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 arrived to find Diagon Alley awash in spring sunlight and soft breezes. The Apparition point at the far end of Gringotts was empty except for Draco, who was waiting for her with thinly veiled impatience. He was tapping the toe of one elegant Balmoral brogue against the cobblestones and had his hands shoved into his suit-trouser pockets. He gave a visible sigh of relief at her arrival.
“Mrs. Malfoy, there you are. I was beginning to think you’d had a better offer.”
She stepped into his outstretched arms with a good-natured roll of her eyes, secretly admiring the view of her younger husband in this new environment. The soft sunlight transformed his carefully combed platinum hair into a halo, the angelic effect promptly ruined when the gentle wind ruffled it over his quicksilver eyes.
“I stopped to tidy my room. Someone tore it apart at the seams.” The faint sounds of a bustling Sunday crowd tinged the edges of this place, but it was far enough away to give the illusion of complete privacy. She hummed her approval when Draco ran his hands down the length of her bare arms in a light, ticklish touch.
His trademark solemn-happy expression gave way to a smug smirk. “You certainly weren’t complaining at the time.” He rubbed his thumbs over the wide satin ribbon decorating the waistline of her frock.
That’s because I was a bit distracted. She changed her original assessment: no angel could have worn such a devilish grin nor looked so self-assured. Her mouth twitched, and she poked his side to divert his attention from the smile she couldn’t quite bite back. “Just for that I’m not inviting you back to my room any time soon.”
Draco turned his attention downward, tracing his finger along the low neckline of her dress, but not before she saw the same nuance of clever cunning pass over his handsome features. For some reason the phrase mischief managed came to mind and she was avidly pursuing that train of thought when it was violently derailed by another: something wasn’t quite right. She glanced around, cataloguing their environment. “Draco, where are the guards?”
“Hmmmmm?” He trailed a hand southward over the small curve of one breast and leaned low, applying his talented mouth to the skin of her neck. “Merlin, but you smell wonderful.”
“The guards. You did summon them didn’t you?” She caught his hand in hers, resisting the urge to shiver as she removed it from her chest.
He repeated the action with his other hand, lifted his head so they were eye to eye, and treated her to one of his happy-solemn almost-smiles. “I have no intention of calling for them until I’ve kissed my beautiful Wife with abandon in Diagon Alley.”
“Oh, for the love of-” She batted his wandering hands away from her torso. “That would have been romantic had you not been trying to grope me at the same time. Summon the gua- Mmmmmm!”
Draco had shifted slightly and softly pressed his lips to hers, effectively silencing her. The chaste kiss quickly morphed into something far more incendiary involving tongues and questing hands, and when Hermione managed to break away finally she said with a breathy laugh, “Summon them.”
“Is that a direct order?” Draco held her in a smoldering gaze and backed her up until she was pressed against the marble exterior of Gringotts Wizarding Bank. “I should warn you I have the strongest predilection for bossy little witches.” He returned his attention to her neck and slowly slid his hands down her back to grasp her backside. “I find them . . . ” kiss “Completely . . . ” nip “Irresistible.” kiss.
She felt the covenant’s resonant purr deep within her but couldn’t tell whether it was because of her connection with Draco or the fact that she was attempting to respect Lucius’ concern for her safety.
There was a delicious thrum deep in her gut and a heavy fog of lust creeping over her mind. Hermione wriggled out of his arms, swatting his hands away briskly. “So help me, Draco; knock it off!” I need to keep away from you long enough to think properly! She took several quick steps away from him. “You told me you summoned them before we left the manor.”
He was pouting. “I never said any such thing. I wanted to be alone with you before this outing became a circus tour.” He managed to wrap his long arms around her, effectively trapping her once more against the building to murmur against the shell of her ear, “Please say you’ll let me have you all to myself, if only for five minutes. Then we’ll join the circus and follow all the rules.”
Hermione tried unsuccessfully to escape, willing her body to ignore the sensation of his warm, wet mouth moving against that sensitive flesh. She quickly lost track of that goal when his hand crept between them to rub one runed nipple. “Draco!” She hissed, writhing in startled pleasure. “No- Ooooooh, Merlin . . . nnngh . . . Lucius isn’t . . . do that again . . . he isn’t going to . . . gods, yes . . . ” Five minutes sounds a bit short. Maybe ten . . .
Fortunately the elder Malfoy’s name wasn’t taken in vain. After groaning against her neck Draco backed away from her with a sigh. “Very well.” He ran a hand through his hair and adjusted his trousers with a wince, frustration written all over his handsome face. “But for the record that was only two minutes.”
Hermione inhaled deeply as she smoothed her hands over the rumpled bodice of her dress. “Yes, well; since we both seem to excel at time management it’s a good thing we stopped early.” She glanced around the empty Apparition spot. “Circe only knows what we could have accomplished given the full five.” Our first child could have been conceived in plain sight up against the wall of the bank. We could have named him Knut.
Trying to think of anything else other than the pulse of desire still beating in her veins she watched closely as Draco unbuttoned the cuff of his left sleeve and pushed it up along with that of his suit jacket. With a look of intense concentration he pressed the tip of his wand to a spot on the inside of his forearm and muttered an incantation. When he was done he gave her a sulky look.
“Prepare for the circus.”
His action had sent a flood of unpleasant memories washing over her, all having to do with a certain Dark Mark and its power, and her former foggy state cleared rapidly. Surely there was a reasonable explanation, though! “Draco,” she croaked feebly, “did you just . . . Is that . . . ”
He glanced down at her as he righted his sleeves. He must have realized where her brain had traveled because he shook his head and said reassuringly, “Hermione, sweetheart, it’s nothing like that. It’s how the ancient Houses have always communicated with their guard families. Here, have a look.” He paused and pushed his left sleeve back up again. “See? There’s no mark on my arm. It’s innocent blood magic.”
She tentatively touched a finger to the spot he’d indicated. His skin was warm and stretched taut over a framework of elegant bone, flexing tendons, and lean muscle, and it was blessedly unmarked. “But what you just did: it’s how Vol-”
Draco stopped her with a stern shake of his head and an even sterner tone. “He must not be named.” He softened the remonstrance by taking her hand in his and raising it to his lips, and his explanation was spoken against the back of her hand in the semblance of a series of kisses. “That monster tricked the Twenty-Eight and enslaved the covenants. He perverted every ancient Pureblood ritual and rite. But before any of that he destroyed the line of Gaunt and its covenant. He joined the lowest ranks of the weeded and lost all right to a name that day.”
Such simple words, and yet so rife with meaning and delivered as yet another hairpin turn in this whiplash Pureblood education! But through the fog of lust, past that thrill of fear, and now in the face of this lightning bolt of indirect information the curly-haired Wife maintained her course. Had she been anyone else other than Hermione Malfoy née Granger, the Brightest Witch of the Age, her mind would have undoubtedly swerved away from this new metaphorical road hazard. Instead her sleek, powerful brain began charting alternate routes and marking maps of potential exploration. “Sweet mother of magic, you’re saying . . . but then that means . . . oh, wise and wonderful Merlin . . . ” With sultry eyes she gazed up at her Pureblooded husband and said in a throaty voice, “Let’s go home right now, to the library. I want to know everything. Research with me, Draco.”
He groaned and pulled her into his arms almost roughly, tugging her off-the-shoulder sleeves even lower. “I’ve always dreamed of you saying that to me. Tell me you’ll sit on my lap and study topless, little witch.” The fitted bodice wasn’t cooperating and now he was searching for the fastenings.
Hermione pulled Draco down for a hungry kiss, a small portion of her mind wondering how long it would take for him to remember the tiny zipper running down her left side. “Only if you’ll be my research assistant and take dictation.” She pushed her smaller body into his, desperate to relieve the ache growing between her legs.
Draco exhibited his talent for multitasking, dominating the kiss while walking them back to the wall of the bank. When she was pinned against it once more he began gathering her long voluminous skirts with his hands, slowly working them higher. “Only if you’ll wear your rune shields.”
With the dexterity inherent to a sex-crazed teenager she fought past the buttons of his suit coat and trouser fastenings, working one small hand down into his boxers. “Wear your Quidditch uniform?”
“Deal.” He bit down on her lower lip and sucked it into his mouth with a growl when her hand wrapped around his erection, but just as that piece of anatomy (and the rest of all hell) was about to break loose a familiar Patronus appeared, interrupting their wild embrace.
As the spectral bear lumbered toward them Gore Goyle’s deep voice boomed, “The Ministry seems to be running a training exercise; there are anti-Apparition wards in place around Diagon Alley at the moment. Exit by way of the Cauldron and return to the manor at once.”
Later Hermione would recognize the interruption as providential, but in that very moment she could have hexed Gore Goyle repeatedly and without mercy. She released her grip on her husband’s hard cock with a scowl. Whose bright idea was it to summon the guards, anyway? Errrrrr, that’s somewhat ironic. Effectively diverted from her most recent bout of passion she replayed the message mentally and frowned, effectively breaking the liplock Draco was trying to maintain.
Draco made a pathetic whimpering sound. “Enter the bloody circus,” he muttered bitterly. “I’m finally married to the witch of my dreams but has anything changed? If my aching blue balls are any indication, then no; not a fucking thing has changed.” He banged his forehead against the wall beside her head with a quiet thud.
“Obviously you’re still intent on incurring brain damage,” she joked, trying to ignore the way her body instantly responded to such coarse language being uttered in Draco’s cultured tones. And when he made another noise of misery near her ear she kissed his cheek and pushed him away slightly with a sigh. “We were going to stop anyway, Draco. We were never going to have sex against the wall of Gringotts, even in a deserted spot. Did you—Did you actually just stomp your foot?”
He was pouting spectacularly, looking for all the world like a little boy denied his favorite candy. The fact that her clever, handsome young husband was, in effect, having a tantrum over being denied sex in a public place sent her into a bout of uncontrollable laughter. She laughed until she cried, flopping noodle-limbed against him. He supported her stiffly at first, but eventually the vibrations of his own soft, husky laughter traveled from his chest into her body and his embrace became tender. When at last she was done and had wiped her eyes, she smiled up at him. “It’s time to go home. Lucius will have a fit when he finds out we were here alone. He told me I wasn’t to go anywhere without the guards.”
“But we were going to have lunch here! There’s a new restaurant that opened after Christmas in the reclaimed portion of Knockturn Alley, of which Lucius has spoken very highly. I’ve been dreaming of taking you there for months.” He sighed heavily. “I suppose you’re right.” His woeful expression morphed into an amusing combination of calculation, humor, and hope. “Will we have sex at home?”
She snorted indelicately even as she tried to rub her slender thighs together. “There’ll be no more negotiating until after lunch at home. I’m suddenly hungrier than ever.” As if to lend credibility to the statement her stomach growled loudly. “Let’s go.”
Draco gave a reluctant nod and sighed. “Very well.”
“I’ll just send a Patronus to Lucius to let him know what’s going on.” Hermione tugged her hand free of her husband’s and fished for her wand in her dress pocket.
“Absolutely not.” He looked positively ill at that suggestion. “I do not need to check in with Lucius as though I were five years old. I’m a grown wizard! Besides,” he added quickly when she opened her mouth to argue, “If you care for me at all, wait and tell him later. He’ll want to swoop in and rescue us, and he’s done that far too many times in my life; it’s begun to feel . . . emasculating.” And when she hesitated he implored, “Please, sweetheart.”
Hermione felt her irritation drain marginally as she realized the extent of both Draco’s sheltered life and his elder brother’s overprotectiveness. She pictured Lucius in full defensive mode, positively terrified for a loved one’s safety without real cause. Draco’s lived behind wards and guards all his life and he just wants to be a regular wizard; he just doesn’t always know how to do it. He’s bound to be a bit of an idiot in public situations. Oh, Draco. “Being rescued doesn’t make you weak; it means you have an ally and the worst is over.”
The covenant had been listening to their conversation in an amused sort of way, with one metaphorical eye lazily opened and one metaphorical ear pricked. The current situation hadn’t sent it into any semblance of panic or even caution, and finally she decided Draco might be right. He knows Lucius far better than I do. But if this turns out to be another case of master manipulation I’ll give him a concussion he’ll never forget.
Gritting her teeth she continued, “Despite my better judgment we won’t contact Lucius, but you’re going to do exactly as I say.” I cannot believe I just agreed to that.
Draco nodded with eager relief. “Absolutely, little witch. You’re in charge from here on out.”
“Well then,” she smirked, taking in the details of her husband’s appearance, “for starters you can zip your trousers and wipe that lip gloss off your face.” Within her the covenant gave the abstract equivalent of a chuckle, causing the Wife to wonder if it also had difficulty denying the younger Malfoy wizard.
They walked in a sweet embrace of arms from the secluded Apparition spot, along the quiet side alley of Gringotts Wizarding Bank, and straight into the noisy, colorful mayhem that was Diagon Alley. Draco paused after only a few feet, tugging her to a stop just outside Madam Malkin’s shop. She looked up in inquiry, surprised to see a look of utter chagrin on his pale face.
“What’s wrong, Draco?”
He glanced around uneasily and pulled her closer to the shop window, leaning into the shade provided by the awning. “I’d forgotten school’s out for the year.”
“And?” The fact that his hand curled innocently over her shoulder without straying inappropriately spoke of a considerable level of concern, Hermione decided.
“It’s . . . complicated,” he hedged.
She jerked impatiently at his grip on her hand just as her stomach rumbled again. “I think you’ll find I like complicated things. Now spit it out before my stomach devours me whole.”
Draco’s expression shifted to a grimace. “There’ll be girls everywhere.” He looked around again in that same nervous way. “And they aren’t required to behave outside Hogwarts.”
Comprehension illuminated her prodigious brain like a lightning bolt — a very amusing lightning bolt. “That’s right,” she snickered, “because you’re EBC.”
“It’s not funny, little witch. Some of the more fanatical ones are terrifying.”
Hermione made an exasperated noise. “Well, you should have thought of that before you insisted on coming here in the first place, you big idiot. Whatever happened to the whole ‘I can’t hide for the rest of my life’ and ‘I’m a grown wizard’? Not only did you decide not to bring the circus, you forgot there’d be women here and assumed we’d be able to traipse around unnoticed. Honestly! I thought you snakes were supposed to be clever!”
Now he looked hurt. “I am clever, but it’s a curse to be born a Malfoy and doubly so to be a young handsome one.”
“In about thirty seconds I’m going to show exactly how clever I am with a well-aimed hex. Now stop being such a drama queen and let’s leave before your fanwitches find you.” Hermione’s former exasperation returned, only this time it was tempered by amusement regarding both her husband’s bout of flightiness and the ensuing scenario. I’ll show you cursed. I’ll show you hexed Malfoy bits and pieces accompanied by weeping and gnashing of handsome teeth. She yanked the hand he had entwined with hers and began dragging him in the direction of the Leaky Cauldron. “Come on; the sooner we get there, the sooner we can go home and I can eat.” When he balked she added cunningly, “And you can have sex.”
Those last words lit a fire under Draco and suddenly he was escorting her with his usual polished confidence along the cobbled street. They hadn’t even gone the entire length of Madam Malkin’s, though, when he jerked her unceremoniously behind a vendor’s cart filled with fresh-cut flowers of every variety.
“Wha-” Her yelp was cut off by a large, pale hand, which clamped over her mouth firmly.
“Sweet Circe, it’s one of them!” He was looking around the corner of the cart between cascading bouquets, a fearful look in his eyes. “And where there’s one there’s bound to be more. They travel in packs.” He tapped the top of her head with his wand and urgently murmured a Disillusionment charm.
Pulling his hand from her mouth she looked up at him skeptically. “Is that really necessary?”
“Ssssshhhhh,” he hissed. “Wait, you’re not-”
The distinct sensation of that charm being performed by someone else had been absent. That’s odd; it’s a fairly easy skill. She pulled out her own wand and performed it on her husband. Nothing happened. “Draco, you do realize what this means.”
He looked down at her with dismay and pushed his tousled hair from his eyes. “Whatever wards have been put up are restricting the use of magic as well. It means . . .”
“It means you’re screwed, EBC.” Hermione let out a breath of laughter and stepped away from him. “Well, good luck. I’ll see you back at the ma- ooof!” She was hauled back abruptly and held tightly against his broad chest.
“Hermione, we cannot go out there for several reasons, not the least of which involves me being attacked by rabid witches and probably stripped of my clothes!” Somehow Draco managed to make his barely audible whisper sound aggrieved.
She gave him a skeptical look and peered around the flower cart, and what she saw made her blood boil. There, standing in the street with a gaggle of other witches in their early twenties, was the brazen witch from their wedding reception queue who had wanted the rose in Draco’s hand! She was sure of it! Hermione’s vision became tinted with red at the thought of another witch even contemplating touching her husband. And he’s terrified of her. I’ll show HER terrified! I’ll hex that fatuous, simpering gawk off her face and- Her inner tirade came to an abrupt halt as she realized there would be no satisfying use of magic for retribution. Or I could just punch her lights out.
Hermione simultaneously savored that option and took stock of the situation. The witch was part of an organized outing, obviously; at least twenty young women thronged the breadth of Diagon Alley, each wearing a gorgeous ruffly silver-blue rose in her hair. MY roses. In the midst of them was . . . Oh, for the love of all things magical . . . In the midst of them was a tall banner of sorts emblazoned with a likeness of Draco’s profile and the words Ipsa vita est Draco.
Sweet Circe, I called it before I had any idea how true it all was. “Really? ‘We live for Draco’? Who are these fanatics?”
“Fanwitches,” Draco groaned. He pulled her further behind the cart. “They’ve been multiplying exponentially since the end of the war.”
She sighed again, this time heavily. First her magic had been nullified and now her husband was in danger of being taken down by a pack of witches in heat. AND they’re wearing my roses! Her mind whirred at breakneck speed for two full seconds before she turned back to her young husband with a scowl. “Stay here, and for Merlin’s sake keep your head down. Your hair is probably a homing device for these . . . these strumpets.”
As Hermione made her way to where the cart’s owner stood at the far end she rapidly assessed its inventory. It was a wild glory of cultivated flowers standing in water buckets but Hermione’s eye was drawn to the far end, where there were roses of such beauty they could only have originated in one place. The irony of the plan that was even now forming in her head caused her to smirk. Lucius to the rescue indeed! After a hurried and, in her opinion, somewhat flirtatious conversation (that ended with her receiving a complimentary bouquet of Bespoke roses) with the elderly vendor she returned to her husband.
“I asked the wizard who owns this cart if he wouldn’t mind pushing it past those floozies with us hiding here behind all these flowers-” she began, only to be interrupted enthusiastically.
“That’s brilliant, little witch! We’ll be out of here in no time and-”
“However,” she continued, shushing him with a stern look, “his license only extends from the corner of Knockturn and Diagon to here. That means we can only escape by retreating further from the exit at this point.”
Hermione could practically see the wheels turning in Draco’s head. Briefly she wondered if she should be suspicious. When he answered, though, his handsome face was set in a look of such thoughtful innocence that she dismissed the idea.
“A strategic retreat might be best at this point,” he agreed and then quickly slipped to speak to the vendor himself. When he returned his expression was decidedly smug. “All set, then; we’ll just walk right out under their noses.”
They made it without incident back the short distance they’d already come and then diagonally across the thoroughfare to the point where the newly reclaimed Knockturn Alley joined Diagon. Hermione had followed its redevelopment in The Prophet and now took in as many details as she could under the circumstances. The gleaming storefronts advertised legal goods, the murky corners were filled with brightly painted vendors’ carts, and what people she could see walking to and fro in the formerly foreboding venue of all things dark all bore the air of upstanding citizens.
At the far side of the intersection the old wizard gave Hermione a wink and shook Draco’s hand, asking the younger Malfoy to convey the admiration of the entire Herbological community to his ‘father’. At that word Draco winced but nodded politely.
“I’ll be sure to tell Lucius; and thank you very much for your help.” He turned to Hermione smoothly, wrapping an arm around her waist. “Shall we make our escape, sweetheart? Hold on to your bouquet.”
Without warning Hermione was whisked through a quickly opened doorway into a quiet, dimly lit space. When her eyes adjusted to the subdued lighting she realized they were in a restaurant. She looked up at Draco in cynical bewilderment. “What are we doing in here?”
“We need to lay low for a while, little witch,” he argued earnestly, discreetly manhandling her toward where the maître d’hôtel hovered by the ornate front desk. “Those witches didn’t look like they were in any hurry to leave. Besides, you’re ravenous; we can have lunch while we wait and accomplish two goals in the same amount of time.”
The elegant restaurant was very large and filled with patrons, and although the nearest tables were some distance from the entry their occupants had looked up curiously at the entrance of Draco and Hermione. Now the dining room had gone from the usual hum of voices and clinking of crystal, silver, and china to an almost dead silence. A quick, furtive glance from behind the curls falling over the side of her face proved her suspicions correct: not only had they been noticed, but they were now the focus of most of the patrons. People were shifting in their chairs to watch their interaction and the unmistakable buzz of whispered gossip began.
Oh, sweet and benevolent Circe have mercy on me and smite my enemies with a satisfying amount of force. Hermione had assiduously avoided vacuous publicity since her entry into the wizarding world. After the war she’d hidden away at school during the summer and Christmas holidays because she wanted to forget the very things reporters found most fascinating; well, that and the fact that they never seemed to quote her accurately. She was quite certain there would never be a time she craved attention outside of academia, and yet here she found herself once again in the unenviable spot of being associated with a celebrity. Two of them, actually; one of whom is currently hiding from his fanwitches. I’m going to wring his good-looking neck.
She quickly channeled her elder husband, schooling her features into a mask of confident amusement even as she hissed from between smiling lips, “Draco, we are not having lunch here. We agreed to go home.”
His expression mirrored hers in a practiced way as he paused to stoop low and admonish quietly but sternly, “Hermione, do not use my name! Someone will notice.”
“You’re absolutely right, Albus Dumbledore,” she deadpanned, barely turning her head toward where her tall husband still hunched down to her level, “because no one will recognize us just so long as we keep our mouths shut. We need to leave. Now.”
“Give me three minutes and I’ll see what I can do.” When she hesitated he pushed, “You owe me that much from earlier.”
“I owe you nothing but a good swift kick in the pants.” At his beseeching look she reluctantly amended, “You may have one.”
Draco had been moving them forward during their entire murmured conversation until they stood directly in front of the maître d’hôtel, forcing Hermione to bite her tongue for the moment. He focused a devastating amount of charm on the deferential wizard and spouted something rapidly in French.
Within seconds they were passed along to a waiter and ushered through a side door, down a winding hallway, and into a tiny private dining room. He and Draco exchanged a few courteous words and then he was gone with a flourish.
For the past minute Hermione had cooperated under the assumption that Draco was securing them a way out of the restaurant and now she rounded on her husband just as he relaxed his firm hold around her waist to draw out her chair. “We are not eating here! We are going home this instant!”
Draco frowned. “We most certainly will be eating here because we are unable to get home at present. You’re hungry and I intend to care for your needs. It’s part of our wedding vows, Hermione.”
His reproving tone was like a flame to her already her simmering ire. In an increasingly shrill voice she countered, swatting his chest with her flowers with every word, “Don’t you dare make this about me, Draco Hyperion! This is about you not summoning the guards before we left and then your fanwitches! And I do not need you to take care of me!”
Within her she could feel the amused interest of the Malfoy covenant increase tenfold; had she been forced to describe its current state to a casual observer she would have said it was as though the sentient magic was watching its family much like a Muggle movie, complete with tub of buttered popcorn.
Draco looked as though he were about to laugh for one fleeting moment, but at her feral snarl a stricken look settled over his aristocratic young features. “Oh, Merlin; it’s happening, isn’t it!”
“If by ‘it’ you mean an act of justifiable homicide then yes,” she began, but his unexpected dejection caused Hermione to withdraw her weaponized bouquet. “Errrrrr . . . what?”
Draco’s face drooped mournfully. “We’re having our first fight.”
She inhaled deeply, breathing in the soothing scent of her roses and fully aware of the irony. That’s twice already Lucius has rescued him this morning, and he doesn’t even know it. “Draco, believe me. When we have our first fight there will be skillfully administered, painful hexing involved.” Another thought occurred to her and she added curiously in a slightly more civilized tenor, “I thought you didn’t speak French.” She swept a few stray rose petals from the lapels of his fine suit jacket with a brisk, businesslike hand.
Draco gestured to her chair, and the mundane action was so graceful it distracted Hermione further. She sank down onto it and allowed him to push her to the table and drop a napkin on her lap.
“All Malfoys speak French, little witch,” he murmured soothingly as he filled her water glass.
“But you agreed to the need for an Interpretor charm when Fleur was with us.” She glared up to where he was now lowering himself into the chair opposite her. “I’m not done yelling at you, by the way. You’re still an enormous idiot.” Truthfully, the logic of his argument to have lunch whilst waiting for the fanwitches to disperse was gaining favor with her, especially since she really was famished. Not that he needs to know.
“I prefer to keep conversations in one language; had you also been speaking French I would have needed no charm. As it was, things were a bit confusing.”
I’ll have to learn French this summer. “Hmmmph.”
The waiter returned after clearing his throat loudly from behind the partially closed door and there ensued another rapid-fire dialogue during which Hermione applied her mastery of Classical Latin in an attempt to interpret at least part of it. In the end she merely amended her previous mental note: I may need a modern French lexicon. As the waiter left, that thought was derailed by another. “Why didn’t the waiter seat me or pour my water? That’s his job.”
It was Draco’s turn to become incensed. Eyes dark, he growled, “You’ll not be approached by any male without my permission or Lucius’, and no employee of any decent wizarding establishment would even attempt such a thing!”
Had she been angry with her younger husband before? Had her vision ever been tinged with such a thick haze of red? She jumped to her feet, knocking her chair over in the process. “How dare you! I am not a possession to be guarded, Draco! I belong to no one!”
It appeared the younger Malfoy wizard was rethinking his words. Passing a hand through his pale hair in an agitated motion he swallowed thickly and stood as well. “Hermione, sweetheart – I . . .” He shook his head, eyes squeezed shut tightly. “Forgive me, I beg of you. I don’t know what came over me just then.”
Hermione’s mouth opened of its own accord, a slew of angry words ready to fall from her tongue. She drew a deep breath to begin her tirade, only to once again inhale the bewitching fragrance of her roses. It brought back a rush of recent memories, not the least of which was her melodramatic storming from Lucius after his crass remark in the formal gardens only days before. I have a right to be angry at Draco’s manipulative schemes, but he doesn’t deserve to be belittled. And it won’t make me feel better; not for long, anyway. She sighed. “This isn’t going to work.”
He looked up at her, his eyes still dark but now tinged with a grief so deep it caused Hermione’s heart to clench painfully. “Please; please don’t say that! I’ll do anything.” He added in a tight whisper, “Don’t leave me.”
A mental push from the family magic sent an image of a tiny, blond, motherless boy to mind, and then another of the same boy, this time older and watching his bespoke witch set her sights on another wizard for years on end. Mother of magic, he thinks I’m going to . . . Her anger ebbed and she went to him, reaching up to cup his cheeks in her hands. “Draco, that’s not what I meant. I was trying to say that my hot temper and your possessiveness are only adding fuel to the flames of our disagreement.” When that didn’t appease him she continued, “Nobody is leaving anyone. For one thing, I rather enjoy having a good verbal sparring partner. For another, I never quit anything; I’m far too stubborn. Now please stop your moping.” To the suddenly obliging covenant she added internally, Finally! It’s about time you put down the popcorn and helped out.
He looked down at her morosely. “I angered you; worse, I spoke as though I owned you.”
Hermione tried again. She herded him back to his chair and pushed him down onto it, then sank into his lap. Curling her arms around his neck she said softly, “I haven’t been exactly nice to you since we got into this pickle. All you’ve wanted to do from the start is have a nice, normal lunch date with me and I’ve been both impatient and intolerant of your social condition.”
Draco leaned his forehead against hers, eyes closed. “I’m sorry, little witch.”
“Yes, well; I guess I am, too.” She brushed a solitary rose petal from where it clung to the folds of his silk pocket-handkerchief.
“Wait, did you just say I have a ‘social condition’?” He opened his eyes marginally to gaze at her in a challenging way.
So many quips to make, and so many barbed remarks! Hermione bit her tongue, choosing to employ it instead in a kiss designed to distract her young husband completely. Mouths moved in that sensual push-pull of lips and playful rub of tongues until limbs twined around torsos and Draco finally – finally! – found the side-zipper of her frock. Just as he was sliding his hand into the resulting opening, however, there was another loud knock at the door. They broke their kiss with shared breaths of frustrated laughter.
“Why did I ever think going out without the guards was a good idea?” Draco called for the waiter to come back in a few minutes and stole another sweet, lingering kiss. “They could have kept that annoying man away as long as we wanted.”
Hermione ruffled her young husband’s soft, pale hair, giving him a peck on the lips as she stood to her feet. “We are going to eat, my love. Now summon that annoying man at once.” She made a show of fastening her dress and smoothing the lovely fabric over her breasts and stomach. “That is what you’ve wanted from the start; isn’t that right?”
His eyes were glued to the motion of her hands as he groaned, “Oh, yesssssssss.” And when she stopped her seduction abruptly, righted her chair and plopped down across from him once more, he blinked several times as if awakening from a Confundus charm. “I’m sorry, what was that?”
“Fulfill your wedding vows: feed your Wife.” She smirked and narrowed her eyes in playful warning, mentally cataloging the effectiveness of her previous actions. I wonder how much control I have over him, exactly. It seemed like an excellent area for qualitative research, which would undoubtedly conclude in relief from the pleasurable but ever increasing ache deep in her gut. The thought had her squirming in her seat.
During her internal monologue Draco had sprung into action, summoning the waiter and ordering what sounded like an inordinate amount of food. Hermione opened her mouth to protest just as her stomach growled again. Actually, I’m starving. Who knew that sex could produce such an appetite? In an automatic gesture her hands began toying with the cloth napkin in her lap. And I’ve seen Draco eat; perhaps I should suggest we order MORE. She jumped when something brushed against her ankle, interrupting her musings. The waiter was gone and Draco was leaning over the small table toward her, his strong chin propped up by one well-shaped hand. He was watching her with a lopsided, rather goofy smile on his face as he played footsie with her under the table.
“Nervous, Mrs. Malfoy?” His eyes dropped down to where she was winding the napkin around one hand. “If you’re able to hold on just a minute I’ll have a glass of champagne to trade for that poor, tortured napkin.”
Once more that wild, sweet, mostly innocent emotion that only Draco had ever evoked welled up within her. He was remembering the Slytherin party, she realized, just as he remembered every moment, every conversation of their courtship. Had she understood Pureblood tradition and known Draco Malfoy at all before her accidental engagement to him – known how his mental capacity rivaled her own, how his personality complimented hers so well, how he was capable of such deep feeling – she still would not have hesitated to take her war stake from the Headmaster’s manipulative hands! He’s my bespoken one, and I’m his. The thought brought unexpected tears to her eyes and a sob from deep in her throat. Suddenly the napkin in her hands was needed for something else entirely and she cried freely into it. She jumped again, this time because Draco had left his chair to kneel beside her.
He wrapped protective arms around her, shushing her softly between kisses pressed to the top of her head. “Hermione, sweetheart; what on earth’s wrong? Are you ill?” His concern only fed the emotional surge, and finally he pulled away enough to hold her teary face in his hands. “Please let me help.”
“I just realized what ‘bespoke’ really means, and it was such an overwhelming feeling!” She managed to swallow a hiccupping sob. “I’m sorry; it must be hormones. I’d forgotten it’s nearly that time of the month.”
Draco’s expression morphed into one of horror and he slowly released his hold on her. “I don’t need to know.”
His discomfort struck her as incredibly amusing, the abrupt emotional swing giving further credence to her theory. When she began giggling through her tears almost hysterically Draco returned to his seat looking somewhat mystified. Eventually she composed herself. A minor beauty charm would have been an excellent thing to have at her disposal, but in light of the current moratorium on all things magical she settled for dipping a corner of her napkin in her water glass and cleaning the salt-stains from her face. “All better.”
Draco was still regarding her as one would a dangerous magical creature when the waiter returned with the first course. The table was laden with a tray of prepared oysters, freshly baked bread, and a bottle of champagne resting in an ice bucket. No sooner had the last item been set down than the man disappeared once more.
“Oh, these look very nice.” Draco was already sliding an oyster onto his plate.
“Draco, it’s perfectly nat-”
“Have some champagne,” he interrupted smoothly, filling her flute. When she opened her mouth to continue he added, “We are not talking about anything hormone-related. Ever.”
This is what comes from not having a woman in the manor for nineteen years, Hermione mused inwardly as she accepted the glass and tasted the pale, crisp bubbly beverage. She tried again. “It’s a very basic part of human reproduc-”
“For the love of Merlin, Hermione! I am begging you to change the subject.”
“Oh, fine.” She rolled her eyes good-naturedly, watching as his tensed shoulders relaxed marginally. Choosing the first random subject that came to mind she offered, “I had an interesting conversation with the covenant last night.”
Draco had been in the act of slurping an oyster with his usual combination of elegance and informality. He inhaled sharply at her words and began making the unmistakable sounds of a person choking.
“Arms up in the air,” she instructed. “Your airway is obstructed. Put them- Oh, for Circe’s sake . . .” Hermione got up and went to stand behind him, positioning her hands in preparation for the Heimlich maneuver. “Ready?” She brought her hands inward and upward abruptly in practiced competence, noting with satisfaction when he audibly regurgitated the offending oyster partway and then swallowed it with an even louder gulp.
He coughed several times and then, when he had regained his composure after a few sips of water, looked up solemnly to where she still stood. “Hermione, you have the most disconcerting way of shocking me without even realizing you’re doing so.” He slipped an arm around her waist and drew her down onto his lap. “I hope you never stop.”
Predicting a maudlin trajectory for the conversation, the young Wife quickly steered them elsewhere. “Unless you’re trying to set off another hormone-induced crying jag . . .”
The unfinished statement, paired with a meaningfully raised eyebrow, had the desired effect. Draco’s face went through a rapid, comical series of expressions, ending in the same fearful look he’d worn a few minutes ago, and Hermione continued with a laugh, “I was telling you about the covenant.” She wrestled her way out of his arms and rounded the table to her own chair. “I spoke with it again last night.”
Draco paused in the act of choosing another oyster from the tray and raised his pale grey eyes to hers. “You mean to say you had a dream about it.”
“No, we talked.” She picked up her roll and attacked it hungrily, allowing her husband time to accept that fact. How unsettling it must be for him, she thought, to have known of the family magic all his life without realizing the scope of its sentience. Why on earth do Purebloods not research their own heritage?
Meanwhile Draco had eaten two oysters in a distracted way and was now tearing a roll into small pieces. “I thought what happened at our wedding ceremony was an anomaly.”
Hermione reached across the table and tried to nab some of the torn bread from Draco’s plate. “That was actually the second time I’d spoken to it.” At his look of astonishment she reasoned, “It . . . likes me, I suppose.”
He shook his head with a fond smile. “I honestly don’t know why I’m surprised, sweetheart; after all, you’re the brightest witch of the age. Tell me about last night.” He playfully batted her hand away and then stretched his long arm to feed her a piece. He took an enormous bite of roll and looked at her expectantly.
“Not while you have food in your mouth, I won’t.” She waited until he had swallowed before continuing cautiously, “It had a message for me. From the Fallen Four.”
Draco set down his roll with a self-conscious smirk. “Just to be on the safe side.” Then, as if he had only just processed her statement his eyes widened. “I beg your pardon?”
Quickly she recounted every detail of the cryptic message from the lost covenants, from the plea itself, to the Malfoy magic’s reference to the Matriarch’s runes, to the fact that they seemed to have been waiting for her. “What do you think?” When he only continued staring at her she prodded him with an oyster fork. “Draco?”
“I’m sorry, I was just . . .” He pursed his lips for a moment. “Surely such a thing is impossible.”
“I was asking what you think it means.” Hermione’s stomach rumbled and she stole another piece of Draco’s shredded roll. She glanced at the remaining two oysters, looking away quickly in distaste. Waiting for the next course seemed like a more palatable choice.
Draco was regarding her earnestly now. “You must understand; the covenants may have been created to bind powerful unions and perpetuate those lineages originally, but in time their power and influence began extending far beyond. Their existence affects our entire world, and its balance has shifted with the fall of each House.”
“What exactly do they influence? How can our world be affected by twenty-eight magically created entities? How has the balance shifted? Why wouldn’t the covenants have found someone else to help them before now?” She gestured for him to on, wishing she had a quill and parchment.
“I don’t pretend to have studied it; not many do outside of Aberforth Dumbledore. And he’s not even a Pureblood, so who’s to say how much he actually knows? Maybe the covenants aren’t meant to be understood.” He broke eye contact with her to eat another oyster. “What I do know is this: if the Fallen Four could be restored, our world would be that much more stable.”
Hermione gave her young husband a condescending smile. “Everything is meant to be understood, Draco; that’s what research is for. It sounds like I’ll be inviting Aberforth Dumbledore over for tea and research sometime in the near future.” She rubbed her hands together in anticipation. “Oh, but this is going to tie in nicely with my study of Pureblood mores and the Malfoy family!” She made a mental note to recruit Beetle as project historian the moment they got home.
“You’re going to restore the Fallen Four. My extraordinary Wife is going to change my entire world in yet another way. It’s your destiny, you realize.” Draco was leaning toward her over the small table, an adoring light in his eyes. “This was written in the stars before you were ever born.”
“That’s putting it a bit melodramatically. It’s funny, though; a few weeks ago I would have scoffed at that idea,” she mused thoughtfully. “Now I’m not so sure. Just because we choose to do something doesn’t mean the choice wasn’t predestined. I wonder . . . ” She let the sentence trail off unfinished, unable to phrase the nebulous thoughts hovering just out of the reach of her brain’s language processing center.
Draco reached for the last oyster and paused. “Hermione, you haven’t had one of these excellent oysters! Here, this one is yours.” He picked it up and stretched across the table to hold it in front of her mouth.
Hermione pinched her lips together, wrinkling up her nose in distaste. “Mmmm-mmm.”
“You’ve been hungry since we left the manor and yet you’ve only eaten bread. These are far more satisfying.” He held it to her lips, adding cockily, “Very good for the libido as well.”
Hermione tried to evade Draco’s long reach, mumbling through clenched teeth, “No, thank you!”
As if he had been issued a challenge Draco smirked confidently and rose from his chair to return to his previous kneeling position beside her chair, the oyster pressed to her lips the entire time. “Come on, little witch. Try it.”
She’d had one as a child at her father’s encouragement and the memory was dim but definitely unpleasant. The salty, slippery thing had been far too big for her mouth, an alien amalgamation of firm and yielding. “Mmmm-mmm.”
Draco leaned in and crooned, “Open, sweetheart.” He pulled the oyster away and leaned yet closer, breathing against her lips. “Here, taste how good it is.” He pressed his lips to hers, sweeping his tongue over the seam of her lips.
Hermione opened for him automatically, only realizing her mistake when her mouth was inundated with the taste of the sea. But Draco’s talented tongue was teasing hers, confusing her former opinion with its push-pulls. Had she really hated that first oyster as a child? Now she wasn’t sure. The taste had quickly become part of this sinful kiss! She pushed her own tongue into her husband’s mouth, aggressively studying the subtle flavor.
He broke the kiss, much to her disappointment, and brought the oyster to her mouth once more. “Hermione,” his eyes had darkened to a stormy grey and his voice had taken on an even darker tone, “be a good girl and open for me.”
Good sweet Circe, this is food sex. Her body, which had forgotten its previous thrum of want during their conversation, responded to that idea and Draco’s dominance instantly. She sensed her lips parting of their own volition, felt the fluted edge of the shell slide in, tasted the rush of brine, and all the while she watched Draco watching her mouth with those wild eyes. And I like it.
He was stroking her bottom lip in a coaxing way with the tip of one long finger. His free hand tugged her head back by a handful of curls, and then his face moved out of her direct vision until his mouth was pressed against her ear. “I’m going to fill your mouth and you’re going to like it, Princess. And when I tell you to do so, you’ll chew and swallow like a good girl. Are you ready?”
Hermione nodded, body pulsing with desire. She squirmed in her chair again, causing Draco to chuckle darkly. Without warning he tipped the oyster into her mouth and set down the shell, bringing his hand back to her jaw to push her mouth closed. It tastes like a kiss, she told herself.
Draco swallowed thickly, eyes dropping to heavy-lidded half-mast as he murmured, “You look so pretty with your mouth full, Princess. Chew and swallow, please.”
She managed to obey the order, focusing on the memory of the same taste on Draco’s lips and tongue. She repeated her mantra over and over for four hesitant chews and a hasty swallow. Draco was still watching intently when she grimaced spectacularly a second later. “Blech! Argh! Aaaagh! That was every bit as awful as I remembered!” She picked up her champagne flute and gulped the beverage down after swishing it around her mouth vigorously. “It did not taste like a kiss!”
Draco was obviously trying not to laugh at her antics. “I guess you really don’t like oysters.” He leaned in and stole a quick kiss. “I quite enjoyed that until you started pulling faces.”
“It was fun until I had to squish it with my teeth,” she snorted, leaning her head on his shoulder. She nuzzled her nose against his neck “Now you’ve got me all wound up again, you idiot.”
Just then there was a loud knock on the door of their little private dining room. Draco hummed his agreement, the long forefinger of one hand tracing the shape of her mouth. “Then it’s a good thing I plan to feed you the rest of your lunch, Mrs. Malfoy.”
It turned out consommé celestiné wasn’t nearly as erotic as those hideous oysters had been and even though Hermione sat on Draco’s lap, one arm looped around his shoulders, she fed herself and they talked of far more innocent things. Eventually their playful conversation turned back to their courtship.
Rolling her eyes over how often she’d been in a state of complete ignorance she said, “And even when I was finally given access to potential study material, it turned out to be erotica! Yes, Draco,” she clarified, “the Malfoy Wife diaries – at least judging by the one I’ve read so far – are nothing but steamy, smut-filled accounts of courtship and early marriage from cover to cover! It was hardly fact based!”
“I’m sure the smut was very factual.” He seemed to be finding this entirely too amusing. “Do you mean to say you were forced to read a book you didn’t like?!”
Had she ever read a book cover to cover that she didn’t like? Well, there was that one Divination textbook . . . “No, of course not! I respect myself far too much to read something unless I enjoy it.”
“So you enjoy reading erotica.” The corner of Draco’s mouth twitched slightly, although his silvery eyes retained their serious expression. It was a very good look for him.
“That’s not what I said at all, Draco! Oooh, you!” Giggling, she gave him a swat on the shoulder for good measure.
There followed a lull in which they finished their soup and sat contentedly in each other’s arms for a few minutes. Finally Hermione turned so that her nose brushed Draco’s jaw. “I’m going to write one, you know, only it won’t be a torrid read. It’ll be a definitive reference work for all future Malfoy Wives.”
Draco pouted down at her. “Will it at least have some smut? Because the past two and a half weeks has been filled with some of the greatest unresolved sexual tension and then mind-blowing sex the world has ever known. I’d read about it.”
“I want it to be a lesson on the family magic and social protocol.” She warmed to the subject, adding enthusiastically, “It should cover each ceremony in detail; well, except for the parts that should really be left as a surprise. I mean, to be honest there were things I’m glad I didn’t know ahead of time. It would have made me even more of a nervous wreck.” She paused. “Huh. Hindsight is like a magnifying glass, sometimes. And no; no smut.”
“Hermione,” Draco argued, his handsome features set in sincerity, “You’re going to lose a large share of your readership if you don’t add at least some of the wicked things we’ve done. Sex sells; take it from me.”
She opened her mouth to make a pithy comeback and thought better of it. He does have some knowledge in this area, given his fandom . . . Wait a minute! “To whom, exactly, would I be selling it?! There is no readership outside the House of Malfoy! And do you really want to go down that path, EBC?” She would have continued but just at that moment there was a loud knock on the door, signaling the entry of the next course.
Hermione rose quickly and returned to her own seat just as the waiter entered. Normally, she assumed, the courses would have been prepared and served with the aid of magic; even so the service was so smooth one hardly noticed its absence. Soup bowls were replaced with artfully plated poached salmon with sauce mousseline and chilled cucumbers. No sooner had the waiter exited, shutting the door behind him, than Hermione set to.
“Mother of all magic, real food at last!” She ignored Draco’s attempts to lure her back to his side of the table, instead attacking the small serving ravenously. “Do you know what sells even better?” she managed between bites. “Food, Draco. Gods, but I love food.”
He returned to their original conversation, his tone regretful. “Whom will you be competing against? I’ll tell you who: every other Malfoy Wife who’s written a page-turner of a diary. It’s a shame, really; the world’s sexiest brain is going to write something definitive and no one but the Malfoy Wives will ever know.”
It was quite possible her cunning young husband was setting a snare for her, but her ego blinded her to the danger. He was right! Here she was, planning to write a marvelous piece of research that would no doubt be worthy of expensive dragonhide binding, and only a miniscule percentage of the world would ever know of her genius in this area. And not every Malfoy Wife might find a textbook-style approach enjoyable! “Oh.” The monosyllabic utterance sounded disappointed even to her own ears. “Well, maybe I could include a bit of smut. Just a light sprinkling to keep academically disinclined future Wives engaged.”
“I think that’s a wise decision.” Draco looked as though he were considering something and finally offered in a musing tone, “You could, I suppose, follow the magical tradition of publishing your story in the Muggle world.”
Hermione could do nothing but blink in shock for the space of five seconds. Had she heard her Pureblood husband correctly? Tell the Muggle world about the magical one? “Errrrrr . . . Whaaaah?”
He waved his fish-laden fork in a gracefully dismissive gesture. “Of course you’d have to change a few details and label it as fiction, but it’s been done countless times. The Grimm brothers are the most obvious examples, although there’s a witch currently publishing a grossly modified account of the second wizarding war under the guise of children’s literature.” He laughed. “I even have a place in it as a sort of villain! It’s been quite successful so far.”
“But . . . but someone will find out! We have laws in place to prevent this kind of thing!” Her brain tore off in the opposite direction mid-thought. “How successful?”
“There are no laws against the writing of fiction. As for the Muggles, they’ll never guess the truth,” he argued confidently, “because to them our world is so fantastically unbelievable. We’re the stuff of fairy-tales, sweetheart. Now please come back and sit with me; I miss you terribly.”
Only they’re not fairy-tales; they’re our people’s history. It’s true what they say: truth is stranger than fiction. Hermione returned to Draco’s lap absently and remained lost in thought through the entire next course, opening her mouth automatically to Draco’s proffered bites and completely unaware of the smug smile he wore the entire time.
It was dessert, a plate of four beautifully dipped chocolate truffles, which finally pulled her from her reverie. She gave a low moan of pleasure just as Draco pulled the tray out of her reach.
“Ah, ah, ah. I’m not done feeding you,” he laughed as she fought his strong grip. “Be a good little witch and sit still!”
Still struggling Hermione half-laughed, half-growled, “Give me my chocolate, Draco!”
He only tightened his hold and grinned down at her unrepentantly. “Be nice, Hermione.”
Her prodigious brain jumped ahead several moves in the conversation, chose a course of strategy, and rated its chances of success fairly high. Oh, I’ll see your ‘good’ and raise you a ‘better’. Biting back a smug smirk she looked up at her unsuspecting husband through her lashes. “Yes, Draco,” she acquiesced meekly, relaxing in his arms.
What followed next could only have been described as chocolate-coated revenge. Draco fed Hermione – oh, yes. He pushed the decadent dessert between her lips and pulled it away in a sensual, teasing rhythm of dominance. Hermione submitted to his seduction, opening her mouth to her husband’s sweet assault obediently. In fact to the unobservant spectator (had there been one) it would have appeared that Draco had the upper hand.
This would have been a misapprehension, for Hermione was waging an offensive strike of her own. Every lap of her tongue, every nibble of her teeth, every noise she made was done for the express purpose of turning the tables on the younger Malfoy wizard. Never had Hermione eaten anything so slowly nor in such a filthy manner.
Halfway through the first truffle Draco’s eyes became heavy-lidded. Halfway through the second his mouth dropped wide open and the arm wrapped around her tightened reflexively. At the end of the third he shifted beneath her in his seat and swallowed thickly. And as she wantonly sucked the vestiges of the last truffle from his fingers Draco whimpered. Hermione released her suction on his forefinger with a loud, wet sound and looked up at him innocently. “Thank you for feeding me, Draco.”
For the span of several seconds the only noise in that opulent private room was the sound of Draco’s heavy breathing but finally he managed a hoarse, “Please have mercy, little witch.”
Hermione was gracious in victory. She pressed a chocolate-flavored kiss to her husband’s mouth and pretended as though she hadn’t just brought him to his knees. “I think you’re absolutely right about the smut, my love,” she said generously. “It will hold the attention of a much wider audience.” And I’ll be sure to include this part.