Chapter Seventy-Nine: Sunday Afternoon

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.

 

The physical desire that had been swirling around them like a mist since their arrival in Diagon Alley thickened to a heavy fog; it swiftly blotted out everything but the sound of their quickened breathing and the proximity of each other’s bodies. Draco uttered her name in a husky, pleading tone. Hermione leaned forward to press a slightly gloating kiss to his lips but was interrupted by a series of urgent-sounding knocks on the door of the private little dining room, and just as she sat up straight the door was flung open to reveal the obviously agitated maître d’hôtel. “Monsieur et Madame! I beg of you to come with me, s’il vous plaît!” He gestured frantically.

 

The lust-haze dissipated temporarily. Draco stood, sliding Hermione from his lap in the process and then moving protectively in front of her. “What’s going on?”

 

She immediately stepped around him and raised her wand defensively, only to lower it with a disgusted sound when she remembered the current anti-magic wards.

 

The flustered restaurant host shook his head frantically. “Pardon, but it cannot be helped. News of your patronage has been leaked and l’enthusiastes have swarmed the establishment!” He wrung his hands in a pathetic way and glanced back over his shoulder into the hall behind him. “You must depart at once.”

 

“Gods damnit,” Draco ground out. He turned to Hermione with a frustrated expression. “Come on, little witch, that’s our cue to leave.”

 

Hermione resisted his attempt to draw her toward the door. “And go where, exactly? There’s no secret passage to the Leaky Cauldron from here and there’s a full contingent of crazy witches on the march outside! It’s time to stop hiding and confront them.” She reached out inwardly to the covenant, seeking its guidance, only to feel a sense of quiet resignation that was the equivalent of a sigh. What are you up to now, or are you just disappointed we were interrupted? The covenant gave a metaphorical scowl.

 

Meanwhile the two men were regarding her as though she had just sprouted horns and a tail. Finally Draco replied, “Absolutely not. You and your Gryffindor boldness are going to accomplish nothing more than getting me groped by a group of shameless witches who want an actual piece of me!” He looked down from his considerable height to briefly lock panicked eyes with hers. “And then what? They won’t stop, you know, just because we ask nicely.” As if to himself he added, “Merlin, it’ll be like the night of my sixteenth birthday all over again!” His own words seemed to light a fire under him because he wrapped an arm around her waist and lifted her off her feet without ceremony, carrying her struggling form effortlessly from the dining room to follow the maître d’hôtel down the hall.

 

“Put me down, Draco!” Hermione fought against the undignified hold to no avail, managing to nearly trip her young husband at one point. They made their way through several narrow corridors, through the bustling kitchen, and stopped finally in a large, dimly lit larder. When at last she was placed on her own two feet she stepped away from Draco with a huff, somewhat mollified when he knocked his head on one of the low ceiling rafters.

 

The man who had led them thus far indicated a small door at the end of the storeroom. “Voilà. This leads to the service alley, which will take you to the street.”

 

Where we’ll be attacked by the visiting chapter of ‘Ipsa vita est Dracothe moment EBC shows his shining head. Thinking quickly she ventured, “I don’t suppose you have a men’s hat or robes we can borrow?” She waved her hand in the direction of Draco’s hair. “We need to disguise this one as much as possible.”

 

The man seemed to understand at once, for he bowed to Hermione and said respectfully, “To help your family is always an honor, Madame.” He pointed to the long row of cloaks hung along the wall nearest the door. “Consider yours anything that would be of use to your escape, but hurry! We will keep them occupied for as long as we can.” Then he was gone in a flurry of formal coattails.

 

The moment they were alone Hermione rounded on Draco. “If you think I’m going to let you manhandle me whenever I have an opposing opinion-” She remembered the look of terror on his face just before he’d carted her off. “Hang on; what exactly happened on the night of your sixteenth birthday?”

 

Draco pouted. He walked the short distance to the nearest corner of the dimly lit storeroom and sat on the edge of a large barrel, his elegant suit in stark contrast to their surroundings. He kicked at the flagstone floor and mumbled in an uncomfortable tone, “I’d rather not talk about it.”

 

How fortunate that she, the Brightest Witch of the Age, took copious mental notes at all times and categorized them for rapid retrieval! Her extraordinary brain whizzed through all information pertaining to ‘Sulky Draco’ and formulated several potentially successful strategies to achieve his cooperation. Then, in a move guaranteed to distract him from his current mood and ensure the extraction of the desired information she folded her arms under her small breasts, pressing them together and upward, and looked up at him from under her lashes. “Please tell me, Draco.”

 

Draco’s gaze dipped immediately to her low neckline. He beckoned her closer and responded absently, “Lucius reserved a restaurant in London for my birthday that year and everyone attended.” When she closed the space between them and ran her hands up his thighs, he curled his hands around her bare shoulders and repeated huskily, “Everyone. The end. I want you.”

 

The air thickened once again with sweet, urgent desire. I have really got to stop trying to control my husbands with sex. Hermione swallowed with difficulty and broke eye contact with him, looking down only to realize she’d unconsciously begun trailing her fingers over the placket of his trousers. Her gut clenched pleasurably. It always backfires! She forced herself to work through the rapidly re-gathering mist in her brain and envision a birthday gathering for Draco. There’d be his friends, housemates, maybe some relatives . . . Merlin’s rod, but he’s quickly aroused! “You’re going to have to be a bit more descriptive than that.”

 

He sucked her earlobe into his mouth and closed his teeth around it momentarily before murmuring, “Very well, I want you quickly, here, and now.”

 

“Oh!” Eyes closed in pleasure she turned her face toward him, blindly seeking out his mouth. Against his lips, though, she argued, “Not here. Not now.” And after several knee-weakening kisses she drew away slightly and shook her head to clear it. “I meant be more specific about your party. What was so awful about it?”

 

Hermione . . .” Draco pulled her closer between his legs and trapped her hand where it lay over his erection, wrapping their fingers firmly around its girth. “Nnnngh. We could be so quick.”

 

His low noise of pleasure sent a flood of heat to her gut, causing her to squirm in his arms. She tried to rub her slender legs together discreetly and winced at the soggy state of her knickers. The dense fog clouding her brain was becoming difficult to navigate, and Hermione was trying to remember why it was so important to do so. I want him. Still she fought valiantly. Draco tried to steal another kiss, stopping at the last moment when she pulled back and raised her eyebrows expectantly.

 

He sighed. “It was a party for the younger generation only. The invitation to my birthday went out to all the Pureblood families, and all the Pureblood families sent their school-aged children.” At her nonplussed look he added, Including daughters. There’s nothing more that needs to be said. And yes, here – I’ve been hard since we left the manor, little witch.” He stood and maneuvered them smoothly until Hermione was pressed against his previous perch, then tugged down the side-zipper of her dress and began lifting her skirts in impatient handfuls. “We haven’t had sex in hours.”

 

The mere idea of their bodies joining in a mutual quest to relieve this shared growing ache had her whimpering. Apparently I need it just as much. Just as Hermione began responding to her husband’s skillful persuasion, though, comprehension broke through the lustful haze disabling her mental capacities. Sweet Circe! “Your fanwitches were there!” She caught his hands in hers, arresting his attack on her garments. “Draco, what happened at that party?”

 

Draco gave her a heated, speculative look. “What will you give me if I tell you?” He escaped her handhold and moved his thumbs over her runed nipples in a familiar rhythm.

 

Were there rabid witches somewhere nearby searching for them? It was so difficult to remember . . . She gasped and pushed into his touch. Oh, he’s good. He’s really, really good. “That depends on how much you tell me. Get talking.”

 

The vague offer sent a glaze over Draco’s quicksilver eyes and words spilling from his beautiful mouth. “My friends and I played Quidditch late into the evening and arrived late to find the restaurant packed with witches. I had no idea at the time what they were capable of, little witch! We were all unsuspecting.” He lifted her up onto the barrel and laid his head on her shoulder, nose rubbing against the crook of her neck. “It was fine for a while, but eventually they realized they were in the majority and that I was reticent to hex girls. Greg and Vince finally extricated me and shoved me through the Floo. In nothing more than my torn boxers.”

 

Hermione took his head in her arms and cradled it to her chest, humming her approval as he situated her legs around his waist and pulled her flush against his body. “Ssssshhhhh.” Finally she understood – his fear of these fanwitches was based on experience. Her blood began to boil at the thought of any witch other than herself so much as ogling one of her husbands! “What did they do?”

 

Draco nuzzled his nose in her slight cleavage and tightened his grip on her arse. “They groped me, little witch. They had their hands all over me before I could escape. Now, by my calculations that level of description earned me immediate gratification.”

 

For one brief moment, Hermione wondered if Draco had orchestrated the entire conversation for the benefit of his libido. Hers certainly wasn’t arguing . . . Then, as the visual image his words had created came to life in her imagination she decided motivation was far less important than the actual topic. She dragged up his head by a handful of platinum hair and gave him a narrow-eyed glare. “They touched you?”

 

“Ouch! Easy there, sweetheart.” He flinched and tried to pry her hands from his hair.

 

She grabbed two fresh handfuls and reestablished eye contact. “Did. They. Touch. You.”

 

“Yes.” Draco’s expression was one of pain and remembrance at first, shifting to subtle cunning as he added, “And it’s something only your touch can help me forget.” He finally escaped her grip and pushed his lips against hers seductively. “I’ve told you about my sixteenth birthday; now it’s time to settle up.”

 

If anyone had ever told Hermione physical intimacy could be competitive she’d have accused him or her of psychosis. Now, though, she took up the gauntlet without thinking of anything other than how she would obliterate her opponents’ feats with a sexual act of such primacy as to eliminate them forever. She hopped off the barrel. Oh, I’ll touch you, she plotted inwardly. I’ll make you cry my name so loud every fanwitch in Diagon Alley today will hear it. Her hands dropped to Draco’s trouser fastenings, and she began tugging at them roughly. And they’ll realize you belong to me!

 

“Hey,” he chuckled, flinching when the zipper snagged halfway down, “be careful, please. Things can get stuck, you know.”

 

Hermione said nothing as she wormed her hand down the front of his boxers at the same time that she spun them around to their original positions, with Draco leaning against the edge of the barrel. Then she dropped to her knees in front of him, a look of utter concentration on her face.

 

Draco’s voice was rough with adrenaline as he muttered, “Oh, Circe,” and the end of that last word was growled as her warm, wet mouth enveloped his cock.

 

Hermione grinned victoriously around her mouthful and released it with a loud, wet pop. “I’m Hermione,” she purred. “Be sure to yell my name when you come.” Then she returned her attention to the act of giving the quickest, best blowjob in the history of the world.

 

Up and down, in and out, with tongue and lips and hand she worked her husband over with the same enthusiasm she’d directed at every challenge given her thus far in life. Oh, she’d help him forget those Pureblood daughters of whores! She’d touch him until her fingerprints were bruises on his pale skin and her fingernails scarred his broad shoulders! A voice was competing with her inward monologue, and she realized it was Draco.

 

“ . . . so good, but stop!” He was tugging at her hair firmly in an obvious attempt to pull her away.

 

Hermione complied, but only after swirling her tongue around the weeping tip of his shaft. “I’ve only just started,” she argued, spit-wet hand still sliding up and down.

 

But Draco was using his superior strength to bring her to her feet. He drew her close and kissed her hungrily. “Per our agreement I’m going to fuck you now.”

 

I never agreed to that! She made an admirable attempt to protest; really, she did. Vague, fleeting thoughts of crazed pursuers and relatively public places flitted through her brain, but coarse words were just one of her weaknesses; pair them with clever hands doing clever things and all at once she was shrugging down the bodice of her dress and cups of her strapless bra and ordering him in a throaty voice to hurry up and do just that. Draco once again demonstrated his skill at multitasking as he lifted her back up onto the edge of the barrel and pushed the voluminous material of her skirts out of his way, all the while keeping his lips wrapped around her runed right nipple.

 

He moaned deeply and tried to slide the crotch of her knickers to the side. “Ohhhh, you’re already so wet.” He gave up trying to maneuver the lace and gave it a frustrated tug, causing the delicate fabric to give way with a loud rip. “Have you been thinking naughty thoughts, Princess?”

 

Yes, I have, and I should be punished like the wicked witch I am. I should be arrested and made to do hard time. Her head fell back as Draco stroked his fingers through her folds and coaxed the first tantalizing flutters of impending orgasm. Haaaaaaard. And fassssst. If we conceive a son in the process, we can name him Warden. She opened her eyes to see bunches of drying herbs hanging from the rafter directly above them. Or Basil. So many things were racing through her head and yet she was able to reply intelligently, “Nnnnngh.”

 

Draco seemed pleased with her answer, judging by the increase in his current frenzy. But just as he thrust into her pulsing core, loud voices rang out from far down the corridor. He withdrew with an agonized curse and pulled her to her feet, frantically struggling with the zipper and buttons of his trousers. “We are never leaving the manor again,” he hissed.

 

“Come on!” Hermione, whose dress had been righted and fastened in seconds, made her way to the cloak-rack across the room first, trying to ignore the ache between her legs. There’s extended foreplay, and then there’s torture! She selected outer robes in a dark color as her husband did the same beside her. Tonight had better be spent in multiple rounds of sex. Around the edges of her awareness, the covenant gave an anticipatory purr.

 

At the door he paused. “Hang on; I can’t wear-”

 

Put them on and let’s GO!” she snapped. “If I don’t complain, you don’t complain.”

 

They fled the restaurant storeroom in the process of donning the borrowed robes, exiting through the service door and down the alley into Knockturn Alley. There, at the corner of the restaurant, Draco pulled Hermione up short. “But I can’t wear these!”

 

Hermione rounded on him testily. “Oh, for-” then paused, slack-jawed, at the sight of her handsome younger husband swathed in heavily sequined, plum-colored satin robes. Gaudy, shiny, frilly satin robes. The size and cut fit him rather well, actually. “Errrr . . . ” Her mouth twitched traitorously. “Put the hood up and no one will even know it’s you.” She put up her own generic black cowl and peered up at him, smirk hidden by the fabric around her face. “See? I’m anonymous.”

 

Draco pouted as he obeyed her suggestion. “This is the worst day ever. First no magic, then no sex, and now I’m wearing drag-robes.”

 

The exchange had taken only a few seconds, but Hermione glanced behind them anxiously. “We can debate your wardrobe choices later, Draco. For now we really need to get out of here! Come on, you silly snake.”

 

The two merged into the Sunday early afternoon foot traffic walking slightly apart from each other, and if Draco’s flamboyant outerwear parted the crowd in front of them as if by magic Hermione made no comment. Each storefront they passed without being discovered was a small victory, as was the realization that even the familiar faces they passed didn’t recognize them. Her fears lessened as it became apparent they would easily make it to the Leaky Cauldron undetected.

 

Draco seemed to feel the same way. “I feel invisible for the first time in my life,” he commented at the corner of Knockturn and Diagon, when a group of Slytherins in their year walked right by with no more than a curious glance. “I’ve never felt so relaxed in public before!”

 

I wouldn’t exactly say you’re invisible, she thought with a smirk. But if the robes fit . . . The ultimate test arrived in the form of Minerva McGonagall, who slowed as she passed them and ogled the well-built drag-wizard appreciatively. Then she was behind them, and the Malfoy couple nodded to each other in subdued victory. “Maybe you should hang on to those robes; they’re quite flattering.” Hermione was half-serious. Such a disguise would be useful to have on hand!

 

From beneath the plum-colored satin hood Draco snarled. “They’re ball-shrivelling.”

 

She snickered but said nothing as they approached Fortescue’s and slowed to maneuver through the slow-moving crowd in front of the large, fanciful display. The lovely weather seemed to have lured all the ice cream parlor’s customers outside except one group, who could just be seen over the arrangement of sundaes in the window. Hermione came to a halt as she recognized the trio, relieved that no one else seemed to have noticed.

 

“Is that-” Draco began in an awkward tone.

 

It was. Hermione watched in a combination of horror and envy as Ginny dropped a cherry down the front of her dress and Harry dove under the table and then up her skirts headfirst to retrieve it. Luna knelt on the bench beside the redhead, her whipped cream-covered breasts pushed out in offering, and her mouth fell open in an easily imaginable cry of pleasure when Ginny pulled her close by a handful of hair and began cleaning the sweet substance from the blonde’s chest.

 

How unimaginative. “They really need some new material,” she murmured to herself as she tugged on Draco’s arm. “That’s our cue to move on.”

 

He’d turned his head so abruptly from the scene that his hood had fallen, and now he struggled to raise it before anyone around them recognized him. Suddenly he whimpered, “Oh dear Merlin, anyone but her! ”

 

A young witch had stopped ahead of them, her eyes flicking between Draco and Hermione. She was rather pretty and nicely dressed, but that wasn’t what made her stand out from the crowd. No, what set her apart was the silvery blue rose in her hair and predatory gleam in her eye. It was the young woman from whom they’d hidden earlier that day – the same bold witch from the wedding reception who’d wanted Draco’s rose! Deep in Hermione’s consciousness the covenant’s hackles began to rise. “Wait!” the witch called breathlessly.

 

He stood frozen for the measure of two heartbeats and then, clutching Hermione’s arm in a bone-crushing grip, pushed back into the crowd moving along the middle of the thoroughfare. The fanwitch called out from somewhere behind them. Draco slouched down as low as he could, jostling people and apologizing automatically, and wrestled the outrageous satin robes off. He wadded them up and turned to Hermione. “For the love of magic please give me your cloak, sweetheart!”

 

Hermione understood his plan at once. She pulled off her black outer robes and flung them over Draco’s hunched form, effectively covering his platinum hair. He stood to his full height, then, grabbed her hand, and began towing her along at a much quicker pace. “Do you think we lost her?”

 

“You’re kidding, right? The only reason she didn’t try to tackle you back there is that she’s afraid of alerting her friends!” She strikes me as the selfish sort of harlot. “No, she probably plans to tail us from a distance. Why did you say ‘anyone but her’?”

 

Draco’s thumb moved restlessly over the back of her hand, and he looked down with a frown as they hurried along. “If I tell you, will you promise never to speak of this again?” At her nod, he continued hurriedly in a low tone, “She was the most assertive, and just before I escaped she got a handful of my cock and balls. End of story.”

 

Hermione shifted the bundle of satin robes and used her free hand to raise their joined ones to her mouth. She pressed a kiss of comfort to it and took a calming hit of his inherent scent. I’m going to kill those bitches, she thought evenly. I’m going to put into practice every theoretical curse I’ve ever studied. Aloud she offered, “You’re safe now, Draco. I won’t let anyone get that close to you again.” And I’ll save that brazen whore for last and disembowel her with my bare hands.

 

“I believe it. After all, you’re Hermione Fucking Granger, the protector of the wizarding world,” Draco murmured just loud enough for her to hear. He gave her an admiring downward glance. “Potter might be our savior, but you’re the one who made that possible. Have you any idea how much hotter that makes you?”

 

How was it possible to feel such a dichotomy of emotions, and why was it that her cold rage only added heat to the fire of her lust? “It’s Hermione Fucking Malfoy, actually,” she corrected swottily.

 

His clever reply was delivered in the sourest of tones. “Not nearly as often as I’d like.” Still, it made Hermione snort in a very indelicate way.

 

Despite the crush of people they’d managed to move a few storefronts down and to the far side of the street, but Hermione felt uneasy being out in the open with so many fanwitches in the area. The anonymity her borrowed robes had given her was gone, and while she wasn’t the one being pursued directly she could be used to track Draco. We could split up, she mused. At once the covenant gave a hiss of alarm. Or not! It was just a suggestion! A quick scan of the immediate area proved there were now more than a few members of the crowd wearing Bespoke roses in their hair. Oh, fuck. And not the good kind, either. We need cover. Just then, a familiar cluttered storefront on the opposite side of the Alley caught her eye like a beacon of refuge. She tugged at Draco’s hand. “We’ll duck into Flourish & Blotts. And try not to walk like that!”

 

He followed her directions, using his larger body to clear a path through the crowd, and looked down at her from the corner of his eye. “Like what?” The heavy front door of her destination was pushed open by an exiting customer as they approached it, and Draco reached over her shoulder to catch it before it could swing shut.

 

Busy peering furtively inside she replied distractedly, “You know exactly what I mean – that sexy thing you do with your shoulders. Don’t do it. Can you see her?”

 

Her answer came in the form of a firm push from behind and a muttered, “As if I dare look.”

 

And then they were within the relative safety of the bookshop and Hermione was dragging her young husband in a zigzagging pattern up and down the rows of bookshelves, retracing their steps so many times that if she hadn’t known the shop like the back of her hand she’d have been lost. Each time they rounded a corner she expected to come face to face with one of their trackers – Merlin’s beard, she looked forward to it! The only person they saw worth avoiding, though, was Minerva McGonagall, and she was too busy making a beeline for the mature fiction section to notice them. When they finally stopped in a secluded corner at the rear of the building Draco was beaming as though he’d just won a prize of great value. “You like the way I walk,” he deduced smugly, pulling her into his arms.

 

In the relative safety of their hiding place Hermione relaxed. She laughed quietly and shrugged her shoulders. “As a matter of fact, I do. I’d say don’t let that go to your head but we both know that’s not going to happen.”

 

He grinned boyishly and leaned low. “Tell me something else you like about me.”

 

The covenant settled contentedly along the edges of her awareness, and its pleasure in the moment allowed Hermione to relax further. “Absolutely not! One compliment per day is more than enough for your cocky-”

 

Her insult was swallowed in a stolen kiss of toe-curling proportions, and when at last the two broke apart to breathe her heart was pounding. There had been, this entire crazy day, an atmosphere of such concentrated desire encompassing them that it was easy to forget everything else in a moment like this. It had been in turns frantic, tender, and angrily possessive but never once had it disappeared. Now it began thickening inexorably, cutting off everything but the feel of Draco’s hands running over her torso and the sound of his quickened breath. This is your doing, she accused the covenant. We’re being chased by fanatics, and all I can think about is straddling him and riding his gorgeous bones.

 

Actually, that idea had merit. She looked around for a chair even as her brain calculated the Arithmantic chances of them being discovered having sex in the back of a bookstore. Tell me we have time; tell me we aren’t going to be interrupted again, she beseeched the family magic. Its purr only increased in metaphorical volume, and the resultant hum in her mind blended with the thrum in her gut until Hermione wondered briefly if anyone had ever tried to compose music based on sexual harmonics.

 

Draco was walking her backward through the small doorway of the room that housed the stacks, shedding the black cloak and pulling the velvet one from her grasp so that they fell, instantly forgotten, to the ground with a heavy sound. His lips tickled her ear with every whispered word. “Can you feel that, little witch?” He backed her into a tall, dusty shelf piled high with out-of-date periodicals, continuing huskily, “That pull? I can’t get close enough to you and somehow I know it’s only going to get worse until I’ve had you again. Please let me have you.”

 

So many factors to be considered! The Arithmancy seemed to tilt in their favor, although she had to admit she’d begun with a predetermined outcome in mind. And the stacks seemed to be an even safer bet for uninterrupted sex, seeing as she’d never once bumped into another soul there on any of her quests for archaic knowledge. Then there was the combination of Draco’s sweet plea and the feel of his glorious body pressed urgently against her own. Last but certainly not least was the knowledge that at least one of his fanwitches had brazenly fondled what was hers and that the universe would remain out of balance until she had purged the image from her head with an act of mind-blowing sex. Out of the corner of her eye, she spied a stool that could have been made just for the purpose she had in mind and she shoved him toward it aggressively.

 

He seemed to be thinking the same thing. Flinging himself down on it he grabbed her round the waist with one long arm and with the other began wrestling her full skirts out of the way. He needn’t have bothered. Hermione hiked them up efficiently and mounted her husband’s lap with the skill and grace made possible by premeditation. Hands scrabbling at his belt and trouser fastenings, she pressed her nose greedily to his neck and inhaled deeply. “Put your hands on my arse and be quiet.”

 

Draco complied with molten eyes, working his hands under her voluminous skirts and torn knickers to knead her backside restlessly with his large hands. “Is this how you’re going to reward me every time I bring you to a bookshop, Hermione?”

 

Hermione paused, hands wrapped around his erection, to order throatily, “No talking.” She hitched herself impossibly closer and then, in the space of one masculine grunt of approval, joined them together.

 

Rational thought fled. Hands clutched, hips bucked, and breath quickly became short and shallow as initial pleasure gave way to the most primal of all urges. Draco allowed her to set their rhythm, but he didn’t stay silent for long, much to her secret relief. Nothing was better than filthy words of love falling on her ear in deep, cultured tones! His hands flexed around her arse twice before one trailed down her thigh and then wandered up to cup one breast. “Let down your dress, pretty witch. I want to watch your breasts bounce as you ride me.”

 

“Unngh.” Each upward motion caused her clitoris to rub over Draco’s pubic bone, and each downward pass sent her inner muscles into a contraction of pleasure. She could think of nothing else other than the symbolic cliff she was racing to climb and the long awaited free-fall waiting for her at its zenith.

 

Draco had relinquished his hold of her breast; he was now opening the zipper under her arm and working down the little sleeves of the dress with one hand. His eyes followed when the bodice dropped to bare her strapless lace bra.

 

“It was always lace, Hermione,” he ground out between clenched teeth, eyes dark and face flushed with exertion. “It was lace I imagined you in all those years.” He seemed to have forgotten her orders because his hands were now gripping her hips and moving her over his cock at a punishing pace.

 

Hermione’s arms were trapped by the dress sleeves, which now pinned her at the elbows. She dropped her hands to Draco’s sides and gripped handfuls of his elegant suit jacket for leverage as his words caused every muscle in her gut to clench in the promise of release. “Please don’t stop, Draco.” She was so close . . . She pushed relentlessly toward the orgasm that had been building intermittently for several hours.

 

“You in the library with pink lace beneath your school uniform,” he breathed, bending to push his mouth against her bare shoulder. “You in my bed with nothing but green lace and my rune.” His words seemed to be affecting him as well, because he begged, “Oh, gods, please come, sweet witch! I need-” The rest of that sentence was muttered around a mouthful of her skin as Draco sank his teeth into the curve of her neck.

 

Green lace – it was what she’d worn under her new dress for the Slytherin party. The sudden realization that he had undoubtedly fantasized later that evening about her being in his bed – and in the very underthings she’d been wearing – would have been all it took to send her tumbling into euphoria had there not been a sound just then outside the door. Instead another mad scramble ensued in which Hermione hopped off Draco’s lap, yanked her dress into place and zippered it up with a jerk, pinching her skin in the fastener in the process. Meanwhile, Draco had leaped to his feet and was frantically trying to fit his wet, raging erection back into his trousers while swearing crudely under his breath. When he finally secured them with a grimace of discomfort, she gave him a sympathetic look and rubbed at the already bruising skin along her side; a quickie in a relatively public place sans magic was definitely not worth trying again. Ever.

 

Another sound from the same direction, this one slightly louder, caused them to retreat to the relative safety offered by the nearest row of bookshelves. They exchanged another glance. What are we going to do? We’re trapped in here, Hermione communicated to her husband through apprehensive eyes. She tried valiantly to ignore the frustrated throb in her core.

 

Draco’s silent answer was slightly less than helpful. I’ve got a throbbing steel rod in my trousers, Hermione! And I’m SQUELCHY! Forgive me if I’m slightly unhelpful! At her look of warning he amended, Whatever you think is best, sweetheart.

 

The unspoken answer may have been a patently obvious attempt to curry her favor, but the curly-haired Wife found it greatly appeasing. She beamed up at her wizard and drew him down for a quick, playful kiss that would undoubtedly have been followed by much, much more had they not been in their current pickle. Instead she broke their lip-lock, took him by the hand, and confidently dragged him toward the source of the sound. “It’s time to stop slithering and start roaring,” she murmured. Aloud she called, “Show yourself!”

 

Mentally Hermione was reviewing everything she’d ever learned about de-escalation and negotiating with terrorists. Physically she began preparing for mortal combat. She dropped to a shallow crouch on the balls of her feet, hands flexing anticipatorily.

 

But there was no shrill battle cry of Ipsa vita est Draco, no rush of bodies through the doorway; instead there was the rather anticlimactic click, click, click of one pair of heels and then a solitary head peeking in at them from around the corner. “I assume you’re decent by now?”

 

Hermione stared down the enemy, who turned out to be a somewhat familiar-looking witch with wide-set brown eyes and close-cropped hair of the same color. Merciful Merlin, it’s . . . Unexpectedly tongue-tied, she broke eye contact and smoothed down the rumpled front of her dress. And she knows we were just . . . She had never been so thankful for Draco’s impeccable social graces than when he broke the awkward silence and attempted to turn the tables on their interloper with Slytherin subtlety.

 

“Yes, thank you, although I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure . . .” he trailed off with a charming smile that didn’t quite meet his eyes.

 

The petite brunette witch entered the room with a confident step. She didn’t seem affected at all by the legendary Malfoy sex appeal. “Calliope Tremlett of Witch Weekly, Mr. Malfoy. We missed each other at the press conference for your wedding reception, I’m afraid. My congratulations, though – by the sounds of it, you’ve made a full recovery.” She eyed the rather impressive tent in Draco’s trousers and flicked a piece of imaginary lint from her tailored bottle-green robes.

 

Draco didn’t so much as flinch at the bold implication. “Thank you,” he supplied guardedly, drawing Hermione to his side with one arm around her shoulders in a gesture that was at once casual and profoundly protective. His thumb brushed back and forth over her collarbone in a comforting rhythm.

 

Hermione responded by sliding her own around his waist and squeezing his side. You’re safe now, my love. Squelchy and frustrated, but safe. The covenant gave a languid stretch along the edges of her awareness; Hermione was once again struck by the feeling that it was finding great entertainment in their current plight.

 

Calliope Tremlett turned her attention to Hermione with a bold grin. “And Mrs. Malfoy, may I just say how much married life seems to agree with you? You’re positively glowing!

 

It had been mere seconds since the beginning of the conversation, but even a child could have sussed the reporter’s game. You’re going to demand that damned interview you asked for at the reception, but if you think you can manipulate me you obviously haven’t done your research. Nobody manipulates me! Except Lucius and Draco. And maybe Trinket. Following her husband’s cautious example she replied, “Thank you. I’ve always found bookstores to be stimulating.”

 

Hermione quickly catalogued every last detail of their current situation and began applying all the skill of her prodigious intellect to securing the advantage. Everything about Calliope proclaimed her a formidable foe, from the top of her perfectly styled head to her well-heeled feet; if there was any lingering doubt of the fact, her Slytherin green robes and glittering serpent brooch immediately dispatched it. There was something, though . . . some tiny little detail of her that was just enough off-center to set off a blinking red light deep in Hermione’s consciousness.

 

Calliope glanced to the doorway of the storeroom and then back to Hermione. “I’m surprised you chose to visit Diagon Alley under today’s circumstances,” she said, ticking off on her fingers, “no magic, no guards, and a full contingent of your admirers on the loose.” Looking over her shoulder again she added, “There was a squadron of them in the Divination section. That’s within shouting distance, you know.”

 

Her insinuations were crafty, but there was a familiar quality to the reporter’s style that reminded her of something . . . Think! It was difficult to concentrate, though, with the threat of a pack of fanwitches in heat hanging over them and Draco’s thumb tracing a distracting pattern over her collarbone. The blinking red light in her brain was joined by another. Oh, if only I could concentrate! The covenant was definitely enjoying this. And YOU! Put down that metaphorical popcorn and earn your keep! The only answer was a sense of infinite amusement.

 

Meanwhile there was a transformation going on beside her, and where once her younger husband had stood in guarded self-assurance he now loomed in a distinctly threatening manner. “At the risk of being blunt I must ask what it is you want, Ms. Tremlett.”

 

Draco’s dark, forbidding tone sent a thrill zinging along every nerve in Hermione’s body. It caused her eyes to cross, her nipples to tighten into stiff peaks, and her core to clench. Merlin’s whips and chains – I want him to talk to ME in that tone! While I’m tied up. And he’s spanking me . . . She shifted uncomfortably and tried to school her errant thoughts.

 

Calliope Tremlett stared back at Draco brazenly and fiddled with her brooch. The action caused another light to go off in Hermione’s head. “This has nothing to do with you, Mr. Malfoy, and everything to do with your lovely wife. She knows exactly what I w-”

 

“Whatever it is, the answer is no!” Draco snarled, taking a step forward.

 

Hermione reached her hand up to Draco’s and stilled its mind-addling caress of her collarbone. Those damned little red lights in her brain were going to drive her crazy! “Will you just stop!” she snapped. “Just be quiet for one moment, the both of you, and let me think!”

 

The other two paused in their confrontation and turned to her. Calliope’s mouth closed with an audible click of her teeth, while Draco – oh, merciful Merlin! Hermione screwed shut her eyes to block out the devastating distraction of Draco’s heated comprehension and discreet adjustment of his trousers. He knows exactly what I’m doing, and it’s turning him on even more . . . She shook her head to clear it.

 

And then she turned inward, letting her mind do what it did best: gather the information, lay it out, and analyze it. In the absence of Draco’s touch, her mind was able to whir at lightning speed. “You think catching a married couple having sex will earn you leverage; that’s a rather naïve, impulsive conclusion, you’ll have to admit. And you’re terribly desperate, which most likely means the two things you’ve threatened us with – fanwitches and the anti-magic wards – were removed while we were . . . errrrrr, distracted.” As she mentally organized the data it began falling into place, and as she visualized the information she vocalized it. “You’re so intent on convincing us of your cleverness that you’ve dressed for the part like an actor in a play: Slytherin green, serpent brooch . . . ”

 

She left the haven of her orderly brain to return to the stacks at the back of Flourish & Blotts, focusing on the face of her would-be extortionist. “You’re attempting to manipulate Draco’s sense of chivalry and undermine my propriety, and while you’re extremely determined you’re also reckless. This can only mean one thing: you’re a Gryffindor. That, in turn, means you’re probably far too decent to carry through with any of your threats.” Turning to her admiring husband she added, “She didn’t really think this through very well.”

 

Draco, meanwhile, had drawn his wand on the reporter. “Is this true?”

 

“You really are brilliant,” Calliope sighed. “I’m sorry. If you had any idea how much I’ve dreamed of that interview . . .” she raised her hands in defeat although her posture remained unrepentant. “I knew you’d never owl me.”

 

Dipped as an infant into the immortal waters of academia by her doting parents Hermione had grown into a nearly invincible intellectual warrior, undefeated in the vast arena of knowledge and its many applications. Those words of praise, though, brief as they were, flew true as an arrow through the air and straight into the one chink in her swotty armor: her hubris. She beamed. “You know, your rash decision-making skills remind me a little of Harry Potter. You might want to think about getting an intelligent sidekick.” She motioned for Draco to lower his wand and added in a tone usually reserved for a small child, “You do realize you just threatened the most powerful wizarding family in England.”

 

“In my defense, there are a lot of young witches in this country in need a good role model.” Now that she was no longer playing a part, Calliope’s overconfident attitude was rather appealing in a maroon and gold sort of way. “And I only had two witches on my list of potential candidates.”

 

Somewhat offended by the idea of competition Hermione demanded, “Who else?!”

 

“Minerva McGonagall, of course. She’s an accomplished academic with a tremendous influence on the younger generation.”

 

She choked. Oh, she’s an influence, all right, especially when she’s UNDER the influence. Her helpful brain supplied a mental image of her head of house in such a capacity, doling advice on renting male entertainment from ‘respectable establishments’, a glass of Firewhiskey in her hand. “I’ll give you all the interviews you want.”

 

Draco turned away with a snicker as Calliope gaped. “You’re serious.”

 

“Absolutely, but it will all be done on my terms – binding wizarding contract, the whole lot – and at my convenience.”

 

“You’ll make every decision, Mrs. Malfoy!”

 

Hermione felt a surge of benevolence run through her at the excitement and gratitude in the other witch’s eyes. This is what real power feels like. She liked it. A lot. “Call me Hermione, please.”

 

Calliope grinned in a decidedly disarming way and began backing toward the doorway. “And excellent! I’ll just be on my way before you change your mind. Talk soon!” Then she was gone with a friendly wave, the click, click, click of her heels quickly receding into the distance.

 

“Well, that was anticlimactic.” Hermione sighed. “Let’s get out of here, but before we go,” she ducked behind the nearest occluding bookshelf and wiggled out of her knickers, “I need to take off these completely useless unmentionables. Somebody thought ripping them was a good idea; perhaps he’d like to keep track of them until he can fix them.” She arched an expectant eyebrow and tossed them to him.

 

Draco caught them with ease, regarding the tiny slip of lace dangling from his long forefinger before slipping them into his trouser pocket. His eyes were smiling, but his mouth was solemn. “Sweetheart,” he murmured, “please don’t torture me any more. I need you.”

 

It was The Look – the one that had, at the Slytherin party, sent her into her first Draco-induced swoon. And it’s all for me. Biting back a dopey smile she closed the space between them and wrapped her arms around his waist; then she set her chin against his chest so that she was looking up at him. “You know, there was a time not so long ago when I ascribed only the truest of motivations to that look. Now I know what it really means.” She ran one hand down to his backside and palmed that splendid grouping of muscle.

 

He was leaning in an obvious trajectory to her mouth but paused at the last moment. “I assure you I’ve never had anything but the truest of intentions with you, Mrs. Malfoy. I want you truly, and I truly want you right here and now.”

 

Hermione felt herself giving in to the lustful haze now swirling around them. “You twinkled at me just like that at your house party two weeks ago, and I thought you were so handsome and gallant,” she accused playfully. “Now I know you just wanted my knickers.”

 

Draco twisted his face into a mock-wounded expression. “But I am handsome and gallant.” He pulled her against him more closely. “And I have your knickers in my pocket as we speak.”

 

“You,” she continued, “are one of the most manipulative people I’ve ever met.”

 

He couldn’t quite hold back the chuckle that escaped his smiling mouth. “I prefer the term cunning. Let me kiss you, little witch.”

 

Hermione evaded him again, pressing the fingers of one hand against his slightly parted lips. “Not until you tell me what you were thinking that night at the party.”

 

He relented with a sigh and leaned against the bookshelf behind him, drawing her with him. “I was bound by an oath that forbade me from thinking anything inappropriate in your presence, and so I spent the entire evening trying not to think about the green lace you were wearing under that dress nor my very empty bedroom, which was less than a hundred feet away.” At her silent bid for clarification he explained, “I could see it whenever you leaned forward and shrugged your shoulders.”

 

Despite everything that had happened in the last few days Hermione’s cheeks heated with a deep blush. “You looked down my dress?” She lowered her hand from his face and slid it down and around his sleek torso until it mirrored its twin’s grip of his arse. Her hands flexed in a completely involuntary way.

“It’s one of the benefits of being taller than you,” he offered unapologetically.

 

Draco looks down my tops regularly. That idea was worth tucking away for further analysis. “You didn’t get shocked once that night,” she mused, using her hold to pull her hips even closer to his. “I suppose that means you really were being gallant.” Then she smiled again, broaching a subject that had been tickling at the edge of her brain all day. “You’re still incredibly manipulative. You tricked me into inviting you into my room this morning, didn’t you? Otherwise, I don’t think you’d ever have been able to enter.”

 

Draco had the grace to look slightly guilty for the space of a few seconds, but then he treated her to one of his patented almost-smiles. “Do you know how long I’d dreamed of lying in that bed with you, Hermione?”

 

“You’re doing it right now, you idiot.” Of their own volition, her hands gave his buttocks another squeeze.

 

“Perhaps.” He straightened up from his slouch against the shelves and leaned in low. “But you like the way I walk,” he crooned against the corner of her mouth. “And clearly you like my arse. Besides, I think you’ll agree it’s a game we both enjoy. You’re far too clever to be really exploited.”

 

He was right; she led him by the nose every bit as much as he did her. He’s my bespoken one, and I’m his. She felt another swoon coming on and was glad for the support of his strong arms at that moment. “Oh, Dra-”

 

Draco was laughing against her lips now. “For the love of Merlin, please stop talking so I can kiss you.” So she did, and then he did until the room was spinning, and she forgot her middle name, and they only broke apart when they had both run out of breath. He rubbed his nose against her cheek and murmured, “Speaking of manipulation, you do realize what was going on with that reporter.”

 

Hermione gave a dismissive, slightly smug huff and combed her fingers through his disheveled hair. “It didn’t count because she had no idea she was doing it. She was way out of her depth.”

 

“We all are when it comes to you, sweetheart.” Draco kissed her temple tenderly and then shuddered. “Gryffindor witches are terrifying.”

 

She looked up at him from under her eyelashes. “It would be wise to remember I was almost sorted into Slytherin.”

 

“That, little witch, makes you doubly terrifying.” He pressed his lips to hers once more. “Now what do you say we go home and finish what we’ve started repeatedly in the past few hours?”

 

Hermione allowed herself to be swept away by the touch and taste of his talented mouth for a few wonderful seconds before she pulled away. “That’s the best idea you’ve had all day.”

 

Draco straightened to his full height with a smirk. “It isn’t over, and I have lots more ideas; let’s not pick the winner just yet. Come along.” He caught her small right hand in his large left one and tugged her toward the door.

 

Just before they reached it, though, there was a shift in Hermione’s consciousness as the covenant flooded her being with a sense of anticipation accompanied by great joy. She gave an uncharacteristically girlish squeal and sprang forward with slightly more force than she intended, tripping over her own feet; in fact, she would have landed on her face had not Draco caught her neatly around the waist. Before she was even upright again, she blurted, ‘It’s Lucius!”

 

Now voices – deep, masculine tones that rang with authority and might – and the heavy tread of many footsteps could be heard down the hall. Draco set her on her feet and waved her off with a grin. “Go on; he’ll be secretly disappointed if you don’t act with complete impropriety in front of an audience.”

 

Those words of encouragement were hardly necessary for Hermione to gather her full skirts and bolt for the doorway, but just as she reached it, Lucius rounded the corner. A nuance of happiness briefly shone through his arrogant façade as she flew into his welcoming arms, and he murmured her name against the top of her head like a prayer. She twined her arms around his neck, pulling him low, and was in the process of smothering him with kisses when the Minister for Magic and eight Aurors entered the storeroom at that moment.

 

Blushing for the second time that day, she disentangled herself; Lucius, however, ignored their presence completely. He stroked Hermione’s reddened cheek and gazed at her intently, drawing her left hand to his mouth for a lingering kiss. “Good afternoon, pet. Have you enjoyed your little adventure?”

 

Even as her sense of reason recognized Lucius’ navigation toward a more appropriate public display of affection, her hormones went wild under the heat of his gaze and the feel of his lips on her skin. Sweet Circe, did he just- Was that his tongue?! The unmistakable chill of air meeting wet skin as she lowered her hand to her side confirmed that notion. It also proved that PDA was less about what they did than it was about how they did it. Desire flooded her body yet again, and she began applying her prodigious brain to the task of finding a discreet way for them to snog in a municipal area as she turned to greet the Minister.

 

Kingsley Shacklebolt bowed deeply. “Madame Malfoy, I’m sure I speak for us all when I say how pleased I am to find you and Draco both safe and sound.”

 

It wasn’t until he’d straightened and given her a warm smile that Hermione’s brain processed both his words and those of Lucius’ greeting. Uh-oh. A furtive sideways glance proved her elder husband was regarding her with narrowed eyes. It was a very good look for him. Within her, the covenant began purring its approval.

 

Luckily Draco chose that moment to enter the conversation. He came to stand beside her and placed his hand on the small of her back. “Good afternoon, Kingsley; Lu. What brings the two of you to Flourish & Blotts?”

 

The subtle sign of solidarity paired with the innocent question could mean only one thing: Draco had no intention of admitting to anything. Lucius looked positively murderous, which she found both worrisome and arousing. Draco’s acting abilities were commendable; if Lucius saw through them, it meant he knew far more than he was letting on. Her gut began to pulse once more.

 

Lucius shared a quick, indecipherable look with the Minister and stepped closer to Hermione. He raised a hand to her throat and stroked the diamond choker encircling it, his eyes focused on the light motions of his fingers. “It was brought to my attention my most prized possession was not where I had left it.” He turned his gaze upward, pinning her with its intensity, and at the same time he wrapped his large hand firmly around her neck. “I came to retrieve it.”

 

Hermione swallowed thickly. All I need to do is tell him the truth. Beside her Draco took a slow, traitorous step away from the quiet confrontation, making it easier to continue with that train of thought. Even if it involves throwing someone else under the bus. She considered her strategic options. On the one hand, I could set the record straight; on the other . . . It was difficult to think of anything because Lucius’s dominant display had sent a wet rush of arousal trickling down her right thigh, and in the end she decided on the most enjoyable course of action. “I’d be happy to help you look for it.”

 

Somewhere nearby there was a deep chuckle. “Until the wards are completely lifted, I’ll have all Aurors remain and secure this building. In the meantime, old friend, good luck.” Kingsley Shacklebolt swept from the room with his men, calling back over his shoulder, “This was most enjoyable; perhaps next time we can track my Wife!”

 

Lucius’s mouth twitched ever so slightly. “Is there anything you’d like to tell me, pet?”

 

He’s been aware of everything from the beginning. “Errrr . . . Draco and I had a lovely lunch and then we walked here for . . . writing supplies. I’m going to write a book.”

 

“You wish to write a book,” he repeated skeptically. He looked behind her, presumably at Draco. “And have you had any luck finding unused parchment in the stacks?”

 

Draco was suddenly back at Hermione’s side, his arm draped over her shoulder. “We were researching, Lucius,” he replied in a patient tone, “it’s what one does in an archive.”

 

“Rumpled gown, swollen lips, curls in disarray . . . ” His eyes darkened. “I would very much like to aid in this research of yours.” He released his hold on her neck and trailed his fingers down the front of her dress.

 

That relentless, lustful fog began filling the room again. Hermione was so distracted by his touch that her game was instantly forgotten. “Luciussss.”

 

He leaned low and ran his lips along her jaw to a ticklish spot below her ear. There he breathed, “You left the manor without your guards, my prize.”

 

I want . . . She shivered, vision clouding. “Mmmm.”

 

“You were hunted by crazed women,” he crooned in her ear, nipping its lobe with his teeth, “and sought sanctuary in a storeroom.”

 

“Yesss,” she tilted her head to the side, giving him freer access to those tender places, and took hold of his lapels with tight fists. I need . . .

 

He kissed a maddeningly slow line down her neck to her collarbone and then up to her mouth, where he murmured, “You personally caused the assembly of the entire Auror department for an emergency investigation of international proportions.”

 

That cleared the fog somewhat. Hermione pulled back slightly. “What in Merlin’s name are you talking about?”

 

Lucius arched an aristocratic eyebrow. “I met Kingsley to give my statement and was about to return to the manor when an alarm was sounded. Imagine my surprise when I discovered the principal concern was for your safety.”

 

Draco drew Hermione closer to his side. “Explain,” he ordered.

 

“Watch your tone, brother,” Lucius drawled. “Were you any younger, I would turn you over my knee for what you did today.”

 

“And I would deserve it,” Draco agreed in a voice tinged with regret.

 

Wait, wait, wait – there was a spanking to be had? “Oh, no you don’t,” Hermione blurted, “that spanking is mine! Errrrrr, what I mean to say is if you feel the need to spank someone,” she clarified helpfully, “I deserve it.”

 

Her husbands’ mutual surprise at her outburst quickly turned to something far darker and more arousing. There was plenty of time for that later, though – at present there was a very large, very volatile blond bomb that needed defusing. Hermione squeezed Draco’s hand supportively and stepped out of his hold. Closing the slight distance between her and Lucius, she tried again. “We didn’t mean to worry you, my love. Will you tell us what happened?”

 

Lucius sighed deeply through his nose. “If you had any idea . . . ” He looked away and blinked a few times, then pulled her into a crushing embrace. “The alarms sounded because the medical restraint collar of a certain dangerously contagious wizard registered in Diagon Alley, as did yours.”

 

“Oof!” Hermione’s prodigious mind filled in the rest as her lungs struggled against imminent collapse. She wriggled in his arms until he loosened his hold fractionally. “Oh, Lucius! The Ministry thought he’d escaped; that’s why the anti-magic wards went up – to restrict him until he could be apprehended. You thought . . . ” She stopped, heart aching at the knowledge that she’d once again triggered one of his deepest fears.

 

“Indeed. And while I am relieved to find you safe and sound, I am furious that you would once again flout my concern for your well-being. Why weren’t the guards with you? Hermione,” he murmured against her temple, “you will be the death of me.”

 

We didn’t leave them behind intentionally.” She reached a hand up to stroke his cheek tenderly. Technically Draco did that all on his own, but you don’t need to know that. I want that spanking! “Wait; did that one person escape?”

 

“No,” he growled. “The first thing the Aurors did was contact the constabulary of the Northern Territories; the Yukon facility was secure, and its sole guest was accounted for.”

 

“You had him sent to a remote region of Canada?! Sweet Circe, Lucius – wasn’t that a bit extreme?” When her elder husband’s eyes flashed possessively, Hermione hastily added, “Not that I care in the least.”

 

Lucius loomed over her in a decidedly delicious way. “Tell me what you do care about, then, if it isn’t weeded wizards or your own personal safety.”

 

She pondered his question, fingers fiddling absently with the topmost button of his waistcoat. Finally she said, “There are many things I care about but only a few I love.” She looked up cautiously to find herself caught in a tender gaze and raised her hand to his face once again. “I love you, Lucius.” She caught a glimpse of Draco out of the corner of her eye and indicated him with a nod of her head. “And EBC.”

 

Lucius sighed and leaned into her touch. “I thought of you constantly while I was gone,” he confessed in a hushed voice meant only for her. “Forgive me for overreacting, my darling.”

 

He called me his darling. Hermione was suddenly in danger of melting into a puddle of goo at his feet. “It’s infuriating,” she admitted, “but extremely arousing.” She tugged him down to her level. “Now hurry up and kiss me and remind me who’s boss.”

 

Lucius beamed at her – he bared his straight white teeth in a delighted, wolfish smile and twinkled until she saw stars at the edges of her vision. Then he leaned low and delivered one of his intoxicating tonguefuls, and the order of the universe was restored. When he relinquished his claim on her mouth, and the room had stopped spinning, he beckoned to Draco. “Brother, it has been far too long since we last claimed our Wife. If the two of you are amenable to a change of venue, let us resume this research of yours at home. The wards will fall soon.”

 

Draco was, unsurprisingly, all too willing. “Lucius, you have no idea.” He was at their side in a second and tugging impatiently on one of Hermione’s hands. “Come on, sweetheart. There’s a section in the library that’s been begging to be defiled for years.”

 

Lucius drew her left arm under his right, Draco wove his right hand with hers and draped his left arm over her far shoulder, and the House of Malfoy left the stacks of Flourish & Blotts in its usual graceful tangle of limbs.

 

“I’m still confused,” said Hermione as they exited the archive at a leisurely pace, “about the mix-up. How could that possibly have happened?” She smiled politely at the Auror standing sentry outside the back room. She was trying to concentrate on anything other than the wet , throbbing flesh at the apex of her legs.

 

The store was empty save for Aurors, who stood in varying degrees of vigilance along the central aisle. Lucius nodded to several of them in a familiar way as they passed. “The signature of the medical device in question was set at the manor by the Healer in charge,” he growled. “Apparently the man is so inept he neglected to scan for other signatures. Then, because the charmed item needn’t be in the immediate proximity, he accidentally applied the second one to your necklace instead of the medical device.”

 

His feral timbre was wreaking all kinds of havoc in her body as each snarled syllable resonated deep in her gut. Merlin have mercy; I need sex. Think of something else! “Lead Healer Tertius Flambolt strikes again! Please tell me he’ll be fired.”

 

“Oh, no; I require him to change bedpans for the next fifty years.”

 

The insinuation that he’d personally decided the fate of the world’s most bumptious wizard did nothing to quell Hermione’s current lust-addled state. Lots and lots and LOTS of sex. She shivered violently as a series of extremely pornographic images came to mind. Gaaaah! Think of anything else!

 

Lucius looked down at her with a frown. “Are you cold, pet?”

 

I can’t! And no, I’m on fire! Perhaps it was finally time to admit defeat in the battle against her hormones. “Actually,” she began in a hopeful tone, “my backside could use a good warming.”

 

He chuckled, but his voice was rough when he leaned low. “I have very little self-control at the moment. Unless you wish to find yourself taken over a table in front a large audience, I suggest you stop trifling with me. Now tell me, what is this about you wishing to write a book?”

 

Ooh, trifle sounds good! Aaagh – he’s right; I need to pull myself together. Although I’d very much like to try that position . . . She shook her head forcefully. “I’m going to write the story of our engagement for publication in the Muggle world.”

 

Lucius twinkled down at her. “A very suitable hobby for a woman, pet.”

 

“Lu,” began Draco in a cautionary tone.

 

The fog cleared from her brain instantly. Hermione cut him off in a voice that as every bit as sharp as it was quiet. “Suitable hobby?” Had it not been for the fact that she was being propelled along by bodies far larger and stronger than her own she would have screeched to a halt. As it was, she dug in her heels and made them drag her along for a few steps. “For a woman?”

 

A quick glance showed Lucius looking downright amused. “Precisely, my prize. It will be far more appropriate for you than a career. You shall keep yourself entertained and at home.”

 

Lu,” Draco warned again. He slowed to a halt and squeezed Hermione’s hand. “Sweetheart, he’s winding you u-”

 

Far more appropriate?!” She hissed. “Entertained?!

 

Draco withdrew his arm from her around shoulders and clapped his hand over his face. “Oh, for the love of . . .”

 

Lucius released her arm and moved to stand in front of her. “In fact, I shall a commission a pretty new writing desk for you, to be installed in the lady’s reading room, and you may play at being an authoress to your heart’s content.”

 

Hermione was mindful of several Aurors who were watching them with interest. Don’t make a scene. She closed her eyes, inhaled deeply, and turned back to Lucius’s maddening smirk. Then she processed the few words Draco had managed to get out in the last few seconds. He’s winding me up. This is all a game. And I like games. Her nimble brain analyzed several potential directions of the conversation. At least, I like winning them. She smiled innocently up at her elder husband. “That sounds lovely. And you’re right; since I’ll be pregnant soon anyway, there’s no point in me thinking about a career.”

 

He looked almost disappointed as he took her arm once more. “Indeed. Shall we continue?”

 

Draco gave a relieved sigh and wrapped his arm around her again, rubbing his fingertips against her bare shoulder in a comforting way. “Good idea.”

 

As they moved toward the front of the shop once more, Hermione ducked her head to hide an evil grin. Continue our game? What a silly question, Lucius. We’ll continue until I’ve won. Keeping her face averted she offered, “It’s a shame I’ll have to change so much to preserve the secret of our world, really, but I’ve found a way to preserve pristine accuracy in detailing Pureblood marriage customs.”

 

An Auror exchanged a friendly greeting with Lucius as they passed, and Hermione used the diversion to wink at Draco conspiratorially. His silver gaze flickered between her and Lucius for a moment, brows drawn in concern, before he seemed to realize her intent; then, with a snicker and a shake of his head, he rolled his eyes. You two, he communicated silently.

 

Lucius turned back to her, his well-shaped mouth twitching. “Isn’t that . . . precious.” He raised his free hand and tapped the tip of her nose as one would a small child. “I look forward to hearing all about your clever little story.”

 

Now that she was aware of his intent, his incendiary behavior was incredibly amusing. Lucius likes to stir the cauldron. Well, this one is going to blow up right in his face. “It’s going to be a romance, Lucius! Can’t you just see it? Oh, my mother used to love romance novels,” she prattled, beaming up at him, “especially the ones with those sexy, bare-chested men on the front cover! This is going to be a best-seller – I just know it!”

 

That hit the mark. “I am not the love interest of a romantic heroine, Hermione,” he snarled.

 

“Oh, but you will be! I can just see it: a picture of you, chest exposed, your hair blowing back in the-”

 

Lucius interrupted her jabber with an outraged scowl. “Absolutely not!”

 

Draco was nodding earnestly. “That’s very good, little witch. Perhaps I could be in my Quidditch uniform, and you in nothing but your rune shields. I think the public would find that very appealing; don’t you agree, Lu?”

 

There was a vein pulsing at Lucius’s temple, and his jaw was flexing at a furious pace. “No book! No writing! You will choose a respectable career that in no way objectifies me or any other Malfoy EVER. Do I make myself clear!”

 

At some point during his thunderous tirade, he’d dragged the other two into the nearest side aisle and pinned Hermione against the shelves. She stood silently at first, mesmerized by his mercurial temperament once again, but soon gave way to the temptation of pushing him just a little bit further. “That all depends.”

 

He was breathing heavily. “On. What.”

 

“You can’t just dash my hopes like that, Lucius,” she reasoned in a hurt tone. “Surely I deserve . . . oh, I don’t know, something in return for having my dreams trampled under your feet.”

 

Anything that doesn’t involve me on the cover of a lurid book.”

 

“Excellent,” she beamed up at him. “I want that spanking, and then sex until I can’t walk straight.”

 

Lucius looked at her blankly, mouth hanging open. “I beg your pardon?” he finally managed in a weak voice.

 

“And let’s have trifle for dessert tonight.”

 

“Nothing to see here,” Draco was saying to a curious Auror, “We’re just discussing our dinner plans.”

 

Hermione pulled Lucius down by his cravat and pressed her lips to his chin playfully. “Don’t gape, my love; it’s unbecoming.”

 

An unfamiliar voice was speaking to Draco. “What was that?” he asked. “Oh, thank you very much.” He turned to Hermione and Lucius. “The guards are almost here; are you done with your little game, or do you need a few more minutes to determine the winner?”

 

Lucius’s mouth twitched. He sighed heavily through his nose. “You are a minx.” Finally he chuckled, offering her his arm and leading her back to the main aisle. “And I look forward to marking your arse with my handprint as soon as we get home.”

 

Draco returned to his customary place at her right side. “You could have had all that without any of the fuss.”

 

“Ppffffft,” countered Hermione. “Where’s the fun in that?” She took hold of his hand and gave it a playful tug. “And,” she added, casting a sideways glance up at Lucius, “I want that writing desk.”

 

They arrived at the front of the bookstore to find it heavily guarded. Aurors stood at the doors and shop windows, their attention divided between the loud mob of young witches pressed against the glass and the directions of a wizard with senior robes and an air of authority. “Keep those wands raised! Remember, those witches have no idea the lack of magic affects us as well. They’ll think this place is impenetrable just so long as you pretend!” He turned to the trio. “Messrs. and Madame Malfoy, we are dismantling the wards as quickly as we can, but due to their complexity it’s a lengthy process. At present we have no magic and anti-Apparition will be the last to fall, unfortunately. You’ll have to walk out of here if you want to leave anytime soon.”

 

“I would like to know what your contingency plan is, if you have one.” Lucius released his hold on Hermione’s arm and continued on to the Head Auror, and a second later the two were conversing in serious tones.

 

At Draco’s entry the fanwitches had begun to shriek in earnest, and when he groaned and ran a hand through his hair, it elicited another scream from the crowd. He turned to Hermione, murmuring in a voice meant only for her. “You’ll protect me?”

 

“Of course I will.” She grinned up at him, Ipsa vita est Draco forgotten for one shining moment. “I’m Hermione Fucking Malfoy, aren’t I?”

 

He returned her smile with a flash of blinding teeth and sensually curved lips. “You will be just as soon as we get home.”

 

Oh, yes I will. Their bubble of intimacy was popped abruptly when the fanwitches redoubled their attempts to breach the Malfoys’ sanctuary. A large stone crashed against the storefront window, followed quickly by another, and the glass cracked with a loud, sickening noise. At the same moment there was a distinctive flash of blue and the cry of an Auror. Magic, it would seem, had been at least partially restored. Everyone took an instinctive step backward.

 

“It looks like this is it.” Draco locked his eyes with hers and stepped in front of her, his large form shielding her from the potential onslaught. “Are you ready to see what these witches are capable of?”

 

Hermione narrowed her gaze, cocking an eyebrow at his overprotective stance. “The question is are they ready to see what I’m capable of.”

 

Lucius left the Head Auror and returned to them, face twisted in obvious displeasure. “Return to the storeroom, pet. This is no place for you.”

 

Draco’s quicksilver gaze still pinned her in place. At her reply his eyes had darkened, though, and now he adjusted his trousers. “She’s fine, Lu.” He moved to her side. “Ready to show off your wandwork, little witch?”

 

Lost in a flashback of memory, Hermione remembered the first time he’d stood and looked down at her in just such a way. It had been in the Great Hall of Hogwarts when she’d bared her beautiful hand-mark for everyone to see. Draco had been intuitive even at that early stage of their budding relationship, seeming to understand the balance between his need to protect her and her need to defend herself. She smiled up at him with all the love in her heart. “Let’s hex those fanbitches.”

 

But even as she spoke the agitated crowd was being jostled by something powerful. Hermione watched in a combination of fascination and disappointment as a veritable battalion of formidable-looking witches and wizards, led by Gore Goyle and Hugo Crabbe, calmly forged through with a combination of magic and muscle mass. Even more fascinating was the response of the fanwitches, who shrank back as their tide of opportunity visibly ebbed. “Or not. Sweet Circe, they’re terrifying!”

 

At her side Lucius chuckled. The guard families had reached the front of Flourish & Blotts with almost brutal efficiency, and now they turned to face the crowd in a long row of black robes, wands raised menacingly. He caught her hand and tucked it under his arm, tickling her skin with his forefinger in the process. “Indeed. Are you ready to go home, pet?”

 

Draco threaded his fingers through those of her free hand and leaned down until his lips brushed against the shell of her ear. “If you don’t say ‘yes’, I might die.”

 

Whatever disappointment Hermione may have felt at having lost the chance to exact retribution from the hides of the fanwitches faded with those light, teasing touches. Well. She sagged against Lucius’s broad form and gazed up at Draco with lust-addled eyes. We can’t have that, now, can we? Put into perspective, the judgment of those strumpets was far less important than his life. And oh, how I’ll save him! Visions of unspeakable acts began clouding her mind.

 

As they moved toward the door Hermione’s attention was briefly drawn to a stand of periodicals, where Witch Weekly sat in a place of prominence. In rapid-fire succession a series of related thoughts tore like lightning bolts through her prodigious brain. Oh. Head sufficiently cleared (for the moment), she viewed the fanwitch situation from several different angles and worked out several complex Arithmantic equations in the time it took to reach the door. Surely this set of circumstances would prove the efficacy of beginning with a predetermined outcome!

 

Lucius stroked her hand where it lay on his arm. Rub, rub, rub. “I can hear the gears in your head spinning. What has you thinking so loudly, pet?”

 

Hermione blinked, dragged back to the present by his touch. “Errrrrr . . . ” she looked to Draco for help.

 

His handsome face twisted in a sensual smirk. “Thirty Galleons says she’s already thinking about her spanking.” His eyes flicked to Lucius. “I’ll have a part in that, by the way. She has two arse-cheeks; might as well bear both of our handprints.”

 

Despite the fact that her body was coursing with desire and her mind was once again returning to primordial goo, Hermione fought back mentally to her Arithmantically-based scheming. It was never good to leave a scenario unresolved. The fanwitches needed a reckoning! But, she reasoned, revenge is a dish best served cold; right now I’m in the mood for something hot. From the edges of her awareness the covenant twitched its metaphorical tail in an anticipatory manner and began its rhythmic purr. Hermione smiled. It wasn’t an altogether nice smile. Aloud she responded cleverly, “Nnngh.”

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