The characters and canon situations in the following story belong solely to JK Rowling, Scholastic, and WB. I am not making any money from the publishing or writing of this story.

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Hermione woke early with a smug smile on her face and a contented hum in her bones. Now I now what at least part of all the fuss is about. She hadn’t even dreamed during the night, so sound was her sleep, and now she lay in her bed recalling the details of her time with Lucius.


Thoughts of their visit, however, eventually led to thoughts of the walk back to the tower with Minerva. No sooner had Lucius chastely kissed her goodnight, than the professor was dragging her up the stone steps and suggesting a breakfast meeting with just the two of them for the following morning. The young witch had immediately seen the gaping jaws of the trap being set for her, and with great relief explained her previously made plans.


Now, she realized, it might not hurt to ask for help from Harry and his girls. She felt fairly confident they wouldn’t mind running interference by giving Minerva something else to think about for a while. After all, they’re going to be doing it anyway – might as well get credit for it. Heavens to Merlin, I’m becoming quite Slytherin in my thinking. She felt a small wave of amusement wash over her awareness, and gave a reluctant mental nod to the covenant’s presence. I’m still not happy with you.


With those thoughts, Hermione set to work getting ready for the day. It was one of those mornings when everything seemed to go her way – the water was the perfect temperature in the shower, her curls dried just the way she wanted, and she didn’t once poke her mascara wand into either of her eyes. In fact, she was so encouraged by this last part that she used a second-level beauty charm to add a bit more makeup and then piled her hair up and secured it with the silver comb. Looking at herself in the mirror, she was pleased with the end result. Luna was right last Friday – I do look like a princess in disguise. She dressed in her uniform and went to bother her redheaded friend, who was nearly ready herself. She and Ginny met Harry and Luna in the commons not long after.


Draco was waiting at the base of the Gryffindor staircase, sprawled elegantly on the lowest steps. He stood as they neared him, bowing with an almost-smile over Hermione’s left hand. “Good morning, my lady.” He kept his twinkling eyes locked with hers.


Hermione couldn’t help but swoon a bit, and Draco’s straight face broke into his trademark smirk.   He greeted the others, adding to Harry, “We just need to stop at the Headmaster’s office on our way,”


He’d kept hold of her hand and was now pulling her along and looking down at her. “A rather large bird told me there’s a package waiting for you.”


It was still early enough that the group walked without much conversation. Hermione’s thoughts jumped from her previous evening’s experience to the memory that her wizards talked each night, to the fact that Draco had suggested he and Lucius were comfortable talking to each other about intimate subjects. How much did Lucius tell Draco about what we did last night? She glanced up at her wizard. He was obviously lost in his own thoughts, and by the look on his face, she was sure they were very pleasant. He could be thinking about anything. Nevertheless, by the time they arrived at their destination, she was blushing from the roots of her hair to well below the V-neck of her sweater.


The present on Professor Dumbledore’s desk was wrapped as beautifully as the previous ones, but it was huge and heavy, and something inside clunked back and forth within the box. Definitely not a dress. Draco seemed to read her mind and said in an undertone near her ear, “Lucius and I agreed we both need a respite from you in lovely gowns.”


She shivered, remembering the burn of his gaze at the Ravenclaw party and the feel of his hands hovering over her skin as he played with her necklace. Her hand went unconsciously to the dragon charm, and Draco smirked knowingly.


He gestured to the box in front of her. “Open it if you like.”


The temptation to rip open the package seemed childish, but she gave in to it when she realized Draco seemed to waiting for exactly that. Wrapping paper went everywhere, but she took time to spare the silver ribbon, handing it to Draco. “I want you to tie it on me in a minute.”


“You want me to tie you up with this ribbon.”


Her mind was elsewhere as she responded. “That’s not exactly what I said, but-”


Her attention was drawn from the box when Draco took her suddenly by the wrists and wrapped the ribbon around them, gently but effectively restraining her. His pupils had dilated such that his eyes had gone from ocean to night-colored, and he was looking at her with intensity. Suddenly he flinched so hard that Harry and the girls looked up with concern from their post at the doorway. Luna called out, “Everything okay, Draco?”


Hermione knew immediately what had happened – her wizard had been fantasizing about her, and the oath he’d taken had just sent him a punishing zap.   She looked down at her wrists and the ribbon that was already unraveling from around them, and she knew. The awareness of his thoughts was heady, arousing, and the tiniest bit terrifying. She whispered, “You want to . . .”


Draco winced. “No! Yes. I may have thought about it briefly, along with a thousand other things. But I . . . I’d never force you to do anything you didn’t want to do. I’m not some sick fetishist.” He avoided her gaze and looked miserable.


Hermione wrapped her arms around her wizard, mostly to hide her blush. She could feel his heart racing within his chest, and a faint tremor still lingering in his muscles. That was some zap. “I had a dream about something like that recently. It was . . . interesting.”


“You’re saying you understand what I was thinking.”


“I’m saying that someday I might not mind being tied up.” She peeked up at him.


Draco grimaced and made a frustrated sound. “This is not how this morning was supposed to go. I was so sure that if I didn’t have to think about what skin you might be baring in a new dress all day, and that if we spent breakfast surrounded by others, that I could keep my thoughts circumspect at least until lunchtime. But I should have known that wasn’t going to happen when I got these last night.”


Draco’s hand went into the front pocket of his trousers and pulled out the tiny pair of bright blue knickers she’d had Ginny send him. He held them in front of her face, dangling them by the ties that held the sides together. “You, Miss Granger, are a mistress of torture.”


She gave him an apologetic look that quickly morphed into a mischievous grin. “So, you liked my present?”


“Not funny, Hermione.” He was trying to look at her sternly, but his eyes kept straying to the knickers in his hand. “Yes, immensely. Unfortunately, I’ll spend the entire day distracted by this impossibly small scrap of fabric.”


“If you didn’t want the distraction, you probably shouldn’t have taken them with you this morning.” She bit her lip to keep from smirking and held out her hand. “Would you like me to take them back?”


Draco snatched the knickers out of her reach and returned them to his pocket. He pulled her into his arms none too gently and held her against him by her hips, so that she felt his erection. His expression was a combination of humor and vexation as he growled, “This is all your fault, little witch.”


Her body responded immediately, and the sated feeling with which she’d woken up began to ebb. “It’s no worse than what you’ve been doing to me recently, Draco!” She whispered in exasperation. “You’re torturing me just as much!”


With a heavy sigh, his frustrated attitude shifted to one of remorse. He let go of her hips and wrapped his arms around her tenderly. “I’m sorry, Hermione, but I cannot put you in a compromising position. We’ll eventually find time to ourselves.”


“Well,” she offered even as she fought another blush, “when you’re ready to stop being so circumspect, perhaps we can make it up to each other.” Without looking up at him, she escaped his embrace, heaved the enormous box into her arms, and fled to the safety of her friends.


She was immensely grateful for the company of Harry, Ginny, and Luna, although her ‘brother’ chose to walk with Draco a few paces ahead of the girls on the way to the great hall. Hermione vaguely broached the subject of distracting Minerva, and while Ginny seemed purposefully clueless of Hermione’s mostly implied request, Luna was downright enthusiastic. At the doors, she broke away from her friends to follow her wizard to the Slytherin table. There, the two of them shared a secret, blushing smile.


Breakfast among Slytherins turned out to be quite different than eating at her own table. For one thing, an air of refinement prevailed. Food was passed politely, conversation was pleasant, and no one hurried to be done and gone. She quickly realized there was no Slytherin equivalent of Ron, at least in this group, and was pleased.


One quick glance from this new vantage point to her usual spot at the Gryffindor table gave quick insight to Draco’s mind. He’d sat there in that same spot for years, watching her eat and laugh with her friends, hoping she’d glance up at him eventually. Her heart was stricken with a fierce grief for her wizard’s loneliness for one split second. The feeling slowly faded, to be replaced with a feeling in her heart that she could only describe as love. Hermione slipped her hand into Draco’s under the table, and he squeezed it back. She noticed that, even from the back, Ron looked like a pig as he devoured his food.


Vince and Greg sat across from them and Vaisey on Draco’s other side. Conversation revolved mainly around the upcoming Quidditch match between the English and Welsh National teams. There had been a subtle changing of seats when Pansy Parkinson arrived in the Great Hall and began making her way to the table, preventing her from being anywhere near them. Now she sat some ways down across from Draco and alternated between staring at him fixedly and casting dirty looks at Hermione.


Hermione struggled against the urge to crawl into Draco’s lap and make her claim on him clear.  Eventually she found a somewhat innocent compromise: feeding her wizard a bite of a sticky bun and chastely kissing the frosting from the corner of his mouth. Draco was almost ridiculously pleased by the action, and in return gave her a lingering kiss. He tasted like icing and cinnamon, and she completely forgot about their audience until they pulled apart. Then, blushing, she hid her head against his shoulder while he calmly talked with Greg and Vince about their next class. His hand, still clasped in hers, moved to her upper thigh meanwhile, and Hermione pretended not to be affected by the heavy masculine weight of it resting in such a place.


When Harry eventually turned around in his spot at the Gryffindor table to give them a five-minute warning towards the end of the meal, Draco reminded her of her gift. His excitement was obvious. “Open it, please?”


Hermione glanced at the students around them, hoping it wasn’t the sort of present better opened in private. The box had been sealed shut with a strong Sticking Charm; eventually, she was able to focus long enough to get it open. Inside, under layers of silver tissue, there was a large tome – and not just any tome. It was her favorite Transfigurations reference work; a rare, definitive text she’d come to love in her time at school. She turned in shock to Draco. “This is . . . how did you . . . oh, my goodness, I . . .”


He grinned at her. “You were reading the school copy when I met you for our second library date. It was clear how much it meant to you.”


“But how did you find it? I’ve been saving for years on the off chance a copy would come up for sale. They’re incredibly hard to find. Thank you, Draco!”


He looked smug. “It would have been yours eventually. Let’s just say that the backup plan to woo you was to invite you to the library at the Manor.”


At the mention of her favorite L word, Hermione’s eyes glazed over and she bit her lip to keep from drooling.


Draco laughed softly. “Only you would find that word a turn-on. Not that I’m complaining,” he added quickly.


She ran her hands over the enormous book reverently and dropped her head to inhale the exotic smell of ancient leather mixed with magic. This elicited a round of laughter from the wizards closest to them. Grimacing, she looked up apologetically. “Sorry, but it’s probably the best gift I’ve ever received.”


“It weighs more than you. Perhaps Draco should have added a Levitation Charm as part of the package.” Greg Goyle beamed at her before rolling his eyes and shaking his head at Draco in a disappointed manner.


Vince Crabbe added teasingly, “It’s almost her size as well – what were you thinking, Draco – expecting her to carry that thing around all day? The least you could have done was shrunk it.”


Reduce its familiar weight?! Shrink its perfect size?! Hermione was horrified at these ideas. “No one touches my present! I like it big and heavy, and I’m not letting it out of my hands!” The moment the words came out of her mouth, she groaned and dropped her head against the tome. “Not what I meant.”


It was too late. Vince and Greg, along with Vaisey and anyone else within hearing distance, roared with laughter. Vaisey leaned to look around Draco. “Don’t worry, love – we wouldn’t dream of touching your present.”


She narrowed her eyes at him and was about to put him in his place when Pansy stood up noisily, causing the bench on the far side of the table to screech across the stone floor. The brunette witch made a noise of deep disgust and looked over the now quiet group disparagingly. “This is only to be expected now that you’re dallying with . . . commoners.


She paused over the word ‘commoners’, and Hermione knew exactly what word she was implying. Draco, who’d been blushing and smirking at his friends’ good-natured teasing just moments before, looked shocked. He stood, drawing Hermione against his side. “There’s no dallying going on, Pansy, nor is there any commoner in our midst. I think you should go.”


As the Slytherin witch flounced away angrily, Draco turned to her in concern. Hermione dismissed it with a roll of her eyes. “Honestly, Draco, I’ve been called worse. If a bit of name calling and feeble implication is all she’s capable of, I’m not exactly frightened. Besides, she didn’t even have the nerve to address me. I’ve met scarier pet rats.”


He wasn’t convinced. “I don’t want her hurting you, either with her own words or the rumors she causes to go around.”


Hermione raised an eyebrow at his implication. “Have I ever been the sort of witch who cares about what other people think? Besides, if your friends don’t believe her, and my friends don’t believe her, what does it matter? Your concern is appreciated, Draco, but entirely unnecessary.”


It really was time to go. She squeezed his hand one more time before she made her way to Harry, calling back over her shoulder, “See you at lunch!”


The walk to the DADA classroom was quiet as she pondered her wizard’s puzzling view of her. He thinks I need to be protected from Pansy Parkinson, but he’s more bothered by her antics than I am. Surely he knows what I’m capable of doing – the war made my skill set common knowledge. I think it’s Draco who needs protecting from that bitch more so than I. But how could she protect him without insulting his inherent need to do the same for her? Hermione’s brain whirred and spun, seeking solutions.


As she walked with Harry through the halls, many students looked at her curiously, and a good number waved or called out a friendly greeting. She returned the smiles and waves much as Lucius had modeled for her on Saturday, maintaining courtesy regardless of her personal feelings. She also made sure to return all waves with her left hand – after all, she was done hiding the beautiful dragon mark.


Inwardly, she reached out to the faint flicker of the covenant’s presence as she pondered the twin troubles of Ron and Pansy. She didn’t regard either of them with enough respect to warrant concern, but she did need to take into account her wizards’ overprotective attitudes. I’d really like to focus on visits and kisses and . . . then some . . . this week, rather than disgruntled idiots. But they’re not going anywhere until someone makes them. Are you ready to admit it should be me? The little sentience was quiet, and Hermione decided to take this as a sign that it was thinking about her words.


She was pleasantly surprised by the events of the morning. Within ten minutes of her arrival at class, the DADA instructor was knocked unconscious when one of his spells was repelled by an adept student. The rest of the two-hour class period was led by Hermione, who pulled rank and put the rest to work with practical drills. Her classmates agreed that it was the best Defense lesson of the year, hands down.


She had Advanced Transfiguration next, and Minerva picked her up at the DADA doorway, not even bothering to check on her colleague. Instead she rolled her eyes and said, “Hermione, when you’re ready to think about career options, please don’t rule out teaching. You’d make a fine addition to the Hogwarts faculty, and Albus and I would hire you without hesitation.”


She had a brief but vivid mental image of working with wand-wielding, incompetent teenagers and a certain sex-crazed Transfigurations professor. “Oh, thank you, Minerva. You know, I just don’t know if I’m cut out for teaching. But I’ll keep it in mind.”


Advanced Transfigurations was a frustrating class for Hermione. Its main focus was Human Transfiguration, which was something for which she didn’t seem to have the aptitude. This in itself was enough to make her decide it was a waste of time, but Minerva’s expectations remained high. Therefore, Hermione kept working at it.


Recent rumor was that an eighth year student had attained full Human Transfiguration, and was even now being prepared to register with the Ministry as an Animagus. Today the gossip was that the student had been invited to Transfigure before this very class, but had declined without explanation. Hermione had run through a list of her peers whom she considered to be competent enough to achieve such a result, and then decided there was little to no chance the story was true. If she herself found this discipline too difficult, who else would be able to do it?


Eventually, she tired of going through the motions of repeated failure, and sat down at her desk to rework a particularly interesting Arithmancy problem of her own making. There were several possible outcomes, and she had plotted out each one meticulously by the time class was done. She met Harry outside the door and they joined the lunch-bound traffic. Talk was limited, mostly due to Hermione’s heavy burden. Although she’d rather die than admit it, the tome really needed to be Shrunk and Levitated. They had finally passed into the entrance hall when Hermione ground to a sudden stop by the far wall. “Wait!”


Harry looked back over his shoulder and, realizing she was no longer beside him, hurried back to her side. She handed off the enormous Transfigurations tome to him and began digging in her bag desperately. Finally she stood again, hands full. “Got it! This will only take a second. Here, will you . . . yes, like that.”


Hermione arranged Harry so that he bent forward at the waist and set a piece of parchment on his back. She rifled through her bag again and came up with her ink and quill. “Hermione, you can do this in the great-”


“Quiet! This is extremely important!” The curly-headed witch leaned over her impromptu desk and began scribbling on the parchment, scolding Harry when he squirmed.


“Sorry, ‘Mione, but it tickles! What on earth are you doing?”


“Adding to one of my Arithmancy equations before I forget.” She worked feverishly for several more seconds. Then, giving a sigh, she performed a Drying Spell on the parchment, returned it to her bag, and allowed Harry to straighten up. She was just putting away her ink and quill when she was bumped rather roughly from behind, causing her hands to fly in front of her face in a protective gesture. Her quill, which was still wet, stayed in her grasp and effectively slapped her in the forehead, and she felt the splatter of her favorite magical green ink all over her face.


“Oh, I’ve done it again! I’ve covered myself in magic ink! Harry, help!


He looked at her helplessly, shifting the heavy Transfigurations book in his arms. “I’m not sure what you want me to do. Remember last time?”


Hermione looked around her, curious who had needed to be so far from the great hall doors that they had bumped into her. There, walking away and casting an innocent glance over her shoulder, was Pansy Parkinson. Hermione rolled her eyes and muttered to herself, “Really, Pansy! I steal the wizard of your dreams, and that’s the best you can do? Ink?!”


Harry gave his friend a sympathetic look. “Well, after lunch we can go find Professor Slughorn and get some of that Ink-Dissolving Potion from him. At least we know he keeps it in stock.”


She sighed. “You’re right. I’m a mess, aren’t I?”


He grinned. “You’re only worried about what Draco will think, and we both know he’ll find it attractive in some strange way. Come on, let’s go fill our plates before Ron makes everything look unappetizing.”


Harry was right, of course – Hermione had spent the better part of the past eight years covered in some academically-acquired mess, and she really wasn’t fazed by the idea of magically sparkling green ink-freckles, except . . . She sighed, but squared her shoulders and prepared to face her wizard.


To his credit, Draco barely batted an eyelash. He stood from his spot near Luna as Hermione approached the Gryffindor table and beamed humorously at her. “Miss Granger, you have a certain sparkle about you this afternoon.”


She grimaced as they sat down. “I know. I had a run-in with my inkpot outside the great hall.”


Harry added, “You mean Pansy had-”


“It was my own fault – I practically set up the whole catastrophe!” Hermione quickly corrected.


Draco glanced toward the Slytherin table, where Pansy sat nearby with her back to them, but only said, “Why was your ink out of your bag?”


“I had a sudden thought about-” she leaned in to say quietly, “That is to say, I’m making a case for talking with you-know-who by using Arithmancy. I think if I can plot out all the variables and run the equations, I might be able to make some diagrams to show Lucius how safe it will be to let me talk with . . . him. Where is he, by the way?”


“Exiled to the far end with the firsties; Ginny sent him down there straight away.” He returned to their previous conversation. “Hermione, don’t you think it’s rather foolhardy to approach Arithmancy with an assumed result in mind? You’ll be skewing the results.”


Hermione frowned. This is the downside of having an intelligent husband-to-be. “I think I know a thing or two about the subject.”


Draco started to say something but Luna interrupted him abruptly, which was very unlike the sweet blonde witch. She proceeded to recount a long and convoluted anecdote from her last Advanced Divination class, finishing up by saying, “So it’s obvious, I think, that the shape my tea leaves took is analogous to the figure of the dog in my dreams. Don’t you see? And Sybil says it’s an omen of something to happen soon.”


Ginny smirked into her hand when Hermione added with mock sincerity, “Of course she does.”


Luna looked at her, and suddenly those dreamy blue eyes were clear and sharp. “Only the dog can defeat its master.”


“Are you alright, sweetheart?” Harry turned to his blonde lover with mild concern, and the odd look faded from Luna’s eyes as quickly as it had appeared. Draco looked at her with such a contemplative look that Hermione wondered what exactly he was thinking.


The conversation followed a much lighter course after that.   Arithmancy and Divination were forgotten, and Hermione spent the rest of lunch laughing along with her friends and watching Harry with his girls. It was clear he adored them, and that the three of them complemented each other. Luna was certainly acting odd just now, even for her. Hmmm . . . How lucky Harry and I are to have found such love. As if he could read her thoughts, Draco reached over and twined his fingers with hers. “You are going to get that off your face before Lucius sees you, right?”


“Yes, of course. Harry said he’ll go with me to get some of Professor Slughorn’s Ink Dissolving Potion right after this – we both have a free period Mondays after lunch.”


“I’ll be on my way to Advanced Potions. We can walk together – Harry, my little green-speckled witch, and I.” His eyes danced, but otherwise he remained straight-faced.


There was a pause in conversation as the lunch plates were magically cleared from the table and dessert replaced the main dishes. Just then Pansy raised her voice as she spoke to the witch beside her. “Vesta, do I have anything on my face? No? You’re sure? Thank you – I’d be so embarrassed to walk around like a little first year with ink-spots.”


Hermione laughed outright, protesting when Draco looked upset, “No, really – that was quite funny!” Then, in an undertone as she served them both a small bowlful of trifle, she added, “It’s a very silly game she’s playing, but the more upset you get, the more she wins. Just ignore her, Draco.”


He nodded reluctantly and then looked at her appraisingly. “You know, for a Gryffindor, you have a surprising streak of calculative cunning.”


“Yes, well, that Hat had different plans for me originally, but I made a good argument.” Hermione ran her finger around the edge of her bowl, gathering the rich pudding on her fingertip.


“What do you mean?”


“That’s between me and the Hat. Maybe someday, if you’re good, I’ll tell you. Mmmmm – vanilla.” She raised her finger to her mouth to lick off a bit of the sweet dessert, and just like that the mood changed from pleasantly conversational to electrically charged. Draco’s eyes dropped to half-mast as his mouth unconsciously mimicked the movements of her own. Hermione sucked on her finger slowly before pulling it out with an audible pop. Last week I wanted to lick this stuff off his face and . . . She blushed but held his gaze.


Draco reached across her to dip a spoon into Hermione’s bowl. He swirled the spoon through the thick substance before pulling it out and bringing it to the level of her face. With dark eyes, he whispered, “Open for me.”


And when she finally released the emptied spoon from between her lips and swallowed slowly, he was breathing as if he’d run a footrace.


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