Chapter Fifty-Eight: Wednesday Evening

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.

 beta credit: Brightki and CoquetteKitten.

 

Hermione tried to enjoy her soak in the immense tub of bubbles and fragrant, oiled water, but every time her eyes slid shut in relaxation her brain would whir to life. It didn’t help that Fleur and Molly were chatting incessantly about what the Weasley men had been up to that afternoon. I need peace and quiet! However, the quickly (and apologetically) cast Muffliato did nothing but amplify her own racing thoughts, which touched on everything and focused on nothing. Will I be able to feel the magic of the rune? I wonder what the vows will be like for this ceremony. I wonder what Lucius and Draco are doing right now. Probably getting ready, just like me. Are they nervous as well? Tonight the rules change. Merlin above, how does one touch a man the correct way? Is there only one correct way, and is there a dignified way to ask what it is? She realized Molly was attempting to include her in the conversation and tried to clear her mind, glancing towards the other two witches. “Errrrr, what was that?”

 

Fleur said in an equally distracted way, “She wants to wash your hair.”

 

Hermione started to protest, but one look at her mother figure’s hopeful expression and the argument died in her throat. Nearly. “Oh, very well – just this once. But I am not five. I’m perfectly capable of bathing on my- blublublub!” She was suddenly dunked without any sort of warning in the bathwater and came up spluttering.

 

Molly lathered her mop of curls briskly. “Have you heard even one word I’ve said? The boys cast a unanimous stake at the Ministry this afternoon and sent it to the Delacour residence straightaway! And they’ve received confirmation of its delivery! Isn’t that exciting, sweetheart?”

 

Hermione was too busy spitting soapy water out of her mouth to answer. It occurred to her that the only other person to call her by that moniker was Draco, and he would most certainly never do such a thing to her. That’s because he doesn’t think I’m five! An image of him sharing the tub with her came to mind and she shivered. And he’s definitely not five, either. For a few brief seconds her anxieties about the impending ceremony melted away at the thought of her young wizard, dripping wet and gazing at her from across the large tub with desire. Then her brain kicked back in to high gear, and she remembered that he’d be naked beneath the bubbles and she’d have no personal knowledge of what to do with that one crucial piece of anatomy – other than what she’d heard whispered in the Gryffindor commons. Huh. That’s the one thing I never caught Ginny doing to Harry. She pushed that particular thought away quickly, lest it lead to what she had caught them doing, and returned to the one of bathing Draco. Of course, I’d be so distracted by his beautiful body I might not mind being dunked at all. She wiped the bubbles from the rest of her face and returned to the present. Fleur had a worried look on her lovely face. “Now it’s up to my father to give it precedence and offer it to me. I wonder if he knows I’ve met them already. I hope he’ll send an Owl tonight.”

 

The Frenchwoman was understandably nervous, but as Hermione was quick to point out reassuringly there had probably never been such a serendipitous set of circumstances.   Wasn’t proof of this with them this very night? Fleur’s future mother-in-law was not only in the same room, but obviously open to talking about her sons! This encouragement seemed to bolster the blonde witch’s morale, however Hermione’s thoughts had wandered down another side path involving Lucius. She was only vaguely aware of Molly’s fingers massaging her scalp and the pitchers of rinse-water poured carefully away from her face.

 

 

In her mind’s eye he took up residence in the tub space previously occupied by imaginary Draco, and she saw him sprawled in bare-chested splendor, arms spread and draped along the tub surround in his graceful, arrogant way. Sweet Circe, I want to bathe with Lucius. As in real life, imaginary Lucius was less than cooperative, although, Hermione’s logic piped up from some recess of her brain, this was most likely because he was a subconscious manifestation of her anxieties. The image warped into one of him beckoning her across the tub with one crooked finger. His other hand had slipped below the water and was obviously moving up and down along his shaft, and he was looking at her expectantly . . . Hermione cleared the thought with a physical shake of her head. Great — a few days ago I would have enjoyed that fantasy! Now all I can focus on is the fact that I’m not ready to be found completely lacking by Lucius and Draco. I will – I’ll be completely lacking. At that moment the covenant made its presence known, giving the abstract equivalent of a chuckle within her consciousness.

 

It was in this overall state of distraction that she continued her preparations for the rune ceremony, and it made Molly’s domineering supervision much more tolerable. Hermione drew the line at allowing the motherly witch to do anything other than chatting and directing, though. She still had water in her ears from the dunking.

 

Molly kept up a reassuring prattle of Weasley boys anecdotes and answered Fleur’s constant questions as Hermione continued her internal struggle between worry and self-reassurance. When the clock struck six, the older witch sent a robe whizzing toward the curly-haired witch with a wave of her wand and then herded her charges into the large dressing room. “Alright you two, enough introspection. I can hear the gears in each of your heads turning from here.” She looked at the chaperone. “Fleur, we need to see that you’re fed. Goodness knows you won’t get anything while you’re standing guard. Trinket!”

 

The house elf Apparated with an energetic crack and happily agreed to bring a tray for the chaperone. Then Molly pushed Hermione down to sit at the large dressing table and began squeezing the excess water out of her hair. “I expect you’re the expert on drying these lovely curls – I wouldn’t know where to begin. Why don’t you get started, and I’ll steam your gown?” She patted the curly-haired witch’s shoulder and began directing steam from the tip of her wand over the beautiful bottle-green dress, which hung in pride of place near the dressing table. “Just think, my dear! In two days you’ll be wedded to the two most eligible bachelors in the wizarding world. The news will be published in every wizarding periodical, and witches all over the globe will be crying into their Butterbeer over it!”

 

Hermione winced. “Please, Molly – let’s take one step at a time.”

 

They heard Trinket Apparate into the outer room, and Fleur glanced over at Hermione. “Leave the door open, and remember you’ll need to leave time for us to cross this house. Unless you want to Side Along.” She floated from the dressing room with one of her large, veiled hats under one arm.

 

Molly patted her shoulder yet again and returned to their conversation. “You have nothing to worry about, but if it makes you feel any better I was a nervous wreck before my binding and rune ceremonies. And I knew my wizards!” She stopped steaming the dress and pressed a motherly kiss to the top of the curly-haired witch’s wet head. “Stop worrying about what you don’t know, and focus on what you do. For instance, think about their faces, and the way they treat you with such courtesy. I’m sure you’ll find that the more you keep your head full of happy thoughts, the less those troublesome worries will bother you.”

 

She’s absolutely right. Hermione reached out for the magical essence that seemed always to be curled around the perimeter of her awareness. Please help me as you have in the past. Meanwhile, she spied a bottle of her Sleek-Eazy peeking out from a half-opened drawer of the dressing table and applied a liberal dose to her hair. She began wand-drying it as she purposefully filled her mind with images and thoughts of her wizards. She visualized Lucius bowing over her hand and allowing his lips to just barely linger on the dragon handmark, then the electricity of her first innocent kiss from Draco. Her body responded to those memories and many more came to mind instantly.

 

She could feel the covenant purr with contentment within her. Whether it was helping with her recollection or not, Hermione felt an overwhelming gratitude for the presence of the ancient magic. Thank you. Thank you for being with me. The singular fragrance of the war stake and her wizards washed over her, as did the silky purr of Lucius’ voice and Draco’s husky laugh, and suddenly Hermione knew without a shadow of a doubt that she was ready for whatever awaited her within the private circle of her rune ceremony. It doesn’t matter what I do or don’t know right this moment.

 

Her mind returned to the dressing room and she realized she’d finished her hair some time ago and had been staring into space for several minutes. Molly was watching her with a pleased smile. “There’s my girl! I saw the difference in your eyes just a bit ago.” She ran a hand gently over the chestnut curls that cascaded down over Hermione’s robed back. “You have the most extraordinary hair, sweetheart. All three of my girls do.”

 

Her expression became pensive for a moment, and it was such a change from the happy look of a moment before that the young witch couldn’t help but notice. “What’s wrong, Molly?”

 

“Oh! Nothing, nothing at all.” When Hermione narrowed her eyes in skepticism, the redhead answered honestly, “I can’t help but wonder who will be chosen by Fleur. At the very least, two of my boys will be left to wait for another bespoke witch. Whoever is left will have to begin again, and there’s no telling how long it could take.”

 

It was Hermione’s turn to offer comfort. “Just think how she turned up out of thin air, Molly. It wasn’t a coincidence. I feel sure that whatever plan produced Fleur has taken all your boys into account.” Oh, dear Circe, I sound as illogical as Sybill Trelawney. Still, the shocking revelation didn’t shake her belief in what she’d just said. It will all work out the way it was meant to be. With a small grin she threw the motherly witch’s own words back at her. “Stop worrying about what you don’t know, and focus on what you do!”

 

Molly eyes welled up with tears, and she pressed one hand to her chest. “Thank you,” she whispered, nodding in understanding. She seemed to gather her wits quickly and redirected their focus to the task at hand, routing through the dressing table drawers. “Perhaps the teensiest bit of makeup. Shall I do it for you, or would you prefer to do that yourself?”

 

“Errrrr, if you don’t mind I’ll do it myself.” When Molly appeared compliant with that choice, Hermione used a few of the beauty charms she’d memorized from Ginny’s book to highlight what she considered to be her nicest features. At the last minute she remembered the deep color of the dress and added a layer of shimmering shadow to her eyes and then outlined them lightly in a darker shade. She looked in the mirror appraisingly and decided she liked what she saw.

 

Molly did too, apparently. “That’s perfect.” She shook her head with a smile. “I have a feeling Lucius and Draco find your sexy innocence to be a constant source of tented trousers.”

 

Molly!” Hermione didn’t know whether to be traumatized or amused by her mother figure’s statement and finally decided to settle on the latter. She snorted indelicately. “I can’t believe you said that.”

 

The older witch was unrepentant. “Eventually you’ll realize what an excellent source of information I can be, and you’ll come running. Until then, laugh all you want. I’m right about what I said – mark my words. Just a bit more gloss on your lips, I think.”

 

After that it was just a matter of slipping into her deep green bra and knickers set and stepping in to the gorgeous gown. Molly helped zip her up and made the universal hand gesture for ‘give us a twirl’. Hermione complied, loving the feeling of the cool, heavy silk moving against the bare skin of her legs like river-water. She hugged the older witch fiercely. “Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you for everything.”

 

“Oh, we’re not done by a long shot. I might have finished my task for this evening, but I’ll be here regularly until the wedding and I expect to be allowed the mother’s privilege of helping you get ready for it.” Molly raised her eyebrows at Hermione meaningfully, and the young witch nodded with a face-splitting smile. “Good, now off you go! Oh, and Hermione,” she called out as the curly-haired witch nearly skipped toward the door, “have fun tonight!”

 

She found Fleur mooning out on the balcony and paused before interrupting the daydream. This is just getting ridiculous. What kind of self-respecting witch behaves like that! The covenant gave an amused twitch and Hermione was instantly reminded of the many class hours she’d spent in the past two weeks doing exactly the same thing. Huh. I guess I was too preoccupied to notice. It occurred to her that she had no grounds for impatience with her friend, so she said rather kindly, “Fleur, if you don’t mind I’d like to head to the library now.” When the blonde witch didn’t seem to hear her, she repeated in a slightly sharper tone, “Now!” That seemed to do the trick, and within moments they were on their way to the site of the rune ceremony.

 

The two witches walked in relative silence as they made their way through the manor, and Hermione envisioned the spaces they passed occupied by herself and her wizards. As they walked along the gallery above the ballroom, her mind’s eye supplied several evocative images: one of the three of them descending the sweeping staircase at the end of the enormous room, Hermione wrapped in the arms of her wizards; another of them moving through a crowd of guests together; the last dancing together. The scenes were so clear it was obvious that they had been supplied by the covenant. Above the enormous dance floor, the light of the dazzling chandeliers created a romantic atmosphere that only aided the influence of the family magic within Hermione. She felt the hairs stand up on the back of her neck as a delicious shiver of anticipation rippled through her. Impulsively she tugged on her chaperone’s hand. “Let’s go!”

 

Hermione dragged a protesting Fleur toward the library at an accelerated pace. Suddenly she found that her fears had been replaced with a need to see Lucius and Draco as soon as possible. With this desire came a sense of confidence that she hadn’t felt outside of academia in a long time, as well as a rush of exhilaration. I’m done healing. I’m ready to ride a Ukrainian Ironbelly again. Metaphorically speaking, of course. They came hurtling around the last corner, only for Hermione to step on the hem of her gown and pitch forward gracelessly. Oh, honestly! How times must I-– The thought was arrested as a pair of large arms caught her mid-fall, and a sense of Déjà vu settled over her.

 

This time it was Draco who had rescued her. She grinned up at him. “Thank you, kind sir.” Then, catching sight of her chaperone she added teasingly, “You have got to be the worst chaperone ever. This gown attacked me right in front of you, and you did nothing!” Fleur’s mouth twitched slightly and she rolled her eyes as if saying ‘let’s get on with this, shall we?’ and Hermione turned back to her handsome blond wizard.

 

He treated her to one of his almost-smiles. “My pleasure, Miss Granger. You seem to be in a hurry. Are you running away?” His eyes regarded her with a mixture of playfulness and genuine concern.

 

Hermione reached up and tapped his nose gently. “I’ve decided that it’s time to take the dragon by the tail.” Draco’s eyebrows shot up. Her brain caught up to her mouth, and she blushed at her choice of words. She struggled out of his arms and stood on her own feet, catching his hands in her own. “Errrrr, you know what I mean. I feel more like myself right now than I have in a very long while. So watch out, Mr. Malfoy.”

 

Draco’s smile, which had never quite left his face, broadened until he was beaming down at her. “That’s very good to hear, Miss Granger. I’ll take extra precautions when dealing with you from now on.” They laughed quietly together, and Hermione stepped close enough that she could lean her head against his broad chest. He spoke into her curls, and she felt the vibration of his chest in her own body. “Are you ready?”

 

Hermione nodded as she glanced up at her wizard. She replied in a soft but firm voice. “Yes.” Stepping back, she tugged at his hands, which were still laced with her own. “Let’s go find Lucius and mark me as a Malfoy House Wife.”

 

She found no argument from Draco, who used her own grip on his hands to pull her tightly against his torso. He leaned down and murmured in her ear. “I’ll give you a two second head start.” And when she looked up at him in confusion, added with a cocky smirk, “Run.”

 

Hermione jumped back immediately and ascertained with one quick glance that he was indeed serious. She gaped momentarily, then wrenched her hands from his and spun on her heel toward the library doors. She took off running, the long skirt of her dress held up in handfuls, but was swept into the air just as she reached toward the handle of one huge door. Hermione found herself hanging upside down over one of his shoulders inelegantly. “Draco,” She shrieked laughingly, “Put me down this instant!”

 

She tried to raise her head to watch more easily as Draco apparently opened the library doors with a small hand gesture. Both he and Lucius know wandless magic? Their forward progress was halted as he paused to let Fleur pass through first, and then they followed. Draco’s tone was smug. “Oh no, little witch. I’ve been lying in wait for years, and now you’ve just offered yourself up to me on a platter. I’m going to carry you off to my lair, where I’ll seal the rune of my family to your lovely breast, and then I’ll keep you there forever as my prize. What do you have to say to that?” He was walking into the library now, moving with purpose toward the center of the vast room with their chaperone keeping pace by his side. Hermione was forced to divide her attention between the graceful movement of his long legs and his exquisite scent, which emanated from under his crisp white linen shirt.

 

He had never been so overtly playful, and the young witch was delighted. He’s like a young Lucius, except that he’s his own person altogether. She slapped her hands against his lower back and buttocks, pausing to admire the taut muscling there. “I say you’re acting like a caveman!” At those words, her mind flew back to a conversation with Minerva nearly two weeks ago now. I can’t believe I found the idea of this scenario alarming. I was so naïve! She wriggled in an attempt to reach her wand, which was hidden in the side seam of her gown, but Draco simply grabbed her hand and held it. She giggled. “Draco Hyperion Malfoy, I swear I’ll hex you!”

 

They had reached the comfortable leather couches in the center of the ground floor level and stopped abruptly when another set of long legs came into view. “Good evening. Mademoiselle Delacour, I trust that you are well?” Lucius’ silky baritone sent a shiver along Hermione’s spine.

 

“Good evening, Mr. Malfoy. I’m well. I’ve brought your fiancée, and it seems that Draco has something for you, too.” Fleur sounded amused. “I’ll head up to the site now and prepare for my vigil.”

 

“Look what I’ve caught, Lucius.” Draco spun slowly, and Hermione slapped him again in playful protest.

 

For a few seconds the only sound was the tapping of Fleur’s shoes on the stone steps as she climbed the winding staircase to the third floor. Anticipation built within Hermione until the elder Malfoy responded in an appraising tone. “Is this the one for whom we’ve waited?”

 

“She is, and she came to me willingly.” She squirmed again in Draco’s arms as he spoke, less in an attempt to get away than in pleasure at their game.

 

Lucius bent down to her level, his eyes twinkling like pale blue stars. “Hello, my prize.” Lucius laid a cautionary hand on her hip, where it curved over Draco’s shoulder. “Don’t even think about running away. There are two of us now, and we mean to keep you. Will you be a good girl?” The thumb of his other hand brushed back and forth across her lips.

 

Hermione’s mouth opened of its own accord and nipped at the tempting digit. “Put me down so that we can discuss the terms of my captivity.” She was gently lowered to stand between them, supported by two sets of strong arms as she regained her balance. Still red-faced from hanging upside down she answered, “That’s better. Shall we parley?”

 

Lucius was regarding her with a contented, amused expression. “Indeed. What are the terms of your surrender?”

 

She smoothed down her gown with one hand and blew a few stray curls from her eyes, all the while managing to keep a straight face. “I require a meal before we negotiate. Surely you have sustenance?”

 

Draco smiled beatifically. “Of course.”

 

“And I may leave at any time if I so choose?” It was difficult to keep from smiling back at the two of them.

 

“I think you will find that our company is quite enjoyable, but we won’t keep you against your will.” Lucius grinned wolfishly. “Not right away, at least.”

 

She bit her lip to keep from smiling. “Very well, let’s talk after we eat. Gentleman?” Hermione looked back and forth between them expectantly and realized that her anxieties, while still hovering in the back of her mind, were being held in balance by the light mood established by her wizards. This could be an awful lot of fun. She extended a hand to each.

 

Lucius took her left hand, pressed a lingering kiss to it, and then tucked it under his arm. He laid his own large, cool hand over it and looked down at her with laughing eyes. Meanwhile Draco had taken up his place at her right side, wrapping his left arm around her waist and holding her free hand against his stomach with his right. They’d walked in this tangle of limbs previously, and Hermione was struck again by the rightness of it. She glanced up at each of them expectantly. “Where are you taking me?”

 

“We’ve prepared a site for our negotiations.” Draco was attempting to maintain an earnest expression but failing. His lips kept twitching, and there was a gleam in his eye. “It’s guarded and warded.”

 

“I’m to be held under guard?”

 

Lucius raised an eyebrow in mock surprise. “With a prize as rare and valuable as you, surely you understand the need for security.”

 

“Alright. Take me to this site.” She added in a warning tone, “But no funny business.”

 

The Malfoy men guided her towards the sweeping staircase, and she paused at the first step, apologetically withdrawing her hands from theirs to gather up the long skirt of her gown. They climbed the steps slowly and quietly at first, and Hermione’s eyes wandered over the wonder that was the Malfoy library. Draco was right – even if I hadn’t accepted the Malfoy stake right away, I would have the moment I’d seen this place. She felt Lucius’ hand settle slightly lower than the small of her back and murmured, “Mr. Malfoy, your aim seems to be off.” He chuckled and slid his hand even lower so that it curved over her arse, and she burst out laughing, swatting his hand away.

 

They reached the third floor. It was now lit only by the moon, the silvery light of which streamed through the domed glass ceiling. Hermione caught a glimpse of Fleur at the far side and let her gown fall with a heavy swish to cover her ankles and feet. She turned to Draco first. “Is that your guard over there? She doesn’t look very formidable.”

 

He took her by the hand again and began leading her along the balustrade that circled the open center of the library. “Don’t let her looks fool you.”

 

As they approached the site, Hermione saw that the area had changed. So, too, had Fleur – she seemed to have reverted to her former distant, glacial lack of personality. The chaperone stepped forward and raised her hand in a commanding gesture. “Who approaches this site of ancient magic?”

 

Lucius spoke from behind Hermione, his hand resting on her shoulder. “We are the House of Malfoy, and this is our bespoken one.”

 

Fleur looked them over carefully before turning to the curly-haired witch. “Do you come here willingly, Bespoke Witch?”

 

Hermione amended her initial assessment of Fleur’s attitude change. She’s playing a part right now – this is part of the ceremony. “Yes.” Obviously the rune ceremony contained a ritualistic script for the wizards and the chaperone.

 

“Do you agree to bear the mark of this House as evidence of your binding vows?”

 

Another shiver of anticipation ran through Hermione. “Yes.” She watched Draco and Lucius each hand the blonde witch some small item. “What’s that?”

 

All three of them gave her a blank look and then Lucius trained a withering look at Draco. He hissed, “I thought you said you walked her through the ceremony.”

 

Draco’s eyes widened and his mouth dropped open, but he recovered quickly. “You told me much the same thing.”

 

They regarded each other accusingly for a second before reaching some silent agreement. Lucius turned to her and explained in a pained voice, “Silver and gold. May we continue?” At her nod, he said to Fleur, “Will you stand guard over this site?”

 

“I will.”

 

Draco added, “And will you keep all intruders and interlopers at bay?”

 

“I will.”

 

Oh, for the love of magic! Let’s just enter the damned site! She breathed an inner sigh of relief when Lucius raised his wand hand and temporarily dropped the wards so they could enter and gestured for her and Draco to pass through. He followed, his hand still on Hermione’s shoulder.

The young witch did a double take as she stepped into the enchanted ring. It looked nothing like it had from the outside – in fact, it looked exactly like the spot in Lucius’ study where they’d had dinner the night before. There were the same two couches, with the low table between them spread with a cloth and covered trays. On the carpeted floor were the same large cushions they had used for seating. A fire crackled brightly in the hearth of a familiar looking fireplace and warmed the site. Hermione looked between her two wizards in pleased surprise.

 

Lucius’ fingers tightened briefly around her shoulder, and he leaned down to press a kiss to her temple. “I apologize that you were so ill-prepared for that exchange. It would appear that Draco and I have been remiss in our duties.”

 

She curled an arm around his neck, pulling him down for a sweet kiss. “Why Lucius, have I been distracting you?”

 

“I think I speak for both of us when I say that you make me forget my own name on a regular basis.” Draco was wearing her favorite of his subtle expressions – the unique blend of solemn and happy that made his handsome face almost glow.

 

Mine. Hermione reached out a hand and took hold of his shirt. She tugged firmly until he was standing right beside Lucius. “It’s Silly Snake,” she stage-whispered, pulling at him until he bent to meet her lips with his. Reluctant to end the moment, Hermione kept her arms wound around each of her wizards’ necks. They leaned their heads against the sides of hers with palpable contentment.

 

It was Draco who broke away first. “Shall we have dinner?” They both drew her toward the waiting dinner, but Hermione dug in her heels, struck by a sudden thought.

 

“Wait,” she protested. “We agreed to take a picture with the three of us while I still have my handmark!”

 

Draco continued pulling on her hand impatiently.   “It won’t fade from eating. Come on, I’m starving.” He quickly amended that statement at her look of dismay. “Or we can take one right now. Lucius?”

 

The elder Malfoy produced a camera from behind one of the couches and uttered a quiet spell. The device rose into the air to hover, and he turned to Hermione. “The traditional way would be to take a photograph of our hands all together. Is that what you wish?”

 

Hermione thought back to the picture they had taken of just the two of them. “I want one with just Draco, too.”

 

Draco seemed to know exactly what she was talking about, because he smirked and nodded. “I like that idea.” He’s already seen that picture. He moved so quickly that Hermione had no time to react. Dragging them in front of the camera, Draco bent her over his arm and leaned down to kiss her. He paused and looked over to Lucius. “Whenever you’re ready, old man.” Hermione just had time to grab onto his shoulder with her hand before he dipped her further and kissed her with abandon. The resulting photograph was every bit as pleasing as the one of her and Lucius. It showed her and Draco looking at each other with laughing eyes and happy smiles, her handmark prominently displayed where she held onto him. The ensuing kiss looked every bit as toe-curling as it had been, too. Hermione was able to talk Draco into a few more pictures of the three of them before he demanded to be fed.

 

They sat along one side of the long, low table. “What’s for dinner?” Lucius sank gracefully down on her left, and Draco on her right. She realized they seemed to gravitate toward those same sides whenever the three of them were together. “Is there a reason you’re always on my left, Lucius? And what was the point of the gold and silver you gave to Fleur?”

 

The younger Malfoy answered as he rubbed his hands together in anticipation of the meal. “My childhood favorite, yes, and tradition.” She narrowed her eyes until he expanded, “Dinner tonight is mélange.” He looked over the table and removed the lids from two of the trays, continuing, “Fruit, nuts, bread with cheese and honey, and consommé. Dessert is the best part. Where is it . . .” He looked under a few more lids. “Aha – trifle!” Draco swiped his finger through the top layer of cream and held it in front of her face with a grin on his face. “Trinket is a trifle genius. It’s even better now that I’m old enough for the brandied . . .” Hermione had leaned forward while he spoke and gently sucked the proffered digit into her mouth, swirling her tongue over it to collect the sweet, rich cream. Draco trailed off, eyes quickly glazing over.

 

It took the young witch a second to realize the various connotations of the act she’d just participated in, and then she smirked even as she blushed deeply. Oops. She shot a sideways glance toward Lucius, to find him regarding her with a similarly heated gaze. A small curl of arousal wound around her gut at their reaction. I should say something before this gets awkward. “You’re right,” she blurted, “That was delicious – I can’t wait for dessert.” Even to her ears that sounded like a double entendre. Oh, for Circe’s sake, what is wrong with me! She gave a huff and slapped a hand over her face just as she heard Draco give a low groan. “Would one of you please put me out of my misery!”

 

Lucius laughed out loud and put his arms around her shoulders, pulling her against him tightly and kissing the top of her head. “But your misery is so entertaining, pet.” He seemed to take pity on her. “We should eat.”

 

There were no plates, only small cups for the consommé, and so the three of them began eating from the serving trays. Hermione sipped broth and nibbled some bread, caught between intermittent hunger and the sensation of butterflies in her stomach. Lucius ate some of everything, and savored each bite in a sensual way that drew the young witch’s attention continuously.   Draco, however, inhaled his food. It was as if he hadn’t eaten for days, the way he tore off chunk after chunk of baguette, swapping between stuffing the bread with cheese or dipping it repeatedly in the bowl of honey. He managed to make the process graceful somehow, and the young witch watched the movements of his hands and jaw with admiration.

 

“You never explained how it is you each have your own side of me, so to speak.”

 

Lucius had been alternating bites of fruit and cheese. He swallowed his mouthful. “There is no tradition there, if that’s what you’re asking. I favor my left hand, and Draco his right. It’s natural for us to gravitate toward the side where our dominant hand is always free.”

 

Hermione turned to him. “You’re left-handed? But I’ve seen you write with your right hand.”

 

“I can do most things well with both.” He grinned at her suddenly. “I look forward to showing you, lovely one.”

 

She snorted and leaned against his broad shoulder. “How is it that you can say things like that and they’re funny, and I just embarrass myself?”

 

“It’s all in the intention. Mine are meant to be inappropriate, while yours are unintentional. However, the only one who minds is you.” He wound his arm around her side, spreading his fingers so that they spanned from the underside of her small breast to the point of her hipbone. With his other hand, he offered her a bite of cheese and pear. “Do you like Grana Padano? This one is excellent.”

 

He was right, and she hummed appreciatively. She reached behind his head and drew his long queue of pale hair over his shoulder, twisting it around her fingers absently. “Why did you give Fleur silver and gold?”

 

Lucius was rubbing the underside of her breast with the back of his thumb, and although Hermione was sure it was an unconscious gesture, she felt her body respond with a flood of warmth in her gut. “Goblin’s silver is given for protection, and gold as payment. Both are purely symbolic now, of course.” He pushed a spiced walnut to her lips and she opened for it, darting her tongue out to lick the seasoning from his fingertips. The hand that had been wrapped around her side moved up over her breast, its thumb grazing her nipple. She arched into his touch.

 

Draco was still eating. Hermione watched in foggy fascination as a stream of the sticky amber liquid ran from the bread down Draco’s full lower lip and chin. Some of her most recent fantasies came to mind – the ones in which she had superimposed their images over memories of Harrys exploits with his girls – and for a brief second she imagined straddling Draco’s lap and licking pudding from his face, then kneeling under the table with her head between his legs. She came back to the present just as he raised a napkin to wipe it off. Hermione managed to choke, “Stop.”

 

 

I’m going to lick that off his face. It was déjà vu, only somehow reversed. This is how Lucius must have felt last Saturday morning. Draco froze and looked at her questioningly, and she beckoned him closer with a crooked finger. When he realized her intent, his eyes darkened visibly. The heat that had begun stirring within Hermione spread out along her nerves in small flames. She murmured loudly enough for both of her wizards to hear, “I want to taste you.” Draco fell slowly forward until his nose brushed against hers. His eyes were closed as she tipped his head back and to the side so that she could lap the honey from the corner of his mouth.

 

She licked the sticky trail from Draco’s chin up to his mouth at an excruciatingly slow pace, listening to his breath become ragged. He held his head still under her ministrations, but his hands slid up and down over the silky fabric covering her waist. It was surreal, like one of the dreams she’d been having since accepting the stake. Time slowed and the temperature of both the room and her body rose as she felt another set of hands touch her and heard a familiar, silky murmur in her ear. “Such a lovely girl.” Lucius was brushing her curls from her neck, winding them around his fingers and pulling her head back slightly. His mouth was on her neck then, kissing and nipping the sensitive skin until she gasped against Draco’s lips. The younger Malfoy took this as an invitation and unfroze, capturing her lips in a deep kiss that tasted of honey.

 

The sensation of being touched simultaneously by both of them brought back each dream, each fantasy of the past two weeks. Hermione gave a groan of pure pleasure, and Lucius murmured again, “It’s time. Draco?” She felt him gently push at the younger wizard’s shoulder when he didn’t break the kiss right away. Draco yielded with obvious reluctance and got to his feet, drawing Hermione up with him. He bent down to kiss her again, but Lucius intervened once more. “Ah, ah, ah.”

 

With a sigh, Draco said hoarsely, “Come on, little witch.” He sank to the couch gracefully, sitting so that his back was against its arm and his legs sprawled along the length of it, and held out his arms. “Let me hold you.” Hermione went to him willingly, recognizing in his words the description of his part in the ceremony as Lucius had explained it to her. Draco will hold you, and I will set the rune. Draco guided her to sit between his legs, with her back to his hard-muscled torso. Their closeness furthered her physical response to what was going on; the now familiar thrumming sensation pulsed in her sex, and her knickers felt decidedly wet. He untangled the long skirt of her gown and let it drop heavily over their legs “You look beautiful tonight.” His hands ran lightly up her sides to the curve of her breasts and cupped that lush flesh.

 

The fog of desire thickened in Hermione’s brain. Lucius was too far away now for her liking, and Hermione held a hand out to him. He moved to the couch and knelt, straddling their intertwined legs and looming over them both for a moment before bending down to kiss her. Lucius sucked at her bottom lip just as Draco gently bit her shoulder, and she gave a wanton moan. The pulsing desire was quickly changing to a pleasant ache, causing her to squirm.

Lucius pulled back and looked her in the eye. “It is the job of the eldest husband to set a rune on the bespoken one after the binding ceremony. Are you ready to take our mark, my prize?” At her nod, he reached into his pocket and produced a tiny box. He leaned down and chastely pressed his lips to her own. “Keep your ring until I ask for it, and then take off its end. It will open only for you.”

 

He’s trying not to terrify me. The realization filled her heart with a tenderness of almost fierce proportions, and she growled against his lips, “Give me my rune, Lucius.” She felt the passion that Lucius tried so hard to reign in slip just a little, as the force of his next kiss pushed her head back onto Draco’s shoulder. The box dropped from his hands to her lap.

 

Draco’s chest was rising and falling in ragged breaths. At some point she had become aware of the long, hard shaft of his erection pressing into her hip, and she raised a hand to wrap around his neck, pulling him even closer. Breaking away from Lucius, she looked up over her shoulder to catch Draco’s lips in an awkward but heated kiss. His fingers, which had never left her chest, gave an involuntary flex, catching her tight peaks between them. It made Hermione groan again and arch into his hands. Draco drew his head back and stared down at her with heavy-lidded eyes. “Are you ready, sweetheart?”

 

“Yeeeees.” At her word, he slipped a hand between them, unzipped the bodice of her gown, and unhooked her bra. She felt his fingers brush against her shoulders, and then her sides as he slid the garments down to her waist.

 

Lucius exhaled sharply as he caught sight of her hardened nipples. “It would seem that you are.” He leaned down and pressed a sensual kiss to the left one. “However,” he raised his head, “It would be remiss of me to neglect any of my duties. We must ensure that you are, indeed, ready.” He brought his hands to her breasts, flicking and twirling and tugging until she squirmed desperately, trying to rub her legs together. It was too much and yet not nearly enough. “Help our witch, Draco, while I mark her as ours.”

 

She felt the young wizard slide one hand down her stomach and between her legs and whimpered at the tease of release. The heavy fabric of her dress was hindering his efforts, and that aching need within her was coiling tighter and tighter with each twirl, tug, and flick of Lucius’ fingers. “Nnnngh.” She pushed at the gown around her waist, suddenly wanting it to disappear. “Get it off me,” she growled. Together they made short work of unzipping it the rest of the way and shimmying it off her, and all the while Lucius kept up his relentless torment of her breasts. His mouth met hers again in an urgent push-pull of lips and tongues, and she clawed at him when Draco’s hand slid down her stomach again and dipped under her knickers.

 

Someone’s been learning from Lucius. The thought was garbled, though, because fingers were sliding through her slick folds and a warm palm was hitting her clit with each pass. Hermione squeezed shut her eyes and turned blindly to kiss Draco, moving against his hand in abandon. That urgent feeling of impending release had begun deep in her gut, along with the fluttering of its beginning. “Please, Draco,” she gasped.

 

Suddenly Lucius stopped his ministrations. Hermione’s eyes flew open in shock, only to see him opening the small box with shaking hands. She watched as he took out the tiny bar and held it out to her with a burning light in his eyes. Draco’s hand still moved between her legs and she moved against it even as she took the ring. “How- Oh! How do I- mmmmmmm . . . Ah!” She gave up trying to speak and began distractedly trying to open the small piece of jewelry. Finally, fumblingly, she opened it by pulling off one jeweled end. “Lucius, don’t stop. Keep- oooooh!”

 

He was watching her with obvious pleasure; that much Hermione could see through her haze of lust. “Keep what, pet? Keep plucking those delightful sounds out of you, like this?” He began a rhythmic assault on her nipples in time with Draco’s movements, and she fought to find her finish quickly, lest he stop again. Lucius’ mouth was moving in some silent incantation, and he was looking at her expectantly. She finally managed to hand the tiny ring to him and watched as he continued uttering the spell. Then he pressed the ring to her tight peak, there was a flare of magic that lit up their faces, and her orgasm crashed over her like an earthquake. The aftershocks went on and on, and Draco’s hand soothed over her sensitized folds all the while. A lifetime (or at least five seconds) later, she became aware that his strong arm, still locked around her middle, was the only thing keeping her from toppling over. He was nuzzling her cheek.

 

Lucius was watching her closely. “Are you alright, pet?”

 

“Hmmmmm. Of course.” She forced her eyes to focus. “That’s a silly question. Why do you ask?”

 

His fingers stroked the underside of her breast. “You need to close the ring, my prize.” She realized that he was still holding her erect nipple in a firm pinch, and that she could feel the intrusion of the small bar through it.

 

“Close the ring,” she repeated dumbly. “Oh, right! Here it is.”

 

She held the flashing emerald out to him, but he shook his head. “You need to do this part. It’s the last step of the ceremony.” There was a magnetic pull between the ring that now pierced her flesh and the cap in her hand. She let it guide her motions, and Lucius maintained his grip until the pieces snapped shut with a definitive click. As soon as it had closed, a strong, new magic licked its way under her skin from the ring out to every inch of her body. As it flowed through her she felt warmth, and light, and a power that felt both ancient and right. Lucius was looking down at her triumphantly. “You bear the glow of a marked witch already. The rune is pleased with its new Mistress.” He stood from where he’d been kneeling over her and Draco, never taking his eyes from her.

 

Draco was lifting her gently off his lap and sliding off the couch. “I’d like to see it.” He crouched down beside her, and his expression was both hungry and pleased. He reached a hand out toward the glittering ring, and suddenly Hermione was very aware that she sat before her wizards in only her knickers. She drew her legs up in front of her, flushing deepest vermillion from her face to her chest. Draco looked abashed. “Forgive me.” He withdrew his hand and caught up her gown, offering it to her.

 

She couldn’t help but notice the hurt that fleetingly crossed his beautiful face. He’s just given me indescribable pleasure without asking anything in return, and I won’t even let him look at the ring he helped create for me. The thought made her feel selfish but did nothing to diminish the fact that, now that the fog of lust was clearing from her mind, she felt self-conscious. She fought through it determinedly. My Draco would do anything for me, and I have no reason to hide from him. Finding a possible solution to the problem, she bravely unbent her legs and slid to sit on the edge of the couch in front of him. “I’d feel better if I weren’t the only half-naked person in the room.” She tugged at his shirt, untucking it from his trousers and slipping the first button from its hole.

 

His eyes had dropped to her chest in the meantime, lingering on her bejeweled breast. “I’ll gladly go without my shirt if it means you’ll do the same.” She watched him swallow thickly, fascinated by the bob of his Adam’s apple, and then she was distracted by what she found under his shirt. A bare-chested Draco was glorious. He was all muscles and tendons and long bones, not yet filled out but in the peak of health and fitness. Her eyes wandered over the dips and bumps she’d only felt before now, and her fingers followed. Finally she raised her eyes back to his, to find him watching her smugly. “See something you like?”

 

She rolled her eyes playfully, completely forgetting the awkwardness of a few moments ago. “Maybe.” Her fingers traced around one of his pale pink nipples and he shivered. Hermione bit back her grin. “I can see how that would be fun to do.”

 

Draco raised a hand to her pierced nipple, pausing as if for permission. When she nodded with a smile, he stroked it, grinning at her reaction. “Exactly.” He dropped his head and kissed it chastely. “Although yours are far more interesting than mine.”

 

They laughed softly together, meeting for a kiss that began as gentle and ended with Hermione straddling Draco’s lap, held tightly against his erection as their mouths moved together hungrily. When they broke apart, she pushed her face against his, cheek to cheek. “I know the ceremony changed the rules somewhat, but I’m at a loss as to what to do next.” She drew back to look at him questioningly.

 

Draco sighed and pulled her back to nestle against him. “Please don’t think you have to do anything you’re not ready for, sweetheart. This is more than I could ever have hoped for.” They sat like that for several more seconds.

 

Something was missing, though. Lucius. Hermione’s head shot up and she looked about wildly until she spied him, standing a few feet away and watching them with a small, resigned smile on his face. He thinks I’ve forgotten him, but he’s happy for Draco. She was having none of that. He needs to learn once and for all that I’m not like Narcissa in any way. Shaking off her self-consciousness, she pressed a lingering kiss to Draco’s mouth and went to her other wizard. Pressing her naked torso to him, she stood on tiptoes and wound her arms about his neck as far as she could. “Lucius, my love, why are you over here all by yourself?”

 

He looked down at her lovingly. “I won’t steal you from Draco. Have your time with him, and when you’re ready, come to me.” His hands stroked down her back tenderly.

 

Oh no, no, no. She began unbuttoning his crisp linen shirt. “I’ve become very good at reading that impassive face of yours, Lucius Abraxas, and I know what you’re thinking. You couldn’t be more wrong. I don’t want him any more than I want you. I choose you both. Now, stop being silly and take off your shirt. You did offer to teach me what ‘practically naked’ meant.” He gave a small smile, which wasn’t nearly enough of a response for Hermione. She looked up at him from under her lashes, drawing deeply from the reservoir of courage within her. “Will you teach me something new, sir?”

 

His hands came up to her sides and slid down to rest on her hips. “And what sort of lesson would you like, pet?”

 

Still maudlin. Her fingers were working furiously at his buttons, and she began kissing the skin of his chest as it was revealed to her. “Show me how to touch you.” She spread his unbuttoned shirt and pushed it off his broad shoulders, and her mouth fell open at the sight of him. Lucius was all man. Her hands came up to trace over his chest and stomach, reveling in the sheer masculinity of his body. Soft blonde hair grew over his chest and trailed down into his trousers. She ran a finger in a downward path until she came to his belt and looked up at him again. “Show me how to please you, sir.” She watched his eyes darken and felt a tangible shift in his mood. Victory! Then she remembered that the particular lesson she had just requested had been at the root of most of her anxieties for the past several hours. She shook off that thought, focusing on Lucius’ insecurities rather than her own. “Let me love you, Lucius.”

 

He twinkled down at her and pulled her flush. “Are you asking to be corrupted, my prize?”

 

She gave a small grin. “Can one be partially corrupted?”

 

“I think that can be arranged.” He frowned contemplatively. “Tell me exactly what you meant first.”

 

Hermione blushed. Oh, Circe and Merlin in a broom cupboard – I managed to stand here in nothing but my knickers without blushing, and now I’m going to turn beet red?! She ran her finger just under the waistline of his trousers. “You know what I mean.”

 

Lucius leaned down so that she had to arch into him to maintain eye contact. “Perhaps you would like for me to perform Legilimens on you?”

 

Why am I not surprised that he can . . . “Absolutely not.” She looked down for a second, watching her hand moving through the hair under his navel. “I want you to teach me how to touch you, the way you touch me.” Her hand trailed down boldly over the huge, hard bulge in his trousers.

 

Lucius was at obvious war with himself. He looked over at Draco and appeared to be having a silent conversation with him in which he was both pleading for something and arguing against it. Finally he looked down at her and shook his head. “As tantalizing as that request may be, I must postpone that lesson.” She opened her mouth to argue, but he stopped her words with a kiss. As he plied her mouth with his lips and tongue, Hermione’s brain whirred. I know he’s not rejecting me because he doesn’t want it. And I know he’s turned on right now. And just by the way he’s kissing me I know he’s thinking about me doing that to him. Eventually she willed herself to stop analyzing the situation and was rewarded with an explanation at the end of the kiss. Lucius finally pulled his lips from hers. “I think that I would like you all to myself for that, as would Draco. What do you think, pet?” He held her tightly against him and thrust against her stomach with a low groan.

 

Hermione nodded, recognizing the wisdom in his words. “I like that idea very much.”

 

He grinned at her wolfishly. “And I like your ensemble very much.” His fingers traced the edges of her knickers, and then he stepped away to look her up and down. He leaned low and murmured in her ear, “This should be your everyday house attire beginning Saturday.”

 

Hermione snorted, dropping her head against his chest. “I don’t think a pair of knickers and a House Wife ring constitute an ensemble, Lucius.”

 

He watched his left hand trace up her side and over the curve of her breast to toy with the glittering ring. “You’re absolutely right, pet. You need a necklace, too.”

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