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She turned in his arms and looked up at him through her eyelashes. “I want my rune to be in the form of a traditional house wife ring, Draco.”


Draco groaned and pocketed the ring, but not before he’d kissed her soundly. When they broke apart, they were both wild-eyed. “We’re going to reenact every fantasy I’ve ever had about you, Hermione. Except the ones involving . . . errrr, hold that thought.”


He’s beginning to talk like me. She smiled at him almost giddily. “Absolutely. I really want to do something other than study right now, but it’s probably not a good idea.” Her hands ran down his chest, over the muscles of his stomach.


He groaned again. “You, Miss Granger, are going to be the death of me. It’s my turn to say ‘back to work’.” His hands were already removing hers from his body with gentle but firm force.


That’s two wizards I might be responsible for killing unintentionally. She returned to her seat. “So, back to tonight?”


He sat down, too, pulling his chair close to hers again. “Yes, but first I want to show you something I’ve only heard about.” He withdrew her ring from his pocket, holding it out to her. It gleamed in the palm of his hand, a tiny, slender bar of platinum capped on each end by a brilliant emerald. She reached for it, hesitating at the last second. Her hand hovered over his, feeling the faint magic pull from the rune. “The rings in that chest – they’re the ones worn by every previous wife to House of Malfoy. Lucius felt led by the covenant to choose three of the most auspicious family rings and have them recast in preparation for today, and we had this ring and its two sisters made when you turned sixteen. The one that chose you was the very first to be used by our House. Before today, it only ever chose the matriarch, all those thousands of years ago. Pick it up, sweetheart.”


She felt its magic lick at her fingers, urging her to touch it. After another second’s pause she did, and it latched onto her forefinger with a magnetic determination that resonated through her being. Draco ran his finger along the ring. “It likes you very much.” He kissed her chastely and added softly, “Earlier you asked how a ring could be permanent. It chose you. After the ceremony tonight, it won’t ever let you go. Even now, it will only let you remove it. Watch.” His long, clever fingers tried to pry the slender bar from her finger but it clung to her skin. “It will stay with you for as long as you live, as long as at least one of us is alive as well.”


“It feels like a part of me, when you’re tugging like that,” she said in a quiet voice of awe. “And it’s lovely. Why is it so different from the others in the chest?” Actually, many of the rings hadn’t been literal rings – there had been all sorts of curious shapes and designs – but none had stood out from the others like the last three.


Draco blushed and looked down at his hands. “It was my job to choose how the rune was cast, just in case you chose to have a ring. The artisan drew a few sketches and I liked this one the most.” His blush darkened, and he shifted uncomfortably. “We should talk about something else.”


Something tells me those sketches might belong in Astoria’s dirty magical magazine. “Right. Back to tonight. Maybe we should walk through the ceremony – it’s what Minerva did with me for the binding.” Partially. The clever woman. In hindsight, it was obvious her professor’s tactics had been designed to keep her from worry.


“That sounds like an excellent plan.” He held out his hand, looking at the little piece of jewelry still affixed to her forefinger, and Hermione plucked it off and handed it to him. When it had been tucked safely back into his pocket, he stood up. With a twinkle in his eyes, he bowed low before her and said, “Hello, little witch. Care to walk across this dark castle with me?”


She thought back to the night of the Ravenclaw party, when he’d said those exact words and gave him an adoring smile. “I’ll go anywhere with you, Mr. Malfoy.”


“Where are we going?” Fleur’s lovely voice rang out behind them happily, causing them both to jump. Hermione growled internally, and then remembered her chaperone’s recent leniency. She also noticed the radiant expression on her chaperone’s face, and the sight of it softened any resentment she might have felt.


“Going through the steps of the ceremony. You can join us if you like,” She offered as nicely as she could.


The Frenchwoman didn’t seem to notice her charge’s tone. “Of course. I would be honored to help you learn the ways of our society.”


“I mean no offense, but how do you know the traditions? You’re not a Pureblood.”


“And I take none. I am as much a Pureblood as you yourself, Hermione. My grandmother was a Veela, yes – but my mother was a bespoken one, and my father’s family covenant flows through my veins. I have been raised to carry on the traditions of my family proudly.”


The young witch turned to her wizard in puzzlement. “What does the term Pureblood even mean anymore? Obviously it has nothing to do with blood status.”


Draco rolled his eyes. “Only you would ask such a loaded question. Let’s save it for another day and get back to the rune ritual.”


He led them to the nearest spiral staircase and they began climbing. The whole time, Draco pointed out various parts of the library that were seen more easily from above. The scope of the collection was beyond Hermione’s wildest library-related dreams, and she peppered his abbreviated tour with questions the whole way to the third floor. When they’d finally reached it, she nearly swooned. As with the first and second floor, this one encompassed the outer edges of the library and looked down over the ground floor. The curly-haired witch walked to the stone balustrade and leaned over. “I really do want to live here. We could sleep here tonight, Fleur – what do you say?”


The Frenchwoman gave her an incredulous look. “No.”


So much for softer, kinder Fleur. She tried a new tactic. “I’d really like to sleep here tonight, Fleur.” She added hopefully, “Come on – isn’t this something you and Gabrielle would do together?”


“No. We are not sleeping here. Draco, please tell her it’s a terrible idea.”


The blond wizard was looking at her with a twinkle in his eyes again. He crossed over to her and leaned down to whisper in her ear, “If you can wait a few nights, I’ll sleep in here with you.”


An image of Draco, stripped to the waist and pulling her down to a bed of couch cushions sprang to mind unbidden, and she whimpered. “Yes, please.”


“I know the perfect spot,” he continued, his hands coming to rest on her waist, “we’ll make a nest of blankets up here, in the back of the philosophy of magic section. I have an eleventh century translation of Courtenay’s Tretis de Magique we can read aloud to each other by wandlight.”


I’m marrying a wizard who not only likes to read; he likes to read books with big words. And we’re going to read Anglo-Norman dissertations on magic to each other by wandlight. In bed. In the library. Hermione turned her head so that her mouth moved against his cheek as she answered in a throaty voice, “That’s quite possibly the most erotic thing I have ever heard in my life.”


“You are truly my bespoke witch,” Draco murmured huskily. His hands had tightened their hold on her waist, and now they began sliding down to the curve of her buttocks. Hermione’s slid up over his chest to snake around his neck, running through the hair at its nape.


Fleur interrupted the bubble that was forming around the two. “Excellent. Where’s the ritual site?”


Draco stood to his considerable full height and sighed with a resigned smile. “It’s just over here. Come on.” He took Hermione by the hand, and the three of them walked along the edge of the huge gallery. When they had walked around to the opposite side of the room, he pointed to a large glowing circle on the stone floor. “That’s where we hold the ceremony.”


How is he able to compartmentalize so well? Hermione herself was still trying to shake the heady image of Draco in bed, which her imagination had so willingly supplied. “Start at the beginning. What happens before I get there?”


He gave her a puzzled look. “I have no idea – that’s not something they teach wizards, I suppose.”


Fleur waved the question away. “We can cover that later, Hermione. Stay on task. You and I will approach the site and I will take my place along the outer edge. My job is to stand guard during the ceremony.”


“I thought you had a special spot or something.” Where you couldn’t see or hear us.


“I do – here along the circumference. The actual spot where the site has been created is shielded even now, and when you enter it, more charms will be enacted. The three of you will be hidden within. No one will be able to see or hear you, but anyone who wishes may enter the ring. My job is to keep intruders at bay.”


“That could be easily fixed by adding a—“


Fleur and Draco interrupted at the same time to answer, “It’s tradition.”


“Of course. What next?” Other than the moment when I decide whether or not to remove my robes. A frisson of nerves ran along her spine. It was one thing to partially bare herself to one of them, and another thing completely to stand naked in front of them both. Then one of her most recent dreams came to mind, reminding her of how much she’d been fantasizing about doing just that. Part of me is ready even now.


Draco’s soft, husky voice took over. “The ritual involves complex charms, as you would imagine, and the covenant’s presence will be more apparent.”


Fleur appeared to have lost interest, because she wandered away with a dreamy look on her face. Draco was quiet but confident when he spoke. “It will be like when your hand was marked at the acceptance ceremony, only it will just be us. I’ll hold you in my arms, and Lucius will set the rune.”


Hermione couldn’t decide if that made her even more nervous or turned her on even more — perhaps a little of both.


“Will it hurt? It’s not that I’m afraid of pain, but I’d like to know.” Her brain seemed to be on autopilot as the rest of her body once again ignited in arousal at the visual picture painted by his words.


He blushed. “Judging by what I’ve heard from others, you won’t mind at all.”


So I’ll probably be bare in Draco’s arms while Lucius puts his hands on my breasts, and I’ll definitely enjoy what’s happening. She tried to rub her slender thighs together as a pleasant ache formed between her legs. “What next?”


Draco caught the fabric of her dress in his grip and drew her flush to his body. His hands went to her arse, pulling her even closer. He spoke his answer directly into her ear. “We worship each other, Hermione.” The kiss he planted on her temple was in direct conflict with what the rest of his body was doing; it was sweet and innocent, and made the young witch want to stay where she was forever.


Then her nerves caught up with the rest of her emotions, and she took a small step back. She looked up at him and said honestly, “I’m nervous.”


Draco stroked her cheek gently. “I know I’ve been ready for this a lot longer than you, but Lucius and I will follow your lead. It’s you who’ll be in charge until you’re more sure of yourself.”


I want to be sure of myself by the time we start the ceremony. She nodded. “Thank you for understanding.”


His next words were whispered against the corner of her mouth. “It’s an important part of my culture.”


She kept her mouth close to his. “It’s my culture now, too, Draco.”


He kissed her with fervor, and his lips plied against hers in a way that made her feel dizzy. Draco’s hand traced the skin of her neck repeatedly, but never dipped any lower. Hermione found herself wishing it would; the ghost of every previous touch from earlier seemed to spread fire to every nerve ending. They kissed, wrapped in each other’s arms, until they were interrupted by a shimmer of light. Lucius’ Patronus had arrived.


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