of her friend’s head affectionately.

“Go get your gear on. The fresh air will do you a world of good.”

Unfortunately, as she had predicted, going to the Ministry had not accomplished anything. Hermione and Arthur spent most of the day being bounced from office to office, told they could speak to one person who would then direct them somewhere else. Eventually, Hermione asked where she could go to make a complaint and then were sent into a whole other process and group of people. Finally, she had gotten so angry and frustrated that she snapped.

“Do you know who I am?” It was a sentence that she hated more than almost any other, using the war that she had been a pawn in to get something she wanted. The clerk, luckily, did not realize the distaste dripping around her words and cowered a bit under the woman now standing in front of her desk, hair a large cloud around her face and hands clenched into fists.

“Y-yes, ma’am. Hermione Granger, you, uh, you defeated V-v-“

“Don’t hurt yourself.” She said, voice clipped and tone flippant. “I want to speak to Kingsley Shacklebolt. Immediately.”

The clerk had disappeared from the office, scurrying off down a hallway and leaving Hermione to drop back into the chair behind her, deflated.

“That was very good, Hermione.” Arthur commended with a smile at the girl beside him. “You really are quite a force to be reckoned with.”

Kingsley appeared in the small office only a few minutes later, unaccompanied by the clerk who the office belonged to. “Ah. Hermione, Arthur. It’s a pleasure to see you both again so soon, though I doubt it’s for a positive reason.”

“Look, I’m just going to get straight to it, Kingsley. I am not happy about this law that has been pushed. Frankly, I think it directly contravenes our rights to freedom in this society. I have been told that it is a law that has been enacted before and that it was passed through the appropriate channels and that ‘it is simply the way things are done here in Wizarding Society ’. I am not pleased, Kingsley.” She paused, gathering her thoughts.

“Is there more?”  It was only then that Hermione realized Kingsley looked just as exhausted as he felt, if not more so. Part of her, the vindictive part, cheered. Good. He should look exhausted. He had ruined her life. The more rational part of her recognized that Kingsley had probably done everything in his power to avoid all of this nonsense, and that he was probably just as unhappy about it as the rest of them. It only helped a little bit.

“Harry Potter gave up his entire childhood to save this ludicrous wizarding world. He faced Voldemort as a baby, and then again as an eleven year old, a twelve year old, at fourteen, fifteen, sixteen - and then defeated the darkest wizard in modern history at seventeen years old . He spent his younger years living with abusive muggles who he could have been saved from, but instead he was used as a pawn in Dumbledore and the Order’s games, kept in the dark, and then built up into a warrior out of necessity because none of you would listen to him .” She was angry, now. She knew parts of this were stretched truths. Harry had a ‘saving people’ thing, and even if they had tried to stop him (which, she recognized, the Order sometimes had) he did not and would not listen.

“The point that I’m getting at, Kingsley, is that this man, more than anyone else, deserves a happy future. He deserves to marry the woman he has loved since he was a teenager, who has loved him back longer still. He deserves to make beautiful messy-haired babies and be Arthur’s son-in-law and not have to worry about the Ministry ruining his life in any other way for the rest of it! And don’t get me started on the implications of suggesting that Ginny Weasley should marry someone whose father actively set her up to be possessed by Voldemort and then killed .”

Kingsley sighed, dropping his face into his hands and scrubbing at his skin. “I agree, Hermione.” His voice was quiet, and he pulled out his wand then, flicking it around the room to create a private space for them to have this discussion without eavesdroppers. “Trust me. I fought so hard for this not to be passed. I fought hard for there to be the ability for people to choose their own partners. I fought even harder to keep Harry out of it, and I was very, very displeased with how some of the matches turned out - my own included.”

Hermione raised a brow at him, urging him to continue to explain why he then could not change anything.

“The Wizengamot is terrified, Hermione. We have had a higher proportion of squibs, and one of the lowest general percentages of births, in the past two years than ever previously recorded. Our population is in serious decline. We lost a great many brilliant wizards in the war. Many people married quickly during or after, but because of this their genetics may not have been as properly matched as if they had waited to find someone they truly loved. You see, no one is really even entirely sure how or why the magical gene gets passed along. But there are markers for compatibility, things we have found increase the chances, sometimes dramatically, that a child will have magical abilities. And unfortunately, the best compromise I could negotiate was that we not actively force members of our population to reproduce sexually with one another. The last time a law like this was enacted, in the 1700s, the couples were expected to copulate weekly until they were pregnant, and if this did not occur within six months then a Ministry official was sent to watch to make sure it was happening.”

Hermione gasped, horrified. Arthur frowned, his chin in his hand as he listened to Kingsley.

“So, I know it still seems horrendous, Hermione, but can you see what I’ve managed to accomplish? I was able to push the deadline for pregnancy to two years. They compromised and it is written into the law explicitly that the child does not have to be born of intercourse, so couples may seek alternate methods. Beyond that, the compatibility screening was very comprehensive. If you take away what the world has placed onto you - the prejudices we learned as children, the morals we developed - and leave behind who we truly are, each of the partnerships should be able to produce happy couples. People who have a chance at true love, if nothing else stood in the way. But... I recognize that there are things that stand in the way, unfortunately, that some prejudices cannot be overcome.

“Listen, I know this isn’t an ideal suggestion... But the Ministry will not repeal this law until we have some proof that it is working, until the proportion of babies born with strong magical potential increases. But, after that happens, there will be leeway. Leeway to call for the law to be overturned. Which means, it may be easier to come back in a year, year and a half, and convince the Wizengamot otherwise. You understand that I am not telling you this, that I am not and will never be able to publicly condone this without losing my position. And believe me, Hermione, the people who want my position would make this much, much worse.”

Hermione had to concede at that point. Kingsley was right: whoever was next to take his role, or who would ensure they were next, could be one of those people who had sneered down at her while offhandedly suggesting she had no real understanding of wizarding culture. They could be one of those people who would be complicit in rape, who would encourage it for the sake of the population. Kingsley was a better choice. Kingsley was on their side.

“What about Ginny?” Arthur spoke for the first time since they had arrived, showing his purpose for coming along. His daughter was first. His sons could handle themselves, neither of them had been terrified of their matches, neither of them had really been in love. They could survive for a year or two. It may be good for them, even. But, Ginny… Ginny was another story.

Kingsley sighed again, leaning back in his chair and tapping his fingers against his knee. “Arthur, I assure you that we investigated every person involved fully. Mr. Malfoy was found not guilty of any crimes. Harry himself is the reason why this is the case, he testified at his trial. Draco Malfoy was used as a weapon, a child soldier in a battle he could not escape from. He has paid back a great amount of money in reparations and is currently doing contract work for the Ministry to further repay those debts. I have no reason to believe he will harm Ginny in any way. Lucius Malfoy is in Azkaban, he is rotting in prison where he belongs. His wife and son have done their best to repent for their crimes.”

Arthur did not seem entirely satisfied. “What if this man hurts my daughter, Kingsley? Will that be on your hands?”

Kingsley stood, then, and Hermione and Arthur followed suit. “Arthur, if Ginny truly believes her life is in danger, if she is fearful to be around the man and cannot carry out the marriage, we will figure something out. I will not let her be forced into a marriage she is worried could cost her life. Is that a fair bargain?”

Nothing would ever be a fair bargain, Hermione thought bitterly, and nodded once to Kingsley. “It will all have to do for now. Unfortunately, you’re not done with me yet, Kingsley.” Kingsley had the good nature to laugh at this, and walked them out of the office. The three were quiet on their walk to the elevator, and eventually Hermione and Arthur were alone, on their way back to the apparition point and a silent trip home.

The Burrow was quiet when they returned, most of its inhabitants having been out for almost all of the day. Arthur nodded to Hermione and disappeared into the kitchen to find Molly, while Hermione headed towards the dining room instead. There were two plates out still, with warming charms over them, and she sat down to eat for the first time that day since breakfast. She hadn’t realized how famished she was or how glad she was to be somewhere quiet. It was somewhat suspect, a quiet Burrow, but she didn’t have the heart or energy to wonder about that in that particular moment.

Halfway through her meal, she felt eyes on her and turned towards the door where Ron was leaning against the doorframe, watching her.

“Hi.” Even her voice sounded exhausted, but she did not have the drive to perk up even with seeing Ron. The redhead managed a small smile in her direction and then headed into the room, sitting down next to her on the bench.

“We should probably…” Ron trailed off as he spoke. He had never been that comfortable talking about his feelings, and this was really no exception. Hermione nodded though in assent, pushing away her plate - stomach too nervous to eat more. She turned on the bench, straddling it to better face Ron, and he did the same in her direction. It was a long moment staring at each other before they each tried to speak.

“I should have done better-” Ron began, just as Hermione blurted out, “Why did this happen?”

Once more they fell silent, and finally Ron nodded for Hermione to speak first.

“We should have… We should have made time for this, Ron.” She admitted, sadly. “I know we were both so busy... I was so focused on school, and on work. And you were so focused on your Auror training. And we just, never…” She waved a hand between them, for once feeling utterly without words. Ron’s shoulders were sagged forward and he sighed heavily.

“I should have done better, Hermione. We could be married by now, and avoid this whole mess!”

Hermione nodded, feeling the tears leak from her eyes as she thought about her hopes and dreams for the two of them. For fights over toast, for Ron’s mess, for waiting anxiously for him to get back from a mission, for redheaded babies, and sleepy weekends. But also the stress, of someone chaining her down. Of someone holding her back, and pushing for things she didn’t want yet.

Ron lifted a hand and brushed the tears away with her thumb, catching her chin in between his fingers. “Hey,” he said softly, tilting her head to look into her eyes. “This doesn’t have to be the end, does it? Maybe we can still- we can work around it?” He looked so hopeful that it killed her to shake her head in his grip.

“I don’t think so, Ron. The Ministry, they’re going to be pretty strict, I think. And… I don’t think it’s fair. Whatever they’ve used to determine compatability didn’t pair us up, Ron. And that has to mean something, doesn’t it? It… I just. I think you and Hannah deserve a chance, to see why…” Hermione was crying again, for real now, tears running down her cheeks and dripping off her chin. If you love him, let him go . She needed to do this now, now while it was easier, now before they even had a chance for it to be worse. “I think you need to try, with Hannah.”

“I don’t want bloody Hannah Abbott!” Ron snapped, though his voice was still low and he still held her chin. “Don’t you get it, you daft woman? It’s always been you for me! This is what I’ve wanted since... since we were kids together. You’re brilliant and you’re beautiful and-”

“Then why didn’t we figure it out before now, Ron?” Hermione said, finally meeting his eyes through her tear-filled ones. “Why haven’t we ‘gotten around to it’ if we were both so desperate? We’ve pushed us back, we haven’t once thought, ‘shouldn’t this be important enough to prioritize’? And that’s on both of us, really. But,” she sighed, hating herself for saying it even as the words tumbled out of her mouth. “It’s not that I believe in whatever the Ministry has used as this measure, it’s not that I’m saying any of this is right. But, if we were meant to be, really meant to be, why has everything led to this?”

Ron shook his head, tears now running down his face as well, and pulled Hermione close, pressing his lips against hers. They stayed like that for a long moment, his wet cheeks brushing hers, lips pressed against her own. Slowly, they pulled back, and he watched for her reaction. Hoping it was enough. Hermione was having different feelings about the kiss. She had expected that same spark she felt the first time they kissed, that awful night. She was expecting warmth and hope and her heart to fill and remind her to fight for this, fight for them. Instead, the gears were clicking into place. It wasn’t there anymore. It might not have been there for a long time, and they were still clinging to the past because it was all they thought they had.

“I love you, Ron, and I probably always will in one way or another.”

“But?” He knew what was coming now, before she said it, and she let out an audible sob.

“But it’s not, it’s not meant for us anymore. Please just… Let’s just move on, and you try and be happy with Hannah. Please give it an honest shot. She deserves that. And let me figure out the Ministry and try to fix all of this, and when it’s all over, then we can try again, if we both still want to. Please?”

Ron sighed, swiping at his cheeks with the backs of his hands, and stood up from the bench. He was at the door before he turned back to look at her, hurt and anger and sadness flushing his cheeks red, and she could tell he was holding in as much of his emotions as he could. “Bye, Hermione.”

And then, he was gone.

Hermione turned so that she could put her head on the table and let the sobs flow freely, shoulders heaving and tears soaking the wood under her head. Finally, she was able to once again take deep breaths, and she wiped at her tearstained cheeks with her sleeve. Deciding that she had had just about enough of being inside today, she picked herself up off the bench and headed for the backdoor of the Burrow, moving quietly to not have to run into anyone, and then she slipped out into the now-dark night.

Hermione glanced around the garden and dropped down onto the back porch deck, pulling her knees up against her chest and trying to figure out what she wanted and needed. Lists were always easy for her. She wanted to not get married at twenty. She didn’t want to be tied down, to be owned, to be given . She wanted to fall in love with her partner, real true passionate love. She did not want children, not yet. She wanted her friends to be happy. She wanted to go home, to her tiny flat. She loved the Weasleys, but spending so much time with them was like being a terrified teenager again. She wanted to sleep until this was all over. She wanted to fix it, to storm into the Ministry again and demand that this be rectified. She wanted it to be easy.

She barely noticed when someone sat down beside her, and in fact it was only feeling someone's leg brush against hers that startled her out of her brain. Her wand had slipped down into her hand and was pointed at the person beside her before she realized what was happening, and Harry threw up his hands with a soft laugh.

“Sorry, just me. I should know better than to sneak up on you, after everything.”

Hermione managed a small smile and half-hearted shrug as she slid her wand back down her sleeve. “I figured you’d be with Ginny.”

Harry lifted a hand sheepishly to rub against the back of his neck, the flush on his cheeks visible even in the moonlit garden. “I was. But, Ron came up, said you were really upset. He was upset too. I figured, well, you may need someone to talk to.”

Hermione blinked back the tears, leant over so her head rested on his shoulder, tried to calm her still shaky breathing. “You didn’t have to do that.”

Harry snorted in response, tugging at a curl hanging down by her face. “‘Course I did, bookworm. You’re my best friend. You’re, I guess, going to be my wife-” Harry paused, smiling sheepishly. “I mean, I probably should have proposed or something, that would have been the right thing to do, wouldn’t it?”

Hermione sniffled again, trying not to cry all over his shoulder. “You should be proposing to Ginny. Not me. This is so wrong, Harry. I love you, truly, but not ever like that. Even the thought of-”

Harry cut her off with a noise of protest that sounded half like a gag and half like a groan. “Don’t even plant that image in my head. No way. You’re my sister , Hermione.” He dropped a hand down to lace with hers, squeezing it tight. “I guess the Ministry didn’t do anything at all.”

“No. Kingsley said he tried to make it as easy for us as he could. That maybe in a few years once people start having more magical babies it’ll be easier to overturn. That if Ginny really truly believes her life is in danger, we can try and report that and get her away from him. But even that didn’t sound too hopeful.”

Harry nodded against her head. “And your conversation with Ron?”

She tried not to groan. “I don’t know, Harry. Don’t you think it’s, it’s some sort of sign? You and I, of course we’re compatible. Not sexually, but I do trust you with my life. We get along well. I think we could live together with no problems. They just didn’t account for lust or desire. But platonically, we have that love. Isn’t it… don’t you think it’s odd, then, that Ron and I weren’t paired together? I’m not saying the Ministry has it right! Ginny and Malfoy, I mean,” she shuddered and Harry made a noise to indicate his agreement, “but why wouldn’t we be together? Why haven’t either of us pushed for this in the past two years? You and Ginny figured it out - a relationship, school, two busy careers. We couldn’t pull it together, Harry.” The tears were rolling down her cheeks again. “I told Ron that he should let go. See what it’ll be like, with Hannah. It broke my heart, Harry,” she paused, chewing on her lower lip. “But not as much as I thought it would.”

Harry pulled back now, to look down at her face, searching.

“We kissed. It didn’t… It wasn’t the same.”

Harry sighed deeply and pulled her back into his arms. “I’m sorry.” He mumbled, into her cloud of hair. “I’m so sorry, Hermione. Look. I just want you to know, I’ll take care of you, okay? I’ll look after you just like I always have. We’re going to get through this together and we’re going to fix this mess together, and maybe for once the Wizarding World will take the peace that we gave it and not bloody ruin it.”

Hermione snorted a laugh into his chest, pulling back and wiping at her face. “Okay?” Harry checked in, looking down at her, snotty and tear streaked. “Nothing’s going to change with us, okay?”

Cracking a smile, she nodded at her best friend, the boy who lived, the Chosen One, her future husband, and squeezed his hand. “Okay, Harry. We’ll find a way. You’ll be married to Ginny before you know it.” And they sat in silence, fingers intertwined, contemplating the future that was rapidly stretching out ahead of them.



Chapter Text

George had disappeared after the initial news of the marriage announcements. It had all been so overwhelming that he hadn’t been able to contemplate how to fix this, how to help his baby sister. He had gone back to his small apartment above the shop and tried to figure out what Fred would have done, if he was here. Then he had gone down to the local pub ,drank far too much, apparated to the approximate location of Malfoy Manor, and stood staring up at the gated house for over an hour in the cool spring air.

Finally, George decided that killing the bastard would not solve any problems and that him ending up in Azkaban would devastate his mother. Ultimately, he resolved to figure out some other way to handle the situation.

He awoke the next day with a pounding headache, the room spinning around him, his sweater itchy and hot against his neck. With only a moderate amount of trouble, he managed to remove the offending garment and toss it somewhere in the direction of his laundry hamper, padding through his dim apartment to the loo to retrieve a Pepper-Up Potion. He shook the steam from his ears, feeling slightly better and glad he had no mirrors. He wasn’t sure he wanted to see if he looked as poorly as he felt. Then he remembered why he had been so drunk: Ginny was going to have to marry that bastard Malfoy. His lingering hangover dampened his previous rage. There wasn’t much he could do to stop it, he figured somewhat dejectedly. For a moment he felt defeated.

He paused in his steps towards the stairs and shut his eyes, pressing the heels of his hands into them. Fred would know what to do. Fred might have been able to fix this. Or at least, he’d have a better idea on where to start. George let out a breath, took another, and made a choice. He may not be able to stop his sister’s arranged marriage, but at the very least he could whip her up a whole bunch of things to make life a little easier.

Clenching his hands into fists and shaking out his arms, George pushed all those thoughts back into the corner of his mind that he tried never to pay too much attention to and headed down into his workshop behind the shop.

The redhead spent a few hours hunched over his desk, scribbling ideas down, making a list of what Ginny could use. He finally set down his quill to stretch out his hand and stood from the stool to stretch the rest of his body. He was just contemplating heading up stairs for a change of clothes (track pants and a slightly dirty undershirt did not necessarily scream going out apparel) so that he could try and track down some food, when there was a knock at the door of the workshop.

Odd , he thought to himself. Usually his shopkeeper, Felicity, knew not to bother him when he was working. In fact, she often went so far out of the way not to bother him that she once had whipped up an entire batch of Puking Pastille’s behind the counter because they were sold out.

She’d done a damn fine job of it, too. He resolved to do his best not to snap at the wonderfully well-meaning girl in future.

Shaking the thought from his mind, and accepting that usually it was his own fault for being so surly, George opened the door.

It wasn’t Felicity standing on the other side.

Or, well, it was. But off to the left a bit. Instead, standing directly in front of him was an almost comically short woman with mousy brown hair that tumbled down to her shoulders, and pale green eyes. She had her arms crossed nervously in front of her chest and he didn’t miss that she flicked her eyes over him from head to toe almost instinctively.

“Sorry about bothering you, George, but, well. She said it was quite important that she speak to you, and um,” Felicity twirled a strand of her currently blue hair between her fingers, “she wouldn’t exactly take no for an answer? I’m pretty sure she’s not going to try to kill you though, if that’s any consolation…”

George couldn’t help but smile at his friend. “Alright, thanks Fee.” He turned his attention back to the woman standing in front of him. “And, what should I call you?”

Her pale eyes flicked up to his face, scanning it with an intensity he hadn’t quite been expecting. He definitely had not been expecting her answer.

“Win. Win Urquhart. Your, uh, fiancé, I suppose.”

George was so startled he took a full step backwards, which she took as a sign to step into the lab after him and then close the door, looking around the room.

“I guess I shouldn’t have, er, dropped in quite like this. But, it was all just so unexpected, so quick, yeah? I just couldn’t deal with not knowing who you were, really. Other than one of the famous Weasleys, and the owner and brains behind this shop. I probably should’ve owled first…” George could see her discomfort growing and he shook his head quickly, still trying to figure out how best to cope with this situation.

“No, no, it’s, uh, it’s fine. I wasn’t really expecting company, as you can probably tell. Or at least, I hope you can. I don’t usually look this ragged.” He admitted, lifting a hand to rub at the back of his neck sheepishly. “Look, why don’t you come upstairs to my flat? We can have a cup of tea?”

Win considered this for a moment before she caught a whiff of the potions ingredients to her left and she wrinkled her nose and nodded in response. “Yeah, cheers, lead the way.”

They settled into George’s small living room a few minutes later, each with a cup of tea in hand. They had fallen into an awkward silence and Win was looking around the room, glancing at photographs of the Weasleys, smiling and laughing in Egypt, and one of Fred, George, and Harry Potter outside of the shop, shaking hands and laughing jovially.

“Why don’t you tell me a bit about yourself?” She finally asked, making eye contact with the man she was supposed to marry. “You don’t have to, uh, get super personal. I’d just rather like to know I’m not marrying an axe murderer, I think.”

George couldn’t help but laugh at her trepidation. He didn’t disagree. “Right, sure. George Fabian Weasley, fifth son of Molly and Arthur Weasley, though only by fourteen seconds.” He paused, winced. “I guess fourth now. My brother, my twin, Fred, he, uh,” Win gulped, and George swallowed, hard. “In the war, he-”

“It’s okay. You don’t have to say it.”

George took this offering and continued on the best he could. “We opened up this shop together. Had a penchant for mischief and made it into a living. Fred was really the ideas guy, but I’ve done alright. One of the most profitable shops in Diagon Alley, actually, last quarter.” He chewed on his lip, thinking about other important things. “Gryffindor, obviously. Beater. My favourite colour’s blue?”

Win laughed softly as the man stumbled over what parts of his identity were the most important and decided to jump in. “Win Urquhart. I was in Ravenclaw, just a year behind you actually. You probably don’t remember at all, I gave you a detention once, for one of your portable swamps.” George flushed and frowned, but Win couldn’t contain her laugh. “It was one of the most brilliant things I think I’ve ever seen.” At this he flushed more, now smiling, and she carried on. “I’m an apprentice broom maker, with Nimbus. It sounds really interesting but I promise it isn’t all that exciting. Red. Favourite colour, that is.”

They stared at each other for a long moment and finally, slowly, smiled at one another. “Well, Win. I know we’re already betrothed and all, but, how would you like to go out to lunch with me?”

Win smiled back, draining the last of her tea and setting her mug down. “Why, Mr. Weasley, I would be just delighted.”

Ron was pissed. Both angry and drunk, in fact. It had been a few days since what he now called “the end of everything”: when Hermione had said that they weren’t worth trying. He’d gone to bed that night and when he woke up the next morning, she was gone. Harry said that she had needed to go back to her flat, to be alone for a bit. That being with all of them was difficult.


She didn’t realize what difficult meant, not to him. The woman infuriated him, but he had been so sure for so long that she was it for him. Now he was positively reeling with the possibility that his entire future was falling apart around him. He had spent a full day in bed, and another full day ranting at Harry and Ginny (who, quite fairly, had had their own ranting back to do). The third day, after trying everything else, he had decided that the only possible solution was alcohol.

Unfortunately, Ron was not handling being drunk very well. He had started at a muggle pub in London, not wanting to run into anyone who he could possibly know. Somehow he had paid his tab, stumbling over his feet and muttering the entire way, and was now standing in front of the Leaky Cauldron.

It was easy enough to lie to himself and say that he had absolutely no clue how or why he had ended up here, but then again he had never been the best liar. He remembered hearing, a few months back, that Hannah Abbott had taken over running the Leaky. Hannah Abbott. His future wife. Even drunk he had the brief thought that he thought she had been with Neville, but it seemed like this law was quite happy to smash up relationships.

Ron took a deep breath of the cool spring air and wondered just briefly if this was a very good idea at all, and then pulled open the door and stepped inside. He sidestepped a few people and sat down in a stool at the bar, looking around to see if she was here.

Ah - there. Two long blonde braids, each with hairs springing loose, flashed around a corner and he knew, just knew it was her. He sat at the bar and found himself getting angrier and angrier. He became more upset as the whiskey he drank tumbled through his system. When he heard his name, he snapped his head up and barked out a low “what” before he realized what he was doing.

What he was doing was looking into a pair of blue eyes and a girl who was frowning, displeased, down at him. “Ron Weasley,” she said, low and without any of the stereotypical Hufflepuff friendliness. He had the grace to look slightly embarrassed at his initial reaction to her, and she turned away again. When she returned, she placed a full pint glass in front of him and one in front of herself, and then placed a hand on her hip to watch him. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

Not, Ron thought, that she sounded very pleased. Instead of responding, he picked up his glass and swallowed half of it, stalling for time. Finally he put the glass down and found her eyes with his. “I ‘eard we’re gettin’ married.” He said, only slightly slurring over his words.

“Oh, lovely, can’t wait to tell the children about that proposal.” Hannah muttered, but then shook her head to clear it of whatever she was thinking. “Yes, I heard that too.”

“I, uh.” Ron lifted a hand to scrub it over his face, suddenly aware of the fact that he was very drunk and probably shouldn’t be here at all. “I’m not entirely sure… I shouldn’t have come…”

Hannah sighed, a long-suffering sounding sigh, and pulled the half-full pint glass away from him before he could finish it. “Look. I don’t really know why we got matched up. I figured you’d be with Hermione, you two always,” Hannah waved a hand in the air halfheartedly, but luckily did not finish up the thought verbally. “I don’t really know you, Ronald, and I don’t think you really know me. And, I don’t think now is the time to fix that.”

“You were in Hufflepuff!” Ron blurted out a little too loudly, drunk and trying to prove that yes actually he did know something, and Hannah’s face reddened (whether in humiliation or anger, he wasn’t sure) as she put the two glasses behind her.

“You should leave now, I think.” She said, and while her words were unsure her tone was firm. Ron stood, and went to dig in his pocket for some sickles, but she shook her head. Deflated, and tired, Ron took one last look at the girl he was to marry and then headed for the fireplaces, desperate to get back in his own bed where he didn’t have to deal with confusing Hufflepuffs or unwanted wives at all.

“It could have been much worse, darling, she could have been muggleborn .”

Narcissa Malfoy had always had the incredible ability to sound like she was absolutely above any conversation that she took place in.

“Mother, that’s not-”

“I suppose there is the pesky issue of her blood-traitor family. But these things are fixable, darling. And besides, did she not used to date Harry Potter? That could be very good for our image, you know.”

“It’s not our image that I am concerned about-”

“And she was pretty enough, if a little plain. Oh, and that awful red hair. We have more than enough money for both of you, with some new robes-”

“Mother.” It was not typical that Draco Malfoy cut off his mother when she had her mind set on something. Usually, he listened somewhat patiently, nodded at the appropriate times, tried to pay enough attention to say something intelligent every once in awhile, and mostly ignored whatever it was that she was saying anyways. “I do appreciate your input, but I hope you recognize that this situation is far less than ideal, whatever her blood status may be. The fact that we’re all just going to sit back and let the Ministry get away with this-”

“Do not forget that you could be in Azkaban with your father, and instead here you sit in my parlour interrupting me.” Draco’s mouth snapped into a thin line and he forced himself not to shout. “Do not forget, Draco, that you are a marked man. We were not on the winning side of this war. And yet, here we sit, in our house, with our freedom, having paid really a quite insignificant fee. Considering, of course, that others have paid with their freedom, with their lives. For us, all it took was a large donation, a few charity balls a year, and a trust fund for the school. That was never enough, and you know that as well as I do.” Narcissa took a small sip of tea and then snapped her fingers, nodding graciously to the house elf who popped into the room to clear away the dishes. “If the Ministry told us to jump, we would ask how high. This is the price , Draco. And if the price is for you to marry some girl you do not love, and to produce the heir which you need to produce anyways , you will say I do . Is that clear?"

Draco could feel his blood boiling in rage and he clenched his hands together, reminding himself that she was his mother and that at the end of this conversation was a very large glass of Ogden’s Finest. “Yes, I am well aware what we have paid in reparations. I am well aware of the mark that I had branded into my skin when a psychopath lived in our house.” He took a deep, steadying breath. “Besides,” he said, deciding to change directions. “This Weasley will absolutely not accept the thought of marrying me. In fact, by now I’m sure Potter has bashed down the doors of every Ministry official and this will all be overturned in less than a week.”

Narcissa had raised an eyebrow at him and pursed her lips in doubt, but said no more on the subject.

A week later, she brought it up again. “You need to send young Ms. Weasley a letter, Draco. As much as we have been forced into this, that does not abdicate your responsibility as a gentleman. You must write a letter to this girl, indicate clearly your interest,” she pretended to ignore Draco’s scoff, “and ask her properly to marry you. And if she says no, you must do what it takes to convince her. Whether or not she agrees to this, we absolutely cannot be seen dragging an unwilling girl - and not just any girl but one with such connections to the man who defeated Voldemort - up the aisle. It would be uncouth.”

Draco had, begrudgingly, written a letter. It was not long or particularly friendly, but he had forced as much civility as he could manage into the parchment. He had ended it with, as his mother demanded, the damning question. “Will you join me as my wife?” Draco had drank two rather large glasses of gin just to get through it.

He drank three more when his owl returned less than an hour later, the letter he had written still attached to her leg, and three words scrawled across the back of it:

Fuck you. Yes .”

Chapter Text

Harry and Hermione were the first ones to get married.

Well, that wasn’t exactly true. Less than a month after the announcement, George and Win had disappeared for a week and returned with matching silver wedding bands and matching twinkles in their eyes. The best way, George had said sagely, to avoid having to wear some godawful dress robe picked out by Molly Weasley, was to run far far away and avoid the whole process completely.

After that, Harry and Hermione decided they might as well just get on with it so that it was over. Hermione had made Molly promise not to invite anyone but family, or at least the family that she had left. Mostly, it was a whole bunch of Weasleys, Luna Lovegood, Neville Longbottom, and Hannah Abbott. Andromeda Tonks with a two year old Teddy Lupin on her lap filled out the rest of the front row with Molly and the other immediate family. Charlie had shown up with his new partner, a tall woman with dark skin and bright eyes, and explained that they had gotten married a day after the law was passed and figured they would never talk about it again. Neither of them, he tried to explain, were very interested in anything much other than dragons anyways. Percy had brought his wife of now more than a year, Penelope Clearwater, and Bill had arrived with Fleur and their daughter, two week old Victoire.

It was a quiet affair. Both Harry and Hermione were still rather wary of crowds, and the more people invited the more there would be about it in the press - something they both wished to avoid if possible. Arthur presided over the ceremony, smiling uncomfortably down at his two not-quite-children as he attempted to say absolutely nothing about love and to only casually imply that this was more or less government coercion, all while covering everything needed to keep the entire affair legal.

George and Win had snuck off at some point during the middle, and when Arthur uncomfortably nodded for Harry and Hermione to kiss (so briefly it could barely be counted as such), fireworks exploded behind them and the sparks formed into a visage of Hermione smacking the man across the face.

Overall, it was wholly uneventful and not nearly as uncomfortable as Hermione had been anticipating. She didn’t wear a white dress, opting instead for a pale floral sundress that contrasted beautifully against her dark skin, and Harry’s outfit was plain and his trainers had grass stains. He spent the entirety of the evening, minus the one customary song, dancing with Ginny, and she had hung around by the punch bowl to ensure that George didn’t slip anything into it. She hadn’t seen him this mischievous since before Fred died, and she was quite looking forward to getting to know Win a little better.

When the night was finally over and the guests had left, Hermione had big dreams of returning to her flat and sinking into her bathtub and maybe never getting out of it. The Ministry, on the other hand, had slightly different plans. While couples were not required to have actual intercourse to consummate these marriages, they were required to live in the same residence as their new spouses, immediately and permanently. It was an issue that they probably should have discussed before this point came, but Hermione knew that there was no detaching Harry from Grimmauld Place, where he had such strong familial ties through Sirius. In the end they’d agreed that the former Most Noble and Ancient House of Black was really their best option.

Kreacher had shrieked bloody murder about a “mudblood living in the house” until Harry had threatened him with as many socks as the little elf could carry, denying him the ability to continue to serve the Black line. By the time Hermione finally made it to the bedroom that Harry had set up for her, she was exhausted and upset and mourning, once again, for the future she could have had. Together, her and Harry sat on the edge of her bed as she cried and he rubbed at her back, once more promising that it would all be okay, eventually.

Hermione wasn’t sure how long either of them could wait for “eventually” to become now.

Ron and Hannah were next. Even at the wedding, it was clear that they were both hesitant about the process, uncomfortable with the thought and each other but going through with it anyways. By this point they were two months out from the bill being passed, and neither had wanted to wait any longer for fear of Ministry retribution.

Their wedding was another small affair. In fact, the guest list seemed quite similar to Hermione’s, with the addition of a variety of Hufflepuffs from a few different years and a handful of Ravenclaws that Hermione didn’t recognize, but who seemed to be good friends or spouses to the crowd of Hufflepuffs. Molly had decorated the entire Burrow with flowers, and they were married in the back garden in the mid-spring sun. Hannah had looked beautiful in a simple white dress, and Ron wore the dark blue “ridiculous dress robes” that George had run away to avoid. They stood next to a flowerbed which was budding with new growth and Hannah tried very hard not to think about the fact that she didn’t have much family to be there for her.

The Weasleys tried very hard to convince her that she did.

Hermione spotted, after the wedding, Molly and Hannah deep in an animated discussion about the best way to keep a shepherd's pie crust from sogging and how much shortening they should really be using in various baked goods. Later, she noticed Ginny telling the blonde exactly how to make Ron squirm, if he should ever need coaxing into anything. George and Win pressed her hands full of Canary Creams and Fainting Fudge and a variety of other products Hermione couldn’t quite identify, probably with some whispered word on prank wars and sneaky brothers that caused Hannah to toss her head back and laugh.

Eventually, Hermione was able to make it through the throng of people to smile at the woman who had married her ex-boyfriend. Hannah smiled back, carefully, and before Hermione could think about it she pulled the girl into a quick hug. Hannah blushed fiercely. “I know this is, um, awkward. You and Ron-”

“Never really got anywhere, Hannah. Look, I know this is some whole scheme cooked up by the Ministry, but. I want Ron to be happy. And I want you to be happy as well. And you might not make each other happy, but, if they got something right and you do , well.” Hermione shrugged, carefully. “That would make me happy too.”

Hannah nodded and lifted a hand to brush a tear off her cheek. “I do appreciate it, Hermione. This,” Hannah gestured around them, “isn’t exactly what I planned for my wedding, is it? My mom dead, my dad still hiding in America, me marrying a man I don’t even really know, much less love. But…” She looked around over the crowd, redheads smiling back at her, friends mingling and dancing, laughter in the air. “But maybe it won’t be so bad?”

“The Weasleys have an incredible knack for making just about anyone they deem worthy to be family, Hannah. You’re in now. Even if this doesn’t work out, I have a feeling they won’t be letting you go any time soon.”

The women exchanged one more smile before Hannah was being swept into another conversation with a tall brunette that Hermione remembered from being a Ravenclaw prefect. Hermione made her way once more to stand guard over the punch bowl and forced herself not to cry about the injustice of it all.

Three days before the three month deadline for marriage, Ginny Weasley married Draco Malfoy in the ballroom of the manor.

It was the party of the year.

Narcissa Malfoy had a knack for event planning. She also had a knack for knowing when she made others uncomfortable and doing absolutely nothing to change any of it. The very choice of venue had been part of this. Ginny had decided that she wanted as little to do with the wedding as humanly possible and had hefted off the planning and responsibility to Draco, who in turn passed it onto his mother. She could have chosen anywhere for their wedding, but had artfully decided that one of the best things she could do would be to bring the golden members of society into her home, into a room that held terrible memories, and turn it into a place of happiness and love. Not, of course, that either of those emotions were present. But Narcissa clearly saw the event as a way to look as though they had changed, had improved, were worthy of being the darlings of society again.

The entire room had been redone. It was bright and airy, white marble and tall pillars, light coloured comfortable sofas and round tables with lacy white cloths spread around the room. One entire wall held a buffet table which, after the ceremony, was covered in delicious looking food items. Firewhiskey and butterbeer, even muggle gin flowed freely, and all of the staff were human, not elf.

A beautiful arch decorated with flowers stood at the front of the room, and it was under this arch that Draco and Ginny were married. She wore white, a dress Narcissa had picked out. Classic and contemporary, it looked perfect on Ginny’s short stature, and she had white lilies braided into her hair. For Harry, she had told Hermione, voice fierce as the stylist tugged on her long red locks.

Draco was in deep green dress robes, and stood at the front of the room doing his best not to look hesitant. Hermione, sitting in the front on the bridal side, noticed that the look in his eyes was familiar. He looked as though he had covered his emotions with a thin veneer, and something more was bubbling under the surface. When Ginny entered the room and the crowd turned and gasped, she kept her eyes on the blonde and realized that it was the same look he wore the entirety of their sixth look at Hogwarts. Haunted. Hunted.

The ballroom held more guests than Hermione, Harry, and Ron’s weddings combined. The Weasleys were, of course, all there. New wives and extended family too, including Aunt Muriel who had not been in attendance for Ron’s wedding the month prior. Luna and Neville as well, who Hermione was sure had been a forcible invitation from Ginny. During the small role that Ginny had played in the planning process, she had handed over a list full of the names of Gryffindors and other classmates, not backing down from this challenge. Narcissa had been accommodating, and as Hermione looked back she also spotted Seamus Finnegan, Dean Thomas, Susan Bones, both of the Patil twins, Lavender Brown, and even a vaguely uncomfortable looking Michael Corner.

The groom’s side was smaller, but not by much. Narcissa sat in the front, stoic and poised and alone. Her husband in Azkaban and her only living sister a traitor. She had filled the gap by inviting all of Draco’s friends from school, as well as their parents and siblings, a handful of pureblood society wives, Rita Skeeter, and a few more people who Hermione wouldn’t recognize if she tried.

As the ceremony began, Harry - sitting to her left - slid his hand into hers and squeezed. She took a second to flick her eyes across to him, watching the way he held his jaw tightly and his shoulders square, feeling his dull fingernails dig into the back of her hand. She squeezed back to reassure him, and refocused her gaze on the front.

The wedding itself was rather uneventful. A traditional ceremony, much more stoic and formal than either hers or Ron’s had been. It had been complete with a traditional handfasting that, were it under any other circumstances, would have been beautiful. Silver swirls of magic mingled with scarlet red, twisting around their hands and melding together, settling into their skin.

Everything had been going alright. Until the reception.

Hermione had been standing and speaking to Hannah and Seamus, keeping one eye focused on Harry who was hovering near Ginny and a group of Weasley relatives, standing close but not close enough to be improper. Ginny and Draco had already shared their dance, stiff and stilted, as the waiting staff had magically cleared away the chairs and filled the buffet table. Ron had disappeared to the food table to fill plates for both himself and Hannah. Draco was standing with his mother, Pansy Parkinson, and Blaise Zabini, all collectively looking rather uncomfortable at the sheer number of Gryffindors in the room. At one point, Hermione caught the blonde’s eyes and couldn’t look away: he was glaring, clearly not happy, though his face looked relatively neutral. She was so shocked by the intensity of emotion, and figured that it was directed most likely at her for the sheer fact of her existence, she had looked away and turned her entire body out of his sight line, scanning the room instead.

Everything had been going alright, until Hermione glanced up.

She was standing exactly in the middle of the room, underneath a large chandelier. Before she realized what was happening, before she had time to look away, everything changed. Her heart pounded into action against her chest, blood rushed to her head and drowned out the noise of the crowd. She dug her fingernails into her palms and felt her entire body shake around her and her eyes were closed and she was gasping and trying to breathe and trying to drown out the high cackling voice, bracing her body for the next Cruciatus, wishing it would be over wishing she would just die-

Arms were around her and she was being pulled out of the middle of the ballroom, into a dark corner, someone was holding her and running a hand over her hair. “Shh, shh, it’s okay, it’s not real, it’s not happening, you’re safe, you’re safe-”

As the words started to sink in, Hermione forced herself to take a deep shuddering breath and open her eyes. Her body was still shaking, but less so now that she was being held so tightly, and when she opened her eyes she was shocked to see not long curly dark hair or a cruel smirk, but the top of a head of light brown hair. Taking a few more deep breaths, Hermione managed to uncurl her fingers and release the tension in her shoulders, and when the person holding her realized this they let her go, just a little.

It was George’s new wife Win, standing beside her, peering up at Hermione and rubbing her back. “Hi.” Win said softly, smiling gently at the taller woman. “Glad you’re back with us.”

Hermione nodded, not entirely sure what to say. It was rather awkward, the whole situation. “Um, what..?” She was never her most coherent after an episode like that.

Win properly let go now, and took Hermione’s hand in hers, tugging her down to sit on a settee that they had been standing next to. “Sorry to have intruded. But, you were having a panic attack. You looked up and then your whole body went rigid and I don’t actually think anyone noticed, but I could see you shaking so I pulled you over here and, well.” She shrugged one shoulder, not apologetically. “My sister still has them. She was there, during the battle. I was too - came as soon as I got the owl - but I was helping out with the wounded, not in the action. She finds that being held very tightly brings her back out of it. That looked like a bad one, though.”

Hermione could only nod mutely, not letting go of Win’s hand, frankly just glad someone had noticed before it got worse and she made a fool of herself. In fact, looking out over the crowd it seemed Win was right. No one had noticed at all. She wasn’t sure whether to be grateful or not.

“What can I do?” Win asked next, concern evident on her face.

“I, I’m not sure. Usually I just, I don’t really realize until it’s over and I’m mostly out of it. Sometimes it happens quickly. Sometimes, not so much.” Hermione admitted. “I just.” She sighed, rubbing a hand across her face. This was a lot to be opening up to a stranger with, but Win was George’s wife, and something deep in Hermione’s chest needed to say it, and there was a curiosity in Win’s eyes that she couldn’t quite avoid. “I was tortured. Right there,” she pointed to the middle of the ballroom, where Neville and Seamus were laughing at something Dean had said, and Ron was handing Hannah a plate of food and offering her a small smile. “They’ve redone the whole room, everything. Barely recognizable. Except the chandelier.”

Win glanced up and frowned. “Well that was rather dumb of them, wasn’t it? It’s an absolutely hideous chandelier. Don’t know why they’d leave that up.”

“It’s actually worse than that. It broke - we broke it getting out. The chandelier. But it looks like they had it repaired to look exactly… exactly the same.” Her voice broke and she frowned, as she felt the tears running down her cheek. “I was fine, mostly. It’s just hard to be here, to see it. They’ve changed the whole room and left the one thing that I couldn’t stand to see again.”

Win sighed in resignation and then looked back out to the party. “Maybe we should leave. I can get George - he’s sneaking something into the punch, I think,”

“Knew it,” Hermione mumbled.

“And we can all just leave.”

“Win,” Hermione began, shaking her head. “You don’t have to do that for me. And besides, I, I need… If Ginny’s going to be living here,” she shuddered, “I need to be able to at least be in the house. I should stay for, for at least a little bit longer.”

Win nodded and stood, tugging Hermione up with her.

“Thank you, Win, I.” She paused, frowned, realization hitting her all at once. “Winifred. Your full name, it’s…”

Win blushed furiously and shook her head, glancing around to make sure George was nowhere near her. “You can’t tell him. He can’t know. Do you know what that would do to him?”

Hermione couldn’t help it, she laughed. “Maybe the Ministry wasn’t just pulling all of this compatibility bullshit out of their-” her voice trailed off as she noticed Ginny and Harry, standing close enough to touch and yet looking so far away, with mismatched wedding bands and matching sorrow. “Then again.”

Win sighed in agreement, noticing where Hermione’s eyes had gone.

“Then again.”

Chapter Text

Hermione hated Grimmauld Place. It was dark - both dingy and magically - and cold, the paintings screamed at her daily, and it took a significant amount of work to not constantly remember being on the run with Harry and Ron, living here and searching for R.A.B.’s locket.

Eventually, she decided she had had quite enough. On a day where Harry had work and she did not, she got down to business. Starting in the basement, she scoured dirt and grime and sorted out objects and artifacts. “Things that are definitely too dark to be legal,” “Things that are too broken, old, or ugly to be useful,” and “Things that Harry may possibly want to keep to maintain his connection to Sirius and thus his parents.” The first category was quite obviously the largest, and the last had nearly nothing in it.

By the time she made it to the attic, it was halfway through the afternoon. She was sweaty and coated in dirt; her hair would take hours to untangle, but she was feeling accomplished. All of the paintings that could be removed had been, and she had stacked them by the door to discuss their fates with Harry. Walburga’s painting still had curtains hung in front of it, and Hermione was debating simply blowing up the entire wall - but she needed to figure out if that would compromise the structure of the building, and if so, would it be magically fixable.

Hermione wasn’t sure which part of the house she was more proud of. She had managed to clean it so thoroughly and throw out so many things that the rooms actually felt habitable. Downstairs was finally feeling like a space they could live in, rather than just exist. After cleaning the living room windows, throwing out the carpet, and scourgify-ing the couches multiple times, it actually seemed like a place she would be comfortable sitting to drink tea. The dining room too: she had removed the dreadfully dark curtains and emptied out the china cabinet that had been full of dark artifacts. While the room still reminded her of Order meetings, it no longer felt like war and death.

The library on the second floor was even better. Buried under three layers of dirt was the most comfortable armchair Hermione had ever sat in, despite it’s deep green colour. The floor to ceiling bookshelves had been interesting too, once she had blasted away years of accumulated dust. Many of the tomes were probably a little too dark to really consider keeping, but she had tucked them all away on one shelf with a charm over them just in case, deciding she would need to actually read them all to be more sure. She’d also finally moved in all of her books from her apartment (which she had rented out to a lovely muggle student, knowing the place would be ready for her when this atrocious bill was finally overturned) and cleaned off the desk, setting it up for herself to use as a work space. She’d left Sirius and Regulus’ bedrooms both intact, not having it in her heart to change either of them. They would be fine as guest rooms, and could always be converted to other spaces if and when needed. There was a third bedroom on this floor as well, sparsely decorated with a simple double bed for guests. She had cleaned it quickly but, due to its emptiness, it hadn’t needed much work.

On the third floor, she hadn’t touched Harry’s bedroom. The original house design must have had a massive master bedroom on the third floor, spanning almost the entirety of the space with a large ensuite bathroom and the tapestry room being the only other rooms on the floor. At some point, Hermione assumed that whoever was living there decided they no longer wanted to share a room with their spouse and the bedroom had been divided up into two rooms. One was still far larger, which was where Harry was staying, and she had the other. For her own room, she had applied the same treatment, emptying it of nearly everything inside and trying to set up the things she had brought from her own apartment to make it feel more like home.

And now, tired but pleased with her work, she was in the attic. It had been relegated to storage many years ago, which meant quite a lot of cleaning and also throwing out that needed to be done. There were more books up here, and a few things which may have belonged to Sirius, all of which she saved aside to speak to Harry about. She found another lovely armchair which she shrunk down and moved into her bedroom, as well as some items which she felt would be alright actually in the house - though most of the attic itself contained only garbage.

Nearing the back of the room, Hermione had a feeling. It seemed… too small, up there. She’d now been through most of the other floors pretty thoroughly, and something about the sizing of the attic just felt off. Digging around in the back, where she felt the wall came too quickly, she brushed her hands over the wall and felt - there! A seam! Fumbling more, she found a small latch and clicked it open, pushing, and was met with a blast of summer air and sunlight and she gasped. There was a rooftop garden that looked abandoned. Carefully she stepped outside and found herself completely hidden from the road and neighbours due to the height of the building, and nowhere seemed near enough to an edge to fall to her doom. There were planters and trellises and a bench or two, a handful of dead plants, and in the middle a small fountain that was still bubbling with water.

Finally, she’d found somewhere in this godforsaken place that she didn’t hate. Already, her mind swirled with thoughts of what she could plant out here, and when she went back into the house later it was with an entirely renewed purpose.

Malfoy Manor was cold, and big, and empty.

Ginny hated it.

It was the opposite of The Burrow, which was always overflowing with people and warmth, smells of food wafting out of the kitchen, loud noises and laughter filling every inch. Ginny had been forced to leave and now lived in a large empty bedroom, and her heart ached for her family. Here she never had to wait in line to use the bathroom, or fight her brothers for a chance at the delicious mashed potatoes. Here she could wander through the house and never run into anyone, spend hours in a room and not hear a single noise. Here felt like dying, compared to the life of The Burrow.

Defiantly, she had decorated her entire bedroom in bright reds and golds but already they seemed muted, less like an imposition and more like a concession. She had filled the room with pictures of family and friends, but had to flip over the frame of her and Harry kissing at Shell Cottage, because every time she looked at it her heart fractured a little further.

Malfoy had placed her in the same wing of the house that he was in, on the opposite side of the building from his mother. Despite this, she never saw him, never heard him. Ginny knew that he worked at the Ministry, or at least with the Ministry, but other than that did not care to find out more. They spent weeks passing each other like ghosts, Ginny eating her meals in the basement kitchen with Bilby the house-elf, or in her room. Draco left for work early and came home late. Ginny did not even see Narcissa, though she’d made a careful effort to avoid the woman in case she was anywhere near as fanatical as her older sister.

Ginny’s Quidditch practices were frequent, but not enough to keep her out of the house as much as she needed to be. To fill time, she went for brunch with Luna, and drinks with Neville and Dean and Seamus.

One day, when she had nothing planned and no idea who she could drop in on to get her out of this house, she had a brilliant idea. Pulling on her training gear, she scooped up her broom and took the stairs two at a time down to the ground floor, headed outside with a purpose and a need to fly. The Malfoy grounds were large and empty - a perfect place to practice new plays. She’d been in the air for nearly half an hour when she was suddenly aware that someone was watching her.

Dropping down into a feint, Ginny pulled up at the last minute and found herself eye-level with Draco Malfoy, who was standing on the ground with his arms crossed and his brow raised, watching. “Well, Weasley. Looks like you haven’t lost all of your talent since school.”

Ginny sneered back at him. “Malfoy .” She hissed, voice low and dangerous. “It’s Malfoy now.”

Draco laughed into the wind, though his face did not change much. “Malfoy.” He repeated.

“I’ll have you know,” Ginny said, broom thrumming under her as she held steady in front of him. “I play professionally.”

“Hm. Chaser, right?” He glanced down at his manicured nails. “Well, not everyone can be a Seeker.”

Ginny now had to bite back her own laugh, it felt cold and cruel on her tongue. “Get your broom.”

Draco now looked up at her, silver-grey eyes meeting brown, searching. She smirked at him, and he turned on his heel, disappearing back to the house.

It was only a few minutes later that he was soaring out of the manor, Quidditch robes on his back and an expensive broom between his knees. He held something in his hand, and as he approached Ginny he uncurled his fingers and a Snitch darted out. Ginny’s face broke into a grin and she swung her broom around, turning to glance back over her shoulder at Draco.

“You’re on!” And with that, they were off.

Nearly an hour and a half later Ginny shouted triumphantly and pulled her broom to a halt, fingers clasped around the small golden ball, laughing as she spiraled down to the ground and slid off her broom.

Draco followed her down, climbing off his own broom much more elegantly and standing in front of her, looking down at the redhead who was sitting on the grass, laughing up at him. He brushed his hands together as if wiping them of filth and she waited for a snide comment, but instead he was just watching her carefully. Ginny pulled herself to her feet and managed to contain her laughter. She couldn’t help it, his palpable disappointment had been so childish when he realized she had beat him, and though he had mostly washed it off his features now she could still see hints of it in his slightly furrowed brow.

“Well,” she said, looking down at her hand - unpainted nails, chipped and lined with dirt - and then back up to him, eyes glinting. “Not everyone can be a Seeker.” And then, turning on her heel just as she had done, Ginny headed back to the Manor. She had almost reached the doors when she heard him, voice low but carried over the wind towards him.

“You won’t be so lucky next time, Weaslette.”

Ginny pursed her lips, hoisting her broom further up her shoulder, and responded though she knew he would never hear her from here.


Work was stressful. Work was stressful and Hermione was busy and it seemed like no matter how hard she tried, she was blocked time and again. She had been working on werewolf rights since the day she started in her position. Small things first - she wanted to repeal the anti-werewolf legislation passed by Umbridge a few years earlier, and was more or less successful. Werewolves could now get jobs, although there were still problems with them being unfairly discriminated against for missing time due to recovery from the full moon. Which brought her to her next, and biggest, goal: mandating that Wolfsbane potion be provided free of charge to all werewolves, indefinitely. The problem was that Damocles Belby and his family still deserved to profit from the brilliant invention of the potion, which meant that the Ministry needed to create a subsidy program for its provision.

They were stalling.

Money was always an area where they stalled.

On top of that, many people had been attacked during the war and they still did not have full records of everyone who had been bitten. People were still afraid to come forward for fear of being put on a Ministry registry which could negatively impact them (despite Hermione’s repealment of the worst of the laws), or for other reasons that she wasn’t entirely sure of - because she couldn’t exactly ask someone who hadn’t come forward why they hadn’t come forward, since they weren’t around to ask.

It was an endless headache.

Deciding that she needed a cup of tea to make any of the rest of the day even possible, Hermione closed up her small office and headed towards the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, hoping to coerce Harry or Ron or Susan into joining her.

It was too late by the time she realized that Draco Malfoy was in the same hallway and headed in her direction.

“Granger,” he said, voice indifferent. And then he paused mid-stride, and a rather evil grin flittered across his face. “Or, should I say Potter now, seeing as you finally did what everyone was expecting and married the Chosen One.”

Hermione clenched her hand into a ball, reminding herself she could not hex another Ministry employee. “As you well know, Malfoy, Harry and I are only married because of that stupid law. And it’s still Granger, thank you very much - I don’t subscribe to outdated customs, wizard or muggle.”

She could almost hear the smirk in his voice as he responded. “Not like it makes any difference. What are you, Granger? Some mild-mannered civil-servant who is never going to accomplish anything. Pity, that.”

Red flashed behind her eyes and she was speaking before she could help it. “At least I’m not married to a ferret.” It felt like a moderate insult, something meant to poke but not dig. She didn’t expect him to step closer to her, eyebrows drawn down in anger, fist clenched.

“Fuck you, Granger,” he growled, and she tensed at the fury in his voice. “I would have thought you, out of anyone...” He paused, shook his head. “A fucking teacher transfigured me against my will. Did you know that if you’re injured in a transfigured state you can feel it just as clearly, that breaking eight bones is excruciating no matter what form you’re in?” Hermione swallowed. “You just can’t keep your fucking nose out of anyone’s business, can you, Granger? So bloody righteous when it comes to you and yours, happy to stand back when anyone you don’t like or agree with gets thrown against the ground in front of you.”

Hermione clenched her jaw and dug her fingernails further into her palms to try and suppress some of the anger she was feeling. “And who are you to say that?” she snapped, pulling herself up to her full height - still nearly a foot shorter than the blonde who was now standing only a foot away from her. “You, you -” she paused, took a deep breath. “You stood there while your aunt tortured me!” It wasn’t really fair, it wasn’t like he could have done anything or he would have been killed. “You’re just a bloody ex-Death Eater who had no problems watching a mudblood be Crucio’d on your carpet! Probably more worried about how to get the stain out than someone’s life-”

“Shut your mouth.” He said, voice low and dangerous and strained in a way she hadn’t been expecting. “You don’t- you think you know everything but you don’t, Granger.” And with that he was spinning on his heel and stalking out of the hallway.

Hermione leaned back against the wall behind her, breathing deeply, trying not to descend into panic. What was she thinking?

Chapter Text

“Ginny’s coming over tonight.”

Hermione was sitting in the living room, lounging in a comfy armchair with a book propped open on her lap and a mug of tea in her hands. She barely registered what Harry was saying, nodding in response with a quick “that’s nice”.

Harry was still standing in the room, and Hermione could see him shifting back and forth on his feet, hands stuffed in his pockets. She sighed and looked up from her book, peering at him over the rim of her mug. “Do I need to do anything? I’m sure Kreacher would be happy to cook-”

Harry cut her off. “She’s bringing Malfoy.” Then paused, winced. “Draco Malfoy.”

“What?!” Hermione sat up quickly enough that her book tumbled to the floor and she only just managed to steady her tea. “Why on earth would she do that?”

Harry shrugged awkwardly and ran a hand through his perpetually messy hair. “I dunno. But I guess, well. There’s been some talk that the Ministry are… are monitoring some couples, particularly those of us who are, uh, well known. Especially if we had relationships previously. And I suppose, with an influential pureblood family like Malfoy, they’re watching them pretty closely. Then add in me being, well, me, and…” Hermione’s brows had risen so much she would be surprised if she had any forehead left at all. “So, anyways, Ginny’s bringing Malfoy with her as cover, I guess. We’ll have a friendly-looking dinner party and then maybe, uhm, Ginny and I might-”

“I don’t need the details.” Hermione said quickly. “I’ll, I can keep Malfoy occupied, I guess.” She winced. “I mean, we’ll probably be yelling so much that you’ll have plenty of time to,” she waved a hand, deciding she’d rather not voice it. “What time?”

Harry glanced at the clock on the mantle. “An hour?”

Hermione sighed, picking her book up from the floor and marking her page. “Great. Just, great.”

True to their word, exactly an hour later Hermione heard the doorbell ring throughout the house. She took one last look in the mirror, and then mentally berated herself for the action. It wasn’t that she felt the need to look nice, just that she’d rather not be a complete rat’s nest if they were having company - but it wasn’t like Malfoy was anyone she needed to impress. Tugging one strand of hair, she watched as it bounced back up into a curl and decided that it would all have to be good enough, before she turned and headed down the stairs for the entrance hall.

When she got there, Kreacher had opened the door to let in the guests. Harry and Ginny were hugging, probably for a bit too long by that point. Malfoy was standing behind the redhead, holding a bottle of wine and looking distinctly uncomfortable.

Into the lion’s den, Hermione thought, and then cleared her throat to break up the lovebirds. Harry stepped back abruptly and she could see Ginny’s ears turn the slightest shade of pink at the tips, before the small redhead rushed into her arms. Hermione returned the hug, squeezing her friend, glad to see she was all in one piece.

“Right,” Harry began, awkwardly looking at the odd group assembled in the hallway. “Shall we, er, go into the dining room? I think dinner’s just about ready.”

 Dinner was awkward, to say the least. For the most part, conversation had been amongst the three Gryffindors, and focused on surface level topics such as work and Quidditch scores and who else had gotten married and how warm it was getting outside.

Hermione ignored the fact that Harry and Ginny spent the entire meal undressing each other with their eyes, and thought for not the first time that maybe it was a good thing she hadn’t been matched with Ron, if only because she never found herself looking at him like that.

Kreacher returned with a light pop and whisked the plates away from them with a hand wave. He snapped his fingers and plates of pie popped up in place of the dinner plates, and Hermione managed to quickly thank him before he had disappeared to the kitchen again.

Ginny laughed as this scene played out. “I don’t know why you bother thanking him, Hermione! Nasty little bugger hates you.”

Hermione levelled a glare at her friend. “Yes, well, that isn’t exactly his fault, is it? Walburga was horrendous to him! No wonder he’s so upset all the time. And Harry won’t let me free him-”

“He doesn’t want to be freed!” Harry said quickly.

“Well at least we could ask him!”

“Hermione, after everything with S.P.E.W.-”

It was at this moment that Draco, for the first time in the evening, responded to the conversation with a hearty laugh. “S.P.E.W.? Wasn’t that your ridiculous project about setting free all those house elves at Hogwarts? Honestly, Granger. And you’re supposed to be smart-”

“And what is that supposed to mean?” Hermione said, snapping her head around to turn her glare on Malfoy now, much more intense than she had glared at Ginny. “Wizards treat house elves like, like rubbish! It’s not alright to own anyone, Malfoy, whether or not they’re an elf or a wizard.”

Draco rolled his eyes at her, using the napkin on his lap to brush at his lips and then balling it up next to his empty plate. “I didn’t see you cooking the meal, Granger.”

Hermione nearly threw her hands in the air. “Well, maybe if I’d had more than an hour’s notice that we were having company!” She shot Harry a look, and he did his best not to laugh in response. “Trust me, I am certainly not happy that he believes he belongs to us. But at least we pay him, and he can use that money to do whatever he pleases on his days off.”

Draco now was laughing openly. “You give your house elf a day off?” The man leaned back in his seat, lifting a hand to wipe a non-existent tear off his eyes as his laughter subsided. “Oh, I haven’t laughed like that in ages, Granger. Merlin. Days off.”

Hermione was seething now, and his laughter was only fueling her anger. “Of course we give him days off! You can’t, you can’t just expect him to work every single day without any break!”

Draco shook his head, dismissive. “You don’t get it. How could you?”

Rage was boiling up in her blood and she felt her fingernails digging in her palm, so angry she didn’t notice as Harry and Ginny both stood and slipped away from the table. “How dare you say that to me, Malfoy? Because I’m a muggleborn? So I can’t possibly understand wizarding culture - despite the fact that I’ve been in this world nearly half my life? I apologize if I can’t rationalize slavery.” She paused, eyes narrowing at him, hands shaking in rage. “Because, if you had any understanding at all, of anything, you would recognize exactly why I get it, and exactly why I am opposed to it!”

Draco flapped his hand, waving off her argument. “Granger, it’s not the same thing as slavery. Elves are a different species. They’re not human. We don’t own people like barbarians. Besides. They have different magic than us - they can get household tasks done in seconds. You don’t need to give elves a day off, they barely do any work as it is.”

“Barely do any work?” Hermione was near screaming now. “Just because their magic works differently, because they’re not the same as you, you think it’s alright to expect them to work for you every day for nothing?”

“Oh please. They enjoy it.”

Hermione saw red. “Enjoy it?!” She forced herself to take a deep, calming breath, though she could feel her entire body tense and shaking despite it. “That’s exactly what they said about slaves too. Do you know any history, Malfoy? Or just because your skin is white, do you think you can ignore everything because, well, it wouldn’t have been your ancestors?” Her eyes were narrow now, eyebrows drawn down and lips pursed in an expression that both Harry and Ron knew to be wary of. “Because it’s alright to own people who look differently than you,” she said, speaking slowly, sure that if it was possible venom would be dripping from her lips. “Because people like you owned people like me and laughed at our pain and when they got uncomfortable with what they were doing they said ‘well that’s alright, they like it’!”

Before she realized what was happening, Draco had stood and was on her side of the table, sitting in Harry’s abandoned chair and wrapping a hand around her upper arm. “Granger-” her eyes were closed and she was breathing heavily and he shook her slightly. “Fuck,” he murmured. “I need a drink.” Then louder: “Granger, look at me.” When she did, opening her bright brown eyes to peer back at him, she thought for a moment that she saw concern in his features. “Stop. Breathe. That’s not what I’m saying. Actually, most wizards - including my family - never owned slaves. Why would we bother owning people when we had elves?”

Hermione took a deep breath, but pulled her arm out from under his hand, not saying anything just yet in response and closing her eyes to try and recenter.

“Look. I know how you feel about elves. Merlin, you wouldn’t shut up about it back at school. And this one that Potter’s got seems like a pretty terrible example since he loathes everything. But, truly, a lot of elves do actually enjoy their jobs. And no, a lot of families don’t pay them money, but if an elf should ask for something it would most likely be given. Other than a few,” he paused, frowning, “arseholes, most wizards treat their elves pretty well. My father was, of course, an exception. As, I believe, was Walburga Black.”

Hermione finally opened her eyes and looked back at him, hoping her eyes weren’t too watery to give away her feelings. “Malfoy, you’re never going to change my mind.”

Draco shrugged, leaning back in his chair. “People don’t really debate to change each other’s minds, do they?”

She let this thought roll around in her mind and eventually leaned back in her own chair. “Out of the frying pan and into the fire.” She said, looking back towards her half-eaten dessert. The blonde man beside her raised a questioning eyebrow, and she sighed. “In the muggle world, it’s skin colour. I thought, I figured in the wizarding world everyone would be equal. No one would care what I looked like.” She shrugged half-heartedly. “I guess that was true. No one really cared what I looked like. They cared about my blood.”

No expression passed over Draco’s face, but she thought she saw something in his eyes - regret? “Yes, well. Many of us were quite stupid, as you remember.”

“Was that… Is that your idea of an apology?” At this, Hermione couldn’t help but laugh. Gods, if only this situation wasn’t so horrendous. Draco Malfoy, making the most half-hearted apology to her possible while their spouses had sex two floors above them.

“No.” He frowned and turned towards her again, looking over her face. The two sat like that for a moment that started to feel too long, before Draco cleared his throat. “I am, though. Sorry. For the way I treated you. There are no excuses for my behaviour.”

Hermione fidgeted, uncomfortable under his intense gaze. “Your parents indoctrinated you into racist beliefs.” She mumbled, not feeling like she could look away from his gaze.

“You were better than me. Are.” He said simply, but before he could expand on what exactly that meant there was a noise in the hallway and he was standing, backing away from her, still looking down into her eyes. Harry entered the room, trying without success to smooth down his even more tousled than normal hair, and Ginny was unashamedly untwisting her bra strap.

“Well.” Hermione said, finally tearing her eyes away from Malfoy’s, and looking at the two standing in the doorway.

“Well.” Harry repeated, stuffing his hands in his pockets.

“It was so lovely of you to have us over.” Ginny said, falling easily back into the role of charmed dinner guest, wife of a socialite. “We’ll have to do this again sometime.” She paused, made eye contact with Harry, winked. “Soon.” And then Draco was following her out of the dining room and out of the house, and Hermione was left sitting in the dining room, wondering why there was a fire low in her belly and a pulsing in her veins and why, when she closed her eyes, there were an intense pair of silver ones staring back down at her.

Chapter Text

“Honestly, I don’t know how you do it.” Hermione admitted to Ginny. They were sitting together on the patio of a new restaurant that had opened up where Florean Fortescue’s had once been. It was a chic little place that made a delicious brunch and an even better mimosa. She hadn’t had much time with her friend lately, so when Ginny had suggested meeting up that weekend, Hermione had jumped at the chance. The summer sun was now in full force and it was lovely to sit outside and feel her skin warm under its rays. Ginny was wearing an appropriately large hat to block that same sun.

“No. He’s-” Ginny paused, thinking over what she was saying as she swirled her drink around and then took a rather large sip. “He’s not quite what I was expecting.”

Hermione gaped over at her friend. “What do you mean? He’s Draco Malfoy. Captain of the Inquisitorial Squad! Son of a Death Eater-” she paused, frowning. “An actual Death Eater.”

Ginny shrugged. “I’m not saying he’s pleasant or anything, but he isn’t deadly or terrifying. He’s a right prick, and I didn’t realize anyone could actually survive with the amount of alcohol he drinks. We don’t exactly spend much time together... That house is so big you could go weeks without seeing anyone. His mother nods at me, if we happen to pass each other. Which, I suppose, is something.”

Hermione rolled her eyes. “Yes well, she lied to Voldemort. Saved Harry’s life. Wouldn’t really make sense for her to, I don’t know, murder you at this point.”

Ginny smirked. “I was worried, actually. I wouldn’t think I’m exactly a suitable wife for her precious Draco.” She cooed out his name and then shuddered, and Hermione couldn’t help but laugh in response. It had been more than a month now, and it was good to see that her friend could finally approach this with some humour. That was probably only because Ginny had gotten laid not that long ago.

“Still, I’m so sorry that it ended up like this, Gin. It’s just not fair.”

“No,” Ginny agreed. “It isn’t. But, well. It isn’t all bad?” Hermione raised a brow at the redhead, waiting for her to continue. Ginny shrugged. “Well, we’re married, right? So that means I got access to the vault.” She paused, and a smile tugged at the corners of her lips. “Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes is quite pleased with their new investor. George can do a lot with three hundred and fifty galleons.”

Hermione choked on her mimosa. “Ginny!” She said with a bit of a gasp as she coughed on her drink. “That’s… that’s more than a thousand pounds!”

Ginny smirked triumphantly. “And mum and dad are going to love their anniversary present. All-expenses-paid trip to Romania to see Charlie. Fancy hotel room and bottles of champagne delivered to their door and everything.”

“And you’re saying that he doesn’t care?”

“Hermione, they have so much money, I highly doubt he would even notice. And besides, I technically earned it.”

“You don’t mean…?” Hermione cringed, thinking of all the things someone could do to earn that much money in such a short period of time.

“Oh god no!” Ginny swallowed a gulp of mimosa and shook her head. “Absolutely not. We play one-on-one Quidditch. Not my fault he keeps losing. Obviously I’m going to use my victories any way that I can.”

“You play Quidditch together?”

“Mmm. He seems to think one day he’ll beat me, just because he was the Slytherin Seeker and I was only ever Chaser on the team. But I’ve been training - our Seeker is looking like she’s stepping out on maternity leave for a bit, and, well. I have a pretty good shot at replacing her.”

Hermione smiled at her friend. “That’s really great, Gin.”

Ginny nodded, ears flushing pink. “So, Harry and I were talking.”

This couldn’t be good. Hermione nibbled at her scone and waited for the inevitable.

“We were thinking of doing a, um, double date. Picnic, swimming, a whole day of summer activities.” Ginny batted her eyelashes at her friend. “It would… well. It means spending the day with the ferret,” Ginny pulled a face. “But, you can pretty much ignore him, I’m sure he’ll do the same to you. Bring a book if you want.”

Hermione sighed and tried not to cringe at Ginny’s ferret comment - that particular argument was still fresh in her mind. The last thing she wanted to do with a perfectly good summer day was waste it with the blonde git, but Ginny was so happy after seeing Harry. And Hermione still felt really quite terrible about ruining her friend’s future marriage, which was why she found herself nodding. “Yeah. I suppose if I bring a book it’ll be alright.” She paused then. “Where?”

Ginny winced. “Well, the grounds at the Manor are really beautiful. We won’t go anywhere near the house, I promise. Just the backyard. They have this gorgeous pond and peacocks just wandering around, can you imagine?”

Hermione took three deep breaths before she responded, remembering the book she had read on ‘self-calming techniques’. Accio, bombarda, cave inimicum, descendo - the book had said that listing off things in a category alphabetically was a good method to reduce panic. Finally she opened her eyes and found Ginny watching her with concern. “Nowhere near the house.” She confirmed and her friend, relieved, nodded.

It was a beautiful day, at least.

Hermione had agreed to the picnic lunch hoping that it would pour rain on the day they had chosen and the whole thing would be called off. Unfortunately, the sun was shining and the air was warm and now she was standing on the Malfoy’s back lawn, watching as Ginny spread out a picnic blanket on the ground and then dropped down, patting the seat next to her for Harry to sit in.

This left Hermione, in a pale yellow sundress, awkwardly positioned on the blanket next to Draco Malfoy, who looked casual. In fact, she didn’t even know the man knew what khakis were, let alone owned a pair and was wearing them. But then again, robes weren’t exactly practical for picnic lunches and outside activities.

Ginny and Harry were already lost in mumbled conversation and so Hermione was forced to pick at her food in silence, enjoying the cheese spread and wine. It was better than speaking to Malfoy, of all people.

He seemed to have different ideas.

“So, Granger. What poor, impoverished species are you trying to help out these days?” He was lounged out, looking far too comfortable sitting so close to the ground, wine stem between his long fingers and his brow raised as he watched her fidget with her lunch. “Merpeople, perhaps? Trying to convince them to stop eating fish? Or maybe it’s the centaurs this week - perhaps their mating habits are just a little too violent for you? Did you know that they hold down their-”

Hermione nearly choked on her mouthful of wine and she snapped her head around to glare at him, only to find him watching her with mild disinterest on his face, but something more in his eyes. “Honestly, Malfoy. In what world is that polite lunch conversation?” She couldn’t help but snap back, shifting again. She really hadn’t thought they would be having an actual picnic, or she would have worn shorts.

Draco shrugged. “Well, it’s your job, isn’t it? Certainly there has to be some excitement to it. I figured that centaurs mating habits were the most interesting things you dealt with. God forbid we have to sit here and speak about trolls or ghouls or some equally blasé species of animal.”

Hermione rolled her eyes and picked up another piece of cheese, doing her best to give Harry and Ginny, who were practically sitting on each other, some privacy in their conversation. “Do you think that’s all I talk about, Malfoy?” She asked.

“Well I didn’t see you starting up a conversation.” He drawled, taking a rather large sip of wine.

“Did you ever think I just didn’t want to speak to you?” Hermione shook her head and shifted on her legs again, smoothing out her skirt around her and hoping it wasn’t obvious how uncomfortable she was.

Thankfully, Draco did not respond, and they ate the rest of their lunch in relative silence, other than the whispers and occasional laughter from Harry and Ginny.

After they had finished the lunch and the two bottles of wine that Draco had carried down from the manor, Ginny suggested a game of pick up Quidditch. Seeing as Hermione refused to participate, the plan was a three player Seekers only game - whoever caught the snitch first won. Harry may have been the best when they were at school, but Ginny practised relentlessly and Draco was gambling on the couple distracting each other and giving him an opportunity.

They left Hermione to her picnic blanket as Draco summoned three brooms from the shed near the house and then they took off into the air, and Hermione let out a sigh of relief. As nice as it was to give her friends the opportunity to spend some time together, Malfoy was exhausting. She felt tense in his presence. At first she wondered if it were fear - was she bracing herself for the impact of torture or a drawled ‘mudblood’? But, then. He hadn’t called her that since before the final battle. And barely in their sixth year. And he wasn’t his aunt, and he didn’t send her spiraling into panic attacks. Plus there was the small fact of his strange apology, of his declaration that she was better than him.

Hermione still hadn’t figured out what that meant.

Still, she took all the peaceful silence that she could get, and she spread her legs out in front of her on the blanket, digging a book out of her purse. Summers in the Isles did not last nearly as long as she would have liked, so she was determined to make the most of a forced afternoon off work and soak up the August sun, getting lost in the tattered paperback in her hands.

In fact, she got so lost that she didn’t hear someone walking up to the blanket, or notice when another body joined her on the ground. It was only when she felt warm breath on the side of her neck that she tensed.

“‘There is,’” he began, and Hermione realized it was Malfoy who was now sitting beside her, looking over her shoulder and reading from the book she was holding. “‘I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some particular evil, a natural defect, which not even the best education can overcome.’” Draco paused and Hermione couldn’t help herself but fill in the next line of the book.

“‘And your defect is a propensity to hate everybody.’” She quoted back.

“‘And yours is to willfully misunderstand them.’”

Hermione realized at that moment exactly what was happening and she jerked her body away from him, turning then so she could look at his face. He was smirking over at her, amusement dancing across his features.

“What on earth are you reading, Granger?”

Hermione frowned, feeling quite put on the spot, as she glanced down at the book in her hands. “Quite a famous muggle novel. I’m sure you’ve never heard of it, nor would you care to.”

Before she had time to react, Draco had reached over and plucked the book from her fingertips, looking over it’s ratty state, and glancing at the cover. He huffed out a small sound of amusement and opened the first page, clearly his throat softly. “‘It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.’” Draco couldn’t contain the laugh as he read, and Hermione found herself thinking that she had never actually considered the fact that he could laugh so genuinely. “I wouldn’t have taken you for someone who reads romance novels, Granger.”

Hermione felt her face heating up and she snatched the book back from him, smoothing her hand over it carefully. It was a copy that she had owned for a long time, and she had lost track of how many times she read it. “It’s a classic, Malfoy. Far more than a romance novel. Besides, the author is a muggle. I doubt you would sully yourself with literature written by such an inferior group of people.”

If she had known him better, she may have recognized that his smirk had shifted, and he now had the look on his face that he got when told that he could not or should not do something. “‘Thus conscience does make cowards of us all, and thus the native hue of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought, and enterprises of great plith and moment with this regard their currents turn awry, and lose the name of action.’”

Luckily, Hermione was not trying to eat anything at that moment, for she was sure if she had been she would have choked. “I,” she began, pausing, trying to reconcile this vision of Malfoy spread out on a picnic blanket in the summer sun and quoting Hamlet at her with the boy who spat slurs at her in school and laughed when she tripped on her own feet.

With this, the blonde tossed his head back and laughed for the second time that afternoon, and she continued to stare at him, breathless and lost in her own confusion.

“What exactly do you think I’ve done with myself for the past two years, Granger?” When she didn’t answer, he continued. “Sat around with my cronies, laughed about everyone who we had lost, the things we gave up? Gallivanted across the continent while we pretended nothing had ever happened, that we had not suffered too? 'The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.

Hermione shook her head, but it was true that she had not once thought of Malfoy as a man with hobbies that were not more-or-less evil. “So instead you read Nietzsche? Hamlet?” She asked.

“And others, though I found that something in me resonated with that particular soliloquy. Rather on the nose, wouldn’t you agree?”

Hermione shook her head to try and get over the fact that she was having a discussion about Shakespeare with her once sworn enemy. “I suppose.” She agreed. “You fancy yourself as Hamlet, then?”

Draco shrugged again, a smooth motion of his thin shoulders. “You’d be wrong if you said we had no similarities.”

Before Hermione had a chance to ponder this, she heard laughter from above, and Ginny and Harry landed a few steps away from them, stumbling over each other as they slid off their brooms, laughing. Ginny held the snitch triumphantly, and Harry was shaking his head at her through the laughter.

“That move would never fly in a legal game.” He was saying, and Ginny was carefully adjusting her t-shirt.

“Yes, well. Why be given such useful… assets, if I’m never allowed to use them?”

Harry glanced over at Hermione and Draco, sitting on the blanket and looking up at them. “Realized you couldn’t keep up, Malfoy?”

“Decided I’d rather not watch as the two of you figured out how to shag each other thirty feet off the ground.”

Harry was trying to stutter out a response but Ginny waved her hand at him. “Just because you lack the dexterity, Malfoy, doesn’t mean the rest of us do.”

Hermione could, once again, feel her face heating and she shook her head. “Alright, yes, we understand.” She looked over to see Draco smirking at her and she turned back to her friends, waiting to see if she could go home now, or if they had other shenanigans planned for the day.

Draco glanced down at his wristwatch and frowned. “Well, as lovely as this afternoon has been,” he said, with no small amount of sarcasm. Harry snickered slightly and Draco pretended not to hear him. “I have a meeting I have to get to.” The blonde man stood and brushed off his trousers, looking between the three Gryffindors. With a nod to Hermione, he left the three of them sitting on the grass and headed back to the house.

That night, after Hermione and Harry had returned to Grimmauld Place, as Hermione lay in bed reading, she couldn’t help but hear his smooth low voice in her head. It was infuriating, she decided, how he was able to bother her even when she was nowhere near him. Giving up on the book and calling it a night, Hermione snuggled down into her covers and flicked her wand to turn off the light, stashing it under her pillow when she was done. Closing her eyes to the darkness, she fell asleep with the image of Draco’s blonde hair glinting in the sunlight, and the sight of the long expanse of his neck as he tossed his head back and laughed.

The next few months passed similarly. As summer faded into fall, Hermione continued to throw herself into her work and continued to get nowhere. Ginny did end up getting the Seeker spot on the Harpies, and with it a huge influx of practices. This meant that, thankfully, their double dates more or less slowed to a halt. Hermione was absolutely not complaining. Not really. She was mostly just ignoring the fact that she kept wondering what other muggle literature Malfoy had read, what other hobbies he had picked up to fill his time after the war.

Harry was rather despondent at the lack of events, though, and finally Hermione had floo’d Ginny and they made a plan to go out for dinner, to a fancy restaurant in muggle London. While that meant that Ginny and Harry wouldn’t really have an opportunity to sneak off, scheduling much more time than a few hours was proving nearly impossible. Ginny promised that it would slow down soon, once her coach decided she didn’t need to be in intensive practices anymore.

Hermione and Harry arrived at the restaurant just a little late, due to Hermione deciding to change at the last minute, worried that she wasn’t fancy enough when she realized Harry was wearing a full suit. It had been the right decision, in the end, to change into a slightly more fancy dress. Even though she realized, as they sat down in the booth across from Draco and Ginny, that she had chosen a deep green dress and Draco was looking at her quite peculiarly.

The meal was delicious, which didn’t come as a surprise - it was the type of restaurant with no prices on the menu and sparkling water on all the tables. Apparently Draco had picked the restaurant and Hermione did her best not to show that the fact startled her. Harry had made a remark about Draco’s knowledge of muggle London, and Draco had sniped back a quote about preferring not to have spit in his food, and the table collectively moved on.

Before dessert, Ginny slipped away to the bathroom, and only a few minutes later Harry did as well. Hermione tried not to think about it. But she couldn’t stop thinking about what the blonde had said.

“Malfoy?” She questioned, and he looked up from the whiskey glass in his hands. “Do people actually, uh, spit in your meals?”

Draco did that thing with his shoulder that Hermione was starting to recognize as him feigning indifference while actually having quite a few thoughts on the topic. “I’ve had it happen, yes.”

“In Diagon Alley?” She asked, almost incredulous.

“Yes, Granger. Not everyone is a perfect war heroine like you. Some of us, as I’m sure you remember, were on the wrong side.”

Hermione sighed and brushed this comment off with a wave of her hand. “You were acquitted.” She stated. “And, besides, it’s been more than two years now. And you’re married to a Weasley .”

Draco raised a well-manicured brow at her. “And that changes things how?”

“Well. It just isn’t, it’s not right! That they’d let you into their establishment and then bring you food that’s been spit in. They should really have all moved on by now.”

“In your world.” Draco said, looking pointedly at her. “In the world where everyone is good or they’re evil, and the bad guys have all gone to jail. That makes those of us who are not currently rotting or dying in Azkaban - what, exactly, in your books? Because to much of the general wizarding populace, we are scum. We are people who avoided the punishments we so rightly deserve, and they make it their goal to ensure everything they do reminds us of the fact.”

Hermione clenched her hand into a fist, telling herself that the only reason this was bothering her at all was because no one deserved that kind of treatment. She was still thinking about exactly what could be done about this when Harry and Ginny returned to the table, Ginny’s hair tousled and Harry with a smidge of lipstick on his neck.

“At least the stalls here are nice and large,” Draco drawled, and Ginny leaned over to lightly smack his arm. Harry, for his part, blushed, and Hermione wondered just when Draco’s snarky comments became more about teasing in good fun than pointed attacks.

Once again, as she fell asleep she found herself thinking of the way Draco had looked. Self assured and confident on the outside, but he kept his shoulders held in a perfectly straight line, his entire body posed to hide the fact that while the worst of the war was long over he was still enduring and paying reparations for his sins.

Chapter Text

Nearly six months had gone by since the marriage law had been passed. As usual, Dumbledore’s Army was getting together for their annual Halloween party. It had started the year Voldemort had been defeated. Hermione and Ron knew how difficult Halloween was for Harry, and they had figured one of the best ways to cheer him up would be to invite all of his friends over and get smashingly drunk. Amazingly, it had worked, and they’d done it the next year too.

As always, the party was at Grimmauld Place, and Hermione spent most of the day on Halloween rushing around, ensuring the house was in order. Kreacher followed her throughout the townhouse, trying to clean areas before she got to them, and by dinner time the whole house was shining from top to bottom. She ate with Harry in relative silence, and they toasted their wine to his parents and she kissed the top of his head when she left the table, reminding him quietly that she was his family now.

Ron and Hannah were the first to arrive. Ron added a bottle of gin to the table that they usually had out for partygoers to share their alcohol on, and nodded in appreciation at the much-improved state of the living room. Hannah gave both Harry and Hermione large hugs when they entered, carrying a tray of cookies that looked (and smelled) homemade. As they moved into the living room, Hannah took Ron’s hand to pull him towards the table where the other snacks and punch had been set out, and Hermione spotted the telltale flush to Ron’s ears from across the room.

Neville Longbottom arrived next, looking awkward as he stood by himself in the doorway, having apparated rather than floo’d to the party. Harry waved him in and Hermione moved over to speak to him.

“Where’s -” she paused, realizing something. “Neville, who did you end marrying?”

Neville sighed, dropping his head, and mumbled something that Hermione didn’t hear. When she said as much, he sighed again. “Lavender.”

Hermione gaped at him, looking back at Harry to see if he heard, but he was too busy speaking to Ron and Hannah.

“Brown? Lavender Brown??”

“Yeah. It’s a bit, um, weird, isn’t it? We don’t even… she doesn’t think. Well, it’s been awkward."

Hermione nodded again. “Yeah, I can imagine. I had to live with her for six years.”

Neville managed a small laugh at this and Hermione was glad to see him smiling a bit. “Yeah. She said she’d be here.” He added, looking around to see if his wife had turned up, and then awkwardly twisted the band around his finger as he spotted Hannah across the room.

They ended up in a discussion about Hogwarts, and it wasn’t long before Lavender stepped through the fireplace and into the living room, brushing imaginary soot off of her shoulder. She was beautiful, almost more so with the thick scars that marred her face and neck. Lavender managed a smile at Ron, Hannah, and Harry, a nod at Neville and Hermione, and then headed straight for the alcohol.

Before Hermione or Neville had a chance to say anything to the woman, the fireplace roared to life again and George and Win tumbled out, laughing as they tripped over each other. “I told you we should have gone separately, you doofus!” Win was saying, shoving at George’s arm.

“Yeah well, I was worried you’d fall over!” By now the two were sitting on the ground in a crumpled heap, and George’s faux concern had Win laughing even more. Harry headed over to help them up, and Hermione went to the door, having heard the bell.

Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnigan were outside. They followed her in and promptly dumped an armful of alcohol-filled bottles onto the table. Hermione grinned at them both, getting caught up in a story about Dean’s job with goblin relations, and then she noticed that they were wearing matching wedding bands and gasped.

“You’re married?” She asked, grabbing one of Seamus’ hands to examine the understated gold band with an engraving in a language she did not understand.

Seamus flushed and looked over at Dean. “Yeah. Sorry we didn’t invite anyone, it all happened rather quick, see. Didn’t want the Ministry to realize they’d paired up two blokes and revoke our partnership, so we got married ‘bout an hour after we found out.”

Hermione grinned at them both. “That’s so wonderful. You must have slipped past their spell. But, what’ll you do when they want to see children?”

It was Dean who grinned this time. “Oh. That’s all taken care of. Actually, we’d already been looking into it, before all this legal nonsense. Thought it was just good fortune that the Ministry was developing all these new methods of,” he paused and shook his head. “Anyways. They’ve created this spell, brilliant really, where you can basically fertilize an egg with DNA from two different people and more or less guarantee that the egg will only really feature their DNA, effectively having a child who’s not actually much related to the surrogate.”

Seamus nodded. “Bit confusing to explain to a load of wizards who never had to take a science class. Either way, someone somewhere was thinking of same sex couples when they came up with the spell, and we’re not complaining.”

Hermione was nodding along, fascinated. She had done quite a lot of reading over her summers, and while her biology knowledge was certainly not as high as some of her other areas of interest, it was still a fascinating subject.

“So you found a surrogate?” She clarified, and at this both Dean and Seamus grinned as they exchanged looks.


“She’s brill, really.”

“She’ll be here any minute.”

“Oh!” Hermione realized. She was one of Dumbledore’s Army. Who could it be then?

It didn’t take long for them to find out. Seamus had wandered off to make drinks for himself and Dean, topping up Hermione’s as well, and they were back to the subject of wizard-goblin relations when someone else stepped out of the floo.

Luna Lovegood now stood in the room, her long blonde hair braided in various places with feathers and other strange items tucked into it. Hermione heard Hannah’s gasp before she turned, and when she did so she reacted the same. Luna was standing with a hand resting protectively on her rather large belly, her eyes twinkling and her skin glowing as she scanned the room.

Before Luna could step forward, another person came through the fireplace and placed a hand with dark green fingernails and a glittering wedding band protectively on Luna’s shoulder, though it looked like she was shielding herself just as much as she was supporting her wife. The newcomer looked around at the lot of them and drew her eyebrows tight together, flicking her short hair away from her face. “What are you all looking at?” She snapped, and Luna turned her head, smile soft and loving.

“Don’t worry. They’re just checking to make sure you’re not about to kill them.” And Hermione watched in relative shock as Luna Lovegood leaned forwards and pressed the sweetest kiss to Pansy Parkinson’s cheek.

Eventually, everyone managed to turn away, and Luna floated over to Hermione, who was now standing with Dean, Seamus, Neville, and Lavender. The present Weasleys, Win, Hannah, and Harry had gotten onto the topic of the Quidditch World Cup and even the revelation of Luna’s pregnancy wasn’t enough to pull them away from it.

“Hello.” Luna said, voice light as she smoothed her hand over her stomach and twined her fingers in with Pansy’s. Pansy, who looked incredibly uncomfortable, glanced over to Harry more than once, as if waiting to be kicked out.

“Luna!” Dean and Seamus said together, each leaning forward to press a kiss to her cheeks, and then down to her belly as well. Dean also leaned over to give Pansy a quick hug and Hermione tried not to choke on her butterbeer.

Lavender was not doing as well and she shook her head, rubbing at her eyes as if it would all go away. “Wait, I’m sorry. I missed something major here. Luna, you’re… you’re pregnant!”

Luna nodded. “Yes, quite. Twenty one weeks and three days, to be precise.”

“But,” Lavender began, shaking her head again. “You’re here with… her?”

“Hearts are wild,” Luna began, and moved a hand over to brush at Pansy’s ribs. “That’s why ribs are cages.” Grinning up at Pansy, who was a good few inches taller than Luna, more so with the heels she was wearing, Luna then looked back at her friends. “This is Pansy.” She introduced, simply. “Pansy, this is Neville, Lavender, and Hermione.”

“We know who she is Luna.” Lavender hissed, looking at Dean and Seamus and then Hermione, seeing if anyone was on her side. “She’s a Slytherin! She tried to hand over Harry to Voldemort! And, how did you even end up, I mean, this whole law is about - well, I guess you’ve got that part. But still. It doesn’t make any sense!”

Pansy cleared her throat, letting go of Luna’s hand to wrap a protective arm around her partner’s shoulders, her gaze now steely. She suddenly looked more like the bitter girl Hermione remembered from school. “I’ll remind you all that he handed himself over the very same night. One life for thousands of us, and besides, he didn’t even die-” Luna lifted a hand to run over Pansy’s face and the girl softened, slightly. “I’d appreciate it if you did not speak about me as though I was not standing right next to you.”

Lavender had the grace to blush slightly, but she was shaking her head again and about to say something even more hurtful when Hermione cut in. “Dean, is Luna your surrogate, then? That’s lovely.” She looked over to Luna and smiled, but the blonde was still looking up at Pansy and didn’t notice.

“It’s wonderful, isn’t it?” Luna spoke, her free hand smoothing circles over her stomach. “It just worked out perfectly. Dean and Seamus had already asked me to be involved, before the law. And then St. Mungo’s was able to give me twins. One for Dean and Seamus, and one for Pansy and I. They’ll be sisters.” She sighed, blissful. “Isn’t it lovely?”

Neville coughed now, on his own drink. “That’s,” he paused, seeing the look of utter disdain Pansy was shooting him, and rethought his sentence. “That’s really great, Luna, Pansy.” He paused, looking to his other friends. “Congrats to you two as well, then.”

Luna nodded and Pansy shifted again, trying not to look as uncomfortable as she was surely feeling.

Once more, the fire roared to life and this time it was Ginny Weasley stepping out, tucking strands of red hair back behind her ears and moving directly to Harry to wrap her arms around him. Draco followed only a few seconds later, holding an expensive bottle of wine and looking very out of place in his nice suit. He noticed Pansy, and Hermione watched as his shoulders dropped slightly, tension releasing when he realized he wasn’t the only Slytherin, and he moved in the direction of their group.

By the time Draco had reached them, Neville had moved away to talk to Ron and Win, and Seamus was in an animated conversation with Luna that sounded like it was about prenatal vitamins, Dean listening with amusement beside him. Harry and Ginny had slipped out of the room and either no one had noticed, or they all had the good sense not to comment on the fact. Draco went straight for Pansy and the Slytherins embraced, looking for a moment as if they might cling to each other like they were a lifeboat, but they broke away and Pansy passed Draco a glass, which he immediately filled with wine.

“Malfoy.” Hermione greeted, cordially, and he finally seemed to notice that she was there.

“Granger. How are the trolls treating you this week?”

Hermione had decided she wasn’t going to let him ruffle her feathers, and she finished off her glass, holding it out to him to refill with wine, which he did without much hesitation.

“I’m not sure, I haven’t see you in over a month.”

Pansy choked on her glass of water and reached a hand out to grab Draco’s, to prevent him from hexing the girl, but instead Draco laughed, loud and boisterous, drawing strange looks from Neville and Ron.

“Very good, Granger.” He said, in the deep drawl that she thought of now when she read.

“How about you, Malfoy? Win any Quidditch games lately?”

Once again he flashed a strange look at her. He wasn’t smirking and she wasn’t sure what to do with the expression on his face. In fact, it seemed rather like a smile, and that was throwing her off more than she figured it should be.

“Nope. Not a single one.”

The party had gone quite well, and slowly the couples had drifted out. Luna and Pansy had been the first to leave, citing swollen feet (though Hermione suspected it was just as much to do with the fact that Ron kept glaring at Pansy and Harry was doing his best to pretend she just didn’t exist at all. Very mature for the both of them).

As George and Win headed through the fireplace, waving goodbye through the smoke, Hermione looked around and realized that nearly everyone was gone.

Nearly everyone except for Draco and Ginny, of course. Ginny and Harry had come back down to the party and been mostly sociable for a good chunk in the middle there, but as the guests started to disappear, they too had slipped upstairs again and now Hermione was sitting in the living room with Draco Malfoy as company.

Luckily, they were both rather drunk. Hermione now lay slightly sprawled on the comfortable sofa with her head propped up on the armrest, and Draco sat across from her in the comfy armchair that she spent most of her time in. Draco had gone silent, swishing his firewhiskey around in his glass, and looking at Hermione as though she were an interesting specimen worth studying.

“Why d’you think they didn’ end up paired together?” He asked, words slurring together, after a long period of silence. Hermione glanced up from her own wine and frowned, shifting in the seat to get more comfortable.

“‘M’not sure.” She admitted, glancing up to the ceiling and trying not to think too much about it. “Kingsley said somethin’ ‘bout,” she paused, searching back through her foggy brain to try and remember what that conversation had been like. “S’not about who we are now, not really. The spell can’t, doesn’t know,” she paused, taking a large gulp of wine. “Doesn’t know all the stuff the world’s taught us. Just who we are, when s’all gone.”

Draco hummed in response, watching her speak and taking another sip of his own drink. “I s’pose… she’s feisty, smart,” he frowned, and then spoke quickly. “All the things I want. Not afraid to be herself, fight back. But, she’s not,” Draco shook his head. “Not right for me. An’, her and Potter sure seem to be pretty, uh,”

“Enamored?” Hermione supplied.

“Horny.” He said, and it was Hermione’s turn to laugh, though she flushed a little too.

“Yeah. They… deserve to be happy though. Af’er everything.”

“Mmm.” Draco agreed, and they lapsed into silence, though it drew out comfortably between them.

“What about you?” It had been so long since their conversation ended that Hermione was caught off guard when Draco spoke again.

“Me?” She asked, shifting her body leaning towards him a little.

“Yeah. What d’you want? Obviously not Potter. To marry. If you could’ve chosen.”

Hermione frowned, thinking it over. “Harry’s great,” she began. “But, he’s not,” she squirmed, trying to think about what she wanted, what would be her ideal. “We just don’t… we’re not really interested in the same things. But he’s caring, and loyal, those are good things.” Draco raised a brow at her, as if that wasn’t enough. She knew it wasn’t. “He’s not very sure of himself. Always worried he’s gonna do the wrong thing.” She blurted it out all at once and felt her cheeks darken and burn, but she’d started now and couldn’t seem to stop. “We don’t argue, ever. But it’s too… safe. He’d never… there’s no…”

Draco cut in, before she could even mentally finish her sentence. “Fire.”

Hermione sighed, tipping her head back and closing her eyes. “Yeah.”

Once more, the silence stretched, and Hermione found herself starting to slip closer to sleep. Her breathing was evening out and she could only distantly hear the crackle of the fire that filled the room. She didn’t move when fingertips brushed over her cheek, didn’t force her eyes to open against the weight of the wine in her system and the heat of the room. But she heard, just barely, as a soft voice above her whispered, “Problem with fire is you always seem to get burned.”

When she woke in the morning with a crick in her neck and a pounding headache, it took her a few moments to figure out why she wasn’t in her bed. She glanced over across the room and there, in the armchair across from her, was a fast asleep Draco Malfoy, looking distinctly uncomfortable. His features were peaceful though, and with the way the early morning light hit his skin Hermione had the clear thought that he was stunning. Alarmingly beautiful, when he let the mask that he usually wore down.

Hermione hadn’t meant to fall back asleep on the couch, body rolled to face him, so that he was the last thing she saw before sleep took her again. When she opened her eyes later that day he was gone, and she wondered if it had been a dream. But then, her mind had never painted him as beautiful, not like that. Sharp maybe, angular and strong and not unattractive. But beautiful was new, and not something she thought she would have been able to imagine in her hungover state. Now she wasn’t sure she’d be able to stop.

Chapter Text

By mid-November, Ginny’s Quidditch practices were finally starting to scale back to a more normal frequency. While this was wonderful in theory, it also meant that Harry had once again began to speak of dinner parties, and Hermione - rather than throw her energy in convincing him they shouldn’t happen at all - spent a great deal of time arguing about location and whether or not Kreacher was going to be cooking this time.

Harry won on the food preparation, but their dinner party with the Malfoys would be taking place once more at Grimmauld Place. Neither of them had got exactly what they wanted, so she considered it a fair compromise. Harry had wanted to go to the manor if only to see Ginny’s room, which she had mentioned had a bathtub large enough to swim in, but he also recognized that his own wife wasn’t quite ready to spend any amount of time inside the place.

When the doorbell rang on a cold November evening, Hermione ensured she was the first one to the door, just so that Harry and Ginny wouldn’t be so all over each other that they’d leave it open and freeze the whole house. At least, that’s what she told herself as she pulled the door open and gave Ginny a quick hug, ushering them both into the dining room and accepting the bottle of red wine that Draco was holding. Harry was down the stairs not a moment later and Hermione rolled her eyes as the couple wrapped themselves together as if they would die without touching each other.

She had never felt passion like that. But then again, who was she to deny them the few moments they had together these days?

By the time they were all seated at the table, no one had said anything to each other.

“Let me guess,” Draco began, taking a sip of his wine as they began on the appetizer. “This week - dragons’ rights. How dare they be chained up and kept from torching villages are eating goats?”

Hermione rolled her eyes, rather used to him now. “Alas, no. The dragons will have to handle themselves a bit for now. Actually,” she paused, looking to Harry and Ginny who appeared to be listening but were caught up looking at each other. “While I wait for the Wizengamot to consider my third proposal to subsidize the cost of monthly wolfsbane, I’ve been doing some reading.”

Draco snorted into his soup. “How different for you.”

“Oh, don’t be an ass.” She shot back. “No, I’ve actually been looking back at the last time they passed this marriage law. It was in the 1700s, actually. I’ve been trying to figure out how they had ended it back then.”

This caught everyone’s attention and she felt three heads spin to look at her.

“And?” She heard Ginny say, hopeful.

Hermione sighed. “I can’t find anything. All I’ve got in the Ministry records is a small note that the law was enacted, and another note six years later saying that it had been revoked. Nothing in the middle. Nothing about the results, about whether or not people had to fight for it to be dissolved. Nothing, even, about whether or not it really worked. I started looking for the marriage licenses for the time after the law was enacted; the problem is that divorce was practically nonexistent, so even if people had drifted apart after the law and found other spouses there’s no real way to tell.”

It was Harry’s turn to sigh. “Well, at least you tried.”

Hermione nodded. She wasn’t done yet, far from it. She’d been looking at this problem from different angles ever since this whole thing had started just about seven months ago. Every road was turning up to be a dead end, but she just knew that eventually she’d figure it out.

Conversation shifted back to more neutral ground for the rest of dinner and dessert. As they finished up their pies, Hermione watched as Harry and Ginny exchanged looks and then, glancing back at her and Draco, left the room together quickly.

Draco rolled his eyes. “Honestly, the two of them.” He murmured, shaking his head. “Acting like two weeks without a shag is killing them. When the rest of us haven’t gotten anything for the past, what, seven months?”

Hermione coughed on the mouthful of wine she was swallowing and shook her head. “Really don’t need to know about your sex life, Malfoy.”

He smirked, looking over at her. “Lack of.”

“Ugh.” Hermione retorted, shaking her head. She was just thinking about moving them into the living room, but had a better idea. “Come on, they’re going to be a while. I want to show you something.”

Draco complained for the entire three flights of stairs, worrying about breaking his neck and spilling his wine. He let out an indignant noise as they entered the attic. It was much more clean and open than it had been when Hermione had first moved in, but it still wasn’t exactly the nicest room in the house.

“Taking me up here to murder me, Granger?” He asked, though it felt more like he was teasing her than actually worried.

“Do you have an ounce of patience?” She murmured back, feeling her hand over the back door. Just as Draco was retorting that he didn’t need patience, her hand brushed the latch and she let out an ‘ah-ha!’ and pulled the door open.

Instead of a cold winter breeze, she was met with that same fresh summer air that she had been the first time she had opened the door. Hermione had spent nearly a week figuring out the best way to place a permanent environment charm over the rooftop garden, and as she stepped out into the air she was glad for it. Grimmauld Place, for all the work she’d done to it, still sometimes felt suffocating. Hermione had decided she just couldn’t give up her rooftop solace and figured out a way to make it last year round.

Stepping out, she swished her wand and small lights and candles flickered to life around the garden. Then she turned, and watched as Draco climbed out and looked around, noticing how his mask had fallen once more and catching a glimpse of the breathtakingly beautiful man she had seen, drunk on Halloween.

He was clearly uncertain of what to say as he moved further into the garden, coming to stand next to her. “I never would have guessed this was up here,” said Draco. Hermione nodded in response.

“Yeah. I figured that someone, once, needed a place to get away. It was all dead when I found it, first, but. Flowers are very… calming” She shrugged and looked around to the flowers that blossomed in their beds, roses climbing up their trellises. “That they can grow in such harsh conditions, and make even the most dismal of places seem, well, beautiful. Even planting them, feeling the dirt under your fingernails and watching as you create life, it’s… relaxing.”

She drank from her wine glass as she watched him walk around the garden, crouching down occasionally to get a better look at some of the plants, running his fingers over the more unique varieties of flowers she had planted.

Hermione watched the way he crouched in front of a bed of moonflowers and when he began to speak she almost missed it, so caught up in trying to figure out the walking contradiction of Draco Malfoy.

“‘This bud of love,’” he mumbled, and her heart caught in her throat as he spoke. “‘By summer’s ripening breath, may prove a beauteous flower when next we meet.’”

Hermione couldn’t help it, she found herself licking her lips. He stood quickly, and she barely had a chance to take a breath before he was standing in front of her again, this time closer than before. He was looking down into her eyes, curiosity in his wrinkled brow, and Hermione forced herself to exhale.

Without thinking it through, she found herself speaking. “‘Oh, wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?’”

The moment seemed to hang in the air around them and Hermione felt soft fingers on her chin. He was so pale, he seemed to nearly glow in the candlelit balcony. A strand of his white-blonde hair had fallen in front of his eyes. She wondered at the contrast they would make; Draco fairer than the moonlight and her as dark as the night, his pale hands on her dark skin. Time had slowed and she felt her heart pounding in her chest.

Before, it seemed, either of them could fully think through their next actions, Draco was leaning down and closing the gap between them. His lips brushed against hers, softly and tentatively. He seemed almost ready to pull back, but Hermione could not help but reach out and wrap her fingers around the back of his neck. With the new understanding that she would not hex him for trying, Draco pushed forward further and kissed her for real.

If it was fire that she was looking for, Hermione realized, she had found it here. Her skin tingled where his fingertips touched and his lips were warm and soft under her own, and she found herself wanting to press her entire body against his, to meld her chest to his and feel his own heart pounding under his skin. She longed to twist her fingers in his smooth hair and feel his large hands against her hips.

Suddenly, like cold water being tossed over her, Hermione found her thoughts catching up to the moment and she realized what was happening. Unable to stop herself, she gasped slightly against him and stepped back, letting go of his neck and watching as his hand hung in the air where her chin had once been. She took a deep steadying breath, looking at him through the darkness, her entire body humming underneath her skin.

Draco looked less shocked, but as soon as he realized she had stepped away he schooled his face back into its blank state of nothingness, pulling his shoulders back and dropping his hand from the air.

They stood, staring at one another in the darkness. Hermione was waiting for him to say something, debating about whether she should apologize, or run, or move back into his space. He appeared to be fighting something, clenching his jaw and breathing heavily. He reached for his drink, finishing off his half-full wine glass in a single swallow. She watched the way his adam’s apple bobbed and found herself wetting her lips once more in response. Before either had a chance to decide if they had done the wrong thing, Hermione registered voices. Harry’s voice, specifically, calling out her name.

Hermione stepped back further, unable to break her eyes away from his. She had the feeling that when she turned away from this moment it would shatter. She wasn’t sure if she wanted that.

Draco raised a brow at her, in a way that she may have once called mocking but now considered more like a question. She blinked, forcing herself to not acknowledge whatever it was that was bubbling up in her chest, and spun away from him, stepping back into the house.

“Be right there, Harry!” She called, and the moment broke around them.


Hermione was leaving the bathroom on the third floor, wringing water out of her bushy hair and thinking about the amount of work she was planning on getting done that day. Harry startled her out of her thoughts and she paused in the doorway to her bedroom, turning to glance at him. “Hmm?”

Harry fidgeted, shifting from one foot to the the other, and then he sighed as if steeling himself. “Can we chat?”

Hermione frowned, but nodded, pulling her hair into a bun on the back of her head to deal with later and following him into his room. She sat down on the armchair that he had set up near the fireplace and he leaned against the wall, watching her.

“Are you alright?” Harry asked, bluntly; Hermione found her frown deepening.

“Yes, of course. Why wouldn’t I be?” Hermione was vindicated in, at least, how uncomfortable Harry was starting to look.

“I’ve just. Ginny and I were talking about it and we’re both a little bit worried.”

“I’m not sure what you’re talking about, Harry.” And she wasn’t. Or at least, she kept telling herself she wasn’t. It wasn’t like there was any way that Harry could have known about what had happened the night before. In fact, she still hadn’t gotten around to even mentioning the rooftop garden to him. She hadn’t meant to hide it from him, but it was nice to have a space that was just hers and no one else's. Hermione figured he wouldn’t mind. But still - it meant that there was just no way he would know or could know. So, really, she had no idea what he was talking about.

“Look. I know you’re an adult, and you can make your own choices. But… Malfoy isn’t a good idea.”

Hermione felt her cheeks heat up and she crossed her arms rather petulantly. “Harry, you’re really not being clear. I have no idea what on earth you’re on about.”

“Oh, drop it Hermione. Even if you haven’t admitted it, it’s pretty obvious that there’s something happening between the two of you. The way he looks at you,” Harry paused, frowning. “The way you look at him.”

“I don’t look at him in any particular way!” Hermione had never been a very good liar.

“Things have changed between you two. He may not be a Death Eater anymore, might not want us dead, but that doesn’t mean he’s a good person, or worth your time.”

Hermione stood up from the chair, deciding she had had about enough of this. She tried not to think about the fact that the only reason she was getting so riled up was because Harry was right. Something was different between the two of them beyond that kiss, and she still wasn’t sure what it was or how to deal with it.

“Just. Be careful, Hermione, please. He’s Malfoy. He’s a Slytherin. He’ll do what it takes to survive, no matter who that means he steps on along the way.”

Hermione stepped around him to get to the door, but paused in the frame, turning back to look at her best friend. “You said it already. You know I’m an adult. So treat me like one, and believe me when I tell you nothing is happening. I know how to look out for myself, Harry.”

His shoulders drooped in defeat and he nodded at her. “I know. Just promised I’d look after you.”

“You are.” Hermione reassured him, and then took a breath and headed for her room, ready for another day of trying to pretend that everything was fine. Another day of pretending her life wasn’t changing so quickly around her that she could barely try to keep up.

Chapter Text

Hermione was, once more, on a mission for tea. She was getting nowhere with her work on werewolf laws, so had switched tactics to focus instead on this whole compatibility nonsense. If there was any couple that could prove that the Ministry’s formula was not as ironclad as they purported it to be, it was Harry and Ginny. If she could figure out just what it was that they were basing the whole formula on, she may be able to convince them not to. That is, if she could pinpoint exactly what it was that meant that Harry and Ginny had not ended up together, she could prove why it wasn’t actually a good measure for compatibility. Everything would go back to normal and she wouldn’t have to think about the uncomfortable feeling that bubbled up in the pit of her stomach every time she thought about Draco Malfoy and his damned pale skin and silver eyes and soft, strong fingers.

Which is why, when she realized she’d read the same line over four times, she decided that the only thing that could solve her current dilemma was tea.

Hermione hadn't even realized she was in the hallway where his office was until she caught a glimpse of blonde in the corner of her eye. Pausing, she looked over and spotted Draco sitting at his desk, quill in one hand, and what looked suspiciously like a flask in the other. He was taking a rather long drink from said flask and then he screwed the lid shut, sliding it into his dress robes. When he glanced back up he caught her eye, and Hermione couldn't help herself.

She pushed past his half closed door and into his office until the only thing separating them was the desk.

"Malfoy," she began, not sure what tactic to take and finally deciding just to ask point blank. "Was that alcohol?"

He raised a blonde brow at her and leaned back in his chair, setting his quill down at the same time. "And what if it is?" He questioned defiantly.

Hermione gasped and glanced back to the door which was still slightly ajar, and then to him again. "You can't! I mean, we're at work! You can't just be drinking at eleven in the morning... at work!"

"Why not?"

Hermione had forgotten how infuriating he was, but now it was all rushing back to the surface. "Why not? It's wrong! Not to mention probably illegal."

The smirk that she was so used to from school tugged at his lips and he leaned forward, elbows on his desk, close enough that she could smell the whiskey on his breath. "Granger, as you well know, I was a Death Eater. I think drinking whiskey at work pales in comparison, legally speaking."

Hermione shook her head at him, holding herself back from reaching over the desk and grabbing his shoulders and shaking. Merlin, he could be such an arse!

"What, cat got your tongue, Granger? Come on. You knew I wasn't some perfect little goody-goody. I'm no Potter."

"It doesn't matter who you are! It doesn't change the fact that you really shouldn't be drinking at work, alone, before noon."

Hermione paused and thought back. Had she ever once seen him without a drink in his hand? Other than when she ran into him at work, but even now all those encounters were suspect. "Are you drunk?" She asked, instead of dealing with the implications of her discovery.

Draco shrugged, careless. Except, she knew that it wasn't really careless, there was so much more behind every one of his controlled actions. "Why do you care?"

It was like dealing with a child, talking to him sometimes. "Why are you drinking right now?"

He fixed her with a gaze that was cold and calculating and sent shivers down her spine. A reminder that even though he was the man who quoted Hamlet and laughed in the sunshine, he was not a knight in shining armour either. "Generally, it's easier than dealing with my emotions." His voice was measured, careful not to give away too much in its inflection. But Hermione could see by the way he was now gripping his desk that saying that to her was the equivalent of slicing himself open so she could take a look at what made him run. She had the overwhelming sense that it would be very, very easy to mess up this moment, and that was the last thing she wanted to do.

Steeling herself, Hermione reached out and placed one of her hands on top of one of Draco’s. “Look.” She began, glad he hadn’t pulled back immediately from her touch. “If you ever need to talk to anyone, about anything.” She fixed his eyes with hers, hoping she could convey her sincerity. “You can talk to me.”

Draco laughed, but it wasn’t the warm sunny laugh she had associated with him in her mind. It was cold and bitter and she had to force herself not to flinch in response. “Granger,” he drawled, raising an eyebrow at her. “If you knew even a tenth of the things I’ve seen, of the things I’ve done…” He pulled his flask out again, swallowing another large gulp. “If you knew what I lived through, having that psychopath in my house… Trust me, you’d want to drink just as much as I do.”

Hermione started to shake her head, to tell him that it was alright, she’d listen and be there if he needed her to, but he cut her off again.

“Granger. I’m too dark and twisted for your hero complex to fix. I’m too far past saving, and even if I weren’t, it wouldn’t be worth it. I have work to do.” And with that, he had lifted his gaze from her face and turned it back to his papers, and stashed his flask back inside of his robes. He was now so focused on his work that Hermione wasn’t sure he would even hear her if she tried.

Hermione was a woman on a mission.

She had always been someone who, once she got an idea, wasn’t able to stop herself from implementing it. When she had first been sorted into Gryffindor, she had figured the hat wasn’t entirely right about something. It wasn’t that she wasn’t brave, she could be if needed. But she was also desperately afraid of heights and found absolutely no enjoyment in doing reckless things just to see what would happen, like some of her peers. No, what she was was headstrong. Not necessarily impulsive, or idiotic, or harbouring some kind of death wish.

But when she knew something was wrong, or something was right, she would stop at nothing to do what she thought was best. Even if, sometimes, she was the one in the wrong.

Hermione had it firmly lodged in her brain now that Draco needed her help, and that if she could figure out the best way to get through to him then he would appreciate said help. Besides, it wasn’t like he was the only person who had to deal with Voldemort. Sure, he had probably had to do a lot of horrid things she never wanted to hear about, and he probably saw a lot worse things than she did.

But then again, she had been tortured on his ballroom floor. She had lost friends and teachers and family.

Which was why, a week later, when she went to get her morning tea, she’d bought one for him as well, and swung by his office to drop it off.

“Malfoy,” she said carefully, knocking on his slightly ajar door with her knuckles and pushing it open when she heard a half-hearted grunt of assent. “I brought you a cup of tea.” She set it on the desk and settled into one of his incredibly comfortable arm chairs, leaning back and taking a sip of her own.

He glanced up at her and frowned. “Granger. Do we have a meeting scheduled…?”

Hermione shook her head earnestly. “No, no. I just thought I’d bring by a tea, see how you were doing.”

Draco picked up the tea and took a large gulp as he thought over her words, and when he set the cup back down on his desk he levelled her with a glare that could have melted ice. He watched her fidget for a moment or two under his gaze, and set his quill down to fold his hands together. She watched as his entire personality shifted. From concentrated on work - loose shoulders and tight grip on his quill, a small furrow on his brow - to puffed up chest, fingers steepled together, brow raised in a way that seemed mocking and cruel.

“Your friends must be absolute imbeciles.” He said, and she scoffed at him, about to speak but he cut her off with a raised brow. “Do they see through you often, Granger? Or are they so thrilled to have someone mother them that they simply allow it and do as you wish?”

Hermione huffed a breath out at him and stood. “Wasn’t aware you were in such a snippy mood today, Malfoy. Forgive me for thinking that everyone could use a tea on a rainy Monday morning.”

“It’s raining every morning, Granger. We live in Britain.”

Hermione shook her head and made her way to the door. As she pulled it open, he spoke again.

“‘Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.’”

She couldn’t help it. She had one foot in the hallway and one hand on the doorframe and his words sent shivers down her spine, but she looked back anyways. She returned his gaze with one of her own, raising a brow at him in the best imitation of his challenge and mockery that she could manage.

“Is Nietzsche the best that you’ve got, Malfoy?” Shaking her head, Hermione went to move before pausing once more, sighing slightly, and letting her face fall back into its neutral state, bitting her lip slightly. “If you truly believe, Draco, that I was not affected by the war, that somehow being on the winning side absolved me from pain and suffering of my own,” she sighed, “you’re not nearly as perceptive as I had thought you were.”

It was three weeks before Hermione saw Draco at work again.

If she subtly asked Harry whether or not Malfoy had been turning up to work, it was only because she was worried he’d drunk himself to death and was rotting on the floor of his giant, stupid house.

“On assignment.” Was the answer she got the first time, and the fourth time, and the twelfth time and finally Harry threw his hands up in the air and told her that if Malfoy did not check in on time she’d be the first to know.

Hermione wasn’t sure if she was relieved by that knowledge.

When she did see him, it was only briefly in the cafeteria. She had been trying to get a cup of tea that wasn’t actually cold (seriously, she worked in a magical government office the least they could do was charm the tea to stay warm!) when she saw a flash of blonde hair through the morning crowd and felt his harsh eyes on her. When she met them, she was thrown by the intensity, but not able to spend much time picking it apart because he was gone and the cafeteria worker had returned with a large and thankfully steaming cup of tea.

Hermione had almost made it back to her office when, out of nowhere, the door of a broom closet swung open and a hand wrapped itself around her upper arm and tugged, and she would have screamed except there were fingers on her mouth.

She kicked and struggled and cursed herself for tucking her wand in her boots instead of her sleeve and when her eyes adjusted to the light she realized that the person holding her still was none other than Draco Malfoy. His entire body was pressed against hers and pressing her into a wall and she stopped struggling immediately, feeling the hard plane of his chest against hers and what felt like his thigh between her legs and something hard and thick pressing on her lower abdomen-

Hermione gasped as he pulled his hand back and swallowed hard. The last time she had been this close to him had been that night on the rooftop, now more than a month ago. His body was warm and solid and she wanted to melt against it, but she forced herself back into her head and placed the styrofoam cup on a shelf to her right, using her fingers to press against his chest a little. “Malfoy,” she said, hating the breathy tone of her voice, “what on earth do you think you’re doing?!”

Draco’s ears flushed slightly pink at this but he did not move away from her. “Granger.” His voice was strained and rough and the timbre of it sent heat pooling into her belly and she swallowed again. “I didn’t mean,” he frowned, lifted a hand away from the wall behind her to scrub over his face. “Didn’t mean to startle you. I didn’t think-”

“Didn’t think I would take objection to being abducted at work?” She hissed, remembering her anger and trying to force it to the forefront of her brain, tugging her brows down into the best imitation of a frown she could do at that moment.

“Gods, Granger, I’m not abducting you.” Draco lifted his fingers up now to catch her chin between them, careful but firm, forcing her to look up into his eyes. His pupils were so large they nearly swallowed up the silver she normally saw there, and he was tensing his jaw again. “I’m just… I can’t,” he groaned softly and shook his head. “I don’t know how to deal with you.”

Hermione scoffed indignantly at this, prodding her index finger into his chest. “And just what,” she poked him again, “is that supposed to mean? Don’t know how to deal with me? You don’t have to deal with me at all. So why don’t you just let me go and I’ll pretend this never happened and-”

She was cut off by the feel of his breath on her lips. He wasn’t kissing her, not quite, but if either of them moved a hair’s breadth they would be. When he started to speak, she could almost feel his lips brush against hers. “You don’t understand, Granger. I’ve been… on assignment… for nearly a month now. And I could not stop,” he paused, inhaled, rested his forehead against hers and shut his eyes. “I could not stop thinking about you, and how you might possibly be the nosiest woman that I know, and one of the most righteous-”

“Are you just going to insult me?” She mumbled, still trying to piece the situation together fully. Here he was, so close to kissing her and yet instead he was being quite mean, and she still wasn’t sure what she thought of him. Other than the fact that she couldn’t help but react to his deep voice and intense eyes and his laugh when he read literature in the sun.

“No, gods, that’s not-” Draco sounded annoyed, vaguely, but for once she was rather sure it wasn’t directed at her. “I couldn’t stop thinking about your mess of hair, and your eyes, and the way your lips felt when I kissed you and,” he paused, and his hand slipped down off her chin to rest on the side of her face instead, gentle and hesitant, and even though she couldn’t see him Hermione had the overwhelming feeling that Malfoy never let himself be so vulnerable, not around her. “And the way you said my name.”

Hermione couldn’t help herself. She twisted her hand that was resting on his chest into his robes and closed the distance between them, pressing her lips against his. Draco seemed to freeze for a moment, but then he was responding eagerly, the hand that had been against the wall dropping to her hip, the one on her cheek sliding down to her neck and back into her hair. Hermione reciprocated, tangling her free hand into his silky blonde locks and ignoring the voice in her head (that sounded suspiciously like Harry) which was screaming at her that this probably wasn’t a good idea, and for once she allowed herself just to feel.

It was the last day of work before the Christmas Holidays, and now more than a week since what Hermione was referring to in her brain as ‘The Closet Incident’. They had stayed there in that tiny space, just kissing, for what felt like hours, although it was really only twenty minutes or so. Finally they’d both realized they had actual work to do and slipped apart, and now every time Hermione went to get tea she walked past that blasted closet and thought of a hard body and smooth lips and tried her best not to melt too much. She still had work to do, after all.

The Ministry was holding its annual staff Christmas party that afternoon and Hermione had come prepared in a slightly-too-large red knit sweater, covered in white snowflakes magically enchanted to swirl around her all day. Generally, it was a bit of a slow day. Most people wanted to be home with their families, but the heads of the departments liked to see this “inter-office unity” and so attendance was more or less mandatory.

It was also interesting to see how different things were now that it was the first Christmas with the new law in effect. There were certainly more people coupled off. Some of them looked genuinely happy. Ron and Hannah stuck close together for most of the day, Ron introducing his wife as the owner of the Cauldron and the caterer of the event, a genuine smile on his face and pride in his eyes. Ginny and Harry were standing in a corner trying to seem inconspicuous, and Hermione couldn’t help but glance around the room and wonder where Draco was - seeing as his wife had found the party just fine without him.

She didn’t have to wonder long. He arrived fashionably late, as always, in grey wool slacks and a deep green sweater that looked like it would be perfect for snuggling into with a good book. Then again, Hermione figured most of his clothes probably would have cost her a week’s worth of salary. Technically she still had plenty of money left over from her Order of Merlin, but Hermione doubted she’d ever be someone who could comfortably drop such large sums of money on clothes. Ginny, on the other hand, had no such scruples and was wearing a stunning dress and a pair of shoes that looked expensive even from halfway across the room.

Hermione had been standing by the punch bowl for only a few minutes when Draco came up beside her. “Granger, I must say. That sweater is…” he paused, tapping a finger on his lip as if he were considering exactly what he thought of the sweater.

“Festive?” Hermione supplied, with a smile.

“Atrocious. You should have it burned.”

Hermione laughed at his response. Sometimes it worried her how quickly she had learned to understand him, the nuances of his dry wit and the way he twitched an eyebrow when he teased her, but furrowed it if he was truly upset about something. Draco Malfoy was fire, all consuming and dangerous, yet she couldn’t help but lean closer to the flames, despite the obvious dangers.

“Any big plans for the holiday?” She asked, cordially. They were surrounded by people now, and the thoughts of his lips and large hands and warm body would have to wait.

Draco shrugged one shoulder, and scooped himself a cup of warm cider from the beverages table. “Hold this,” he instructed, and passed Hermione his cup. She couldn’t help but gasp in shock as he pulled his ever-present flask from a pocket of his trousers and glanced around the room quickly before tipping a generous measure into her cup, and then a smaller one into hers. Hermione flicked her head around the room quickly, hoping to Merlin that her boss hadn’t noticed, but no one was even paying the two of them any attention whatsoever.

“Is that just your plan then?” She asked, pushing the cup back into his hands as soon as he had re-stowed his flask. “Spend the hols in a drunken stupor?”

Draco rolled his eyes at her. “Honestly, Granger. You have no understanding of nuance.”

“Christmas Eve.” She’d said it before she could help herself, the words tumbling from her lips. When he quirked an eyebrow at her, she fidgeted under his intense gaze, but pushed on anyways. “You and Ginny. Should come over on Christmas Eve. For dinner.”

Draco crossed his arms and watched her carefully. “Interesting. I wasn’t sure whether or not you two actually tolerated me in your house. I’d just assumed that the parties were simply an excuse-”

“Malfoy!” She chastised him, glancing around again. “You should know more than anyone,” she said, voice low and intimidating, “that our dinner parties are simply an excuse for two lovely, happy couples to get together. My husband and I do so enjoy entertaining you and your wife .”

Draco sighed in a way that seemed practiced, but nodded along, acquiescing to her game. “Yes yes, Granger. Happy couples.” The smirk that he flashed her in response though was anything but, all heady eyes and sharp white teeth, and Hermione shifted, trying to ignore the wetness between her legs.

They chatted amicably for nearly an hour, watching as people flowed in and out of the party, and Draco spiked two more drinks each for them. By the time Hermione had finished her third cider, she was feeling decidedly buzzed and wholly unlike herself. Draco leant over to whisper in her ear, pointing to a couple and murmuring about a little secret that his mother had heard including the two of them and a centaur, and Hermione tossed her head back and laughed, feeling free for the first time in months. She also placed a hand on Draco’s arm, enjoying the rich cashmere between her fingers and the hard muscles underneath her palm.

Draco’s pupil’s had long since blown and he was watching her carefully; she could feel his eyes tracing over the line of her neck and the small stretch of her collarbone that peaked out from the collar of her frumpy sweater. As she tilted her head back, she caught his gaze and once more had to swallow down the lump that was rising in her throat.

“Granger, I just remembered that I have that document for you, that important one that you needed before the holidays.”

Hermione frowned up at him. Her brain was clouded and she wasn’t sure he was making any sense.

“In my office. That very important document.” He was trying to tell her something with his raised brows, but she wasn’t cluing in on it. “The one we spoke about last Thursday? About those creature abductions?” He drew the word out long and low and it all clicked into her brain at once.

“Oh.” She said, darting her tongue out to wet her lips. “Yes, you’re right, that form is very important. Shall we, uh, go and retrieve that right now?”

They slipped out of the party and down the hall and Hermione couldn’t help but giggle as they turned the corner away from it all. Neither of them spoke, they just walked quickly towards Draco’s office, Hermione intermittently giggling when she realized what was happening.

Before they reached his office, Draco glanced down the corridor both ways and then pulled open the broom closet, grabbing Hermione’s hand and tugging her in after him. This time they wasted no time, and Hermione found her back up against the door and Draco’s body against her front and he had captured her lips in a kiss that tasted like apple cider and firewhiskey and something else that she was starting to realize was just the way he tasted.

Draco slid his hands down her sides and onto her hips and then, without warning, picked her up off the ground and pressed her further into the door. Hermione moaned into his mouth and wrapped her legs around his waist so she didn’t fall, relishing in the hardness he pressed against her.

“This infernal sweater,” he mumbled, as he broke away from her lips and began to kiss down the sides of her neck. “Gods, since when could someone make a bloody knit sweater with charmed snowflakes on it look this good? Fuck, what have you done to me, Granger?”

Hermione had no words; she just tangled her hand into his hair and swallowed the loudest of her responses as his lips worked over her pulse point. When he slid a hand up under her shirt and pressed slightly cold fingers to her side, she yelped softly and flinched away and his eyes shot immediately to hers, searching them. “Alright, Granger?” He asked, voice husky and heady. Hermione thought that if she liked the way he sounded when he read classic literature, she had been so mistaken, because this was truly his voice at its best.

Swallowing, she nodded back, immediately aware of the fact that he had ceased all movement at the noise and looked like he would have backed away if that hadn’t meant dropping her as well. “Y-yeah, just, your hands. Cold.” She explained, brain not functioning at her typical capacity. Mostly she just wanted to feel his lips on her skin again, and his hands - now that they had warmed up thanks to the contact with her skin.

Draco nodded and pressed forwards into her again, returning his head down to her neck where it had been. He didn’t kiss it immediately though, instead he whispered against it. “Just, tell me to stop, and I’ll stop. If it’s too much.”

Hermione frowned down at the top of his head and then, in a very Draco-esque action, grabbed his chin and tilted it up to look at her. “I’m here because I want to be here.” She said, carefully, slowly, so he would understand. “I want this too.” He nodded, but continued to watch her. Hermione swallowed hard, feeling that the next sentence was crossing a line she had never expected with him but despite that knowledge, she knew she was going to say it anyways. “I trust you, and I trust that you’ll listen to me, if I say no.”

Draco sighed and pulled out of her grip, kissing her forehead softly, tenderly. “I’m not sure what you’re doing, Granger.” He admitted, leaning his forehead against hers and staring into her eyes. “With me, I mean.”

Hermione smiled, then, and caught his cheeks in her hands so that she could pull his face back and look at him, really look. There was the heady arousal; obvious in large pupils and flushed cheeks and swollen lips. But there was also his tensed jaw, and the hand that stayed unmoving on her hip: his uncertainty was nearly palpable. Hermione pressed a kiss to his forehead, muttering against his skin. “‘There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good,’” she kissed each of his cheeks, “‘and we must hunger for them.’”

Draco let out a sigh that felt like a shudder against her body and slowly lowered her to the ground, moving his hand out from under her shirt and placing it carefully on her cheek. “You must be pissed, Granger. Beautiful and good are not words anyone would apply to me sober.”

Hermione frowned up at him, but he kissed her again, soft and sweet, and stepped back. “It’s time to go home, Granger.”

Draco opened the closet door then and glanced out, nodding when the coast was clear and tugging Hermione out with him. She blinked into the harsh light and tried to work out what had happened in that moment. She was still wondering when she arrived home at Grimmauld Place, and as she climbed into bed, and she fell asleep still caught up in the puzzle that had become Draco Malfoy.

Chapter Text

The first week of her winter vacation sped by in a blur of novels and tea and snowflakes. Harry and Hermione spent an entire day decorating Grimmauld place, putting up a large tree in the living room, filling the entire building with floating candles and garlands of falling snow that melted into nothingness before they hit the ground. Hermione spent the winter equinox with Ginny, Hannah, and an incredibly pregnant Luna Lovegood, sitting around on the floor of Luna’s house surrounded by candles and good friends. It was so refreshing that she nearly forgot about the fact that she’d invited Ginny and Draco Malfoy to her house for Christmas Eve dinner until Ginny brought it up.

Hermione was, once again, doing her best not to panic at the thought of Draco in their house. This time, though, it was more about the fact that she couldn’t stop thinking about him, dreaming about him, and she still wasn’t sure where they stood or what they were doing at all. He was confusing. Warm one minute, pressed against her body and touching her like she could break if he went too far. And then he was insufferable, rude, and drunk. Or at least, drinking.

When the doorbell rang, Hermione nearly jumped out of her skin. Harry shot her an odd look from the armchair he was sitting in, but she swallowed it down and joined him at the door. Harry pulled Ginny into their customary it’s-been-too-long hug and Draco handed her a bottle of wine. She couldn’t help but notice that he had that intense heady look in his eyes, the same one that she remembered so vividly in a night that was otherwise a blur of spiked ciders and closet kisses.

“So, Granger,” he’d began, as they settled down at the table. “I’m interested in hearing about your latest creature of the week. “Let me guess. Government subsidized sunglasses for basilisks!”

Hermione laughed at him, rolling her eyes. “You know as well as I do that there are no known basilisks currently alive, Malfoy.”

Draco shrugged, indifferent. Then grinned. “Alright, even better. Notice-Me-Not charms for all the thestrals who are now uncomfortable that so many of us can see them?”

Harry and Ginny’s conversation dropped abruptly and Hermione couldn’t help but wince herself. “Well,” Ginny said, glancing around at her dinner companions. “That was rather morbid, Malfoy.”

“My apologizes for not being sufficiently housetrained, Ginevra.”

Ginny flushed red in frustration and shot him a look that he took in stride, lifting up his wine glass and gesturing it at her in a ‘cheers’ motion.

“Who would have thought,” mused Harry, aloud, “that the four of us could ever sit down to a dinner and act… like mates?” Hermione glanced and saw Draco looking at her with an odd expression on his face, as if he were trying to solve a riddle, but Harry didn’t seem to notice.

“To putting the past behind us.” Hermione lifted her glass now as well, returning Draco’s intense stare, waiting for him to respond. Draco only nodded and clinked his glass against hers, and then against Harry and Ginny’s, and the four settled into their Christmas feast.

After dinner, Harry and Ginny claimed they were going to take a Christmas walk through the city (staying a respectable distance apart, of course) and would probably be gone for at least a few hours.

This left Hermione and Draco sitting on opposite sides of the now-empty table, watching each other. Hermione fidgeted slightly under his gaze, wondering if she should say something about the week before, about the way they left things in the closet. While she debated internally about whether or not it would be a good plan, Draco stood and walked around the table, catching her hand in his and pulling her to his feet. They stood, looking at one another for a moment, and Hermione wasn’t sure which one of them acted first.

Draco’s hands rested on the side of her neck and her hip, and she slid her fingers up into his silky blonde hair as they pressed their lips together, letting thoughts of the world drop away and focusing in on only each other. Hermione wasn’t sure what had possessed her lately. What got into her head when she was around him. She had never been like this before, certainly not with Ron. This desperate need to be touching him, to feel his hands on her skin and his lips on her lips. She knew, rationally, that they weren’t necessarily making the best decisions. That he had a lot to work through, but so did she. But when she looked into his eyes she got lost and her entire sense of rational thought seemed to melt away and the only thing she could think of doing was pressing her lips to his, and so she did.

Hermione leaned back so that she was half-sitting on the table and pulled Draco between her legs, letting him run his hands over her sides and twist his fingers through the small curls along the nape of her neck. When their lips broke she leaned further into him and kissed along his jaw and then down his neck, drawing a groan from him.

“Gods, Granger.” He mumbled, into the top of her hair. “Fuck, who would have, oh fuck-” she had nipped at the skin on his neck and then lathed her tongue over the spot, and she couldn’t help but smirk into him as he swore at her ministrations. Draco’s hand once again slipped up under her sweater, brushing his now-warm fingers over the skin underneath, and she didn’t flinch away this time, and he was bolder in letting his hand inch up further, sliding over her soft skin.

Draco used his other hand to tug her head back again and he caught her lips in his own once more, and they stayed like this together, pressed up against one another. Hermione pulled back to take a deeper breath of air and he took the opportunity to tug her sweater up and off her head, tossing it beside her on the table, leaving her standing in her beige lace bra, a stark contrast to her dark skin, and he groaned at the sight.

“Merlin, you should wear less hideous clothes, Granger.” He paused, then, and laughed softly, leaning down to trail kisses over her collarbone and over the top of her breasts, drawing small gasps from her mouth. “Or, perhaps not. All of this will be for my eyes only.”

“If you’re lucky,” Hermione mumbled jokingly before she let her eyes flutter shut, clutching at his shirt with her hands and moaning softly as he dropped his head lower to flick his tongue over her nipples through the thin fabric. Only you,” she said, voice breathy and higher than she was used to. “Could insult me and still, oh, make me feel so good.”

Draco chuckled again at her and bit softly at her skin, causing her to moan again. “Yes, well, I’ve always had a talent for insulting people, haven’t I?”

She paused, waiting for him to have some revelation like he had after the party and stop doing these things that felt so wonderful, but he didn’t. He just kept kissing her skin, moving his fingers in small circles against her hip. When he pulled back, it was only a little, and he used the increased space to tuck his fingers into the waistband of the jeans she was wearing, flicking open the button and sliding them down off her hips.

Hermione shimmied slightly to allow him to slide them down, and stepped out of them when they hit the ground. Draco took a moment to run his eyes over her body; lace bra, black panties, smooth dark skin. Then his eyes hit the scar that ran from the middle of her left ribcage to the top of her hip and he let out a deep breath. It was still puffy and tinged slightly purple, it had never healed the way a normal non-magical injury would have.

“Who?” Draco whispered, as he ran a finger over it, carefully, making sure she wouldn’t recoil.

She inhaled, counted to four, and exhaled again. It’s over. You’re safe. You’re here and this man would never hurt you. Not now. “Antonin Dolohov.”

Draco made a noise that almost sounded like a hiss and he looked up, his eyes dark as he caught her gaze. “He’s dead now.” He said it like it was a promise. Hermione didn’t think she liked it - but with him the line between love and hate blurred more every day.

“It doesn’t matter.” She said, catching his hand and pulling it off the scar, kissing his palm and then fingers in turn. “I’m fine.”

His shoulders tensed but he nodded once, and she leaned forward again to recapture his lips in another kiss. As she did so, she reached out and pulled his buttons open, feeling open and vulnerable in her undergarmets and him still fully dressed. As she opened the last button she pulled back, tracing her eyes and then fingers over his muscular chest, slashed with thin white scars. Except, she knew where they were from. Knew what Harry felt about them, how much it haunted him. Deciding that Draco was not one for pity, Hermione instead kissed one, and then another, and then she slid the shirt from his shoulders and let it fall to the ground.

Draco had captured her lips in a kiss as she did this, and so she didn’t see, at first. At first, she was so focused on the way his chest and shoulders felt under her hands, caught up in his lips and the way his hands rested against her waist.

And then.

And then she pulled back from the kiss, trailing her eyes over his chest, down his arms-

Hermione’s breath stopped and her heart slammed into her chest. Dark ink on pale skin, a horrendous twisted design, curly hair and rank breath on her face and she tried to take a deep breath but there was no air, no air for her to breathe. She vaguely registered shaking her head, wrapping her arms around her body, the feeling of cold tears dripping down her cheeks. Someone grabbed her arm and she screamed, wrenching her entire body away from the grasp and barely registering as she crashed to the ground, hip slamming into the flagstones. The pain was negligible, compared to the rush of blood in her ears and her muscles tensing and her nerves screaming up at her that something was wrong that everything was wrong that the pain was coming back any second any second-

“Hermione!” Someone was shouting her name. Her name, not mudblood, not whore, but her name and it felt like a tug back to reality. When it registered in her brain she also realized that there was someone holding her hand, squeezing it tightly.

What was she supposed to do again? Her brain was still spinning and lost and she knew there was something she had been told to do.  

Alohomora,” she whispered, voice raspy and weak. “Baubilious colovaria, draconifors-” Draconifors- something in that stuck in her brain and all of a sudden everything rushed back to her and she gasped, forcing her eyes open.

Somehow, Hermione had ended up on the floor. Draco was knelt in front of her, his shirt hastily tugged back on, and he looked absolutely panicked. His eyes were wide and he was squeezing her hand and saying her name over and over like it was a prayer. When he realized that she had opened her eyes again, he let out a ragged breath and immediately let go of her hand, pulling back from her just a little bit.

Hermione blinked, and became aware of a sharp pain in her hip, as well as the fact that she was currently sitting on the ground of her dining room in a bra and knickers. “What…” she looked up at Draco, trying to figure out what had happened. And then she remembered it, all at once. His mark.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, reaching out a hand for him. He pulled back further, now sitting more than a foot away from her, and he wrapped his arms around his legs. He was holding himself tightly in a way that she had never seen before, that made him seem even more vulnerable than he had a moment ago. “Draco, I’m-”

“Don’t.” He cut her off, voice not sharp but pained instead. “It’s not your fault.” Draco glanced down at his own arm, and then back at hers. “I didn’t know that you…”

Hermione frowned and wrapped her arms around herself as well, shrugging awkwardly. “Not all the time. Not as much as I used to.”

Draco frowned at her, searching her eyes for something. “When was the last one?”

She swallowed, looking down into her lap, and sighed. “At your wedding. The chandelier. It’s the same one that was there, well, it looks the same as the one that was there. When Bellatrix…”

Draco growled now, and he leaned forward but didn’t touch her. “If she wasn’t dead I’d fucking kill her, for doing this to you. I’d slice her open and watch her bleed.”

Hermione’s head shot up and she looked at him, expecting to see humour in his eyes or something to give away that he would never actually do something like that. It wasn’t there. A cold chill washed down her spine and she remembered who he had been, what he had seen. Even if he had been brainwashed, even if he didn’t believe it anymore. He could now sit across from her and say with no remorse that he would murder someone to avenge her. She had that same feeling, the distinct worry that this was not alright and that she did not like this, mingled with something that felt a lot more like she did like it. And it scared her.

“Do you know where my sweater is?” She asked, and Draco nodded, standing immediately and returning with her sweater, handing it over so she could pull it over her head. When she tried to stand and winced at the pain he reached out and helped her up, but let go of her instantly, watching as she tugged her jeans back on.

“I’m... Granger, we never should have…” Draco ran a hand through his hair, tugging at it a little in frustration. “This was my fault. This was a bad idea.”

Hermione reached out then, grabbing his hand and tugging him closer, leaning her forehead on his chest and breathing in the comforting scent of expensive ink and broom polish and a deep musk that seemed too indescribable to be anything but him. She could hear his heart thudding against his chest and took comfort in the rhythm of it. “No.” She said, careful but firm. “This is not your fault. This is no one’s fault. I just. I just need more time.”

Draco lifted a hand to rest against her back, rubbing soothing circles over it. “Okay.” He sounded like he wanted to fight it, to tell her it wasn’t worth it - he wasn’t worth it. But he held himself back and she was grateful, if only because the last thing she wanted to do at that moment was admit that he might be right, and this might be a very bad idea indeed.

Chapter Text

Christmas at the Burrow was much like it always was. There were far too many in the house, Weasleys coming out of every nook and cranny. The kitchen was always full of people and food and the living room was loud with laughter and occasionally an explosion or two. Usually, Hermione loved it there. It smelt and tasted like home to her in a way that she relished. For a few days, the Burrow always cheered her up, soothed her, cleared her mind.

This Christmas, everything that she usually loved was rubbing her the wrong way. It was too noisy and there was no place to go, to hide. Ginny had arrived without Draco, claiming that he was with his mother and neither of them had, rightfully, wanted to spend the holiday together. Hermione’s stomach dropped when the redhead had arrived alone, but she wasn’t sure whether it was in relief or in sadness.

And now, everyone was sitting around in post-dinner bliss, lounging by the fire, wearing their Weasley sweaters. Harry and Ginny had slipped away for the second time that day, and Hermione had decided she couldn’t stand it anymore. It felt suffocating.

Pushing open the back door, she gasped in cold air, doubling over and inhaling deeply, squeezing her eyes shut as she felt the tears well up. Swallowing the sob that bubbled up through her chest, she dropped down onto the step, wrapping her arms around her knees and placing her face on top of them. Her shoulders heaved as she sobbed and she decided not to hold it in anymore.

After what felt like hours, Hermione finally took a deep breath and lifted a hand to wipe at her tears, propping her chin on her knee so that she could scan her eyes over the back garden, watching as a gnome tried to dart across without being too obvious.

Truthfully, Hermione wasn’t entirely sure what she was crying about. The injustice of it all, maybe. The reminder that Draco had been sixteen when he had been forced to heel and branded by a psychopath. The conflicting emotions of wanting someone - desperately wanting someone - who was not entirely a good person. Not that anyone was truly a good person, not really, but there was something more to Draco. A darkness that she wasn’t used to. An intensity that scared her.

There was also the worry that she would never be able to look at him, to look at his mark, and not panic. That he would take it the wrong way, as if it were something about him rather than the fact that she saw that mark in her worst nightmares, had stared directly at it during her most difficult experience.

And how could you love someone who was on the other side of a war? Who, whatever their reasons, had done things that you considered unimaginable? Unforgivable? Beyond that, she wasn’t even sure what her feelings really meant. Hermione was attracted to him, no doubts there. He was intoxicating. When she stopped thinking about them and only thought about him, in front of her, his hands on her skin, Hermione couldn’t help but feel it so painfully she wasn’t sure how it was possible. How it was possible to sit with this need and this longing and not burst at the seams.

How could she long for him when something that was a part of him terrified her? How could she reconcile the man who she saw laughing in the sunlight with the man who could tell her, without hesitation, that he would kill for her?

Hermione’s brain was running in circles, and she was jolted out of it when the door beside her creaked open and a familiar figure dropped down onto the stoop beside her. Hermione smiled over at the newcomer, taking in her flushed face and wide-eyed expression.

“The first Weasley Christmas is definitely an experience.” Hermione commiserated, smiling at Win the best that she could manage.

“Right you are, Hermione. They’re a wild lot, this one.” But her voice was warm and she smiled, dazed and happy as she said it. “How are you doing? You’ve been out here a while.”

Hermione shrugged, awkwardly, stretching her legs out and flexing her fingers against the cold. “I’ve been better, I think.”

Win turned her body slightly towards Hermione, pulling out her wand and casting a quick warming charm around them - just enough to take the bite off. “Want to talk about it?”

Hermione sighed, fidgeting. “I don’t know. It’s really rather complicated, actually.” Win was looking at her though, in that same way full of curiosity and softness that made Hermione want to open up. “Do you remember Draco Malfoy? From school? I mean, beyond the fact that he’s married to Ginny.”

“Oh, who could forget the little bugger? ‘Wait till my father hears about this!’ Thought he owned the whole bloody school. Stuck up prejudiced little brat.” Win paused, remembering the rumors - remembering the truth. “He let them into Hogwarts.”

Hermione sighed, rubbing at her forehead with the heel of her hand. “Yeah. He hated me. I mean, it was certainly mutual. He was a pureblood blood-purist. Thought I was scum of the earth, and told me so regularly.”

Win nodded. “I can’t believe he got matched up with Gin. She’s feisty, I know she can hold her own against him. It just seems odd. That whatever this compatibility measure is seemed to decide that they were right for each other. It just, it seems wrong. But,” Win paused, glancing down at her hand where her wedding ring sparkled in the winter sunlight. “George and I… I couldn’t have imagined or asked for someone better suited to me. We understand each other on a level I didn’t think was really possible. And from the sounds of it he’s happier than he’s been in years. So, why were we so lucky, when others weren’t?”

Hermione groaned, shaking her head. “I’ve got no idea, Win. I’ve been trying to research from the last time this happened. But the records are terrible, really horrendous. But,” she paused, looking back out towards the gnome who was now crawling across a particularly large and empty stretch of grass. “But the problem I’m having right now is… it’s more, uh...” Hermione groaned and dropped her face into her hands. “I have some form of feelings for Draco Malfoy; I’m not sure what to do with them or where they came from and I don’t know what to do anymore.”

Win didn’t respond for a long moment and Hermione was worried, waiting for the woman to tell her that she was being an idiot and needed to stop right then and there. “Feelings aren’t actually things we have that much control over, Hermione.”

Pulling her hands from her face, Hermione turned her head slightly so that she could see Win’s reactions. But Win looked just the same as she had a minute ago. No malice or distrust in her expression.

“I know, but... We just have such an awful history. And I don’t know how to separate the boy who was so atrocious from this brilliant man who quotes Hamlet and Nietzsche and laughs with his whole body and does everything he can to suppress his emotions because he hurts.” Hermione sighed. “And now I sound like a nutter.”

“No!” Win reached out, grabbing one of Hermione’s hands. “No, you’re not. And, maybe you don’t need to separate those people. He’s still himself, but I think you’re a pretty brilliant person, Hermione. I don’t think you’d be feeling these things if you didn’t know that he’s changed. That he’s taken those bad things about himself and actively worked to change them. Everyone hurts, after what we’ve all been through. I can’t imagine having the added knowledge that you were on the wrong side.”

Hermione nodded, eyes trained on the gnome who was now taking small steps, freezing completely between them, trying to pretend he was not actually moving closer to the flowerbed. “Maybe. He’s still scary, sometimes. He’s been through things I can’t understand, and can’t comprehend. And I’m worried… that he’s going to pull me down with him.”

“That will never happen.” Win sounded so clear, so sure of it that Hermione turned to look at her. “You have so many people who love you, who support you, who are holding on to you. If you start to go down, we’re all going to pull back.”

Hermione sighed, but smiled at the girl beside her. “I’m glad you ended up part of our wild family, Win.”

“Me too, Hermione.”

As they stood up to go back inside, Hermione couldn’t help but feel relieved. Talking to someone who had a negative opinion of Draco - but not to the same degree as Harry and Ron did - who didn’t immediately say that it was the stupidest thing she’d ever done was reassuring. It didn’t solve her dilemma, but it definitely didn’t hurt either.


Footsteps pounded up the stairs of Grimmauld Place and Hermione looked up from her book just in time to see Harry skid over the wood floor at the top of the stairs. He rounded the corner into the library and leaned against the doorframe, taking a deep breath.

“Harry?” Hermione sat up straighter at the sight of him. His cheeks were flushed and some of his hair was sticking literally straight up. “Harry, what’s wrong?”

Harry waved his hands, excitedly. “Come on, Hermione, we have to go! We have to go to St. Mungo’s!”

Hermione shot up out of her chair, immediately crossing the room to Harry. “Harry what’s wrong? Are you alright? Is someone injured?” She paused, gasped. “Is Ginny okay?”

Harry nodded, bouncing on the balls of his feet, and grabbed her hand to try and pull her off the chair. When she didn’t move immediately, he dropped it and went straight over to the fire, tossed in a pinch of floo powder, and stepped in.

“Harry wait! Harry what’s going on?!” Hermione called, rushing forward before he disappeared.

“Luna!” Harry cried, excitedly. And then, with a shout of “St. Mungo’s” he was gone.

Hermione threw her hands up in the air in exasperation. What was that even supposed to mean? She quickly accio’d her purse and tossed her book in, as well as the one that Harry had been reading the last she’d seen him. As she tossed her own powder into the fire she counted backwards. Luna would have gotten pregnant around the middle of April. Which meant that she wasn’t technically due till probably closer to the middle of January. So this visit could really be anything.

When she stepped out at the other end, Hermione was reminded of exactly what day it was.

New Years was not a day you wanted to be in the hospital. The waiting room was full of people who’d drank far too much, people who’d burned themselves on fireworks and sparkler charms gone awry, and it was just generally chaotic. She’d barely moved away from the fireplace when Harry had her hand and was tugging her down the hallway.

“Harry, is Luna alright ? Has something gone wrong or is she in labour? You’re really not giving me much to go on here!”

As he pulled her into the elevator, Harry finally took a breath and realized he hadn’t explained anything. “Nothing’s wrong, Hermione, I just got a Patronus from Gin, said we had to get here as soon as possible but not to worry. She was at practice with the Harpies so she’ll be here soon, but wanted us to get here right away.”

Hermione sighed. For all they knew, Luna had only just started her labour. She was very glad she’d remembered to bring a book for the both of them then. The elevator dinged and they stepped out onto the quiet and peaceful maternity ward. Harry checked in with the nurse and they were directed down a hallway.

“That’s it, fourteen.” Harry gestured to the door and Hermione nodded, moving to knock softly on it. She wasn’t going to barge in if Luna was in the middle of, well, birthing a child.

“Come in!” A soft voice had responded and Hermione looked over to Harry, and then opened the door.

Hermione’s heart swelled with pride as they entered the room. In an armchair right up next to the bed were Dean and Seamus, curled around one another with a tiny bundle in their arms. They were both utterly captivated, looking down and whispering sweet nothings to each other and the bundle in their arms, Dean running a finger over his baby’s tiny face.

Luna and Pansy were in a similar position. Pansy was on the bed, Luna in between her legs, leaning back. Luna looked exhausted and radiant. Her hair was a sweaty mess but Pansy had obviously pulled it back into a french braid to keep it mostly out of her way. Her skin was flushed but she was glowing and the smile on her face could have lit up the whole room. Pansy had her chin rested on Luna’s shoulder. One of her arms was supporting Luna with holding their daughter, and the other one was on Luna’s lap with her fingers tangled through Luna’s free ones. She didn’t even look up at the extra Gryffindors in the room, fixated wholly on the bundle in Luna’s arms.

“Hermione, Harry, hello.” Luna beamed up at them, waving them in with the hand that Pansy was clearly not letting go of. “How wonderful to see you both. What excellent timing. The healers have just left to give us some space.”

As they passed over the threshold Hermione felt the telltale cleaning charms wash over her and she shuddered, but slid out of her coat and dropped it and her bag on a chair near the door. Harry had done the same. Making her way over to the bed, Hermione sat tentatively on the edge of it, peering at the small wrinkled face that she could see peeking out the deep green blanket.

“Oh Luna,” Hermione whispered, voice soft. “She’s absolutely beautiful.” Luna’s grin could have split her whole face and she nodded.

“Yes. I did a rather good job, don’t you think? We’ve named her Bryony; she’s going to grow and climb and sprout just as beautifully as any other vine.”

Harry had gone over to Dean and Seamus, and was crouching in front of their chair, looking at the little girl they held wrapped in red. She was obviously not Luna’s child by blood. Her skin was much darker, a more even blend of her two fathers. Her face was different as well, but she was no less precious.

“Thanks for coming, mate.” Seamus mumbled, finally tearing his eyes away from his daughter to look up at Harry. “We really appreciate it.” Harry nodded enthusiastically at his friends.

“Of course! We wouldn’t miss this for the world.”

Hermione and Harry had been with the happy parents nearly an hour when there was another soft knock on the door.

“Come in!” Called Luna. Hermione was now sitting in a chair next to Dean and Seamus, cuddling their little girl. Harry was next to Luna and Pansy, watching as his friend and her wife melted over their new daughter. Pansy Parkinson was not someone that would ever be called soft, but if there was ever a time to apply the word, now was probably it.

The door swung open and Ginny entered, flashing a smile at Harry. Draco was right behind her, and Hermione glanced up just as he scanned the room. Their eyes met and she shivered involuntarily under his gaze.

Ginny seemed like she wanted to go to Luna, but Draco was headed over there and rather than crowd the new mother she instead turned to Dean and Seamus. “Hello little one,” she mumbled, over the bundle that Hermione was holding. “What’s her name?” She asked then, looking back at the proud fathers.

“Kyra.” Seamus supplied, with a smile. “Dean was nice enough to indulge my roots. Little dark one. We both thought it fit pretty well.”

Ginny nodded enthusiastically, and Hermione stood up, letting Ginny take the seat and then passing her the bundle. And then she turned and her eyes landed on something she had never imagined before.

Draco Malfoy was sitting in an armchair, leaned back, with the bundle of baby in his arms. His face had broken into a soft smile and he was brushing his finger over the child’s forehead. He looked awestruck, and domestic, and all of the thoughts that Hermione had had over the past week of him being dangerous slipped immediately from her mind.

“Granger.” Hermione turned her head to the voice, immediately bracing herself. Pansy Parkinson didn’t often speak to her, but when she did it wasn’t usually for a good reason. “I need coffee. You’re not holding a baby. Let’s go.”

Hermione glanced around to see if anyone would rescue her, but Luna looked half-asleep, and Ginny was holding Kyra with Harry crouched next to them, hearts in his eyes. Draco was too caught up with Bryony, and so, it was just her. “Sure, Parkinson.” At this point, what else did she have to lose? Besides, if Luna liked her she couldn’t be that bad.

The walk to the hospital cafeteria was tense and awkward. Pansy got coffee for herself, Dean and Seamus, and an herbal tea for Luna (and made Hermione help carry them). As they headed back, Hermione was about to say something when Pansy abruptly stopped walking. They were in an empty corridor and Hermione had the thought that even if she needed her wand, she wouldn’t be able to grab it due to the coffee in her hands. Then again, Pansy wouldn’t either. It still wasn’t a comforting thought.

“Look, Granger. I don’t know what your deal is. Everybody looks at you like the bloody sun shines out your arse, and frankly, I don’t see it.” Hermione frowned, but Pansy pressed on. “I get that you don’t like me. Not many people do these days. But look. I’m not sure what game you and Draco are playing.”

“We’re not-” Hermione had started to speak but Pansy shot her a withering look and she closed her mouth.

“Don’t even try to deny it. Draco is my best friend. Don’t think he didn’t come to me, after what happened between you two. He puts on a strong face, Granger, but he’s struggling. And the last thing I need is for you to waltz in, hold his hand and tell him it’s okay, and then stomp on his heart when you decide that you’re too good for him.”

“I’m not-”

“Did I look like I was done talking?” Pansy snapped. “Granger, I know you’re smart. So I know that you know what it means that I was in Slytherin. I protect my own, and Draco is the closest to my own that I will ever have, and the only other people in this fucked up world that I hold in such high regard are Luna and Bryony and Kyra. I guess those two bloody Gryffindors now, seeing as they’re the fathers of my daughter’s sister. If you fuck with him, play your little game, follow whatever fancy is in your head and then crack him open and don’t like what’s inside…” Pansy paused, turning her head away. Hermione thought she saw the Slytherin sniffle. “It will kill him.” When Pansy turned back, the look she was sending at Hermione almost made her step backwards. “And if it kills him, I will make the rest of your life miserable.”

“Look, Parkinson.” Hermione wanted to cross her arms, to protect herself. The coffee she was carrying prevented that. She felt vulnerable and exposed and she suspected it was because Pansy had hit her worries right on the nose. That she would crack him open and be horrified by what was exposed. “I don’t know what we’re doing. Draco and I. I don’t… I don’t think he does either. But, I don’t think of myself as better than him, not now. We were both in a really terrible position and we both did what we needed to do to survive and,” Hermione paused, realization setting into her bones, so true she could nearly taste it and she couldn’t help but wonder why she had never placed words to this feeling before. “And I forgive him, wholly and wholeheartedly for that. And if we decide that whatever is happening is not the right thing for either of us, it won’t be because he scares me off. And I won’t leave him broken.”

Pansy opened her mouth to speak, but it was Hermione who cut her off this time. “Trust me, Parkinson. You don’t have to like me - I don’t like you - but that’s not the type of person that I am. I wouldn’t let that happen.”

Pansy eyed her carefully, looking closely at the woman in front of her. Finally, she nodded. “Fine. But my threat still stands, Granger. Don’t fuck this up.”

Hermione nodded in response, and they walked back to the rest of the room in silence. Hermione’s brain caught up in Pansy’s words, and in the way that she had realized, all at once, that she did forgive Draco. She wasn’t entirely sure why, and she certainly wasn’t sure it was a good idea. But for now, perhaps, it was time to put that aside and for once, trust her gut instead of her brain.

Draco dipped out of the room shortly after Hermione and Pansy returned with the hot beverages. Hermione had been talking softly to Luna about who she was choosing to be godparents. Harry was clearly a frontrunner, though Dean and Seamus were planning on asking Neville and Ginny. Luna wanted to ask nearly everyone she considered a friend, and she was telling Hermione about Pansy’s insistence that no, she couldn’t have seven godparents (eight, if you counted the fact that Pansy had already asked Draco), but Luna didn’t seem to mind much what Pansy said at all.

Hermione suspected it was part of why their relationship worked so well.

Noticing that Draco had left the room, Hermione passed Bryony back over to her mother, and glanced around to make sure that no one noticed she was going as well. Then, she too slipped out of the room, and made her way down the hallway. She paused as she passed a door that led to one of St. Mungo’s small balconies, typically there so that patients could get a breath of fresh air, and opened it. Her hunch was correct, and Draco was standing at the edge, leaning with his forearms against the railing and looking out over the street.

Hermione took a breath for courage and stepped up beside him, leaning against the railing next to him. They stood in silence for a long moment, both taking in the cool night air and gathering their thoughts.

“Granger,” Draco began, clearly uncomfortable.

“Not today.” Hermione interjected, suddenly not wanting to get into it. She was still equal parts embarrassed and upset about what had happened in the dining room, and she wanted to just enjoy the moment with him, without bringing it up. “It’s New Years. And today is for Luna and Pansy and Dean and Seamus. And Bryony and Kyra.”

Draco closed his mouth and nodded once, but she could tell that he still wanted to bring it up again. “I heard about an interesting muggle tradition, once.”

Hermione raised an eyebrow and turned her body to face his, inspecting his face for clues. He was stoic, holding his expression very neutral. Then he turned and lifted a hand to cup her jaw, peering down into her eyes. “What’s that?” Hermione asked, suddenly breathless with his closeness.

“According to muggles,” Draco began, grinning down at her. “On New Year’s, you’re supposed to kiss.”

Hermione couldn’t help but roll her eyes up at him. “When the clock strikes midnight, you’re supposed to kiss. It’s nearly half four-”

And then Draco cut her off, leaning down towards her and pressing his lips against hers. Hermione swallowed the rest of her comment and let herself enjoy the feeling, pushing all thoughts of Death Eaters and marks and his particular brand of intensity to the back of her mind.

Draco pulled back slowly, and then stepped away from her. “Happy New Year, Granger.”

He was gone before she had a chance to respond, and Hermione slowly lifted a hand to her lips. “You too.” She whispered, and then followed him back into the building.

Chapter Text

“Ginny wants to go ice skating.”

They were two weeks into January and Hermione had just curled up in her favourite armchair, wrapped herself up with her favourite blanket, and propped open her favourite book. It was Saturday, and she had glorious plans to spend the day reading, drinking tea, and certainly not thinking about a specific blonde man. The problem, of course, was that every time she thought of him she thought of the mark, and then him kissing her on New Year’s, and she was still struggling to reconcile the two images in her mind, despite the fact that she had already mentally forgiven him.

Harry was leaning in the doorway of the library, batting his eyelashes up at her.

“Today?” Hermione asked, trying to keep her tone light and hide the disappointment of a potentially lost afternoon of solitude.

Harry nodded. “Yeah. Ginny has a game tomorrow, so she can’t then, and she’s worried the little bit of ice we have is going to melt. She even had Bilby cast an extra charm over the pond to keep it frozen, but that likely won’t hold for more than a day.”

Hermione sighed, looking wistfully back at her book. “And I suppose I’m needed to come, in case anyone sees us, to continue the pretense that this is nothing more than two couples enjoying each other’s company.”

“If, yeah, if you wouldn’t mind.” Harry nodded as he spoke and Hermione sighed. She wanted to tell him no - that she had big plans to do very little - but the sting of guilt in her stomach stopped her. All she had wanted, when she was fighting Voldemort, was for Harry to have a normal, happy life. For him to survive the war, marry his girlfriend, have beautiful babies. To be happy. And even though it wasn’t her fault, she couldn’t help but feel that she was an obstacle to that happiness.

“Alright. Let me just grab my coat.”

A few minutes later, Hermione and Harry were standing in the backyard of the manor, bundled up in wool coats and scarves and gloves. The door opened and Ginny and Draco more or less tumbled out, Ginny smacking the blonde’s arm playfully as she did so with a mittened hand.

“And what are you two fighting about?” Harry asked, as the others approached him. He pulled Ginny into a hug and kissed her forehead and Draco stuck his hands in his pockets uncomfortably, watching Hermione. She smiled at him, and his shoulders dropped slightly in relaxation.

“I practically had to bribe him to come out with us.” Ginny explained, shooting a glare back over at Draco - but, being Ginny, she was also smirking at him. “He doesn’t know how to skate.”

Harry couldn’t help it, he laughed, and Draco shot him a withering look that only made him laugh more. “Oh,” Harry said, grinning broadly with mischief twinkling in his eyes. “This’ll be priceless.”

Harry and Ginny were already out on the ice, Ginny racing down one side of the pond and laughing with delight as Harry chased after her. Hermione watched as Harry crashed into her and they both tumbled to the ground, laughter floating back across the pond.

Hermione was standing on the edge, having transfigured her shoes into skates, and was watching Draco with her hands on her hips. He was on the bank beside the pond, wobbling on the blades now under his feet, and looking at the ice with trepidation.

“Honestly, Malfoy. I know you’re not a coward. You lived with Voldemort; you can handle ice skating.”

Draco peered up at her, crossing his arms. “I’m not a coward, Granger, but that doesn’t mean I’m an idiot. The whole thing is a death trap.”

Hermione sighed, thinking about how she could get him on the ice. And then it hit her. “Ron knows how to ice skate. He’s quite good, actually. All of the Weasleys do.”

Draco let out a low noise that sounded a bit like a growl and then stepped forwards onto the ice. Immediately he started to wobble and Hermione reached out to grab him before he fell. He stood very still, other than his still shaking feet, and held onto her hands like they were the only thing between him and sudden death. “Right. This can’t be that hard.” And then, he let go of her grip, took one step, and immediately slipped, crashing to the ground and only barely managing to stick out his hands to stop himself.

“Fuck!” He shouted. Hermione clapped a hand over her mouth to keep from laughing. Draco shot a look at her and tried to use his hands to push himself up, and as he pressed the blades of his skates into the ground he slipped again, this time ending up on his behind.

Hermione couldn’t help it now. She laughed loudly, pressing a hand to her stomach as she did so. “Oh, Malfoy. I needed that.” She admitted, and then slid gracefully over to him. “Come here, don’t let your pride be the death of you.” She reached a hand out and Draco glared up at her, but took her hand and let her pull him to his feet.

“Alright,” Hermione began, sliding easily into the role of instructor. “Take both of my hands.” When he did so, Hermione smiled up at him. “Great. Hold onto me, but try to just use me for balance - don’t lean on me too hard.” Draco nodded once. “Okay, I’m going to move now. Focus on your center of balance. Like, like you’re on a broom… I think.”

And then, slowly, Hermione began to skate backwards, pulling Draco along with her. When he started to lean in too much or grab her too tightly she slowed down drastically, reminding him to recenter. There was something so peaceful in this moment, gliding across the ice, listening to Draco mumble and swear under his breath about stupid activities and damn Gryffindors and bloody fucking slippery. The way that he looked at her though, listened to her patient teachings and smiled at the corner of his mouth left butterflies in her chest and a heat in her stomach. She taught him how to move and how to stop, and finally decided he would probably be fine. He was an athlete, after all.

“Right.” Hermione decided, slowing them to a stop. “I’m going to let go. Remember your center of balance, remember how to stop. You’ve got this.” And then, she dropped his hands and slid backwards.

Draco wobbled slightly, but took a breath and centered himself and stopped. He looked at her and she nodded encouragingly, and Draco slowly began to push himself forwards. Finally, he reached where she was again, beaming. “I made it all the way around the pond! Without falling!” He sounded as giddy as a child and there was something in his pure joy that made Hermione’s heart swell.

“Amazing.” She agreed, nodding.

“Yes, Granger. I am quite incredible.” Draco’s chest was puffed out and despite the pink tinging his cheeks and nose and the parts of his ears peeking out from his hat, he looked quite proud of himself.

Hermione couldn’t help it. She’d always been a show off. Flashing him a grin, she took off down the ice, long graceful slides. With a quick thought of I hope I can still do this, she began to turn and then kicked off from the ice, spinning with her arms wrapped tightly around her body, and landed, swooping her back leg out behind her. Flushing and grinning with self-pride, she glided back over to where Draco now stood, his mouth open in shock.

“I,” he began, shaking his head. “But you?” He tried again. “How?” He finally asked, and Hermione burst out laughing at his incredulous stare.

“I took years of figure skating, before Hogwarts. Even then I often practised in the summer, at an indoor rink. And usually over break. I needed to channel my perfectionism into something, according to my mother, and gymnastics was too dangerous and dance was too catty.” Hermione shrugged, but grinned up at him anyways.

“You mad, mad woman.” Draco responded, shaking his head, and then he caught her arms and pulled her into him, pressing a sweet and soft kiss to her lips. Neither of them noticed Ginny watching them, a look of interest on her face.

Finally, the four collectively decided that they were far too cold to keep skating and needed to go outside. Draco took one look at the way Hermione apprehensively glanced at the manor and suggested they go to Grimmauld Place, seeing as it was cozier.

Dinner was, as usual with the four of them, enjoyable if a little strained. They all did their best not to ever speak about the realities of their predicament and the fact that they were all married to the wrong people. Instead, they talked about work, and Quidditch, and about how beautiful Luna and Pansy’s daughters were, and how thrilled Dean and Seamus were. They didn’t talk about their future children, or how two babies’ potential magical abilities could change their lives.

Easy, but strained. As always.

When Harry and Ginny followed their customary schedule and slipped upstairs after dessert, Hermione and Draco were left in the dining room. Hermione was doing her best to avoid his eyes, and he was fiddling with the ring on his finger.

“Look, Draco-”

“I wanted to apologize-”

Hermione flushed as they spoke at the same time and she looked up at him, nodding for him to continue first. Draco sighed and scrubbed a hand over his face.

“I wanted to apologize. For the last time. I… I didn’t even think… about the fact that it would bother you.” He paused, inhaled deeply, and squared his shoulders. “It was an oversight, but a grave one, and I understand if you don’t want to do this any longer.”

Hermione frowned, and stood up. She couldn’t help herself, and she circled around the table, leaning against it next to him and looking down at him. “Stop it.” She commanded, softly. “Stop thinking that you are… are forcing me into this! Or that I don’t really want this. I need this.” She paused, thinking. “‘How we need another soul to cling to, another body to keep us warm. To rest and trust; to give your soul in confidence: I need this, I need someone to pour myself into.’” As she spoke, her cheeks flushed. Something about this moment felt like she was standing on the edge of a precipice, and that she should step back or lean into it and embrace the fall.

Draco frowned up at her, and she reached out, catching his hand in hers and twining their fingers together. He sighed, softly, but his lips quirked into a smile too. “Really, Granger? I’m not sure if quoting Sylvia Plath is the best way to seduce a man.” He admitted, and when she started to frown he laughed. “Luckily for you, I can’t help but find it utterly and completely enticing.

Draco pushed himself to his feet and stepped in between her legs, pushing her back into the table and capturing her face with his hands, staring down into her large brown eyes. Hermione looked up at him, and pressed herself forward, and their lips met and she remembered exactly why she wanted this.

She didn’t just want to embrace the fall. She wanted to leap.

Draco tugged her sweater over her head and this time she let him easily, and when he pressed his lips against her collarbone she hissed and arched her back into his touch, aching to feel him. Reaching up, Hermione began to undo his buttons and he pulled back from her, looking into her eyes. “Granger,” he said, voice rough. “I can leave it on…”

Hermione cut him off by capturing his lips again, kissing as she worked her way through the buttons. “I forgive you.” She murmured, and then took a deep breath. Steeling herself, she reached up and pushed the shirt over his shoulders, and he let it fall away.

Hermione swallowed, and looked away from his eyes, down at his arm.

And what she saw made her gasp, pressing a hand to her chest. “What?” She asked, looking up at him. He was standing in front of her, slightly awkwardly, but his expression had not changed. Trepidation. Uncertainty. His shoulders were set and his jaw was tense and she reached out, capturing his wrist to pull his arm closer to her.

His mark was still there, yes. It was unmistakable. But instead of sitting against his pale skin, stark and shocking and horrendous, it was nestled in a bed of flowers. Tattooed all around it, in brilliant whites and yellows and pinks and reds and blues. They covered nearly his whole forearm. Hermione swallowed hard, and ran a finger over it. The flowers shuddered in a way that looked like they were responding to the breeze, and she gasped again, looking up at him, searching his eyes.

“I don’t understand?” She breathed.

Draco flushed, just slightly, and shrugged his other shoulder uncomfortably. Instead of really explaining, he used his free hand to guide hers, pointing out flowers with her finger. “Plumeria,” he explained, pointing to a clump of stunning pink-and-yellow flowers. “New beginnings.” He moved her finger again, to a grouping of small yellow flowers. “Wormwood. Bitter sorrow.” Next he pointed to a clustering of bright blue and purple flowers, shaped like stars.

Hermione spoke before he could, brushing her fingers over them. “Borage. Courage.” He nodded, and she continued, touching a clump of delicate pink flowers, enchanted by the magic that left them moving against his skin. “Sweetbriar; wounds to heal.” A stunning white flower with a red center and red edges was beside the sweetbriar, and she pressed her fingers into that one. “Amaryllis. Pride.”

Draco took over again, moving her finger to a large cluster of mostly white flowers, with stunning yellow-red centres. “Narcissus,” he whispered, and she swallowed. “Leaving the past behind.” Hermione met his eyes now, but there was one more flower that he hadn’t identified, and he pressed her fingers against it, looking back at her, hesitant. Careful. “Moonflower.” His voice was hesitant, careful, but he couldn’t stop now. “Dreaming of love.”

Hermione’s heart caught in her throat and she leaned forward, closing the gap between them and pressing her lips against his. She had been so caught up in the flowers, in the weight of what he’d done, that she had barely noticed the mark. Yes, it was there, hideous and terrifying. But his arm didn’t look like Bellatrix’s anymore, and the beauty and hope of it was so overwhelming that all feelings of panic seemed to have been dashed from her mind.

The kiss grew heavy, and Draco reached a hand to undo her bra. Hermione slid it off her arms and then gasped as he rolled one of her dusky brown nipples between his fingers. She couldn’t help but let out a moan when he replaced his fingers with his lips, lathing his tongue over her.

Draco lifted her slightly, so that she was on the table, and in the same motion also began to tug down her jeans. Hermione helped shimmy out of them and they hit the floor with a dull thud, and Draco pressed their bodies together, drawing another moan from her lips at the heated skin on skin contact.

Hermione leaned forward, undoing his pants as well and letting them slide off his hips. She couldn’t help herself and she pressed her hand to the front of his crotch, and he groaned against her skin, sending shivers down her spine.

“These too.” Draco said, and slid his wedding ring off his finger, placing it beside them on the table. He reached over and pulled Hermione’s off as well, dropping it next to him. “Don’t want to see it on your finger.” He admitted, and Hermione nodded in agreement. It felt possessive and consuming and she couldn’t help but agree with him. “And this,” he murmured, waving his wand over the two of them and muttering the contraceptive charm that Hermione had memorized the day she turned fourteen. The weight of the situation was settling in now, and Hermione’s stomach clenched and rolled in anticipation.

Then, in a swift motion, Draco tugged down Hermione’s underwear, and then he lifted a finger to brush over her, humming in appreciation against her lips at the wetness he felt there. “Fuck,” he mumbled, against her lips. He trailed his lips over her jaw, licked along the side of her ear. “This all for me?” His voice was low and rough and his breath was hot against her skin and Hermione shuddered, blushed, and nodded.

“Please,” she murmured, pushing against him more, hot under his hands. Her stomach was heavy and knotted and her entire body wanted and she still wasn’t sure if this was the best idea she’d ever had, but she also knew she needed it and wanted it and wanted him.

Draco slid a finger into her, and then a second, moving them slowly as she whimpered, her head now tilted back as he kissed over her neck and sucked at the delicate skin there. She pushed down his boxers and wrapped her thin fingers around him and he groaned against her skin, speeding up his fingers until she was trembling against him.

“Draco,” she murmured, knowing how much hearing her say his name affected him. “Please, please I want-” Hermione stopped, flushed, and he noticed. He pulled his head back to look into her eyes, his cheeks were tinged slightly pink but his stare was commanding and heady and his pupils were blown as he watched her, took in the sight of her sitting on her dining room table and shivering against him with need.

“Tell me what you want.” Draco stilled his fingers but did not remove them from her, and instead moved his thumb to brush over her clit, drawing a low moan out of her. “I want to hear you say it.”

Hermione swallowed hard, pressing her other hand against his chest, feeling his warm skin and hard muscles and the thin lines of the scars that crisscrossed over his chest. She felt like her entire face was dark with colour, the top of her chest as well. She wasn’t used to this, wasn’t used to someone talking to her during sex, someone asking what she wanted. It had always been so pure and simple, with Ron, the few times it’d happened right after the war. This was different. It was intense, powerful, and addicting.

“I want…” he brushed his finger against her clit again as a reward for speaking and she went incoherent for a moment, pressing her sweaty forehead against the slick cool skin on his chest as she caught her breath briefly. “I want you inside me.”

Hermione could almost hear the smirk in his voice when he responded. “Already inside you.” He pointed out, thrusting his fingers shallowly as a reminder.

“I want,” she bit her lip, and then kissed his chest, tasting salt on his skin. “I want you to… to fuck me. I want,” he was moving his fingers now, and she nearly groaned in frustration, and she could feel embarrassment and attraction burn at her skin. “Please, Draco, I want your… your cock inside me.”

Draco slid his fingers out of her immediately and caught her chin with his other hand, tilting her face up to look at him. He was grinning in a way that was both predatory and reassuring and he arranged her on the table, pulling her closer to the edge so that he could line himself up with her.

“You sure?” He asked then, vulnerable for a second as he checked in, scanning his eyes over her face and looking for hesitation there.

Hermione let out a small cry in frustration, moving her hand to grip at his bicep and tangling the fingers of her other hand into his hair. “Yes! Gods, yes, please, please.”

Draco sighed out a breath against her cheek. “Fuck, I don’t think I’d ever get tired of hearing you beg for me,” he admitted, and then wrapped an arm around her waist and pushed into her slowly. Hermione wiggled her hips a little and then he was inside of her fully, and he paused to take a breath, body trembling against hers. Hermione took a moment to adjust - it had been a while, but it didn’t hurt. She was just getting used to the stretch and the fullness and then she pressed her lips into his neck.

“Draco,” she murmured, and he groaned and began to move his hips. He started slow, pulling out and thrusting back into her and it was torturous in the best way. Hermione moved her hips to meet his, and he leaned over her more, pushing her backwards so she was lying on the table and pressing his upper body into hers. The subtle shift in position had him pressing further into him and he began to speed up his thrusts.

“Merlin, you’re so good,” he murmured into her ear, biting softly at the lobe. “So fucking stunning, Granger. And you’re so tight, fuck this feels better than I ever imagined it.” Hermione whimpered up at him in response and he dropped his head to suck one of her nipples into his mouth, and she arched her back in response. “You’re so beautiful,” he said, as he moved to catch her other nipple between his teeth.

As he sped up again, Hermione could feel the pressure beginning to coil low in her stomach, and she moaned out his name again. Every time she did it, he snapped his hips forward harder and she groaned in appreciation. Hermione lifted her hands up to dig her nails into his back, and wrapped her legs around him tighter to pull him closer and he slid a hand down between their bodies, rubbing over her clit and causing her to cry out.

Draco caught her lips in his, working her under his fingers and thrusting into her over and over. “Are you going to come for me, Hermione?” He asked, against her lips, and she nodded, words lost to her at the sound of her name, his voice low and husky with arousal. It only took a few more seconds before she felt the coil in her snap and her entire body tensed and clamped around him and she dug her nails into his skin so hard she was sure she’d make him bleed, and she called out his name, not caring how loud she was. He thrust into her a few more times, erratically now, and then he pushed forward one more time with a low moan and stilled as he followed her over the edge. Slowly, Draco relaxed his body against hers, holding them close together as they each caught their breath.

“Fuck.” Draco mumbled, a few moments later, as he slid out of her but did not remove his full body weight from hers. Hermione nodded underneath him, running her fingers through his sweaty hair. “Was that… alright?” Draco asked, and she couldn’t help but laugh.

“More than.” Hermione admitted, and then shifted a little so that she could tug his head up from where it rested on her chest to look at him closely. “Incredible.” She admitted, and he grinned wolfishly down at her.

Slowly, Draco stood up and stretched his arms over his head and she couldn’t help but look down at him again, enjoying the smooth planes of his body and his incredibly pale skin. He pulled his shirt back on then and all of a sudden she remembered that they were in the dining room at Grimmauld Place. A place where she had sat with the Order to strategize, learned about the deaths of her friends, and ate dinner with Harry every night.

Quickly, she jumped off the table and began to pull her clothes back on. “Oh Merlin,” she mumbled, shaking her head as she pulled her shirt back over her head. “I cannot believe we just… in the dining room !”

Draco laughed, slipping his ring back on his finger and picking up hers. “Granger, don’t tell me it didn’t turn you on. The thought that we could have been caught at any minute.” Hermione began to shake her head but he stepped forward, pulling her body against his. “Everyone likes playing with fire.”

Draco kissed her again, slow and leisurely, and as he did so he found her hand and slid her ring back on her finger, and Hermione’s heart ached for just a moment with the thought that at the end of the day, he was not hers to keep.

“We have a situation to discuss, you know.” Ginny said with a sigh, stretching out further on Harry’s bed.

Harry turned a little to look at her, tracing a finger across his girlfriend’s naked skin. “Nobody knows about us, Ginny. Or maybe they don’t care.”

Ginny rolled her eyes. “Harry, if someone knew, if they had actual proof, we’d be in Azkaban by now - or at the very least standing in front of the Wizengamot trying to explain that we’re just really good friends. They were quite clear on the consequences of cheating,” She paused, frowning, and then sighed. “No. I’m talking about Draco and Hermione.”

Harry groaned and lifted a hand up to push his mess of hair away from his eyes. “I know. I’ve been trying not to… But I told Hermione that she needed to be careful. And...”

“She kissed him, Harry. And not just… it was familiar. It wasn’t a one time thing.” Ginny sighed again and traced her eyes over the cracked ceiling of Harry’s bedroom. “He really isn’t as bad as he used to be, you know.”

Harry buried his head under his pillow and let out what sounded like a groan of frustration. “I know,” he said, voice muffled thanks to the cotton and down over his head. “We have dinner parties . He’s… amicable. Not who I would have chosen for her-”

“You don’t get to choose for her though, Harry. That’s the whole point, that’s why we’re in this bloody fucking mess in the first place. Someone thought they could choose for everyone . I’ve spent time with him, you know. Sometimes we eat dinner together at the manor. We actually, uh,” Ginny paused, and then a grin broke out over her face. “I took him to get a tattoo.”

“You did what?” Harry asked, pulling the pillow off his head so he could stare at her. “Why on earth would you-”

“He was upset about his mark. He didn’t say why, just that he couldn’t stand to look at it anymore. That it made him sick, remembering what he’d done.” Ginny paused, and then realization dawned on her face. “I think he was worried about Hermione seeing it,” she added, and then returned to her story. “Anyways. It reminded me of how Charlie keeps getting tattoos around his scars, to dress them up a little, you know? So I asked Charlie where he went when he was home, and I took Draco.”

Harry was shaking his head as he watched her. “You’re absolutely mad, you know that, right?”

Ginny only grinned. “The point, Harry, is that I think… well, I think it might not be the worst thing to be happening. We don’t really know if it’s serious anyways. But, they’ve both been really excellent, about us.”

Sighing again, Harry flopped over onto his back and slid his hand down into one of Ginny’s. “I know. We really asked a lot of them both. And we were the ones who kept leaving them together. I guess it was only natural they would get… close.”

“Besides,” Ginny said, with a smirk of her own. “If they’re busy with each other, it leaves more time for us to be busy, if you know what I’m saying.”

Harry furrowed his brow at her. “I literally never want to think about either of them having sex. Especially when we’re naked.”

Ginny laughed and rolled so she was half on top of him, pressing a sweet kiss down to one of his shoulders. “Things are different than they used to be, Harry. It’s a different world now.”

“I still don’t like it.” He admitted, kissing the top of her head softly.

“I know.” Ginny agreed, with a nod. “But it’s not our place to say. I think we need to just… step back, and pay attention. And try not to land any of us in Azkaban.”

Harry winced at this, but Ginny was smiling up and him and he nodded in agreement. “You’re right.” He said, and kissed her forehead now.

“I always am.” Ginny sighed, and pulled herself fully on top of Harry now, glad, for now to be busy.

Chapter Text

Sometimes, Hermione felt like her entire job was waiting. Waiting for a bill to pass, waiting for the Wizengamot to consider her proposal, waiting for more roadblocks to come up in her path. She hated waiting. It was the worst feeling: knowing that she had done everything she could and had to put her work in someone else’s hands and sit around until something happened. The bureaucratic structure of the government was slowly driving her insane.

And so, because she had nothing better to do, Hermione had been working on a side project. It wasn’t like anyone even came to check up on her, holed up in a back corner of the Ministry, pushed out of sight and out of mind. She existed simply so that they could say, “Look! We hired a war heroine! And she’s working on creature rights, those are important!” and yet they wouldn’t listen to her, so she might as well not be there.

Hermione had to be there, so the least she could do with her time was try and fix the problem at hand. The issue was that the Ministry archives were severely lacking on data. She could find the marriage registry for the year the first marriage law was enacted, but nothing about whether or not it actually increased the proportion of magical babies born. She found birth notices, and was able to track a few of the ones of people who became important, and on the whole they seemed to be all right. But that wasn’t nearly enough data to prove anything. Hermione even found the record for when the law was repealed, but it was so minimal that it was probably something done with little fanfare. It seemed like only a single generation was really affected, potentially only a few hundred wizards and witches, from what she could tell. But it was infuriating, knowing the information must exist somewhere and yet having no way to access that information.

Once she had reached the point where she was ready to pull her hair out from the sheer frustration of it all, Hermione decided that maybe it would help to have someone to bounce her ideas off of. Before she even clearly thought it all over, she was picking up the research she had gathered and leaving her office. Less than five minutes later, as she stood in front of Draco’s door, she finally stopped and wondered if he would be opposed to her imposition and willing to help her. But then again, he’d always been smart and this law affected him just like it affected all of them, so maybe he’d be interested.

Taking a breath, Hermione rapped her knuckles against the door, and she only exhaled when she heard him respond with a gruff “come in.”

Hermione pushed the door open and stuck her head in. “Hello.” He glanced up at the sound of her voice and Hermione thought she noticed the hint of a smile pulling at his lips.

“Granger,” he greeted, and nodded to her as an indication to come in further. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

Hermione shut the door behind her and dropped down into the cozy armchair in front of his desk. She wondered, briefly, if he had paid for this armchair himself. The Ministry-standard one she had in her office was nowhere near as nice or as comfortable, and she certainly wouldn’t put it past him. “I’m having a bit of a slow day, well, week really. I’ve been looking further into the marriage law and the last time they put it into place. It’s been nearly ten months now and we’ve made no progress on getting it repealed, and soon they’re going to expect us all to start announcing pregnancies.” Hermione paused and frowned, dropping her research onto his desk. “But I’m stuck. There’s simply not enough information about the last time the law was in place. Some marriage records, and a few birth announcements, and then ten years later the law was very quietly repealed and everyone seemed to just, well, move on.”

Draco hummed softly and picked up the parchment she had set on his desk. He lounged back in his chair and began to flick through it, scanning over her meticulous notes. “And you think that learning more about its last implementation would give you a good enough reason to fight for it to be overturned now?”

Hermione nodded. “Of course! If we can figure out why it didn’t work last time, we can use that as an argument this time. And hopefully have it done more quickly than ten years.”

Draco was still reading and then he paused, squinting down at a line on the parchment. “I might be able to help you.”

Sighing, Hermione rolled her eyes. “Obviously, that’s why I’m here. I needed someone decently intelligent to brainstorm with.”

Draco shot her a look that might have been withering, once, but instead caused her to laugh. “Watch it, Granger.”

“Didn’t realize that was such a sore spot in your ego.” She retorted, raising a brow at him, a challenge evident in her stare.

Draco was mostly ignoring her now, pointing at a name on her list and Hermione leaned over his desk to get a better view of it. “Ophiuchus and Columba Malfoy - my…” he paused and counted back on his fingers. “Great great great great great great great grandparents. And the Malfoys keep far better records about our own families than the Ministry would. I’m sure in our library we’ll have at least some information on the two of them; at the very least, information about their marriage and their children and their magical abilities.”

Hermione perked up instantly. “Really? And you think it would be alright if I took a look at it?”

Draco nodded, and then stopped, frowning. “Of course. It’s just, I’m not sure what books of ours would be useful. I’ll have to go and look through, pick out the best, and then I can bring them to you. But it’s hard to say without looking at them.”

Hermione frowned back at him. “Well, couldn’t I come-” she stopped then, realizing where Draco had been going, and pulled her shoulders back, forcing bravery into the curve of her spine. “I can handle it.”

Draco winced a little. “Granger, the last time you were in my house you had a panic attack. I’m not going to make you-”

“Will you stop thinking you’re making me do things?” Hermione snapped. “I am a grown woman and I know what I can and cannot handle. I can’t spend the rest of my life being terrified of a house. I will not let that awful woman ruin every part of my life. I. Can. Handle it.”

Draco sighed and rubbed a hand over his face, shaking his head. “I’ve never met a more stubborn person than you.” He murmured, but stood up, collecting his papers. “Right, let’s go then.”

“Now?” Hermione asked, leaning back a little to look up at him. “Don’t you have work to do?”

Draco shrugged, looking down at his desk. “Nothing important, really. Let’s go, Granger.”

They apparated to the front door of the Manor, and Hermione shoved her hands into her coat pockets, looking up at the house looming above them. She took a deep breath and steeled her shoulders, and then looked over to Draco, who nodded at her. He pulled open the large wood door and led her inside.

When they entered the manor, there was a small pop and all of a sudden a rather short house-elf stood at the front door, twisting her hands together and smiling up at them. “Master Draco!” She said, voice high and trill. “And?”

Hermione blushed slightly, crouching down to be on the level with the elf. “Hermione Granger.” She said, offering out her hand. The elf looked up to Draco, who nodded, and then shook Hermione’s hand enthusiastically. “What’s your name?” Hermione asked, voice gentle.

The elf giggled, just a little. “Bilby. Nice to be meeting you, Ms. Mia-nee.”

Hermione sighed but nodded at the elf. “You too, Bilby.” She stood up and the elf looked at Draco, who shook his head now, and then she disappeared again. Draco looked at Hermione and smiled, just a little.

“She liked you,” he said, and Hermione decided it was better not to question it. She had no measure any more for whether or not a house elf liked her, and at this moment they had better things to do than get into another argument about elf rights.

The library was near the back of the Manor, and Hermione knew they would have to walk past the ballroom to get there. As they neared it, Draco reached out and grabbed one of her hands in his, and she flushed at the gesture, squeezing back to let him know she appreciated it. The ballroom doors were open and as they walked by Hermione had the impulsive decision to look inside, and as she did she gasped and stopped, tugging Draco over to her.

“You…” Hermione swallowed, and shook her head, and looked up to the ceiling. “The chandelier. It’s gone?” She glanced over at Draco and he shrugged his shoulders, and she realized he looked just as vulnerable as he did the night she had seen his tattoo.

“It was hideous.” Draco said, not making eye contact with her. “Really just didn’t fit with the new decor at all. Besides, I certainly have enough money to-”

Hermione cut him off by pressing her lips to his, capturing them in a gentle kiss. She felt him relax against her and she lingered for another moment before she pulled back. Unable to help herself, she kissed his cheek as well. “Thank you, Draco. For doing that for me.”

Draco shifted against her and she waited for him to argue, but he didn’t. They stood for a minute longer, just leaning against each other, and then Draco stepped back. “Library is this way.”

Somehow, without the chandelier the entire house felt more manageable. Hermione really hadn’t seen much of the Manor, and when he pushed open the large double doors of the library she gasped audibly. The library was stunning, everything she had ever wanted. It was at least twice the size of Grimmauld Place’s library, with rows and rows of books stretching back further than she could see. There was a window out to the grounds at the back, and two incredibly comfortable looking armchairs set up in front of it.

Stepping inside, Hermione couldn’t help but run her fingers over the spines of the old books, skimming the titles. She had seen a few of them before. Some in the Hogwarts library, a few she recognized as being from the restricted section. But there were also dozens she had never seen before, books so old they may be the only copies left. Hermione wanted to pull them all off the shelves and disappear, take them somewhere safe and clean and not let anyone touch them without gloves on.

Draco had wandered off down an aisle, and she forgot about him as she gently opened books, fascinated at the contents. Many of them contained ancient spells she was sure no one taught anymore. Spells to be done without wands, in languages that no longer existed.

“Granger,” he called, from somewhere in the back of the room. “Come here.” Hermione glanced down at the book she was holding, sighed longingly, and slotted it back onto the shelf. She followed the sound of his voice and found him sitting on the ground in front of a bookshelf, holding something in his hands.

“What is it?” She asked, dropping to the ground beside him.

“Columba’s diary. I was right. She was matched up to Ophiuchus through the Ministry’s program.” Draco flipped a page, and then another few after that. “It seems like it was just as vague. But they did get along, at least, from what I can tell. And they had three children, all of whom showed great magical promise. So for them, yes, the spell worked.”

Hermione deflated, just a little. It was good, of course, that Columba had found love with her match. But it wasn’t really what she needed. “Does it say anything about the matching process?”

Draco hmm-ed and flipped back a few pages, scanning over entries. “It says something about… her mother performing a matchmaking spell. And Ophiuchus being one of the options. This was months before the law came out, though. It sounds like it might have just been a regular…” Draco trailed off, and spun his head around to Hermione. “Of course!”

And before Hermione could ask what ‘of course’ meant, he was on his feet and gone down another aisle. Shaking her head, Hermione pulled herself up and followed after him. When she caught him, he was holding a small pink book and flipping through it.

“I’m not sure why I didn’t think of this. Many of us purebloods, especially from the older families, have marriages arranged for us as children. It hasn’t been done in decades, of course, using spells. There are so few of us now and so much potential for inbreeding that usually contracts are worked out wherever possible. But it used to be, before my parents, there were spells you could cast. They’d determine compatibility in a variety of areas. So, Columba and Ophiuchus actually matched in three different ways, but look-” Draco thrust the diary out to Hermione, pointing to a list on the left hand side of the page. “She’d matched in five different ways with one of the Weasley’s. Clearly she wasn’t that interested in him or they would have been together long before the law came about.”

Draco then passed her the pink book. “Here’s a few of them. Different families had their own versions, you see, depending on what was important to their belief systems. Because you can match with so many different people, in different ways.”

Hermione’s eyes were lighting up as she read over the spells. “Draco,” she breathed, glancing up at him. “Don’t you see? This is exactly what I was looking for. Do you think…” she flipped a page of the book, looking at a few more of the spells. They were each listed under what she assumed they tested for, though most were written in latin and she was not adept at translating on the fly. “Do you think these were the spells the Ministry used?”

Draco shrugged. “Hard to say, really. Like I said, different families had all different qualities they tested for. But it’s a start.”

“It’s more of a start. It’s a hundred times more information than I had this morning.” Hermione paused, looking up at him. “Would it be alright if I borrowed this book? I can copy it out and then return it to you tomorrow, if you think it would be missed.”

Draco held back a laugh. “I can guarantee you, no one’s come in here in months. My mother doesn’t like the place, too many evil little books. No one will even notice it’s gone, it’s yours to keep if you’d like it.”

Hermione closed the book carefully and tucked it into her bag. “Thank you, Draco, for everything.”

The blonde smiled at her, his usual self-assured smile. But his eyes were bright, and his shoulders loose. “Whatever you need, Granger. That’s what I’m here for.”

For once, Hermione was glad that it was slow at the office. She spent an entire day just copying out all of the spells onto separate sheets of parchment just in case something were to happen to the book. The day after that, she worked on translating the latin titles to figure out what each of them tested for. They ranged between everything from familial values to sexual preferences to core belief systems. The entire thing was fascinating. By day three, she was starting to break down the spells themselves, look for common elements and things that might be problematic to cast on humans - after all, it was an old book from the Malfoy libraries.

Hermione was so absorbed in her work that she barely registered that someone was knocking on the door. “Come in!” She called, without looking up. She figured it was Harry or Ron, stopping by to see if she was alright since she hadn’t been down for her usual tea for days. The door opened, she heard the sounds of someone entering, and then the door shut. She only realized something was different when she heard the sound of the lock clicking into place.

As she glanced up, she found a grinning Draco leaning back against the wood, arms crossed. He looked like a perfect picture of leisure with a smooth smirk on his face as he watched her, and she couldn’t help but blush under the intensity of it all.

“Oh,” she said, quickly. “Hi. Sorry, I was a little caught up in, well, in all of this.” Sure she was now blushing furiously, she set down her quill and leaned back a little in her chair. “Can I help you with something?”

Draco shrugged, his smirk morphing into a wolfish grin as he took three large steps and crossed her office until he was in front of her desk. “I’m not sure, Granger. It depends on you feelings about what is and is not appropriate in the workplace.”

Hermione frowned, trying to figure out what he meant. She was still thinking this over when he circled around her desk and grabbed her hands, pulling her out of her chair and catching her lips in a searing kiss. Hermione gasped and pulled back, looking at her door. But Draco had locked it, and pulled down the shade on the window that looked out into the hallway. She turned back to look at him and he kissed her again, and she could taste firewhiskey just faintly on his tongue but that taste was such a part of him now it almost didn’t bother her.

“Draco,” she murmured, pulling back. “Did you just come down here to kiss me?”

Draco laughed at this and picked her up, sitting her down on her desk. “No,” he mumbled, kissing along her jaw and then down her neck. “Can’t stop thinking about you. Can’t stop thinking about how you taste…” He nipped at the soft skin on her neck and Hermione gasped, looking back over her shoulder again at the door.

“Granger,” he said, voice low and husky again. “Tell me you want me to stop and I’ll leave right now.” Hermione swallowed, looking back at him. “Or, don’t, and let me make you feel good.” His eyes met hers and they looked at each other, and Hermione hesitated. But she only hesitated for a moment. Normally she would be very much against anything like this but… It had been a few days, and there was something about Draco that pressed at the part of her that wanted to follow the rules. Something about him that drove her to do things she otherwise would never consider. Finally, Hermione nodded, and Draco grinned triumphantly, sliding his hands down her sides and undoing her robes quickly. He slid a hand up under her shirt, immediately cupping one of her breasts and she gasped as he pinched her nipple and rolled it in his fingers. His other hand was pushing her skirt up, bunching it around her waist, and trailing his fingers over the front of her knickers.

Hermione was very quickly forgetting that they were in her office and she leaned back on her hands, letting her eyes fall closed. Draco dropped down to sit in her chair and pushed her legs further apart. He hooked his long fingers in her underwear and pulled them off, carefully slipping them into his pocket.

Draco drew his fingers over her carefully and she shuddered under his touch, moaning as he flicked his finger over her clit. When he pushed at her knees a little more, spreading her out over her desk, Hermione felt herself flush but kept quiet. “So beautiful,” he mumbled, sliding the chair in further to get closer to her. “You’re being so good for me,” he added, and began to kiss along her thigh.

Hermione found herself holding her breath as he drew closer to her and when he dragged his tongue across her she gasped and immediately bit down on her lip to stop from groaning out loud. Draco hummed appreciatively against her and began to run his tongue over her, alternating between long flat strokes and more pointed circles around her clit. Hermione slid a hand into his hair and tightened her fingers around his locks and he pressed harder into her.

Just as she was starting to settle in and get lost in the feeling of him, Draco lifted one of his hands up and slipped a finger inside of her and she couldn’t help but moan out loud, which caused him to chuckle softly against her skin. “Granger, no one else works in this godforsaken corner of the building. You can be as loud as you want.”

Hermione would have retorted something snarky, except he curled his finger up and brushed over an incredibly sensitive spot and it was all she could to do modulate her volume so she only moaned his name, and didn’t scream it. Draco had stopped being snarky and he sucked on her clit softly and it was entirely possible that she saw stars. “What do you need?” He mumbled against her, drawing his tongue around her in circles and sliding his fingers slowly and torturously against her from the inside.

“J-just… don’t… don’t stop…” Hermione managed to breathe out what she needed and Draco picked up his speed, pulling her closer and closer to the edge. Finally, he sucked on her one more time and something inside of her exploded. She cried out and her entire body tensed and then trembled and she had to cling to his hair to not completely fall over. He pressed one more soft kiss against her and then slid his fingers out, sucking them into his mouth. She opened her eyes to the sight of him, cheeks flushed and hair mused, licking the taste of her off his fingers and she thought that she might fall apart all over again.

Draco licked his lips and wiped his hands off on his robes, standing up out of the chair. Hermione was still trembling a little bit, only half aware that she must look like something else, with her own skin flushed, her skirt bunched up around her waist, and her shirt riding halfway up her stomach. Draco caught her cheeks in his hands and pressed a kiss to her forehead, and then again to her lips. “This was great fun.” He mumbled, and she grinned against him.

“Do you want, um…” Hermione gestured a hand at his crotch and Draco glanced at his watch and then shook his head.

“No.” He paused, and then smirked a little. “I’ll take a rain check on that one.”

Draco stepped back from her then and smoothed out his hair, adjusting the deep green tie around his neck. “Have a good rest of your afternoon, Granger.”

And then he was gone. It was only when Hermione pulled herself off the desk and rearranged her skirt and robes did she realize that her underwear were gone. Unfortunately, she couldn’t quite seem to find it in herself to care.

Chapter Text

It wasn’t like Hermione was used to seeing Draco every day at work. But, for the past nearly two weeks, she had seen him every day. Sometimes she stopped by his office on her way for her daily tea, and he’d been back to her office at least twice since that first time. It was far more secluded than his was, and sometimes they both needed a few minutes in the middle of their long rather boring days to just enjoy each other’s company.

The first day that she didn’t see him, she figured it was nothing big. Perhaps he was out on a mission or an assignment. She asked Harry about it that night and he’d shrugged and said that actually, Draco hadn’t been in that day. But he was probably fine, everybody misses a day of work here and there.

By day two, she was a little more worried. There was still no sign of Draco. Harry had no idea, and he checked into it and said that no, Draco definitely hadn’t been put on an assignment. For all intents and purposes, he should be in the office. Hermione checked three times. He wasn’t.

On day three, she was anxious - too often someone not showing up when they were supposed to had meant that something was horribly wrong, and Hermione had never been able to fully turn off that part of her brain. From everything she knew about Draco, this wasn’t like him at all. Hermione spent the day trying to work on the spells she was still testing out and eventually she got so stressed that she wrote him a letter and walked up to the Ministry owlery to send it off immediately. She told herself that she couldn’t worry, that he would be fine. He lived with his mother, after all. And Ginny, though the woman herself had admitted that sometimes she didn’t see Draco for weeks at a time. The house was too big. Besides, she had been travelling for work lately and Hermione wasn’t even sure she was home this week.

At the end of the day, she still hadn’t heard. Hermione was doing the best she could to tamp down her anxiety, but she kept thinking of him sitting in his office and taking shots from a flask. Her gut was screaming that something was wrong. She hadn’t let herself admit it yet - that he drank too much and that it was an issue - but the more she thought about it, stewing in her office, the more she worried.

When Hermione landed on his front doorstep, she was a mess of nerves. She forced herself to take three deep breaths before she knocked on the door, and then she waited, hoping to God he would be standing on the other side.

It was Bilby. “Hi Bilby,” Hermione said, trying not to sound too dejected. “I was just wondering if, um, if you’ve seen Draco lately? He hasn’t been at work and I’m just a little worried about him.”

Bilby thought about this for a moment, tapping her foot and tugging at her ear as she thought. “Bilby has not seen Master Draco. He does not like Bilby being in his rooms… But, not unusual for Bilby not to see him!”

Hermione nodded. She thought for a minute that maybe she should leave, but she’d come all this way and something in her was pushing her; she needed to see him to make sure everything was alright. “Bilby? Do you think you’d be able to show me where his room is?”

Bilby paused for only a minute but then nodded, opening the door to let Hermione inside the house.

It was a long walk through the winding Manor to Draco’s bedroom. When the reached the door, Bilby stopped abruptly. “Bilby has to go back to dinner now, Miss Mia-nee. You call for Bilby if you need?” Hermione nodded to the elf and then, when she had gone, knocked on the door.

No answer.

Hermione stood there for a minute, shifting nervously from one foot to another, and then knocked again. When there was still no answer, she took a deep breath. This felt like an incredible invasion of privacy. After all, what were they really to each other? Two people who were only barely friends who happened to have sex in inappropriate places, usually while their spouses were having sex with each other in only slightly more appropriate locations.


Steeling herself, Hermione reached out and tried the handle. It opened easily and she pushed the door open, stepping inside the dark and cool room. She was struck almost instantly by two things. The first was that it didn’t look like what she had been imagining. It was light and airy, with large windows that looked over the grounds. The sheets on the bed were white, as were the couches by the fireplace and the curtains over the windows. The bed was huge, probably a king sized, and the whole room felt clean but lived in, modern but comfortable.

The second thing that hit her was the smell. It smelt like there was an entire firewhiskey brewery hiding behind the couch, and she couldn’t help but cough as it hit her.

Stepping further into the room, Hermione nearly slipped in a puddle. On closer inspection, she realized it was a puddle of Ogden’s, spilling from a bottle near the bed, which better explained the smell. Unfortunately, what she didn’t see was Draco.

Taking a deep breath, she moved further into the room. “Draco?” She called, softly, looking around. “Draco?!” She tried again, a little louder. And then she heard a noise that sounded like a groan from the back of the room and followed it. She found her way to a half open door and when she pushed it open Hermione realized she was in a bathroom. A stunning one. Huge, with marble floors and a massive tub and even bigger shower. And there, spread out face down on the floor near the toilet, was Draco.

Gasping, Hermione rushed over to him and dropped to her knees next to him. “Draco?” She murmured, reaching out and shaking at him, gently. “Draco, are you alright?” She whispered, frantically now. When he groaned, just a little, in response, she let out a shaky breath. He wasn’t dead. Thank god. “Draco, what’s happened?” She asked again, and slowly rolled him onto his side, leaning closer to get a good look at him.

Draco turned his head up towards her. His eyes were half-lidded and glassy and his skin was covered in a thin sheen of sweat. He blinked once and managed a weak smile up at her, but it didn’t reach his eyes and it made him look worse rather than better. Hermione pressed her hand to his forehead and swallowed hard. He was burning up under her hand, his face and hair damp with sweat. “Draco, can you sit up?” She coaxed, and started to lift him upwards.

He protested at this, groaning and shutting his eyes. “Whole room’s…spinnin’…” His speech was slurred and his voice sounded thick and Hermione thought back to the bottle of Ogden’s spilled over the floor. She wondered how long it had been since he last took a drink, and how much he had drunk before that. Briefly, she wondered if she should floo him immediately to St. Mungo’s, but she had a feeling that Draco would not be entirely pleased to wake up there. Besides, she knew some basic healing spells. If she could balance out his fever and keep him away from the rest of the alcohol…

Shaking her head, Hermione quickly threw herself back into battle mode. She lowered him gently back down to the floor and moved quickly to the tub, turning the taps on and waiting until the water felt suitably lukewarm. She didn’t want to shock his system with too cold a bath, but she also needed to do something and cooling charms just weren’t nearly as effective as the old fashioned methods. Very gently, she levitated Draco but only enough to move him slowly over towards the tub. Lifting him up off the floor only reinforced the fact that he was shaking slightly, and she wondered what she’d gotten herself into.

As she lowered him into the tub, he looked back up at her again, barely even aware of where he was, and Hermione managed a weak smile. “You’ll feel better soon,” she whispered, and he seemed to find some comfort in her words.

It took nearly an hour before she felt that he was no longer dangerously overheated. Hermione levitated him from the bath and into the bedroom, laying him down on the bed. She cleaned up the spilled firewhiskey first, and then cast a drying charm over his clothes. Drying charms weren’t nearly as effective when you were wearing said clothes, but the thought of trying to undress him was daunting.

Climbing onto the bed beside him, Hermione propped herself up against the headboard and pulled his trembling body closer, drawing his head into her lap. She ran her fingers through his hair and closed her eyes, trying not to cry with the weight of it all, and hoping he would wake up soon.

It must have been hours later when Hermione woke up with an uncomfortable crick in her neck. She blinked, trying to figure out where she was. The room was dark now, but it was obviously not her room. Glancing around, it all suddenly came back to her and she sat up further, feeling around on the bed for Draco.

He wasn’t there.

Swallowing her panic down, Hermione took a deep breath and flicked her wand, lighting up the room with her lumos and glancing around. No sign. Her eyes landed on the bathroom door and she realized that it was ajar, just a little, and there was a soft light spilling from the edges.

Hermione kept her footsteps light as she moved to the bathroom and pushed the door open slowly so that it wouldn’t creak. Draco was on the floor again, curled up around himself next to the toilet and shaking. Hermione sighed and moved over to him, sitting down beside him again, running a hand through his hair.

“Draco?” She murmured, hoping he was more coherent now.

Slowly, he blinked his eyes open and looked up at her, scanning her face. “Didn’t realize you were really…” He trailed off, wincing. “You are really… here?”

Hermione offered him a small smile. “Yes. I’m here. How are you feeling?”

Draco shook his head in response. “Ill.” He murmured, pausing for a second. “Must… have the stomach flu.”

Reaching over, she tugged at his hand and wrapped her fingers around it, trying to reassure him that it was alright, that she was there. “When was the last drink?” She asked, and he managed to throw some of his usual malice into his gaze as he frowned up at her.

“Don’t know… what you’re talking about.”

Hermione sighed and rubbed at her forehead with the heel of her hand. “How are you so infuriating even when you’re in withdrawal?” She mumbled, but squeezed his hand anyways. “You had a hell of a fever when I found you, Malfoy, and there was an entire bottle of Ogden’s soaking into the probably very expensive wood floor in your bedroom.”

Draco, stubbornly, did not respond. Instead, he tightened his grip on her hand as well.

“I’m guessing something happened and you were drinking more than you usually do. And then you spilled that bottle and didn’t have any more and by the time I found you, well...”

“Dammit, Granger, could you keep your nose out of everyone else’s business? I was doing just fine before I met you.”

Hermione flinched, just a little, at his words. The tone of his voice was too empty though, for it to be what he was really thinking. “Are you sure about that?”

“If you want to… to make yourself useful, you can go buy me some more firewhiskey.”

“Look.” Hermione paused, wondering if this was a good idea. “You’re a grown man, and you can do whatever you want to do. If you want to go out and buy more alcohol and drink until you’re dead… I can’t stop that.” She frowned, hoping to god this would work. “But, I’d rather you weren’t dead. And if you want, I’ll stay with you while you get over the worst of this. And… and I’ll help you, if you want to quit.”

Draco let out a sigh that trembled through his whole body and he looked up at her, watching her closely. “I’ve already told you, Granger… I’m not worth saving.”

“I don’t think you really get to decide that, Malfoy .”

Draco frowned at her and pushed himself up off the ground, leaning heavily on his arm to not fall over again. “Do you want to know what I did, Granger? Not just what I saw, but the people who I hurt? How many lives I-”

“Stop!” Hermione cut him off, reaching a hand out to press on his chest. “I’ve told you. I don’t want to know. I… I forgive you.”

“You shouldn’t. I’m worthless. All of you would be better off if I weren’t here anymore. Might as well let me drink myself to death in peace.”

Hermione lifted her hand up to cup his cheek, moving a little closer to him on the cold tile floor. “I would not be better off.”

Draco seemed to consider this, closing his eyes and leaning into her hand, just a little. “I don’t deserve you.” He mumbled, and shook his head. “I would…” His sentence trailed off and he sighed. “Fine. I’m willing to try. I can’t promise you anything.”

“I know.” Hermione smiled at him, and kissed his forehead. “No one can ever promise anyone anything, not really.”

The first three days were the worst. Hermione managed to write in and use up a few of her sick days, and she pulled in one of her (many) favours with Harry to ensure Draco would not be missed at work for a few days. (“Dragon pox is, after all, very contagious. Don’t need the Aurors catching that.” Harry had agreed with a wink through the firecall at her. “Nasty disease, really. Much safer for you to be in quarantine at the Manor than here, getting me sick.”)

Draco spent most of the first day in the bathroom, trying not to vomit and not moving much because the room was spinning. That night when he finally fell asleep, Hermione had Bilby trash the rest of the alcohol in the house.

On day two, Draco started to get anxious. He fidgeted and tugged at his hair and asked her if he was going to die. He also got mean; even more so when he realized that there wasn’t even a nice bottle of wine left in the Manor. But even his meanness now, Hermione realized, held none of the malice she was used to. Instead, it seemed like he was a child going through the motions of a temper tantrum. All bark and no bite, and even most of the bark was diminished by the fact that he was still shaking slightly and sweating profusely.

The third day was when things started to turn around, other than the fact that now he wasn’t sleeping. When she’d finally decided she had to go to bed, she’d tossed him the few books that she’d had in her purse and curled up on the couch to get some rest.

On the morning of the fourth day, Hermione woke up curled into a warm body. She kept her eyes closed for a minute, relishing in the feeling of having someone near, especially someone who smelt so good. Then she realized where she was and opened her eyes, looking around.

“Why am I in your bed?”

Draco looked down at her. He was propped up on the headboard holding a book, which he set down beside him when he realized she was awake. “You looked uncomfortable on the couch.”

Hermione frowned, rubbing her eyes. “You actually look… pretty good today.”

Draco snorted at her and smoothed a hand over her hair. “Showered.” He said, simply.

“Right.” Hermione agreed, with a nod. “Did you sleep at all last night?” He lifted one shoulder in a half-shrug and she sighed. “Well. You win some and you lose some, I suppose.”

They sat together quietly for a few minutes, and Hermione was thinking about mentioning that she might go home for a bit. He did really seem to be doing much better. He didn’t look especially stressed, and his skin had returned to its usual pallor, rather than the ghost-like colouring of the past few days. His hand wasn’t shaking at all as it brushed atop her curls. She wracked back through her brain trying to think of what she knew about withdrawal symptoms but came up rather blank. If all that he was left with now was a bit of trouble falling asleep and the craving to have a drink, it seemed like they’d at least accomplished something.

Suddenly, Draco stilled his hand on her hair, and she could feel him inhale deeply. “My father died.” He said, all at once, and she sat up so quickly she nearly knocked into him.


Draco looked down at his lap, where her head had been, and looked at his nails as if he were inspecting them for chips. “Yes. In Azkaban. He’s been sick for a few months now, but it’s not as if they have medical care there.”

Hermione frowned, and he looked directly at her, as if he was daring her to speak.

“That’s why I missed those few days of work. It was Sunday. He died on Sunday and I just… I don’t fucking care about him, Granger. But...” Draco was clenching his hand into a fist and Hermione covered it with her own hand.

“He was still your father,” she said.

“Fuck,” Draco mumbled. “He’s the reason I am who I am, and I do not mean that in a positive way. But I can’t… he’s still dead. And I figured he would want to be toasted, with the good whisky. When I ran out of good whisky I drank the mediocre stuff. Then I tripped over the last bottle of the shit whisky.”

“And then I found you.” Hermione finished, and he nodded once.

“I wasn’t worth your time.” He mumbled, and Hermione sighed, reaching out to lift his chin so that she could look at him.

“I don’t know how many more ways to tell you that I don’t actually care what you think. Because I think you were. I think you are. 'Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.’”

The corners of Draco’s lips briefly quirked up into a small smile, before he ducked his head. He shut his eyes and breathed deeply, and a few moments passed as he seemed to collect himself. Hermione’s fingers gently brushed back and forth against his cheekbone, glad he'd finally shaved off the stubble that had accumulated over the past few days. Finally, Draco gruffly cleared his throat and raised his head. He caught Hermione’s eyes for the briefest second, then looked towards the window, his eyes shining.

“I’m not sure I know that one,” he said, clearing his throat once more.

He wouldn’t meet her eyes, but Hermione smiled all the same.

“Don’t worry,” she said, pressing a soft kiss to his jaw and lowering her head back to his chest. “I’ll teach you.”

Chapter Text

The funeral was three days later, in the small cemetery on the edge of the Malfoy grounds. Hermione had gone back to work for the Monday and the Tuesday, nodding and smiling at coworkers who mentioned that they’d heard she’d had dragon pox and wasn’t it just such an awful illness?

Draco had taken a few more days off. She’d stopped in each night after work to check in on him, but other than being slightly crankier than his usual self, he seemed alright. He told her twice on Tuesday that he needed a drink to get through the following day, but she managed to convince him to hold off and see if he could do it before preemptively making the decision.

She also gently reminded him that if he started drinking again, he’d have to go through this entire detox process again, and it probably would be even worse than this time because he’d know it was coming. That had shut him up, mostly.

It was a typical bleak February afternoon, clouds covering the sky and threatening rain. The service itself was small. Draco and Narcissa, of course, as well as a handful of other pureblood families stood around the grave. Ginny was on Draco’s left, elegant in her dark black robes and simply pinned up hair. She’d had to come home from a tournament for this, and the frown creasing her brow revealed her frustration at missing such an important event for her faux-husband’s scumbag father’s funeral.

Hermione was on Draco’s right, with Harry beside her, and she knew the four of them must have looked strange standing together on one side of the coffin. Hermione had tried to step back and remove herself from the spotlight, but Draco had looked at her and his eyes were too wide for her comfort, and so she stayed.

Narcissa had found someone willing to speak as they lowered Lucius into the ground, and it was just as dull as Hermione had been expecting it to be. The officiator rambled on about death being the ultimate sacrifice, about its absolution and the redemption inherent in passing to the next world.

At one point, Hermione glanced over and noticed Draco’s hand shaking as it hung down by his side. He was clenching his fist, clearly trying to stop it, but he seemed unable to control the tremor. Glancing around to make sure that the handful of other guests weren’t paying attention, she moved her own hand over and gripped his forearm in solidarity. Draco let her hold his arm like this gently, and when she was about to pull away he twisted his arm around and caught her fingers, twining them together with his.

Hermione looked again, and no one even seemed to be looking at them. Resigning herself to the fact that she may need to come up with some explanation about why he was holding her hand and not his own wife’s, she squeezed slightly for reassurance and let him hold on.

After what seemed like far too long, Lucius’s coffin was finally in the ground and the dirt had been packed on, and Narcissa and the rest of the pureblood socialites had left to go back to the manor to warm up with tea and snacks. Harry and Ginny stepped back, giving Draco some privacy. He did not let go of Hermione’s hand and so she stayed next to him, listening to the wind rustle through the branches and scanning the names on surrounding graves to distract herself from saying something.

Finally, Draco let out a shaky breath and turned his head to look at Hermione. His eyes were sparkling in a way that made her think he was trying to hold back tears, and his jaw was so tense she could see it down his whole neck. Hermione lifted her free hand and pressed it to his cheek and he leaned into it, just a little, for reassurance. Hermione glanced once more to the patch of disturbed ground and then back at Draco, trying not to think about how much of a wreck she’d been when she realized her parents were truly lost as well.

Slowly, she felt his jaw relax under her hand, and his eyes closed. They stood together in the cool air for another long moment, and then Hermione let herself speak to break the silence.

“There’s nothing I can say to make this better.” She admitted, and he nodded just once in agreement. “There’s so much caught up in all of these feelings. But, you did it without a drink. And that is a huge accomplishment. Do not let him set you back again, Draco.”

Draco shuddered against her hand just slightly at the sound of his name, and then he stepped closer, tugging her into his arms and burying his face in her hair, taking deep shaking breaths against her. He wasn’t crying - or at least, not out loud - but she could feel the sorrow radiating off him.

“I shouldn’t be so upset about this.” He mumbled. His voice was gruff from lack of speaking and thick with emotion. “He was a fucking awful person. He deserved to die.”

“He was your father,” Hermione countered, wrapping her own arms around him and letting him shake against her. “You are allowed to be upset about this.”

Draco nodded again against her hair and then, slowly, untangled himself and stepped back a little bit. He looked at her again, searching her face, hoping he would find comfort there. Hermione could not bring herself to feel too deeply for this dead man who deserved his fate. Instead, she let herself worry about the man in front of her, already so broken and struggling, now with the guilt of sorrow over his father’s death on his conscience.

Hermione looked back at him, once more thinking about when she lost her parents. She had fallen into literature, consumed as much as she could to make sense of the pain of loss without death and suffering without pain. One line had stood out to her so clearly she could taste it, and she thought that in this strange language that she had developed with Draco of quotes and sayings, it would be something for him just as it had been for her. Leaning forward, she pressed her lips to his cheek softly, and then whispered against his skin. “‘So it goes.’”

“Granger?” He all but whispered. Hermione leaned back, searching his eyes. “Can we leave?”


They landed together on the steps of Grimmauld place, and Hermione let him into the house, realizing as she fumbled with the door that her fingers had gone numb with the cold.

Draco stood in the hallway looking lost, and neither of them really registered the sound of apparition on the front steps. Harry and Ginny slipped in behind Hermione and then, with nods to the both of them, headed upstairs. Alone again, Hermione stepped closer to Draco and caught his hands in hers, feeling how cold they were.

“What do you want to do?” She asked, and Draco let out a rather pathetic laugh in response.

“This wasn’t exactly how I planned to spend my day, you know.” He said, letting her warm his hands with hers.

“Well, not many people have funerals planned months in advance.” Hermione pointed out, raising a brow up at him.

Draco shrugged. “Probably not.” He hesitated then, clearly trying to decide if he should say what was on his mind. He looked at Hermione for confirmation and she nodded, encouraging him. “I’d rather hoped to spend Valentine’s Day with you, actually.”

Hermione’s jaw dropped as she looked up at him. She had completely forgotten to connect the dots, that it was February 14th and that February 14th meant a day for love and celebration. “Wait, did your mother-”

“Only Narcissa Malfoy could see the beauty in holding her husband’s funeral on today of all days, yes.” Draco still looked uncomfortable, and when he realized Hermione still wasn’t understanding what he was saying he sighed and tugged his hands out of hers. Catching her face in both of his hands, he looked down into her eyes. “Clearly I need to practice more.”

Hermione frowned again up at him, trying to puzzle out what he was saying. “Practice… funeral planning?” She was still caught on the last topic of conversation, and this drew a real laugh from her companion, who leant forwards to kiss her tenderly.

“Don’t be daft, Granger, it doesn’t suit you. I clearly need to ask more women out, seeing as you didn’t even seem to notice that I was doing so.” Draco sounded like he was joking, mostly. But Hermione had finally figured out how to see through his mask and she noticed the uncertainty in the quirk of his smile and the discomfort in his eyes, waiting for rejection.

“You’re asking me out for Valentine’s Day? I-” she paused, and felt herself blushing a little under his palms. “I understand, if it’s too much. It’s been a rough day.”

Draco shook his head, stepping closer against her, pressing their bodies together gently as he looked down into her eyes. “My father is dead. He does not control my actions any longer. I wish I could take you to a stunning restaurant, drape a string of pearls around your pretty neck,” he paused, frowning slightly. “At the very least I probably should have brought flowers. I’m a little rusty at this, I think.”

It was Hermione’s turn to smile up at him, and she turned her head a little to kiss the inside of his wrist. “You don’t need to buy me flowers. Or pearls.” Thinking for a moment, she suddenly had an idea and she grinned up at him now. “How about dinner? We can go eat up in the garden. Who needs a fancy restaurant anyways? They’re all overpriced, if you ask me.”

Draco laughed again, each one now sounding a little lighter than the last, and he kissed her forehead. “There’s the brilliant woman I’m used to. I knew your daftness was only temporary.”

Hermione and Draco ate dinner together, sitting on the floor of the rooftop patio. Candles hovered around them and they drank sparkling grapefruit juice and not once did Draco say that it would have been improved with a vintage merlot.

“Come here, Granger,” Draco commanded, leaning back against a planter and spreading his legs, patting the space between them. They had just finished dessert and the sky had grown dark around them, and they had been sitting in silence and enjoying the ambience. Hermione shifted and moved to sit between his legs, and he tugged her so that her back rested against his chest, wrapping one arm possessively around her waist.

“Look,” he pointed, to a cluster of stars in the sky.

Hermione couldn’t help but laugh softly, and he tightened his arm a little as he felt her shaking against him. “If anyone ever says to me that your ego has diminished lately, I’m going to bring up the fact that you can point our your own constellation in less than a second.”

Although she couldn’t see him, Hermione was relatively certain Draco was rolling her eyes at her. “Of course, Granger. What good would it be to be named after the stars if I didn’t even know which ones were mine?”

“You’re something else.” Hermione mumbled only half-jokingly, and he pressed his lips against her ear. She sighed with content as she relaxed further into his chest and they fell into silence again, relishing in the warmth of their bodies pressed together and the flicker of the candles around them.

Hermione was just starting to think that, despite the funeral, this may be working out to be her best Valentine’s Day yet when Draco kissed her ear again, and then bit softly on her earlobe. He then kissed at her neck and started to work his way down, alternating kisses with small licks and gentle bites until he reached a particularly sensitive spot where her neck joined to her shoulder. He paused her, sucking on her skin softly, and she felt one of his hands slip under her shirt, working its way up until he could cup her breast in his hand.

Draco tugged her bra down a little so that he could brush his fingers over her nipple and Hermione arched her back up into him, inadvertently pushing her hips back into his and drawing a groan from him. Taking the moment of distraction, she turned her head and captured his lips in a kiss, and he pinched down on her nipple in response.

“Draco,” she murmured against his lips, trying to get more friction, or for him to move his hand lower, or something. He chuckled against her ear.

“Eager, are we?” He drawled, and she huffed slightly in frustration but could not disagree with him.

Infuriatingly, Draco stopped, letting go of her breast and sliding her shirt back down. She opened her mouth to ask why and he kissed her briefly. “Let’s go inside,” he suggested, lips moving against hers as he spoke. “I’d like to see your bedroom, I think.”

Hermione couldn’t help but shiver a little at the idea. Draco had yet to be in her bedroom; they’d had sex, but in the dining room table, and then kind of in her office. Something about the fact of moving it to her personal space made it feel so much more intimate, but then again they had just eaten a romantic candle-lit dinner, so maybe they’d already crossed that line.

Swallowing, Hermione stood up and reached a hand down to help him to his feet as well. They slipped back into the attic and then down to the third floor, and Hermione opened the door to her room, stepping inside so that Draco could follow. She waited awkwardly while he shut the door and looked around. Her room was still simple, mostly undecorated with a few photos of her and Harry and Ron scattered around. There was a pile of books acting as a side table next to her armchair, and she had pale blue sheets on the bed. They were nowhere near as nice as Draco’s and she was suddenly aware of how different the two of them really were.

As if he could sense her starting to worry, he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her, cutting off any thoughts of inadequacy that she was having. They broke apart only to pull off each others shirts, and came back together to kiss even as they awkwardly tried to shimmy out of their pants, tossing their rings onto the bedside table as well. Finally, they stood pressed against each other, Draco only in boxers and Hermione in her bra and underwear. He wrapped his arms around her and lifted her slightly, pushing her backwards onto the bed and dropping down on top of her, keeping himself propped above her by resting on his elbows.

Hermione got lost in him as they kissed, tangling her hands in his hair and enjoying the feeling of his hands caressing her skin, light careful touches that felt so different than the hurried and driven ones from the last time they had been together. Draco broke away from her lips to kiss down her chest, pulling off her bra as he went, teasing her nipples with his lips and then kissing a trail down the dark skin of her stomach. At some point he slipped out of his own boxers and Hermione opened her eyes to figure out why he had stopped kissing her to find him hovering above her naked.

She couldn’t help but shiver at the sight of him. He was all hard lines and sharp angles, hipbones that jutted out and broad shoulders and pale skin. The light shone behind his head and illuminated him in a way that made him look nearly celestial. She reached up and tucked a strand of his light hair back, savouring for a moment the contrast of dark skin brushing against light.

Quickly, Hermione grabbed at her wand which had made it onto her side table, and murmured a quick contraception spell before replacing her wand next to her. Draco leaned down again and kissed her softly this time, and his fingers moved between their legs, teasing her with gentle movements until she arched up and nearly whined his name out. He laughed into her neck and kissed it as he lowered down and pressed into her, slowly, until he was buried fully inside of her. They paused for a moment, his skin hot against hers. Hermione tangled her fingers into his hair and he cupped her cheek with the hand he wasn’t holding himself up with, and then he began to move, slowly thrusting in and out of her.

They took their time, this time, learning the feeling of each other in a different way than they had in the dining room. Draco kissed at her neck, and she ran her fingers over his side and his arms. She moaned against him, tilting her hips and arching her body but he didn’t speed up much, and it was maddening and new and different in a way that made her heart swell and pound against her chest. Draco’s thrusts started to pick up speed and he slipped his hand down between them, rubbing over her clit. She moaned and pressed her chest up into his and he caught her lips as he pulled her over the edge, thrusting twice more before he stilled as well and groaned her name into her mouth.

Draco didn’t move right away, just let his body rest on hers as they caught their breath. Finally, slowly, he kissed her neck and slipped out of her, dropping down onto the bed beside her.

Hermione had decided she had never been quite so content. They lay together, tangled in sheets and each other, enjoying this moment together. Draco was drawing small patterns onto her shoulder, and she was tracing her fingers over the flowers on his arm, watching as the petals fluttered across his skin.

“Granger?” He mumbled, voice still a little husky.

“Mmm?” Hermione didn’t bother to look up at him, too comfortable with her head on his chest to contemplate moving.

“Have you…” Draco paused, choosing his words. “Have you had another panic attack? Since Christmas?”

Hermione’s fingers stilled at the question and she thought about it carefully. “No.” She answered, and she felt his chest relax softly as he exhaled.

The silence stretched on a little longer, and Hermione was starting to feel quite sleepy when he spoke up again.

“What’s changed?” Draco asked, and she frowned a little but considered this question as well.

“I’m not sure,” she admitted truthfully. “I’ve been doing some reading, about different techniques to stay calm, trying to make sure I’m ready if I feel another one.” Hermione paused and wondered if she should continue, but something in her spurred her on. “I haven’t been, um, set off by anything lately. The past few - it was the chandelier, and then your arm. Before that, one was because of a fight, shouting and that feeling of terror tend to cause them. And…” Hermione trailed off, not sure if it was crossing a line to finish her sentence.

“And?” Draco prompted, and she sighed.

“And I feel… safer. I don’t know if that would actually stop them. But people know now, and… I know that they can help me. I know that if I had one when I was with you, you could stop it. That helps.”

Draco nodded, and fell silent. Hermione snuggled a little more into his chest again. “Granger?” He asked, and she looked up at him, searching his face. “Do you think they’re gone for good?”

Hermione frowned and sighed. “No,” she admitted truthfully. “I don’t think you can ever get rid of something like that, not completely.” When Draco started to frown too she shook her head quickly to stop him. “But you do the best you can. You… you learn how to cope with them. And you take every day as it is. And today was a good day. And I think tomorrow will be too. And if that’s the best I can hope for, I’m okay with that.”

Draco nodded at her explanation and kissed the top of her head, tightening his arm around her and lifting his wand from the side table to flick of the lights.

“Night, Draco.” She mumbled into his chest as her eyes closed. Hermione didn’t think through the fact that he was in her bed and that he was very clearly planning on staying the night. She was warm and content and she felt safe and loved, and that was all that mattered.

Draco looked down at the mass of curls on his chest and he sighed, contentedly as well. The day might have started out relatively awful, but if he could end every day like this, he wasn’t sure he could ever complain.

Sure she was asleep, he kissed the top of her head softly. “Night, Hermione.” 

Chapter Text

While there was something magical about falling asleep in each other’s arms and waking up with their skin still pressed together, there was also the small problem of the fact that Draco wasn’t really supposed to be there. And that she shared a bathroom with Harry.

Hermione awoke content, snuggling into the warm body beside her. And then she realized that it was Draco and she sat straight up, looking down at him. He was still pushing off the drudges of sleep and she blinked hard to make sure this wasn’t a dream, and then swallowed.

“You fell asleep here.” She said, trying to keep the panic from her voice.

Draco let out something that sounded halfway between a sigh and a groan and opened his eyes to look up at her. “And?”

Hermione nearly threw her hands up in the air at his incompetence. “You’re not supposed to even be here! What if someone found out? We could go to Azkaban for this, Draco!”

Draco propped himself up on his elbow and reached out for her, trying to tug her back down against him. She resisted by crossing her arms and he couldn’t help but roll her eyes at her. “Granger. Look around - is there anyone else in your bedroom right now?"

Hermione shot him a look and he didn't even blink in response. "That's not the point. You... How are you going to get home without anyone seeing you?"

Draco sighed, didn't respond, and pushed himself off the bed. He pulled on his underwear and then pants from the day before, then slipped his arms into his shirt and didn't do the buttons up. Hermione was suddenly a lot more aware of her nakedness and she tugged the sheets up around her chest.

Draco leaned over the bed and kissed her and she tried to remember that she was frustrated with him, but it was difficult when she could smell him on her skin. Pulling back, he winked at her and walked over to the fireplace. "Don't worry about me, Granger. Wizard, remember?" He picked up a pinch of floo powder and tossed it into the fire and then flashed her a disarming smile. "I won't be at work today, taking the rest of the week off. Don't miss me too much." And then he disappeared into the green flames.

Thursday and Friday night had both ended in Draco stepping through Hermione's floo, mumbling about being worried about being alone and his desire to drink. Mostly he was fine during the day, but at night - especially after spending the whole day cooped up in the manor with his grieving mother - the urge was strong. Hermione had promised to help him, after all.

Both nights had ended in a tangle of sweaty limbs and Hermione falling asleep on his chest.

Saturday night he didn't come, and she lay awake for hours wondering if he was okay. When he didn't come on Sunday either, she practiced "mindful breathing" and decided that she would just pretend everything was fine. It wasn't so much that she missed him, although that was true too. But she was expecting him, and a break in routine - especially one that could mean he was in trouble - didn't sit well in her stomach. It wasn't like he had to tell her all of his plans, but it was hard to separate what she knew was rational with the way her body tried to react. She told herself she was overreacting and recited spells until she fell asleep.

Monday morning rolled around and at the very least meant that on her lunch break, she could check in on him for reassurance. She spent most of her morning trying to figure out exactly why the Wizengamot rejected her proposal, especially because this time she had made sure to make it "fiscally plausible". It was infuriating, and she was sure at this point they were simply stalling so that they could say they were ‘looking into the present situation’ without ever having to do anything. It made her want to rip her hair out.

Hermione didn’t need to wait until lunch to hear from Draco.

Midway through the morning, as she re-read the section on the costs of wolfsbane for all of the currently-known werewolves in Britain for the hundredth time, her door flew open. Hermione looked up to see Draco in the doorway, and she had barely registered his presence before he had slammed the door shut and crossed her small office in three large strides.

“Draco?” She asked, raising a brow, but he didn’t respond. Instead, he reached for her and pulled her out of the chair, crashing his lips into hers in a bruising kiss. She let out a small noise that sounded a bit like “eep” against his lips but let him press his body against hers. Draco turned them both and pressed her back into the wall as he kissed her, and moved a hand down and inside of her shirt.

When he pulled back from her lips she gasped and swallowed, not sure exactly what had gotten into him but not entirely sure she wanted to complain either. He began to kiss at her neck, and then started sucking at one of her pulse points. Hermione arched up into him as he caught one of her nipples between his fingers and pinched, and she pressed her hips against his to try and get some friction.

This kiss was so different than the last few times they’d been together the week before. Then it was soft and gentle, careful in a way that felt far less than fucking and far more like making love. This was bruising and hard and she liked it but, she also started to wonder just where it was coming from and why.

“Draco?” She tried again, and he didn’t respond once more, just sucked harder at her soft skin. Hermione then took a moment to examine what she could see of him. His shoulders were pulled back tightly and the hand that was next to her head on the wall was curled into a tight fist. His ears were slightly tinted pink and she immediately realized that something was wrong.

“Draco, stop.” Immediately, he broke away from her skin and leaned back a little to relieve some of the pressure he was putting on her body. He didn’t step away fully but looked into her eyes, trying to figure out what he had done. “Not that I don’t very much enjoy that,” Hermione began, smiling a little at him. “But, is everything alright?”

In response, Draco groaned with frustration and then he did step back, placing her on the ground as he did so. He ran his hands through his hair and then turned away from her. “Fuck.” He muttered, taking a few steps away. Then he paused, and turned, and walked back over, shaking his head. “Fuck, why are you so damn perceptive?”

Hermione crossed her arms in front of her chest and raised an eyebrow at him. “Are you going to explain what’s happened, or are you just going to stalk around my office and swear at me?”

“Nothing’s happened Granger. But everyone who works here are such bloody idiots - I am surrounded by utterly incompetent fools and they expect me to track down Death Eaters and provide them with information about resistance movements and they can’t even fucking follow my instructions!”

Hermione couldn’t help but frown a little at his outburst. She knew that he worked for the Aurors in some sort of contract position, but she hadn’t ever known exactly what he did. This, of course, made sense. He had connections he could use, likely he told them that he was infiltrating the Ministry and threw money at their movements and then turned on them when the opportunity arose. But, it was still a disconcerting thought, that he was so involved still. Especially after what had happened with his father.

“They fucking botched a major operation and we’ll probably never have another opportunity like that again. And I need a fucking whiskey but I see that you broke into my office-”

“The door was unlocked.” Hermione interjected.

“And poured out every bottle I had in there. Do you know how expensive that all was, Granger? The least you could have done would have been to give it to Blaise or Theo or someone who would have enjoyed it.”

Hermione sighed. “So that’s what this is all about? You had a bit of a rough morning and now you want a drink.”

Draco threw his hands up in the air at her. “A bit of a rough morning? I hate everyone who I work with, I hate that I had a better time in fucking forced detox than I am now that I’m back here! And Merlin help me but I am trying to be good for you even though it’s killing me.” His shoulders dropped at this and his hands fell down to his sides again, and she watched as his fingers curled up into fists. “Granger,” he mumbled, obviously uncomfortable but pressing on despite it. “Help me be good for you.”

Hermione felt her heart clench at his words and she nodded, opening her arms and pulling him into them. Draco’s body sagged against her and she sighed, rubbing circles over his back. “I’ll help you,” she murmured into his hair. “But you know what isn’t going to help right now? Having sex in the office.” Draco grumbled something against her neck and she kissed the top of his head.

Draco pulled back from her and recomposed himself, stepping back and leaning against her desk. “Well, if sex is off the table,” he glanced down at the desk and then back at her with a bit of a predatory smile. “Or the desk, as the case may be, we still haven’t solved my problem. Which is that I loathe this job, and I’m not qualified for anything else. No one is going to hire a Death Eater.”

“Ex.” Hermione mumbled, and then dropped down into her office chair so she could think, looking up at him. When he frowned, she rolled her eyes and clarified. “Ex Death Eater. Anyways. The problem here is obviously that your job is not a good fit anymore. So, I’m still not entirely sure why you haven’t figured out that the solution is just as simple? Quit.”

Draco crossed his arms now, looking down at her. “And do what, exactly, with myself?”

“Well.” Hermione thought for a moment. “I know that you and your mother had to make some substantial monetary reparations after the war, but I’m assuming that you have more than enough to be comfortable with?”

Draco scoffed. “Of course. I could never work another day in my life and we would be more than comfortable.”

Hermione raised a brow at him. “So, why do you work then?”

Draco opened his mouth, and then closed it. He frowned down at her, and lifted his hand to rub his chin in thought. “I need something to do with my time. I don’t just want to sit around and be some socialite hosting dinner parties and playing bridge like my mother.”

“Your mother plays-” Hermione cut herself off and shook her head. “Nevermind. So the point is that you want something to do with your time. And, if I’m not wrong, something that helps other people out?”

Draco smirked at her. “Watch it, Granger. Don’t want anyone to think I’m going soft.”

Hermione pushed herself up off the chair and stood in front of him, very close but not quite touching. “Quit. Quit before this job drives you to drink or murder one of your coworkers. Take some time for yourself. Think about what you want to do, what you’re good at. You have a privilege not many other people do, which is that you can follow your heart and not worry about money. Don’t screw that up by not knowing exactly what it is your heart wants.”

Nodding, Draco stood fully off her desk, letting his body brush against hers as he did so. “I knew there was a reason I keep you around.” He kissed her forehead and she laughed in response. “You brilliant little witch.” Draco dropped his head down to kiss her lips as well. “I’m going to go quit my job.”

Heading for the door, he stopped before he opened it and looked back at her. “Granger? Put the rough sex back on the table for tonight.” He winked at her and she blushed furiously and he pulled the door open and stepped through it. Before he closed it behind him, he cleared his throat slightly and pointed to his own neck. “And you might need a glamour, just there.”

Draco and Hermione barely saw each other over the course of that week. After he had stormed up to the head Auror and quit, Draco then had to spend the rest of the week sorting out his files and training other people on his work. The Ministry wasn’t entirely happy about it - he had been a good asset, after all - but Draco was now determined and he wasn’t someone who could be pushed around once he had his mind set. He did stop by twice in the evenings, but even then he hadn’t stayed the night, too busy trying to get everything in order. Hermione was trying to get used to not seeing him around the Ministry, though she had a sneaking suspicion that he would probably still stop in to see her every once in awhile.

On Friday, Hermione made the decision that since it was Draco’s last day at the Ministry that she would stop by his office and try and convince him into going out to get some food with her in Muggle London as a celebration. She was walking down the hallway towards the Auror’s offices, reading over her revised proposal, when she ran directly into a tall, solid body.

Hermione let out a small “oh!” and stepped back quickly, glancing down to make sure her papers were alright and hadn’t been too badly crumpled. “I’m so sorry, I wasn’t paying attention-” She stopped abruptly when she glanced up and was met with the smirking face of none other than Cormac McLaggen.

“Well well, look who we have here.” He said, and grinned down at him. There was something predatory in his gaze that immediately set her on edge, and she pulled her papers a little closer to herself instinctively.

“Cormac.” Hermione greeted, rather cooly. “If you’ll excuse me-” she stepped to her right, but the tall man was faster and he stepped to his left, blocking her way. When she stepped left, he stepped right, and then he placed a hand on the wall beside her head, turning so that her back was against the wall and he was entirely too close to her for comfort.

“I was thinking about you the other day, Hermione.” Cormac said her name in a long drawn out drawl that she supposed was intended to be sexy or enticing but, combined with the look in his eyes, only caused her to frown up at him. He was taller than she was, and certainly not unattractive. “I’ve just been given a promotion, you see. I’m now the Junior Assistant to the Minister for Magic.” Cormac grinned down at her.

Hermione did her very best not to roll her eyes too hard at him. From everything she knew about the position, it was rather useless, and likely Cormac was only given it through his familial ties - probably to shut him up. “And how does this connect to me?”

“Well,” Cormac began, drawing out the word. “I was thinking that you should go on a date with me.”

Hermione balked at him, jaw dropping in slight surprise. “I’m married!” She said, incredulously. “As, I believe, are you.”

Cormac shrugged half a shoulder at her. “Romilda and I have a, ah, rather open relationship. Besides, everyone knows that your marriage to Potter is a sham.” Hermione opened her mouth to protest and he laughed, cutting her off. “Please, Hermione. Everyone knows Harry Potter has been in love with Ginny Weasley for years. I saw them sneak out of the Christmas Party together. Which means, you and I could do some sneaking off ourselves.”

Hermione let out a breath in a huff and shot him her best withering look. “Cormac.” She said, simply, deciding not to touch on the fact that at least one person knew about some of the infidelity in her marriage. At least he had also basically admitted that he was doing the same with Romilda, so it was somewhat comforting to know that if he tried to send her to Azkaban she would drag him along with her. “I absolutely do not want-”

“Isn’t this interesting.” Another voice entered the conversation, but Hermione was surrounded by Cormac and she couldn’t see exactly who it was. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately in this case, she had become very good at recognizing that particular voice, considering how frequently she heard it whispering incredibly dirty things in her ears.

Cormac turned his head a fraction and rolled his eyes. “Bugger off, Malfoy.”

Hermione heard Draco’s probably expensive shoes clack against the marble floor as he approached them. “Did I miss a memo, McLaggen? Or do you own this hallway now? Granger - you alright?”

Cormac sneered over his shoulder and Hermione tried to use the distraction to sneak out from under his arm, but Cormac once again moved faster than she did and she wasn’t able to get out.

“Did I not just tell you to fuck off, Death Eater?” Cormac spat the words like a slur, and then turned back to Hermione. “Anyways, Hermione, as I was saying-”

And then all of a sudden Cormac was no longer in front of her and Hermione blinked in confusion before she realized what had happened. Draco had grabbed the back collar of Cormac’s robes and yanked and the man had stumbled away from her, and Cormac was now rubbing at his throat, his entire face flaming red with anger.

“I don’t think she was enjoying that very much, Cormac.” Draco’s voice was incredibly even, and very, very cold. Hermione had another wave of realization about the danger that oozed out of his pores. Cormac was not so perceptive.

“Bloody hell! You don’t get to put your fucking hands on me, Malfoy! I’ll have you fucking fired for that. You’re a danger and a disgrace . And you don’t get to speak for her like you know what she wants.”

Hermione watched as Draco’s wand slipped down his sleeve and into his hand and she immediately jumped into action, standing between the two of them and reaching her arms out. “Stop!” She half-shouted, and both of the men looked over at her. “This is nonsense. Cormac, as I was saying , I have absolutely no interest in you nor will I ever. I am happily taken and you will never change my mind on the subject.” She paused, glaring up at the tall man. “So if you could kindly bugger off.”

Cormac’s jaw dropped at the sound of her swearing but instead of responding, shook his head. “It’s your loss, Granger. If you ever decide to change your mind, you know where I work. Upstairs. With the Minister.” He shot Malfoy an angry glare that seemed to say they weren’t done with this, and turned on his heel, storming out of the corridor and slamming the door at the end of it behind him.

Hermione sighed and then turned to face Draco. “And what, exactly, was that?” She asked, placing her hands on her hips.

Draco raised a brow at her. “He was harassing you,” he said simply.

“I had it under control.” Hermione shot back, and then glanced down at his wand, waiting until he slid it back up into his sleeve.

Draco laughed sharply in response to this. “Sure didn’t seem like it to me, Granger.”

“I’m not some… some damsel in distress in need of protecting!”

Draco shrugged. “It’s my last day, there’s nothing he can do to me. And besides, I protect what’s mine.”

Hermione felt a rush of cold dread run down her spine at the last of his words, and under the intense look in his eyes. Although she tried to suppress it, she could feel the anger bubbling up inside her chest and she felt her cheeks flush. It was too close to the feeling she had gotten when Kingsley had announced the new law. Too close to the feeling of Ron saying he wished they could have gotten married, wished for babies she didn’t want yet and a wife she wasn’t ready to be. Too close to the feelings of terror and panic, of being held down and used and too close, in her now panicky brain, to the thought of her ancestors held in chains and forced to comply. “I’m not yours, Malfoy. I don’t belong to you.” Her voice was now just as cold as his had been, but markedly less cruel. It was a dangerous tone, but Draco seemed to be in a reckless state of mind.

He closed the distance between them and backed her into the wall, sliding a hand up to tangle in her hair at the base of her neck. “Yes.” He said, simply, but fiercely. “You might not have my ring on your finger, Granger, but you are mine. And nobody hurts what’s mine.” His voice was low now, nearly a growl, and Hermione was aware of all of the hard planes of his body pressing her into the wall.

Placing a hand on his chest, she pressed firmly until he let go and stepped back. Her hand was nearly shaking as she tried to control herself, and she could feel the panic starting to settle into her bones, pulse under her skin. “I belong to no one.” She was clear and determined, but she knew that her emotions were affecting the tone of her voice now too, that her brain was trying to force her to disengage before it got worse. Draco had passed the point in her mind where she found him infuriating and now she was livid. “Even if I had your ring on my finger, I would not belong to you. You do not possess me.”

Draco opened his mouth to respond and she lifted her finger in warning. He closed it quickly and crossed his own arms over his chest and Hermione could feel the tension in the air crackle around them. “I knew what I was getting into, Malfoy, when this whole thing started.” She said, trying to figure out how to phrase this. “I know your past and your present and I accept them both. But sometimes you terrify me. And if you can’t get it figured out that you will never own me like some thing then I can’t do this anymore.”

“I don’t think you’re some thing.” He spat back, and she could hear the anger in his voice as well. “What I think is that some bloody asshole was being a greasy fuck all over you and that’s not exactly something I’m comfortable with.”

Hermione shook her head. “You don’t get it, Malfoy.” She turned away from him now, anger shifting into pain as she tried to force herself to suppress the tears she could feel building up behind her eyes and calm the rapid pace her heart was now thudding at. This shouldn’t be so hard . He had crossed a line that she considered uncrossable and he was making no attempt to even see it her way. Some rational voice in the back of her head tried to remind her that this was probably a communication error, that he didn’t recognize why it bothered her. But it did bother her and that should have been enough. She should have known that you can’t touch fire without it burning your skin.

“Granger - Hermione - fuck!” Draco grabbed her shoulder and pulled her around to face him. “You just said it yourself. You knew what you were getting into. You knew that I was - that I am - fucked up. And I’m not going to change for you, or for anyone. This is who I am, Granger. I’m a fucked up person and we both know it. And if you can’t handle this,” he gestured to himself. “Then maybe you’re right. Maybe this isn’t going to work out.”

Hermione swallowed. “Draco,” she said again, shaking her head. “That’s not what I meant. You’re taking my words and twisting them around. I have told you over and over again that I forgive you, and that I know who you are and that I am okay with it.” She paused, searching for a way to make him understand, trying to stay present enough in her brain to handle the rapidly deteriorating situation. “Despite all of that, I am still not yours to own . I can’t deny that you’re scaring me. Your situation, who you are… that does not excuse this behaviour.”

Stepping back and away from his hand, she looked up at him one more time, and then closed her eyes. It was too much, too much to deal with right now, for her racing heart and her shaking hands. “I have to go.”

“Fine.” Draco retorted, and she was suddenly reminded of the petulant child he used to be.

“Fine.” She snapped back, and then she turned and was gone.

Chapter Text

Even though they had basically ended whatever the hell you could call it that they were doing, some small part of Hermione expected him to walk through her floo that night like nothing had happened. She sat in bed and tried to read her latest book and looked up every time she heard a noise in the house, as if he would be standing there. She knew, knew, that it was ridiculous, but her stomach was wrapped in knots and her heart ached and she wanted nothing more than to be in his arms.

Hermione hated being ridiculous.

Somehow, he had twisted himself into her life, grown over her like moss and the thought of moving forward without him left her feeling empty and naked and vulnerable. Hermione had never understood it, why people were broken hearted after breakups. When she’d ended things with Ron she’d been sad, of course, but it felt more like surface level sadness. If that was a scrape, this was a wound, deep and pulsing and painful. And no matter how hard she tried to pretend that no, this was fine, it was better this way, she couldn’t seem to stop the pain and when she finally fell asleep, it was curled up to her pillow with tears leaking out of her eyes.

Saturday was not much better. Hermione felt useless all day. She tried to read, and read the same line over and over. She tried to work on her proposal, but it made her feel angry and useless. She’d considered floo-ing Ginny or Luna to have lunch, but if she called the manor she may get him, and she didn’t think she wanted to deal with Pansy Parkinson’s wrath if she called Luna.

Not to mention that by Saturday she couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that he might start drinking again. If he was really only staying sober for her, then he would have no reason to anymore. And that hurt, because even if she wasn’t - couldn’t be - with him, she also didn’t want him to drink himself to death. She hated that even though rationally she had decided it was over, he seemed to have carved a spot out in her heart and was stubbornly refusing to move.

Saturday night felt much like Friday. Harry had been a little worried about her, but she had lied and said she was coming down with a cold and gone to bed early. Eventually, she forced herself to roll over in bed so she couldn’t see the fireplace and stared instead at the book she had fallen asleep next to, deciding that even if all she read was one page a hundred times it was better than staring at the floo.

When her floo whooshed to life, she nearly leapt out of the bed. Luckily, she managed to contain herself to only sit up and turn in the direction of it. Draco was standing in her sitting area, holding a bouquet of flowers. Her heart caught in her throat and she tried to swallow it back down and failed spectacularly. There was something about him, some vulnerability in the way he was holding himself, his hair slightly askew, sleeves of his green sweater pushed up around his elbows, and a bouquet full of white tulips and purple hyacinth and sweet-briar and more that she could not identify from her position on the bed.

“Draco?” She asked, finally, shifting forward a little on the bed but still not getting up. “What are you…”

Quickly, Draco shook his head. “Give me a minute, Granger.” He murmured, running his free hand through his hair again. “I don’t exactly have a lot of practice, with this.”

Hermione closed her mouth again and took a deep breath through her nose, trying to suppress the way her heart thudded traitorously against her chest.

“You’ve probably noticed,” Draco said, slowly and carefully and with a softness to his voice she wasn’t used to hearing outside of when they slept together, “that I’m not particularly adept at expressing my emotions.” Hermione couldn’t help but smile, just a little, at this confession. She nodded for him to go on. Draco took a breath and looked down at his flowers and then back up to her, stepping closer but not close enough.

“‘In vain have I struggled.’” He paused, looking at her, and she nodded again, not entirely sure she could believe him without hearing the rest of the line. “‘It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire… and love you.’”

Hermione found herself standing without even thinking about it, crossing the room until she was only a foot or so in front of him. “You… you read Pride and Prejudice? For me?”

Draco couldn’t stop the flush that spread across his cheeks and the tips of his ears. “Months ago.” He admitted.

“You remember, I’m sure, that Lizzie did not exactly respond favourably, to Mr. Darcy, at that moment.”

Draco glanced up at the ceiling and muttered something that sounded a lot like “Merlin help me” and then he closed the distance between them, tossing the flowers onto the bed and cupping her face in both hands. “Granger,” he began, then winced. “Hermione. I’m rubbish at talking about this shite. I have absolutely no idea how to apologize to anyone. But. What happened yesterday…” he trailed off. “I’m not going to say that I’m sorry for it, because I’m not, really. I want to… to look after you, if you need me. I want to be there for you, if you’re willing to let me.” He closed his eyes. “You are in my circle of people now, and I protect those people with my life. And I know you don’t want to be owned. And I know that I could never hold you down, even if I tried. I wouldn’t want to try.” Draco caught her brown eyes with his silver-grey ones, searching them and trying to figure out if she understood yet. “Fuck, Hermione, I am in love with you. And I can’t… I can’t handle not having you in my life. Even if you do not feel the same way. We can forget about this, and about yesterday, and just go back to the way it was before. But I can only change myself so much. And, fuck, I’m really, really trying here.”

Hermione had thought that her heart couldn’t feel any fuller, and yet somehow it did. She wanted to throw herself against him, wrap her body around his and press her face into his skin. She wanted to taste his lips and feel his hot skin and kiss him until neither of them could breathe. She wanted to fly.

Draco was still standing there, looking down, and looking more uncomfortable with every passing second. He let out a shaky breath and stepped back, dropping his hands down to the side. She realized then that she had been so caught up in this feeling of elation that she hadn’t responded to him. Draco Malfoy had stood in front of her and told her that he loved her, and she hadn’t said a single thing. Before he could step back further she reached up and caught his hands, and locked her eyes onto his.

“I love you.” She blurted out, feeling her cheeks flush and forcing herself to push on. It was like being hit with a wave, the realization that yes, this was love. Yes, this was good. “‘I love you as the plant that never blooms, but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers; thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance, risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.’”

Draco’s lips crashed into hers, his arms wrapping around her body and pressing them together and she sighed against him as they kissed. Yes. This was what had been missing. It was almost disconcerting, the fact that the way his smell overwhelmed her and his body pressed against her could clear away all of the feelings of pain and discomfort she had been suffering through the past twenty-four odd hours, and yet, she couldn’t bring herself to question it.

Draco scooped her up off the floor, lifting her until she wrapped her legs around him to stay up. He walked them backwards to the bed and they crashed down on it together, Hermione vaguely registering that she had most definitely landed on the bouquet of flowers. They barely broke apart as he tugged off her shirt and she did the same to him, pausing to run her fingers over her tattoo as she did every time, a visual reminder that he was so fully committed to making her feel safe.

“Missed you,” Draco murmured into her mouth as he worked at tugging down her pants, and she couldn’t help but laugh a little against him.

“Saw you yesterday.”

“Yesterday was hell. I’ve already decided never to think of it again.”

Hermione grinned against his lips and it grew when she felt his lips stretch in response, and she moved her hands down to push at his pants as well. Soon they were both only in their underwear and Hermione could definitely feel squished flower petals against her back, but she couldn’t bring herself to care. Suddenly, Draco rolled them over on the bed, lying on his back and adjusting her so that she was fully on top of him. She hesitated, for a moment, suddenly feeling self conscious, but he reached up and plucked at one of her nipples and grinned in appreciation.

“You look stunning from this angle. Not sure why I haven’t thought of this before.”

Hermione rolled her eyes at him and then rolled her hips, teasingly, against his. He groaned and pressed his head back into the pillow, and she grinned in response. There was something intoxicating about being in control.

Moving quickly, she tugged off his boxers and then her knickers as well, tossing them off to the side. While she did that, she felt him catch her hand and tug off her simple wedding ring, hearing a clink as he placed them on the side table. There was something about the gesture she appreciated deeply, the fact that when they were together the ridiculous law mattered a little less. That they were above it. Hermione grabbed her wand from off the bedside table and murmured the contraceptive charm quickly, then dropped it back down - not caring as it rolled off the table and onto the floor.

Once they were both naked, Hermione readjusted herself on top of him, rubbing against his length and drawing another groan from his lips. She teased him like this a while longer, enjoying the way he felt against her but not quite inside, and finally he reached up and grabbed her hips. “Granger,” he said, voice low and heavy like it always was when he was aroused.

Hermione smirked. “Tell me what you want, Draco.” When he opened his eyes and looked up at her, she sucked a finger into her mouth and then drew it down around her nipple, and he shuddered underneath her.

Fuck.” He murmured, and she laughed.

“I’m sure you could be a little more eloquent than that?” Hermione chided him, pinching her own nipple now and delighting in the feeling of his fingers gripping her hips even tighter. He’d leave bruises, she was sure of that. Something in her wanted him to leave even more.

Draco tried to sneer at her but it fell short. “Just because you’re on top doesn’t mean you get to be in charge.” He said, and she was starting to laugh again when he reached up and dragged his fingers over her clit. Her laugh dissolved into a moan and Draco sat up on the bed, immediately catching her free nipple in his lips, sucking and biting at it. Hermione’s head fell back as she gave in to the feelings of him touching her, and just as she was starting to get lost in it he stopped. Draco dropped back down to lean on his elbows, and looked up at her, raising a brow. “You know what to do, Granger.” He goaded, and she shot a look at him but lined herself up anyways.

In one smooth motion, Hermione buried him inside of her and moaned at the sensation. She took a moment to adjust to the position - he felt deeper than usual - and then leaned forward to place both her hands on either side of his head. Slowly, she began to rock her hips, forward and back, side to side, occasionally up and down. Draco let her control the pace, using one hand to play with her breasts and then tangling the fingers of the other with one of her hands.

Hermione had her eyes shut and was focusing on the new sensations, the different ways she could move and the sounds it pulled from Draco. Then, as she moved one way, he tilted his hips in a way that meant his pelvis brushed against her, causing her to groan and pause her own movements for a moment. When she opened her eyes to look down at him, he was grinning mischievously up at her.

“Bet I can make you scream, Granger.” He said, and she rose a brow in response.

“What do I get if you do?”

Draco laughed up at her and slid his hand around to her back, smacking her ass and causing her to gasp and jump a little and move against him again. “Best orgasm of your life.” He replied, and it was her turn to laugh.

“You’re on.” Hermione said, and then began to move her hips again. Draco began to move his as well, picking up the pace and moving his hips in the way that made her shiver against him. When Hermione started to lose her pace, Draco moved his hand in between them and rubbed against her clit, and he sped up, and then he leaned forward and pressed his lips to her ear.

All at once, Hermione’s entire body tightened and she screamed, throwing her head back. Shudders coursed through her and her legs shook as he thrust a few more times into her and then came himself with a groan against her neck. He pulled her fully onto him and wrapped his arms around her body and they lay still together, breathing heavily, Hermione still riding out the aftershocks of her orgasm against him.

All of a sudden, the door to Hermione’s room burst open, slamming against the wall beside it. “Hermione, are you okay? We heard an- OH FUCK!”

Hermione reacted immediately, yelping and rolling off Draco so quickly that she rolled right off the bed and hit the ground with a thud. Draco’s head shot up and his eyes landed on Harry and Ginny, standing in the doorway of the room. Harry had clapped a hand over his eyes and was saying, over and over “oh fuck oh fuck oh my GOD” and Ginny was standing wide eyed and flushed, looking at Draco’s naked body sprawled out on the bed.

“What the fuck?” Draco snapped, quickly pulling the sheets up and over his waist. “I knew you were an imbecile, Potter, but for Merlin's sake have you heard of knocking?”

Hermione groaned from the floor and Draco quickly leaned over the bed, throwing the duvet down over her body.

“You okay?” He asked quickly, and she nodded. She was flushed with embarrassment but didn’t appear to be hurt from her tumble.

Hermione sat up, now that she was covered with the blanket, and shot a glare at her friends. “Could you possibly get out?” She snapped, and Harry nodded and backed out of the room with his hands over his eyes. Ginny couldn’t help but smirk just a little, finally averting her eyes.

“Come downstairs when you’re dressed!” Harry called, and Ginny pulled the door closed behind them.

Hermione climbed back onto the bed and groaned in frustration. “Well.” She said.

Draco nodded. “Fuck.” He agreed. Hermione couldn’t help but laugh.

“Fuck.” She seconded, feeling like it really was the most appropriate way to sum up the situation, and he pulled her forward to plant a kiss on her forehead.

“Granger,” he began, noticing the furrow of her brow and the way that she was now chewing nervously on her bottom lip. “It’ll be fine. They’re your best friends. They’ll understand.”

Hermione sighed. “Harry… after the first time we kissed. He didn’t know, but he still told me to be careful of you. To not get involved.”

Draco couldn’t help but snort derisively at this. “Oh please. You’re a grown woman. As if Potter has any right to tell you what to do.”

A grin tugged at Hermione’s lips. “That’s what I said.” Draco leaned forward and kissed her again and then looked to the doorway and burst out laughing.

“God, that was priceless. Potter with his hands over his eyes screaming. And Weaslette was just staring. We make quite a pretty picture, you and I. Especially when my cock is inside you,” he dropped his voice to a low and sultry tone. “And you’ve got those flowers stuck all over your back.”

Hermione flushed and reached behind her, peeling a flattened petal off her skin. “Sorry,” she said, though she didn’t really sound it. “About the flowers I mean.”

Draco shook his head again, and she noticed that his pupils were still blown in arousal. “No,” he said quickly, gruffly. “You look…” he trailed off, searching for the right word. “Ravishing. Ethereal.” He reached out for her again and Hermione pulled back a little.

“You know we have to go and talk to them.” Hermione mumbled, and he pouted up at her.

“I’m sure they could wait. We could make it quick…” Already his hand was trailing down over her breasts, across her stomach, and dipping between her legs. Hermione shuddered again but forced herself to pull back and away from him, standing from the bed.

When Draco realized she was serious, he sighed in resignation and also stood to pull on his own clothes.

By the time Hermione and Draco made it down to the kitchen, Harry and Ginny were already seated at the table and deep in a quiet discussion. Each of them was leant over a cup of tea, and there was a freshly made pot in the middle of the table with two mugs beside it. Hermione couldn’t help but smile at the obvious influence of the Weasley matriarch. You never had a serious discussion without tea.

Hermione dropped down on the spare bench and Draco sat down gracefully beside her. Once they each had their own cup of tea, she cleared her throat and Harry and Ginny looked up at them. Harry’s cheeks were still flushed with red from the sight of his best friend naked, and Ginny’s ears were tinted slightly pink - though Hermione suspected it was for an entirely different reason.

“So.” Hermione started, carefully.

Harry cleared his throat. “First of all, sorry for barging in.” He winced a little at the memory. “We, obviously, didn’t see Malfoy come in. And then we heard you scream, and well.” He shrugged one shoulder carefully. “It seemed like you were having a bit of a rough few days, so we were worried.”

Ginny couldn’t help but grin beside him. “Clearly, we shouldn’t have been.”

Draco smirked at the redhead. “Clearly.”

Hermione shook her head at the lot of them. “Right. Just, I mean. Don’t do it again. And I’ll make sure to lock my door. Draco dropped in… rather unexpectedly.”

Harry was still looking down at the table, picking at a chipped spot in the wood. “I knew something was going on between you two.” He said, not projecting his voice but not entirely quietly either. “Look.” Finally he took a breath and looked up, meeting Draco’s eyes. “From everything I’ve heard, from Ginny and Hermione, you seem to be a different person than you once were. And I think this has been going on longer than just tonight - that it’s not quite out of the blue. But. I still don’t think this is a good idea.”

Hermione sighed across the table. “Harry. We’ve discussed this. I’m an adult. I get to make my own choices.”

Ginny was twirling a strand of her long red hair in her fingers, clearly thinking about whether it was her place to speak again. “Hermione,” she said carefully. “Look. I’m not going to say that that,” she gestured up at the ceiling and smirked a little. “Wasn’t exceptionally hot. I mean. You’re both very good-looking people, and-” Harry cleared his throat and Ginny’s flush spread down over her cheeks. “Sorry. What I mean to say is, I care about both of you, surprisingly, and I just want to make sure that the two of you have really thought about this and what it means. Sex… complicates things.”

Hermione frowned at this, working through what Ginny was saying. Neither of them were as angry as she suspected, but then again, Hermione realized that she and Draco probably hadn’t been entirely subtle around the two of them. Maybe they’d had more of a chance to process this than she realized. Still though, it wasn’t exactly their place to be saying anything, all things considered.

Draco was rolling his eyes and he spoke before she could. “You’re both rubbish friends.” When Harry opened his mouth to protest, Draco lifted a finger to silence him. “Don’t start with me, Potter. Honestly. This is one of your closest friends here. And she is telling you that she is happy and you’re both sitting there, content in your loving relationship, and unwilling to see that her opinion is the only one that matters.”

Harry was frowning now as well. “No offense, Malfoy, but I don’t think you’re good enough for her. At all.” Ginny shot him a look, but Harry was resolutely ignoring the redhead, clearly determined to make his feelings clear.

Draco glanced up to the ceiling in a gesture that Hermione recognized as his ‘dear lord someone help me’ response. “Obviously I’m not.” He said clearly, and then levelled a glance at Potter. “And I have told her that repeatedly. But,” he paused and glanced over at Hermione, and flashed a grin at her. “She’s an incredibly stubborn witch, and she simply wouldn’t listen to me.”

Hermione laughed and leaned over to shove at his shoulder. “Don’t be an arse.” She muttered, the affection obvious in her voice. Draco turned to face her and raised a brow.

“Well, Granger, if you had a little more self control we wouldn’t be here. You were the one who seemed to think I couldn’t make you scream, knowing far well-”

“Stop!” Harry interjected quickly, and they both turned their heads to look at him. “Look. Ginny doesn’t seem to be concerned about this, and because she actually lives with you, Malfoy, I’m going to take her word that you’re not going to hurt Hermione. And, because I know we’ve asked you two for a lot already, so I guess I can’t really… complain. But, I don’t want to know anything about your sex life. It’s just too much. The two of you… it’s madness, really.” Harry glanced over at Ginny for her support and then back at Hermione, but her grin had only grown and she looked at Draco in a way that seemed to be the two of them sharing some intimate secret.

“‘There is always some madness in love.’” In that moment, Hermione seemed to only have eyes for Draco and his face broke into a grin as well.

“‘But there is also always some reason in madness.’” He completed, and Hermione - who had been sure her heart was so full that day it couldn’t grow any more - may have swooned then and there, if she was the type of person to swoon.

Harry had dropped his head into his hands and was shaking it softly, and Ginny was patting his back consolingly. “Merlin save us all,” he mumbled. “There are two of them.”

Chapter Text

While things had gotten slightly more awkward with Harry, the next few weeks flew by in a wonderful blur of late nights with Draco and long conversations on the rooftop patio. The four of them got together more, now that Ginny had slowed down again for a mid-season break, and when both couples disappeared into their respective rooms it felt more like they were just roommates with partners, rather than two halves of the same affair.

Except the problem was that they were doing something that was not only morally frowned upon, but also illegal. Considering that the entire law was based on marriage and procreation with a Ministry Approved spouse, Hermione could only imagine what would happen if someone were to get pregnant with a person of their own choosing. While she wasn’t entirely sure what type of person could throw a new mother in Azkaban, she was starting to have very little faith in the Ministry as a whole these days.

One night, lying besides Draco, content and satisfied, Hermione was hit with a rush of emotions thinking about the fact that their entire relationship, despite their love, was nothing but a lie in so many ways. Although she tried to contain it, a tear slid down her cheek and landed on Draco’s chest and he reacted almost immediately.

“Hey,” he mumbled, shifting a little and trying to get a look at her face. “You alright?”

Hermione sniffed and lifted a hand to brush at her cheek. “Mm. Yes, of course. Just fine.”

If he wasn’t rolling his eyes, she’d give up her signed edition of Hogwarts: A History . “Mmm, yes, of course. You’re just crying because there’s dust in the air.”

Even though he was quite obviously being sarcastic, Hermione nodded. “That’s it. Dust.”

Granger,” he said, and sighed, tugging at her to get her to look at him. “You dust your room once a week, top to bottom. And I’m sure Kreacher follows you the entire time, wringing his hands and going over all the surfaces.”

Hermione sighed in frustration. “I’m not entirely sure how you know me so well.” She grumbled, but finally relented and looked up at him, feeling the tears well in her eyes.

“Out with it.” He coaxed, and Hermione paused for a moment to wonder just how he had become such a perceptive and caring person. She liked to think she had a hand in it, but he had been different long before they had started to get close. War changed everyone in not always obvious ways, it seemed.

Frowning, Hermione brushed a hand over the bottom of her eyes and then propped herself up in a better position so she was leaning on his chest and looking up at his face comfortably. “I was just thinking about the fact that we’re caught up in this whole stupid law. And that we can’t, I don’t know, go out on real dates or be together in public. I don’t...” she paused, and her frown deepened. “I don’t want you to think I’m ashamed to be seen with you.”

Draco shrugged one shoulder. “It’s alright,” he said, simply, “if you are.”

“Don’t be daft.” Hermione shot back, narrowing her eyes in something that would have been more effective if she hadn’t also started to cry in earnest now. “I would love that. But, we haven’t done anything to fix this whole mess. And I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s almost been a year now - more than ten months anyways. And this time next year, if I’m not pregnant with Harry’s child and Ginny with yours… we could go to jail, Draco.”

He nodded and sighed in agreement, lifting a hand to smooth over her cloud of hair. “Well. You started to look into it, right? That book on matchmaking spells you took from the Manor library?”

Hermione groaned and closed her eyes. “Yes. It’s not…” She trailed off, trying to think about how to explain it. “A lot of them were really, as you say, family based. Intricate little combinations, bits and pieces that would find a promising match based off of that family’s specific values and magical compatibility. I looked through quite a few of them, but none of them seemed broad enough for the ministry to use. One of them, for example, probably would have explained Ron and Hannah. But in no way would it explain you and Ginny, or Luna and Pansy. And then, add to the fact, that if you go too broad there’s just no way you’d be able to narrow it down .” She sighed, and opened her eyes again. “I’m not sure what to do. I need someone to bounce ideas off of.”

Draco frowned down at her in response. “I’d help you,” he said, but shrugged as well. “But it’s really not my area. I have no experience with anything to do with… love, or light magic. Now, if you had a cursed cabinet or an evil locket? That I could take a look at.”

Hermione managed a smile up at him but it fell short. “Yeah. I need someone who’s actually worked with love-related magic before. It’s quite tricky, you see, because you can’t really fool the heart. False love is not strong love, it wouldn’t create strong magical children. What you need is something that can recognize different kinds of love, that can identify what’s stronger. You see, love potions don’t just come in one…” Hermione trailed off then, her mouth dropping into an o as a realization hit her.

“Granger?” Draco prodded, and when she didn’t respond he tugged at one of her curls. “Granger.” Shaking her head quickly, Hermione looked up at him.

“I can’t believe I didn’t think of it before!” She exclaimed, a grin breaking out across her face.

“You’ve lost me,” Draco responded.

Hermione was sitting up now, talking excitedly. “I mean, of course he would be the perfect person to go to! He’s absolutely brilliant, and they created a whole entire line of-”

“Hermione-” Draco interjected, and she stopped mid-sentence to look down at him. “Who are you talking about?”

Hermione flushed slightly. Sometimes she got so caught up in her own train of thought that she forgot to catch other people up. Usually they didn’t even ask. “Right, sorry. George Weasley. He owns Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. I’m honestly not sure why I didn’t think of him before! They have an entire line of love potions, all with different effects. I know potions and charms are different, but at least he probably knows more than the average person.”

Draco nodded in response. “Yes,” he agreed. “I think that might be a good place to start. You should go tomorrow.”

“Do you, uh, want to come?” Hermione asked, now flushing for a different reason. “I mean, you’re not working. Another brain really can’t hurt at this point.”

Draco rolled his eyes, but he smiled as well and nodded. “On one condition.” He said, and she nodded. “You get your arse back over here. The night is still young, and I haven’t made you scream yet tonight.”

The next afternoon, Hermione closed up her office at lunchtime and met Draco in the Atrium of the Ministry, so that they could apparate to Diagon Alley together. He was waiting for her when she arrived, awkwardly standing by the apparition point and trying to ignore the fact that people were shooting him strange looks. Hermione tightened the scarf around her neck as she approached him. It was early March, but it was still chilly in London and probably would be for at least another month or so.

Together, they side-along apparated into Diagon Alley, right in front of the bright and colourful joke shop building. Draco pulled a face and looked over at his companion, who was loosening said scarf. “I’ve never been in here before,” he admitted.

Hermione grinned. “It’s something else. Stick close and don’t touch anything.”

She pulled open the door and they were hit with a warm blast of air, and together they entered the shop. Seeing as how it was a Tuesday afternoon during the school year, it was much quieter inside than usual. Even still, there were a handful of people around their age and a few parents with very small children. Despite this, the place still buzzed with life. Toys and pranks and bottles of things were everywhere, the lights were bright and warm. Music was playing over the din of the store and even though there weren’t many children inside, there seemed to still be a near-constant stream of laughter throughout the building.

Glancing around, Hermione spotted the shop manager Felicity behind the cash. She was ringing up a woman who looked to be grandmother-aged, chatting animatedly about the safety of the products the woman was purchasing. Hermione headed over, Draco following close behind, and waited for the woman to take her bags and leave.

“Hermione!” Felicity called, happily, and skirted around the counter to pull the other woman into a hug. Hermione smiled and, as she pulled back, pointed at Felicity’s hair.

“Gorgeous!” She said, and Felicity beamed. Her hair was myriad shades, pinks and purples and a stunning magenta.

“I was aiming for sunset , what do you think? I’ve actually been working on a whole line of magical dye products.”

Hermione nodded. “That sounds brilliant, Fee. I’m sure they’ll sell like hotcakes. Sorry to bother you, but, Draco and I were wondering if we could speak to George?” Hermione gestured behind herself at Draco and he nodded, though his face was set back into his typical mask and his hands were probably clenched into fists in his robe pockets.

Felicity looked over Hermione’s shoulder and blinked at the tall blonde Death Eater. “I see.” She said, tersely, and then looked back to Hermione. “He’s in his office, hun, why don’t you go and knock? He always loves a visit from a friend.”

“Thanks,” Hermione said, looking nervously back over to Draco. “We’ll just do that then.” Gesturing with a tilt of her head, Hermione left the counter and made her way around a few display cases towards a plain wooden door nestled in the back wall.

Draco stayed close by and by the time they reached the door she realized he was frowning. “I don’t think I know her.” He mentioned, the casual tone in his voice belying the tension she could see in his shoulders and jaw.

“Death Eaters murdered her twin brother. Half blood family, he was trying to protect his muggle boyfriend…”

Draco winced, visibly, and shook his head. “I’m sorry.” He mumbled, and Hermione shook her head.

“Did you kill him?” She asked, bluntly, looking up at his face.

Draco shook his head viciously. “No, no. Definitely not.” He paused, and she watched as he seemed to crumple in on himself just a little. “Not him.”

Swallowing and deciding, once again, that she needed to just not think about what he had been forced to do, she nodded once, curtly. “Good. Then you have nothing to apologize for. Fee is strong, she doesn’t want pity from someone who couldn’t have done anything anyways. Now. Focus, Malfoy, we have things to do.”

Draco straightened back up a little, at her use of his last name. He seemed to pull himself together and, after taking a deep breath, nodded in response. “Get on with it then.”

Now smiling, Hermione lifted her hand and knocked on the solid wooden door in front of her. If anyone could help them, it would be George.


George pulled the door open and grinned. “Hermione!” He said excitedly, and pulled the girl into a hug.

“Hi George,” she said, muffled against his chest. He affectionately patted the top of her head and released her, looking slightly over her shoulder to an incredibly uncomfortable-looking Draco.

“Malfoy,” George added, with a courteous nod. “Come on in, you two.” He pulled the door further and gestured them both into the lab. Clearly, Win had been spending time down here as well. The entire place was cleaner than Hermione had ever seen it, with potion ingredients put away neatly and surfaces tidied up. The windows were letting in bright light and there was a second table near where they stood, currently covered in twigs and a half-sketched broom blueprint. A fire crackled gently in the corner, and the whole space felt homey and comfortable. Alive again.

“Sorry to bother you,” Hermione began, unwinding the scarf from her neck and draping it over the cloak stand near the door. “But. I’ve been having a bit of a problem with a charm, and Draco and I had the thought that you might be the best person to help.”

George quirked a red brow at her. “Draco?” He asked, looking over to the other man. Draco looked distinctly uncomfortable, and focused his attention on a jar of pickled newt spleens. “Right. Okay. What do you need help with?”

Hermione sighed and dropped onto the bench at George’s work table, pulling a stack of papers out from her small bag and spreading them out over the table. “I know that you and Win are really happy, George, and I am so glad that this worked out for you. But… not all of us got so lucky, with this new law.” George looked from her to Draco and a look of realization spread across his face, and she tried to ignore the grin that pulled at his features. “And since the law came into place I’ve been trying to figure out a way to get it repealed, but I haven’t had much luck. Anyways, I was looking into why it got put into place last time, and also why it was repealed, and I thought that if we could find the measure that they used to match us all up there might be an answer there.”

George was nodding, looking over her notes. “Because some people aren’t happy with their matches.” He confirmed, and she nodded right back. “Have you had any luck there?”

“Well,” Hermione sighed, pulling a page to the top. “That’s where I’m stuck. I found this book in… a library, and it had some examples of old spells that pureblood families used to use. But, I tested a few of them and they’re just incredibly specific to families. If the spell is too specific, it wouldn’t be practical for the purposes of the law…”

George jumped in. “And if it’s too broad, then it’s useless because there’d be too many matches.”

“Exactly!” Hermione smiled up at him, glad that she wasn’t the only one who’d worked that out. “So, I have all these spells, but none of them are quite right. And I can’t figure out what measure they would use.”

George was poring over the papers already, scanning over the rewritten out parts of the book, nodding along with her notes. “Well.” He paused, then, looking up. “One of the important parts of the Wonder Witch line is that there are different types of love, different ways to love, different things you can love about someone. So, for example, you and I might get along intellectually but disagree on…” George trailed off, and Hermione laughed.

“The morality of pranks?” She suggested, and George laughed too.

“Exactly. So, maybe…” He paused, shifting through the papers again.

“Could they have used a few different charms?” Draco suddenly interrupted, now holding a vial of bat’s blood but obviously paying more attention to the two of them. “Wouldn’t it make the most sense, compatibility wise, to have a whole variety of measures? And then the couples who had the most compatibility across different areas would be the ones to be matched? That would solve the breadth problem, as well as the depth.”

Hermione beamed up at him. “Brilliant.” She agreed, looking back to George.

He nodded too. “So, then the idea would be to isolate out the variables of each of these spells which tested for certain things, to create maybe a few broad categories?”

Hermione nodded. “Of course. But, how will we know that what we come up with is anything like what the Ministry used?”

Draco grinned, eyes glinting mischievously. “Give me an hour.”

Draco was true to his word, and just over an hour later he was opening up the door to the lab and slipping in. Hermione and George were bent over the table, talking at a breakneck speed. The amount of parchments surrounding them had nearly tripled, and Hermione had a smudge of ink running from her left cheek all the way down her throat.

Draco cleared his throat and then both turned, George’s eyes looked a little wild and Hermione’s hair was potentially even frizzier. “Well?” He prodded, and Hermione waved him over to the table.

“I think we were able to isolate some of variables we may be looking for, so it won’t be hard at all to alter the base spell to test for whatever we want. But there’s dozens of them, Draco. We could find matches for practically any two people on earth with this many different potential options.” She paused and sighed, running her hands through her hair for clearly not the first time. “Did you have any luck?”

A grin broke out over his face and Draco reached into his robes and pulled out a piece of parchment. The list had obviously been written quickly, and not in his writing. Scrawled down the page, were the words: values, spirit, loyalty, passion, aspirations, and resilience.

Hermione’s jaw dropped and she pulled the list from his fingers, scanning over it. “Draco!” She gasped, looking up at him. “How did you get this?”

Draco shrugged fluidly and dropped down onto the bench beside her. “I’m not saying that I went to the Ministry,” he paused, and his grin grew just a little. “And, if Cormac McLaggen mentions anything about me dangling him out of his window, he’s almost definitely exaggerating.”

Hermione’s jaw fell even further and she shook her head at him. “You didn’t,” she said simply.

Once more, he shrugged - just one shoulder this time. “I’m not saying that I did.”

George laughed now, pulling the list from Hermione’s hand to look at it. “You’re not saying you didn’t either.”

“Precisely. Besides, McLaggen would never mention it. If I had, of course. Because then he would be worried about being dropped from said window.” Draco paused, and winked at Hermione. “If I held him out of it in the first place.”

Hermione sighed and rubbed her hand over her face, smearing the ink even further. “You’re insufferable. And I don’t know anything about this, do you hear me?”

“Is that how you survived with my brother all those years?” George asked.

“Sometimes,” Hermione admitted, but then she cracked her own small smile. “Usually I had a better plan than dangle a Ministry official out of their office window though.”

Draco pointed at the list again, a reminder that it had worked . “So, Mc Slag gen said that he didn’t know much about the matching process, he wasn’t in his position at the time. But as far as he knew, these were the only compatibility measures they were looking for. He didn’t have much more than that though. I figured this was at least a good start.”

Hermione couldn’t help it, she leaned forwards and pressed a kiss to Draco’s lips. It was only when George let out a low whistle that she pulled back, flushed and flustered.

“I owe Win ten galleons.” George said, grinning down at the both of them, and Draco threw his head back and laughed.

Chapter Text

For some reason that Hermione couldn’t seem to figure out, Luna and Pansy were having a party. Not just any party - but a one year anniversary of the passing of the new law. Which, she supposed, was fine for them , considering the fact that they found love and now had two beautiful babies in their lives. But for Hermione it was a reminder of the fact that she was still failing at fixing this law and giving Harry his happy ending. She had gotten so caught up in Draco that she had wasted the entire first year, and they were only a little bit further ahead than where they had been before. Sure, they had made great progress, but there was still nothing they could do with what they had found.

Harry and Hermione arrived at the party after it was already in full swing. Luna and Pansy had moved into a lovely cottage with large windows and yellow drapes and strange things planted in the flower garden. It felt exactly like somewhere Luna would live. It was only when Hermione more fully examined the furniture and paintings on the walls that she realized the quality and understated beauty to the items - there was Pansy’s influence clearly shining through.

Dean and Seamus were sitting on a loveseat in the living room, Seamus bouncing Kyra on his knee and Dean dangling a toy in front of his daughter’s face as they chatted animatedly to Hannah and Ron. Across the room, Pansy sat next to Draco who was holding Bryony very carefully. He glanced up when they walked in and offered her a small, careful smile, and Hermione reminded herself that they were in public and this was all they would get. She wandered over to Dean and Seamus, and Harry headed towards the kitchen where Luna and Ginny were chatting and laughing.

The party wore on and soon both of the babies were sleeping, Kyra in Hermione’s arms and Bryony still in Draco’s. Dean collected them both and, with one resting over each shoulder, disappeared into the back of the cottage to settle them down for some quiet time. While he was gone, Seamus rounded up a group of cups and whiskey.

“I think,” he said, as he passed glasses around the room, “that we should toast. We’ve all survived a year, no one’s gone to Azkaban yet. And,” he looked around the room, smiling at Dean who had returned and was leant against the doorframe. “Some of us have gotten very lucky with our love.”

Hermione scanned the room, watching as Ron and Hannah leaned into each other gently. Neville was there, alone, sitting next to Luna but still looking relatively happy. She accepted a glass of firewhiskey from her left and leant over to pass one to Ginny. The redhead glanced at it, bit her bottom lip quickly, and shook her head once. It wasn’t like Ginny to turn down the warm beverage, but Hermione figured it was probably that the redhead had practice later that day and didn’t want to risk it.

“So,” Seamus said again, now everyone aside from Ginny and the still-nursing Luna were holding their own glasses, “a toast. To love, and friendship, and most importantly - family.”

“To family!” The room chorused, and Hermione watched Draco and Pansy exchange a look that did a poor job of hiding how uncomfortable they both looked.

As the party wore on and the group worked their way through the bottle of firewhiskey Seamus had left on the table, Hermione found herself sitting next to Luna and remembering an important piece of information.

“Luna,” she began, carefully, “I was wondering if either of the girls have shown any sign of magic use just yet?”

The blonde beamed and nodded. “Of course, it’s still minimal. They’re very young still. But, we’ve all been very pleased by what we’ve seen so far. Small things. Bryony dropped her stuffed animal over the side of the crib and before I had a chance to pick it up it was back in her hand.”

“Wow!” Hermione couldn’t help but gush. “Luna, that’s a great sign - based on everything that I’ve read. It sounds like your daughter is going to be very magically talented.”

“Daughters.” Luna corrected, and Hermione flushed slightly in embarrassment but nodded anyways. Hermione hadn’t quite yet worked out what their arrangement was, the four of them, but it seemed as though they may all be living in this little cottage. The girls seemed thick as thieves already and Luna was still nursing both of them, from what she could tell. It wasn’t anything like Hermione had seen before, but then again, if any family was going to be a little strange it would certainly be the one headed up by Luna Lovegood.

Finally, the party started to wind down. Hannah needed to get to the Leaky, and Ron left with her. Neville left as well, citing something about a plant that needed to eat at a certain time - Hermione figured it was better not to ask. Eventually, the twins woke up and Pansy headed back to check on them, and Harry, Hermione, Ginny and Draco made their exit.

As they stood outside on the step, tightening their scarves and preparing to apparate, Ginny cleared her throat. “Is there any way,” she paused, fidgeting slightly and twisting her wedding band around her finger, “that we could all go back to Grimmauld? I think there’s something we need to discuss.”

Hermione exchanged a confused glance with Draco but they agreed, and soon the four were sitting in comfortable armchairs in the Grimmauld Place living room, cups of tea in hand.

“So…” Hermione began, looking around the room. Ginny was focused very intently on her tea though, and Hermione couldn’t help but sigh. “At least the girls are growing well?” She tried, hoping to figure out what was at the bottom of this.

Draco rolled his eyes. “What is this, Gryffindors? An intervention? Going to shout a little more about how Hermione and I aren’t smart enough to decide what to do with each other? Because, if that’s the case, I could show-”

“Merlin!” Harry cut off the blonde, and Draco flashed him a winning grin. “No, it’s nothing like that.” Pausing, he looked over to Ginny and raised a brow. “Actually, I have no idea what this is about. Gin?”

Looking over, Hermione realized now that there were tears running down the redhead’s cheeks. Her head was bent over her mug and a drop collected on the tip of her nose and then plopped down into the warm tea in her hands.

“I…” Ginny tried to speak and hiccupped instead, rubbing the heel of her hand furiously over her cheeks. “I probably am not doing this the right way at all.” She admitted, and took a large gulp from her mug. “Um.” She looked over at Harry again, and her brow furrowed.

“Gin?” He prompted, leaning forwards a bit. Ginny didn’t cry often, only if she was very angry or something terrible had happened. He couldn’t think of anything that would have made her angry. Which was worrisome, then, to not know what the terrible thing could be. “Is everything okay?”

Ginny screwed her eyes shut and took a deep breath and then, all at once, nearly shouted “I’m pregnant!

Draco choked on a mouthful of tea and started to cough. Harry had launched himself off his armchair and his arms were now wrapped around Ginny’s body, holding onto her tightly like she might blow away. Hermione felt frozen in place as the implications of this clicked together in her mind.

This was not good.

Ginny was crying for real now, shoulders heaving and body shaking and fat tears running in rivulets down her cheeks. Harry was half laughing and half crying in a way that sounded nearly hysterical, and Draco was no longer coughing but still pounding at his chest a little.

“How?” Harry sputtered out, against Ginny’s hair, and she shook her head more.

Draco sensed the opening and managed to compose himself enough to snicker. “Potter, if you’re quite seriously asking how, perhaps the question should be with whom instead.”

Harry shot Draco a look that had absolutely no edge to it at all. Hermione sighed and shook her head at all of them. “Harry,” she began, looking up at her best friend. “I know you’re excited. But… you realize we now have a rather large problem at hand, right?”

Harry’s shoulders dropped and his entire demeanour changed, his arms tightened around his girlfriend protectively. “Well… we just won’t tell them, then, that it’s not Draco’s child. Doesn’t that solve everything, Hermione? We get around the law, no one gets in trouble-”

“They would know.” Draco cut in.

Hermione couldn’t help but nod. “Yes. They’d do testing right away. The child of a Malfoy and a Weasley would be hot news for the Ministry, proof that their program worked and anyone can overcome their differences.”

“Fuck.” Harry muttered, and Draco nodded.

Ginny was finally managing to take deep breaths, and her shoulders were still shaking but she was calming down considerably. “I just don’t…” Ginny trailed off and she looked up at Harry. “I just don’t know how this happened? We were really good about casting the charm, every time.”

Harry nodded in agreement. “You’re right. Maybe it has a chance not to work?”

Hermione scoffed slightly. “No, Harry. If you cast it and it worked it worked. Usually lasts about six hours as well. But it’s not like Muggle methods, there’s no potential for failure.”

“What are the Muggle methods?” Draco asked, intrigued.

Hermione rolled her eyes over at him. “Does this seem like the time?”

“Condoms.” Harry supplied, and Draco shot him a look.

“Am I supposed to know what that word means?”

Ginny cleared her throat and the men stopped bickering, looking over at her. “Hermione’s right, not the time. I double checked though, cast the charm myself and then had Fleur do it, just in case I mixed it up. But I’m about a month along, still early. I…” She trailed off, and looked over at Harry. “I don’t want to go to Azkaban.” And then she wrapped an arm protectively around herself. “I want to be with you two.”

Harry caught her back in his arms and Hermione stood, pacing through the living room as she tried to figure it out. “Was anything different?”

Harry glanced up at his friend and frowned. “What do you mean?”

“In the times you had sex, about a month ago, was there any time that stood out for any reason?” Hermione clarified. She continued to pace, twirling a curl around her finger as she thought.

“Well,” Ginny paused, and a smile tugged at the corner of her lips. “There was that one time in Harry’s office.” Harry covered his face with his hands. “I stopped by over lunch. Didn’t even get fully undressed. Left our rings on and everything - and those are usually the first to come off.”

“I definitely cast the charm though.” Harry mumbled from underneath his hands. “Then you threw my wand on the floor.”

Draco winced. “Right, I don’t ever need to hear anything about your sex life ever again, Potter.”

The room fell into silence as Hermione paced. Harry was still sitting somewhere on the verge of terrified and ecstatic, and Ginny was starting to pick up some of his excitement.

Suddenly, Draco stood up. “Give me your rings.” He asked, holding out his hand to collect Ginny and Harry’s wedding rings. They exchanged a look with each other, but placed their rings carefully in his hand. Tugging his wand out of his sleeve, he flicked it over them a few times, muttering quietly to himself.

Hermione had just started to tune out when he let out a loud “well fuck ”.

“What?” She asked, turning on her heel to look at him.

Draco shook his head, looking down at his open palms. “These are complicated little things, these rings.”

“What do you mean?” Ginny asked, leaning forward as if she would see a change in them.

“Well,” Draco paused, clearly trying to figure out the best way to explain himself. “I’m not entirely sure how they do it, but I imagine it has to do with the wedding licenses we filed at the Ministry. They’ve been enchanted pretty heavily, actually. Tricky layers of spells and charms and-”

“Get to the point ,” Harry insisted.

Draco rolled his eyes but skipped over the rest of the technical explanation. “They’ve been enchanted to cancel out any contraceptive charms cast over the wearer.”

“What?!” Hermione shouted, quickly moving closer to Draco.

“You heard me perfectly clearly.” Draco said, still looking at the rings in his hand. “It’s a complicated bit of spell work, but the intent is quite obvious.”

Harry was shaking his head now, though it seemed more based in anger than confusion. “That’s absolutely not right at all.”

Hermione was looking up at Draco, watching his face carefully. “That was brilliant.” She said, searching his face.

Draco shrugged, brushing it off. “I’ve got a knack for things like that. Digging apart old spells, putting them back together. You get used to how it all works.”

Leaning forward, Hermione kissed his forehead. “It was brilliant.” She reaffirmed, and he smiled genuinely up at her as he passed his rings back to Harry and Ginny.

“Right.” Hermione said, falling back into battle mode now that the question had been answered. “Well, now we just have an even stronger reason to get this whole marriage law problem solved once and for all.”

Glancing over to Harry and Ginny, she flashed them the warmest smile she could muster. “Draco and I were working with George. I think we’ve finally started to figure out how they made the matches. If we can do that, and prove that you two are a much better match for each other, then at the very least maybe we can have our marriages annulled. But, I think, if we can show that a few people are clearly happy and producing magical babies but others aren’t happy, maybe we can get the entire thing overturned.”

“It took ten years last time.” Draco admitted, clearly a little uncomfortable with this new burden resting on their shoulders.

“Well.” Hermione said, pursing her lips. “You’re not working anymore, so between us I think we might have a better shot at it, don’t you?”

“I sure hope so.” Ginny mumbled, out from where her head was buried in Harry’s chest. “Because if I have to take down the entire fucking Ministry to stay out of that hellhole, you better bet I’ll blow the whole damn thing up.”



Harry had knocked softly on the door to the library, where Hermione was holed up with a book on the History of the Ministry that Draco had found in the Manor. “Come in!” She called, without looking up.

When he cleared his throat, she finally slipped a sheet of parchment into the tome as a bookmark and set it off to the side. “How are you doing, Harry?”

It had been a few days since Ginny’s big news, and she hadn’t seen much of either of them since. Harry shrugged. “Not entirely sure yet, to be honest. It’s…” A grin slid across his features. “It’s pretty incredible, isn’t it?”

Hermione smiled as well. “I’m really happy for both of you.”

Harry nodded. “Yeah.” He shuffled a little and then met her eyes. “I quit my job.”

“What?” Hermione sat up quickly now, trying to make sure she heard him right. “But I thought you loved the Aurors?”

Harry shrugged a shoulder at her. “I did too. But… it’s stressful, Hermione. And even though for the most part I don’t see a ton of action anymore, I also don’t want to put myself in danger. I need to be here, for Ginny and the baby.”

“Wow.” Hermione mumbled, shaking her head. “I’m really proud of you, Harry. That’s a tough decision.”

“I’ve suggested Ron to take my place, and hopefully he’d then be next in line to be the Head Auror.”

Hermione mulled this decision over in her head and nodded. “He’d be great at that.”


They fell into companionable silence for a few minutes. “What do you think you’ll do?” Hermione asked, thinking it over. Harry probably, like Draco, could manage to not work for at least a few years and be fine. But he was restless.

“Actually… McGonagall’s asked me to be the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor.”

Hermione stood up quickly and gasped. “Harry! That’s incredible!”

He flushed under her praise, but nodded. “She’s been pestering me about it for a while and this time when she asked I said yes. Thought she might faint. I’d probably take over coaching the Gryffindor Quidditch team too.”

Hermione wrapped her arms around him and squeezed. “That’s so amazing, Harry.”

“If… if we can get this law overturned, Ginny and I are going to get a cottage in Hogsmeade, by Neville’s. She’s going to take a bit of time off from Quidditch and I’ll live in the village instead of at the castle.”

“Don’t worry, Harry. We’re going to get it repealed. I’ve got a plan, and it’s going to be alright. You and Ginny will be happy in that cottage with your new baby before you know it.”

Harry smiled down at her. “Thanks for always having my back, Hermione. You’re… you’re a really good friend. And I’m glad to have been married to you, you know, platonically.”

Hermione laughed against him and nodded her head. “Me too, Harry. Me too.”

Chapter Text

Hermione had a plan. She had always been the type of person who worked best when she knew exactly what she was going to do next. Then, all she had to do was follow the steps, and everything seemed to be much more straightforward. Unfortunately, this was not one of those times.

Mainly because the first item on her plan was: “figure out where the Ministry went wrong” and the second item was “repeal the marriage law”. Considering the fact that she had been working for nearly two years now to have the laws regarding werewolf registration and service provisions altered, she was not particularly hopeful on the second point. And although they had made excellent progress with the first item, they still hadn’t figured out exactly what the Ministry had done. And if you don’t know what’s been done, how can you possibly hope to change it?

Finally, Hermione had decided that the best option was to visit her friends and cast the charms that they had developed, and figure out who would match on what. If there was a breakthrough to be found, that had to be a good start. 

Ron and Hannah were first.

Hermione met them at the Leaky Cauldron slightly before lunch on a warm Saturday in late April. Ron had just been promoted to Harry’s old position as Assistant to the Head Auror, and his face seemed to be perpetually formed in a grin. Hannah was thriving at the Leaky, and that day found them both in the kitchen, Hannah whipping up recipes that Molly had given her in an attempt to switch up the menu a bit.

“How have you two been?” Hermione asked, as she shed her thin coat and sat down on one of the stools in the large kitchen. Hannah glanced up from the pot she was stirring and looked at Ron, nodding at him and encouraging him to speak first.

“Brilliant.” Ron gushed, chopping up peppers on a counter in the middle of the room. “Absolutely brilliant, Hermione. I’ve been in training all week for Harry’s job. He doesn’t get out much in the field, which I think I’ll miss, but there’s so much going on. Who to partner with whom, where to send each team. I s’pose I can’t really tell you any specifics, confidential and all, but.” His face flushed a little as he realized he had been rambling on. “I’m happy.”

Hermione couldn’t help but grin at her best friend. “I think you’ll be better at it than Harry was.” She admitted, truthfully.

“Harry had it figured out. I’m just lucky he suddenly had a change of heart.” Ron, now clearly uncomfortable, looked back down at the pepper he was working on and slid a handful of diced up pieces into a large metal bowl.

“No, really!” Hermione couldn’t help but insist a bit. “Harry’s great, yeah. Really has a knack for what spells work best in what situation, and quick too. He’s great at explaining things too.” Ron nodded, and Hermione grinned. “Which is brilliant. For a professor. But you, Ron. You’ve always been the best of all of us at strategy, looking at the whole picture. I get stuck in the details, and Harry gets stuck in the actions, and you look forward and figure out what to do now to make the future easier.”

Ron was blushing fully now, his face and ears and all the way down his neck coloured red with his embarrassment at the open praise. “I-” he paused, and smiled up at her. “Thanks, Hermione.”

“How are you, Hannah?” Hermione asked next, giving Ron a break from the spotlight to check in on the blonde girl. 

“Really lovely. We’re hoping to add some healthier options to the menu, now that Tom’s retired. He was brilliant, but he fried everything and some of my customers mentioned they’d like to see some more, well, colour.”

Hermione laughed in response at this. “And you two are happy with each other?” She asked, deciding it was time to cut to the chase.

“Yeah.” Ron answered, immediately. He looked back at Hannah and she was grinning right back at him.

“Yeah.” Hannah confirmed. “We’re comfortable, you know? I feel like…” She trailed off, thinking it out. “I trust Ron to be here when I come home, and to support me if I need it. He comes down here in the evenings when I’m working and helps out even though he’s worked all day.”

Hermione nodded, jotting this down on a pad of paper she had dug out of her purse. “Do you mind if I maybe cast just a few quick spells on you?” Glancing down at her notes, she frowned before she explained. “I’m so happy that this worked out for you both. But, well. Not all of us got so lucky, and a few of us have been trying to figure out what the measure they used for assigning partners was. And, because it obviously worked for you two, it would just be helpful for my data?”

After both had given their consent, Hermione tugged her wand out of her sleeve and began. She cast the first of the charms, for “spirit” - more or less looking for compatibility in their emotions and energy. Nothing happened. Making a mark on her notepad (she had created a table, of course), she then cast the charm for “values” - what they each considered in the future. A beautiful swirling blue light danced between them, and Hermione couldn’t help but giggle in excitement that it had worked . She wrote a small note to herself. Ron and Hannah were examining the swirling blue light, and when it dissipated they both seemed a little disappointed.

“Was that a good thing?” Ron asked, and Hermione nodded to him in response.

“That one means that you’re compatible in your values. What you believe is important, how you view the world.”

“I’d say that’s true.” Hannah said, now blushing slightly herself. Hermione couldn’t blame her; something about this process felt almost intimate.

The next charm she tried was for aspirations, and a glowing yellow light surrounded each of them. Hannah let out her own laugh. “What’s this one for?”

“Aspirations. Your hopes and dreams for the future line up well.” Hermione explained.

Unfortunately, the charms for passion, and loyalty, and resiliency did not produce results. When no more colours appeared, Ron frowned at the way she furrowed her brow and scribbled something on her note pad.

“Is something wrong?” He asked, and Hermione shook her head quickly. 

“No, no. You’re the first couple we’ve tried them all on, you see. And, they really only show if you’re very compatible in that area. It doesn’t mean that you don’t match up in other places, just that those are the strongest. Besides, what matters the most is that you’re happy. The whole point here is that the Ministry can’t create perfect relationships using spells and nothing else.”

Hannah nodded. “That makes sense.”

“Also,” Hermione mumbled, slipping into researcher mode. “The charms don’t really take societal influence into account. They’re just things in the cores of your personality. But I just simply can’t believe that outside influences aren’t important. I think Dra-” It was Hermione’s turn to flush a little. “Malfoy is a perfect example of this. Now that he’s figuring himself out without his parents influence, he’s a different person. Better.”

Ron raised a brow at her and Hermione began packing up her things. 

“Anyways, I really do appreciate you two helping me out here. I have to run, I’m meeting up with Luna and Pansy and Dean and Seamus for lunch. Thank you again, so much.”

Before Ron or Hannah could get much of a word in otherwise, Hermione stepped through the fireplace.

Hermione stepped out of the fireplace to find the group she was going to visit already sitting around in the living room. Luna was lying on the couch with her feat in Seamus’s lap, and he was rubbing his thumbs into them as a massage. Pansy was lounged in a comfortable armchair, holding Kyra and reading a story about a turtle, and Dean lay on the floor with Bryony, playing with a small stuffed dragon that seemed to crinkle as he moved it.

“Hello.” Hermione announced herself awkwardly, feeling like she’d walked in on a domestic moment too private for her to witness. 

“Hermione!” Luna greeted warmly, from the couch. “You look like you’ve seen a unicorn.”

Hermione made herself comfortable in the other armchair and nodded at Luna. “Maybe I have.” She responded, and instead of elaborating Luna just flashed her a cryptic smile.

“Granger.” Pansy greeted from her chair. “To what do we owe the… pleasure?”

Pulling her notebook out, Hermione glanced around to make sure Dean and Seamus were paying attention to her explanation as well. “Right to the point as always, Parkinson.”

“Yes, well, they don’t say I’m a bitch for nothing.”

Dean rolled his eyes up at the woman. “Please, Pansy. No one says you’re a bitch anymore. 

“And even if they did,” Seamus piped up, “they’d be dead wrong. Only need to see you with our girls to know that.”

Pansy rolled her eyes at the both of them, but didn’t respond. “Granger. The point?” 

“Right.” Hermione looked at her notebook as she tried to figure out a quicker way to explain this. How would she make it to Neville’s and then George’s before dinner at this rate? “A few of us have been trying to sort out how the Ministry figured out the matches for the law. We’re hoping it can shed some insight into our own pairings.”

“Ah,” Luna sighed. “The plight of unacknowledged love.” 

Hermione glared slightly at her friend. “Yes,” she stressed. Damn Luna for being so perceptive. “Harry and Ginny are quite frustrated.”

“Hmm.” Luna hummed, but moved on. “How can we help you?” 

“Well,” Hermione looked to Pansy and then back at Luna. “I have a few charms that I’m using to look into different facets of compatibility, and I was hoping I could test them on each of you?” 

“Whatever you need, Hermione.” Seamus agreed almost instantly, and Dean nodded.

“Are they safe, Granger?” Pansy inquired, holding Kyra a little closer to her chest.

“I tested them on Ron first and he’s just fine.” Hermione replied, grinning at the woman who used to be her enemy.

Pansy returned the grin with one of her own, if a little more fiendish. “Cast away.”

In the end, the two couples had stunning results. Pansy and Luna matched in resiliency, passion, aspirations, and loyalty. Dean and Seamus were nearly the same, glowing brilliantly with their matching levels of aspiration, loyalty, spirit, and passion. Hermione marked down the results on her chart, making a small note about the interesting fact that they were the two same-sex partnerships in her small sample, and they each had matched in four different areas, compared to Ron and Hannah’s two.

After a light lunch, she bid her goodbyes and moved on to the next location.

Neville and Lavender lived in a small cottage in Hogsmeade, and it was obvious only one of them was happy there. The entire outside garden was filled with plants, strange ones Hermione had never seen and common flowers as well. Inside, everything was immaculate. The furniture was far too nice for someone who was often covered in dirt to sit on, and there was not a single plant inside.

Neville was waiting for her in the dining room, and Lavender joined them not soon after. They both just seemed uncomfortable in each other’s presence, Lavender sitting at the opposite end of the table and neither looking at each other much.

“How are you two doing?” Hermione asked, her voice soft. She felt like she knew the answer before she asked, but figured it was worth it to check in anyways.

Lavender sighed. “We don’t have anything in common.” She said, frowning. “Like, Neville’s nice and everything. But there’s nothing here. I just don’t care about plants or whatever.”

Neville’s brow furrowed as well and he seemed to mull over his words before responding. “I honestly don’t understand how one person can own so many different colours of lipstick.”

“Well sorry for caring about how I look!”

Neville flushed red and looked back down at the counter. It was interesting, Hermione couldn’t help think, that someone could literally help defeat the darkest wizard of their time and still be uncomfortable. Then again, maybe if he had someone support him rather than make fun of his passions. It wasn’t her fault, she quickly told herself, that she didn’t like Lavender. They had never gotten along at all.

“Okay!” She jumped in, trying to break the now awkward silence. “Right. So, I’ve developed a few spells to test the compatibility of partners. Would… can I test them out on you?” 

“Why?” Lavender asked, crossing her arms and looking like a petulant child who’d been in to her mother’s make up.

Hermione did her level best not to roll her eyes. “If I can prove that the partnerships aren’t always best for those involved, I think I may be able to get the law repealed.”

“We… we wouldn’t have to be married anymore?” Neville’s voice carried a tone of hope and even though Lavender shot him a glare, she also looked much lighter at the prospect.

“That’s the goal.” Hermione said, with a nod.

Finally, Neville and Lavender looked at each other, and collectively broke into smiles.

“Definitely.” Lavender confirmed, looking back to Hermione and nodding. “Sooner the better, if you ask me.”

Neville huffed but he nodded too. “Anything we can do to help, Hermione.”

Hermione smiled tentatively at them both and pulled her notepad out of her bag, starting to cast the spells. Nothing for spirit, not that she was expecting it. Values had no results either. Aspirations, passion, and loyalty all once again left no traces. She was starting to get excited , in that academic sense where the results weren’t necessarily good but they were fascinating. Finally, she cast the last charm and brilliant metallic purple swirled around the dining room table, wrapping itself around Neville and Lavender.

Lavender was looking at it in wonder, and Neville seemed a little more hesitant. Hermione put down her wand and made a mark on the notepad, chewing at the end of her pen for a minute. It was interesting. Definitely telling that Neville and Lavender had only matched on one front, while both Luna and Pansy and Seamus and Dean matched on four.

“Well. It’s interesting, anyways.” She muttered, thinking it over. “You matched, compatibility wise, on your capacity for resilience.”

Neville frowned. “I guess…”

Lavender rolled her eyes. “Please. I was mauled by a werewolf. Not like I had any choice in the matter of being resilient, did I?”

Hermione shrugged, carefully. “You could have given up and died.” She knew she was speaking bluntly, but sometimes Lavender needed that.

“Anyways. So far you’re just the least compatible couple that I’ve interviewed. Which, I think anyone could have guessed. I do really appreciate this though, I believe it’s going to be important. I’m just… not sure how yet.”

Lavender was standing before Hermione had finished her sentence. “See you around, Hermione.” She said, and then turned and disappeared back down the hallway where she came from.

“Sorry about that,” Neville said, blushing and rubbing at the back of his neck. “We just… Well, I think she’s just uncomfortable, living out here. But I already had the place, it just made sense. She spends a lot of time with Parvati, but lately Parvati and Blaise have been getting along a lot more-”

“Blaise?” Hermione clarified, confused.

“Zabini, yeah, the Slytherin. We were all shocked at that match, but… He doesn’t seem like such an awful person. They’re both wicked sharp, no one can keep up with their conversations. I think Lavender’s just feeling a bit left out.”

“Huh.” Hermione said, thinking about it. “Well, hopefully I’ll get this figured out soon and then at least you two won’t be stuck together.” She smiled at Neville and he nodded.

“Thanks, Hermione. For all your work.”

They said their goodbyes and Hermione stepped back outside, apparating once again. Her last stop, before dinner with Harry and Ginny and Draco, was at George and Win’s. Draco was meeting her there, after spending the day with his Mother, trying to learn more about pureblood marriage arrangements in the hope of finding more useful information. She could feel the pieces of the puzzle gathering around her, she just hoped that she could fit them all into place.

Hermione and Draco met on the street outside of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. It being a Saturday meant that the store was busier than the last time they had been in, but luckily it was still far quieter than during the summer. They exchanged a few brief notes about their days so far as they entered the store, but both quieted when Hermione knocked on the door to the workshop. Her brain was still in a hundred places, trying to figure out why Neville and Lavender would even have been chosen if they were only compatible in one way, when clearly every other pair met on at least two measures.

George pulled the door inside and grinned at each of them this time, waving them into the workshop.

“How’s it going so far?” He asked, excitedly, as Hermione tugged some notes out of her bag and spread them out on the table.

“It’s alright. I still haven’t figured out the key to all of it. So far all I’ve got is that Luna and Pansy, and Seamus and Dean are clearly the most well matched couples - but anyone could have told you that. Neville and Lavender are the least; again, I didn’t need a spell to have figured that one out. I just feel like we’re missing something big , you know?”

George nodded and sat down across from Hermione and Draco, tugging Win over. “Well. Not that I think the spells have much merit either, but,” he looked over at Win and flashed her a crooked grin. “I think we’ll probably do better than Neville.”

Win batted at him gently, but was smiling too. “Probably.” She agreed.

“Right, shall we?” George asked, and Hermione nodded, looking to Draco before lifting her wand and starting to cast.

Green came first, and George leaned over to mutter to Win about the compatibility of their spirits. When it was replaced with shimmering blue, Hermione smiled and mentioned that their values matched. And now, at least, they were tied with Hannah and Ron. It wasn’t exactly a surprise to Hermione when the air sparked and pulsed with a deep red, and Win guessed before anyone could tell her that this meant their passions matched as well. Resiliency did not glow, and Win’s smile fell just a little. Loyalty didn’t either, and George looked down at the table, muttering something about having lost the person he was the most loyal to. Draco nodded at her to cast the last spell, and when the air around them glowed yellow, both George and Win seemed to let out a collective sigh.

“So,” Hermione said, placing down her wand to pick up her pen and make some notes. “You’re compatible in your spirits, values, passions, and aspirations. You’ve beat out your little brother, George.”

George laughed and pressed a kiss to Win’s forehead. “Well. I still maintain that this wasn’t exactly necessary for us.”

Win smiled up at George, then looked over to Hermione who was now frowning. “I guess it probably isn’t that helpful for you to have reinforcement that the spell actually worked on some people…”

Hermione shrugged and tried to wipe the expression off her face. “It’s fine, really. I mean… I’m really happy that you’re both so happy. I just need to find a way to solve this problem.” She took a breath, starting to feel panic rise up in her chest. “We’re running out of time, and I don’t think I can fix it, I don’t know what to do -”

Draco reached out and grabbed her hand. “Stop.” He said quickly, and when she didn’t, he used his other hand to tilt her face up and look in her eyes. “Stop. We still have time, and we’re not done yet. We have more people to talk to, and more work to do still. Okay? We’ll fix this. We will fix this.”

Hermione nodded but kept her mouth closed, not wanting to show how terrified she was still really feeling.

“Come on,” Draco said, standing and pulling her up with him. “Let’s go get some dinner. That’ll help.”

“Hold on just a second.” George said, and left the table. Hermione packed up and they waited while he rustled around in a desk. Just as Hermione was about to ask Win how she was doing, George returned with a rolled up parchment in his hands.

“Malfoy,” he said, turning to look at the blonde. “Ginny and Harry told me, that you figured it out about the rings.” Draco raised a blonde brow at him, but didn’t speak. “And, I know you don’t have a job right now. I also know you probably don’t need one, but…” George trailed off and handed over the parchment he was holding.

Draco unrolled it and began to scan his eyes over it and Hermione watched as his entire body tensed. “I don’t understand?” Draco said, not looking away from the words on the page.

George shifted to his other foot before speaking. “Things haven’t been the same here, without Fred. Win’s got some brilliant product ideas, and I’ve got some now too. But we’re still not producing at the speed we used to. I’m pretty good at these sorts of things, but you clearly have a knack for magical objects. And I could really use another set of hands here, and I think we did alright working together on all this. We certainly don’t pay the same as the Ministry, and I can’t actually guarantee that it’s any safer here, but-”

“You’re offering him a job?” Hermione blurted out, eyes wide as she leaned in and read over what Draco was holding. It was a contract, spelled out with wages and hours and George’s signature already on it.

Win jumped in. “You don’t have to take it, obviously, or decide right now. You might have other plans that we don’t know about. But George and I have talked it over and, well, we both think it could be a really good partnership.”

Draco had still not lifted his head and Hermione wasn’t sure, but she almost thought she could see tears glinting in his eyes. “Draco?” She said, carefully. “We can take it with us and talk about it tonight?” She suggested, but he shook his head.

Draco pulled his wand out from his sleeve and pressed it against the line near the bottom of the contract, the empty one where his name would go. He murmured something softly and his name appeared in shimmering black ink at the bottom of the page. He took a breath and looked back up, uncomfortable but determined. “Monday, then?” He asked, reaching out to hand the contract back to George.

The redhead looked a little shocked, that Draco had decided so fast, and he scanned the contract over quickly. Draco had signed it with binding magic - George couldn’t take back the offer now even if he wanted to. He didn’t want to. “Bright and early.” He responded. Draco nodded once and then turned to Hermione, finally offering her a smile.

“Lead the way.” Together, they left the shop and headed back for Grimmauld place.

Chapter Text

Hermione and Draco landed on the steps of Grimmauld Place hand in hand. Draco reached forward to pull open the door but Hermione stopped him, wanting to talk for a minute before they were back with Harry and Ginny.

“Draco,” she began, softly, scanning his face. “You’ve got a job. Doing something you’re brilliant at.”

Draco looked down at the ground, clearly uncomfortable, and shrugged. “I’m going to ruin his whole business.” He sounded distraught, not angry. “Who’s going to want to buy prank products made by a Death Eater?”

Hermione reached up and grabbed his face, forcing him to look at her. “Ex,” she said, firmly. “Ex Death Eater. I won’t tolerate anyone calling you that. Including yourself.”

Draco furrowed his brow but didn’t immediately tell her she was being overbearing, so Hermione leaned up and pressed a kiss against his lips.

“You’re going to do a great job, Draco. George’s right, you’re good with this kind of thing. And, if you’re really worried, I’m sure you could keep your involvement quiet. But, I don’t think you have to. He accepted that this may happen, he thought this all over. Stop trying to set yourself on fire just because people are complaining about the cold.”

Draco rested his forehead against hers and she could feel his breathing, heavy and intense against her face. “Granger,” he mumbled, eyes closed and voice strained. “You’re too good for me.”

Hermione couldn’t help but lean up and press one more kiss against his lips. “You’re an idiot. Let’s go inside.” She stepped back from him and opened the door, leading him into Grimmauld Place.

Harry and Ginny were waiting for them in the dining room, drinking tea and chatting about baby names. There was an obvious stress in the air - Ginny was gripping her mug too tightly and Harry was picking wood out of the table, but they were clearly trying to keep it light. Hermione suspected that may be the only way they were dealing with the situation at hand.

Harry looked up first when they entered and when Ginny realized they had arrived, her entire posture shifted. “Well?” She asked, before they’d even fully made it in the room. “Any luck?”

Hermione couldn’t help but wince just a bit at her friend's obvious hope. She sat heavily onto the bench across from them and shook her head. “I’m sorry. Of course, I have some interesting information. I just can’t see how it connects right now, or how I can use it. The only thing it showed was that everyone is doing alright, except for Neville and Lavender, and anyone with eyes could have told you that.”

Draco sighed in agreement and then sat down beside her at the table. Harry dropped his head into his hands and Ginny’s grip tightened once more around the cup she was holding. “Fuck,” the redhead mumbled, and Draco nodded in agreement.

“Granger,” Draco said, clearly deciding it was better to keep the lot of them on track. “Why don’t you test all of us now? Weasley and I, and then you and Potter? I can guess what the results would be, but I’m curious.”

Hermione nodded, glad to have a direction so that she could continue to delay a potential breakdown, and flicked open her notebook.

Starting with Ginny and Draco, she began to cast. The first charm she cast worked, and a smooth green light spread out between them. Harry paled, just slightly, and Draco shrugged, trying to look indifferent. “It just means our spirits are compatible, Red,” Draco explained, and Hermione could tell that he was purposefully keeping his voice light. “I could have told you that.”

Ginny nodded, but didn’t relax again until Hermione cast the next spell, and then the next. All of the other measures produced no results, and finally she set her wand down to pick up her pen, and grinned at them. “You’re just as compatible as Lavender and Neville,” she explained. Harry sat up a little straighter.

“So, barely, right?” He confirmed, and Draco flashed him a smirk.

“Don’t worry, Potter, I won’t be stealing your girl out from under you anytime soon.”

Ginny snorted out a laugh and waved her left hand in the air. “You already kind of did,” she pointed out, and it was Draco’s turn to laugh in response. It was nice, for a moment, to have the stress lifted - but Hermione was too aware of the pressure they were under to let it last long.

“Alright,” Hermione said, turning her notebook to Draco. “I think it would be better if someone else cast for us,” she gestured to herself and Harry as she spoke. “To avoid any potential biases.”

Draco took the book and pulled out his own wand, glancing down to double check he was doing the spells right before he started. Nothing for spirit, or values. Aspirations and passion came up empty as well. When he cast the spell for loyalty and the air flickered orange around them, Ginny took a long gulp of her tea and Draco swallowed down the lump that had risen in his throat to cast the final spell. Nothing.

“Well then,” Hermione said, smiling at Draco in thanks and Harry in relief. “That settles it. Clearly our matches should never have been assigned, just like Lavender and Neville’s. But, if the Ministry was trying to ensure magical compatibility, why would they match up people who only have one measure out of six? Doesn’t that just seem like an oversight?” She was flicking back through her notebook and tugging at one of her curls when Ginny’s voice interrupted her.

“Do us,” Hermione looked up and realized Ginny and Harry were sitting closer than before, both looking at her with pleading eyes. “We already know that we’re with who we want to be with. We already know this is… this is it for us. But, I think we’d like to know. If there’s a reason the Ministry didn’t pair us up, your spells might be the answer for that.”

Hermione bit down on her bottom lip but nodded. Ginny was right. The best way to compare what actually happened with what should have happened was to test it against a couple who had not been matched, but should have. “Okay,” she said, finally. She was sure they would be compatible, it wasn’t like her spells could ruin their relationship. At least, she was pretty sure.

Picking up her wand again, Hermione started with the one to determine spirit, and both grinned at the green light in the room. Feeling slightly relieved, she moved on to values. Nothing. Harry wrapped his arm around Ginny and Hermione swallowed, and then quickly cast the spell to test for aspirations, and the room seemed to let out a collective sigh when glowing yellow light surrounded the couple. Hermione grinned at both of them and cast for passion, and the yellow light shifted to a deep pulsing red. Next was loyalty, and when the red light died and nothing replaced it Hermione could almost taste the tension in the room. She smiled nervously and cast again, and a metallic purple light shimmered around them.

“Well, see?” She said, flashing her friends a smile as she began to mark down the results in her book. “Four out of six. Aspirations, passion, spirit, and resiliency. That’s excellent.”

“Then…” Ginny frowned, and looked up at Harry. “I still don’t understand why we didn’t get paired together?”

Harry shook his head and looked back at Hermione. “I really don’t know.”

Hermione sighed as well and dropped her head into her hands. “Me neither.”

“Weaslette,” Draco slid Hermione’s notebook out from under her and slid it across the table. “You’re relatively adapt at spells.”

Ginny rolled her eyes at the incorrect and somewhat patronising nickname, but took the book anyways. “Are you sure?” She asked, clearly hesitant but pulling out her wand anyways. Draco nodded once, but she waited until Hermione managed a nod as well.

Ginny read over the page in the book three times before she let out a shaky breath. “Alright. Seems simple enough. Let’s try spirit first,” Hermione kept her eyes closed, and when Draco let out a rather shocked sounding laugh, she looked up. Green light shimmered around them and she couldn’t help the smile the tugged her lips upwards.

“Oh,” Hermione said, as she watched the light. It had been beautiful the first time she saw it, but to be in the midst of it and know what it represented was stunning.

“Brilliant.” Ginny said. “Let’s do another one!” She cast the spell for values next, and the green light faded into nothingness.

Draco snorted. “No surprise there,” he mumbled, and Hermione rolled her eyes, but she couldn’t help the nerves that were starting to simmer in her stomach.

Next was aspirations, and the air between them glowed yellow, and Draco slid a hand over to catch Hermione’s fingers in his own. The air pulsed red next with passion, and this drew a smirk to Draco’s lips and an eyebrow waggle that spread a blush up Hermione’s neck and over her cheeks. The red shifted and faded into a flickering orange as Ginny cast the spell for loyalty. Draco squeezed Hermione’s fingers tighter and nodded at Ginny to keep going, and Ginny cast the last spell, and the air shone purple for resiliency.

“Hermione,” Draco mumbled, looking at her and shaking his head. “Did anyone else get five?”

Hermione blinked, and then counted quickly off the colours she had seen, and her eyes went wide. “No,” she admitted, shaking her head. “Not out of the eight other couples that I tested today.”

Just us,” Draco confirmed, and she nodded. His chest swelled with pride and he couldn’t seem to fight the smile off his face as he examined her, like he was really truly looking for the first time. “Congratulations us,” he said, and Hermione laughed and shook her head.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” she said, as it really started to sink in. “I mean, it’s wonderful - don’t get me wrong! But… if we’re more compatible together than anyone else I tested, and significantly more so than either of us are with Harry and Ginny… why weren’t we matched together?”

Harry and Ginny had been mumbling quietly to each other and finally they both stood up from the table.

“We’re going to get some fresh air,” Harry explained, and the two headed out of the room.

“Granger. Upstairs. Now,” Draco had stood before Harry and Ginny had even left the room, and Hermione noticed that his pupils were blown and his ears were tinted pink. She swallowed and grinned and stood to follow him up the stairs.

Hermione had barely closed the door to her bedroom fully before Draco’s body was pressed against hers, holding her up against the wood and capturing her lips in a fierce kiss. Her fingers tangled up into his hair and Draco pushed his hips more against hers in response.

When he broke away to move further down and kiss at her neck, Hermione let out a rather silly giggle. “Can you believe it?” She asked, shaking her head a little. “Us. The most compatible. Of everyone.”

Draco made a noise against her neck that sounded like a growl and sent shivers down her spine. “I believe it,” he mumbled, and sucked at one of her pulse points. He was quiet for a few more minutes and then he kissed his way up to her ear, nipping at her earlobe. “You’re it for me, Granger,” he murmured in her ear, and if he hadn’t been holding her up she was sure she would have melted against him.

Oh,” was all she managed to say for the second time that afternoon, and Draco captured her lips again in another intense kiss. When he broke away he started to pull her shirt up over her head, and she let him remove it and then her bra. Finally, she found her brain again and started to undo the buttons down the front of his shirt, finally sliding the fabric off of his shoulders. Hermione ran her fingers appreciatively over his arms and then down over his tattoo and he pushed down her jeans and kissed across her collarbone.

“Rings,” he muttered, as he started to kick off his own pants, and Hermione quickly pulled hers off, and then reached down to tug his off as well. Draco tugged down her underwear and Hermione tossed the rings in the vague direction of her armchair and listened as they clattered to the ground. They could find them later.

“Bed?” She asked, leaning forward to kiss him again, wanting to feel his lips on hers as their skin pressed together. His body was warm and solid and holding her firmly against the door and she could feel his erection straining through his underwear against her now completely bare skin.

Draco shook his head and caught her wrists, lifting her arms up above her head and holding them together with one of his hands. “Want you right here…” He mumbled against her lips, and then leaned back to take in the sight of her stretched out beneath him. Hermione knew that her dark skin must be flushed under his gaze, and she could feel wetness between her legs. He grinned down at her in a way that was nearly feral and she shivered again, and then he pushed his own underwear down and kicked it away from them. “You’re so beautiful,” he said, and then leaned forward again to kiss her.

Hermione ached to draw her hands over his body, scrape her nails down his back and feel him against her. Draco wasn’t letting go of her arms though, and she resigned herself to simply enjoying the feel of him. He dropped his free hand down between her leg and she mewled under his touch, letting her head fall back and her eyes close.

Thankfully, soon enough Draco was removing his fingers and she cracked her eyes open to watch as he sucked them into his mouth.

“Draco…” She mumbled, feeling incoherent already thanks to his ministrations and unable to contain the sheer amount of want she felt. “Please…”

“Now now,” he said, raising an eyebrow at her. “You know better. Use your words, Granger. Tell me what you want.”

Hermione nearly screamed - he was infuriating. But, he was also picking her further up off the ground so that she could wrap her legs around his waist, and lining himself up to slide into her. She couldn’t stop herself. “Please… I want you inside me… want your… your cock inside of me…”

Draco’s grin lit up his entire face. “Good girl,” he whispered, and he kissed her again as he pushed forward and slid into her. Hermione moaned into his lips and he stilled, holding her against the door for a moment with his body. They stayed like that while Hermione adjusted, and then she wiggled her hips slightly and Draco began to move, pulling out of her only to thrust back in slowly.

They moved together against the door, and eventually Draco let go of her arms so that he could use one hand to twist at her nipples and the other to rub circles around her clit. Hermione immediately threaded one hand through his silky hair and wrapped the other around his body so that she could press her nails into the skin of his back.

“Fuck,” Draco whispered against the crook of her neck, and then sped up a little. “So lucky,” he said, rather incoherent himself. “Should have known better… you were always better than me… still are…” Hermione tried to tug at his hair to get him to look at her but he wouldn’t, and he sped up his thrusts even more, causing her to moan again and tilt her head back into the wall behind her. “I was so blind… to not see how perfect you are… just because our heritage is different…”

Draco trailed off a little and Hermione let his words sink in a little, and then all of a sudden a thought hit her. As if she had been splashed with a bucket of cold water her spine straightened and she gasped, in understanding and not pleasure. “Draco!” She said, hastily. “Draco, oh my god, I need a pen, I think I’ve-”

He pulled back finally to look at her, trying to search her face. “What are you on about?” He asked, his eyes half-lidded and his pupils blown.

“I think I’ve figured it out, I think I have an idea about this whole-” she stuttered when he thrust into her particularly hard and pinched her nipple at the same time. “Law, Draco, I need a pen-”

“No,” he said, shaking his head. “You need to enjoy this. Do you forget things often?” He asked, and Hermione frowned at him.

“Well, no, but-”

“Good,” Draco said, clearly solving the problem in his mind. “After. We can deal with this after. We’ve all waited this long - we can wait another few minutes.”

Hermione hesitated, clearly wanting to write this down now, but Draco was insistent and he kissed her again. It only took another few moments before Hermione surrendered, kissing back and tugging at his hair and urging him to move.

Draco leant his head further down and sucked at one of her nipples, and Hermione arched her back up into him. “Draco…” she murmured, this time her head far more in the moment. Draco was now thrusting into her fast and hard, running his thumb in circles over her, and she could feel the knot in her low stomach starting to tighten. “Almost… there…”

This only inspired him and he didn’t slow down his pace, and in only a few more thrusts Hermione let out a soft cry and her body tightened around him. Draco followed her over the edge and groaned into her skin and Hermione shivered when he pulled out of her and rested his forehead on her shoulder. “Good?” He whispered against her skin.

“Always,” Hermione agreed, and he smiled against her.

Draco carefully lowered her back down to the ground and kissed her forehead carefully. “Then you’re free to go write whatever you want.”

Chapter Text

Hermione was sitting once again at the dining room table in Grimmauld Place. Draco was pacing back and forth behind her because when he had asked what exactly she had figured out she had sent him a nasty glare and then gone right back to work. He knew, of course, never to interrupt her in study mode. But it didn’t make the situation any easier for him, especially because he really did want to know exactly what she had figured out.

The front door opened and Harry and Ginny nearly tumbled through, laughing and leaning against one another for support. Draco couldn’t help but watch as they giggled in the hall and kissed like there was nothing to it, pulling off each others coats and hanging them up. Their relationship ran so deep and it threw him sometimes, that they could allow themselves to be so happy and open with each other all the time. There was jealousy there too, that they could be in public together and people mostly turned a blind eye to it, writing it off as “well, they’ve been friends since childhood” and pretending to ignore the fact that they were obviously still together.

“Any luck?” Ginny asked, when she realized Draco was looking at her. He sighed and shrugged.

“Not sure. Hermione had a revelation but she won’t share exactly what it is she’s discovered. If she’s figured anything out, that is. I’m still not sure, because she won’t tell me what is going on.”

Hermione finally looked up, noticing Harry and Ginny and then looking back to Draco, rather apologetically. “Parkinson is a pureblood, right?” She asked, and Draco nodded and she turned back to her paper.

Harry disappeared into the kitchen and returned with a tray with four mugs of tea, and he passed them out. “Sometimes this can take hours.” He explained to Draco, and shrugged. “That’s our Hermione. Brightest witch of her age doesn’t exactly come easy all the time.”

Draco glowered slightly at the implication of our Hermione, but he also knew that she was not his, not really, and so she might as well be all of theirs.

“What are you going to do about Quidditch, Red?”

Ginny rolled her eyes at the nickname but didn’t comment, she’d given up long ago on that front. “I’m going to have to stop.” She admitted, looking down into her mug. “It’s a shame really, because I only got one season as a first string seeker. I’ve played the last couple games but I’ll have to tell them soon.”

Harry reached over and rubbed his girlfriends back in consolation. “Gin, you know as soon as you have the kid I’ll stay home and you can go right back to the game.”

Ginny turned and offered him a slightly wavering smile. “I want to stay home for a bit too, Harry. Besides, I’ve been talking to the editor of the Prophet, they need someone for their Quidditch section and I mentioned that I might be interested.”

“Ginny! That’s brill!” Harry exclaimed, kissing her forehead. “You’d be wonderful at that.”

Draco nodded. “I’m sure when you decide to go back they’ll take you in a heartbeat.”

Both Ginny and Harry turned to look at Draco, Ginny’s eyes wide and Harry’s jaw slack. “Was that a compliment?” Ginny asked, shaking her head as though she couldn’t believe it. “Well I never. Today is a day for the history books, Harry!”

Hermione cleared her throat, and the three immediately spun towards her. Draco took two steps closer but did not reach out to touch her yet, not sure if she would snap at him again. When she didn’t, he closed the distance and rested a hand on her shoulder.

“I…” She trailed off, and shook her head. “I’m not sure what to do.” She finally admitted, looking up at Draco. He frowned and looked over her shoulder at the book, scanning the words scribbled in Hermione’s unnaturally neat writing. He made it halfway down the page before his eyes widened in recognition.

“Fuck.” Draco mumbled, opening and then closing his mouth a few more times as if he had more he wanted to say. “Are you sure?”

Hermione shrugged one shoulder, halfheartedly, and looked up at him. “No. But, it makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?"

Draco nodded mutely, and Harry and Ginny each took a step closer. “Are you going to fill us in?” Ginny asked, obviously rather put out that Hermione hadn’t yet explained herself.

“I think…” Hermione looked back down at her notebook and then closed it, quickly. “I think I need to speak to Kingsley.” She stood from the table and reached out for Draco’s hand. “Will you come with me?”

Draco nodded and glanced back to Harry and Ginny. “We’ll explain it all when we get back, if we were right.”

Before either of them had the chance to protest, Hermione clutched her notebook against her chest and apparated out of the house.

Hermione and Draco landed in a small alley near the entrance to the Ministry of Magic. Draco pulled his shoulders up tight and allowed his aristocratic mask to slip over his features. Hermione glanced up at him and drew some strength from his confidence, and together they stepped into the phone booth and headed into the Ministry.

It was a Saturday, but Hermione happened to know that Kingsley was usually in his office around dinner time on the weekends, if only because he was trying to spend as little time with his new wife as possible. His secretary wasn’t even in, and so they were able to walk directly to his office where Hermione knocked on the door.

Kingsley answered, looking confused about the fact that they were both standing there. “Hermione, Mr. Malfoy. Interesting to see you here at this hour. Is there something I can help you with?”

Kingsley made the mistake of stepping slightly backwards and Hermione seized the opportunity, pressing his door open and stepping into the office. He furrowed his brow at her but stepped back anyways to let Draco in as well, who closed the door behind him. Hermione sat down in one of the arm chairs in front of his desk, and Draco leaned on the arm of it, crossing his arms in front of his chest. Together they made an intimidating picture, Hermione with her dark eyes and sharp glare and Draco with confidence that oozed from his pores.

Clearing his throat, Kingsley sat tentatively at his desk and looked between them again. “Right, then. What can I do to help?”

Hermione finally set her notebook down on the desk, closed, and looked up at him. “Kingsley.” She began, thinking about how she should phrase this. “I’m concerned about the way the couples were determined in this law.”

Kingsley glanced down at the desk, hesitantly, then looked back up at Hermione. “As we have discussed, Hermione, the Ministry followed a very intensive magical process to match up people with those who they are best suited for-”

“I wasn’t aware that blood status had anything to do with suitability.” Draco said, voice level but dangerous in a way that Hermione wasn’t used to.

The colour dropped out of Kingsley’s face and his skin went ashen as he looked between them. “I’m… not entirely sure what you mean, Mr. Malfoy. That certainly had nothing to do with our choice of matches-”

Hermione cut him off. “You see, Kingsley, Draco and I have been working on a few spells of our own. Based off old pureblood matchmaking spells, trying to determine compatibility between the couples who were chosen. And we found something interesting.”

“Nearly all of the couples we looked at were matched based on blood type, with purebloods almost always matched with other purebloods, and muggle borns and half bloods matched together.”

“I can assure you,” Kingsley said, though his voice was less forceful than Hermione was used to. “That we paired up couples on their compatibility first and foremost.”

Hermione shook her head. “No, Kingsley, that’s not true. Because if it were, I would not have been paired up with Harry. He would have ended up with Ginny, just as he was supposed to. And I would have been matched with Draco here.” She gestured to her side, and Draco grinned, feral and slow. Kingsley leaned back in his chair.

“You see,” Draco said, picking up Hermione’s book and flipping it open. “Only one of the couples we tested, and only one that I’m even aware of, were a match between a pureblood and a halfblood. And there are absolutely no matches between purebloods and muggle borns. Interesting, isn’t it?”

Hermione raised an eyebrow at Kingsley and leaned forward slightly. “It would be interesting, Kingsley, to hear your take on this situation. Order member to order member.”

Draco’s grin increased now and he looked over to Hermione for confirmation, before he turned back to Kingsley. “You may be the Minister of Magic, Shacklebolt, but you can’t quite fill the position if you’re dead, can you?”

Kingsley’s brow drew tight together and he leaned forward, wand suddenly out and trained at Draco. “Are you threatening me, Malfoy?”

Draco put up both hands in a gesture of surrender and shook his head. “Not at all, Minister. I just know that Elora Zabini’s husbands have a tendency towards disappearance and unfortunate... accidents. I wouldn’t want to think of what could happen when the deadline for childbirth draws closer and she needs to find a way to avoid Azkaban. Really, I’m looking out for you.”

Kingsley backed down, and cast a charm around the room before he set his wand down on the desk. “If they knew that we had this discussion, I would lose my job and be sent to Azkaban for obstructing the Ministry’s wishes.”

Hermione relaxed back into the chair and grinned. “No one will know that you had anything to do with it.”

Kingsley sighed and nodded. “Right. What do you need to know then?”

Draco looked over at Hermione and his grin brightened considerably into one she was much more used to, and she relaxed even further. “Well. Ron and Hannah, of course, are an anomaly.”

Kingsley nodded and rubbed his forehead before responding. “Yes. You see, while finding pairs who were compatible on blood status was important to the Ministry, you can recognize the difficulty of this with the fact that there just simply aren’t that many purebloods who aren’t already related. And,” he paused. “They decided that it was most important to focus on individuals who they believed had the highest magical potential.”

Hermione could barely contain herself from shouting in anger. Draco reached out and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder and she held back, barely. “What you’re saying to me then, Kingsley, is that neither Ron nor Hannah were seen as important enough to matter anyways?”

Kingsley sighed. “From the Wizengamot’s perspective, no. It’s also important to have a few… test groups, in an experiment such as this one. Just in case they do produce a strongly magical child. I thought it was important to try and get a few such couples in, if they were otherwise compatible. Ron, if I remember correctly, matched very poorly against the other potential pureblood options. So, it seemed like a safe bet.”

Hermione curled her hands into fists and took a deep breath. “What about Luna and Pansy? And Dean and Seamus? It seems rather… against the intent of the law to match up same sex couples?”

Kingsley shrugged uncomfortably. “Yes, well. As you found out I’m sure,” he paused, frowned, “- not sure how, don’t want to know - they were both incredibly well matched in every avenue the Ministry was looking for. And, beyond that, I fought to try and push matches that would make people happy. As you can attest to, I did not always succeed.”

Draco leaned closer to the man behind the desk. “Besides,” he said, voice still even and careful. “You wouldn’t want the Ministry to look too biased. Easier for someone to argue on discrimination that way, and have the entire thing overturned.”

Kingsley sighed, but nodded in assent. “Yes, Mr. Malfoy, you’re not incorrect.”

Hermione sighed and leaned against Draco. This was enough. This was enough information to overthrow the whole law, she was sure of it.

“Draco?” She asked, the tiredness that was slowly overwhelming her now obvious in her voice. “Can we go home now?”

“Absolutely.” He agreed, and reached a hand to help her up. He tossed one last look at Kingsley as he opened the door for Hermione, and the feral grin crept back over his face. “Say hello to Elora for me, Shacklebolt. Good luck.”

Draco made sure they made it back to Grimmauld Place safely, because Hermione’s head was reeling with everything she had just discovered. It still didn’t entirely make sense to her, but the more she thought about it the more it did. Just because they had ousted Voldemort didn’t mean that the people in charge of the Wizengamot weren’t biased. It was no wonder that her creature laws never passed, the entire group was still full of supremacists and those who believed that they were better simply by virtue of their blood.

It made her sick.

Draco ushered her into the living room where Harry and Ginny were curled up on the couch. They stopped speaking almost immediately and looked up.

“I can’t believe you just left!” Ginny half shouted, looking between them. “You know this is going to affect us even more than it will affect you and you didn’t even have the decency to stay and tell us what you’d figured out!”

Hermione shook her head, finally coming back to earth. “Sorry, Gin. We weren’t sure, there was an… anomaly. We had to check with Kingsley.”

Harry sighed and ran one of his hands through his thick hair. “Right. So, do you know? How they did it? How to solve it?”

Hermione nodded and looked down at her hands, feeling useless. Knowledge was good, and important. It didn’t solve the problem.

Draco, realizing that she was clearly struggling, jumped in. “Blood status.”

“What?” Harry asked, sitting further forward on the couch.

“The compatibility spells didn’t really matter, as long as the partners were of compatible blood status.” Hermione expanded.

“But,” Ginny responded, shaking her head. “Ron and Hannah?”

“Were the anomaly.” Hermione continued. “They were, basically, an experiment. As well as the Ministry didn’t… think their magical potential was strong either way.”

Ginny winced at this and Harry wrapped one of his arms around her shoulders before speaking. “Okay. So. Fine. How do we fix this then?”

Hermione shook her head and dropped down onto the other couch, bringing her hands up to her face. “It’s enough information, I think. I mean, it may still be a bit rough, but, this isn’t good. It proves that a lot of it was really all made up, that some of the matches aren’t actually the best options if they want to spout this compatibility bullshit. And while I trust in our measures and tests… they have every reason not to.”

Harry raised a brow at her language but said nothing. Hermione tended to only swear when she was very angry, and even though her face was still hidden by her hands, he had no doubt that that was the case now.

“So.” He said, trying to keep this as comfortable as he could. “How do we solve it?”

Draco looked up at Harry, and then down to Hermione before he sat next to her. “Simple. We go to the Wizengamot. I know they’re meeting this week. We can be there first thing Monday morning.”

Hermione finally lifted her head and looked over at the blonde man. “The Wizengamot hates me.” She pointed out. “They’re blood supremacists , they won’t pass any of my bills - no wonder. They don’t care what I say to them. It won’t be enough.”

Draco paused and thought this over. “I think, if you march in there with the three greatest war heroes and a Death Eater-” (“Ex.” Hermione interjected, nearly unconsciously.) “They probably won’t be able to say no.”

“Especially,” Ginny piped up, quickly catching onto Draco’s line of thinking. “Since two of those war hero’s marriages are obviously not working out with their Ministry chosen spouses, and the third is the “experiment” who is getting along wonderfully with his wife.”

Draco nodded. “Exactly.”

“Right,” Hermione sighed, looking around at the three of them. “But now,” she paused, looked up to Draco and flashed him a tired smile. “Bed?”

Draco reached over to Hermione and caught one of her hands in his.


Chapter Text

They spent Sunday morning preparing for the following day. Hermione made Draco write out a list of all of his own friends and their matches, and there was no surprise that all of them were purebloods now married to other purebloods. Blaise and Parvati, Theodore Nott and Astoria Greengrass, Gregory Goyle and Daphne Greengrass. That added three more pureblood couples to her list. Charlie, it turned out, had also married another pureblood, and they seemed to be doing just fine as well - though it didn’t sound like they spent much time together from everything Ron could figure.

By Sunday evening, Hermione was a nervous wreck, pacing back and forth through her bedroom while Draco tried to get her to bed. Even after a nice long bath during which Draco massaged her back, she still felt very much like everything was going to fall apart around her.

Finally, they curled up in bed and Draco tugged the covers up around their bodies. Hermione snuggled down against him and he kissed her forehead.

“We’re going to make them listen, Granger. We’re going to go to the Wizengamot and make them listen. And if they refuse to listen, we’ll go to the public, and we will not stop talking about this until they do something.”

Hermione nodded against his chest and pressed a gentle kiss to his skin. “And I’ll have Harry and Ron there. And you?”

Draco smirked. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

They fell into silence, and just as Hermione was starting to slip into sleep, Draco shook her slightly. “Come to dinner with me tomorrow night. In public. In front of everyone.”

Hermione hesitated. “If we win.” She agreed.

Draco shook his head. “Fuck them all. Come to dinner with me no matter what.”

Hermione couldn’t bite back the smile and she finally acquiesced. “I love you.”

He kissed the top of her head and she could feel him settling in against her. “Love you too, Granger.”

By five to nine the next morning, Hermione was standing outside the chamber to the Wizengamot with Harry, Ginny, Ron, Hannah, and Draco. Draco had suggested not bringing too many more people - they wouldn’t want to look like they were trying to overpower the counsel. Instead, they just wanted support while they made their case. And, of course, to bring those who were most essential towards that case.

“Draco,” Hermione asked, quietly, as the members started to file in in front of them. “How are we going to get a chance to speak? Don’t you normally need to, I don’t know… apply first? Can we just walk in there?”

Draco smirked as the last of the members entered the room and nodded. “Don’t worry, Granger. I told you, I’ve got that covered. Come on.”

He pushed open the double doors, shrugged into his confident persona, and sauntered into the hall of the Wizengamot like he owned the place.

The Chief Warlock halted in what sounded like introductions and set down the piece of parchment he was holding. He was an older man, and not someone Hermione was familiar with. She assumed, although the politics of the Wizengamot were notoriously kept very much secret, that he had served with them for a number of years and had taken over the position after Dumbledore’s death. Or, perhaps, after the Ministry rebuilt. It was hard to say, and at this moment it didn’t quite matter.

“Mr. Malfoy, may I ask why you are standing in the midst of our meeting?”

Draco gestured for Hermione to stand next to him, and adjusted the cuffs of his dress shirt and blazer nonchalantly. He had, Hermione was sure, purposefully worn muggle clothing just to make a scene. “Of course. I’m here to claim my family seat.”

A whisper broke out over the crowd, voices murmuring and blending into one. Hermione did her best to keep her face as neutral as possible, as though this was something she had been expecting all along. Family seats - it certainly explained the blood supremacy problem. This continued until the man at the front of the room cleared his throat, and everyone stopped immediately, looking towards Draco. “Is that so?”

The door creaked open again and Kingsley slipped in, and Hermione smiled, just a little. It was always a nice feeling to know that the Minister was on your side, even if his power was restricted in more ways than one.

“Yes,” Draco was saying, indifference thick in his voice. “Many of you are aware that I have recently resigned from my job with the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. And I believe that it is time that the Malfoy seat is once again filled.”

The Chief Warlock let out a rather long-suffering sounding sigh but nodded. “Yes yes. Does anyone second this?”

Kingsley cleared his throat. “I’ll second.”

“Fine. Very well. Mr. Malfoy, please come and take your seat then. I am not entirely sure why you have brought an entire… entourage with you, but they are free to go so we can get on with business.”

Draco scoffed. “Oh no. I have an order of business that, I must say, is quite urgent.”

Another set of whispers among the crowd, and this time the Warlock joined in, mumbling something about the Malfoys always being such a hassle, but he nodded. “Fine. Let’s get this over with so we can move on to our regular business, shall we?”

Hermione swallowed, and Draco reached a hand out to her. “Of course. May I present Ms. Hermione Granger. Some of you may remember her, of course, from saving our world just over three years ago. I would also like to introduce Mr. Harry Potter, Mr. Ronald Weasley, Mrs. Hannah Weasley, and Mrs. Ginny Malfoy.”

“Yes, Mr. Malfoy. We are well aware who everyone is. Now, will you please get on with it.”

Draco grinned over at Hermione. “Granger?” He offered, and Hermione flashed him the best smile she could muster. She had fought Voldemort, more than once. She could handle a roomful of old wizards who probably hadn’t duelled for as long as she’d been alive. She was strong and she was smart and besides all of that, she had the benefit of knowledge on her side.

Clearing her throat, Hermione looked around the room once, and then began. “Ladies and gentlemen, esteemed members of the Wizengamot. We are here today to bring forth a case against the marriage law which was passed just over a year ago. Each one of us standing here were affected by this law, though-” she paused, and looked around again to confirm. “I believe I am correct in assuming that most of you were above the maximum age requirement.”

Hermione stopped again as the room began to whisper, but only for a moment before she continued. “We are here today because I, together with Dra-Mr. Malfoy,” Hermione only stumbled briefly, and she quickly pulled herself together, “have uncovered something quite uncomfortable about the process in which the law was passed, specifically regarding the measures used to determine the compatibility of matches. After extensive testing, we have determined that not all of the matches were made in good faith. While some of the partnerships certainly have flourished, others were matched despite their potential incompatibility-” Hermione paused, took a breath, and opened the floodgates. “Exclusively to cater to blood purist ideals. Considering the fact that you have promoted this law as being used to match up individuals based on their compatibility in order to produce the strongest magical children… it certainly seems like discrimination to me, to have compromised these matches for your dangerous values.”

“Ms. Granger!” The Chief Warlock said, as though he was trying to scold her for daring to bring up such an uncouth subject. “Surely you are not suggesting that this council purposefully matched up couples in order to carry out blood purist dogma! In fact,” he paused, and leaned over to someone sitting next to him. They conferred quietly for less than a minute before he turned back. “I would have to point out that one of the couples you have brought here today are a pureblood and a halfblood witch.”

The Wizengamot seemed to collectively nod at this, and a few of them leaned back in their chairs, satisfied.

“Yes.” Hermione agreed, looking to Ron and Hannah and smiling at them. “That threw us off as well, initially. Except, you see, of the eleven couples we examined, ten of those were matches that seem to be based in blood purist values.” Hermione flicked her wand and a piece of parchment sprung into the air, listing off the couples they had already discussed, blood status noted next to their names.

Taking a breath, Hermione made sure she knew what she was about to say - they were moving into more dangerous territory now - before turning back to her audience. “Part of the problem here is that the number of purebloods left in our community is dropping, and the sheer amount of incest among them already is rather astounding. It only makes sense that you would look at one of them, a blood traitor ,” she visibly grimaced at the words, “no less, and decide to pair him up with someone else. A match with, according to your own measures, not much of a chance of succeeding. If they failed, all the better for you to prove that matches between purebloods and everyone else were not a good idea. It also made this entire discovery more difficult; what better way than to convince everyone you were going based off of compatibility than makings sure to match at least one couple across blood divisions? Unfortunately for you, and quite fortunately for them, Ron and Hannah are very much in love.”

Hermione glanced back down at the parchment she had clutched in her hands. There was so much to cover, and to miss out on any one thing could mean all of their hard work was pointless. “It seems, from what I have learned from a very trusted source, that you looked at one of the men who saved your world and determined he did not have enough ‘magical potential’ to be worthy of your study. I wonder how you will all feel when he is in charge of the Aurors - you are aware that he has been promoted and is being trained already for the role, correct? In fact, although I imagine you did not expect this outcome, it also undermines your entire principle.” Though Hermione couldn’t see him, she was sure that Ron had flushed behind her, and she bit back her own smile at the thought.

Someone off to her left cleared their throat to catch Hermione’s attention, and Hermione turned to examine the older witch. The woman reshuffled a few sheets of parchment, and then lifted her chin, self-satisfied and assured. “Are you saying, Ms. Granger, that you know more about relationships than the experience of the entire Wizengamot? That you can better create a way to determine compatibility than witches and wizards far more worldly and talented than you?”

Hermione forced herself not to get angry. This was politics. This was how you played the game. “What I am saying,” she began, holding her voice steady. “Is that relationships cannot be broken down into boxes. Humans can not be comfortably categorized and matched up like toys to create the future you wish. We are imperfect, all of us, and our relationships will be as well. But, what I am also saying is that you have not matched based purely on compatibility, and the measures that you used to determine such compatibility were fraught to begin with.”

Hermione flicked her wand again, and more parchment sprung up next to her. She had a sheet for each of the spells they had used, incantation written at the top and the spell itself broken down theoretically beneath. When the whispers began again, Hermione cleared her throat to redirect the attention in her direction. She was finding her stride now, feeling more confident and comfortable in the preparation she had done, and she had the same rush of pleasure she got when a Professor asked a question and she knew the answer.

“As you can see, we were able to develop six spells to measure a variety of different areas of compatibility. A high-ranking ministry employee,” Hermione paused, and decided not to throw Cormac under the bus unless she absolutely needed to, “confirmed for us which measures the law focused on, and thus those were what we tested a sample of couples with ourselves. In fact, the magical theory was really quite simple, once we knew where to look. Pureblood families used to use spells like these themselves, to help determine if arranged marriages would be fruitful between their families.”

Draco grinned, nearly wolfish. “Though, they all had more than a dozen spells themselves, and they tested on different things, depending on their own family values. For example, the Malfoys have always valued loyalty, but,” he gestured at one of the sheets and shrugged, “spirit would have meant nothing to us. Of course, this all seems rather arbitrary, when you think of it like that, doesn’t it? Some of the matches clearly worked out fine,” he gestured to himself, his grin growing. “Others, well. I’m sure at least some of you remember the Gaunts.” Harry coughed, and Hermione recognized it as his ‘covering up a snicker’ laugh. Hermione took the minute to take another deep breath and resettle herself before she continued.

“Exactly.” Hermione flicked her wand and her charts started to shift, showing off the couples who fell under each measure of compatibility. “There’s another problem, of course, with all of that. No measure of magical compatibility testing takes into account anything other than core qualities - though I think there has been some research done suggesting formative years may play some role as well. But beyond that, the events that shape us, the people who influence us, the things that help make us who we really are just cannot be measured by magic.”

Biting her lip, she looked over to Harry and he nodded, letting her know it was alright. “I was matched with Harry Potter. Harry has been a dear friend of mine for many, many years. And we get along well, as friends. And yet, over the course of the past year it has become quite clear to me - to both of us - that I do not, and simply cannot love him in the way which this law demands. We are not compatible romantically. In fact, even the spells did not entirely show that we are compatible, by the small number of measures you decided upon.”

Hermione inhaled, exhaled. Realized she was throwing herself off the deep end, nearly committing a crime just for admitting it. But it needed to be said. She forced herself not to look at Draco, not wanting to drag him down as well, and continued. “The person that I am compatible with, romantically, is someone who I chose for myself - despite circumstances being very much against us. Someone who I determined, with no input from your spells or meddling, was the right person for me. I have been called the ‘brightest witch of my age’ since I was eleven years old. And I trust my own judgment far more than I trust any of yours, when it comes to my life.”

Hermione glanced over to Draco, and he flashed her one of his rare real smiles. She looked back at the Warlock, feeling strong and steady, confident in her research. “And, wouldn’t you know, we happen to be one of the most compatible couples of all of the ones who we tested. Which again, begs the question as to why we were not paired up? And we arrive at the answer, once more, that you decided that as a muggle-born, I was not good enough. That you looked at me and determined I was not welcome in your world. That you are no better than Voldemort, deciding that the best recipe for magical success was to cut all of us without enough magical blood out of the equation entirely.”

The Chief Warlock appeared to be developing a headache, as he was rubbing at his temples and shaking his head slightly. “Ms. Granger. No one in this court room believes that you are less capable because of your blood type. Beyond that, we simply cannot repeal this law just because you stand there spouting off some nonsense about blood purity and compatibility. I see you have clearly put a lot of work into this,” he smiled, patronizingly, “but this is important for our society. We must assist our people in growing, in evolving, in surviving despite the circumstances. We are simply doing what is best.”

Harry, though he was so quiet she almost missed him, mumbled “the greater good” angrily under his breath.

Hermione looked at Draco now, hesitating. He rubbed his hands together and jumped back into the fray. “Well. As you yourself noted, we have put a lot of work into this. We have this evidence and more, and I do not believe we would have any trouble collecting more data from many, many more people. If you do not repeal this law before we leave here today, we will be heading directly for the offices of the Daily Prophet. We will not leave this matter alone until you repeal your law and allow any of us affected by it immediate annulments,” Draco paused, and glanced back to Hannah and Ron, “if so desired.”

“I have a personal connection with Rita Skeeter.” Hermione added, suddenly unable to stop grinning. “I believe that she would find this story rather incredible, don’t you? And the public as well - to learn the three children who saved you when no one else could have found your council to be entrenched with blood purist values. To hear that the very ideals they fought to overthrow, lost loved ones over, are insidious in their own government. To line up and be tested for their own compatibility, to hear how much their government really believed in the marriage that were forced upon them. That changed their lives. I think it could be a very interesting story.”

Whispers and murmurs had burst up again amongst the members, and someone in the back of the room started to shout, and the Warlock swished his wand to bring silence to the room. “I will have order.” He barked. “I would like to ask all those present who are not members of the Wizengamot to step outside while we confer over this issue.” He seemed rather immovable on this issue, and so with a last glance to Draco - who was clearly not going anywhere, now that he had his family seat - Hermione, Harry, Ron, Hannah, and Ginny turned and filed out of the courtroom.

Hermione couldn’t stop pacing. She was walking back and forth up the small hallway that led into the courtroom. Ginny had her eyes closed, and she was mumbling different Quidditch plays under her breath. Harry was biting his nails, trying to hide the fact that he was doing it and failing spectacularly. Ron and Hannah were holding hands and talking quietly. They had a lot less to lose, if the law fell through, but clearly they were still worried for their friends.

“Why is it taking so long?” Hermione asked, stopping her pacing to take a few deep breaths and trying to push down the panic she could feel beating through her chest. “It shouldn’t take this long, should it?”

Harry shrugged. “Dunno. You have more experience with the Wizengamot than the rest of us do.”

Hermione groaned. “Harry, you’re not helping! Besides, you’ve been in here quite a few times yourself.” He frowned and returned to his biting and Hermione did her best not to scream. This currently affected Harry more than it affected her. She had a few more months to figure out a new solution, nearly a year. But Ginny could be in Azkaban for breaking the law - Harry too, now that she thought about it. Hell, if they were really going wild she could probably be charged with accessory, and Draco as well.

It wasn’t a comforting thought.

Then, just as Hermione was starting to feel like she was going to rip her hair out, the door opened. Draco stuck his head out, his expression carefully neutral. Hermione tried to search his eyes to see if he had the answer, but he just opened the door further. “Come back in.” He instructed, and then he moved back into the room.

Hermione was the first back in, and she dug her fingernails into her palms, trying to stop herself from panicking because if she blacked out now she’d never learn if she’d been successful. She forced herself to appear more confident than she felt, and she moved up to stand next to Draco. The rest of the group stayed back near the door. This was important, but this was also Hermione’s area of expertise, not theirs.

“Ms. Granger.” The Chief Warlock stated, simply. “And friends,” he clarified, looking over her shoulder to the group gathered at the door. “This is certainly an interesting situation that you have left us with.” He shuffled through a few papers. “I do not doubt that if this does not work out to your satisfaction, you will go directly to the Prophet and it certainly would not do for the public to believe that their court, those of us who look out for their best interests, are biased in any way that may appear… problematic.”

Hermione frowned at this. She was almost sure she knew what he was saying, but working through the political layers piled onto his speech was an interesting challenge. “Does that mean-”

The Warlock lifted a hand to stop her. “We have considered your appeal. We have also looked at the evidence - not many children have been born yet, but already the numbers are significantly improved from this time last year. Of the children who have been born, they have exhibited incredible magical potential, far more so than children born prior to the law, and we are all certain that our law has played a role in this.”

Draco scoffed. “From my understanding, at least one of those children was already on the way whether or not the law was put into place, so I don’t think you get credit for that one.” No one was pulling his goddaughters into this.

The Warlock was doing his best to ignore Draco at this point. “Beyond that, we believe that most of the individuals affected by the law are quite happy with their matches, and would stay together whether or not the law was in place.” He seemed quite satisfied with this, and Hermione wanted to throw something at him.

“But what about those of us who-”

Ms. Granger,” he chastised, and Hermione bit down on her bottom lip to stop herself from shouting at him. This man was infuriating. “Due to this fact, the Wizengamot has decided that for the time being we are content with the results of the law, and are willing to see if this situation continues without it in place.”

Hermione looked frantically over at Draco, and he was grinning now, a smile larger than she had ever seen it. His eyes shone and her heart swelled and she wanted to leap into his arms but she had to make sure. “The law is repealed?” She asked, turning back to the Warlock. He nodded, once. “And the marriages formed under it?”

“If both participants wish so, they will be immediately annulled with no further repercussions.”

Hermione couldn’t help but laugh in excitement. She heard Harry behind her shout “yes!” and she spun to look at Draco, ready to throw herself at him.

“One more small thing.” Draco said, not even bothering to look at the Warlock. Hermione couldn’t stop grinning but she managed to shoot him a slightly frustrated look. What else could there be?

Out of the corner of her eye she saw something glint, and glanced over just in time to see Ginny twist her wedding ring off of her finger, wink, and throw. Draco reached a hand up and caught the ring out of the air and in one smooth motion dropped down to one knee.

“Hermione,” he began, and Hermione’s grin dropped off her face as her eyes grew wide, completely unable to wrap her head around the situation.

“I don’t think I have the right to ask this of you. In fact, I never really believed that I deserved to be happy, after everything. Except. Except then you came along, and you are relentlessly stubborn and incredibly infuriating and you make me want to be a better person every single day. You make me think that one day, with enough work, I could maybe deserve some happiness as well, if I could share it with you.”

“Draco-” Hermione managed to half whisper, but he shook his head to cut her off and she closed her mouth again.

“I don’t want to tie you down. I don’t want to hold you back. I will never own you, and I will never try. I know this is probably the wrong time for this. But, what I do know is that I want to be beside you every step of the way, from now on. I want to stand next to you and lift you up when you need it. I want to watch as you take over the world and change us all for the better. I want to hold you when you panic, and kiss you when you cry. I want to fu-”

“Draco!” She hissed again, and he laughed, bright and loud as he looked up at her. Hermione spared a moment to glance around at their audience. The Wizengamot was mostly silent. A few were murmuring to their neighbours, but others were leaned in with curiosity painted on their faces. Harry looked confused but Ginny looked nearly proud, and the Chief Warlock was still rubbing at his temples and trying to puzzle out this situation.

“There is no rush. If you need time, I’ll be waiting. If you need space, I’ll back off. But when you’re ready, I’ll be right here. ‘I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this.'”

Hermione was crying now - she could feel the tears sliding down her face and collecting on her jaw. Her heart was pounding, thudding staccato in her chest. She had always imagined this moment - with a redhead on the ground instead of blonde - and she’d imagined feeling terrified, like she was being trapped and locked away. Even the thought of marrying Harry, which now seemed like an eternity ago, had worried her, and she knew he wasn’t the type to expect things of her or force her into his way of living. Except now, now she felt like flying. Like she had leapt and instead of falling she was soaring higher and higher and for the first time in a year, everything felt right. The din of the room room had faded away around her and all that was left was him, offering his heart up to her and promising to hold hers with care.

“‘In which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close.’” Hermione’s voice shook as she spoke, but she couldn’t stop herself from finishing his quote. Draco swallowed, she watched his Adam’s apple bob and he suddenly looked uncomfortable, like he had done the wrong thing. It hit her all at once, and she let out a shaky laugh.

“That was a yes, you daft man!” She said, and reached out for him. He was off the floor in a minute, standing and wrapping his arms around her and spinning and Hermione laughed again, burying her face in his neck and revelling in love and laughter and lightness, finally feeling free once more.

Draco set her down carefully, and slid the ring onto her finger, and turned up to look at the Chief Warlock. “I would like to formally abdicate my family seat-” Someone in the audience said something that sounded rather like “he cheated us” and someone else let out a groan, but Draco carried on. “And appoint to the role my fiancée, Ms. Hermione Granger.”

Hermione choked on a laugh, and the Chief Warlock looked ready to throw something across the room. “Mr. Malfoy, this is highly unorthodox-”

“And legal - well within my rights as a representative. Hermione, all you have to say is yes, and it’s yours. You can finally fight for the changes you want, from somewhere that you can make a difference. We don’t have to be officially married for you to have the seat, so there’s no rush - nor will there ever be.”

Hermione was tearing up again, watching him. He was brilliant, strategically and politically. Not that she didn’t believe he proposed out of love, she could see in his eyes that he had, but he had been planning this, and she was reminded again that Draco was well suited to green and silver. And he was handing her as much of the world as he could fit on a silver platter.

Just as there had only been one answer when he had asked her to marry him, there was only one answer now. “Yes. Definitely, yes.” 

Chapter Text

April 2003, Malfoy Manor

“Hermione,” came a soft voice from behind her. She turned towards it, pulling her eyes away from the full length mirror in front of her, and grinned at the sight. Harry was standing in the doorway to the room, looking incredibly elegant in a Muggle tuxedo. Resting on his hips was a sleepy James, head nuzzled against his father’s shoulder and eyes half lidded as he peered up at her.

“How’s my handsome man?” Hermione cooed, stepping forward and reaching for James.

Harry laughed. “Only man ? Singular?” he pressed, and Hermione laughed, leaning forward to kiss her best friend’s cheek.

“I’m sorry Harry, but you’ll never be anything compared to this perfect angel,” she leant over to kiss James’s forehead and ruffle his dark hair softly as she did.

“Sixteen months old and already spoiled rotten,” Harry mumbled, but turned away so Hermione couldn’t pick him up. “You’re going to ruin your dress,” he reminded her, and Hermione sighed, glancing down and brushing a hand over the lacy fabric.

“Would love to see the look on Narcissa’s face if I did though, wouldn’t you? ‘First you demand a Muggle dress - oh come, dear, you’d look much better in robes! - and now you’ve gone and gotten chocolate all over it! What on earth am I do with you?’” Hermione mocked, though her tone was teasing more than anything. Narcissa had been uncomfortable, at first, when they met and Hermione was introduced as Draco’s fianceé. But when the older woman had learned what she had done for Draco, when she got to know Hermione and her sharp wit and unfailing loyalty, she had started to come around. They were far from friends, and Hermione could certainly never consider her a mother, but their relationship was cordial and the woman had been a wonderful help in choosing such a beautiful dress, despite her misgivings of its origin. Hermione had never expected to see Narcissa so happy, and she had thought to herself that she should have taken her to a Oxford Street much earlier in their tentative friendship.

Harry snorted and then sighed, looking over her. “I’ll never get over how happy you look, Hermione,” he admitted, crooked grin tugging at his lips. “If you’d told me at eleven that the thing that would make you the happiest in the world was him-”

“At eleven? The thing that would have made me the happiest would have been seeing him covered in flobberworm guts.” Hermione admitted with a laugh.

“The feeling’s mutual.” Came a voice from outside, and Hermione squeaked in surprise and stepped back away from the door.

“Don’t you come in here, Draco Malfoy!” She scolded, rolling her eyes at Harry. “You know that you’re not-”

“Supposed to see you, I’m aware, you’ve told me a hundred times,” Draco finished, letting out an exaggerated long suffering sigh. “I just wanted to make sure that you’re alright. Do you need anything?”

Hermione let out a happy sigh and shook her head. “No, love. I’m not going to run, I’m not going to throw the ring at your head-”

“Again,” Draco huffed.

“Well maybe if you hadn’t been such a-”

Harry coughed loudly. “As much as I’m enjoying,” he grimaced, “being in the middle of this strange version of foreplay that the two of you have going on, I think it’s about time.” Harry looked back up to Hermione and sighed once more at her, shaking his head. “I’ll see you soon.”

Hermione nodded, and watched as Harry left the room, listening to Draco say something and the laughter that trickled down the hallway after them. Before she had any more time to muse on the day ahead of them, or the nearly four years behind, someone else was shuffling into the room.

“Right!” Came the voice, and Hermione grinned. It had Quidditch captain written all over it, and she turned around to face the redhead who looked stunning in a dark green dress. “Last chance to turn and run,” the woman joked, and Hermione giggled in response. Ginny rushed up to kiss Hermione’s cheek quickly and then stepped behind her to pick up the train of the dress that was resting on the floor. “After you.”

Hermione picked up her bouquet of flowers on the way and together with Ginny, began the way towards the grounds of the Manor. She’d been living here for nearly two years, and the hallways that had once been dark and threatening now instead whispered home - though it had helped that she’d boxed up every single painting who’d given her grief about her blood and stashed them all in the attic. The few who were left gasped as she walked by, and one woman - Draco’s great great grandmother on his mother’s side - burst into tears, blubbering about how beautiful Hermione looked.

They reached the garden without incident - Hermione had chosen to wear flat shoes instead of heels - and finally they stood at the edge of the clearing they had chosen to be married in. There were a few dozen chairs set up, filled with their family and closest friends. Harry was waiting at the end of the aisle for her, and took her arm in his when she reached him. Up at the front, Hermione could see Draco standing, nervous and looking down at his shoes.

Someone swished their wand, and the music began. Harry squeezed her hand and they began their walk up the aisle just as Draco looked up. His eyes met Hermione’s and then broke as he skimmed them over her dress, his face lighting up in a smile when he looked back at her face. Hermione was grinning too, and she could barely take her eyes off him as they reached the front of the space.

Finally, they stopped. She turned to Harry and pulled him into a tight hug, whispering thank you in his ear. He stepped away and joined Draco at the front, taking his place beside Draco’s best “man” Pansy (in a set of deep crimson dress robes), and George, the other groomsman.

Ginny helped Hermione up next to Draco and then snatched the bouquet from her hand, stepping back to join Win and a very pregnant Hannah behind her.

Hermione reached forward and caught Draco’s hands in her own and he grinned down at her, lighting up the space with the way his whole face glowed. “You look beautiful,” he whispered, and Hermione grinned up at him.

“And you look stunning,” she agreed, and he laughed softly.

“Ladies and gentleman,” began the man behind them, his heavy voice filling the space and quieting the crowd and laughing Draco. “Friends, and family,” he continued. “We are gathered here today to witness the union of Draco Lucius Malfoy and Hermione Jean Granger. Before we begin, the bride and groom have requested that we take a moment of silence to remember those of us unable to join us today.” Draco’s smile dimmed as he clearly thought about Lucius, tied to him in the legacy of a name, a head of blonde hair, and a mark seared into his skin. Hermione thought instead of Fred, of Remus and Tonks, of Colin Creevey, and of her own parents who were lost in an entirely different way. The entire audience seemed to follow the same route, heads bowed and deep breaths taken as they remembered the sacrifices of their peers and loved ones.

Hermione took a moment to look up and scan the gathered crowd. The Weasley’s were all there, of course. Molly was holding James, who had perked up a little when the music started. Beside her, Arthur was holding Fred - George and Win’s son - and Ron was holding Eliza, Fred’s twin sister. Andromeda was directly beside them, five-year-old Teddy (currently sporting bright platinum blonde hair, to match his favourite cousin Draco) on her lap, and Fleur was next, nearly-three-year-old Victoire on hers.

Behind them were Luna, Dean, and Seamus, arms full between the two two year old toddlers who were clambering around to sit on different parents at the change of a mood, and giggling to each other in the process. Hermione could also see Neville, a large grin on his face with no Lavender in sight. She also spotted Narcissa, Blaise Zabini with Parvati beside him, Theo and Astoria holding hands, and Goyle and Daphne on opposite sides of the room doing their best not to look at each other. It was a small crowd but a happy and loving one, exactly what Hermione wanted. She turned back towards Kingsley, who was smiling at her with pride, and he cleared his throat, drawing the attention of the crowd back towards him.

“It has been a long road that has gotten us to this point,” Kingsley began, grinning at the couple in front of him. “While I didn’t know Draco particularly well until a few years ago, I think all of us here are well aware of the history of the individuals standing in front of us,” Draco lifted a hand to rub at his cheek and Harry laughed out loud behind him. “But I think we can all agree that Hermione and Draco are, clearly, perfectly matched. I’ve believe that you have each prepared your own vows,” Kingsley confirmed, and they each nodded at him. “So Draco, I’ll pass the floor to you first.”

Draco flushed slightly but cleared his throat, turning his full attention towards Hermione. He was not normally someone who was nervous while public speaking, but this was a momentous occasion and he clearly did not want to ruin it. “‘It is a truth universally acknowledged,’” he began, and Hermione’s grin grew even larger. “‘That a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.’ While I admire Jane Austen’s literary prowess, I must admit that I do not believe I can agree with this statement.”

Hermione bit her lip, and nodded at him, and Draco continued. “Three years ago, I was exactly that. A single man in possession of a good fortune, but I was certainly not in want of a wife. And certainly not in want of the one chosen for me by the ministry,” he paused to glance over Hermione’s shoulder and flashed Ginny a smirk. “No offence, little red.”

Ginny rolled her eyes. “None taken, you dolt,” she retorted, before tipping her head meaningfully towards Hermione and drawing a laugh from the crowd.

Draco cleared his throat, and refocused on Hermione. “Two years ago, I watched the most brilliant, kind, and beautiful woman that I know-” he paused again, and glanced at Narcissa who was crying openly, tears rolling down her cheeks, to whisper “apologies, mother,” and then turned back to Hermione. “- take on the most powerful governmental body in the Wizarding world to fight against an oppressive law. Not in the name of love, but in the name of justice, and equality, and a dash of pure Gryffindor bravery,” Draco reached out and cupped Hermione’s cheek in his hand, marvelling down at her.

“I knew at that moment that it was more than just want of a wife. I was in want, in need, of someone who looked past my sins, past my actions, past the exterior of a broken man drowning in firewhiskey and shame, and saw something bigger and better underneath it all. I was in want of a woman who held me in the night, who smacked me when I needed it,” Hermione giggled and the group laughed again, though many of them were dabbing at their eyes as they did so, “who pulled me out of my darkest place and promised me she would keep me there. It wasn’t just a woman. I was in want of you, Hermione. What we have is more than want, and passion, and desire - though we have plenty of that-”

Ginny fake gagged behind them, and Draco didn’t even bother to look up - though he saw Win lean over out of the corner of his eye and pinch the redhead on the arm.

“I had, I still have, the need to show you what you mean to me, to hold you up and support you. I want to help you when you’re stuck, and hold you when you cry. I want to be there to hand you an invaluable family heirloom to smash when you’re angry,” Narcissa gasped loudly and Ron guffawed with laughter. “I could never see myself with a wife, certainly not when I stood here three years ago and married Ginny Weasley.” Draco paused to look up, over Hermione’s shoulder. “Without you, Ginevra, I never would have learned what true love actually is. I never would have realized that it’s not being in want of a wife, but being in want of your better half.” Ginny grinned, and Draco turned back to Hermione. “Now I have the pleasure, and the privilege, of standing here with you, Hermione. Hopefully for the last time,” he joked, but Hermione was tearing up and Draco was blinking to fight back his own tears. “I know that you have made me into someone close to worthy of your love, and I know that I will spend the rest of my life proving to you just what you mean to me.”

Hermione choked down a sob and lifted her own hand to brush a strand of hair away from Draco’s forehead. “I’m not sure I can top that,” she murmured, and he grinned down at her. She took a minute to take a deep breath and compose herself, then she began.

“Lao Tzu wrote that ‘being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.’ I can’t say I understood this quote - after all, I was a Gryffindor who had faced off with the darkest wizard in our time more than once. I certainly had an abundance of strength and courage, didn’t I?” Hermione grinned over at Harry who was laughing at her, and she looked back to Draco. “But I think that Lao Tzu was right. Being loved by you, Draco, has given me strength. From nightmares, to panic attacks, facing old demons, and some new ones as well… your love has provided me with the strength to overcome, to look past what has haunted me and to know someone will be there on the other side.”

Draco’s grin had deepened, somehow, his eyes heavy and full of love. Hermione’s heart felt like it was on the edge of bursting, and she couldn’t seem to look away from him. Instead, she took a breath and continued. “Loving you, on the other hand, has given me courage in more ways that I can imagine. I think I need courage, to put up with you,” she teased, and grinned up at him. “But you’ve given me the courage to accomplish more than I could ever imagine. From the day you looked at me and said we could overthrow the law that kept us apart, to the moment you decided I should take your Wizengamot seat, and every day since then. You gave me the strength to overcome, yes, but you also gave me the courage to take the leap. I-” she paused and stumbled for a minute, closing her eyes.

“I never thought that you would be it for me, Draco. But from the minute I saw you lounging on the grass, laughing about Hamlet, you showed me that you were not who I had imagined. You have surprised me at every turn, until you didn’t- because I realized that you are so much more than anyone has given you credit for. You are brilliant, and ambitious, and hilarious. You keep me on my toes, but you also keep me grounded. You are so full of love, Draco Malfoy, and I am honoured to be on the receiving end of it. From now until our next great adventure.”

Harry was the first one to clap, and soon the entire group joined in. Draco was looking down at her as though she had hung the moon, and Hermione was looking back like he was the sun she circled around. Kingsley behind them cleared his throat, and everyone turned their attention back to him.

“A perfect match.” He reiterated, and then lifted his wand. “If you place your hands together, I will now complete the bonding ceremony.” They lifted their hands, Hermione’s small and dark, cradled in Draco’s large pale palms. Kingsley began to speak, and wound his wand around them, waving it overtop as shimmering golden light and shimmering silver wove themselves together. Hermione watched captivated as the ropes tied and knotted themselves into an intricate pattern, their skin shimmering underneath. And then, with a final word, the bonds sunk down into their skin and she shivered at the feeling of powerful magic coursing through her veins. Nothing felt different and yet, somehow, everything did.

February, 2005, Malfoy Manor

“What are you reading today, my love?”

Hermione glanced up from the book in her hands to smile at Draco. He was tugging off his tie and also trying to unbutton his shirt at the same time, and the sight of him in muggle clothes still set her heart beating into an erratic rhythm. She offered the book out to him and he caught it and laughed softly, skimming his eyes over the familiar cover page.

“Have I not been romantic enough these past few weeks, you’re running back to Mr. Darcy on me already?”

Hermione laughed and sat up from the bed, reaching out to him and pulling him down to join her when he arrived at the edge of the mattress. “You’ve been busy,” she admitted with a shrug. “But that’s understandable. The store-”

Draco shrugged off her platitudes. “The store is always busy,” he reminded her. “Can you believe we’ve been married nearly two years now?” His thumb was now brushing back and forth across her knuckles and Hermione laughed again, leaning forward to kiss his cheeks.

“No. I feel like we’ve been busy this whole time,” she admitted.

“You have.” Draco reminded her with a laugh. “Overturning all the anti-werewolf legislation, destroying the creature registry, the anti-house elf abuse law, creating the prisoner health act-”

Hermione kissed his lips to shut him up. “You gave me the power, dear. I wasn’t going to let it go to waste.”

It was Draco’s turn to laugh, and he did so between kisses. “Have you heard from Harry and Ginny recently? He hasn’t been in the shop recently…”

“Ginny’s pregnant.” Hermione blurted out with a grin on her face, and Draco laughed in response. “I guess we all should have known, when she left the Harpies for good this time.”

“Hermione… do you ever wish that we…”

Hermione paused and looked into his eyes - worry and stress were clear and his shoulders were tensing again. She lifted a hand to push his shirt off so she could better rub at the tense muscles, and nodded. “I wasn’t ready, before. Everyone else seemed to be in such a rush, and I kept thinking of all the things I needed to do first.”

“But now, that you’ve finished most of those things?”

“Draco,” she paused, trying to think of the best way to explain her feelings, while not setting off alarms in his brain. “You’d be a brilliant father, you know. You will be a brilliant father.”

“What if I’m not?” he mumbled, pulling away from her soft touch and catching her hand in his so he could hold them both. His eyes were trained on the ring that sparkled on her finger and he was clearly trying to compose his emotions. “What if I turn into my father?”

Hermione managed to free one of her hands from his grasp and reached out to catch his chin, tilting it so that he’d have to look up and towards her. “You are not your father,” she stated, her voice clear and firm. “You never were. You are a good man, Draco Malfoy. I never would have married someone who wasn’t. You have proven yourself over and over to be a good man, a kind person, a loving husband… You’re going to be a brilliant father for our children.”

Draco swallowed, she watched his adam’s apple bob and then he focused on her eyes, and finally she could see a bit of humour behind them. “Ch-children?” he questioned, his voice sticking on the word - clearly thick with fear and stress but also something that sounded suspiciously like excitement.

“Well,” Hermione paused, grinning softly at him. “Let’s start with one and see how it goes?”

The blonde man in front of her took one more deep, steadying breath, and then he lunged forward, pressing Hermione back down into the mattress and capturing her lips in a searing kiss. He tangled his hands in her hair and she wrapped her legs up around him, pulling their bodies closer together. “Let’s hope they get my hair,” he teased, and Hermione laughed up into the kiss.

“As long as they get my brains.”

September 2008, St. Mungo’s

Hermione let out another scream and Draco snapped his head towards the healer standing cross-armed beside his wife’s bed, who seemed unnaturally calm despite the situation. “Can’t you do something?” he growled, for what must have been the tenth time.

“As I have told you already, Mr. Malfoy, this is just a natural part of the birthing process. We are monitoring her carefully and this is completely normal.”

“But, she shouldn’t be in this much pain!” Draco retorted, as Hermione whimpered below him and clutched at his hand tighter. “The only reason we’re here in the first place is because of the fucking dark curse scar on her abdomen, so if this is causing-”

“Mr. Malfoy,” the healer snapped. “Have you ever given birth?”

Draco huffed and lifted a hand to tenderly brush a strand of hair off of Hermione’s face. “Obviously not.”

“Then, I would ask that you kindly focus on your wife and trust me when I tell you that childbirth is painful , even with the potions we can provide. You should be well aware of this. Now, please let me do my job and check how dilated she is.”

Draco nearly growled but he nodded, and turned back towards Hermione, who had closed her eyes in the midst of the argument. “Love?” he prompted, and she snapped her head over towards him.

“I was tortured , Draco Malfoy. I was tortured and this is worse - how dare you!” she murmured, voice almost incoherent but her meaning still clear. “Can’t believe I let you do this to me… we are never doing this again do you hear me? I swear to Merlin and Morgana and… and God OW-”

She trailed off as another contraction hit and the healer glanced up from where she crouched between Hermione’s legs. “This is it, Hermione! You’re doing brilliantly, I just need you to take a deep breath and push for me, okay?”

Draco looked down at his wife once more and grinned, catching her eyes. “You heard the woman, baby, push.”

Time seemed to swirl to a standstill and then all of a sudden it was over, Hermione let out a large wracking sob and Draco kissed her sweaty forehead. “You did it,” he murmured, glancing over to where the midwife was casting a few charms on the bundle in her arms. “You did so good,” he added, and Hermione nodded against him as she tried to catch her breath.

“Hermione,” the midwife turned back towards them and reached forward, placing the small child against her chest. “Meet your daughter.”

Hermione let out another choked sob as she reached up to hold the bundle closer, and Draco leaned over with tears brimming in his eyes. “Cassie,” he whispered, leaning down to kiss his child’s forehead.

“Draco?” Hermione whispered, not breaking her eyes away from the small child she had just brought into the world. “Go get Scorpius. I want him to meet his baby sister.”

September, 2016, King’s Cross Station - Platform 9 3/4


Draco did his best to hold back a sigh and crouched down to be eye level with his son. “Yes, Scorpius?”

“But are you sure-

“That you’re going to have the best time of your life? That you’re going to learn to be a brilliant wizard? That you’ll make the Quidditch team?”

Scorpius nodded.


“But Dad? What if I don’t make any friends?”

Hermione crouched down as well, tugging Cassie closer towards the group and reaching out with her free hand to take one of Scorpius’s. “Scorp, you already have friends. You have Kyra and Bryony, and James, and Fred and Eliza, and Rose, and Hugo…”

“And you have me!” Came a confident voice from behind the small family as Albus pushed through the crowd at the platform.

“Albus!” Scorp said, finally starting to sound happy as he reached out to hug his best friend.

“See?” Draco prompted, with a smile. “You and Albus are thick as thieves. And even if you don’t get sorted into the same houses, nothing like that could separate you two.”

“Mooooom,” Cassie half whined. “I want to go to Hogwarts too!!”

Hermione sighed and leaned over to kiss her daughter on the cheek. “Well, you’re stuck with us for a few more years. I bet if you ask him really nicely your dad’ll stop for ice cream on the way home?”

“Ice cream?” Another voice joined the crowd, as Lily Luna arrived with her parents in tow. “What did I just hear about ice cream for people who don’t get to go to Hogwarts this year?”

Harry laughed and reached out to hug Hermione and shake Draco’s hand. “The tricky Malfoy family strikes again.”

“I want ice cream too!” George’s voice joined the group, as he and Win arrived.

“Ice cream?” Ron and Hannah had arrived too, and just behind them were Dean and Seamus and Pansy and Luna.

Scorpius glanced back up at Draco, who looked down at his son with a broad grin on his face. “No matter what you do,” Draco said, reaching out to rest a hand on Scorpius’s shoulder. “I’ll be proud of you.”

“I love you, Dad,” Scorp mumbled, and Draco bent down to scoop his son into a hug.

“Love you too, Scorp.”

 April 2035, Malfoy Manor

“We were lucky, weren’t we?” Draco murmured, setting down the book in his hand as he rolled onto his side to scan his eyes over Hermione’s face.

“What,” she began, doing the same and reaching a hand out to brush over his cheek. “That you still look so handsome in your fifties?”

Draco scoffed and reached for her, catching her hand and then rolling their bodies so that he lay on top of her. Hermione laughed in response and shifted her hand to brush over his bare chest, marvelling again at how pale and smooth his skin had stayed, despite years of outdoor Quidditch practice with their children, despite the years of pain and torture before that. He still had scars, but he also still had beautiful flowers tattooed on his forearm and more love in his eyes than she ever got used to seeing.

“That we found each other,” he mumbled, leaning in to kiss her lips tenderly.

Shallow men believe in luck or circumstance. Strong men believe in cause and effect.”

Draco raised a brow at her, but one of his hands was already sliding down the front of her body, dipping between her legs. He kissed her neck softly, and Hermione slid her free hand up into his hair, letting the silky strands twist between her fingers.

“I don’t think I know that one.” Draco mumbled against her skin, pressing his fingers into her and sliding them over her skin.

Hermione grinned, and then gasped as he removed his fingers and pressed his length into her instead. “Don’t worry,” she whispered, leaning over to capture his lips with her own. “I’ll teach you.”

Draco grinned against her and slid into her again. “Happy anniversary, my love.”

Hermione let out a sigh of contentment and let her head drop back against the pillow. “Happy anniversary.”