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Shifts

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“Whoa, little lioness, what’s wrong?” 

 

It didn’t even register to Hermione that she had passed anyone as she stormed down the darkened corridor towards anywhere but the Gryffindor common room.  She was desperately fighting the tears that were threatening to cloud her vision as she ran away from her problems.  It seemed like all she did lately was run no matter how much she tried to talk herself into not running.  So much for that Gryffindor courage. 

 

“Granger, wait!”

 

Though she heard him call out to her again as she started sprinting down the hallway, the absolute last thing Hermione needed on today of all days was a blonde Slytherin to make her life a living hell.  Her housemates seemed to be doing that just fine on their own.  Well, that wasn’t entirely true.  The source of the majority of her problems was one ridiculous redhead with a superiority complex and the need to fuck anything that moved following the end of the war.  Hermione thought they were in love.  She was wrong, obviously.

 

She was the only one of the famed Golden Trio (gag) as the Prophet had taken to calling them following the end of the warn who had returned to Hogwarts to finish out their eighth and final year.  Harry and Ron entered Auror Training and now she desperately wished she had nagged them harder about the importance of their education given the circumstances which led her into this darkened corridor, after curfew, sprinting away from a seemingly concerned Slytherin.  What alternate universe had she fallen into?

 

“Fuck, Granger.  Where are you going?”  He exclaimed, his voice laced with concern as he caught Hermione by her arm, stopping her so suddenly that her back slammed against the wall.  The back of her head made contact with the wall almost as soon as her back did, the sickening crack echoing throughout the deserted corridor.  Blinding pain blurred Hermione’s vision, sending her world spinning as she wobbled on unsteady feet.

 

“Shit.”  He cursed, moving in close to her and cupping her cheeks in his hands.

 

“Look at me, love.”  He said calmly.  Hermione tried to comply, her amber orbs meeting a pair that were sapphire blue. 

 

“There’s a good girl.”  He praised with a slight purr to his voice.  Or perhaps Hermione had merely imagined the purr given the reverberations of her blood pounding in her skull, distorting the sound.

 

She tried to remain standing but slowly started to sink, her legs giving out.  She felt a pair of strong arms grasp her desperately to keep her falling to the ground.  “Stay with me, little lioness.”  He whispered as the world continued to spin around her.  The last thing she saw before the darkness completely clouded her vision were the sapphire blue eyes of Theodore Nott.

……….

 

Three voices were speaking in hushed tones as Hermione slowly drifted back into the realm of consciousness, the world still spinning and her temples pounding.  Her hair was matted with something sticky and her entire body felt weak.  She was disoriented and confused.  Hermione could see Theodore Nott as he occasionally paced into her field of vision, as blurry as it was, but the other two had yet to make their appearances known.

 

“…the fuck is she doing here?” growled a low voice that was familiar to Hermione, but one that should couldn’t quite place.  

 

“Where else was I supposed to take her?” Theo hissed as he carded his fingers roughly through his short light brown hair, pacing in front of the dying fire. 

 

“The hospital wing would have been the obvious choice, Theodore,” chided a female voice that was also vaguely familiar to Hermione’s ears.

 

“You know just as many healing spells as Pomfrey does and you know it, Pansy.”  Theo said, gesturing at the raved-haired witch who sat behind the couch Hermione was currently laying on.  “You can fix her.”

 

When Pansy spoke her tone short and snippy. “Obviously, Theo.  But if you had taken her to the hospital wing, we wouldn’t be running the risk of getting hexed after she wakes up.”

 

Theo scoffed.  “And how would it look if I’m the one who carried her there, huh little sparrow?  The fucking Prophet would have a field day if they got wind of the fact that a former Death Eater’s son was found clutching a wounded war heroine just months after the war ended.” 

 

“I don’t give a shit, Nott! You’re risking all of our skins by bringing her in here.”

 

“Just shut the fuck up and heal her, Pansy.  Seeing her bloody and screaming on the floor of my drawing room once was more that I could bear.  I couldn’t help her then, so you better get your ass over there and fix her.”  The low drawling voice commanded, cracking with a raw emotion that Hermione wasn’t expecting, and it registered who exactly that voice belonged to.

 

Hermione was instantly certain her day couldn’t get any worse.  She had fled from the common room and ended up passed out, on a couch, in what she assumed was the middle of the Slytherin Common Room with at least one known Death Eater and two others who were children of Death Eaters who were arguing over whether or not to heal the wounds one of them had accidentally caused.  She felt certifiably fucked and started trying to figure out a way to escape through the haze and delirium.

 

“Hey.” Hermione heard Theo say in a soft, soothing voice.  “She’ll be fine, love.  Granger will be fine.”  He crossed back out of Hermione’s vision, but based on the tone of his voice and his apparent position within the room, she could only draw the conclusion that for some reason Theodore Nott was comforting Draco Malfoy.  Was it possible Malfoy was actually worried about her?  It must be some illusion one’s mind conjures when one is on one’s deathbed.  Well played, Death, well played.

 

“Not if Pansy doesn’t do her job.”  Draco hissed through clenched teeth.   She heard Theo shush him in yet again in hushed tones, though there was an unexpected gentleness that piqued Hermione’s curiosity, even in her dazed state. 

 

“I’ll fix her pretty little head, but I’m not going to be held responsible if she hexes both of your bollocks off when she comes to.” Pansy huffed and moved around to the front of the couch on which Hermione was laying.

 

One of the boys let out a snort, but Hermione couldn’t tell which one.  It would serve them right if she were to hex them – especially Theodore Nott.  It was his fault that she was in this predicament in the first place.

 

Pansy crouched down in front of the bushy-haired girl and passed her wand over the crown of Hermione’s head muttering a string of healing spells.  Hermione groaned as she felt the throbbing in her temples begin to subside as her world began to slow, the spinning temporarily subsiding.   

 

“Theo?” Pansy beckoned, calling her house mate over as Pansy’s nearly black eyes met Hermione’s brown ones.  “She’s awake.”

 

Theo moved quickly from where he had been standing the near the fire to front of the couch where Hermione lay, kneeling down in front of her.  He brushed his thumb over her knuckles as he took her hand in his.  “Hey there, little lioness.”  He cooed in those soothing, dulcet tones.  “How’s your head?”

 

Hermione struggled to focus her gaze on the three Slytherins who had crowded around her.  

 

Pansy Parkinson sat perched on the armrest of the couch, her arms crossed over an expensive indigo dressing robe as she held her wand in her hand.  She looked tired and agitated, likely from having been woken up.  Theodore Nott knelt by Hermione’s side, holding her hand in his own.  His sandy brown hair was wavy and cropped close at the sides as he looked down on her with a pair of stunning sapphire eyes and a tentative smile.  Draco Malfoy, who was wearing a casual t-shirt and a pair of thin rimmed wire black framed glasses to Hermione’s surprise, was leaning over the back of the couch, his unflinching silver eyes gazing down on her in an unreadable expression.

 

“Where am I?”  Hermione managed to ask in a hoarse whisper wondering if escape was still possible given the close proximity of the three Slytherins.  They hadn’t done her any harm yet but she was still wary.  

 

“You’re in our dorm, princess.”  Theo said, the corner of his mouth lifting as he winked.

 

Hermione felt confusion wash over her.  How could she be in their dorm?  There were strict rules and wards in place to prevent members of other houses from sneaking into other common rooms as well as a lack of co-ed dormitories within the houses.

 

“Your dorm?”

 

“McGonagall made an exception and gave us a private dorm...”  Pansy said quietly, turning her wand over in her hands, “...given the circumstances.”

 

With Pansy’s admission, it suddenly became clear in Hermione’s hazy mind.  The reason the three of them were sequestered into one dorm was because they were the only three eighth year Slytherins to return to Hogwarts.  All other returning eighth years were confined to their own houses, though not many of them had returned.  McGonagall either didn’t trust them or didn’t trust the other members of their house not to hex them at every turn. Hermione felt a surge of pity for the three Slytherins. They had returned to Hogwarts just as she had, despite the war and knowing the parts they had played in it.  Pity turned to a small amount of pride in the trio for seemingly wanting to face the odds.  It was a bit endearing – a true underdog story.

 

Hermione’s eyelashes fluttered and she tried to push up from where she was laying down, but the world immediately turned topsy-turvy again and she unceremoniously collapsed back onto the couched.

 

Pansy frowned and placed the back of her hand on the brunette’s forehead as she held her wand against Hermione’s temple.  The raven-haired beauty narrowed her eyes at Theo and let out a string of curses.  “She has a concussion, Theo.  I can’t do anything about that without the proper potions which is why you should’ve taken her to Pomfrey.” 

 

“Pansy, we’ve been – “

 

“Which ones do you need?”  Draco asked quietly, interrupting his two bickering house mates, his quicksilver eyes shifting from where he had been carefully watching Hermione over to Pansy.   

 

Pansy tapped her wand against her chin, running over the treatments for a concussion in her mind.  “Vacuoserum.”  She decided on.  “She could also probably a dose of Draught of Peace to calm her nerves and a bit of a generic pain potion.”

 

“It shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes to brew the Vacuoserum and I think I have everything in my room.  If not, Slughorn doesn’t keep a great watch on his stores. There’s some Draught of Peace and a healing potion or two in the cupboard.” Draco said. He pushed off of the couch and tucked his hands in the pockets of his pajama pants, sauntering back towards his room at a leisurely pace as though he wasn’t about to brew exactly the potion she needed.

 

Hermione attempted to shift again, but Pansy’s hand touched her forehead with two fingers, effectively keeping her head pinned to the cushions of the couch.  “Don’t sit up, Granger.  It’ll only make things worse.” 

 

Hermione nodded as best she could and remained still on the couch.  Theo gave her hand a squeeze.  “Why were you running, princess?”  He asked, his voice full of concern beyond her immediate injuries.

 

Pansy rolled her eyes and rose from her perch on the armrest of the couch, padding over to the small kitchenette to find the potions Draco mentioned.

 

Hermione felt a heat rise to her cheeks but she wasn’t certain if it was due to embarrassment or the effects of the concussion Pansy said she was suffering from. “I, um… Ron and I had a fight.”  She said, recalling the verbal sparring match that had taken place via the floo in the Gryffindor common room earlier that night. 

 

“Don’t tell me you’re still with that prat?”  Pansy asked indignantly as she made her way back to the couch, rolling a small vial between her fingertips with a second one tucked into the pocket of her dressing gown.  “Granger, Weasley’s been fucking every witch six ways to Sunday since the Prophet made him out to be some kind of hero.” 

 

The tears that had welled in Hermione’s eyes, threatened to spill down her cheeks.  “I know… but.”  She and Ron had been through so much together that even given his indiscretion, it was difficult for her to let him go.  He kept saying that they didn’t mean anything and that he only loved her and she wanted to believe him. She had taken off running because she couldn’t stand to look at him as he stared back at her through the floo, the thoughts of all of the women he had bedded running through her mind. 

 

“No buts, Granger.”  Pansy admonished as Theo stroked Hermione’s cheek with his thumb.  “He’s not worth your time and you know it.” 

 

Why on earth were the Slytherins being so nice to her?

 

She couldn’t contain her emotions and the tears spilled over, cascading down her cheeks in sheets like rain.  “I feel so stupid…”

 

“Shh, little lioness.  If there’s anything you are, it’s not that,“ Theo soothed, taking the small vial of Draught of Peace from Pansy’s hand and popping the cork.  “Drink up, love.  This will help.” 

 

Hermione lifted her head to drink from the vial containing the Draught of Peace as Pansy dabbed at her cheeks with a handkerchief.  Pansy and Theo shared a knowing glance and both returned to watching the witch with concerned looks crossing their faces. 

 

Hermione felt lighter as the potion began to make it’s way through her body and she felt the anxiety and thoughts of Ron subsiding.  The pain potion she was given next helped dull the ache in her head a bit.

 

“You’re staying with us, Granger.”  Pansy said, with a resigned sigh.  “Tomorrow is Saturday anyway so you don’t even have to worry about missing class and I need to monitor you for any side effects of the potion Draco is brewing.”

 

“But…”  Hermione started.  She hadn’t wanted to return to Gryffindor Tower.  There were simply too many memories there for her liking.  Staying in the den of snakes was one of the last things Hermione wanted to do, but it was looking like the three Slytherins were intent on keeping her under their watchful eye.  The sudden generosity and thoughtfulness from the three Slytherins was confusing at best, though she could find no reason to fault their intentions.

 

“Daphne was supposed to come back this year, but she went and got engaged to some French piece of shite two weeks ago and decided she no longer needed to get her N.E.W.T.s.”  Pansy said through clenched teeth, clearly bitter about something relating to the eldest Greengrass daughter.  “We have a spare room and everything.” 

 

“It’s really no trouble.”  Theo beamed, his sapphire eyes twinkling with unanticipated delight.  “It’s the least we can do after I caused this mess to begin with.” 

 

Draco walked back into the room a few moments later carrying a small cylinder containing a shimmering blue liquid.  Upon seeing him, Pansy hopped up from her perch and took the cylinder from him, measuring out the dosage over the sink in the small kitchenette.  Satisfied with her measurement, she handed a small espresso cup filled with the potion to Hermione. 

 

“Drink up, love.”  Theo urged, though he continued to watch Draco, noting the blonde had stayed across the room and was currently leaning against the kitchen counter.  Still, the concern for the witch on the couch shining in his eyes was not lost on Theo.

 

Hermione did as she was told, scrunching up her nose at the vile taste of the potion.  Her mind felt clearer after only a few minutes.

 

“There’s a good girl.”  Theo praised, taking the small cup from her and handing it back to Pansy.  He gently pulled Hermione into a sitting position, resting her gently against the plush cushions of their couch.  

 

“Thank you.”  Hermione replied quietly.

 

Now that she was sitting up, Pansy trailed her eyes over the brunette.  Hermione had been wearing her uniform when Theo had brought her into the common room.  The collar of her white shirt and the back of her jumper were dotted with blood and the back of her head was sticky with the same substance.  “Let’s get you in the bath, Granger.  I have some pajamas you can borrow.” 

 

“Surely it can – “

 

“I’m not letting you sleep with blood in your hair.  It’s part of the girl code or some shite.”  Pansy affirmed with a roll of her eye, a dismissive wave of her hand, and mild scowl crossing her features. 

……….

 

 

Hermione slipped quietly out of the bedroom tucked in the eighth year Slytherin dormitory the next morning, closing the door gingerly behind her in an effort not to wake any of the snakes who might still be sleeping.  She had made the plan to slip out once they had all gone to sleep, but sleep had overcome her faster than she had expected it to.  She still felt a bit on edge from last night but was determined to speak to Ron today and let him know that they were through.  She wasn’t going to play second best to any one anymore and clearly that’s exactly how he thought of her.

 

Her uniform had disappeared in the middle of the night – probably thanks to a well-meaning house elf, so she was still dressed in the blue silk pajamas that Pansy had lent her.  Despite the Slytherin girl’s initial reservations in treating her head wound after Theo had brought her to their dormitory, she had been quite caring in her own rather brusque way.  She never treated Hermione very gingerly, always speaking plainly and acting seemingly annoyed, but she made certain Hermione bathed and helped her wash the blood from her hair, lent her a pair of pajamas to sleep in, and checked in on her no less than two times in the middle of the night.   

 

Hermione froze in front of the bedroom door as she saw the platinum blonde head of Draco Malfoy sitting in an armchair by the smoldering fire reading a book. 

 

“Going somewhere, Granger?”  He asked without looking up from his book.

 

Hermione drew a deep breath and crossed the room, determined to at least attempt to be civil with the man who had bullied her so relentlessly for the past several years.  After all, he had gone to the trouble to brew the potion that had ultimately caused her head to completely stop spinning. “I was going to go back to my dorm.” 

 

Draco turned a page in his book, never taking his eyes off of the text as he spoke to her.  “Stay.”  He said softly, but firmly. “Theo and Pansy will be back soon and Pansy will want to check your head one more time.” 

 

Hermione stood in stunned silence at his seemingly out of character behavior.  First, there was the fact that Draco Malfoy had not said one angry or prejudiced word against her since she had been brought into his dormitory last night.  Second, he just asked her to stay so she wouldn’t run the risk of having more effects of the concussion Theo had accidentally caused, and third, the tone in which he spoke to here was completely sincere.  It was as though he cared about her and that thought alone made her head threaten to start spinning again. 

 

Had she woken up in some kind of alternate universe or had the Slytherins always been like this?   

 

Hermione started to protest, but changed her mind as the curiosity of the pair’s location got the best of her. “I… uh… where did they go?  Nott and Parkinson.”

 

Draco marked the page carefully and closed his book, turning to look at her with tired eyes.  “Theo and Pansy go running around the lake in the mornings when the weather is decent.”

 

As if on cue, Theo and Pansy burst through the door and into the living area of the dormitory, their cheeks reddened from exertion and laughing about something.  Theo’s brow creased and one half of the laughing pair fell silent once he spotted Draco across the room.  Theo shared a knowing look with Pansy and crossed the room, whispering something in the blonde’s ear and firmly squeezing his shoulder.  Draco nodded and stood up from the chair, crossing the living area and disappearing into his room without so much as a backward glance at Hermione. 

 

Hermione stood in uncomfortable silence, unsure of what to make of the interaction that looked almost intimate between the two men.  Theo did call him ‘love’ last night, though she may have imagined it.  She bit her bottom lip and nervously twisted her fingers. 

 

Pansy shrugged off her cloak and draped it over her arm revealing a set of form fitting muggle running clothes and trainers that Hermione was not expecting.  “Give me a minute to change and I’ll check your head again, Granger.”  Pansy said, breezing past her and disappearing into her own room, leaving Hermione alone with Theo. 

 

Wandering into the small kitchen area and retrieving a glass from the cupboard, he turned on the tap and poured himself a glass of water.  “How are you feeling, princess?”  He asked.

 

“Better, thank you.”  Hermione replied.  “What was all that about?”

 

“Hm?”  He drained the glass of water quickly. 

 

“With Malfoy.” 

 

Theo’s brow creased again and he looked over to where Draco had been sitting moments before.  Leaving the glass on the counter, Theo crossed the room and sat down on the sofa.  “Draco has nightmares and at times, he can be heard throughout the dormitory because of them.”  His tone was cautious and serious, much different from the playful, kind man he seemed to portray most often.  Most often.  Hah.  She’d been in his presence for less than a day.

 

“Oh.  I didn’t hear anything last night.”  Hermione frowned, knowing just how awful nightmares could be considering she often suffered from them herself.  They all did after the war.  Hers mostly centered around that night at Malfoy Manor when Bellatrix Lestrange tortured her for information, but sometime she relieved the final battle, and others she found herself on the losing side of a war in which Voldemort ruled.  She couldn’t even imagine what Malfoy might experience in his nightmares.  She shuddered at the thought.  Even still, she couldn’t connect the dots between what Theo had whispered to Draco and why whatever it was happened to be connected to his nightmares.

 

“No, you wouldn’t have, princess.”  Theo said with a shake of his head.  “and that’s only because he didn’t sleep last night.” 

 

“Why?”  She asked, now even more confused.  “Why didn’t he sleep?”

 

“He probably didn’t want to wake you.”  Theo shrugged. “Pansy and I are pretty used to it – we don’t let him use silencing charms.  We all get them but his are the worst.”  Theo’s admission made Draco somehow seem more human to her and it sowed another seed of curiosity into her soul about the blonde who had tormented her for years.

 

“I get them too.”  Hermione said quietly, crossing the room.  She settled herself on the opposite end of the couch from Theo and tucked her legs up under her.  “He still could’ve tried to sleep…”

 

“I don’t think he would’ve been able to.”   

 

“Why?” 

 

“Because you would’ve heard him screaming your name.” Theo sighed, leaning his head against the cushions on the back of the couch, staring up towards the ceiling.  “And I can guarantee you that is the absolute last thing he would’ve wanted.”  

 

The heat that rose in her body as her heart started to pound furiously in her chest, nearly suffocating her and all of the air rushed out of her lungs.  Not only did Draco Malfoy purposefully do something that wasn’t related to his own (assumed) selfish desires, he selflessly decided not to sleep for her comfort. So she wouldn’t hear him screaming out her name.  Hermione instantly knew that at least one of the nightmares they shared was of the night she was tortured by Bellatrix Lestrange.  Draco’s plea to Pansy the previous night suddenly made a lot more sense.

 

“Seeing her bloody and screaming on the floor of my drawing room once was more that I could bear.  I couldn’t help her then, so you better get your arse over there and fix her.”

 

Looking back, Hermione could see how it had been an impossible situation for him.  The most protection he could offer them was his lack of identification.  Aunt or no, Bellatrix Lestrange’s mind danced with insanity and she would’ve struck him down without thought had he so much as twitched a finger towards his wand to aid them – to aid her.   Her heart softened towards him knowing now that they were both caught in an impossible situation, an impasse.  Her world shifted and she released any and all of the anger she had been holding over that night and Draco’s involvement in it at that moment.

 

Pansy came out of her room, freshly showered and dressed in a simple black skirt and silk blouse.  She must have dried her hair magically because it showed no signs of dampness, despite the freshly showered glow to her skin, and hung neatly stopping just above her shoulders.  “Granger, you look ill.” 

 

“I… I’m fine.” 

 

“What did you do?”  accused the raven-haired with, casting a suspicious look directly at Theo. 

 

Theo avoided her eye contact, keeping his focus on cracks in the ceiling.  “I may or may not have told her about Draco’s nightmares.” 

 

Pansy further crossed the room with a touch of fury marring her features and smacked Theo across the top of his head, causing him to sit back up.  “He’ll kill you when he finds out, you blithering idiot.” 

 

“Ow.” Theo whined, rubbing the back of his head.  “Draco loves me, sparrow.  I highly doubt he’ll attempt murder on my person if he finds out.”   

 

“Just because he worships your cock does not mean he loves you.”  Pansy warned, sinking down into the spot between Theo and Hermione on the couch.  Were all Slytherins so nonchalant about sex?  This was certainly new for Hermione.  

 

“Ten galleons says he’ll hex you when he finds out.”  Pansy wagered with a wiggle of her eyebrows.

 

“I… he… you… um… well…”  Hermione stammered trying to process what Pansy’s comment about Theo’s …manhood… and the subsequent bet with little success.  Her typically highly logical brain simply ceased functioning at the casual mention of Theo’s genitalia and Draco’s apparent preference for it.  Yep.  Definitely an alternate universe.

Arching a perfectly shaped brow, Pansy pursed her lips in delight at Hermione’s apparent innocence.  “Yes, Granger.”  She said, conforming the other witch’s suspicions.  “And they’re absolutely disgusting about it.”  Pansy meant it in the best way possible, of course.  Draco and Theo had a tendency to show their affections in private but generally kept it hidden outside of the confines of their shared common room. 

 

Theo managed to look offended, though his smirk gave him away. “We are not disgusting.  I can’t exactly help it if Draco is a cuddly little shit,” he said with a laugh.

 

Stunned into silence, Hermione clapped a hand over her gaping mouth and simply sat trying very, very hard not to imagine Draco and Theo being intimate on the very couch she was sitting on.

 

“Granger’s going to have an epileptic fit if you’re not careful.”  Pansy said, with a playful smack to Theo’s arm, though she was getting as much pleasure out of seeing Granger flustered as Theo was. 

 

Theo released a low laugh, rubbing his arm in an effort to make at least one of the witches think the slap had been harder than it had.  “But she’s so adorable wearing that shade of pink, sparrow,” Theo teased.  Hermione felt as though she might collapse from all of the blood rushing into her head once more. 

 

Huffing a laugh, Pansy narrowed her eyes at the laughing brunette before nonchalantly raising a finger towards his room.  “Go get yourself cleaned up and check on Draco,” she practically ordered.  “I need to check Granger’s head and it won’t do to have you complicating matters.” 

 

Theo acquiesced with a roll of his eyes and a muttered “yes, mother” before giving Hermione a wink.  He pushed up from the couch and dropped a kiss on the top of Pansy’s head.  “Catch you later, princess” he said and he started sauntering towards his room with a lazy, swaying stride.

 

“Insufferable git.”  Pansy muttered as she watched Theo saunter away.  She turned towards Hermione and pulled her wand from her skirts and began to pass it over and around the other witch’s head.  Muttering the incantation, Pansy watched the diagnostic markers carefully.

 

Hermione found that the interactions between the three Slytherins were perplexing.  Rather than seeing them as brainless automatons who had blindly followed the Dark Lord during the war, she was slowly realizing that they were just as human as she and her friends were.  They had similar banter, word play, and complex relationships that nearly mirrored the ones she had with her own group of friends, though this group seemed much more closely knit.  There seemed to be a deep level of care between the three of them and she itched to find out more about what made them tick.  It was disconcerting that she had never really thought of them as complex beings like her own friends, but now that she had spent quite some time in their presence, she couldn’t help but see them just as human, and likely as broken by the war, as the rest of them were.

 

Hermione twisted her head to glance back towards the door Theo had entered a moment earlier.  “Is he always like that?” She asked.

 

Pansy shrugged and ended the diagnostic spell.  “More or less.  Despite his cunning, Theo is rather transparent at times.”

 

“He’s somewhat fascinating.”  Hermione admitted with a bit of a blush.

 

Pansy offered her a genuine smile, though Hermione couldn’t possibly know why.  “Everything looks good, Granger,” she said, changing the subject.  “Just try and take it easy for the rest of the day.  If anything starts to go fuzzy or feel off, please let me know.”

 

It was clear that Pansy was either naturally talented at Healing or that she had studied the subject extensively.  “How did you learn so much about Healing?”

 

Turning her wand over in her hands, Pansy released a sign and sank back into the plush cushions of the couch.  “It was necessary that someone know how to heal others.  The Carrows doled out curses like Every Flavor Beans and Madam Pomfrey wasn’t always able or available to keep up with the injured.” 

 

“I had some knowledge of healing before but once we realized how bad it was getting, I started apprenticing under Madam Pomfrey in an unofficial way and she lent me several of her healing texts during our sixth year.”

 

“By the time seventh year rolled around, I was seeing patients almost as much as she was.  They locked the hospital wing after dinner and kids were often brought to me at all hours of the night. I did what I could for them.  If they were too badly injured, I simply tried to stabilize them and help with the pain until the hospital wing was re-opened at dawn.”

 

Hermione laid a reassuring hand atop Pansy’s and gave the other witch’s hand a gentle squeeze. “That was so incredibly brave of you, Pansy.”  Hermione said sincerely, giving the girl a small, but genuine smile. 

 

“It was necessary and nothing more.  I’m no hero.”  Pansy replied quietly and Hermione knew she had never seen the witch so subdued.  Pansy was at least as complex as Draco and Theo.  Theo hid behind pretty names and little jokes but Pansy appeared to minimize whatever possible.  Hermione suspected she was likely a skilled occlumens. 

 

Giving Pansy’s hand one last squeeze before withdrawing the contact, Hermione caught her bottom lip between her teeth.  “I should go,” she said with a degree of hesitancy she herself wasn’t expecting.  She wasn’t entirely certain she wanted to leave at this point.  “Thank you again for what you did for me.”

 

A tentative smile tugged at the corners of Pansy’s mouth but she remained silent until Hermione added “…even if it was Theo’s fault” to which the raven-haired witch released a laugh. 

 

“He gets a bit excitable sometimes, but he does mean well,” she affirmed.  Hermione felt lighter at hearing the note of kindness in Pansy’s voice. 

 

“I’ll see you around, Pansy,” Hermione said, rising from the couch and making her way towards the door.  

 

“See you around, Granger.” 

 

……….

 

 

After stepping out of the Slytherin’s dormitory, it took Hermione a moment to get her bearings.  She made a mental note of the dorms location before setting off towards Gryffindor tower.  Even though she didn’t know the password which would grant her entry into their dorm, she hoped that if she came back at any point they would let her in.  Though she’d barely spent a night there, it felt a bit more like home than the tower did.  There was something warm and inviting about their dormitory that she hadn’t felt in the tower since before the final battle. 

 

As Hermione made her way down the few curving corridors and up a flight of stairs, Hermione thought back to what she would need to do once she got back.  She knew that she needed to set things right with Ronald after their fight, but he wouldn’t be awake at this time of the morning.  A change of clothes and a spot of breakfast were in order before she could even think about facing him.  She hoped that the house elves would be kind enough to return Pansy’s pajamas to her after they had been cleaned, though Hermione felt she should send a letter of gratitude via owl post to thank Pansy for her help and hospitality.  Theo and Draco honestly deserved notes as well, or perhaps she could bring them some sort of treat to say thank you.  Everyone loved a bit of cake, right?

 

Hermione slipped around the corner and came face to face with the Fat Lady who appeared to at least be somewhat cognizant of her surroundings despite a few bottles of elf-wine in the corner of the portrait.  She whispered the password and watched the door swing open allowing her to pass into the familiar warmth of the Gryffindor common room.  The air felt thick and heavy, but it didn’t seem to be due to the roaring fire in the hearth but more years of built up tensions.  It suddenly felt oppressive and strange.

 

The room was lit only by the light of the hearth, but Hermione made her way around the familiar room with ease until a voice coming from somewhere in the darkened room stopped her dead in her tracks. 

 

“Where have you been?”

 

Hermione’s eyes flickered to the floo but the flames were orange and there was no head of Ronald Weasley poking out.  She crossed her arms protectively over her chest and shrunk back against one of the walls. 

 

“What are you doing here?” she whispered in the quiet of the morning. “And honestly, I don’t think it’s any concern of yours any longer.”

 

“Of course it is,” he hissed from what sounded like the other side of the room.  “You’re my fucking girlfriend for Merlin’s sake.”  His voice grew in loudness and echoed slightly off of the dark wood surfaces of the common room. 

 

“Keep your voice down,” Hermione warned.  “Answer my question, what are you doing here?”  Hermione started inching her way back towards the door to the common room, trying to find her own bearings but also his.  She found him soon enough as he stepped out of the shadows.  

 

“Ginny has her first game today and Harry and I came to surprise her.  You would’ve known that if you hadn’t run off.”

 

“Quidditch.  Of course,” she said with an exasperated wave of her hands.  “I ran off because we were fighting, Ronald, and you weren’t listening to anything I was saying.  You never listen anymore, you just make excuses, promise to do better, and nothing ever changes.”

 

“What are you saying, Hermione?”  he said.  Hermione could make out that his hands had balled into fists and she assumed his face was starting to turn purple in anger as it did so often recently.

 

Hermione gathered up her Gryffindor bravery, knowing that it was unhealthy to continue in this relationship.  She wouldn’t let him scare her, she had too many other shadows who sought her out during her dreams to let Ronald Weasley make her feel less than normal. 

 

She motioned between them.  “This is over, Ronald.”  She could see his lips pursing into a thin line as she continued.  “I’m not going to sit idly by while you sink your dick into every willing orifice with a pretty face that passes you on the street.”  The thought crossed her mind that Pansy might just be a little proud of her for that.

 

“You’re making this sound like my fault, Hermione.”  He spat, crossing the room and gripping her arms tightly in his hands.  His fingers dug painfully into the flesh of her arms and she felt his nails breaking the skin. 

 

“Let go of me, Ron.”  She hissed, attempting to pull away from him.  “That hurts.”

 

He shoved her against the wall as his grip tightened.  “Not until you come to your senses.”  He was so close to her now that Hermione could smell the alcohol on his breath as he tried to capture her lips in a rough, dominating kiss.  She turned her head and felt his teeth instead sink into her neck. She bit down on her lip, fighting the urge to whimper, unwilling to give him the satisfaction. 

 

“We.  Are. Not. Over.”  He punctuated each word with a kiss to her neck, one hand leaving her arm to palm her breast through her pajamas.

 

White hot anger coursed through her body and if she had a wand, she was certain she would be able to cast the cruciatus curse and mean it.  Placing the palm of her free arm against his chest in what he would’ve viewed as an accepting gesture, Hermione channeled her magic down through her palm and sent him flying across the room with a non-verbal and wandless Stupefy.

 

She scampered up the stairs to her room, knowing he wouldn’t be able to get past the enchantment and she thought she heard him call out to her as she nearly slammed the door to her room shut.  She hadn’t dared to look back at home, but she hoped that he was bloody, bruised, and had broken something.  While they had fought often over the past month or two, Ron had never put his hands on her with the intent to harm her before and she was thoroughly shaken and furious.

 

Hermione crossed the room and looked herself over in the mirror, drawing back with a wince as she caught her reflection.  Furious purple bruises in the shape of his fingerprints were forming on her arms where his fingers had roughly crushed his fresh while her neck was smeared with blood.  She could just make out the imprint of his teeth within the pool of red.  Her normally cool, whiskey colored eyes were blazing with something unrecognizable and her hair was anything but calm, gentle curls – it was almost sparking with magic she was so furious.

 

For the second time that day, Hermione’s world shifted.  She tenderly touched her fingertips to the mark on her neck and felt her blood start to boil.  His idiotic attempt to mark her only served to fuel her anger.  She rubbed the slippery red liquid between her fingers and took several deep breaths, admiring her own strength as she stared at herself in the mirror.

 

Hermione grabbed her wand and the small beaded bag from her bedside table which contained nearly all of her possessions and stormed out of the door.  She made her way quickly down the stairs with the full intention of marching right back into the den of snakes.

 

Chapter Text

 

 

……….

 

 

Hermione thoroughly ignored her classmates as she flew down the stairs and out Gryffindor tower.  Had she paid attention, she would’ve seen many confused stares, heard quiet whispers and would’ve seen one Lavender Brown carefully dabbing at Ron’s head with a wet cloth. 

 

Clutching her wand so tightly in her hand that her knuckles were turning white, Hermione made her way through the halls until she was standing at the portrait of Phineas Nigellus Black once more.  She wrapped her knuckles against the door next to the portrait and waited, bouncing on her feet, the silk of her borrowed pajamas whispering against her. 

 

Inside of the dormitory, Theo cocked an eyebrow at Pansy as he took a bite from his apple.  “A fuh ih at?” He asked the witch as his teeth gnashed at the fruit’s delightfully sweet flesh.  There were remarkably few people who knew the location of their dormitory and even fewer who might be knocking at this hour of the morning.

 

Turning another page in her copy of Witch Weekly, Pansy motioned towards the door with a lazy wave of her hand.  “How should I know?”  she muttered.  “Go find out.”  She drew the publication closer to her face to study one of the pictures, leaving Theo to find out what was going on. 

 

With a roll of his eyes and another bite of his apple, Theo hopped up from the couch and crossed the room.  He swung the door open and leaned against the doorframe, running a hand through his still damp hair.  He stopped in his tracks, apple in his mouth, hand in his hair, as he took in the sight before him.  A very angry Hermione Granger was standing outside of his door.

 

He gave her a cheeky grin and swallowed the apple in his mouth.  “Well, hello there, little lioness,” he said with a cheerful tone.  His body stiffened when he caught sight of a flash of red on her neck and his smile fell.  Before she could say anything, he hooked his finger under her chin and  tilted her head to the side to get a better look at her neck. 

 

“Oh fuck.”  He cursed under his breath, immediately swinging the door open and wrapping a protective arm around her shoulders as he ushered the seething witch inside. 

 

After hearing Theo close the door, Pansy glanced up over the edge of her magazine.  “Oh, hey Granger.”  She said with little regard before she caught the look of fury on Theo’s face.  The witch at his side was apparently seething with rage, though Theo didn’t appear to be the cause of it.  Her eyes trailed down Hermione’s arm where she was four nearly perfectly oval purpling bruises.  Fingerprints.

 

“Shit.”  Pansy threw her magazine down on the nearby side table and grabbed her wand, crossing the room to where Theo had settled Hermione on the couch. She caught sight of the dark red blood at Hermione’s neck and gingerly lifted her curls away from the wound on her neck.  The bruising on her arms would have to wait.

 

Pansy began to siphon off the blood off of Hermione’s neck with her wand as she scolded Theo.  “Why is it that every time you bring her in here, she’s covered in blood, Theodore?”

 

Hermione spoke before Theo could reply.  “At least it wasn’t his fault this time.”  Her teeth were clenched and her hands were balled into fists, wand still gripped tightly.

 

As the wound was cleaned, Pansy could make out the perfect indentations and arch of a set of teeth.  “Who did this to you, Granger?”  Pansy asked, the tone of fury in her voice easily matching that of Hermione’s. 

 

“Ronald.”  She spat.  “He managed to weasel his way into this castle for a Quidditch game and found me in the common room when I went back to the tower.”  Hermione crossed her arms over her chest as her lips snarled into a look of utter disgust. 

 

Releasing a dangerous growl, Theo hurled the core of his apple across the room, it landing with a loud thud against someone’s bedroom door.  He grabbed his wand from the nearby table and furiously began to march towards the door.

 

“I’ll kill him.”  Theo muttered, considering all of the ways he could easily spread Weasley’s entrails over the lawns surrounding the castle.  “That ginger prick is as good as dead.”

 

It was Pansy’s quick thinking that kept Theo from leaving the dormitory.  She pointed her wand at the raging wizard and muttered a spell, causing him to stop abruptly in his tracks.  It was as though his feet were glued to the floor and he flailed about, trying to keep his balance.

 

Theo growled in frustration as he started trying to figure out the incantation to release himself, though for all of his swishing and flicking, he was still thoroughly stuck in place.

 

Pansy ignored him, placing the her wand near the bite mark on Hermione’s neck watching as the skin slowly knitted back together, still oozing a few droplets of blood. 

 

“Release the goddamn spell, Pansy.” Theo knew plenty of dark spells in order to accomplish the job and the thought of anyone hurting Granger made him want to commit murder in her defense.  The thought of hunting down Weasley and demonstrating his vast knowledge of Dark Magic against his person was pleasing.  He was even willing to risk a stint in Azkaban for the witch.

 

Pansy kept an eye on the wound at Hermione’s neck as she disarmed Theo, sending his wand flying into her hand. 

 

He growled angrily at the raven-haired witch. “Give me back my wand, sparrow.”  Theo warned even as he attempted a wandless accio on his wand without success.

 

Pasny gingerly lifted one of Hermione’s arms so she could examine the bruising, noting the clear indentations of the fingers which had held onto her so tightly.  It made Pansy feel sick to her stomach. 

 

“I’m not letting you get sent to Azkaban over the Weasel.  He’s not worth it.” 

 

Pansy met Hermione’s eyes, realizing the very likely possibility that there would be other bruses upon her person.  “Did he –“

 

“No.”  Hermione said abruptly.  She knew exactly what Pansy was asking and immediately refuted the accusation, though she wasn’t sure it wouldn’t have come to that if she hadn’t been able to stupefy him.

 

“Oh, that Merlin.”  Pansy sighed in relief, standing up from where she had been sitting.  “I’m just going to pop into the kitchen to get the bruise cream.”  She said, retrieving a small jar of cream from the cupboard as Theo continued to shift and writhe in place, muttering obscenities under his breath. 

 

A new voice laced with exhaustion and anger greeted them from the back of the dormitory.  “Does someone want to explain what is going on?”  Hermione turned her head to see that Draco Malfoy had exited his room, which Hermione now recognized at the door the apple had hit.  He was leaning against the door frame with his arms crossed over his bare chest, wand held tightly in one of his hands.  His hair was mussed and his pajama pants were slung low on his hips.  At the sight of him, her breath caught in her throat.

 

Pansy managed to disarm Draco just as Theo shouted “Granger was attacked!”  Pansy held both of their wants tightly in her hands, her eyes flitting back and forth between the two males, knowing exactly how Theo’s statement would affect Draco.  He was equally likely to fly off into a rage as Theo had done. 

 

Hermione scrambled to the door and spread her arms across the ancient wood as though her petite frame would effectively block two much taller wizards from leaving their own dormitory.  Theo sent Draco a pleading look as he crossed the room with cautious strides, his face marked with rage, though his movements were eerily calm.  He stopped just in front of her and carefully crooked a finger beneath her chin, tilting her head.  He examined the slowly healing wound at her neck before her eyes found the bruises on her arm.

 

Draco traced a finger just to the side of the bruises in a gentle caress even as Hermione stood frozen against the door, her mind a flurry of emotions that left little room for coherent thoughts. 

 

Draco’s voice was laced with an eerie calm, despite the look of rage which had so recently marred his features.  “Please release Theo, Pansy.  He won’t be going anywhere.” 

 

Hermione felt the whisper of magic as Pansy released the sticking charm which was holding Theo in place and he quickly crossed the room to stand next to Draco.  They bore matched looks of concern as they towered over her. 

 

Theo grasped Draco’s hand as the two of them watched her closely before Draco spoke to her in a calm, gentle voice.  “You live with us now, Granger.  Do you understand?”  Theo’s hand went to her shoulder as Draco’s fingertips trailed lightly up and down her arm.  The tone with which he said the words left no doubt in Hermione’s mind that saying “no” was not an option. If she examined herself too closely, she would’ve found that she didn’t want to say no.  This was the third monumental shift in her small world within the past few hours and Hermione was struggling to keep up with the emotional strain it was taking on her.

 

The weight of Draco’s gaze upon her sent a shiver up her spine as though he were peering directly into her soul.  She acquiesced with a nod and felt her entire body relax against the door.  Draco backed away from her slowly, pulling Theo with him and as their hands left her arms she suddenly felt somewhat empty.

 

Draco squeezed Theo’s hand as if it were the answer to an unspoken question as his silver eyes met Theo’s blue.  Releasing Theo’s hand, Draco snatched his wand out of Pansy’s hand and sauntered back into his room, closing the door behind him.

 

Gathering the witch in his arms, Theo pressed her petite frame against his chest and held her for a minute before slowly leading her back over to the couch so Pansy could finish tending to her wounds.  Hermione’s eyes were as wild as her hair as Theo released a little chuckle and tenderly stroked her unruly curls.  “Stop getting yourself into trouble, pretty witch.”

 

……….

 

 

Hermione wasn’t at all ashamed to admit that she had studied her new housemates in detail over the past two days.  Pansy had helped her settled into the room that had been set aside for Daphne Greengrass and had even drawn her a bath and lent her a jumper and skirt until Hermione could return to Gryffindor Tower to gather the clothing she had left in her trunk. 

 

Hermione had arranged her books on the shelves and set out a few knickknacks and photographs in the room.  Of course, any photos of Ron were left in her beaded bag. Her room had a window which overlooked a rather pretty part of the grounds and it caught the light from the sun in the mornings.  She had set up a little reading nook near the window and it soon felt like home.

 

Hermione had no desire to return to Gryffindor tower and was thankful for the hospitality of the three Slytherins.  Living here offered her significantly more privacy and served to feed her curious nature.  Her new housemates were fascinating and she wasted no time in thoroughly studying them.

 

On the surface, Theo was the easiest for Hermione to read, but she knew there was more beyond what he showed. Oddly enough, Theo showed his mood by the apples he consumed. Tart, green apples meant Theo was in a relative good mood while the sweeter red varietals meant he was irritated about something.  Luckily, he ate green more than red most days and she wasn’t even sure he realized if his choice in apples was a conscious one. 

 

Theo was very playful and lighthearted, but intensely studious at the same time.  He used terms of endearment more than names and they all seemed to convey some sort of deeper meaning.  He consistently referred to Pansy as “sparrow” while his use of “love” for Draco was almost always when he was speaking to Draco in hushed tones.  Hermione didn’t know from one moment to the next if she would be “pretty witch”, “little lioness,” or something else he came up with at random.

 

Despite only having effectively known Theo for about two days, he was easy in his affections and playful teasing though it was clear he was much more relaxed around Pansy and Draco.  If Theo became upset or irritated about something, it was always Pansy who intervened and calmed the wizard down.  She was surprised to find that it was never Draco who took that despite the closeness between the two wizards which appeared to extend significantly beyond friendship. 

 

While Theo was studious, he was more so an artist which Hermione found rather surprising.  When Pansy had invited in Hermione into her room to lend her a jumper, Hermione had noticed a beautifully painted picture of a sparrow in flight which hung above her bed signed T. Nott.

 

While Theo seemed to be a relatively open book, Pansy was much more closed off, though not quite as much as Draco.  Pansy was studious in her own ways but it took effort to see beyond what she chose to project. On the surface, Pansy projected the appearance of a shallow, vapid witch and was often seen primping her hair in a mirror or charming her nails different colors.  She was rarely without a copy of Witch Weekly, though her texts on healing were often quite near as well. 

 

Pansy alternated between being just as crass as Draco and Theo and scolding them for it.  She bickered with both boys as though they were siblings and Hermione suspected the trio had grown up together with how easy their interactions were.  At one point, she thought the three of them might be lovers until she saw Pansy make a gagging face as Draco kissed her on the cheek after one particularly heated discussion.  That thoroughly squashed that notion. 

 

Hermione suspected the more she got to know Pansy, the more they would be fast friends.  Pansy was wickedly smart with a sharp sense of humor.  She radiated strength even when she was acting like a perfect pureblood princess, but there was an air of insecurity there as well. 

 

It was Draco, however, who was a thorough enigma and the moment Hermione thought she had a grasp on exactly who he was, he went and completely threw her off course.  He kept his distance from her after that first morning when he informed her that she was their newest housemate which surprised her.  If she thought hard enough, she could almost feel the soft caress on her arm from that day.

 

When she interacted with Draco, he was always polite and cordial but there was always something holding them back from being easy with one another and Hermione suspected it had to do with their tenuous history.  She could tell he wanted to move past everything but both of them seemed to be at a loss for how to truly make that leap.  She would sometime catch him staring at her, but he would immediately turn away and bury himself in whatever task he was doing.  There were other times where he would tease her almost as Theo would and then immediately draw back as though she was made of fiendfyre.  He was thoroughly perplexing.

 

Of the trio of Slytherins, Draco was the most studious.  His nose was almost always tucked in a book with a pair of delicately framed reading glasses resting atop his nose.  His fingertips were often stained with ink, much as hers were, as he took notes about what he read. 

 

Then, there were times where he simply disappeared for hours at a time and he came back looking peaceful, refreshed, and windswept.  Hermione suspected he was off flying or at Quiddtich practice, but neither Theo nor Pansy confirmed her suspicions.

 

Given how much she had picked up about them over the past two days, Hermione wondered what they had learned about her in such a short amount of time. 

 

The quartet mostly stayed secluded in their dormitory over the weekend, but Monday brought a need for breakfast in the Great Hall before classes began. 

 

Rubbing the sleep from her eyes, Hermione crawled out of her bed and wandered into the bathroom where she washed her face and brushed her teeth.  She donned her uniform with its regulation length skirt, bulky jumper, and simple, practical black shoes.  She plaited her curls into a long braid which fell over one shoulder and applied a glamour to the fading mark on her neck.  She hadn’t felt the need to cover it while she was in the dormitory with the Slytherins, but she didn’t want to answer any awkward questions if anyone were to see it.  The nearly-faded bruises on her arms would be covered by her jumper, if not her oxford.

 

Slipping on her robes, Hermione grabbed her satchel and made her way out of the dormitory. It didn’t appear that any of her housemates were ready for breakfast yet, but she did hear the sound of at least one of the showers running, so someone was at least awake.

 

Hermione made her way down to a mostly deserted Great Hall save for a few students here and there and one very tired looking Professor Sinistra presiding over the head table and deposited her book bag on the bench next to her before grabbing a chocolate croissant and some fruit.  The calming scent of English Breakfast wafted through the air as she poured herself a cup before savoring the taste of the chocolate coupled with the buttery croissant.  Following the delectable bite with a strawberry only served to sweeten the taste. 

 

She languidly ate her breakfast while perusing a book she had retrieved from the library on Arabic Runes until she felt a pair of arms encircle her from behind.  Whoever was behind her released a girlish squeal which managed to both thrill her and grate on her nerves.

 

“Good morning, Ginny.” 

 

“Where on earth have you been, Hermione?” Ginny asked as she settled down next to Hermione on the bench at the table and began piling her plate with bacon, sausage, toast, and eggs.

 

“I’ve not left the castle.”  Hermione vaguely replied. 

 

“I was so close to going to McGonagall when you didn’t show for two days.  Ron and Harry were here and you missed them.”

 

Hermione felt a pang of sadness at missing Harry, but her temper flared at hearing Ron’s name.  “I assure you, I didn’t miss seeing Ronald,” she said through clenched teeth which made Ginny flinch.

 

“Whoa, what happened?  Did you two fight again?” Ginny asked, popping a piece of bacon in her mouth while also managing to look thoroughly concerned for her friend. 

 

“You could say that,” Hermione trailed off as she noticed Theo walking toward their table.  “But it’s not something I really want to talk about right now.” 

 

Ginny nodded, knowing she would get the story out of Hermione before too long.  “I get it.  That still doesn’t explain where you’ve been for the past two days, though.  No one has been able to find you.”  

 

“I’ve… changed living arrangements.” Hermione said in another vague attempt to avoid giving Ginny too much information in the middle of breakfast.  She would much rather divulge the entire story somewhere in private.

 

“What?”  Ginny said with a mouthful of toast.  “What does that even mean?” 

 

Theo had finally reached Hermione’s table and sank down on the bed next to the witch, grabbing a green apple from the basket of fruit on the table. 

 

“It means she’s rooming with us, ginger.”  Theo said with a cheeky grin.  Ginger.  Clearly, Theo had already accepted Ginny since he’d given her a nickname. 

 

“Oh, buzz off, Nott.”  Ginny said with an annoyed look and a dismissive wave of her hand.  She had clearly not been as accepted of Theo’s presence. “Aren’t you at the wrong table?” 

 

“Nope.”  Theo chuckled with amusement and took a bite of his apple.  “House unity and all of that tripe.”  He said with a wink towards the red-headed witch before turning his attentions back to Hermione. 

 

“Can I walk you to class, princess?” 

 

Giving Ginny an apologetic look, Hermione shook her head with a laugh.  “He means well, Gin.  You’ll get used to him.”

 

Ginny sputtered, nearly sending crumbs of toast all over the table.  “What?  What do you mean I’ll get used to him?”  She pressed the back of her hand to Hermione’s forehead.  “Did you get knocked in the head or something?”

 

Theo snickered, knowing a head injury was exactly what had brought the two of them together, which earned him another cold stare from Ginny. 

 

Placing a placating hand atop Ginny’s shoulder and giving her a smile, Hermione calmly said, “I promise I’ll explain everything later, Ginny.  Somewhere more private.”  She placed particular emphasis on the last word and Ginny’s eyes lit up as though it were Christmas as the prospect of secrets and suspected trysts.  Hermione would have to crush her spirits later when she told her exactly what her brother did, but for now she thought it best to let Ginny make assumptions about her and Theo. 

 

Ginny smirked as Hermione rose from the table, gathering up her satchel and draping it across her body.  “I want details, ‘Mione.” 

 

“Later,” Hermione said as Theo gestured towards the doors leading out of the Great Hall. 

 

“After you, princess.” 

 

As they walked away from the Gryffindor table, Theo munched happily on his apple while Hermione looked over at the Slytherin table. Pansy appeared to be thoroughly engaged in conversation with Astoria Greengrass.  The pointing and girlish giggles at something on the table led Hermione to the conclusion that there was some new sordid tale in today’s copy of Witch Weekly.  Draco had a book open in front of him and a bagel in his hand, though his eyes were trained on Hermione and Theo with his face in the unreadable mask he so often wore when outside of the sanctuary that was their dormitory.  Theo flashed Draco a reassuring smile over Hermione’s shoulder as the pair continued their stride towards the doors leading out of the Great Hall.  While she missed Theo’s reassurance towards Draco, she didn’t miss the stares and whispers from the other students which were beginning to grow louder and more frequent.

 

“What is this all about, Theo?”

 

Placing his hand against the small of her back, Theo leaned over and pressed his lips against the curve of her ear in an act of intimacy.  “We’re watching out for you, little lioness.  It’s what friends do.” 

 

The tone of his voice and his proximity sent a shiver up her spine, though she groaned her response.  “I don’t need a babysitter, Theo.  I’m a big, strong witch.  Even helped take down a big dark wizard just a few months ago.” 

 

Theo chuckled.

 

“I can take care of myself, thank you very much.”  She nearly pushed him away from her and tossed her nose in the air before she thought better of it.  “Besides, he’s not even here.”  

 

Theo chuckled lightly and pulled her into his side, his arm resting around her waist as they finally passed through the doors of the Great Hall, a sea of whispers erupting behind the pair. “We never said you weren’t, pretty witch.”

 

“If you pull me any closer, Theodore, people are going to think we’re together or something.”  She chided, keeping her voice low so as not to attract any further attention, though she knew the mere act of them being in such close proximity was doing just that.

 

“Would that be so bad, my lioness?  I’m quite the ardent lover.”  He teased, his lips fluttering against her ear, causing a crimson flush to spread across Hermione’s cheeks.  She knew anyone watching would think there was something beyond simple platonic friendship between them.

 

Hermione promptly wiggled out of his grip and began to walk more quickly towards her first class, hearing him chuckle darkly behind her knowing he could easily catch up with her if he wanted to.

 

“You’re impossible.”  She muttered just loud enough for Theo to hear as she turned the corner, running straight into the muscular chest of one Ronald Weasley.  At first she didn’t realize exactly who she had run into until the scent of his cologne started to make her feel physically ill. She felt his strong arms grip her and she mentally flashed back to the morning two days ago where he had roughly shoved her against the wall and attempted to mark her.

 

“Where have you been?”  He hissed in a low, threatening tone. 

 

“Why are you here?”  Hermione started, fixing her eyes on his defiantly, thankful for the thick jumper between her arms and his hands. 

 

“You’re not supposed to be here.  You’re supposed to be in training with Harry and I suggest you make that happen before McGonagall finds out you never left.”  She wouldn’t let him intimidate her, especially when he had no business being on school property any longer given that the Quiddtich match was nearly two days ago.

 

“Let go of me, Ronald.  I have to get to class.” 

 

Ron breathed out a sigh and loosened his grip slightly.  “Hermione, I’m sorry.”

 

“Good.  You should be.  Your behavior was inexcusable.”  Hermione scolded, keeping eye contact and standing her ground.  There was absolutely no way she would let him weasel his way back into her good graces after what he did to her. 

 

Just as Ron started to speak again, Theo approached the pair, his previously lighthearted smile replaced by the look of rage she had seen on his face the day she had come back bleeding and bruised. 

 

Hermione didn’t know how he was remaining so calm.  “I believe the lady asked you to release her, Weasley.  I suggest you do so.  Now.”

 

Ron’s possessive grip on Hermione tightened once more and she bit her bottom lip to keep from whimpering.  Theo caught her eyes and she saw his eyes darken as he reached for his wand.

 

“Get your Death Eater nose out of it, Nott.”  Ron sneered as he tried to turn Hermione around and escort her down the hallway.  Hermione attempted to resist and ended up with her back pressed against yet another wall.

 

“This is your last warning, Weasley.  Take your hands off of Hermione.”  Theo seethed through clenched teeth as he trained his wand on the other wizard.

 

Ron laughed coldly and squared his shoulders, leaning over the slightly shorter man threateningly as he continued to maintain his grip on Hermione.  He was just about to say something when his face began to look very green.  His grip on Hermione loosed enough for her to side step him and cross the short space over to where Theo was standing.  Ron began retching and was soon vomiting up several slugs as he leaned against the stone corridor. 

 

Hermione put on her best impression of Draco’s cold gaze and sneered down at the retching redhead.  “You listen to me and you listen good, Ronald Weasley.  You will leave right this moment or I will ruin any and every chance you ever had of becoming an auror and see you locked in Azkaban for what you did to me.”

 

He scampered away leaving a trail of slugs in his wake as Pansy made her way to Theo’s side having witnessed the majority of the ordeal.  She whispered calming words into Theo’s ear and his body started to relax as Hermione stood to the side, taking her own deep breaths to help her calm down.  She felt a hand on her shoulder and turned to see Draco had come up behind her. 

 

On the surface, he appeared detached though his eyes spoke of great concern.  “Granger.” 

 

Hermione drew another deep breath and looked over her shoulder at Theo who gave her a nod indicating he was fine. “Malfoy.”  Hermione said, returning the greeting. 

 

Draco withdrew his hand from her shoulder and motioned in the direction of their first class.  “After you.”  He said politely in a low, drawling tone.  The pair continued down the corridor, side stepping slugs here and there in a companionable silence. Draco opened the door to allow her to pass through the door and chose the seat next to her at a table near the front of the classroom.  A seemingly calmer Theo joined them a few moments later and took the seat next to Draco.

 

When Professor Vector was occupied with other students or drawing an arithmantical matrix she had yet to explain, Hermione took the time to observe Draco and Theo in a public setting.  They were much more open in private but she was now able to notice the subtle ways they showed they cared in public.  Theo leaned slightly closer to Draco when discussing an equation while Draco fingertips linger just a bit longer than they should have when passing Theo a bottle of ink.  Their eyes showed a level of care while their expressions appeared neutral. 

 

When they looked at her when the trio were required to work a complex arithmantical equation and chart the resulting matrix and probabilities together she noticed that the way they looked at her was exceedingly similar to the way they looked at each other.  If they noticed the flush to her cheeks when she made that connection, they didn’t say anything.

 

What had she gotten herself into?

……….

 

September shifted into October bringing promises of falling leaves, apple cider, and pumpkin pasties.  Hermione confided in Ginny as to where she had been staying so the ginger haired witch wouldn’t worry after telling the redhead about everything that had happened with her brother.  Ginny was nearly as enraged as the Slytherins has been and promptly sent her brother several Howlers, barred him from all future Quidditch games at Hogwarts, and enlisted the help of George to slip in a few Puking Pastilles and Nosebleed Nougat disguised as Honeydukes Chocolates into the care packages she knew her mother sent.

 

While Hermione and Ginny had never been too close given their difference in age, they were slowly becoming better friends, especially after the entire ordeal with Ron.  Apart from the trio of Slytherins, Ginny was really one of the only friends Hermione had while she completed her eighth year. She desperately missed Harry, but he was nearly unreachable at this point in his training schedule.

 

Hermione and her housemates had settled into a comfortable routine and true to their word, they watched out for her, though no other incidents had occurred following Ron’s return to auror training.  Theo typically accompanied Hermione down to the Great Hall for breakfast where more often than not Ginny and Luna joined them, or at least stopped by to say hello, no matter if they sat with the Slytherins or the Gryffindors.

 

Draco joined Hermione and Theo for Arithmancy and Ancient Rules while she typically walked with Pansy to Herbology, though the quartet had that class together.  Hermione and the Slytherins were in the remainder of her classes following an advanced Charms course she was taking while the three purebloods took a newly required Muggle Understanding and Acceptance course.  Only muggle-borns were exempt from the course. 

 

The group often studied together in their dormitory rather than venturing out into the library.  It was often quieter and cozier than the library would have been though the easy access to additional reference materials was missed at times.

 

Hermione found it refreshing that they seemed to be just as content to study as she did.  After seven years, she didn’t have to badger any one to complete their revisions or hand over her essays so they could be copied.  They asked questions, held debates, and helped each other with revising and editing as needed.  It was delightfully refreshing. 

 

During one of their study sessions, Hermione found herself tucked up against on one of the armrests of the couch.  She had pulled over an end table and had various parchments and reference materials scattered around it while she worked to translate several Arabic Runes for an assignment.  On the opposite end of the couch, Draco was sitting with one leg crossed as he read through a paragraph in their transfiguration text book while occasionally cross-referencing it with a book he had picked up from the library.  Pansy was perched in the armchair near the hearth quietly studying her herbology notes while twirling a lock of dark hair around her finger.

 

A freshly-showered Theo sauntered into the common area from the bathroom, plopping himself between Hermione and Draco on the touch.  With a very intentional stretch that he attempted to make appear natural, he stretched out between them, resting his head in Draco’s lap while he tucked his feet up under Hermione’s bum.

 

“I swear to Merlin Theo, if you even think about wiggling your toes…”  Hermione threatened, scribbling down a partial translation for one of the runes she was working on. 

 

Draco shifted and ran his freehand through Theo’s damp hair as he continued to read through the text.  Theo chuckled at Hermione’s threat and grabbed Draco’s free hand, bringing it to his lips and pressing a kiss to Draco’s palm.  Draco squeezed Theo’s hand and briefly smiled at the man before turning his attention back to his book. 

 

“How are the translations coming, princess?”  Theo asked, closing his eyes as he rubbed his thumb over Draco’s knuckles. 

 

Hermione nibbled on her bottom lip she double checked the translation.  “Proving trickier than anticipated.  I may need to run down to the library.  I know I saw a reference book by Abdelrahman Ghattas that might prove useful.” 

 

“I don’t know why you picked Arabic runes over Nordic or Celtic ones.” 

 

Hermione shrugged.  “I like a challenge.”  She said, flipping through a reference book while looking for information about the next rune in the sequence.  “The Futhark alphabet just loses its appeal after a few years.”

 

Pansy set her notes aside and exhaled an exasperated sigh, rubbing her temples with her fingertips in an attempt to soothe her aching head.  “I don’t know about you three but I’m done studying.  If I read anything else about lunar cycles, nocturnal plants, and bioluminescent properties I’m going to be as mad as a hatter.”

 

“There’s wizard’s chess, though we know I always win because two of you are complete rubbish at the game.”  Draco said, closing the textbook and setting it down on the end table on the other end of the couch ignoring the looks from Pansy and Theo who were clearly the two in question. 

 

“There’s Gobstones or Exploding Snap.”

 

“I don’t fancy getting my eye brows burned off again.” Pansy said with a shudder thinking back to the last time they played the game.

 

“I just showered and you know how hard it is to get that Gobstone smell out of everything.”  Theo complained as he massaged Draco’s palm between his hands.

 

“I have a few bottles tucked away in my trunk.”  Draco mused, running his fingers through his hair and tucking his readers on top of the book he had set down.

 

Hermione snorted, copying another translation down onto the parchment in front of her.  “Surely there’s something better that we could do that doesn’t involve copious amounts of alcohol.” 

 

Theo smirked and wiggled his toes which were still tucked up beneath Hermione’s bum.

 

“THEO!” she admonished, picking up a book from the side table and smacking him in the leg several times with the large volume. 

 

Theo held his hands up in surrender, though he couldn’t stop laughing.  “Okay, okay.  I give.  You win.  I’m sorry!”

 

“You’re such a prat.”  Hermione muttered as her cheeks blushed.

 

Theo just laughed harder and told her how pretty she looked with red cheeks before she smacked him again with the book. 

 

Draco, clearly amused with the entire exchange, pushed Theo off of his lap and stood up. “I’ll get the firewhiskey,” he said, before making his way to his room to do just that as Pansy just sat in her armchair with a knowing smile adorning her lips.

 

 

Several shots later, Hermione was feeling delightfully tipsy and rather carefree as she snuggled back against Theo’s chest.  His arms encircled her waist and her fingers were playing with the hem of her shirt, occasionally brushing over the skin of her stomach and sending a flutter of something coursing through her body.  He had pulled her into his lap sometime after shot number two and she hadn’t made any (significant) attempts to remove herself.

 

She wasn’t entirely sure if it was the alcohol or if it was just the physical proximity and affectionate nature of the wizard in whose lap she was firmly ensconced, but she felt happier than she had in months.  She was somewhat nervous that she was coming between Draco and Theo with the way Theo had been acting towards her, but Draco hadn’t seemed to mind.  He was laughing and smiling along with the rest of them even though there was a witch in the lap of his boyfriend.

 

 

 

“Most likely to shack up with someone in the greenhouse.”  Theo said, feathering the fingertips of one hand over Hermione’s abdomen just above the waistband of her jeans.  Hermione, Theo, and Draco pointed to Pansy while Pansy pointed to Theo. 

 

Pansy grumbled that sounded suspiciously like “arseholes” before taking the shot gracefully, relishing in the burning sensation the firewhiskey caused in her throat. 

 

“Oh, come off it, Parkinson.”  Draco quipped with a chuckle, the alcohol bringing out his more playful side rather than the serious, studious side Hermione was so used to seeing.  It was rather a nice change of pace as they had almost been walking on eggshells around the other for the past month.  “I’ve seen the lovey-dovey eyes you make at the one budding herbologist who happened to behead that damned snake.”     

 

Pansy’s cheeks flushed a pretty shade of crimson and she reached over and flicked Draco in the forehead before grumbling.  “I do not make lovesick puppy faces at Longbottom.” 

 

Hermione grinned up at Theo as Draco rubbed the sore spot on his forehead with an attempt at a sneer, though his laughter gave him away.

 

“They would be cute.” Hermione said as Theo nodded with an equally cheeky grin just as Pansy sent them both a petulant glare.  Clearly, she was not amused they had picked up on her mild (read: major) infatuation with the Gryffindor.

 

“I could introduce you.”  Hermione teased with a wiggle of her brows in a sing-song voice.  “Well, more so than you just being partners during Herbology.”

 

Pansy crossed her arms over her chest indignantly and muttered something indistinct under her breath which led to her other three housemates erupting into another fit of laughter at her embarrassment over the crush she harbored. 

 

“Most likely to be on the cover of Witch Weekly for doing something scandalous.”  Pansy finally said having regained her composure.  Three fingers immediately pointed to Draco who also pointed to himself with a chuckle, though he added that if Blaise were to be in attendance, he would be the obvious choice. Draco took the shot easily and without protest.

 

“Most likely to still be a virgin.”  Draco said and three hands pointed their fingers at Hermione who turned the same shade of crimson that Pansy had a mere two turns ago.

 

“Oh-kay.  I think it’s time for bed.  We’ve all had a bit too much, I think.”  She said in an attempt to avoid embarrassment and taking yet another shot while she attempted to wiggle out of Theo’s embrace which only served to make him pull her back into his chest. 

 

“There’s no shame in it, Granger.”  Draco said with a rare genuine smile.  “It’s all in good fun.”

 

Hermione avoided eye contact with her housemates and looked down at her fingers, nervously threating them together. 

 

“It’s, um… it’s what led to, well… you know.”  She whispered quietly her mind flashing back to the fight she had with Ron which lead to the encounter which left her bloodied and bruised the next day. 

 

Despite the fact that he had been cheating on her, her reluctance to commit to that level of intimacy was what had spurred on the argument that night.  She knew it wasn’t something she should be embarrassed about – there was absolutely nothing wrong with saving oneself for marriage or waiting until one was completely ready, but sometimes what one knew and what one felt didn’t quite align.

 

Sensing her apprehension, Draco took Hermione’s hands in his in a rare display of something bordering on affection as Theo soothingly stroked her curls.  He shared a glance with Theo and waited for Hermione to look at him.  Once she had reluctantly lifted her amber eyes to gaze into the deep pools of molten silver, he spoke to her gently.

 

“Hermione, anyone who pressures you before you’re ready is a piece of shit and what happened to you was in no way your fault.”  Draco told her gently.  Pansy nodded in agreement in the background and sipped her firewhiskey.

 

The gentle caress and pressure of her hands in his coupled with his proximity made Hermione’s head swim.  She felt Theo press his lips against her curls as he did every so often when she was feeling overwhelmed and suddenly everything was just right and too much all at once.

 

 “I, um.  I still think I would like to go to bed.”  She deflected, though she gave Draco a slight nod of understanding.  Theo gave her a reassuring squeeze around her middle and planted another chaste kiss against her curls as Draco released her hands.  If she had been paying attention to anything other than the floor, she would not have missed the sadness in their eyes as she stood up from the couch.

 

Theo’s voice was rather subdued despite the lighthearted banter that had been occurring for the majority of the evening. “Sweet dreams, princess.”

 

“Good night.”

 

 

Pansy watched Hermione leave the common area with a frown her on face.  “Weasley did a number on her.”  She mused once the witch was out of earshot.  “She tries to hide it, but she’s just as broken on the inside as the rest of us.”

 

Somehow, it made Pansy feel better knowing that Hermione wasn’t the perfect Gryffindor princess that the world had made her out to be.  A world like that would’ve been colored too bright and too harsh, but knowing that Hermione had her own demons to face made the world seem more neutral and soothing.  She knew it was an odd outlook, but she’d grown fonder the witch over the past month or so and being able to find out what made her tick helped bring Pansy around. 

 

Pansy had managed to study Hermione just as much as she had the trio when she first arrived.  Hermione was cautious, almost overly so.  She rarely did anything without careful consideration, though once she had fully decided on a path with sometimes took mere seconds or even several days, she threw herself in the task with full force.  She was more cautious and guarded around Draco, and rightfully so. Pansy had been present to many of their confrontations in their youth. She and Theo, despite the way they had been initially introduced, were probably the closest pair, though she had made rather a lot of headway with all three of them.  What amazed Pansy was Hermione’s projection of fearlessness, but if you looked at her in just the right light, you could see the cracks and how she was really barely holding at all together.  She was exactly the same as the rest of them and it was that which had redeemed her in Pansy’s eyes.

 

“I still don’t understand why you won’t let us break his face, sparrow.  He shows up at every Gryffindor game to watch Ginger play.” Theo genuinely liked Ginny and had enjoyed getting to know the hell-raising little redhead after they realized she was just as furious with her brother as they were.

 

“Not true any longer.  Red banned him from the rest of their games.”  Draco interjected.

 

Pansy shrugged her shoulders and gave her oldest friends a sympathetic half-smile, knowing they would have trouble understanding. “It’s her battle to fight, not yours.” 

 

Theo started to object but Pansy held her hand up to silence him.  “She already told him to back off, but I suspect there’s a final battle brewing.  Weasley’s always been too stubborn for his own good.”

 

Pansy glanced between her two best friends, noting the pained looks on their faces, “No matter how much the two of you care about her, this nonsense with Weasley is something she needs to do on her own.  She urged.

 

“Do you think she knows?”  Draco asked quietly, swirling the last of his firewhiskey around the circumference of his tumbler.

 

Pansy nodded, knowing Draco was asking if she realized that he and Theo cared for her.  “She knows, but she may not be quite ready to accept it yet.  She’s going about things in typical Granger fashion.  You know as well as I do that she is highly observant and she finds significance in the tiniest of actions.  Once she’s collected enough data, she will analyze it all until she comes to the most sensible conclusion.” 

 

“Which is…?”  Draco questioned, his voice trailing off slightly.

 

Theo shifted closer to Draco on the couch and gently cupped the blonde’s cheek in his hand, tilting his head slightly so he could look at him.  “It means she’ll get there, love.”

 

With a sigh, Draco leaned over to rest his forehead against Theo’s temple as Theo wrapped him in a warm embrace.

 

 

It was late.  Exactly how late, Draco wasn’t entirely certain.  The living area was bathed in a soft, warm glow from the dying fire as he sat consumed in his thoughts surrounding their fourth roommate.  The seeds of his affection for Hermione had been planted many years ago though Draco did everything in his power to push them aside.  He wasn’t entirely certain when it started and he thought he had been successful in pushing them aside, but ultimately that night he heard she had been cursed in the Department of Mysteries fighting against his father, he knew he had been unsuccessful.  As loathe as he was to admit to himself that he had feelings for the witch, he couldn’t deny any more that she had carved her name into his heart without even realizing it. 

 

Thinking back, he remembered a conversation he had with the bushy-haired witch on the train to Hogwarts during their first year.  She was so full of light in her childlike joy of attending Hogwarts for the first time and even at eleven, Draco sensed she was highly intelligent.  She was witty and kind, even helping Longbottom look for his toad. 

 

The moment he’d realized she was a muggle-born witch, he had turned her nose up at her.  He could still remember the glossy confusion in her eyes as he’d turned down the corridor and left her standing there wondering what on earth she’d done wrong.  He tried to blame her blood status at the time, but even his eleven-year-old self knew that what he had done was wrong.  He’d forsaken a girl he’d found fascinating simply because of something completely arbitrary and unfounded.  She was beneath him.  Filth, his father would’ve called her at the time. How wrong he had been.  He had seen too much death and destruction in his short life to realize that everyone’s blood runs red. 

 

Draco found that as she grew, Granger was beautiful in an unconventional way.  She did not possess the model stature and lithe frame of someone like Daphne Greengrass, but she was petite and soft, with gentle curves and glowing, sun-kissed skin.  Her amber eyes were flecked with chocolate, chestnut, and gold and sparkled with her brilliant intelligence.  She could hold her own in a debate on nearly any subject, except for perhaps Divination and Quidditch and she was equally talented with spells.  She was selfless, kind, and put others before herself.  To make her even more perfect in his eyes, she didn’t seem to let old prejudices cloud her judgement given how quickly she had accepted the three of them.  It was even getting easier to be around her, once he realized how quickly she was to forgive and forget.

 

She had no idea of the effect she could have on him. She was his saving grace and she had absolutely no idea that just the thought of her and the affection he held for her had pulled him out of the darkness, though he had been in too deep to service to Voldemort to realize it at the time.  She was the driving force each time doubt entered his mind at every task he was given during the war.  When she was writhing and screaming on the floor of his drawing room and he was powerless to help her, all holds the Dark Lord ever had on him shattered.  It was in that instant, he had truly begun to change. 

 

Over the summer, Draco had confided in Theo about his feelings for the muggleborn witch once he found out she wasn’t accepting the offer from Shacklebolt to join Auror Training and that she would be returning to Hogwarts.  Theo, being Theo, simply told Draco that he loved him even more because of how he felt about Granger and promptly snogged him senseless. 

 

While Theo had never been openly antagonistic towards Granger as Draco had been, he had simply admired her from afar while occasionally engaging with her in debate during Runes and Arithmancy.  They both held similar feelings for her, though Draco’s feelings at the time were much stronger.

 

Theo was the one who had put Draco back together over the summer after having lived under Voldemort’s thumb for far too long.  To Theo, love was simple, natural, and above all, freeing.  It simply didn’t matter who you loved, how you loved, or how many people you loved as long as there was mutual consent and a foundation of honesty. Theo managed to bring a sense of balance to Draco’s fragile reality with his easy demeanor and rather progressive views.  Theo was easy to love and he gave love just as easily. 

 

Draco was torn from his thoughts as a scream echoed throughout the room, reverberating off of the walls.  He was on his feet and at the door where the scream originated before he knew what he was doing and before the others would be roused from their slumber.  As he opened the door, he saw Granger was writhing in her bed, gripping at the bedsheets with a soft sheen of sweat glistening on her forehead.  Her face was tightly scrunched as though she were in pain with tear tracks staining her cheeks.  Incoherent words fell from her lips as she begged and pleaded for something to stop.   

 

Draco knelt at her bedside and took her hands in his, speaking to her in soothing tones, coaxing her out of the nightmare as Theo and Pansy had done for him countless times.  When her eyelids fluttered open and their eyes met, something passed between them and she launched herself into his arms, gripped his shirt with her hands, pressed her face into the crook of his neck, and cried. 

 

Draco picked them both up off of the floor and pulled her into his lap after settling on her bed, holding her close as she let out whatever it was she needed to release to the universe through streams of salty tears.  He knew just how cathartic that release could be.

 

Ever after the flow of her tears stilled, they sat together in in the quiet night listening to the sounds of the other’s beating heart, neither speaking a word about what had happened almost out of fear that they hadn’t made it to this moment.  That they weren’t a pair of tangled limbs seeking comfort from the other.  That this wasn’t exactly what the other had wanted.

 

Eventually, the pair succumbed to sleep.

 

When Draco woke the next morning, his head was filled with the sweet scent of herbs, tea, and parchment.  Her essence was swimming around him and he felt the flutter of her breath against his lips with each exhale.  He nudged forward slightly, inching closer to the source of the intoxicating scent when he felt their noses touch as his lips brushed against hers.  He startled back as his eyes flew open, exhaling in relief when she appeared to still be sound asleep. 

 

How on earth was he supposed to have explained that he very nearly kissed her, even if it was entirely by accident.

 

Gently twisting a stray curl around his finger, Draco studied her features as she slept.  Tiny freckles dotted her cheeks which were bathed in a warm pink glow from sleep.  Her pouty lips were opened just enough to allow puffs of breath to escape and her brow was no longer creased with worry, but smooth and relaxed.  As he gazed upon her lovely form, he felt a feeling of peace wash over him and he realized he wanted to wake up next to her every single day.

 

 “You’re so beautiful.”  He whispered before reluctantly releasing the mahogany curl from between his fingers.  He slipped out of her bed carefully so as not to disturb the sleeping witch and quietly exited his room.

 

The moment he shut the door behind him, Hermione’s eyes flew open. 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

“You’re so beautiful.” 

 

The words echoed through her mind like the crashing of waves against the shore as the events of last night replayed over in her mind, taking deep, calming breaths.

 

Hermione was blinded by a vibrant flash of light as a terrifying all-too-familiar cackle reverberated off of the ancient stones peeking out through the cracked plaster.  She felt a wand press into her neck as the first wave of the Cruciatus curse tore through her body licking at her veins like lightning and fiendfyre.

 

“Hermione.”  The voice sounded gentle against the waves of pain coursing through her body, but she couldn’t tell where the sound was coming from.

 

She crumpled onto the floor as she heard the insane witch chuckle delightfully at her pain.  “Filthy mudblood.” The witch spat, using her wand to open gash after gash on Hermione’s arm.  Hermione could feel her blood beginning to pour from the wound and she whimpered.

 

“Hermione, come back to me.  Shh.  I’ve got you.” 

 

Another wave of the curse, more powerful than the last, made Hermione feel like her blood was boiling and threatened to stop her heart.  She silently prayed for death as aftershocks of the curse frayed her nerve endings, sending painful sparks shooting up and down her limbs. 

 

“You’re safe, Hermione.  It’s just a dream.”  The voice called out to her and she wanted to believe it.

 

The crazed witch bent over her with the cursed knife and began making cuts into her flesh, nicking her jaw, slicing through the skin over her collarbone, until carving the word that marred her flesh and told the whole world of her heritage.

 

“I won’t let anything happen to you, Hermione.  Please wake up.” 

 

Inhaling a deep breath, Hermione’s eyes finally fluttered open.  His gentle voice continued to soothe her until she realized she was no longer trapped within her nightmare, but was safe in her room.  The voice belonged to a person kneeling next to his bed and his promises of safety and protection slowly came back to her. 

 

In the dim light, their eyes met.  The way he looked at her broke through a wall she didn’t know she had built and she launched herself into his arms, knocking the pair of them back onto the floor.  She locked her arms around his neck, buried her face in the crook of his neck and released everything she had been holding inside of her since the end of the war. 

 

She felt them shift as he picked her up off of the floor and settled them in her bed with her in his lap.  He tenderly stroked her back and whispered more platitudes and promises of safety, protection, and better days to come. 

 

She cried for Draco, knowing how his hand had been forced through the war.  She cried for Harry, knowing how he blamed himself for so much of what happened.  She cried for Pansy who had found it necessary to learning the healing arts much too young so she could help others who had been injured as no child should.  She cried for her broken relationship with Ron, knowing their friendship would never be the same if it ever recovered.  She cried for Theo who hid his own grief behind a cheerful façade. She cried for the world which was plunged into mourning at the loss of so many innocent lives at the hands of a monster.  But most of all, she cried for herself and the emotional and physical scars she would bear for the rest of her life.

 

Relinquishing her control and allowing Draco to comfort her shifted her small world once more and she felt the tears subsiding after a good, long while.  She felt better than she had in months, though her eyes ached and her sinuses were thoroughly clogged and her head was pounding.  They sat in silence as she pressed her ear to his chest to listen to the thud of his heart.  The steady, unwavering beat eventually lulled her into a peaceful sleep until she felt the brush of his lips against her own.

 

How she managed to printed to still be asleep until he left her room, she never knew. 

 

“You’re so beautiful.” 

 

Her eyes flew open after the door shut with a quiet click and her fingers touched her lips, remembering the accidental brush of his lips against hers. 

 

In a moment of impulsivity or what Pansy would call one of the decisions that took mere seconds, Hermione threw off her covers, bounded out of bed and opened her door. 

 

Startled at the sound of Hermione’s door opening, Draco turned around.  It was as though everything was moving in slow motion.  Hermione closed the space between them in a few short strides and grasped at his t-shirt in her hands.  She pulled his face down to hers and crashed their mouths together in a heated kiss, sending shockwaves radiating through his core.  Where her hands pressed against his chest, his hands snaked into her curls, tugging her closer and eliciting a pleasurable moan from the witch in his arms. 

 

Lips were very nearly bruised with fervent movements and tongues danced and moved in perfect harmony.  The entire world could’ve shattered around them and they’ve remained complete oblivious.  The intensity of the kiss waned to gentle nips, licks and nuzzles, as kisses were peppered in the corners of mouths, along jaw lines, and across cheekbones.

 

Hermione rested her head against Draco’s chest, centering herself with the unwavering beat of his heart, her hands pressed firmly against his back as though he would run the moment she let him go.  His chin was nestled on top of her curls as he gently twirled a lock between his fingers as his other hand traveled up and down her spine in a soft, loving caress. 

 

“I have Quidditch practice before the match today.”  He said with a reluctant sigh after internally cursing the clock on the wall.

 

Hermione nodded her understanding, though she made no effort to withdraw from his embrace. Now that she realized what a wonderful thing it was to be swept up in his arms, though it was something she never realized that she needed or wanted, she didn’t want this moment to end.

 

“You should go.”  She said, though she tightened her arms around him just a bit more.

 

“Will you come to the match?”

 

Draco knew she rarely attended Quidditch games when the rest of them traipsed off to the pitch to cheer on whatever team was opposing Gryffindor.  Hermione preferred to stay inside and read rather than brave the elements and the crowds.  Despite this knowledge, Draco desperately wanted her to come.  He wanted to see her smiling face in the crowd and know she was there for him, even if it was likely she was concealing a book in her hands.

 

“I’ll sit with Pansy and Theo.”  She replied, acquiescing to his request knowing her presence would mean something to him.  Theo.  The realization swept over her as soon as the other man’s name escaped her lips and she gasped. 

 

“What about Theo?” 

 

Draco knew his brain was still addled with the need for more sleep, but he felt like he shouldn’t be quiet this confused at her reaction.  “Why would Theo mind if you sat with them?  He would probably enjoy – “

 

Hermione shook her head and cut him off.  “No.”  She pushed back from his chest and looked directly into his confusion laced eyes as she gestured wildly.  “You and Theo… and oh, Merlin.”  She whispered, her chest constricting making it hard to breathe.  “What have we – “

 

Draco placed a finger over her mouth to silence the frantic witch finally realizing what she must be thinking. 

 

“Theo will probably kiss us both on the cheek and demand a cuddle.”  He watched her eyes grow wide with confusion and shock and couldn’t help but smile at her naivety.  Hadn’t she been wrapped around Theo just last night? Couldn’t she see what she was to them?  He knew she was thinking too much and that she deserved an explanation, but there wasn’t time to give her one at the moment. 

 

Instead, he leaned down and pressed his lips against her forehead pulling her into his arms for one last embrace before he had to get his gear and head down to the pitch.

 

“Please don’t over think this, Hermione.” He pleaded, “I promise we can talk about everything after the match, but I’m in danger of being rather late.”

 

“Later” Hermione affirmed with a nod as Draco pressed his lips against her forehead, one last time though she made no promises about overthinking things. 

 

After they separated, she wandered back into her room and closed the door, climbing back into her bed.  She inhaled his scent on her pillow even though she was already worrying just what Theo would think of the entire exchange.  Had she just made herself into an other woman.  That was the absolute last thing she ever wanted to be.  She didn’t want to be the cause of Draco and Theo’s relationship falling apart. 

 

How was she supposed to act normal around Theo today knowing that she had just shared the best kiss of her entire life with his boyfriend?

 

The pounding in her head was almost worse than the time Theo had accidentally slammed her against the wall which is what started this entire mess in the first place.

 

……….

 

 

Later that day, Hermione found herself wedged firmly between two Slytherins wearing Draco’s green and silver scarf which had been forced upon her by one very persistent Theodore Nott.

 

Come on, pretty witch!”  He whined, “We’re going to support Draco, wear green and silver, just this once – please?  For me?

 

Being natural around Theo was proving to be easier than she had anticipated.  It felt so natural to be near him and his arm was casually slung around her shoulders.  Despite the fact that she snogged the heck of out Draco this morning, Theo’s mere presence put her at ease when it should’ve completely unsteadied her.

 

Hufflepuff was currently losing to Slytherin with a gap in scores so wide that the badgers were extremely unlikely to recover and the snitch had not even been spotted yet. Hermione cheered enthusiastically for Slytherin each time one of the chasers scored despite the strange looks she was getting from the crowd of Gryffindors just a few sections away. 

 

She was almost certain Harry and Ron would learn about her cheering on who they thought were their mortal enemies before the day was out from one of the nosy Gryffindors, but she honestly didn’t care.  For once in the past several years, she was dancing on the edge of true happiness and she would be damned if anyone was going to ruin that for her.

 

Each time a goal was scored by the Slytherin team, Hermione and Pansy would enthusiastically jump up and down like they were first years.  Theo would occasionally pick one of them up and twirl them around, planting kisses on cheeks, though he seemed to heavily favor Hermione’s cheeks over Pansy’s, though Pansy didn’t seem to mind.  Neither Hermione nor Pansy minded the open way he showed his affections to the two witches in public, though each time he did it, she thought of Draco and wondered if he had and seen and what he thought. 

 

Draco would often fly by their seats and wink or flash a charming smile during a lull in the game before he sped away to throw off the Hufflepuff seeker.  Hermione heard several younger Slytherins swooning behind them and she wasn’t sure if Draco was doing it simply to be a prat or if his sultry smiles and cheeky winks were intended for her, Theo or even Pansy.

 

The game finished with a final score of 470 to 160 after Draco successfully caught the snitch and Hermione, Pansy, and Theo made their way down from the stands to meet Draco after the game.  They stood making small talk near the base of the stands until Draco sauntered out of the locker room dressed in a clean Slytherin jersey with Malfoy emblazoned on the back and a pair of muggle jeans, running his hand through his freshly showered and still damp hair.

 

He parted his hair to the side as he approached the group, walking immediately to Hermione and kissing her soundly on the mouth in front of Merlin and everyone earning them several stares from the various students still mulling around the pitch as well as smiles from their companions.  It wasn’t a particularly long or scandalous kiss; it was more sweet and short, but it evoked certain emotions in Hermione which she wasn’t entirely used to feeling.  They were as confusing as they were wonderful. Contentment.  Normalcy.  A sense of belonging.  Home.

 

“You are my good luck charm.”  He said with a warm smile, slipping the fabric of the scarf between his fingertips as he leaned his forehead against hers.  The sight of Hermione wearing not only his house colors but his scarf coupled with the adrenaline from the game made him feel happier than he had in years.  After their rather impassioned morning was just the cherry on top of what was turning out to be a thoroughly fantastic day.

 

Of course, Theo used his crass humor at that very moment to spoil the intimate moment between the pair.

 

“Nah, the Puff’s seeker couldn’t stop oogling that sixth year Ravenclaw with the huge tits a few sections away.  They never had a chance.”  Theo countered, slinging an arm around Draco’s shoulders with a cheeky wink.  He followed his embrace of Draco with a kiss to Hermione’s cheek, causing a lovely flush to rise to the apples of her cheeks.

 

The flush seemed to come from yet another flood of emotions.  The trio were nearly a tangle of limbs as Draco’s arm was curled around Hermione’s waist as Theo had his arms slung across Draco’s shoulders.  Theo reached over and pushed a curl away from Hermione’s face and smiled one of his dazzling smiles.  She nearly melted into a happy puddle. 

 

She didn’t know why, but something felt so right being in such close proximity to the pair of them.  The gentle touches, the familiar embraces, it all felt like what she had been missing during her entire relationship with Ron.  If she hadn’t ever believed in soulmates before, she would’ve considered it to be a distinct possibility at this point.

 

“Must you be so crude?”  Pansy said, smacking Theo on the arm causing the two males to roar with laughter knowing exactly how crude Pansy could be when she was in the mood.  Hermione tried to bite back her own chuckle but found herself to be thoroughly unsuccessful, having seen the extent of the witch’s dirty mouth on one occasion when she was pining over some celebrity in Witch Weekly.

 

“Don’t you know me at all, sparrow?”  Theo chided with a teasing tone, withdrawing his arm from around Draco’s shoulders and crushing Pansy against his chest who vehemently attempted to wriggle and writhe her way out of the unexpected embrace while muttering obscenities under her breath.  Theo just held on tighter and laughed at the witch in his arms.

 

When she finally got free, Pansy fluffed her hair and smoothed her skirt and blouse before calling Theo an “insufferable git” as she strode away from her friends in an effort to preserve her dignity.

 

……….

 

 

Theo carded his fingers through Draco’s blonde locks as they lay together in Theo’s bed, thoroughly sated with nothing but a set of sheets protecting their modesty.  Pansy had a habit of barging in whenever she felt like it and despite the fact that the girls had nipped down to the Great Hall for supper, Theo and Draco had learned the hard way that the last thing Pansy wanted to see when she opened a door was male genitalia.  It was better to be safe than sorry.

 

“Do you want to tell me what was going on between you and Granger today?” 

 

Draco lifted his head from Theo’s chest and caught his eyes. “Do you mind?” He asked, though he was almost certain Theo wouldn’t harbor any ill will towards him or Hermione after what he’d seen following the Quidditch match.

 

Theo made a nose that fell somewhere between a laugh and a snort and shook his head with a smile.  “Of course not, love.  We’ve discussed this, if I recall.”

 

Draco peppered a trail of kisses along the brunette’s jaw, nipping playfully at the lobe of his ear.  “You need to tell her, then.  She has some righteous idea in her head that we’ve done you an injustice.” 

 

“I’ll bet all of that Gryffindor nobility is just eating the witch alive.”  Theo said with a playful chuckle and a roll of his eyes. “She just doesn’t know us that well yet if she thinks I would be offended at her finally returning your affections.” 

 

Draco settled his head back down onto Theo’s chest, purposefully taking the man’s hand and setting it back down on top of his head in a silent request for Theo to keep stroking his hair.  “What if she doesn’t want us?”

 

Theo obliged and continued to pull his fingers through Draco’s hair as he spoke causing Draco to emit a contented groan.  “I don’t think that will be a problem, though I’ll let you go if it comes to.” 

 

Draco tightened his grip around Theo’s midsection.  “No, absolutely not.  As much as I want her, I’m not letting you go.  You’re too important to me.” 

 

“I love you too.”  Theo told him with a gentle caress of his cheek.  “Tell me what changed the dynamic between the two of you.”  

 

Heaving a sigh, Draco began to recall the events of the previous evening.  He had run over what had happened between them so many times today that he had intimately examined every detail that had brought them together. 

 

“After you and Pansy went to bed, I stayed up for a while.  I heard her start screaming and before I knew it, I was in her room comforting her like it was something I had been doing all along.”

 

“She sounded like she was being tortured.  She was muttering all sorts of things and I knew she exactly what she was relieving. You know that I see that night more often than not when I close my eyes.” 

 

Theo hugged the man closer to him and kissed the top of his head as Draco continued.  “I ended up easing her out of it in much the same way you and Pansy get me out of my own head and she threw herself at me. She cried for I don’t know how long before we eventually both fell asleep.  When I woke up, I accidentally kissed her and –“

 

“How do you accidentally kiss someone?”   Theo interrupted with a laugh, trying to imagine all of the possible scenarios that could lead to an accidental kiss.  It’s a pretty purposeful action.

 

 

 “You know how good she smells.”

 

Theo grinned like a lovesick puppy, remembering how he couldn’t quite get enough of her when he had pulled the witch into his lap the night before while they were playing drinking games.  “Yeah, she smells like sunshine and sin.  I want to bury my face in those curls and never come up for air.” 

 

“I swear I moved my head a centimeter because she’s like my own personal vial of Amortentia and all of the sudden our lips were touching.”

 

“And she kissed you back?”

 

“No.  She was still asleep, or so I thought.  I left her room a moment later, but I get maybe 10 paces from her door and she’s launching herself at me and pulls me into one of the best kisses of my entire life.”  Draco paused, remembering the softness of her lips upon his and the sweet taste of her mouth. 

 

“If you think she smells amazing, wait until you taste her.”  Draco moaned at the memory of having the witch pressed against him, the feel of his hands tangled in her curls, and the taste of her on his lips.

 

The mere thought of Draco engaged in a passionate kiss with the witch they were both hopelessly enamored with stirred Theo’s arousal.  He flipped Draco onto his back, pinning the wizard’s arms against the bed as he envisioned the sight Draco described. 

 

“Well, well, well…” He mused, punctuating each word with a nip to Draco’s neck.  “… our little lioness never ceases to surprise me.” 

 

“She’s not ours yet.” 

 

“She will be.” 

 

……….

 

 

Though she had her color-coded notes, textbooks, reference materials, and revision charts spread out before her, Hermione couldn’t focus.  She and Draco still had not had the opportunity to discuss what happened between them this morning (and again after the match) and how it related to Theo and it was making her feel a bit sick to her stomach. 

 

After she and Pansy had come back from having supper in the Great Hall, Theo was sketching something on a pad of paper while Draco was reading and both looked freshly showered.  The only issue was that Draco’s head was in Theo’s lap and Hermione felt a pang of jealousy after the incredible kiss she had shared with Draco this morning.  Then she remembered how nice it had been to snuggle up to Theo while they were playing drinking games the night before and she ended up just feeling even more confused.  It followed then that they had both kissed her in their own ways after the Quidditch match.  Why did everything have to be so utterly confusing?  Somehow, both boys had managed to etch their names on her heart and she knew exactly how it happened.  Theo used his pet names and his carefree affections while Draco showed her his unexpected kindness and protective instincts. 

 

It didn’t help her thoughts that they were both devilishly handsome.  Draco with his silvery blonde tousled hair, gray eyes, lithe seeker build, and intoxicating, masculine smell and Theo with his incredible height, strong arms, broad chest, cheeky smile, and sapphire blue eyes she desperately wanted to lose herself in.

 

Shit. 

 

She liked them. Both of them… and therein lied a huge problem.  Weren’t witches only supposed to like one wizard at a time? 

 

Nothing like this had ever happened to her in her entire life before.  She felt nothing but brotherly affection for Harry but she had developed feelings for Ron, even though he was turning out to be a complete tosser.  She had also liked Viktor a bit, but that didn’t go anywhere. Never in her entire nineteen years had encountered a situation in which she was practically lusting after two people at the same time.  Lusting may be a bit strong of a word, but the sentiment was the same.  Feelings.  Emotions… and certainly not platonic ones.

 

If she hadn’t decided to take herself down to the library, she was certain one of them would’ve noticed she had read the same sentence twelve times in the past twenty minutes while trying to gather her thoughts.

 

Being that it was a Saturday night and no one in their right mind was studying but her, she had her favorite spot in the entire school to herself, though the silence was proving to be more of a distraction than a comfort.  She missed the click of Pansy’s nails against her ever present mug of coffee, Draco’s mutterings about whatever he was reading, and the scratches of Theo’s pencil as he sketched.  

 

She was really in deep with the Slytherins, but ultimately grateful she had the opportunity to get to know the three of them.  Had Harry and Ron been here, it was highly likely she would never have had the chance.  Honestly, she should still be living in Gryffindor Tower but the headmistress either hadn’t caught on yet or didn’t really care where she spent her time.  Hermione was of age and eighth years tended to have a few special privileges that typical students did not.

 

Realizing she wasn’t likely to get any work done, Hermione gathered up her materials and promptly made the trek back to the dormitory.  She almost made it to the door when she felt the whisper of magic and her feet were knocked out from under her.  She crashed painfully against the floor, her wand and bag landing somewhere nearby though out of her immediate reach. 

 

She heard someone practically growl the word “traitor” before she heard the shouted Confringo which sent her hurtling against a nearby stone wall.  She barely had time to throw up a wandless Protego but it did little to lessen the blow.  Her head was buzzing and her ears were ringing as she struggled to stay conscious.

 

“That’s what you get for kissing a Death Eater, traitorous bitch.”  Someone else spat. How many of them were there? The world was spinning around her from the impact and by the time she summoned her wand to her, the group had already turned the corner. 

 

She was in no state to chase after her attackers. Hermione’s entire body ached from the impact she had made against the wall and given how difficult breathing was becoming, she was certain she had, at the very least, cracked a rib.  She grabbed her bag off of the floor and nearly collapsed against the door, whispering the password and stumbling inside.

 

It was Draco’s quick thinking which kept Hermione from collapsing onto the floor.  He was the one who spotted her as soon as she opened the door and once he saw her haggard appearance, he was off of the couch and at her side, supporting her weight to keep her from going down.  Hermione cried out in pain and what little remaining color drained from her face when his arm grasped her around her middle in an attempt to steady her.

 

“Shit.”  Draco cursed, picking her up as gingerly as possible and carrying her over to the couch for Pansy to survey her injuries.

 

As soon as she was settled, Theo began whispering sweet nothings into her ear, though Draco could hear the panic in his voice. “It’s going to be okay, Hermione.  You’re safe, we’ve got you, pretty witch.  Breathe for me.  That’s it.  In and out.  Good girl.”  Theo traded a look with Draco that made Draco’s stomach clench.

 

Hiding her own concern with a bit of cynicism, Pansy surveyed the disheveled witch through narrowed eyes and pursed lips. “We’ve got to stop meeting like this, Granger.”  Pansy said as she passed her wand over Hermione, muttering the incantations for several different diagnostic spells.  Runes flared and dulled in a myriad of colors in the air over Hermione’s body causing Pansy to mutter a string of curses.

 

Hermione whimpered as the pain began to intensify as the adrenaline began to wear off even as Draco cradled her head in his lap.  He gently caressed her curls as Theo paced behind the couch trying to stay out of Pansy’s way.

 

Once she had run every diagnostic spell she knew, Pansy picked up Draco’s discarded book and hurled it across the room in anger, sending it to land against one of the bedroom doors with a dull thud.  “We have to get her to the hospital wing.  This is beyond my skills.”

 

“Tell me.”  Draco commanded, never taking his eyes off of Hermione as Theo gripped the couch behind them.  Hermione’s face was contorted in the pain she was attempting to suppress and tears had begun to leak from her eyes.

 

“As best I can tell, she has several fractured ribs, one of which is puncturing one of her lungs.  See how her lips are starting to turn blue?  She’s not getting enough oxygen.  I can deal with ribs, but I have no experience with lungs.  We need to move, now.”

 

Without hesitation, Draco slipped out from underneath Hermione, being careful not to jostle her in any way. He slipped his arms beneath her and lifted her into his arms as Theo cast a weightlessness charm on the injured witch before dropping a kiss to her forehead.  Without another word between them, the fourth eighth years were soon making their way to the hospital wing.

 

Madam Pomfrey stepped out from behind her desk as Theo opened the door to allow Draco to pass through as he carried Hermione, but it was Pansy she addressed first after seeing the dark-haired witch enter the hospital wing.

 

“Status?”  She said, gesturing for Draco to set Hermione down on a nearby hospital cot.

 

“Fractured ribs caused by some form of blunt force trauma, at least one or two of which is puncturing her right lung.  Minor internal bleeding, several muscle tears, difficulty breathing, and signs of gradual anoxia.  No evidence of lingering curses, hexes, or jinxes.”  Pansy explained with clinical precision. 

 

Poppy Pomfrey smiled proudly at the younger witch.  “You’ll make a fine healer someday, Miss Parkinson.”  She said fondly before fully turning her attention to Hermione. 

 

Draco had once again cradled her head in his lap and was soothingly running the tips of his fingers over her forehead, cheek, and jawline.  Theo tightly gripped Draco’s other hand and knelt at her bedside, speaking to her in soothing, dulcet tones to keep her calm and breathing through the pain so her writhing didn’t worsen the damage. 

 

“Get a sedation draught and a pain potion from the stores.  We’ll need some skelegrow later, but not until I have her stabilized.”  She said to Pansy, performing her own set of diagnostic spells to confirm Pansy’s diagnosis, not bothering to ask the two young men to leave her side.  She’d seen in all in her years and was not all perturbed to see the two purebloods being so gentle and loving towards the muggleborn witch. 

 

Two hours later, Hermione had been stabilized and was now resting peacefully under the effects of the sedation draught while the broken ribs, which had been vanished were re-growing.  Draco and Theo had both fallen asleep in the much the same positions they had been in when Hermione was brought to the hospital wing.  Hermione’s head was cradled in Draco’s lap as he leaned back against the bedframe while his hand still gripped Theo’s.  Theo was sat on the floor with his head resting on the bed, with one hand curled over Hermione’s hip.

 

“What happened to her?”  asked the Matron as she put away the bottle of Skelegrow.

 

“We don’t know for certain.”  Pansy said with a shake of her head.  “She went to the library to study and she came back to our dormitory in the state you saw her in.  I made the diagnosis and knew it was out of my scope and we brought her here.” 

 

“Minerva mentioned she took it upon herself to move into your dormitory. Has anything like this happened before, Miss Parkinson?”  She asked, handing the younger witch a cup of strong, well-sugared tea.

 

“Thank you.”  Pansy replied politely, taking a sip of the warm liquid.  “Nothing like thism no.  There was another incident earlier in the school year, but it was more akin to the beginnings of attempted rape than blatant violence.” 

 

“Was it reported?”

 

Pansy shook her head.  “No.  Granger wanted to keep it quiet.  I’m not certain the two situations are related.” 

 

The Matron pursed her lips and sipped her own tea with a frown until her eyes trailed over to the two young men in such close proximity to the muggleborn.  “I assume there’s an interesting story concerning Miss Granger, Mr. Malfoy, and Mr. Nott.” 

 

The corners of Pansy’s mouth curved upward into a rare, genuine smile.  “Drake and Theo are infatuated with her and have been for a few years now.  She’s starting to return their affections.  It’s rather sweet, really.” 

 

Poppy Pomfrey smiled.  There was nothing that warmed the older witch’s heart more than the thought of blossoming young love. “You know, Mr. Longbottom asked after you the other day.  The lad managed to fall down the stairs trying to skip that trick stair.” 

 

Pansy felt the heat rise in her cheeks and before she knew it she was blushing.  “He’s my partner in Herbology, nothing more.” 

 

“That must explain why he hasn’t been to see me nearly as much this year.”  The Matron laughed, knowing how accident prone the lanky wizard had been in years past.  “I’ll bet you simply take care of minor injuries in the heat of the moment.” 

 

“I carry a small medkit in my bag.”  Pansy admitted with the grace to look a bit sheepish.  

 

The next morning, Hermione awoke in the hospital wing feeling only marginally better than when she had been brought there the night before.  After giving her another dose of pain potion, the matron sent the trio of Slytherins from the hospital wing to fetch breakfast and so she could question Hermione in private.  Draco and Theo had protested fiercely about getting the boot but the matron remained unwavering as she extolled the virtues of a proper breakfast and them needing their strength.

 

 

“Can you tell me what happened, Ms. Granger?”

 

Clearing her throat, Hermione called the memories of last night to the front of her mind. “I was struck from behind with what I think was some form of the Jelly-Legs Jinx because I lost my balance and fell to the ground.  From there, someone sent a Confringo at me while I was on the ground which in turn sent me hurtling against one of the walls outside of the Slytherin Eighth Year dormitory.  I managed a wandless shield, but it didn’t seem to do much given the extent of my injuries.” 

 

Madam Pomfrey nodded, making notes on the circumstances surrounding her injuries in Hermione’s chart.  “Do you know who attacked you?  Or why?”

 

Hermione shook her head, wincing at the pain the movement caused.  “There were two of them, maybe three.  One of them called me a traitor.  The other one said I deserved the attack because I “kissed a Death Eater.”

 

“And did you?” 

 

Hermione nodded, fidgeting with her fingers. “Yes.  Draco kissed me after the Quidditch match yesterday and I know we were seen by several students, though I couldn’t tell you who they were.” 

 

The Matron smiled fondly at Hermione.  “Thank you, dear.” She said, making a few final notes in Hermione’s chart before closing the file and vanishing it it’s proper place in the filing cabinet.

 

“I should like to keep you under observation for one more day, Miss Granger, and then you may return to class, with the promise to take it easy.” 

 

“Can Draco and Theo stay with me?”  Hermione blinked her eyes and yawned, the effects of the pain potion making her feel rather sleepy.

 

“Would that make you feel better?”

 

“I think it would help them to stop worrying so much about me if they could be near me. They’ll drive Pansy to do something drastic otherwise. But yes, it would help me as well.” 

 

“Very well.”

……….

 

 

Following her release from the hospital wing, Hermione found that she received more curious stares and hard looks than before when the Slytherins practically escorted her through the halls now.  They had always walked together to classes and often to meals, but now, she never went anywhere without one of them at her side and often the four of them were found together.

 

Early on, the four of them mostly kept to themselves and kept their heads down, ignoring the whispers floating around them as they passed other students in the halls.  Though after a few weeks as October faded into November, the whispers still hadn’t died down.  The entire school as abuzz about whatever was going on with Gryffindor’s princess, one former Death Eater, and the heir to one of the biggest wizarding fortunes in England.

 

In private, the trio discussed and explored their new relationship and were often found in a tangle of limbs on the couch with Hermione and Draco reading while Theo sketched. Their affections for each other slowly carried over into the public lives as well.  Hand-holding in the hallways, pecks on the cheek before class, curling up in one of the overstuffed chairs in the library. 

 

Ginny did what damage control she could, but it did little to lessen the ever-present whispers and stares of their fellow students, but one day, Hermione just snapped.  If she heard one more whisper about herself, Theo, and Draco she was liable to send someone to the hospital wing for just looking at her with less than a smile.  That same day, several students happened to end up in the hospital wing with their lips and ears magically sealed shut.

 

It was petty, but Hermione decided from that point on that she didn’t care.  Let them whisper.  Let them talk.  She was tired of all of the speculation and simply decided to have some fun at the expense of everyone else.  If they wanted to whisper about her behind her back, why not actually give them something to whisper about?

 

Hermione attended the next Quiddtich match wearing one of Draco’s jerseys while on the arm of Theodore Nott.  After Draco caught the snitch, Theo gathered Hermione in his arms and kissed her soundly.  It wasn’t quite as earth shattering or world shifting as that first kiss she and Draco had shared, but it felt just as right.  They had traded pecks here and there as the three of them simply fell into their new relationship, feeling each other out, but this kiss was different, though she couldn’t exactly pinpoint how. 

 

When she walked down the halls, she often held hands with Theo or Draco while the other had an arm draped around her.  She wasn’t afraid to jinx anyone who sent them venomous stares or whispered behind their backs. She became as protective of them as they were of her. 

 

It also helped having Neville on their side.  He had shown up one day with Pansy’s hand firmly enclosed in his own and joined their group with a smile, greeting Theo and Draco as though they were old friends.  It wasn’t always easy caring about someone the rest of the world shunned, but you did it because they mattered to you. Neville seemed to understand.

 

Ginny was one of their first supporters and fell into easy conversations (and a few heated debates) with Draco and Theo which mostly revolved around their shared love of Quidditch. Luna and Pansy even managed to find some common ground though the latter thought the former was completely mental.  Apparently, a shared love of journalism brought the two witches together given that Pansy hoped to be a published healer one day and Luna wrote regular articles for the Quibbler.

 

It wasn’t until December that all of the whispers and stares finally started to subside.  The students were finding out that it was rather painful and embarrassing to get on the wrong side of that select group of friends.

 

Sometime in early December, something else shifted between them as Theo asked the question that had been on everyone’s mind as the holidays were looming ahead.

 

“What are your plans for Christmas, pretty witch?” Theo asked, feathering a kiss against her ear as his arms snaked around her waist from behind as she stood in their small kitchenette. 

 

She tucked an errant curl behind her ear and frowned, her body stiffening slightly though she continued to prepare her cup of tea.  “I hadn’t given it much thought, really.  I used to go home or to the Burrow, but I suppose I’ll just stay here.”

 

“Why stay here when you go can go home, princess?” Theo asked with a curious smile, his head resting on her shoulder as Hermione stirred milk into her cup of tea.

 

She pulled his hands from around her waist and slipped out of his embrace to lean against the countertop, leaving the cup of tea discarded behind her.  She wrapped her arms protectively around herself as she said simply, “I don’t have a home to go to.”

 

Her sudden separation from him left him perplexed as she rarely pulled away if she was upset about something. “What do you mean?”  He asked gently as he hopped up onto the opposite counter top and grabbed one of the apples from the fruit basket.

 

Hermione stared down at the floor and bit her lip.  “Before Harry, Ron, and I went on the run last year to hunt down the horcruxes, muggleborns and their families were being attacked.  It was all over the papers. 

 

“I knew I wouldn’t be able to protect them so I irreversibly obliviated myself from my parent’s memories.  I didn’t know I wouldn’t be able to reverse it until after the war was over, but they’re currently living in Australia and have no idea they even have a daughter.  I orphaned myself for their safety.”  Hermione’s voice trailed off into something just above a whisper at the end of her tale, just as her hands began to shake.

 

The room was so quiet, you could have heard a pin drop were not it for the crackles and pops of the roaring fire.  The events of the school year had made everyone temporarily forget about what they all went through during the war, though it was clear that their feelings were merely buried just below the surface.  Hermione’s revelation about her actions taken to save her parents brought to light the fact that they had been on opposite sides during the war.

 

The mood in the room shifted from lighthearted and comforting to something dim and tense.  Though the sconces on the wall hadn’t dimmed, the room suddenly felt oppressive and dark as everyone remembered everything they had been trying to forget.

 

Placing a hand over the spot on his left forearm, Draco was more aware of the mark in his flesh than he had been in previous months.  He had willingly taken the mark in an effort to protect his mother as his father grew weaker and out of favor.  For all Draco knew, his father was still in St. Mungo’s, though he hadn’t received an owl from his mother for a while.

 

Theo’s thoughts shifted to his father who had received a life sentence in Azkaban for the cruelties he had inflicted upon others during the war while his mother and younger sister were living on the continent in relative obscurity in an effort to avoid discrimination at the hands of the British Wizarding Community, though neither had ever openly supported the Dark Lord. His mother had recently filed for divorce in a bid to further distance their family from Theo’s father.

 

Pansy twirled a lock of her hair as Neville gently held her other hand, her own thoughts drifting to her desperate attempt to end the war by handing Potter over to the Dark Lord.  Her father had been forced to take the Dark Mark while under the influence of the Imperius Curse which he remained under for the majority of the war so as not to openly protest against any of the Dark Lord’s efforts.  Her mother was currently a patient of a ward at St. Mungo’s receiving treatment for a blood curse which left her unable to speak.

 

Neville squeezed Pansy’s hand as she recalled his own rebellion against the efforts of the Carrows to force the other students into casting unforgivables on each other.  The resurgence of the D.A. and his efforts on the behalf of other students were something that kept him going through the darkest of times.  He knew a bit more of what his parents had suffered at the hands of the Lestranges each time he was subjected to the Cruciatus Curse.

 

Despite everything all of the others had endured, Hermione’s tale seemed to be the most harrowing.  Everyone else still had some remnants of family, while Hermione was an orphan in the truest sense of the word. On top of everything else she had done to aid the war effort of which her actions had helped to turn the tide against Voldemort, she had selflessly protected her parents in the only way she knew how.  Obliviation was a drastic measure, but who knows what would’ve happened to the Granger’s had she not taken that step?

 

Pushing aside his own grief, Draco crossed the small space in a few short strides and pulled Hermione into his arms. She reached her hand out to grasp Theo’s as he shifted down from the counter before he leaned his own cheek against Draco’s shoulder, wrapping his arms around the pair of them.

 

Watching the intimacy of the scene unfold before her, Pansy silently tugged Neville out of their dormitory in an effort to give the three of them some semblance of privacy.

 

Draco feathered his lips against the curve of her ear as he held her against him.  “I love you, you brave, beautiful witch,” he whispered as Theo brushed Hermione’s hair away from her face and slipped a finger under her chin, tilting her tear-stained eyes to look at them. 

 

“You are incredible and amazing in so many ways, Hermione.  I love you just as much as Draco does.  You bring so much light into our lives that I can’t imagine ever letting you go.”  Theo said in a rare moment of sincerity before capturing her lips in a sweet, soft kiss. 

 

Hermione pulled Draco closer to her as she parted her lips, allowing Theo to briefly deepen the kiss before pulling back and resting her forehead against Draco’s chest once more. She knew they wouldn’t hold it against her if she didn’t say the words.  She showed them how much she cared in her little everyday gestures.  Emotions were running high this close to the holidays and she was having trouble teasing out exactly how much she cared for the pair of wizards who held her in their embrace.  Everything still felt so new and fresh.  She knew her feelings ran deep, but wasn’t it too early for love? 

 

Draco leaned his head against Theo’s shoulder as he caressed Hermione’s curls while Theo lightly stroked his back.  “I’d like it if you came home for Christmas.  We have a townhome in London that rarely gets used.” Draco offered, knowing she wouldn’t want to go back to the Manor, though neither did he. 

 

Theo cupped Hermione’s cheek in his hand, his thumb tracing the outline of her lips.  “I could join you both for Christmas after I see my mother and sister in Paris.” 

 

When she spoke, there was no hesitation to her voice.  “I would like that very much.”  Hermione knew that going to the Burrow was no longer an option given what had happened between her and Ron, though she knew Mrs. Weasley would’ve welcomed her with open arms.  This seemed to be the perfect solution as it left her in the company of two people she cared very deeply about, and maybe even loved rather than alone of Christmas as she had anticipated.

 

“Do you mean it, Hermione?  You’ll come?”  Draco asked for reassurance.  He had been expecting an outright “no” or at least a period of “I need to think about it” rather than an almost eager “yes.”

 

Hermione laughed and dropped a kiss to his neck, just below his jawline.  “Yes, Draco.  I’ll come home with you for Christmas.” 

 

As Draco leaned down to kiss her, threading his fingers into her curls, Theo slid his arms around her waist from behind, slipping his fingers just beneath the hem of her shirt relishing in the feel of her soft, warm skin against his cool palms.  His fingers traced patterns along her stomach, circling her belly button, trailing along her lower ribs, to even daringly dipping a finger just below the waistline of her jeans as he peppered kisses along the line of her shoulders.

 

Hermione pulled back slightly and gazed into Draco’s eyes as her hand slid up his chest to rest against his jawline, tracing the outline of his ear with a finger.  Theo took the opportunity to nip at the side of her neck, his teeth gently sinking down into her flesh followed by gentle licks, kisses, and nuzzles to the same spot.  The action caused Hermione’s eye lashes to flutter and a soft moan to escape her lips as her back arched. 

 

If they could’ve apparated to the bedroom, Theo would’ve sent the three of them to the bedroom without a moment’s hesitation.  Instead, he grabbed both of them and led them back to his room which took much longer because in the process Hermione lost her shirt and Draco’s neck was already sporting the signs of a love bite.  Watching the passion that flowed between the two made Theo’s eyes cloud with lust. 

 

As they finally entered Theo’s bedroom, Hermione tugged Draco’s shirt off of him and pushed him back onto the bed.  She settled into his lap with her back to his chest and soon Theo’s shirt was also discarded on the floor.  Hermione trailed her hands along Theo’s sides as he tangled his fingers in her curls, roughly tugging at the roots of her hair as their mouths met in a thunderous kiss.  Her back arched once more as she moaned into the kiss, allowing Theo’s tongue to slide against her own. 

 

Draco deftly unclasped her bra with a practiced precision and slipped the practical garment down her arms.  He kissed and nipped at her neck, as his hands cupped the soft flesh of her breasts.  As his fingertips just brushed over her nipples, Hermione’s hands were making swift work of Theo’s belt, though as he rolled one between the tips of his fingers, her back arched and her head came to rest against Draco’s shoulder as she nearly growled with pleasure.  Theo palmed her other breast in his hand and hungrily kissed Draco as he pushed the two of the back onto the bed so that the pair was laying down with Hermione’s back still pressed into Draco’s chest. 

 

Draco’s free hand cupped Theo’s growing erection through his trousers as his other lightly pinched Hermione’s reddened nipple, relishing in the way she ground her hips against him as she squirmed.  Theo pushed his trousers and underwear down, freeing his erection, hissing in delight as Draco’s hand gripped his cock and began slow, even strokes. 

 

Draco withdrew his touch after a moment and settled Hermione’s hand on Theo’s cock, returning his attention to her breasts and slipping his fingertips beneath the waistband of her jeans.  Hermione’s caresses were gentle and timid as she worked her fingers around the shaft, stroking the hardened flesh with a sense of curiosity as though she were studying his reactions to each slightly change in pressure or curve of her fingers. 

 

Draco shifted Hermione onto the bed, slipping out from underneath her and settled himself between her thighs.  He braced himself on the mattress and placed a line of reverent kisses along her collarbone as his fingers quickly undid the fastenings of her jeans and began to slip them down her legs.  As they fell to the floor, he trailed his fingers along her thighs, admiring the simple, cream colored lace knickers covering her sex.

 

Theo hovered his mouth just above the curve of her ear, his voice husky with lust as she continued to stroke him, fingers curled around his length, thumb swiping over the head and catching the bit of moisture at the tip.  “Are you okay where this is headed, princess?  He asked, purposefully tweaking one of her nipples just at the end of the question. 

 

Hermione gasped and nodded, her hand squeezing around Theo’s cock as Draco slipped his fingers just under the last remaining scrap of fabric on her body, waiting to hear her assent. 

 

Theo clicked his tongue and shook his head, his tongue darting out to trace the curve of her ear.  “No, no pretty witch.  I need to hear you say it.” 

 

Draco released a low chuckle as he teased Hermione with fluttered kisses just above the waistband of her underwear.  As the scent of her arousal filling his nose he released a possessive growl.

 

“Y-yes.”  Hermione’s voice was breathy, light, and dripping with need. 

 

“There’s my lovely, wonderful girl.”  Theo praised against her ear, pressing his lips lovingly against her temple and removing her touch from his erection before slipping off of the bed and fully removing his trousers and underwear. 

 

At her assent, Draco slipped the lace knickers down her legs, and parted her thighs, revealing her folds which were glistening with her arousal.  “Beautiful.”  He muttered, slipping a finger between her folds, watching her face as her pouty lips released a whimper of need.  He pressed his finger further into her wet heat and felt the tightness of her walls clench and pulse around him as he lowered his mouth just above her folds, releasing a breath of warm air which caused the witch to shiver. 

 

“Please…” she moaned.

 

Theo knelt behind Draco and slipped his trousers and underwear down his legs, watching as Draco’s fingers began to slide in and out of Hermione’s core causing the witch to grind and sway her hips, mews and whimpers escaping her lips.  As Draco’s tongue darted out to taste the witch, Theo’s hand grasped Draco’s cock.  Theo wasn’t sure if it was his ministrations or the taste of their witch that elicited the low, rumbling growl from between Draco’s lips, but the sound of it nearly sent Hermione over the edge and caused his cock to harden almost to the point where it was painful.

 

Draco licked and lapped at her clit, causing Hermione to nearly scream and Theo to grab one her hands to steady her and he pumped Draco’s erection with the other.  He slipped a second finger into Hermione’s quim, curling his fingers slightly on each downstroke as he moved his fingers within her. 

 

Another soft, “please” escaped her lips as Draco briefly withdrew his fingers and held them up for Theo who greedily sucked them into his mouth, moaning against his fingers as he tasted their witch for the first time. 

 

It was Draco who found release first as the sound of Theo’s moans coupled with the taste of Hermione’s sweet essence sent him over the edge.  At this, Draco turned away from the witch writhing beneath his touch and sat on the floor with his head resting against the mattress, catching his breath.  Theo leaned over him and took his place, dipping his tongue into Hermione’s folds as he pressed his erection against Draco’s lips giving him little time to recover from his own orgasm.   Draco took Theo’s cock into his mouth, swirling his tongue around the tip as he grasped Theo’s arse roughly in his hands. 

 

The sensations flowing through Hermione’s body were new and intense and she relished the heady feeling.  A fire burned in her abdomen while parts of her body became simultaneously numb and overstimulated, and it had her nearly begging for release.  They had taken her to the cusp and back down, dragging out her pleasure in a frustrating and wonderful way. 

 

Their names were rising and falling from her lips between curses, whimpers, moans, and ragged breaths.  Each reverent caress led took her to a new level of pleasure until she was floating on the cusp of release.  She pinched and tugged at her nipples as Theo slipped his tongue into her core causing her tip over the edge as wave after wave of earth shattering pleasure ripped through her body.

 

The sound of her scream sent Theo over the edge, spilling his own seed into the back of Draco’s throat. Once he recovered the ability to move, Theo crawled up onto the bed and cradled Hermione against his chest, gently stroking her back. Draco settled in on the other side of their witch, his hand caressing the curve of her hip as he buried his face in her sweet-scented curls with a contented sigh.

 

“You did so well, Hermione.  I’m so proud of you, my sweet witch.  Did you like that?”

 

Theo’s words sent a jolt of lightning up Hermione’s spine as a warmth spread throughout her tired, sated body.  She gave him a sleepy smile and a nod of her head as she snuggled closer to his chest. 

 

Just as Theo was about to prompt her to say the words, she uttered a quiet “yes, Theo” with a smile and Draco pressed a kiss against her shoulder in reward, the three of them soon drifting off to sleep, wrapped around each other. 

 

It felt right.  It felt perfect.  It felt like home.

 

Chapter Text

 

Pansy watched the scene before her unfold with a smile as Draco and Theo finally confessed Hermione exactly how deeply they cared for her. Judging by the smile on Hermione’s face, it was clear she reciprocated their feelings and Pansy was grateful that the muggleborn witch hadn’t broken their hearts.  Theo and Draco were her best friends, with Theo practically being her brother and Merlin knew they all deserved some happiness after everything they had been through over the last several years.

 

She glanced over at Neville who was staring at them with a touch of confusion in his honey-brown eyes.  He’d been around the trio enough to know that something was going on between them, but had never seen the depths of their affection run quite this far.  Pansy grasped his hand and tugged Neville out of the eighth year Slytherin dormitory, grabbing their cloaks on the way out with a whispered promise to explain. 

 

Neville and Pansy made their way down the stairs, across the grounds, and eventually ended up tucked away in Greenhouse 4 which was Pansy’s favorite of the seven greenhouses.  The fifth years were currently engaged in a project where different flowers were crossbred to see what effects were produced and those projects were currently being house in Greenhouse 4.  There were Middlemist Reds crossed with Jade Songvine trailing along one of the walls.  Poison-Heart Pansies crossed with Ghost Orchids released a subtle, sweet scent that reminded Pansy of a summer day while the Gibraltar Campion – Luminescent Arrowbloom hybrids let off of a lovely pink glow.  Though it hadn’t been intentional, it was a rather romantic atmosphere.

 

The unlikely pair settled into a corner of the greenhouse and Pansy cast warming charms on both of their cloaks given the cool December air that was attempting to seep into the humid greenhouse through a few cracks in the windowpanes.  Pansy tucked herself under Neville’s arm and breathed in his warm earthy scent.

 

“Do you really want to know the whole story?”  She asked.

 

“I’m a bit curious as to how that happened, yeah.”  Neville said with a light chuckle as he ran his fingertips up and down her arm. 

 

“I think it really started back in fourth year when Granger came down those stairs in that blue dress and rendered Draco speechless.  He was my date to the ball that year and I remember being particularly irritated because he wasn’t paying enough attention to me.”  Pansy laughed, thinking back on her mild infatuation with Draco when they were younger. The thought of being with him now gave her a shudder. 

 

“He kept stealing looks at her all night, but would complain about her in the next breath call her all sorts of vile names.”  Pansy paused for a moment.  “I’m not entirely sure when it started for Theo.  I know they did a project together back in fifth year, so it could’ve started at that point, but I do know that by the end of fifth year, they had both started to feel something, even if they were loathe to admit it.” 

 

“Draco’s views on life began to shift after Granger was cursed when your lot went to the Department of Mysteries in fifth year. Theo had never held with the vitriol that was shoved down our throats as kids, but Draco was a firm believer, up until that point.  He lived to emulate his father and I know it took him a long time to come to terms with how vile Lucius really was back then.”

 

“Are you saying Lucis Malfoy has changed?”  Neville interrupted.

 

“Oh yes.  He’s quite lovely these days, but he’s been quite ill for the past several months.  I saw him just before term started when I went to visit him in the hospital with Draco and Theo.”  

 

“Anyways,” Pansy continued, “Theo held back and simply admired Granger from afar, making it a point not to engage her, lest he be considered a blood traitor.  His father has a penchant for violence and Theo didn’t want anything to happen to his mother or sister because of his actions.” 

 

Pansy gazed off into one of the flower hybrids thoughtfully.  “She’s the one who changed him, Draco, but by the time he realized he was in too deep with the Dark Lord.  He took the mark and well, you know what happened up until the end of the war.” 

 

“But how did they get to this point?”  Neville asked, rubbing gentle circles along Pansy’s arm. 

 

“I’m getting there.”  Pansy said, knowing this story was already running long.  “After Granger was brought to Malfoy Manor and Draco was forced to watch her being tortured, something inside of Draco snapped.  He was barely a shell of a person at that point and barely made it through the final battle, eventually turning against Voldemort and taking down a Death Eater or two himself.”

 

“I thought he ran off with his parents?”

 

Pansy shook her head.  “No, once he made sure they were both safe, he came back.”

 

That act of bravery thoroughly impressed Neville, even if it took until the very end for him to turn. 

 

“The trials happened early in the summer and Draco, Theo, and I were able to spend some time together at Theo’s after we were all exonerated and Nott Sr. ended up in Azkaban.  Theo is the one who managed to breathe some semblance of life back into Draco before we came back to school.  Those two became thick as thieves and ended up intimately intertwined, though I don’t think they’ve ever actually labeled their relationship.  They just seem to do what is natural which really makes quite a bit of sense.”  

 

“Draco has some really awful nightmares and Theo was usually the one to go him whenever he woke up screaming. I have no problem handling Theo when he’s upset over something, but Draco is beyond my capabilities when he gets upset.  I know at some point that as they talked through Draco’s nightmares and the topic of Granger came up.  Both of them realized that they were infatuated with her, but didn’t want to separate from one another.”

 

“Now, I’m not certain that they ever came up with an actual plan to pursue her, but it was really the craziest thing how she fell into our laps.”

 

Pansy smiled fondly, thinking of the night Granger ended up in their dorm room and none of them knew just what to do with her.  Now she couldn’t imagine them not being friends; she honestly liked the girl.  “Granger ended up on our doorstep after Theo accidentally injured her.  I patched her up and she left the next morning, only to come back with fresh injuries from that bastard ex of hers.  Draco simply told her she was staying and she did.”

 

“I don’t know what compelled her to stay,” Pansy said with a shake of her head.  “But she did, and I’m glad.  I like Granger and she’s good for them.”

 

“Injuries? What happened between Hermione and Ron?”  Neville asked, confused.  “Last I heard from Ron they were still together.” 

 

“Oh no.  No.” Pansy said with a shake of her head, her voice growing low, quiet, and seething with anger.  “If the Weasel comes near her again, I’ll Crucio him myself.  He bit her neck so hard, it looked like she’d been attacked by a vampire and she had bruises in the shape of his fingers on her arms.  Had she not been such a swot with her knowledge of wandless magic, I’m nearly certain he would’ve raped her.” 

 

“Shit.”

 

“Yeah.” 

 

Neville pulled her into his chest, dropping a kiss on the top of her dark, silky hair thinking it best to change the subject.  “What are your plans for Christmas?”

 

“Home for the holidays at the estate with Mother and Father.  Theo’s mum and mine are still planning on throwing their annual Christmas Eve Party which I’m certain I’ll be forced to attend.”   Pansy said with a groan, remembering the last party where she had been forced to dance with her third cousin Daulton who stepped on her toes and tried (and failed) to seduce her into signing a marriage contract. Theo and Draco teased her relentlessly for the rest of the holidays that year.

 

“Do you think you might be able to find some time to have lunch with me one day?”  Neville asked with a warm smile. 

 

“Only if you promise to be my date to the party.” 

 

“Deal.”  Said Neville, closing the space between them to capture her lips in a soft, sweet kiss.

 

……….

 

Rather than taking the train to London, Draco and Hermione opted to walk the short distance to Hogsmeade and floo into the Leaky Cauldron, after bidding goodbye to Theo and Pansy.  They quickly stepped out of the pub and into Muggle London opting to walk the fairly short distance to Draco’s family home in a posh section of the great city. The winter air was crisp as they walked hand in hand, stopping here and there to peek into a shop or grab a warm glass of cider form a vendor.

 

As soon as they crossed the threshold of the traditional, white terraced home, laughing with pinked cheeks from the cold winter air, Draco pulled Hermione into an embrace, the satchel he’d been carrying dropping to the ground with a thud.  She nuzzled her cold nose against the side of his neck before he dropped a simple, sweet peck on her lips. It was perfect. Hermione was looking forward to spending the next few weeks away from the prying eyes and sordid whispers of the rest of the students and even a few professors who gave them a few sidelong glances.  The only thing that could make it more perfect at this moment would be Theo’s presence. 

 

The moment of perfection was short-lived when a musical voice could be heard from down the hall.

 

“Draco, darling.  Is that you?”

 

The distinctive click of a pair of heels making their way across hand-scraped wood floors grew louder by the second and Hermione found herself scanning her immediate surroundings looking for somewhere to hide. 

 

Sensing her apprehension, Draco simply grasped her hand and whispered against the curve of her ear.  “No time.” 

 

The elegant form of Narcissa Malfoy strode into the grand foyer with her perfect posture and not a hair out of place.  It was coiffed in a delicate twist at the nape of her neck and parted at the side.  Her robes were dark, silk and stopped just below the knee leaving her silk-stockinged legs on display.  Upon her feet were a pair of delicate black heels that probably carried several layers of balancing and cushioning charms.  Draped over her arm was one of the finest winter cloaks Hermione had ever seen.  It was a rich, black wool and was lined with a fine, soft fur. 

 

Draco took a tentative step towards his mother, placing himself slightly in front of Hermione.  “Hello, Mother.”  He said in a polite though somewhat stilted greeting, unsure of how his mother would react to Hermione’s presence.

 

If the Malfoy matriarch took note of his uncharacteristic greeting, she made no mention of it.  She simply crossed the foyer to embrace him and smiled politely at the brunette with riotous curls accompanying her son. 

 

“Hello, darling.  I was just coming back from visiting your father and took it upon myself to ensure the house was ready for you.”  Narcissa said as she embraced her only child.

 

“Thank you, mother,” Draco replied politely as he wrapped his free arm around the woman who raised him, giving Hermione’s hand a squeeze as he did so. 

 

Peering over her son’s shoulder as she embraced him, Narcissa took a closer look at the girl who had accompanied him.  As she stepped back from her son, she greeted the young woman with a warm smile and an incline of her head.  “How lovely to see you, Ms. Granger.”

 

Whatever Hermione had expected from Narcissa Malfoy, it wasn’t the warm, vibrant creature before her.  The butterflies in her stomach, which had initially settled in due to uncertainty, now fluttered about in a nervous need to impress Draco’s mum. 

 

“It’s a pleasure, Mrs. Malfoy.”  Draco squeezed Hermione’s hand again in reassurance.

 

She took a close look at the girl, peering over Draco’s shoulder for a moment as she hugged her son and stepped back to greet her as well.  “Ms. Granger, how lovely to see you.”  She said kindly with a polite nod of her head.

 

“It’s a pleasure, Mrs. Malfoy.”  Hermione replied nervously as she felt Draco squeeze her hand reassuringly. 

 

“Call me Cissa, please, my dear.”  Narcissa turned her attention back to her son realizing that the young man typically attached with a permanent-sticking charm to his side was nowhere in the immediate vicinity.  She idly wondered if Ms. Granger had perhaps replaced her son’s lover but she was certain Draco or Theo would have written.  Theo was like a son to her, after all.

 

“Where is Theodore?”

 

Draco slipped his arm around Hermione’s shoulder, pulling her into his side as he addressed his mother.  “He’s in Paris visiting his mother and Imogene.  He should be by in a few days.”

 

Narcissa clapped her hands together with glee.  Her son clearly held Ms. Granger’s affections given the way he was so tenderly stroking her arm as he held her against him.  It was also abundantly clear from the blush creeping up Ms. Granger’s cheeks that Theodore meant something to her as well.  That sneaky son of hers.  He was courting two people at once– one witch and one wizard.  While it wasn’t unheard of, it certainly wasn’t common but Narcissa didn’t care as long as it made her son happy.  

 

“Splendid.  I expect he will return when Ophelia does so she and Violet can finalize the party preparations.” 

 

Narcissa assumed he planned to go with Theodore if he attended at all, but now there was this lovely creature at his side who just needed a bit of refashioning to be truly stunning.  “Do you intend to take Ms. Granger?”

 

Draco shot a wary glance towards the witch at his side whose color was slowly draining from her face.  He hadn’t even planned to mention the annual party to Hermione, much less attend the event.  This was certainly not the way Draco had envisioned their holiday beginning. 

 

“We’ve not discussed it”, he said evasively, hoping his mother would take the hint and drop the subject.

 

She didn’t. 

 

Narcissa took just a moment to attempt to analyze Hermione’s curves through her navy-blue muggle pea coat which seemed to be just a bit too large.  “I would be quite happy to take you shopping for a gown, my dear.” 

 

“Mother.”  Draco warned.

 

Narcissa waved a hand dismissively.  “Oh shush, darling.  You already know Pansy will be there – Violet will make certain of that and it is almost certain Ophelia will drag Theodore along despite the protests he’ll make.  Therefore, it makes perfect sense that you and Ms. Granger should show your faces as well. 

 

Hermione had wrapped her arm around Draco’s waist and was gripping the material of his coat in her hand tightly.  Though his mother appeared perfectly charming, she had an air about her that somehow made Hermione feel as though she were speaking to royalty.

 

“Hermione, please,” she managed to squeak out.  “Please call me Hermione.”

 

“It’s settled, then.”  Narcissa said with a curt nod of her head and another charming smile taking Hermione’s offer to use her given name as an acquiescence to her offer of taking the witch shopping.  “Hermione, it was lovely to see you but I must be off.”

 

Turning her attentions to her son, Narcissa gave him a pointed look.  “Draco, darling, make sure you see your father sometime before you return to school.  As if to emphasize her potion of authority as his mother, she patted his cheek before leaving the pair standing in the middle of the foyer, dumbstruck.

 

As she heard the floo roar to life in the other room, Hermione released a breath she didn’t know she was holding.  She pressed herself firmly into Draco’s side and lead her head against him, hoping her fluttering heart would slow down soon.

 

“What just happened?”

 

Wrapping his arms fully around the petite witch, Draco took a moment to process everything his mother said and didn’t say.  He knew she was shrewd woman and that she likely gained a vast amount of insight in that brief interaction. 

 

“Not only does my mother approve of you, she likely also understands that you, Theo, and I are together.  Ensuring that we attend the party and taking you shopping is her way of figuring out exactly what your intentions are and confirming everything else she thinks she’s figured out about you.”

 

“She got all of that from three minutes of conversation?”  Hermione asked incredulously. 

 

“Don’t let her smiles fool you.  She is the most shrewd and cunning woman I know and very nearly the most intelligent.”

 

Hermione took a moment to consider Narcissa Malfoy and Draco’s appraisal of his own mother.  Through many late-night conversations, she knew that Draco adored his mother.  The need to secure her safety was one of the reasons he was marked, otherwise who knew what the Dark Lord might have done? The woman was intriguing and Hermione looked forward to getting to know her more, even if she had to suffer through shopping for some form of gown.

 

“Were you intending on telling me about the party?  Hermione asked, giving him nearly the same look his mother gave him just before she left.

 

Releasing a laugh and shaking his head, Draco cupped her cheek with his hand.  “I was sincerely hoping we could avoid it all together.”

 

“But now we’re both being forced to go.”

 

“Yes, sweetheart.”  He crooned.  “And to top it off, you essentially agreed to go shopping with my mother.”  Draco laughed and buried his face in Hermione’s curls, inhaling the scent of her in an attempt to stave off the giggles.  As much as he loathed shopping with his mother, he imagined Hermione would dislike it even more. Even if he begged to accompany them on bended knee, he knew his mother would never capitulate and allow him to accompany them.  She was bound and determined to corner Hermione and get the answers she sought without his interference. 

 

Sneaky witch.

 

“Did you just call me sweetheart?” Hermione nearly wrinkled her nose.

 

“Yes?”

 

A smile played on her lisp as she nuzzled her cheek against his chest.  “You’re spending too much time with Theo.”  She chided.

 

Draco playfully tapped her on the nose with his index finger and kissed her forehead.  “Never, princess.”  He teased, leading the witch towards the stairs with a suggestive grin on his face as she giggled.

 

“Now let’s go unpack before my mother decides to pop back by unexpectedly and ruin my plans again.”  

……….

 

 

When Narcissa Malfoy invited Hermione along to shop for a gown for whatever type of party the matriarchs of the Nott and Parkinson families were throwing, she had expected a trip to a posh boutique in Diagon Alley or perhaps a muggle shop in London.  What she hadn’t expected was that the trip would entail several international portkeys, a trip to a salon so exclusive it was under a Fidelius charm, and being poked, prodded, and wrapped with pins, cold fingers, tape measures, and wands.  The entire ordeal ended with several sets of what Cissa called suitable outfits in addition to one rather extravagant ball gown shrunk and neatly packed in several boxes and bags. 

 

Hermione wasn’t even entirely sure what the world suitable meant to Narcissa Malfoy but the witch had worn a distinctly pleased smile the first time Hermione had donned a pair of silk stockings and sensible, black leather pumps.  It was Hermione’s opinion that she looked nearly nothing like herself, though the clothing Narcissa had chosen was luxurious and exceedingly comfortable much to Hermione’s surprise. 

 

Hermione was even wearing one of said suitable outfits as darling Narcissa had covertly discarded her practical clothing while Hermione was being measured and fit for the ball gown that she was certain cost more than the average Ministry employee made in a year. It consisted of a modest black wool skirt with fell just to her knees, a golden hued silk blouse with cuffed sleeves at her wrists, sheer silk stockings, and a pair of black dragon-leather French heels.  To top off the ensemble she was draped in a set of exquisite black short-robes which stopped just at the edge of her skirt and cinched in at her waist.

 

Despite the fact that it was the middle of December, the witch felt quite warm thanks to several layers of warming and temperature regulation charms woven into the garments.

 

Hermione’s hair was drawn back away from her face by a set of bronze combs, with soft ringlets cascading down her back, stopping just below her shoulder blades.  Hermione expressed to the older witch that she was certain she would never be able to replicate what the stylist had created, but Narcissa had waved a hand dismissively and said she would teach Hermione the appropriate charms.

 

While shopping with Narcissa hadn’t been quite the experience Hermione expected, she found that she enjoyed the witch’s company.  Her humor was similar to her son’s and she was kind and generous.  Hermione couldn’t detect a shred of anything disingenuous in the witch’s actions.  Despite her enjoyment, Hermione still couldn’t entirely understand Narcissa’s motivations.  They had set out to purchase one gown and came home with an entire closet full of clothing ensembles, cloaks, coats, shoes, stockings, and even a few lacy underthings that Hermione felt were just a bit on the scandalous side. 

 

As they wandered the wide aveunes of Wizarding Paris searching for Christmas gifts, Hermione decided now was an opportune time to ask the Malfoy matriarch about her motivations. 

 

“I greatly appreciate everything you’ve done for me today, Cissa.”  Hermione said sincerely, “but I’m struggling to understand why you are going to such trouble over me.” 

 

The older witch drew her eyes over the younger as though examining her every asset and flaw.  “We live in a world where appearances are more important than ever.  It is not simply enough to be fiercely intelligent, but you must be able to command a room with your mere presence or you’ll never have opportunity to use your intelligence.”

 

Hermione nibbled on her bottom lip as she considered Narcissa’s words. “I didn’t realize…”

 

“Indeed.”  Narcissa said with a kind smile.  “You look quite capable now, my dear, whereas before you looked rather young and naive.”

 

The smile on Narcissa’s face turned to one that was just a bit too smug for Hermione’s tastes.  “It is also not inconsequential that you are courting my son and that gives me the right to spoil you a bit.” 

 

Much as her husband, Narcissa enjoyed the intrigue of politics but above all she valued her family.  Draco was happier than she had seen him in several years, moreso than he had been after reuiniting with Theodore and Narcissa had a suspicion that the witch at her side had something monumental to do with her son’s happiness.  Should the relationship between Draco and Hermione, it would do wonders for the Malfoy name for their heir to be seen in public with the war heroine, especially looking as she did now.  Narcissa was rather proud of herself, though it didn’t take much to bring out Hermione’s natural beauty. 

 

“I’m not certain your son will recognize me.”  Hermione muttered, trailing her fingers across the spines of several books on alchemy.  

 

Narcissa settled a hand on Hermione’s shoulder and leaned forward to speak quietly in her ear.  “I am also quite certain Theodore will approve.”  Narcissa’s comment stopped Hermione in her tracks.  She stopped moving, stopped breathing, and it was very likely a few synapses in her brain misfired as she considered those eight words.

 

Once her brain decided to start functioning once more, she turned to face Narcissa trying to quickly think of a way to explain the dynamic between the three of them but before a single sound crossed her lips, Narcissa held up a hand to silence her.

 

“I have known Theodore since he was born; his mother Ophelia being one of my oldest and dearest friends, and I love him as one of my own.  Let me assure you I am very aware of the relationship he shares with my son, Hermione.”

 

Hermione attempted to swallow the lump which had risen in her throat but found herself unsuccessful.  “Cissa, I…”   

 

“My dear girl, it is inconsequential to me upon whom my son bestows his affection.  I have not seen him quite this happy in many, many years.”  Narcissa rested a calm, mothering hand on Hermione’s shoulder in an attempt to soothe the girl’s rapidly fraying nerves. 

 

“Am I correct in my assumption that Theodore shares similar affections as my son with regards to you?”

 

Hermione nodded, squeaking out a quiet “yes”, while Narcissa simply smiled warmly upon the younger witch, a glint in her eye letting Hermione know she was indeed pleased with the arrangement the three of them had yet to label. 

 

Narcissa plucked a volume from the shelf with her long, thin fingers.  It was a beautifully bound treatise on the alchemical reactions of herbs and metals native to South America.  “Draco doesn’t have this one.”  Narcissa said as she placed it into Hermione’s hands.  “It would make a lovely addition to his library.” 

 

Lovingly tracing her fingers over the gold script imprinted on the binding, Hermione cradled the book in her hands and thanked Narcissa.  Draco’s mother continued to surprise her with her intuition and gentle nature.  Hermione felt silly having been intimidated by the woman at all.  It seemed that everything Hermione thought she knew about Narcissa Malfoy was entirely false.

 

“What do you suggest for Theo?” Hermione asked as they stepped out onto the wide, sunny avenue after purchasing the book on alchemy and another on wizarding law for Draco as well as a few other titles Hermione had been coveting.  The books would pair nicely with the effortlessly soft slate-gray scarf she had purchased a few weeks earlier. 

 

Narcissa wore a mischievous smile on her lips as she thought of the young wizard and his artistic talents.  “I rather think he might enjoy some muggle art supplies.  He is quite the artist, after all.”

 

Of course, Hermione would purchase some more decadent pigments and pencils, but she was now bound and determined to give Theo a muggle coloring book and a set of crayons.

 

“Perfect.”

 

……….

 

 

Following a few more stops in Paris and one quick trip to a muggle supermarket to secure her silly gift for Theo, Hermione and Narcissa caught their final international portkey back to London. Flooing in from their arrival point at the Ministry, Hermione and Narcissa arrived back into the terraced home.  While Hermione slipped up to her room to deposit her packages, Narcissa found Theo and Draco engaged in a quiet conversation in the drawing room. 

 

As soon as the witch entered the room, Draco and Theo rose from their seated positions in an impressive display of chivalry to greet her.  “Welcome back, mother.”  Draco said with a relaxed smile. 

 

Narcissa dropped her bags near the entrance of the room and vanished the remaining soot from her robes.  “Hello, darling.”  She said with a nod to her son before turning her attention to the other wizard in the room.  “Theodore, how lovely to see you.”

 

Crossing the room with a wide smile, Theo embraced Narcissa and planted a kiss on her cheek.  “Cissa, you’re looking radiant as always.”  He said with a grin.

 

Narcissa fondly patted his cheek.  “Such flattery will get you into trouble, young man.” 

 

Releasing a low chuckle, Theo flashed Narcissa a particularly charming smile.  “I only speak the truth.”

 

Narcissa was about to reply when she suddenly noticed that any attention which had been on her was suddenly redirected to the witch she knew was standing in the doorframe.  She heard Theo’s breath catch as Hermione entered the room and Narcissa silently slipped into the shadows, watching the wizards’ reactions to the witch in question.  Draco wore a look of adoration Narcissa was certain she had never seen on his face before.  His hands were tucked into his pockets as he admired the witch from across the room.  Theo, on the other hand, had crossed the room nearly as soon as Hermione had stepped across the threshold. 

 

Watching the scene unfold, Narcissa was nearly certain the pair would present the witch with formal engagement jewelry before the end of the school year if not much sooner.  Her heart was drumming with happiness at seeing the young trio so obviously in love.  She allowed herself a smug smile before slipping out of the room, leaving the three of them to reunite in privacy.  

 

Theo lifted Hermione’s hand to his lips, fluttering a kiss across the soft skin in a formal greeting.  Having been several days since he had seen the witch who had captured his heart, his lust was thinly veiled behind his normally cheeky smiles and impeccable manners.  “How stunning you look, pretty witch.  If I had known what I was coming home to, I would not have stayed gone for so long.”  He said, even though it had only been a few days since they had been apart.  His devilish grin the deep baritone of his voice sent a pretty blush to her cheeks and a flood of heat to her abdomen.

 

“I must admit that I was equally unaware I would be coming home much changed from when I left.”  Hermione replied honestly, though she was smiling.  A slight change in her appearance was a small concession for the possibilities it could bring her - the ability to command a room despite her small stature, not to mention the ability to bring the two wizards before her to their knees.

 

Draco watched the exchange from across the room, his eyes trailing over the witch who had left him earlier that day with frizzy, unruly curls while wearing a baggy jumper and muggle jeans.  While his mother hadn’t drastically changed her appearance, she had certainly enhanced Hermione’s natural assets.  Her curls were tamed into pretty ringlets and her clothing fit her like it was tailored specifically for her body, which if Draco knew his mother well, it was.

 

Theo crooked a finger beneath Hermione’s chin and lifted her lips to meet his own, his hand resting against her neck and jaw, lightly stroking the flesh beneath his thumb as he kissed her.  His lips moved sensuously against her own as though conveying every possible emotion he had felt from the moment they parted to this moment.  Longing.  Love.  Lust.  It made Hermione’s head swim.

 

As if the intensity with which he kissed her weren’t enough, Theo pressed his lips against the curve of her ear and whispered in that low, sensual voice she craved causing her to shudder delightfully.  “As beautiful as you look in them, there is nothing more I would like to do right now than rip those robes to shreds and have my way with you.” 

 

She released an involuntary moan as she felt Draco slip his arms around her waist from behind.  There was nothing she loved more than being ensconced in both of their arms.

 

“I don’t know what my mother did to convince you, but I am eternally grateful to the witch.”  Draco whispered with a press of his lips to the crook of her neck.   “You look beautiful, Hermione.” 

 

“I’ll be back to jumpers and jeans before you know it.”  She teased. 

 

“I’ll burn every last jumper you own.”  Theo threatened with a playful nip to her neck, one of his hands lightly stroking Draco’s arm. 

 

Knowing she would have to be the voice of reason or else her new clothes might truly end up in shreds on the floor of the dining room, Hermione released a sigh and pressed her thighs together in an effort to quell the ache between them. 

 

“As much as I want to escape upstairs with the two of you for the remainder of the evening, Cissa made a reservation at some new restaurant and is expecting us to join her there shortly.”  Hermione said, putting an abrupt end to their dreams of intimacy.

 

Draco released a groan of frustration while Theo leaned over Hermione’s shoulder to place a kiss against the wizard’s temple. “You know how vicious your mother can be when she’s kept waiting.” Theo said.

 

“Don’t remind me.”

 

……….

 

 

Hermione couldn’t sleep.  She stumbled out of the bed she had been sharing with Theo and Draco leaving the pair firmly wrapped around one another and wandered down into the kitchen with the intention of making some coffee.  An owl bearing the day’s copy of the Daily Prophet sat atop a large perch and hooted at her imperiously. Giving him a bit of a scratch and a few treats, she took the publication and tucked it up under her arm.  With a wave of her wand, she set a pot of coffee to boil finding that these days she preferred it to tea in the mornings.

 

She quickly prepared her coffee with cream and sugar and settled down at the small table in the kitchen giving it a moment to cool as she opened the Prophet for the first time in months.

 

Had she been holding a mug of coffee, it was highly likely it would have ended up shattered on the floor when she spotted the series of photographs.  The first photograph was a lovely picture of she and Narcissa laughing over something they had seen in a shop window while in Italy.  The second was one of the pair having lunch at a small café in Milan while the third showed the pair exiting the International Portkey Office at the Ministry and walking toward the apparition point.  Hermione skimmed the article following the moving photographs with a scowl on her face.    

 

 

WAR HEROINE SPOTTED WITH MALFOY MATRIARCH

You heard it here first, loyal readers! Hermione Granger, Brightest Witch of the Age and War Heroine has been spotted wandering the streets of Paris and Milan with none other than Narcissa Malfoy, mother to the one and only heir of the Malfoy estate.  Rumor has it that Ms. Granger has secured a coveted invitation to one of the most exclusive events of the season hosted by the Parkinson and Nott families and will be attending on the arm of former Death Eater, Draco Malfoy himself.

 

One classmate of the pair indicated they have shared a few moments of public intimacy within the confines of the closely guarded school including one rather steamy kiss following a game of Quidditch in which Draco Malfoy caught the snitch leading to a victory for Slytherin.  Another classmate has also reported Ms. Granger has been seen in the company of one Mr. Theodore Nott, son of Thoros Nott., a known Death Eater who is currently imprisoned in Azkaban, though it is unclear if her interactions with Mr. Nott are of a romantic nature.  Is it possible Ms. Granger is playing the field?

 

Time will tell what may come of these developments, but we can all be certain of one thing:  Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley are over and done with.  It appears that Ms. Granger’s tastes are a bit greener (and perhaps a bit more dangerous!), shall we say? 

 

For more information on the annual Nott-Parkinson Holiday Benefit see pages 4-5.  For further information on the recent exploits of Ronald Weasley, see page 6. Page 7 details recent charitable donations made by the Malfoy family.

 

Hermione released a groan as she slumped down into one of the chairs around the small table in the kitchen and settled her head in her hands.  She had been purposefully avoiding the Prophet in order to avoid any of her ex’s exploits as they were calling them, yet here they were, laid out so nicely on page 6.  They had practically published a timeline of his exploits and there were entirely too many leggy blondes and buxom brunettes contained within that list.  She knew that had things been different, it was entirely likely she would be amongst that list.  It was clear he had no intention of changing his womanizing ways.  After all, it had all started when they were still together.

 

“Disgusting.”  Theo said as he nudged Hermione’s discarded coffee towards her and slipped into the chair next to her with his own cup of coffee, though he took his black.

 

Hermione tugged at the roots of her hair and set her forehead down onto the table.  “Yes.”  She muttered.  “You have no idea how glad I am to be rid of… that.” 

 

Theo settled a hand in the space between her shoulder blades and began to rub in smooth, soothing circles.  “I think we have some idea, princess.”  He said quietly, taking a sip of his coffee.  “After all, we’ve seen the aftermath of… that.” 

 

Theo was right, of course.  They had seen the aftermath of exactly how destructive Ron Weasley could be where she was concerned, fueled by alcohol or not.  Hermione picked herself up off of the table and leaned against Theo’s shoulder, seeking the comfort of his embrace.  “Things are going to change.”  She muttered with a vague motion to the Prophet in the front of them.

 

Theo pulled his fingers gently through her curls as he dropped a kiss on the top of his head.  “Things been changing for a few months, Hermione.”

 

“You know what I mean, Theo.”  She sighed.  “Going public changes things.  It will be worse than it was before.  More whispers.  More staring.  Only this time it will be more blatant.” 

 

Theo crooked a finger beneath her chin and tilted her face to look at him and he gazed down into her amber colored eyes.  He nuzzled his nose against hers and felt triumphant when she smiled at the contact.  “You’re happy with us, right Hermione?”

 

“Of course, Theo.”  She said, without hesitation as she considered the honesty housed within his sapphire blue gaze with adoration.  “I never expected either of you, but I can’t imagine my life without the two of you in it.” 

 

Leaning his forehead to rest against Hermione’s, Theo’s hand crossed the soft planes of her jaw to rest against the side of her neck, his thumb stroking the soft skin beneath.  “That is the only thing that matters, princess.  The rest of the world can go to Hades in a handbasket as long as you love us and we love you.” 

 

She pulled her arms around the wizard in a tender embrace as she slid off of her own chair and into his lap with a distinct need to be as close to him as possible.  “I do, Theo.  I love you.” 

 

While her logical brain attempted to convince her that it was entirely too soon to fall in love, the sheer intensity of what she felt for the pair of them quickly squashed that notion as her heart fluttered against the walls of her chest.

 

With a tender nuzzle, Theo pressed his lips against Hermione’s in a short, sweet and altogether quite perfect kiss.  “And I love you, Hermione.”  He said as he squeezed her tightly around her middle, burying his face in her slightly-less-riotous curls.

 

After several minutes of basking in each other’s presence, coffee long forgotten on the table, Theo smiled against her neck.  “Come running with me.” 

 

Hermione started to protest, but Theo simply pressed a finger against her lips to stem the flow as he attempted to persuade her.  “Draco won’t be awake for at least another hour and it will help clear your mind.”

 

With a petulant huff, Hermione acquiesced.  “Fine.”

 

“There’s my good girl.”  Theo chuckled as he captured her lips in another kiss.

 

……….

 

 

Draco awoke to find both of his lovers curiously absent from the large bed they had been sharing over the holiday.  He had gotten so used to waking up to an arm full of his witch over the past several days that he felt somewhat disconcerted that she was nowhere near his bed and the sheets were cold.  Basking in Hermione’s presence for the past several days had been wonderful, but there was a nagging sensation at the back of his mind that said something was missing.  That feeling had completely dissipated upon Theo’s arrival.   The moment the wizard had passed through the wards and Draco felt his calming presence, the tightness in his shoulders released and he once again felt whole.

 

With a groan, Draco eased himself out of the bed and stumbled towards the ensuite, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.  He relieved himself in the loo and turned the water on at the tap to draw himself a bath adding salts and oils with complimentary fragrances.  He stepped down into the large marble tub that was big enough for several people and basked in the encompassing heat.  Closing his eyes, Draco allowed himself to relax in the warmth as he breathed in the soothing scents of herbs and oils willing every muscle in his body to relax.

 

He was so far gone in the sensations, he didn’t notice the cool blast of air as the door open and quickly shut.  The presence of another person in the room was only registered when he heard her release a breathy sigh following the distinct thud of clothing hitting the floor. 

 

Willing his eyelids to open, he caught sight of Hermione stepping out of a pair of very tight athletic pants and very nearly tripping over her own two feet.  Her curls were twice their normal size and her cheeks were red with exertion.  Once the witched removed and discarded every article of clothing on the floor she released a moan of pleasure as stepped down into the steaming waters of the tub. 

 

She settled into the steaming abyss so she was facing Draco and placed herself so she was completely submerged up to her chin. “Good morning,” she muttered, the water lapping just at the curve of her bottom lip as she spoke. 

 

Draco captured one of her feet under the water in his hand and pressed his thumb into the arch of her foot, eliciting a moan from the witch.  “Good morning, love.  Where have you been?” 

 

“Theo made me go running with him.” 

 

“You could have told him no.”  Draco said, as he trailed his thumb along the curve of her arch towards the ball of her foot. 

 

“He’s rather convincing.  Besides, it helped.” 

 

Draco felt concerned that she needed assistance with something.  His lover had a penchant for running for a variety of reasons, the most common of which was to clear out his head and avoid his troubles.  “Helped with…?” 

 

“We’ve been found out.”  Draco paused in his ministrations at that revelation.

 

“Oh Gods, Draco, don’t stop.” She moaned, wiggling her toes at him from under the water. 

 

He released a low chuckle and continued massaging her foot eliciting another sweet sigh of relief from his witch.  “I’ll need a bit more information, Hermione.” 

 

“There’s an article in the Prophet which is full of speculation as well as several photographs of your mother and I from yesterday.”

 

“Let them speculate.”  He scoffed, switching to her other foot, his fingers kneading into the flesh.

 

Hermione sunk beneath the surface and quickly rose again, the water cascading in rivulets over the curves of her face as her curls relaxed under the weight of the water, her hair turning darker as it fanned out across her shoulders.  Draco marveled in quiet adoration at the beauty of the witch, but the words which left her mouth left him stunned speechless. 

 

“Theo and I were thinking that perhaps we should go public.”  Hermione had captured her bottom lip between her teeth and was currently worrying it with such intensity that Draco was afraid it might bruise.  The disturbance in the water around her told him she was also likely wringing her hands together. 

 

Sliding through the water, Draco pulled the witch into his arms until she was safely perched on his lap with one hand resting between her shoulder blades while the other caressed her cheek.  “Is that what you want, love?” 

 

Resting her hands at the curve of his neck, Hermione nodded before touching her forehead to his.  “I love you, Draco, and I want everyone to know you’re mine.” 

 

Draco nearly crushed her against his chest eliciting a yelp from the witch as he buried his face in the curve of her neck, unable to stop a few errant tears from rolling down his face under the weight of her confession.  He was certain his heart had stopped beating for just a moment before it synchronized with the gentle rhythm of her own. 

 

She wrapped herself around the wizard, hands rubbing small circles along his spine, soaking in his presence.  Her Draco was kind and genuine, much like his mother but he was closed off emotionally the majority of the time as though he were desperately afraid of being hurt again.  Between Theo and herself, they had slowly been breaking down his walls over the past several months and she knew they still had work to do to build him back up in the man they knew he could be.  He had suffered more than the rest of them in the war, though they had all been subject to their own tragedies and trials. 

 

“Hermione, I have waited years to hear you say those words.” He muttered quietly against the skin of her neck, the flutter of his lips bringing a smile to her own.  Her mind drifted to the one who made them whole, thankful for this moment alone with Draco even as her own heart called out to their missing partner.

 

“Theo told me that all that matters is that we love you and you love us.”

 

“I love you, Hermione.”  He said, lifting his head to gaze into her shining eyes.  Hermione could just make out the faint redness around his eyes from when he had been overcome to the point of tears. 

 

Hermione pulled back slightly and pressed her hand against his heart, seeking out the steady beat below.  “Always, Draco.” 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

The evening of the Nott-Parkinson Annual Benefit arrived with a dusting of snow much to the delight of a witch with riotous curls.  Narcissa had collected Hermione just after brunch for a day of pampering and preparations informing the young witch they would meet up with Draco and Theo just before it was time to leave for the charity ball. 

 

The trio had decided that with the publicity surrounding the event and the certain inclusion of the press that they would go public with their relationship.  Stun two nifflers with one spell, or so they said. They had agreed to grant one interview to one of the Lovegoods for a piece in the Quibbler but intended to refuse requests from anyone working for the Prophet or Witch Weekly.

 

Theo had been back and forth between the Malfoy’s townhome in London and his own ancestral home several times at the urging of his mother.  His mother and Pansy’s bickered like a pair of clucking hens and he caught himself trying to throw his hands up in frustration at their silly arguments.  The napkins were a durable cotton instead of a flimsy silk.  The pink roses which had been ordered were a shade of bashful rather than blush. He honestly didn’t know why the two women opted to throw this party year after year if all they were going to do was bicker.

 

Pansy was in just as much of a mood as he was and had taken to greeting him at his home with a tumbler of firewhiskey or a mug of steaming butterbeer depending on the time of day he had been summoned. 

 

“How are things with Longbottom?”  He asked as the pair of them had managed to secret themselves away in the library away from the squawking their mothers were currently doing somewhere down the hall in the ballroom.

 

Pansy flushed a pretty shade of pink, more blush than bashful, Theo mused with an inward sneer.  Why couldn’t they just call it pink?  “Honestly?  Better than I ever expected.  He makes me happy in ways I never thought possible.”

 

Whenever she spoke of Neville, Theo could easily see how her face lit up, her eyes softened, and her cheeks turned pink which was completely unusual for the witch.  He knew Pansy was falling for Neville; Theo had seen the same expressions on his witch’s face over the past few months as the bonds between himself, Draco, and Hermione had grown closer than he ever thought possible.

 

Theo took a sip of his firewhiskey and smiled fondly at the witch who was practically his sister, “I’m pleased for you, sparrow.  You know I’ll stand with you when the time comes.”

 

“You wouldn’t have a choice.”  She laughed exuberantly, something she had been doing significantly more lately.  “But I don’t think anything will happen for a while yet.  We still have N.E.W.T.s to take and I have an application for Healer Training to submit.”

 

Theo chuckled and shook his head, thinking of his own witch.  “Don’t remind me about N.E.W.T.s.  I can only imagine what Hermione will be like when it comes time to take our examinations.” 

 

“How is Granger?”

 

“She’s doing well.  Narcissa whisked her away this morning for a day of beauty, she called it.”  He said with a roll of his eyes, wondering just how many glamor charms Draco’s mother intended to layer upon his witch, who, in his opinion, didn’t need to charm her appearance at all to be one of the prettiest creatures he’d ever set his eyes on. 

 

“And Draco?”

 

“Also quite well.  I think having Hermione home for the holidays is helping to keep his mind off of the fact that Lucius is still in St. Mungo’s.  He likes to pretend he’s not worried about the old man’s health, but he is.”

 

“Drake has always loved his father, despite everything he put their family through.”  Pansy added.  Her mind drifted to several conversations she had with Draco after he had taken the mark.  He was so broken and resentful at that point with the task set before him, the majority of his anger directed at his father despite the fact that Draco understood his family was in too deep to try and get out now and still hope to be breathing at the end of it.  

 

Despite everything, Lucius had been a decent father to Draco growing up, taking an active role in raising his son to be the man he thought he should be, even if that did include pureblood ideologies and doctrines.  Lucius was far from perfect and recognized that it was a mistake to ever get involved in the Death Eaters, even if he still held a weak view that purebloods were superior to half-bloods and muggleborns.

 

“Has Drake been to see him?”  Pansy asked.

 

Theo nodded.  “He went the day Narcissa portkeyed Hermione all over the continent looking for a ball gown so he wouldn’t have to worry about leaving Hermione alone in London.”

 

“How is he?”

 

“Draco said he vacillates between states of delirium and cognizance. One moment he’ll be asking for Draco to owl Severus about coming to brunch in the gardens and in the next he’s lecturing Draco on how to run the family business, despite the fact that the board runs things very efficiently and he gets updates almost daily.” 

 

Pansy swirled her drink around in her glass. “Did the aurors ever find out who cursed him?”

 

“When they ran the tests, three wands came back positive for the curse he’s afflicted with, so it was either Dolohov, my father, or Mulciber.”

 

“My money’s on good old Thoros.”  Pansy sniffed as Theo took another sip of his alcohol, relishing in the burn, especially after hearing his father’s name.

 

“Mine too.”  He said just a bit too quietly as he stared into his glass, his normally cheerful demeanor fading to one much too somber for Pansy’s taste. 

 

Sensing a change of subject was in order, Pansy turned on her most charming smile.  “Has Hermione met Imogene or your mother yet?”

 

A small smile returned to Theo’s face at the mention of his mother and sister.  “No, she’ll meet them both tonight.”  He was fairly certain Hermione would love his sister as much as he did, but his mother took a bit of getting used to.

 

“I’ve told my mother to be on her best behavior.  Granger, despite how fond we are of her, is still a muggle-born and there will be a few in attendance who still hold with the old ways.” 

 

A particularly loud shriek from down the hall made Theo wince and wonder what the two women were arguing about this time.  “Draco and I intend to stay by her side the entire evening, so I don’t think we will encounter any problems, but it never hurts to be prepared.”  He said, idly patting the pocket where he stored his wand.

 

Pansy’s lips curled into a smirk. “You’ll face the wrath of both of our mothers if you end up in a duel on the dance floor, even if it is over Granger’s honor.” 

 

“It can’t be worse than the time we rejected the marriage contact.” Theo offered, holding up his nearly empty glass in a mocking toast.

 

Laughter bubbled up from deep within Pansy’s chest at the memories.  “The looks on their faces were priceless!  I don’t know where they got the idea that we would make a good match.”

 

Theo snickered and rubbed his thumb and forefingers together.  “Money.” 

 

“Influence.” She countered with a  waggle of her eyebrows.

 

Theo rolled his eyes. “Power.”

 

“Don’t get me started,” Pansy snorted.  “I just want to be a healer and perhaps a mum in a few years.  I don’t need the rest of that rubbish.” 

 

“I think I’d like to go into magical architecture.” Theo mused. He’d been mulling over his career options lately and the field had piqued his interest. With his eye for aesthetics, artistic talents, and what were sure to be outstanding scores in Arithmancy and Charms, it seemed like a career he would find rather fulfilling.

 

“I think that would suit you well.  I assume Granger will go into the Ministry?”

 

“I’m hoping Draco and I can talk her out of it.  She wants to do something meaningful, and she won’t be able to accomplish that bogged down in Ministry paperwork.”

 

“Doesn’t she want to be Minister though?”

 

“She’s certainly brilliant enough for it, but I’m honestly not certain if she needs to work her way up in the ministry, or not.” Theo frowned.  He didn’t appreciate the thought of Hermione working long hours for little reward just to one day boost her changes of being amongst the politically elite.

 

A bell tolled from somewhere in the house alerting the pair to the time.  “Shite.  I have to go get ready.”  Pansy groaned, not wanting to sit around for hours while a glamor witch forced her hair into an uncomfortable coif and applied what was likely to be far too many beauty charms.   

 

Theo rose from the chair and pulled the witch into his arms, giving her an affectionate hug before topping it off with a kiss to the top of her head.  “I’ll see you in a few hours, sparrow.”

 

“See you then, Theo.”

 

……….

 

 

If Hermione thought shopping with Narcissa was exhausting, a day of beauty was even more so. It wasn’t enough that her hair was charmed to appear in effortless ringlets, it also had to be styled and secured by what Hermione suspected were several thousand pins, a myriad of sticking charms, and a few crystals masquerading as more pins.  The entire ordeal had taken well over two hours and now she had a very stiff neck from having to hold her head just so.

 

Beyond her hair, which really did look rather lovely, there was the matter of her body.  The glamor witch had stripped her of body hair she didn’t even know she had and she was left rather red and raw until a salve was applied with calmed her irritated skin significantly.  Her nails and brows were shaped to perfection and her face was given a light dusting of powder, blush, shadow, liner, and mascara.  Her lips, thankfully, were merely glossed.

 

Thankfully, she no longer resembled a lobster as she slipped into the deep blue gown Narcissa had chosen earlier in the week.  One arm was covered in delicate lace that Hermione was certain had been woven from acromantula silk while her other arm and shoulder were left bare.  The gown nipped in at her waist and flared over her hips until it pooled slightly at her feet. 

 

Narcissa had loaned her a silver sapphire comb which was perched delicately, somewhere in her curls while her ears held a pair of simple sapphire studs that were almost the exact hue of Theo’s eyes. 

 

Narcissa, clad in a gossamer gown in a golden hue, wore one of her smug smiles as she drew her eyes over her protégée.  She was quite pleased with how well she had been able to shape the witch to her standards with little more than a smile here and a kind word there.  She had the young woman eating out of her hand, which was exactly where she wanted her.  It certainly wouldn’t do to have her very likely future daughter-in-law and quite possibly the next (and youngest) Minister for Magic at odds with her. 

 

“You look lovely.” 

 

“I look nothing like myself.”  Hermione muttered as she looked over her reflection in the mirror.  Narcissa was correct in her assertion of Hermione’s beauty, but Hermione’s statement still rang true, at least to her own eyes.  Narcissa would’ve called it an enhancement.  Hermione thought it was just a bit to the side of artificial. Still, she hoped Theo and Draco would approve.

 

She was aching to see the pair of them after having been away for the majority of the day though she was anxious about the benefit they would be attending that evening. While there had already been on article speculating on her relationship with Theo and Draco, there would be little doubt after tonight.  Hermione worried over being unable to tell Harry in person, or even via owl, but she honestly had no idea how to reach him. 

 

She knew that Neville would be accompanying Pansy to the benefit and having another Gryffindor there for moral support was soothing.  She suspected there would be several purebloods there who still clung desperate to the old views on blood superiority.

 

“I have something for you, Hermione.”  Narcissa said, sashaying over to her jewelry box and carefully extracting an item from one of the many drawers. 

 

“You’ve done so much for me already.” Hermione attempted to protest, though Narcissa just waved her off. 

 

The older witch affixed a goblin-wrought silver chain which held a ruby, an emerald, and a sapphire within delicately flourished filigree to Hermione’s wrist.  “This has been passed down to the Black women for several generations and since I’ve no daughter of my own, I would like it to pass to you.”

 

“Oh, Cissa…”  Hermione intoned, two tiny teardrops gathering at the corner of her eyes at the unexpected gesture as her hand flew to cover her heart. 

 

“I’ve no doubt that in time you will be joining our family.  I’ve seen the way those boys look at you, my dear girl and the way you return their affections.”  Narcissa smiled at Hermione fondly, already thinking of the girl as her daughter despite the short amount of time she had known her.

 

Despite the fact that the witch stiffened at the unexpected physical display of affection and slight apprehension of her robes becoming wrinkled, Hermione wrapped her arms around Narcissa in a heartfelt hug. “Thank you so much, Cissa.” 

 

As Hermione was unable to reverse the obliviation of her parent’s memories, Narcissa’s gesture was more impactful than the older witch could have imagined and though Narcissa would never replace Hermione’s own mother, it was comforting to have a mother figure to in her life, especially one who supported Hermione’s relationship with her own son. Hermione was hopeful she would build a similar bond with Theo’s mother as she had done with Draco’s.

 

……….

 

 

Hermione flooed to Nott Gardens, the ancestral home of the Nott family, with Narcissa with the expectation that Draco and Theo would join them shortly if they hadn’t already arrived.  She stood in a receiving room decorated in shades of red and gold that made her wonder if a former ancestor had been part of her own house rather than Theo’s current one.  A large fresco of the family’s sea faring ancestry adorned one wall and she made a mental note to ask Theo for information on his family history.  

 

She heard them before she saw them, their voices carrying through the hallway.  They were somewhere down the hall laughing, though she couldn’t make out their exact words.  As their voices grew closer, Hermione turned to admire one of the large ships on the far wall and willed herself to calm by taking several deep breaths. 

 

All talk ceased as the two wizards entered the foyer, both stunned into silence by the beautiful creature before them.  With a soft smile adoring her glossed lips, she turned to face them, a subtle heat caressing the apples of her cheeks making her glow in the candlelight.

 

The charcoal gray robes Draco wore complimented the silvery hue of his eyes and Hermione could just spot the fine silver embroidery from across the room.  She could just make out the lines of his crisp, white shirt, black tie and trousers, and if she wasn’t mistaken, a navy waistcoat in the same shade as her dress.  The navy was further carried through into Theo’s outer robes which appeared to also be embroidered with black threads.  Similarly, to Draco, Theo wore a tailored white shirt and black trousers, though his tie was navy.

 

Had they not made the decision to go public with their relationship, it was certain that by their complimentary clothing that everyone would have made the assumption whether they wanted them to or not. 

 

Were it not for the fact that he knew his mother was watching the exchange from the shadows, Draco would’ve picked his witch up and spun her around but instead he settled for taking her hand and pressing his lips to her lightly scented skin in an impressive display if chivalry.  Narcissa nodded in approval from the corner.  While Theo had been raised with the same etiquette lessons, he didn’t give a fig that their chaperone was in the room.  While Draco still had Hermione’s hand, he slipped an arm around her waist and pulled her close, dotting a trail of kisses along the exposed skin of her collar. 

 

Leaning close to the wizard’s ear, Draco whispered, “You’re lucky it’s my mum in the room and not yours.” 

 

Placing a final kiss to Hermione’s cheek, Theo wrapped the arm that wasn’t currently holding Hermione’s waist around Draco’s shoulder.  “You worry too much.”

 

“You wouldn’t be saying that if it were your mum.”  Draco muttered as Theo turned his attention back to their witch.

 

“You look radiant tonight, my love.”  Hermione smiled up into Theo’s eyes, feeling the warmth of his love wash over her.  All of the nervous energy that had accumulated in her body left the moment she was back in their presence again and she felt the world shift just a bit as fate played her cards.

 

“You both look incredibly handsome.”  She said, returning the compliment with complete sincerity.

 

“Are you nervous?”  Draco asked as he offered Hermione his arm. 

 

Hermione placed her hand in the crook of his arm while Theo let his hand linger at the small of her back.  “Not anymore.  All that matters is that we love each other, right?” She said, looking back and forth between them.

 

Theo nodded while Draco offered a verbal affirmation as they began to make their way towards the ballroom down a long, lavishly decorated hall.  The manor was tastefully decorated with sprays of evergreen and floating wisps of candlelight captured in translucent orbs.  There were hints of red, white, and gold spread throughout the décor in a festive display of the yuletide spirit as well as vases of pink and white roses coupled with sprigs of evergreen positioned on various surfaces.

 

“Doubt that the stars are fire.  Doubt that the sun doth move, doubt truth to be a liar, but never doubt I love.” Draco intoned quietly as they reached the set of doors leading into the ballroom. 

 

Hermione’s whiskey-toned eyes shone with love as she smiled up at the blonde wizard while their blue-eyed partner shifted his hand from the small of Hermione’s back to rest just between Draco’s shoulder blades, though he maintained his position on her other side.

 

“Never.” She said, just as the doors to the ballroom opened.

 

The number of flashbulbs that went off when the trio entered the ballroom was blinding to say the least, but their smiles never faltered.  Whispers rose and fell from the corners of the room and slowly made their way through the tables and even to the dancing couples as the older women felt the need to indulge in gossip. 

 

“The rumors were true.” One woman whispered.

 

Another much younger witch smiled a dreamy smile as she watched the trio pause to greet a rather portly witch and a girl with the same light brown hair as the Nott heir. “They look perfect together.”

 

“Hush now, Blythe, can’t you see how happy they look?” said yet another, scolding her friend.

 

While still others mentioned what usually went unspoken.  “My aunt was in a triad for many years; they even went through a formal binding ceremony.  I loved Aunt Lorraine and Uncle Cornelius just as much as Aunt Gertrude.”  One witch sighed wistfully.

 

It was apparent that the pureblood elite (and a few half-bloods and muggleborns also in attendance) were more than happy to accept the three young lovers simply as they were.  It left Hermione hopeful that perhaps all of the discord over their relationship at Hogwarts would die down eventually.  Even still, they only had a few more months before N.E.W.T.s and graduation.  If they could face the pureblood elite, they could face the masses.

 

Theo’s mother had been nothing at all like what Hermione imagined.  The woman was petite and portly with rather severe features and Hermione was nearly certain that Theo must be a virtual clone of his father because he possessed almost none of his mother’s traits, event her eyes and the slight curve of his jaw.  She was certainly no great beauty and Hermione suspected whatever marriage contract had been negotiated between her family and the Nott’s was done without the groom seeing the bride.  The older witch made an effort to be kind, but Hermione could still sense an underlying sense of superiority in her tone which made Hermione doubt she would ever be close to the witch as she was becoming with Narcissa, but she could certainly be civil to her.

 

Theo’s little sister, Imogene, on the other hand was quite charming.  She was a slight girl of twelve with brown hair like Theo’s but her eyes were a brilliant green.  She looked like a cross between Theo and his mother which resulted in rather lovely delicate features.  She nearly gushed and tripped over herself upon meeting Hermione whose exploits and adventures were apparently the gossip of all of the witches at Beauxbatons.  Hermione found that a bit disconcerting given that she didn’t really have any exploits, but the girl expounded that they mostly spoke of how brilliant she was and how much they admired her courage and wit.  

 

All in all, the ball was going rather swimmingly.  The majority of witches and wizards in the room appeared to have accepted them and she had survived her interactions with Theo’s mother and sister.  If Hermione wasn’t being whisked around the dance floor by Theo, she was networking with Draco and building new contacts while sipping champagne.  That title of youngest Minister of Magic was looking more and more within her grasp with every wizard she charmed and witch she cultivated. 

 

Narcissa Malfoy watched proudly from the side of the ballroom, a glass of champagne in her hand.  “She’s quite charming, isn’t she?” 

 

Ophelia Nott nodded, taking a sip of champagne, “I’ll admit that I’m a bit saddened she’s not at least a half blood, but my son loves her.”

 

“I’ve not seen either of them quite so happy in a long time.”  Violet Parkinson mused, though her eyes were searching the room for her own daughter.

 

Narcissa turned her eyes away from her son and Hermione, inclining her head towards the hosts of the benefit.  “Pansy’s made a good match in the Longbottom boy.” 

 

Violet practically beamed as she spotted her daughter and the tall brunette she was dancing with.  “He’s from a good, old family too.  I suspect your children won’t be the only ones hearing wedding bells before too long.”

 

“I think a June wedding sounds quite lovely, don’t you agree, Cissa dear?”  Ophelia said with a wistful smile which looked completely out of place on her severe features.

 

“August.”  Narcissa confirmed. “June will be much too soon after they have graduated.”   

 

……….

 

 

Draco excused himself from Hermione’s side to retrieve another glass of champagne for himself and the witch at his side promising to return in just a moment.  As Draco stepped away from her side Hermione found herself feeling entirely too blissfully calm with a distinct and urgent need to exit the ballroom and make her way down to the grounds, despite the fact that she knew they were covered in snow.  She wandered quite happily through several rooms, finally finding a door which would allow her to exit the manor and step onto the plush snow-dusted grass of one of the lawns.

 

As she stepped outside, a pair of strong arms encircled her at the waist and she melted into the embrace, though a tiny voice screamed at the back of her mind that these arms did not belong to Draco or Theo.  She inhaled the familiar scent of too-harsh cologne coupled with the acrid smell of cheap alcohol as she felt the press of lips against her neck.  Where were her lovers and why were they allowing someone else to kiss her?  Something didn’t feel right.  Another wave of blissful tranquility washed over her, squashing her internal protests.

 

“I’ve waited entirely too long for you.”  The husky, lust-clouded voice whispered with a slur.

 

She tried to respond, but found her throat constricted when she tried to speak. 

 

Silenced.

 

She looked up into a pair of eyes that were entirely the wrong shade of blue while catching a glimpse of red hair in the moonlight.  That feeling of blissful tranquility waned briefly and the small voice in the back of her mind screamed that she needed to run, to fight, to do anything but let him touch her.  She didn’t want this but she was unable to resist as she sunk deeper into the feeling until she was simply floating, letting the hands and lips do whatever they liked. 

 

It felt good after all, didn’t it?

 

No, it was wrong.  Everything about this was wrong. 

 

……….

 

 

“Have you seen Hermione?”  Draco asked Theo as he scanned the room for their witch, holding two glasses of champagne. “I left her talking to one of father’s business contacts in the potions industry for just a moment and now I can’t seem to find her.” 

 

Theo shook his head and turned around to look for the witch behind them, scanning the surroundings for her familiar curls. “No.  Perhaps she went to the loo?  You have been keeping her thoroughly stocked with champagne.”

 

Draco was about to issue a retort when Pansy approached the pair of them, her expression cold and severe, though her eyes were full of panic.  “Have either of you seen Granger?”

 

“We were just looking for her.  We thought she might be in the loo.”  Theo said, staring off over towards the nearest washroom while Draco caught the look in Pansy’s eyes. 

 

“I don’t think so.”  Suppressing her own panic at the witch’s absence, Pansy laid a hand on Theo’s arm to steady the wizard.  “Your mother just informed mine that someone uninvited breached the wards a few minutes ago.”

 

Theo’s entire body tensed.  “Who?”

 

“Ronald Weasley.” 

 

Draco shoved the champagne glasses as the nearest witch, frightening the poor woman half to death as he pulled his wand out, gripping it until his knuckles began to turn white as he issued commands with the ferocity of a general.

 

“I’ll take the grounds.  Theo take the east wing.  Pansy, the west.”  He didn’t look to see if they followed his directions before he stormed off towards the near door which would lead him to the grounds.

 

 

Lips caressed her neck, nipping, and suckling at her flesh in a manner that was too wet, too uncomfortable, and completely lacking in finesse while clumsy hands reached upwards to cup her breasts. Everything felt wrong.  These not the gentle, practiced caresses of either of her two wizards.

 

Inwardly, she fought against the curse, knowing she would have very little time when she finally broke through as he would be alerted immediately that his curse had failed.  In a bid to mask her mental actions, she pressed her hands against his chest in a way she knew he would interpret as a loving caress.

 

She heard the growl as the curse broke and felt his arms tighten around her.  Casting a silent and wandless stupefy, they were thrown apart several feet.  Without time to worry if she was injured, Hermione silently called her wand to her hand and ended the silencing charm before leaping to her feet and firing a series of curses, hexes, and jinxes at the man who assaulted her. 

 

He dodged her reducto and fire off a confringo of his own which she managed to side step, though the ground around her cracked and released a spray of dirt and rocks.  The bottom of her dress was torn to shreds from the resultant spray and she knew from the feeling that blood was running down one of her legs. 

 

She cast a barrage of silent curses her wand flaring with reds, purples, and blues as the spells shattered nearby windows, left a gash in one of his arms, and transfigured a statute of a garden gnome to life.  She watched with amusement as the garden gnome attempted to claw at his leg while easily sidestepping his weak attempt at a slicing hex but still throwing up a shield charm for good measure. 

 

It was the crucio that caught her by surprise and knocked her to the ground, her blood boiling with the white, liquid fire that immediately brought her spinning back to the moment Bellatrix Lestrange tortured her less than a year ago on the floor of Malfoy Manor.  Her scream pierced the still, night air as it licked through her veins and her vision was dotted with stars interspersed with bursts of light.

 

Before she knew it, he was on top of her, his wand pressed against her neck muttering words she couldn’t make out between sloppy kisses.  Though painful aftershocks were still coursing through her body, fraying her nerves and causing her to tremble, she jabbed her wand into his side and cast a rage induced flagrante on his robes, causing them to catch fire.  He lept off of her, trying to keep the flames from licking his skin, though by his screams she knew his skin already blistering.

 

Letting him burn for a moment more out of pure spite as she got to her feet, Hermione petrified him and doused the flames with a forceful aguamenti.  In the frigid winter air, she could see ice crystals forming along his eyebrows and she doused him again for good measure.  His blue eyes were clouded with pain and fear and she still felt the distinct urge to kick him in the side of his freckled face, but she refrained.

 

This was how Draco found her, towering over a petrified, wet, bloodied, and burned Ronald Weasley looking ever inch a goddess of war.  Her dress was in tatters to her knees and blowing around her legs in the gentle wind while blood continued to trickle down from her thigh.  She was covered in various scrapes, a few larger gashes on her arm oozing ruby red rivulets and parts of her were smeared with mud. She was magnificent in her fury. 

 

“Hermione.”  He whispered softy, not wanting to surprise her and end up in a similar state himself.

 

She didn’t even turn; she just stared into the eyes of the badly beaten man on the ground.  “Call the aurors, Draco.”  Hermione commanded in a quiet, eerily calm voice, laced with malice.

 

Draco called forth his patronus, sending it first to find Theo and Pansy and then to bring the aurors to them.  As he watched the panther bound away, he tentatively took Hermione’s hand in his own ensuring he did not approach her too quickly, unware of exactly what transpired between his witch and the injured man on the ground.  She squeezed his hand as she continued to stare into the eyes of the Weasley boy, periodically catching the flick of her wand and he knew she was refreshing the petrification spell. 

 

When he realized she was shivering in the cold, he shed his robes and wrapped them around her petite frame, casting a series of warming charms around them, though not on the wizard who was slowly being covered in more ice crystals from his wet clothing. 

 

It wasn’t long before Theo and Pansy joined them, followed by the team of aurors.  Draco held up a hand to stop Theo from scooping Hermione up into his arms while Pansy stood nearby.

 

“Miss Granger, can you tell me what happened?” said the lead investigator as Theo refreshed the warming charms, his arm coming to rest around Draco as Draco held Hermione’s hand.  Pansy stood nearby, silently running diagnostic spells to assess Hermione’s injuries as another auror did the same for the petrified wizard.

 

“He placed me under the imperious curse and assaulted me.  I managed to fight off the curse and stunned him before we ended up engaged in a duel.  He used the torture curse and assaulted me again.  From there, I set fire to his robes and petrified him.” Hermione said with a detached tone, leading her partners to believe she was occluding.  She had never been a great occlumens as she wore her emotions outwardly with such ease, but it was clear she was drawing on everything in her power to remain calm and collected as was expected of the war heroine.

 

“And how he came to be covered in ice crystals?”  The auror asked, jotting down her statement onto a piece of parchment.

 

“I put out the fire.  It’s December.  You make the connection.” She snapped before muttering under her breath, “he’s lucky his entrails haven’t been expelled over the lawn.”

 

The investigator nodded, barely keeping his smirk from showing at her candor.  “I take it you’d like to press charges?”

 

“Azkaban will be too good for him,” she sneered while Theo gently pressed a hand to her shoulder.

 

“I will take that as a yes.”  The investigator rolled the parchment and tucked his self-inking quill away.  “We will take his statement after his injuries have been attended to.  I trust we can count on your testimony?”

 

“Yes.” Her voice was cold and unfeeling when she spoke.  Theo sidled just a bit closer to Draco seeking the comfort of his presence as they watched as their witch did everything in her power to not break down in front of the aurors. 

 

“Do you need a mediwitch, Miss Granger?”

 

Before Hermione could answer, Pansy spoke up.  “She hasn’t sustained any injuries that I can’t heal.  She doesn’t need a healer unless you need for Hermione to go to St. Mungo’s for documentation purposes.”

 

The auror shook his head.  “No, Miss Parkinson.  Your statement should suffice as well.  May we call on you in a few hours?”

 

Pansy nodded, “Of course.  I will ensure I am at your disposal, Captain.”   

 

When the aurors finally departed and Hermione released her shields, Draco caught her in his arms before she completely collapsed to the ground and carried her into the warmth of the house.  Pansy held Theo’s hand, as he stuck close to Draco’s side.  They could still hear the low murmur of conversation and the string quartet striking up another waltz as the ball continued, their absence likely noted, though it was likely that the hosts of the party had made their excuses.  It was entirely surprising that a crowd hadn’t gathered after the windows shattered from the duel between Hermione and Ron, but perhaps the music inside had been too loud for the sound to carry through.

 

Draco cradled a shaken and exhausted Hermione against his chest while Theo held her hands and whispered soothing words in his honey-ed baritone as Pansy cleaned her wounds before whispering the incantations to heal them.  The witch would need a blood replenishing potion, but it could wait for the moment until someone was able to fetch one or they took her home.  The familiarity of the scene was disconcerting and they all desperately hoped this would be the last time their favorite Gryffindor suffered any grievous injuries. 

 

“I’d like to go home.”  Hermione whispered, speaking to no one in particular.  She’d barely been able to meet the pairs of gray or blue eyes who looked at her with utmost concern.

 

“You’ll have to take her through the floo.  Apparition may reopen her wounds.”  Pansy said as she looked at Theo, smoothing her hands over her ball gown.

 

“Thank you, sparrow.”  Theo said quietly.  “Longbottom is probably looking for you.”

 

“I’ll find him in a moment.” Pansy crossed the short distance and laid a fond hand on Hermione’s shoulder, a familiar smile crossing her lips.  “I thought we agreed to stop meeting like this, Granger.” 

 

Hermione managed a weak smile and covered Pansy’s hand with her own.  “I have a feeling this will be the last time.” 

 

“Good.  I’m tired of having to assist you with getting blood out of those infernal curls.”  Pansy smirked, walking away with a toss of her hair leaving the three lovers on their own as she sauntered off to find her own tall, lanky brunette.

 

“Let’s get you home, love.”  Draco said gently, running his hand over the curve of her arm.  “Can you stand?” 

 

Hermione swung her legs over the side of the chaise and Theo helped her to her feet before he wrapped her in his arms.  Her cheek pressed against his chest, just over his heart, the steady beat soothing her in ways no other form of comfort could.   

 

“You’re the bravest witch I know, Hermione.”  Theo crooned against her curls.  “When Pansy told us who had breached the wards, I never knew I could be so terrified of losing someone.” 

 

She gathered her courage and looked up to meet Theo’s gaze.  “I intend to live a very long life and can’t imagine spending it with anyone but you,” Hermione turned her head to glance over Theo’s shoulder to look at Draco, “and you too.  It’s going to take a lot more than one rogue wizard to keep me from the two of you.” 

 

Draco cupped her face in his hand, trailing his thumb across the apple of her cheek as Theo held her tightly for a few, quiet moments before they stepped into the floo.

 

……….

 

 

Draco turned the small velvet box over in his hand and glanced over at Hermione’s sleeping form as he and Theo sat in front of a dimming fire.  She looked nearly angelic as the subdued light from the dying fire cast glimmers and shadows across her features.  She wore a contented smile on her lips as she lightly grasped the bedsheets with her delicate fingers.  Theo laid a calming hand on Draco’s forearm as Draco opened the box to stare at the contents contained therein.

 

“I’m not sure I’ve ever seen you so nervous.”  Theo commented, taking care to keep his voice low so as not to waking the sleeping witch.  “And we’ve been through quite a bit in the past few days.”

 

“She could still say no.”  Draco said as Theo pulled him back into his arms.  As Theo intertwined his fingers with Draco’s, he could just make out the band of goblin-wrought silver resting inconspicuously below the Malfoy signet ring Draco always wore.  Theo wore a matching one just below his Nott signet ring, though neither had confided the significance to Hermione if the witch had even noticed the addition of the rings between the time she left with Narcissa on another short shopping trip to Paris and when she arrived back home later that evening.

 

“She won’t say no, Draco.  She loves us.”  Theo countered.  “We agreed that after what happened, we wanted her to know exactly how much she means to us.”   

 

Draco nodded and closed the small velvet box with a sigh, tucking it into the pocket of the track suit bottoms he often wore to bed as he fully rested his weight back against Theo’s chest.  “If I didn’t think she would hex me, I would just slip it on her finger now for her to find when she wakes up.” 

 

Theo chuckled and rested his chin against atop Draco’s shoulder, amused at the man’s attempt to avoid the discussion with the woman they loved.  “I would hex you, love.”

 

Draco groaned again and rubbed a hand roughly over his face in frustration.  “I’m shite with words.” 

 

“You’ll find the right ones.”  Theo encouraged, pressing his lips to Draco’s neck.  “Besides, I’ll be right there with you when you ask her to marry us tomorrow.”  He said as he reached out and twisted the band he had placed on Draco’s hand earlier in the day in a gentle reminder of his love and commitment, regardless of what Hermione’s answer would be.  He suspected that her answer would be an emphatic yes, but there was still a small part of him who worried she might say no, especially after the events which occurred a few days prior at the benefit.

 

When he had fully explained to his mother just what had occurred, she had been mortified as the gossip soon spread, especially once the full front page spread complete with Weasley’s mugshot and an account of what occurred that evening was printed in the Daily Prophet the next morning. Hermione testified in a quick trial and he was sentenced to several years in the island prison.

 

Draco turned his head and kissed Theo along the line of his jaw.  “I love you.”  He muttered with a contented sigh, though nervous butterflies still threatened to evict the contents of his stomach.

 

“I love you, too.”  Theo whispered, tightening his arms around Draco’s middle as both men turned their heads to watch the witch as she slept. 

 

……….

 

 

Hermione was pulled from her hazy dreams by the flickering light of the sun as it’s rays streamed unrelentingly through the gauzy drapes.  She curled further into the warmth at her side, rebelliously keeping her eyes closed from the sun’s onslaught and caught the warm, woody scent that told her she was snuggled up against Theo’s chest.  As she shifted further into his warmth, she realized how cool her back felt and noticed Draco wasn’t pressed against her as he usually was, nor was his body nestled against Theo’s back as made very clear by the fact that her hand couldn’t find him as she reached over Theo.  While he wasn’t the early riser of their little group, it wasn’t completely out of the ordinary for him to be out of bed early, especially if something was troubling him. 

 

She knew he would still probably be upset after what happened to her at the benefit.  He had been particularly quiet over the past few days, especially after she had returned yesterday from her shopping trip with his mother. Hermione felt the urge to go to Draco and comfort him, but as she started to shift away from Theo to seek out their broody blonde counterpart, Hermione felt Theo’s arms encircle her, keeping her firmly pressed against his chest. 

 

“He’s fine, Hermione.”  Theo muttered in a voice rough with sleep, as he buried his face in her riotous curls.

 

“But –“  She started to protest, but Theo’s hand came up and covered her mouth.

 

“Shh, princess.” Theo soothed, a weak attempt at placating the witch, “Draco is fine, I promise.  Go back to sleep.” 

 

Again, she protested against the cover of his hand and he could tell she was disgruntled with him for not letting her go seek out Draco, but he didn’t care.  Draco was out of their bed for a reason and it was Theo’s job to keep their witch in bed until he came back, just as they had discussed the night before.  With one hand clamped over her mouth, stemming her protests, his other slid up the curve of her body until it reached the sensitive flesh of her breast.  He rolled one of her pert nipples between his thumb and forefinger, eliciting a sharp gasp from Hermione. 

 

“Behave, pretty witch.”  He threatened playfully to which she gave him another disgruntled noise.  He tweaked her nipple again and shifted his weight so he could hover over her, his hand still firmly placed over her mouth.  He was pleased to see that her amber colored eyes were clouded over with lust, despite the muffled grumbles he heard as her lips cursed him. 

 

Theo slid his hand away from her mouth and pressed his lips firmly against hers, nipping at the sensitive flesh with his teeth.  He felt Hermione’s arms snake around him and press her nails into his back, drawing them down in a delightful mix of pain and pleasure.  He growled and pressed himself into her parted thighs, grinding his hips against the thin strip of cloth that separated them.

 

The door opened and the pair broke apart, blue and amber eyes falling on the man leaning so casually in the doorway with a smirk adorning his pointed features.  Hermione kissed Theo on the cheek and pushed him off of her with a wide grin as he fell with a grunt into the tangled sheets.  She slipped out of their bed and tugged on one of Draco’s quidditch jerseys in a paltry attempt to fight off the chill of the room and padded across the room to hug him.

 

He chuckled and took her into his arms as Theo gave a laugh and shook his head in defeat, falling back onto the bed.

 

“I was worried about you.”  Hermione said, breathing in the earthy, musky scent that made up her favorite blonde.  “But grumpy over there wouldn’t let me out of bed.”

 

“Oh, is that what was happening when I walked in?”  Draco teased as he ran his fingers through her mess of curls, still wild from sleep.

 

Hermione nodded against his chest and Draco could feel her smile, relishing in the way she melted into him so easily.  “He’s quite persuasive.”  She added.

 

Theo slipped out of bed and into his discarded trousers from the night before and sauntered over to the pair with a stretch of his limbs, pressing his lips against Draco’s as Hermione continued to hug the blonde around his middle.  While he presented a calm and cool demeanor, Theo could feel the nervous energy emanating from Draco which led him to grasp one of Draco’s hands in his own, offering him a squeeze of reassurance. 

 

“If both of you can find it in you to get dressed, brunch will be served in half an hour.” 

 

“Since when do we need to get dressed for brunch?”  Hermione countered, releasing one of her arms around Draco’s waist to snake it around Theo as she recalled their rather scantily clad brunch from the other day.

 

“I’m not certain my mother will approve of brunch in anything less than semi-formal robes.”  He paused with a tight smile on his lips.  “Nor will my father.”   

 

Hermione pushed herself back from the two men.  Wide-eyed, she placed her hand over her chest, just covering the Hogwarts emblem sewn into the fabric of the jersey.  “Oh, no, no, no.”  She said with an erratic shake of her head.  “Brunch with Cissa is one thing, but brunch with… with…”  she stammered as thoughts swirled and twisted in her mind. 

 

It wasn’t enough that she had been attacked by that ginger haired weasel less than a week ago, but now she was being subjected to brunch with… with…

 

“Lucius.”  Theo supplied helpfully, watching Hermione in amusement as she paced the room.  Theo thought she had never looked lovelier with her riotous curls practically standing on end as they flickered with tiny sparks, wearing Draco’s oversized jersey and the little flashes of her gold silk knickers when her hands came up to wave wildly.  He loved to see her so utterly unwound and raw, despite how much he had appreciated Narcissa’s efforts to refine her.

 

Draco, he noticed, didn’t look nearly as amused at the girl’s frantic pacing. 

 

“Lucius.  Yes.”  She almost seemed as if she were talking herself into it.  “Brunch with Cissa… and Lucius.” Theo almost expected an “I can do this” to escape her lips, but she surprised him by pausing near one of the windows, staring out into the snow-dusted gardens for a brief moment and sinking down onto the floor and burying her face in her hands.

 

Draco and Theo exchanged a look and went to her side. It was common knowledge that each witch or wizard had someone who knew exactly how to handle them within their little group.  When Theo was in a mood, he was best handled by Pansy, though Hermione was slowly learning how to care for him with Pansy’s support.  Pansy leaned on Theo just as much, but only after she’d made something explode, though recently the witch was relying more on Neville as was expected.  Theo had always been the best one to handle Draco; he approached the blonde man with a synchronicity which couldn’t be matched, likely stemming from their relationship in the summer. 

 

Hermione was different.  If and when she had nightmares, Draco was the one who was able to pull her out of them with any real success.  The one and only time Theo had tried, he caught a fist to his jaw.  When she was sad, it took Theo’s easy-going demeanor to cheer her up while Draco tended to set her on edge with his hovering.  When she was angry, she yelled at Draco because he could keep up with her verbal sparring and would always put her back in her place if she tried to cross a line.  But when she became frazzled and overwhelmed, it took both of them to soothe her.  

 

Draco sat down next to Hermione and pulled her into his lap.  He would worry about fixing his robes later knowing they would likely wrinkle while on the floor, his witch was infinitely more important than the state of his robes.  From the first time it happened, it became an unspoken arrangement.  Draco acted as her physical anchor while Theo supplied the words she needed to hear.

 

Theo sat in front of them as Draco’s arms wrapped around Hermione’s waist.  As he pulled her against his chest, she instantly relaxed but looked on Theo with frantic and somewhat terrified eyes.  Theo took his hands in hers and rubbed his thumbs across the backs of her hands and her knuckles trying to ease her out of the state of panic.

 

“Breathe, Hermione.”  He commanded in his gentle, honeyed baritone.

 

Hermione focused her eyes on Theo’s and took several deep, steadying breaths and Theo slowly saw some of the panic recede, her posture and face relaxing slightly. 

 

“Much better, princess.”  He praised, offering up a small smile as Draco kissed her shoulder.  They had learned this was one of the best ways to calm her down quickly – command, praise, reward.  It was a rather simple system, but had proven effective.  She needed that safe place to relinquish her control and had found it with the two of them.

 

“Now, talk to me.”  Theo said in a firm voice, seeing just a bit of anxiety creep back into her eyes. 

 

“I can’t have brunch with Lucius.”  She said so quickly, it took Theo a moment to register what she had said.  Draco kept one hand firmly around her waist as the other came to massage her shoulder. 

 

“Why?”  Theo asked, curious about her reasons.  He thought he knew what he reasons might be, but he also knew how important it was that she say them so they could work past them. 

 

“Breathe, Hermione.”  He reminded her. 

 

She drew a deep breath and squeezed Theo’s hands.  “Apart from the fact that he’s tried to kill me… several times simply for the… quality of my blood.”  Draco and Theo flinched a bit when she brought up her blood status knowing Lucius’ vehement dislike for muggle-borns and blood traitors.  “He scares the crap out of me and I’ve only just gotten used to Cissa.” 

 

The corner of Theo’s mouth rose in a smirk and Draco suppressed a laugh.  The thought of their fierce lioness being afraid of anything was amusing. Even when she was glowing from battle, she showed no fear.  Her nightmares, of course, spoke otherwise, but she was truly the most courageous woman they had ever set their eyes on.

 

“I think you will find he is much changed, Hermione.”  Theo said.  “He’s no longer permitted a wand and the man has been in St. Mungo’s for months because of a very nasty curse which they’ve just broken.  Cissa brought him home for a very specific reason and given that we are not going to subject you to Malfoy Manor, not now or ever, the brunch was moved here.”

 

“Mother will hex him before I have time to draw my wand if he puts a toe out of line, my love.”

 

By the time they finished speaking, Hermione’s breathing had settled considerably and she was fully relaxed back into Draco’s chest. Her eyes fluttered closed as she continued to breathe through the mild panic attack she has been having, missing the brief nod Theo gave to Draco. 

 

It wasn’t supposed to be like this, on the floor of their bedroom after Hermione had a panic attack over meeting his father.  He had planned it out down to the last detail because he didn’t want to leave anything to chance.  It was to happen just after brunch in the snow-covered gardens.  He would get down on one knee, pour out his heart in a beautifully crafted speech that he had spent the night agonizing over, and ask the woman of their dreams to marry the two of them.  That was how it was supposed to happen.  It was everything a proper Malfoy proposal should be, but he knew by now to not question Theo’s judgement and read of a situation. 

 

Draco pressed his lips against the curve of Hermione’s ear and kept his eyes locked on Theo’s for reassurance.  He pushed the perfectly scripted speech out of his mind and simply spoke from his heart. 

 

“Hermione, Theo and I love you more than anything and we would never put you in a situation we think would intentionally cause you harm.”  He started and felt her head nod as he cradled her against his chest.

 

“The thought of you in any kind of harm or pain evokes a visceral reaction in both of us which you’ve seen firsthand.  We’ve all suffered so much pain over the past few years and in the few short months we’ve been together, the world has seemed brighter and less daunting with every passing day.  We can’t imagine a day where we don’t hear your laugh, see your smile, or hold you close and cherish you.  We want to spend the rest of our lives with you, Hermione.  We want to spend our lives together.”

 

Theo watched her features shift and change as Draco offered her their hand in marriage.  Her cheeks flushed, her mouth curved into an ‘oh’ shape as her lips parted, her breath drew inward, and her eyes sparkled with understanding and love at each word Draco spoke.  Theo felt her pulse beating rapidly as he brushed his fingers across the pulse point at her wrists as he smiled reassuringly at the two of them.

 

Draco slipped a hand from around the witch on his lap and pulled the small, velvet box from within his robes and presented it to her on an open palm as an offering.  Draco noted her fingers were trembling as she opened the box, staring at the goblin-made ring contained therein.  It was a rather simple design, though it was imbued by several layers of protection spells.  A marquise cut alexandrite which shifted between crimson and emerald (the standard colors emblazoned on the Nott and Malfoy family crests) was flanked on either side by two delicate celtic trinity knots forged from a silver hued precious metal.

 

“Hermione, please honor us by accepting our hand in marriage.  We promise to be loving, devoted, and true until the end of our days.” 

 

Theo plucked the ring from the box and held it out to Hermione who studied the ring with care for several moments as she processed Draco’s words. Her mind fluttered between apprehension and excitement, but never once did the thought cross her mind that this wasn’t exactly where she wanted to be.  Was it too soon?  Probably.  If her life and the war had taught her anything, it was that she needed to seize what she wanted and run with it.

 

She released an audible breath and Theo saw tears form at the corners of her eyes while Draco felt her body tense and then immediately relax.  “Yes.”  She whispered.  “A thousand times, yes.”  She repeated with emphasis as Theo slipped the ring onto her finger, Draco’s arms encircling as much of her petite form as possible and desperately hugging her to him.

 

Theo brushed his lips against the back of her hand as etiquette dictated and smirked up at her.  She pulled each of them in for a kiss to cement the promise.  “I love you both, so much.”  She said as Draco brushed a tear from her cheek with a tender caress.

 

“Malfoy-Nott, I think.”  She mused as she admired the ring on her finger. 

 

“Why does Draco’s name get to come first?”  Theo asked with a mock pout. 

 

Hermione laughed and brushed her hand against his cheek fondly, knowing behind her Draco was being entirely too smug for his own good.  She could practically feel it in his posture. 

 

“Because Granger-Malfoy-Nott sounds pretentious and Nott-Malfoy just sounds silly.” 

 

“Very well, pretty witch.  Malfoy-Nott it shall be.”  Theo resigned with a light laugh, silently thanking the gods for the day she fell into their laps.

 

“It also follows alphabetic principles which is rather soothing.” 

 

Draco nipped at her neck and chided playfully.  “You can be a swot later, we have to go down to brunch.”   

 

“You’re just as much of a swot as I am.”  Hermione chirped with a delicate laugh as she extricated herself from Draco’s lap, placing her hands defiantly on her hips after she was fully upright, the green fabric of the quidditch jersey rising just enough to give a glimpse of her golden-hued knickers.

 

Stepping up behind the witch, Theo slipped his fingers just below the waistband of her knickers as he inched his fingers dangerously close to the apex of her thighs.  “If you’re going to insist upon being a swot, have some rather lovely fantasies about you in the library…” he crooned. 

 

Leaning her head back, Hermione pecked him on the jaw and pulled his hands from her knickers.  “We’re due at brunch or did you forget?”

 

“There’s plenty of time.”  Theo persuaded as he drew his lips along the curve of her ear while Draco fought the urge to aid him in his convincing.

 

“I would like to have children eventually, and they’ll all look like Draco if Narcissa hexes your bollocks off for us being late to brunch.” 

 

He kissed her cheek after releasing a groan know she was right.  “Stop making sense, pretty witch.”  He chided playfully.

 

Chapter Text

 

……….

 

Engaged.  Hermione Granger admired the engagement ring on her finger as each facet caught the light from the myriad of candles spread throughout the library, bathing her favorite space in a warm glow.  With several books as well as a handful of parchment scrolls spread over one of the larger tables, Hermione had decided to work on her latest project amongst the ancient tomes and scrolls of the Hogwarts Library. While she would normally be content to study within the confines of her dormitory in the company of her friend and loves, she required access to several different texts on Arithmancy and wasn’t allowed to take two of them from the library due to their permanent residence in the restricted section.

 

Unfortunately, she wasn’t making much headway on her project because the stunning ring on her finger kept catching the light and distracting her.  She was nearly giddy with excitement though the more logical part of her brain told her she was barely nineteen and it was far too early to be thinking about something so serious as marriage.  Not to mention the very, very short period she had been through with her two lovers.  She wasn’t entirely certain what to call it.  Courtship?  Relationship? Just doing what felt right?

 

The happy song her heart was singing managed to drown out the doubts her brain was extolling, at least for now. 

 

It wasn’t like they were required to marry within a certain amount of time.  They could take five weeks, five months, or even five years to make things official with ministry signed documents and everything.  Hermione gazed upon the delicate band and considered it more of a commitment to their love rather than a promise to wed in a specific amount of time, though she knew that both Narcissa and Ophelia would be itching to plan the society wedding of the century whether it occurred in this century or the next. 

 

I wonder if I could talk them into eloping.  She mused silently as she reached for one of the books she had pulled from the shelves. Her hand just brushed the leather when the time rang through the castle, the ancient brass bell tolling out the hour.

 

Noon.

 

Her stomach rumbled involuntarily.  With the strict “no food in the library” rule, Hermione was forced to choose between allowing her stomach to protest while she studied or tucking her things away and grabbing a bite to eat down in the great hall. 

 

While normally her penchant for studying won out over her need for sustenance, she was already distracted enough with the shiny bauble on her finger that she decided she may as well pause her studying for the moment and get something to eat. 

 

Tucking a stray curl behind her ear, Hermione gingerly re-shelved the volumes and slipped her other materials into her satchel before making her way down to the great hall which was already bustling with activity. 

 

A few of their professors were engaged in quiet conversations while they took their meals atop the dais where the faculty table sat while the buzz of a myriad of different topics echoed off of the stones.  Hermione made her way towards the Gryffindor table and took a seat next to Neville after checking to see if her lovers or Pansy had made it down to lunch yet. 

 

The lanky brunette flashed Hermione a perfect smile as she grabbed one of the garlic and herb yeast rolls from a nearby basket.  “Can I see it?”

 

Still holding the roll with her hand, she turned it slightly so Neville could see the band as she tore off a piece of the fluffy bread and dipped it lightly it in a pool of melted butter before savoring the flavors with a happy sigh. 

 

“Wow.”  Neville breathed, leaning in slightly so he could study the delicate filigree.  “That’s beautiful, Hermione.”

 

“Thanks, Nev.”  She said, setting her roll down and shoveling a bit of pasta onto her plate before plucking a glazed chicken breast from a nearby platter.  Abandoning her post in the library was definitely the right thing to do, her stomach rumbled at her.

 

Neville poured himself another glass of pumpkin juice and took a ship. “Have you set a date yet?”

 

She laughed, twirling her pasta around her fork.  “No, and I don’t expect to until after we’ve graduated, at the very least.  Though I suspect we may wait for a few years while we establish ourselves.”

 

“We missed you at the end of the ball,”  Neville said before his face took on a somber expression and his voice lowered so no one else could hear.  “But Pansy told me what happened with… you know.”

 

Hermione’s jaw tightened and her heart fluttered erratically in her chest at the mere thought of him.  “I hope he rots.”  She grumbled, shoving another piece of bread into her mouth before she began eagerly cursing the name of Ronald Bilius Weasley to anyone who would listen. 

 

“Don’t you think it’s at all out of character for him?” Neville asked after the angry expression had faded mostly from her face.

 

“It’s not the first time something like that has happened, so no.  It’s apparently well within his character to prey on women.” Hermione said almost flippantly as she twirled more pasta around her fork. “At the very least, he picked the least defenseless one possible, though given how much he was sleeping around… I don’t really want to think about what he might be capable of.”

 

Neville understood exactly what happened between Hermione and Ron which led her to living with the Slytherins, his own witch had told him as much but it was generally a closely guarded secret.  It was a well-known fact that the injuries Hermione inflicted upon him were passed off as something that occurred during his training to become an auror. 

 

“Before what he did to you, was there any indication…?

 

Hermione’s lips curved down into a frown.  “He’d become a bit more possessive at the time and had been sleeping around with Nimüe knows how many witches, but there was nothing to indicate that he would turn to violence.”  

 

While just the thought of Ronald Weasley made Hermione feel uncomfortable, it was almost cathartic to talk about him to someone who knew him before the war as a friend. Her Slytherins, Merlin love the three of them, never held high opinions of him, to begin with, Ginny was his sister, and Harry was out of commission with his auror training.

 

Hemione had received a summons to testify against the wizard in a few weeks time. Until then, she knew he was biding his time in the dirty, damp prison in the middle of the frigid ocean.  The dementors had been banished, but it didn’t change the overall atmosphere – the guards were almost as bad, even if they couldn’t forcefully rip your soul from your body.

 

She knew Ginny was on her side, but she didn’t know about the rest of the Weasley clan.  She hadn’t received a howler from Molly, so she suspected things were, at the very least, okay on that front – assuming Molly was fully aware of what transpired.  She had to be with him in prison, right?  Missives from her best friend had still been strangely absent despite the fact that she’d written him about what happened with Ron, though she hadn’t confided in him about her relationship with Theo and Draco.  That was a conversation better had in person.

 

The worst part of the entire ordeal is that Ron had begun appearing in her nightmares more frequently now.  Rather than seeing him abandoning her and Harry in the Forest of Dean, she felt him on top of her sinking his teeth into her flesh.  He was nearly as present as Bellatrix, though the appearance of Lucius had waned following their surprising lovely interaction at brunch before the holidays finished.

 

She’d lost count of how many times Draco had run into her room to wake her up from one of her nightmares before insisting that she sleep in his bed, permanently.  Theo joined them for good after only one evening of realizing he too slept better in the presence of his lovers. Having them close at hand was good for her soul and she knew they felt much the same.

 

“I’m not trying to excuse what he did, but I shared a room with the man for six years.  It still seems very out of character for him.” 

 

Hermione sighed, abandoning her fork on the side of her plate.  “I think the war affected us each in different ways.  Harry threw himself into training to bury his feelings and find himself, I came back to school because there was nowhere else for me to go and I didn’t fancy being an entry-level Ministry goon, and Ron got a taste of fame and firewhiskey.”

 

Neville felt puzzled.  Nowhere to go? “I thought you came back for your N.E.W.T.s?”

 

“I did, but that wasn’t the only reason.”  Hermione pulled in a deep breath and continued, feeling an ache in her chest. “You heard about what I had to do to save my parents right before we left for the holidays, yeah?  It took selling the house and their entire savings for them to make a new life for themselves in Australia.”

 

“I never knew, Hermione,”  Neville said sincerely, laying a hand on her shoulder. 

 

“It’s not something I advertise.” She managed a small smile before resting her head in her hand glumly, her elbow occupying a small space between her plate and the empty setting next to her. 

 

“If there’s anything I can do…”

 

“There’s nothing that can be done.  I don’t particularly like the idea of living off of Draco and Theo’s money, but I know they’ll support me until I get a job of my own and out stubborn both of them into letting me pay my own way.” 

 

Her tenacity brought a smile to Neville’s face.  “If anyone could out-stubborn those two love-struck gits, it would be you.” 

 

“I don’t think I’d call us gits, Longbottom.”  Theo’s warned playfully as he bent to press a kiss to the top of Hermione’s head who smiled and turned around in her seat as soon as she heard him speak.

 

“You argue against gits, but not love-struck?”  Draco quipped with a smirk, nudging Theo with his shoulder.

 

“The two of you are pathetic.”  Pansy groused as she wrapped her arms around Neville’s shoulder from behind, resting her chin atop his head.  Neville grasped one of her hands and pressed a kiss to her palm before popping a meatball into his mouth from his plate.

 

Theo slipped into the empty seat next to Hermione and grabbed an apple from the fruit basket before slipping an arm around his witch’s waist.  “I thought you were studying?” he asked before sinking his teeth into the crunchy piece of fruit.

 

Draco rested his hands atop her shoulders before kneading the tense flesh between his fingers in a soothing massage causing Hermione’s eyes to flutter as she suppressed the urge to moan outright. “I decided that lunch was a good idea.  I was too distracted to get much work done, though.”

 

“And what, pray tell, were you distracted by…” Draco leaned forward, pressing his lips against the curve of her ear, whispering in an altogether too husky voice, “my lovely future Mrs. Malfoy-Nott?”

 

Determined not to let him win in this battle of the wits and innuendo he was trying to start, Hermione schooled her features into something resembling cool indifference and waved a hand flippantly.  “Wrackspurts.”

 

While the three Slytherins simply wore confused expressions at her completely unexpected response, Neville nearly spit out his pumpkin juice and instead launched into a coughing fit after an attempt to swallow the liquid that drew several stares towards them from around the great hall.  Pansy gingerly patted him on the back while Hermione wore a smug smile that was eerily reminiscent of her future mother-in-law. 

 

“Point for you, princess.” Theo pointed his finger at Hermione and waggled his eyebrows suggestively before taking another bite of his apple.

 

Draco combined the vastness of his mind for any previous mention of anything remotely resembling the word wrackspurts before the epiphany came to him. “Lovegood?” He questioned, almost hesitantly.

 

Neville nodded, rubbing his chest as though it would help soothe the burn from his accidental inhale of pumpkin juice.  “Luna swears they’re real.  We’ve yet to see proof.”

 

“You use one of Lovegood’s mythical creatures to ruin my fun?”  Draco pouted, pressing a kiss to Hermione’s ear, eliciting a laugh from the witch.

 

“Someone has to keep you in line.”  Pansy quipped, reaching over and plucking a strawberry off of Neville’s plate. 

 

Theo raised his half-eaten apple in a mock toast, his hand lightly stroking Hermione’s side before pulling her just a bit closer to him.  “Too right, sparrow.” 

 

“I take it there’s a story behind that nickname.”  While it was Neville who spoke the words, it was clear from Hermione’s expression that she was also intensely curious about the origins of Theo’s nickname for Pansy.

 

All of the nicknames and terms of endearment Theo had assigned to her made sense.  Princess was a salute to the Prophet crowning her as Gryffindor’s Princess (which she hated, though all attempts to dissuade Theo from using that name had been unsuccessful) while lioness had similar origins in her house mascot.  It was obvious why he called her pretty witch.  Theo’s use of love for Draco and periodically herself was also painfully obvious.  The only term of endearment she hadn’t managed to figure out the meaning of was sparrow which he used exclusively for Pansy.

 

Theo lounged indolently against the table, his eyes full of mirth and mischief and he glanced up at Pansy.  “Do you want them to know?”

 

With a roll of her eyes, Pansy shrugged her shoulders as she idly toyed with the hair at the nape of Neville’s neck.  “It’s as much my story as it is yours.”

 

“Right you are, sparrow.”  Theo grinned, taking another bite of his apple. 

 

“What do you know of sparrows as a totem or a spirit animal?”  Pansy asked the group as she combed her fingers through Neville’s hair causing a contented smile and what sounded suspiciously like a purr to cross his lips. 

 

Of course, it was Hermione who answered. “Sparrows most often symbolize protection and joy, though they can also symbolize triumph following sadness and suffering.  They thrive in their colonies and are rarely seen on their own showing that they have a strong sense of community.  They’re wickedly fast, difficult to catch, and highly adaptable.  In all, they are rather powerful, if small birds.”

 

“You are such a swot,”  Draco muttered, dropping another kiss atop Hermione’s curls.  He seemed to have become even more affectionate, especially in more public areas, now that she wore an engagement ring on her finger.

 

Hermione reached back and smacked him on the arm, eliciting a quiet yelp of surprise.  “You read just as much as I do, now hush.”

 

A sly grin spread across Pansy’s face as she set her eyes on Hermione. “All of that is immaterial really.  I just wanted to see exactly how much Granger had researched the topic trying to figure out the meaning behind it.”

 

“What –“ Hermione turned red and started to protest before Theo cut her off knowing full well that Pansy was just having a bit of fun with the witch. 

 

“Pansy was quite obsessed with the little birds when we were younger so much so that she would drag me out to see their nests in the orchards every day.  I told her if she wasn’t careful she would simply turn into a sparrow.  Of course, she protested, but it stuck.”  Theo explained, smiling fondly at the girl who had been his best friend since they were toddlers.

 

“While I do think the symbolism fits, I started calling her sparrow when we were about five simply because she was obsessed with them.  She even had one of the house elves paint a mural on her wall of the birds, not to mention the collection of discarded feathers she forced her mother to turn into a rather ghastly hat.”

 

“I’ll have you know it was a tastefully decorated headband and not a hat.”  Pansy was sorely tempted to stick her tongue out at him but the etiquette lessons she had been subjected to force her to simply glare at the wizard with glittering eyes promising retribution.

 

“And you know as well as I do, sparrow, that you’ve had it magically resized and it’s tucked away in your trunk.” 

 

Draco chuckled at the banter between his friends as Pansy flushed.  Draco had seen the feather-covered headband from time to time but Pansy rarely wore it.  He had even caught her absentmindedly stroking the feathers before she tucked it into her hair one day in third year.  Knowing another part of the story, he suggested the group take a stroll on the grounds. 

 

Hermione pulled her cloak around her shoulders and tucked herself safely under Draco’s arm while Theo walked closely to Neville and Pansy, still teasing the witch about her obsession. 

 

“She’s going to hex him if he keeps this up,”  Hermione remarked, drawing her wand to cast a warming charm over the two of them as they passed through the heavy wooden doors and into the courtyard which was still covered in snow.

 

Draco adjusted his green and silver scarf with one hand before raking his fingers through his hair.  “If she gets too irritated with him, she’ll just start teasing him back about the fact that he helped her gather most of those feathers as well as several different kinds of sparrow eggshells he had inlaid into a jewelry box for her.”

 

“From what I’ve heard of their childhood and even how they interact now, I’m a little surprised they didn’t end up together.”  While Hermione loved the cheeky wizard, she couldn’t help but see the ease with which the witch and wizard interacted.  They were almost always in sync.  “Not that I’m complaining, mind you.” 

 

Draco snorted a laugh, pulling the witch closer to his side.  “Don’t be daft, Hermione.  Their relationship is very similar to the one you share with Potter.”

 

She hadn’t heard from Harry in several months and the separation from her best friend made her heart ache a bit, but she knew he was busy with auror training.  It was routine for the trainees to be sequestered away from their families and friends for several months with little to no outside contact in order to build the bonds necessary to work as a team. It made her wonder why Ronald seemed able to get away so often, especially after the events over the holidays.  Perhaps he hadn’t gone through with the training after all…

 

Pushing all thoughts of Ron from her mind, Hermione wondered now what Harry would think about her relationship with her two wizards.  It was unconventional, certainly, but she hoped she would have his support though she knew he and Draco would likely be at odds the majority of the time.  Perhaps simple tolerance was possible.  Maybe she could convince Draco to be cordial.  However, she had a feeling that Harry and Theo would hit it off quickly once her rather quick-to-judge best friends got over the fact that he was a Slytherin.

 

Her thoughts were so lost thinking about Harry that she nearly missed Draco’s next remark.

 

“Besides, they refused the marriage contract a few years ago.  I’m fairly certain their mothers cried for a week straight.”

 

“They were contracted?”  She questioned, looking up at the blonde wizard who pressed a kiss to her forehead.

 

“I think Theo said it was something their fathers agreed to when they were rather young.  When it came time for the formal courtship to begin, Theo and Pansy both refused to exchange the necessary gifts.”

 

Hermione’s knowledge about pureblood customs was sorely lacking.  She had heard the words “courtship” and “marriage contract” thrown about for the past several years amongst some of their classmates and she likened the practices to barbaric, but that was before she knew that the witch and wizard in question could refuse the contract.  It was nice to know that the practice, while used to form alliances between the powerful families, wasn’t completely without scruples.

 

The question was out of her mouth before she could stop it.  “Why didn’t we go through a courtship?”

 

Smiling warmly at his witch’s incessant thirst for knowledge, no matter how much he enjoyed teasing her about it, Draco set out to explain.  “Formal courtships are rarely arranged for love matches and the popularity of marriage contracts, in general, is waning amongst the old guard.  They’re finding that their heirs are generally opposed to blindly following their guidance after everything we’ve been through.  Some still go through the process, however, out of respect for tradition.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Longbottom started the preliminary discussions with Pansy’s parents over the holidays.”

 

Hermione thought about protesting that they had only been together for a short while before the sight of her own engagement ring caught her eye, causing her to hold her tongue. She idly twisted the ring around her finger before glancing over to see Draco’s nestled just below his signet ring.  The sight of it made her heart swell, especially knowing there was a matching one adorning Theo’s finger as well. 

 

Hermione was pulled out of her reverie by a familiar feminine voice calling forth her patronus.  A cascade of silver light burst from Pansy’s wand taking the form of a tiny sparrow who began to flit around her mistress with glee before landing on Theo’s shoulder, chirping happily at the dark-haired wizard as though they were old friends. 

 

After smiling and cooing at the tiny bird, Theo summoned his own patronus.  It was not as bright or as corporeal as Pansy’s, but nonetheless, his seagull took flight as it exited the tip of his wand, soaring high into the sky before diving back down.

 

“A seagull?”  Hermione exclaimed, watching as the bird began to dip and dive around its master as though it were attempting to goad Pansy’s sparrow into playing.  “It’s perfect.”

 

Draco watched the bird he had seen only on one or two occasions as it swooped down near Pansy.  “How so?”

 

With shining eyes, Hermione watched Theo’s face as he watched his patronus stretch it’s wings and circle around Draco and Hermione.  “Easy going.  Creative.  Versatile.”

 

“Don’t forget loud,” added Neville with a chuckle, causing several heads to turn in his direction.

 

“What?”  He asked with a raised brow.  “Just because I prefer to spend my time elbows deep in soil doesn’t mean I don’t read about other topics as well.”

 

Pansy pressed herself into Neville’s side as Draco and Hermione summoned their own silvery-hued creatures.  Draco’s panther loped around the perimeter of the group as though keeping watch while Hermione’s otter swam playfully around Theo before winding its way around her and Draco.

 

“What is your patronus?” Pansy asked, noting hers had come to land on Neville’s shoulder.

 

Neville frowned.  “I’ve never really been able to manage to form one that took on a corporeal form.  The best I can manage is a bit of mist.”

 

“When was the last time you tried, Neville?” Hermione asked though she was fairly certain she knew the answer.

 

“Back in fifth year when we had that awful Umbridge woman and her Defense curriculum that wasn’t suitable for first years.”  The wizard said, fond memories of the D.A. coming to the forefront of his mind.  Draco and Pansy managed to look guilty over their involvement in the Inquisitorial Squad.

 

“How did you manage to learn that back in fifth year?”  Theo asked, knowing full well their curriculum that year was rubbish.

 

“Harry taught us,”  Neville said with a look of camaraderie directed towards Hermione. “We had a bit of an underground defense club going.”

 

“If the last time you tried it was when we were with the D.A., I’ll bet you can do it now, especially since you’re not using your father’s wand,” Hermione said, in a bid to encourage the reluctant wizard.

 

With a look of determination, Neville nodded and focused on his happiest memory before calling out the incantation.   

 

“She’s beautiful!”  Pansy cried gleefully as the form of a sleek, silver cougar burst forth from Neville’s wand and bounded over to her.  Kneeling down into the snow, Pansy admired the beast, dragging her hand just over the top of its fur as though she were stroking the ethereal creature.

 

Neville practically preened he was so proud of himself, while Theo clapped him on the back in a show of enthusiasm.

 

As the snow began to fall again, each witch or wizard dismissed his or her patronus and started the long trek back up towards the school.  They had wandered a fair way and were thoroughly chilled when they finally crossed the threshold into the warmth of the castle.  Hermione shook the tiny ice crystals from her curls while others brushed the snow from their robes or knocked it from their boots. 

 

Hermione had just curled up onto the couch with Theo when the sound of a tapping at the window caused several heads to turn.  Draco stood up from his chair near the fire, setting the book he had intended to read aside and crossed the short space to the window.  He took the letter from the bird, giving it a friendly stroke to its feathers before sending it to rest in the Hogwarts Owlery.

 

“It’s for you, Hermione,”  Draco said, passing her the carefully folded letter to the witch before walking back over to his chair, eager to be close to the warmth of the fire. 

 

Nimble fingers traced gentle patterns over her abdomen as she stared at the letter.  She barely registered the kiss to her cheek as she stared at the exceedingly familiar messy scrawl on the envelope. 

 

“Who’s it from, princess?”  Theo asked, peering over her shoulder at the letter in her hands.

 

“Harry.” 

 

“Aren’t you going to open it?”

 

She turned the letter over in her hands, staring at it when she normally would’ve ripped the envelope open by now.  The very weight of it in her hands made her feel apprehensive when logically, she knew she had no reason to be.  Harry was her best friend and through everything, she was certain that wouldn’t change.  

 

“I’m a bit worried about what he’ll say.” 

 

“Breathe, love.”  Theo reminded her, tightening his arms around her waist in an effort to comfort his witch as she exhaled.  “You won’t know what he has to say unless you open it, there’s no use fretting until you know for certain.”

 

She gave him a small nod and slipped her finger beneath the wax seal, breaking it in a swift motion.  “You’re right, of course.” 

 

Dear Hermione,

 

I hope this letter finds you well.  I want to first apologize that I haven’t been able to keep in contact with you over the past several months.  I’ve a stack of letters a foot tall to go through, so forgive me for writing before I’ve read anything you’ve sent. They’ve only just let us out of the seclusion period which is required of all Auror trainees.  I’m sure you know, but Ron left pretty early on. When we came back from that game where we saw Ginny play, he seemed okay but after that, he wasn’t doing so good, he failed a few tests and just up and quit one day.  I’ve only just heard he’s in Azkaban, but very little has been released as to why.  I hope he didn’t fuck up too badly, you know?

 

How are things with you?  I’m starved for news of the outside world.  NEWTs are coming up soon, yeah?  I want to hear all about what you’ve been up to since returning to Hogwarts.

 

I was planning to try and meet up with everyone at Hogsmeade next weekend and I hope to see you too.  I expect you and Ginny will have gotten your letters at the same time so I’m sure you are somewhere together all smiles. 

 

I miss you, ‘Mione! 

 

With affection,

Harry

 

It was the gentle brush of Theo’s lips against the curve of her neck which brought her out of her stupor. She had been staring at the words on the page for several minutes in a bid to not crumple the letter and toss it into the fire.

 

“He doesn’t know,” Hermione whispered in utter disbelief. 

 

“How can he not know?  He was there the goddamned day it happened!”  Her voice steadily grew louder and more inflamed. As her anger surged, Theo only tightened his arms around the witch further, sending a pleading look in Draco’s direction.

 

Draco didn’t move from his chair, but he did close his book.  “Let her go.” 

 

Theo released Hermione from his embrace and she promptly bounded up from her seat on the couch.  Sparks of fury crackled within her curls as she began to pace the room, gesticulating wildly with her hands the letter she still carried.  Two sets of eyes watched her with concern as she paced.

 

“How on earth could he not know what happened?”  She screeching, pulling her fingers through her errant curls, tugging roughly at the roots. 

 

“You’ve not heard from him for months, love.  He’s been in seclusion, you know that.”  Draco offered.  Despite his attempt to be inoffensive, Hermione managed to find offense in his words.

 

“That doesn’t change the fact that he was with Ronald bloody Weasley for months and never sensed something was amiss until he left training.” She said, pointing an indignant finger at her blonde-haired fiancée.

 

“Abuse is not something one generally advertises, Hermione.” 

 

“He’s my best friend.  He should have known.”  She crossed her arms protectively over her chest just barely stopping herself from stamping her foot petulantly as she continued to pace.  Her eyes were beginning to well with tears and her voice was cracking with each muttered curse.

 

Theo wasn’t entirely certain how Draco was remaining so calm in the face of Hermione’s tantrum.  He just wanted to pull the witch into his arms and hold her and kiss her until she calmed, an approach which usually worked with Draco.

 

“And if circumstances were different he would have been here,”  Draco said, leaning forward to rest his forearms against his knees, keeping his dark eyes carefully trained on Hermione. 

 

“He… he should have been.  He should have seen.  He should have …”  her voice dropped off as she sunk to the ground, burying her face in her hands.  Theo scrambled off of the sofa and pulled the distraught witch into his arms.  She tucked herself against Theo’s chest, grasping desperately at the fabric of his shirt as the tears fell freely.

 

“He should have been there to protect you, so it never would have happened,” Draco said solemnly, knowing that it Potter had been there to prevent the attack of his witch that she may never have fallen into their waiting arms.  Had Potter been there that day, she wouldn’t be his and while he would have remained content with only Theo, his world was made so much better by her presence. 

 

……….

 

“Is she resting?”  Draco asked as he lay on the couch, an arm slung across his eyes to block out the harsh light of the afternoon which was streaming in through the windows.

 

“She’s asleep, but I gave her a dose of calming draught to be safe.” Theo walked around the couch and covered Draco’s body with his own, resting the bulk of his weight on his forearms. 

 

Dropping his head down, he tenderly pressed his lips against those of the blonde Adonis beneath him. One of Draco’s hands drifted upward, his thumb resting just in front of Theo’s ear while the rest of his fingers cradled the back of his head. The feeling of his tongue parting the seam of Draco’s mouth elicited a moan from the blonde, his hips grinding against those of the man above him.  They lay as a tangle of limbs on the sofa, languorously exploring each other with soft caresses, gentle kisses, and tender nibbles.

 

“I’ve missed this.”  Draco sighed against Theo’s lips.

 

Theo trailed a line of kisses along the ridge of Draco’s jaw.  “I apologize for neglecting you, love.” 

 

Running his fingertips through Theo’s short, brown hair, Draco turned his head, allowing his lover access to the curve of his neck.  “We’ve been worried about the witch in our life.  I’m just as much to blame.” 

 

Nipping at the tender flesh of Draco’s neck, Theo sighed even as he breathed in the warm herbal and earthy scent of Draco’s cologne. “I hope she never gives us cause to worry again.”

 

Draco chuckled and directed his lover’s mouth back to his own.  “I think witches come with worries, Theo.  I’m not certain they can be separated.” 

 

Theo smiled against Draco’s lips before drawing him in for another kiss, giving a serious thought to just vanishing their clothing so he could have his way with his favorite blonde.

 

“If you’re going to rut against one another, can’t you at least do it in your rooms?”  Draco and Theo were torn from their reverie by a scowling Pansy Parkinson with her hands on her hips and a Neville Longbottom behind her who could barely contain his mirth. 

 

In an act of rebellion, Theo leaned down and kissed Draco once more, snapping his hips forward while keeping his eyes trained on his best friend.  Draco moaned at the sudden impact, fully aware of exactly how aroused his fiancée was at the moment.   Pansy didn’t even bat an eyelash.  With a lazy flick of her wrist, she sent every single pillow in the common area flying towards them in an onslaught of cotton fluff.  

 

Theo ended up on the floor laughing while Draco attempted to protect his face and bits with his arms and hands.  “Call them off, sparrow!”  Theo managed to plead between fits of laughter and pillows intent on smothering him.

 

“Have you learned your lesson?”

 

“Yes, yes.  Just stop it!”  Theo chuckled.  This was her most creative way yet to deal with the sights of himself and Draco displaying their affection openly.  Usually, she sent a few well-placed stinging hexes their way, though it had been a while since she’d caught them in the open. 

 

Pansy released the spell as Neville wrapped his arms around the witch from behind, resting his chin atop her head.  “Is this what they were like before?” 

 

“Worse.” 

 

……….

 

The day she was to meet Harry in Hogsmeade dawned bright and clear. Snow still covered the grounds of the castle and the path to the ancient wizarding village was littered with frozen puddles turned to ice.  Hermione was flanked on either side by Theo and Draco while Pansy and Neville walked a short distance ahead, laughing about something with Ginny and Luna.

 

“Would you like us to be there?”  Theo asked as Hermione tucked a green and silver Slytherin scarf more snugly around her neck.  While the three of them hadn’t discussed whether or not they would be present when she reunited with her best friend, she had simply assumed she wouldn’t face him alone.  However, the thought of immediately bombarding Harry with her two, very protective fiancées was a bit cruel. 

 

Theo tugged her just a bit closer as they wandered towards the small town, rubbing a leather gloved hand over her arm while she attempted to make up her mind.  “I think I would like to see him on my own,” Hermione glanced between the pair of them who were looking down her with nearly identical looks of concern, “but I would appreciate it if you would stay nearby, just in case.”

 

They stopped at the base of the hill, seeing students and residents milling about the village a short distance ahead of them, their friends having already disappeared into the crowd.  Hermione turned and tugged at the red and gold scarf around Theo’s neck. 

 

“I can’t believe you talked him into wearing that,”  Draco remarked with a sneer that Hermione recognized as playful rather than malicious.

 

“Unlike you, he looks good in the warm colors of my house.” She retorted, rising to her toes to peck Theo on the lips.  The wizard, however, had other plans and pressed her body firmly against his own as he coaxed her into a longer, more libidinous kiss than she had originally intended.

 

Draco eyed the pair of them with libertine eyes, taking in their flushed cheeks and kiss-swollen lips as they broken apart.  “I concede the point,” he said, pressing his lips to Theo’s in the manner of the chaste peck Hermione had intended. “He does look rather dashing in crimson and gold.”

 

Theo chuckled, “the pair of you will be the death of me,” he said with a shake of his head as he weaved his arms around the pair of them, one arm resting atop of Hermione’s shoulders while the other encircled Draco’s waist.

 

Hermione drew in a deep breath, exhaling slowly while watching the puffs of air cloud in the frigid winter air.  “It’s now or never, isn’t it?”

 

“We’ll be right behind you, princess.” Theo urged with a smile. He dropped his arm from around her shoulder and placed it along the small of her back, nudging her forward, though she looked back on the pair of them.

 

Draco gave her a reassuring look, his hand idly stroking along Theo’s spine. “We’ll see you in a few minutes.”

 

She gave a curt nod and turned, squaring her shoulders before setting off towards the line of buildings just a few meters away.

 

……….

 

Whatever she had expected when she entered The Three Broomsticks, it was not the sight of Adrian Pucey with his arm slung around Harry’s shoulders as they sat cuddled up in a booth together surrounded by several of her other friends.  Ginny was laughing and joking with the former Slytherin while Harry was engaged in a quiet conversation with Pansy and Neville, looking completely at ease. 

 

Harry’s eyes lit up as he spotted her from across the room.  Quickly shrugging off Adrian’s arm and excusing himself from the conversation, he was across the room in a few short strides, immediately gathering Hermione into his arms. 

 

“You have no idea how much I have missed you.”  He sighed, pressing a brotherly kiss to her cheek. 

 

She couldn’t wipe the grin off of her face if she tried. Seeing him again was better than she could have expected and a piece of her heart that was ripped to shreds at the end of the war suddenly seemed to mend itself. “You are a sight for sore eyes, Harry Potter.”

 

Harry led her back over to the booth they had commandeered and after introducing Adrian as his boyfriend, she settled into the booth next to Ginny who didn’t seem at all perturbed that her once lover was in a relationship.

 

Pansy shot her a quizzical look, “where are the boys?”

 

“The boys?” Harry asked.

 

“They’ll be along soon, I expect.” Hermione said, fully aware her cheeks were probably a shade of there’s something I haven’t told you pink.

 

As if on cue, the door to the pub opened and Draco and Theo crossed the threshold, hand in hand with their cheeks flushed from the cold.  The pair of them shed their heavy winter cloaks and hung them near the door, tucking gloves into pockets, leaving them both in muggle jeans, jumpers, and their scarves.  

 

Pansy glanced over her shoulder and then immediately to Hermione’s neck, noting that Hermione was obviously not wearing her normal Gryffindor scarf while Theo clearly was.  “Do I even want to know what you did to convince him?”  

 

Before she could reply, Adrian had stood up a bit in the booth and was waving his former housemates over, while Harry had apparently caught on to Pansy’s observation as his eyes were currently darting between Hermione, Theo, and Draco whose hand was still firmly enclosed within Theo’s.

 

Draco broke into a wide grin and reached across the table to shake his former teammate’s hand, exchanging pleasantries while Theo leaned against the side of the booth closest to Hermione, in a clearly protective almost challenging gesture.  Neville summoned two extra chairs without a thought, and a glance at Harry revealed that his eyes were about to pop out of their sockets.

 

Draco kissed Theo on the cheek and turned away from the group to go get drinks while Hermione just smiled, her face feeling as crimson as the scarf around Theo’s neck.

 

“Surprise?”

 

“Big surprise.” He said with wide eyes until Adrian tugged him closer and planted a kiss to the top of his head and a huge grin spread across his face.

 

“I think we have a bit of catching up to do, Harry,”  Hermione said with a laugh, though she knew they would need to speak about Ron at some point, she was grateful that their first interaction in months was light-hearted and without the confrontation she had thoroughly expected.

 

Theo slumped down into one of the chairs Neville had summoned as Draco returned with their drinks, placing a steaming mug of hot chocolate down in front of Hermione before handing Theo an apple cider with what looked to be several inches of whipped cream on top before settling into the other chair. 

 

Luna made an offhand comment about an imaginary animal which liked to snack on whipped cream during the full moon and soon the entire group was conversing like they were all old friends.  To Hermione’s surprise, Draco and Harry even managed to speak cordially to one another about the upcoming quidditch season, with Ginny chiming in about her plans to try out for the Harpies.

 

The conversation about Ron came much later in the evening when Hermione and Harry found themselves alone in a quiet corner of the pub.  Draco had practically dragged Theo away to Honeydukes while the rest of their friends had excused themselves; Adrian and Ginny had even traipsed over to Quality Quidditch Supplies to find her a new set of leather quidditch gloves.

 

Harry was struck silent when she finished her story about what had happened with their former best friend.  Despite the fact that words failed, he gathered her into his arms and hugged her tightly, whispering words of apology after several minutes for not being there for her.  The emotional exhaustion of recanting the entire tale had made her drowsy, and by the time Theo and Draco returned to collect her, she had fallen asleep on Harry’s shoulder.   

 

“She told you then?” Theo said, brushing a stray curl away from Hermione’s face.  

 

Harry nodded, being careful not to jostle the sleeping witch.  “She told me everything from the moment she came back to Hogwarts to what happened over the holidays.”  Harry pressed a kiss to the top of her curls and Draco visibly flinched, despite knowing exactly where her affections lay.

 

“I trust we understand one another and that the standard threats against our person will stand should we hurt her,”  Theo said, attempting to keep the tone light while placing a reassuring hand against Draco’s back.

 

“Absolutely.” 

 

“The same goes for Pucey, you know. He’s a good bloke.”  Draco said, his grey eyes trained on Potter’s green.

 

Harry grinned and the years of animosity between the two men seemed to wither away, though not quite to nothingness.  It was clear that the results of the war and whatever Harry had been through during his Auror training had clearly changed him.  Hermione would’ve called it another shift.   

 

“Understood.”  

 

Draco knelt next to the booth and lightly ran his knuckles across Hermione’s cheek, in an attempt to ease the witch out of her sleep.  “Hermione, love, you need to wake up.” 

 

She stirred with a quiet hum, unable to stop the yawn from escaping from her lips.  “Up you go,”  Harry said softly, pushing Hermione off him and towards Draco with care.  She lifted her arms around Draco’s neck and stood up reluctantly as Theo put a hand at her back to steady her. 

 

Theo extended his arm to Harry, shaking his hand.  “See you around, Potter.”

 

“Take care of her Nott,” Harry inclined his head towards Draco who had picked up Hermione with ease, cradling her against his chest, “Malfoy.”

 

“Take me home, please,” she murmured against Draco’s neck, curling herself into his warmth. 

 

Wrapping Hermione’s cloak around her shoulders, Draco apparated the pair of them to the Hogwarts gates, rather than making the long trek back with Theo appearing not a second later to open the gates.  After reaching their dormitory, Draco helped Hermione out of her clothing and into her pajamas, tucking her up safely in their bed and climbed in with her, wrapping his arms firmly around the witch who was asleep mere moments after her head hit the pillow.  Theo spent a few moments sending their cloaks and clothing and into chests and hampers before settling into bed on Hermione’s other side, his hand draped across her abdomen, his fingers firmly linked with Draco’s.  Leaning over the sleeping witch between them, the two Slytherins shared a kiss and a smile which bespoke of their utter contentment.

 

The three of them drifted off to sleep, curled around each other just as they would for the rest of their lives.

 

Chapter Text

The trial for Ronald B. Weasley lasted precisely four days during which testimony was heard from a surprising number of sources.  Hermione bravely recounted her experiences and submitted her memories for testing to ensure they had not been altered.  Ron’s training auror spoke about his ever-growing anger, his careless attitude towards his training, and his eventual defection from the auror corps.  Pansy gave a thorough account of the injuries Hermione obtained as well as the spells, potions, and salves she had used to heal the witch in question.  The formal report taken by the aurors on the night of Ron’s arrest was submitted as evidence as were the priori incantatem records of their duel.  The use of the Imperius curse carried a minimum sentence of five years in Azkaban while other charges resulted in a sentence of ten years in Azkaban in addition to Wizengamot mandated counseling, rehabilitation, and a probationary period of at least 5 years post release.

 

As soon as the verdict was announced, Draco and Theo hovered protectively around Hermione and watched the man who had the audacity to target the witch they loved crumple to the ground when he realized he would spend the next ten years in a prison cell with little more than silent guards for company.  The pained cry from his mother was almost as bad, but the rest of his family wore the same disgusted, yet sad expression on their faces, save for Ginevra who seemed smugly satisfied that her brother was getting what was coming to him. 

 

Hermione didn’t even spare him a glance as she turned on her heels, flanked by a blonde and a brunette, both of whom towered above her petite frame.  One rested his hand along the curve of her spine while the other kept a reassuring hand on her shoulder.  She walked tall from the courtroom that day knowing justice had truly been served and she was free from his threats. 

 

Draco leaned close to Hermione’s ear as the passed through the doors of Courtroom Eight, “Are you alright, love?”

 

A charming smile rose to her lips as she pressed a kiss to his cheek, pausing briefly, “Perfectly.”

 

Aurors Potter and Pucey watched the scene from their posts as the triad swept out of the courtroom, ignoring the press whose constant calls were begging for a statement on the outcome of the trial. 

 

“Miss Granger, do you feel the sentence is enough?”

 

“How did you feel when he used the Imperius Curse on you?”

 

“Do you think Ronald Weasley will come after you once he’s released, Miss Granger?”

 

“What do you think led to your former best-friend and boyfriend attacking you?”

 

“Do you think he’s preyed on other women?”

 

“What will you do now, Miss Granger?”

 

One brave reported even asked them to confirm the rumors that the three of them were engaged, though one look at the matching bands on their fingers would’ve confirmed that rumor.

 

Following the triad closely were the swaying hips and tall, lean forms of Pansy Parkinson and Neville Longbottom, Neville’s hand resting just between Pansy’s shoulder blades.  Having had no luck getting a reaction from the young Malfoy and Nott heirs as well as the Granger girl, one of the younger reporters, who looked like he was barely out of Hogwarts, boldly attempted to grab Pansy by the arm.

 

To Pansy’s credit, she only shot off a quick stinging hex aimed directly between the man’s brown eyes while Neville surprised her by punching the man in the nose while threatening further harm should he ever come within one hundred meters of his fiancée again. Despite the fact that he was one of the pureblood elite himself, his friendship with the Malfoys, Notts, and Parkinsons ensured that even if the reporter filed against him, he’d likely only pay a very small fine.  The reporter promptly fled while Neville curled his arm more protectively about Pansy’s shoulders.

 

The news of the Parkinson-Longbottom engagement sent the media into an uproar and soon they too were battered with questions about their engagement.  Pansy paused, answering precisely three questions – yes, they were engaged, yes they observed the traditional courtship rituals, and no, she would not answer any further questions.  

 

Pansy was happy to throw the biggest society wedding of the past twenty years only the shutter the doors in their faces and not invite a single member of the press to cover the event.  Theo stood for her in place of a traditional bridesmaid while Neville chose Harry to stand with him.  It was thoroughly lavish and completely what Pansy had envisioned since she was a little girl. Hermione, however, was a bit star-struck at the extravagance.

 

Fairy lights sparkled overhead casting tiny globes of light over and through the hundreds of boughs and sprays of flowers adorning the outdoor space.  Guests waltzed beneath canopies of silk and organza while champagne floated on silver trays near the edges of the dance floor. Pansy looked radiant in cream colored satin with dark curls left to cascade over her shoulder, grown out specifically for the occasion and tolerated only because of the delicate strands of heirloom pearls woven throughout.  She danced on light feet and smiled more than anyone ever thought possible as Neville twirled her around the dance floor, only stopping for a moment or two to allow Theo the privilege.

 

“You’re happy, are not you, sparrow?” Theo flashed Pansy a dashing smile as they took a turn around the dancefloor, catching the sight of Draco and Hermione dancing and laughing breathlessly from the corner of his eye.  Hermione looked a vision in the indigo gown she’d chosen on yet another shopping trip with Narcissa, though the witch was still having trouble keeping the rhythm of the dance.  Were it not for Draco patiently guiding her through each step, she would be completely hopeless. 

 

“Exceptionally so.”  Pansy grinned widely, taking Theo’s face in her hand and turning his attention back to her and off of his intended.  He had the grace to blush. 

 

“I’m shocked you’ve even managed to get the evening off, they’re running you so ragged in your training.” Theo made it a point to copy Draco’s characteristic smirk in that very moment to which the new Mrs. Longbottom responded with an irritated brow.

 

“Mother may have made a sizeable donation to one of the wards which happened to coincide with my request to take certain dates off in order to marry and thoroughly enjoy myself in the Caribbean for a week.”   

 

“Violet always was a wicked woman.”

 

“No.”  Pansy leaned closer to Theo as the song ended and pressed her lips close to his ear.  “She was a Slytherin.” 

 

The pair erupted in a fit of laughter as Theo escorted to new Mrs. Longbottom from the floor, handing her off to her husband while he sought out his own partners, one of whom had clearly imbibed too much champagne as her cheeks were quite pink and she was giggling incessantly at Morgana only knew. 

 

By the time Pansy and Neville finally married, their circle had grown from their small group which formed during their eighth year at Hogwarts.  Hermione, Theo, and Draco were still as much in love as they had been while finishing out their final year at school.  Pansy never flooed to their townhome without first sending a letter through to ensure she wouldn’t interrupt something after having caught the trio inflagrante in some very compromising positions one summer. 

 

She also made it a point to never sit on the sofa in their living room. 

 

Rolf Scamander, a small and wiry man who had a wistful look about him but who was also wicked smart, joined their little group after announcing a surprise elopement with one Luna Lovegood following two weeks in the Amazon rainforests searching for what everyone was certain to be a in imaginary creature.  International headlines were made when they discovered a colony of the animal whose freely given feathers were proving extremely useful in strengthening solutions and anti-venoms.  There was speculation that their quick engagement was due to an impending pregnancy and sure enough, Lorcan and Lysander Scamander entered the world not eight months after their marriage.

 

Beyond the pair of magizoologists, Blaise Zabini was welcomed in their fold once he started to work at Malfoy Enterprises as a liaison to their magical products development team.  Blaise and Ginny sniped back and forth often when the group went to the Leaky for drinks, his quick quips riling up her classic Weasley temper.  While he was clearly smitten with the witch, she was oblivious and ended up setting him up with Gabrielle Delacour who broke his heart nine months later when she ran off with Zacharias Smith.  Blaise swore off women for a few months and had an affair with married wizard before he and Ginny reconnected during a drunken one-night-stand following one of her Quidditch games.  Neither had thought to take a contraceptive potion and Ginny ended up pregnant after the night of passionate, yet inebriated, lovemaking.  Despite their rocky start, the pair appear to be blissfully happy – Blaise even submitting to a full Burrow wedding at the insistence of the mother of the bride.  

 

Perhaps the most surprising of all was that Chosen One was in a relationship with not only a fellow auror, Adrian Pucey, but the up-and-coming spitfire of a chef, Hannah Abbott, who was turning the wizarding culinary world on it’s end.  Who knew that the perfect balance for two highly masculine aurors was a svelte Hufflepuff with an eye for spices? The press of the wizarding world had a field day at yet another triad coming into the spotlight, especially one which contained their favorite savior.  While triads still weren’t very common in the wizarding world, it became fashionable amongst the younger generation to engage in more open relationships and polyamory in a bid to emulate Harry Potter and Hermione Granger.  The older crowd remained somewhat disapproving, especially now that pureblood mania had gone out of fashion – they certainly needed something to complain about and the apparently loose morals of the younger generation of witches and wizards was a relatively easy target.

 

Draco slowly took over duties for his father at Malfoy Enterprises, eventually acting as his father’s second until he chose to retire once he’d thoroughly learned the business.  The company’s potions labs produced a modified blood-replenishing potion which when combined with a low dose of Wolfsbane actually managed to reverse lycanthropy in children who were bitten before they hit puberty.

 

Theo pursued a career in magical architecture and was part of the team responsible for designing a new wing of Hogwarts dedicated to Muggle Studies as it was wired for electricity and contained a complete lab for witches and wizards without muggle parents to become more comfortable with the technological advances of the muggle world.  In addition, Narcissa Malfoy became a guest lecturer at Hogwarts when a month long short-course was introduced in order to help muggleborns integrate more firmly into wizarding society.  In addition to lessons on etiquette and deportment, the witch also taught about the economy of the wizarding world as well as long-held traditions.  Molly Weasley was brought in to cover magical cooking and cleaning while Madam Pomfrey provided education on safe-sex and the brewing of contraceptive potions.   

 

Theo’s firm also designed a new floor of St. Mungos dedicated to the research and development of new healing charms, salves, and potions where Pansy spent two days per week as part of the team of developers.  A space was also allotted for the research into the reversal of memory charms thanks to a generous grant by the Malfoy-Notts though by the time breakthroughs were made, it was too late to reverse the obliviation spell done to Hermione’s parents. Nonetheless, Monica and Wendell Wilkins found that they quite adored their former daughter, despite the fact they had no recollection of her.  The former Grangers traded Christmas cards with their dear friend, Hermione Malfoy-Nott, and occasionally vacationed with the Malfoy-Notts in their later years.

 

Hermione, who felt the need to make a difference in the world, became an International Magical Advocate.  She travelled the globe several days each week representing the downtrodden, fighting for equal representation for highly sentient magical creatures, and serving as an advocate for the rights of witches and wizards everywhere.  She helped set up an orphanage and fostering program in Uganda for magical orphans, spurred debates on equal rights for witches in the Middle East, and even managed to convince MACUSA to reduce their archaic anti-muggle laws, if only slightly. The centaurs gained back several hundred acres of their lands while new laws were passed protecting merfolk, giants, and hags.

 

The triad took several years to marry, but the time wasn’t without difficulty.  After the honeymoon period wore off after about three years, they unfortunately let petty differences come between them.  One particularly bad squabble caused Draco to move back into Malfoy Manor for two weeks until Hermione and Theo were able to draw him back to their townhouse to apologize and have an actual conversation about what happened.  After that, they learned how to communicate with each other and didn’t bottle up their feelings, well – not very much anyway.  Draco still had a few bouts of melodrama and melancholy while Hermione tended to blow things out of proportion and jump to conclusions – no matter how much she attempted to research prior to making decisions.  Theo would sometimes disappear when upset but Pansy would return him a few hours later and he would be able to talk to his partners about what happened.  It wasn’t always the best way to communicate but they learned to work with one another in a way that when time came for their binding ceremony, the trio was a united front to be reckoned with. 

 

In contrast to the Longbottom-Parkinson affair, their ceremony was small and intimate, much to the chagrin of Narcissa Malfoy and Ophelia Nott who aspired to throw the most lavish wedding their galleons could purchase (and to show up their good friend Violet Parkinson).  The ceremony was instead held out of doors in a circle of standing stones.  Draco nearly had an apoplectic fit when Hermione told him he would not be wearing his best robes and was required to be barefoot for their ceremony. 

 

“No.”

 

“Draco, you can’t just flat out refuse.  You could at least try and compromise!” Hermione bristled as she stood atop a pedestal in one of Narcissa’s dressing rooms – enchanted measuring tapes encircling her while a quill recorded the required numbers on a sheet of parchment.

 

“Absolutely not.” The wizard in question was lounging on a chair, thoroughly admiring his witch who happened to be clad in only her undergarments as she was measured for her wedding dress. Theo sat perched on the arm of the chair, flipping through a swatch book on the available fabrics for their wedding robes, which if Hermione had her way, would be much more casual than typically seen at a wedding ceremony, no less a ceremony to join two influential pureblood families together with a noted war heroine.

 

“Draco!”  Hermione whined a bit too loudly as a tape encircled her waist, pulling it in by at least an inch to account for the corset which would be part of her gown.  She wasn’t normally a witch to whine in order to get her way, but they’d had this same argument entirely too many times over the past two weeks since she’d decided upon the exact ceremony she wanted.  The rites were ancient and filled with a rich history – Hermione had spent three full days in the Library of Alexandria, which required an extensive application process, researching the proper method and spells.

 

“No, Hermione.  I am not going barefoot at my own wedding.  It’s preposterous.”  He sneered, clearly disgusted with the impropriety of the idea. “Theo, can’t you talk some sense into the witch?”

 

The wizard shifted from where he was perched on the chair to standing, closely examining a swatch of fabric.  “I’ve already agreed with her vision and to that effect, so has your mother.”  He pushed the swatch of navy blue brocade with a subtle pattern towards Draco.  “What do you think of this one?”

 

“Too dark.” Draco dismissed with a wave of his hand.  “When did you agree to it?  I thought we were standing firm on this?”  Their witch stared at them with her hands on her hips as another tape slipped around the curve of her arm.  

 

Theo shot Hermione a rather salacious grin which made the witch in question blush from the tips of her toes to her cheeks as he circled around the chair Draco was seated in, the swatch book forgotten for a moment. “She’s very convincing when she wants to be.”

 

“Oh?”  While he was entirely certain he was not going to relent in his witch’s asinine request for him to forgo proper footwear, his interest was nevertheless piqued.

 

With Draco’s head cocked slightly to the side, Theo pressed his lips against the curve of the blonde’s ear, two sets of eyes trained on the curly haired beauty before them.  “Let’s just say she’s going to be a bit… tied up… for the better part of our honeymoon.”

 

The last measurement must’ve been taken because the tapes had disappeared and a rather pink tinged witch was eying the pair quite critically with her arms were crossed over her chest.  “Theo I know exactly what you’re whispering in his ear and you better make it perfectly clear that he won’t get to participate unless he forgoes the shoes for the ceremony.”

 

“You should’ve been in Slytherin, princess.”  Theo winked as he pressed his lips against the curve of Draco’s neck.  “Imagine that,” he gestured to their witch who was still clad in only her undergarments though she was quickly making her way towards her discarded clothing, “trussed up like a Christmas roast... completely at your mercy.”

 

“I can wear them for the reception?”  The hunger in his gaze was apparent, even though his witch was awkwardly attempting to tug a t-shirt over her head which had gotten caught on her curls.

 

“Yes.”

 

“Done.”

 

Hermione was gowned in ethereal blue chiffon stopping just below her knees with wildflowers woven in her curls. Theo and Draco wore robes of soft gray and exactly as she imagined it, the three of them stood barefoot in the grass as an ancient witch performed their ceremony – the likes of which hadn’t been seen for one hundred years or more.  The hand-fasting satisfied the ministry requirements and the three exchanged vows to always love, cherish, and honor each other.  Furthermore, the binding ceremony connected their magical cores in such a way each witch or wizard was able to sense the others as well as draw on the combined power of their bond in a time of need. The bond was sealed with an inscription which materialized in the form of a rune.

 

Eihwaz materialized on Draco’s left wrist, symbolizing his dependability and protective nature.  Ingwaz imprinted just over Theo’s heart representing commitment to family, warmth, and growth while Uruz was found on Hermione’s right shoulder, serving as a reminder of her strength and wisdom.

 

It wasn’t too long after their honeymoon in the south of France when Hermione found herself pregnant – the magic of the rune inscription having completely canceled the effects of her muggle birth control.  Theo seemed to know Hermione was pregnant before she did and started presenting her with ginger tea each morning instead of her usual cup of black tea.

 

“Ginger, again?”  Hermione groaned, she hadn’t slept well the previous evening and woke up in desperate need for a stimulant – something she certainly wouldn’t get from sodding ginger tea. Her stomach felt as though it wanted to expel its contents for the third morning in a row and despite her grumblings, she was rather thankful for the cup.

 

“Yes, princess, ginger tea.”  Theo said as he scrambled eggs on the stove in the kitchen, lazily turning his wand in a circle.

 

Draco peered at the witch from behind a copy of the Daily Prophet where he had been idly skimming over yet another story about Potter, Pucey, and Abbott and the success of Abbott’s latest restaurant, though if anyone were to ask he would say he was checking the stock exchange to determine how his shares were fairing.  In his estimation, Hermione looked rather wan.  There were circles below her eyes and her normally smooth skin had taken on a dewy quality. 

 

“Are you feeling alright, love?” he asked, folding the paper and setting it aside.

 

“I think I ate something off the other night when we went out for curry.  I’m a bit sick to my stomach.”  She admitted, dropping her head against the cool wood of the table as she waited for her tea to cool.

 

Draco reached towards her tentatively through their bond, finding something at the other end that felt familiar and foreign at the same time.  His head snapped towards his husband who was directing the thoroughly scrambled eggs onto plates containing toast and bacon.  Theo chuckled at Draco’s wide-eyed look and simply nodded his head before levitating the plates to the table.

 

“Cast the charm, Hermione.”  Draco commanded, with just a bit too much force as it caused Hermione to jump, though she did sit back up.

 

“No.”  She refused, her face turning a slight shade of green at the sight of the eggs.  “I’m telling you, I ate something that didn’t agree with me – this will pass in a few days.  It’s just a mild case of food poisoning.”

 

“If Theo or I cast it, we will instantly know paternity and gender.”

 

Pushing her plate away, Hermione rolled her eyes.  “And if any of the three of us cast it, the rune will just show up dull and gray because I am absolutely not pregnant.”

 

Draco looked like he was about ready to claw his own eyes out at her refusal and he tentatively probed at the bond again, feeling the tiny, fluttering life at the other end surrounded in a cocoon of Hermione’s emotions. Theo laid a reassuring hand over Draco’s and leveled his gaze at their wife. 

 

“Humor him, princess.  If it’s gray, it’s gray.”

 

Hermione groaned in exasperation and directed her wand towards her stomach, muttering the charm.  Her eyes remained locked on the ceiling as the rune formed over her stomach.  “See?  Gray.” 

 

“No, love.”  Draco’s voice crooned softly.

 

It was the feeling of two hands touching her abdomen which drew her eyes down, suddenly very aware that her set of wizards had left their chairs at the breakfast table and were kneeling next to her. 

 

She added her hand to theirs as the soft, shining, golden rune hovered over her abdomen. 

 

Hermione’s pregnancy was fraught with complications.  She suffered daily morning sickness and was barely able to keep any food down, despite the anti-emetic potions Draco brewed her under the guidance of her prenatal healer.  She suffered a bleed towards the end of her second trimester, though a miscarriage was able to be prevented thanks to Pansy’s quick thinking when it happened.  She was put on full bedrest from that point forward and yet their little one still didn’t want to breathe at first once he was finally delivered.

 

Leo Carlisle entered the world a rather alarming shade of blue, but he perked up to a perfect pink within a few minutes with a bit of love and a well-placed anapneo.

 

Their next child’s entrance into the world was not quite as dramatic, however.

 

Hermione dozed languidly on the couch, a hand idly draped across her swollen belly with her curls splayed about her head in a halo of rich shades of brown.  A tiny form was snuggled up in the crook of her arm with his perfect, pouty lips parted as he drew in restful breaths, his silver eyes covered by fluttering lids as he slept.  Her hand caressed his blonde curls as she drifted in that lovely, relaxing place that fell just between sleep and wakefulness. 

 

It was in this very moment of apparent peace that the other tiny form currently growing in her belly decided to shift in just the right manner that so that she was pressing directly on her mother’s bladder.  Wrinkling her nose and releasing a groan, Hermione attempted to ease herself off of the couch without waking the slumbering toddler.  Of course, nothing ever went according to plan where motherhood was concerned and the little boy’s eyes popped open as soon as she so much as moved her leg to even think about shifting into a sitting position. 

 

Hermione cradled the small child to her chest and somehow managed to angle the pair of them into a sitting position.

 

“Shh, Leo.  Go back to sleep, my love.”  Hermione crooned as the child started to protest, running her hand soothingly over his curls. 

 

“No, mama.”  He said with a pout to his lips.  “No nap.” 

 

Why was it that children never appreciated naps while adults craved them?  Especially now that she was nearing her due date, all Hermione seemed to want to do was nest and nap. Draco had threatened her with a semi-permanent sticking charm to affix her arse to the couch if she didn’t stop rearranging the nappies and the onesies for the sixth time in three days. Theo was nearly as bad as she was and happily rearranged the nursery for her when her magic decided it would be temperamental and the drapes caught fire instead of changing colors.  Draco had come home to the pair of them with dreamy smiles on their faces while Hermione was folding yet another stack of baby clothing and Theo was putting the finishing touches on the forest mural on one of the walls.  

 

Luck was on Hermione’s side as her husband exited the floo in the precise moment that she was about to start lecturing Leo on the benefits of napping and why he needed to go back to sleep simply so she could run to the loo.

 

“Oh, thank Merlin”, Hermione breathed as Theo set his briefcase down on the coffee table.  “Can you take him?  I need the loo.” 

 

“Good evening to you too, pretty witch,” Theo chuckled as he held his arms out to the toddler who was practically scrambling out of his mother’s embrace at this point to reach his father.

 

“Daddy!”  The little boy cried as jumped into his father’s waiting arms.

 

“Hey, squirt.” Theo embraced the boy, dropping a kiss on the top of his head before balancing him on his hip to offer Hermione a hand.  While their sofa was excellent for napping, getting off of it was rather difficult when you felt as though you’d been pregnant for two years, despite the fact that you were only at 38 weeks and Hermione was grateful for the assistance. 

 

“Were you good for mummy today?”

 

The little boy with silver eyes and blonde curls nodded, though there was a hint of mischief in those eyes that made Theo lift a brow as if it say “really?”  Leo, for all that he was two years old, was a serious, studious little boy though he did have a bit of a proclivity for mischief.  He was a perfect combination of his mother and father, though if Draco were ever accidentally de-aged, it would be difficult to tell the pair apart.  How many times had Granny Cissa accidentally called the little boy by his father’s name? Not that Theo was counting, or anything.

 

Hermione took the offered hand and eased herself off of the couch.  With a quick kiss to her husband’s cheek and a tickle to the boy’s belly, she waddled off towards the loo with as much speed as she could muster.  She certainly felt as big as a house at this point in her pregnancy.  She didn’t remember feeling quite so tuckered out during her first pregnancy, nor did she remember feeling quite so large – though perhaps the other issues she experienced while pregnant with Leo had blinded her to other possible symptoms.  The Healers assured her it was normal and that her little girl was growing as expected.

 

As she sat down to relieve herself – it was another feat entirely getting her knickers down - she felt a distinct pop which released a flood of liquid that she wasn’t expecting for at least another week or so. 

 

Rather than yelling for her husband across the house to inform him that her waters had broken, Hermione summoned her patronus, calling forward the happy memory of how Draco and Theo had cooed over their firstborn on the day of his birth.  The otter swam off with her missive and she knew it reached its destination when she heard Theo curse a bit too loudly before quickly issuing another too-loud apology to their son for his foul language.  She heard Leo’s delightful squeal because the lucky little boy got a sickle every time an adult cursed around him. Surprisingly, Aunt Ginny was the one who paid up the most – she blamed her foul mouth on being part of a professional quidditch team where such locker room talk as she called it was the norm.

 

Finishing up in the lavatory, Hermione washed her hands and changed into a clean sundress.  The August air was thick with humidity and if there was anything Hermione despised more than the mistreatment of house elves, it was being hot and sticky while she was pregnant.

 

Theo’s head was stuck into the floo as she waddled into the living room with her packed bag held in her hands.  She couldn’t quite tell who was on the other side but he was speaking in hurried tones to whoever it was.

 

“ – waters broken.  Yes, I know that.  Okay, we will see you there.”

 

“Who was that, Theo?”  Hermione asked, her hand lazily rubbing circles over her stomach as Theo pulled his head from the floo.

 

“As luck would have it, it’s Pansy’s day off.  I was letting her know you’d gone into labor.” Theo said, brushing the soot from his robes before quickly levitating his briefcase out of Leo’s reach.  The little miscreant was attempting to bypass the locking charms in the game they played.  If he was clever enough to get them open, there was usually a sweet or two inside.  The removal of his impromptu toy made him pout.

 

“She doesn’t have to come in on my account.  Didn’t she and Neville just get back from the States?  I’m certain she’s exhausted.” Neville had been granted the opportunity to study at the prestigious Asphodelian Society for Herbology in America and so he and Pansy had packed up and moved there for a year while he studied and she completed the final component of Healer training.  They’d been back in Britain for less than a week having moved into a tidy flat in Circe’s Circle near Chichester.

 

“You know she won’t have anyone else overseeing your care during labor, Hermione.  She was exactly the same way when Leo was born.  Remember?  She came back from Morocco from that on a possibly illegal portkey.”

 

Hermione suppressed the argument – there was no talking Pansy Longbottom out of doing anything once she set her mind to it. “We’re you able to –“

 

“He’ll meet us there.”  Theo explained with a grin, knowing her next question would obviously be about a certain blonde haired, grey eyed Adonis whom they happened to adore. 

 

“You don’t think…”

 

“Narcissa will not be cross that we’ve pulled Draco away from her charity luncheon.  She understands the circumstances fully and with Draco filling in for Lucius more and more at these events, she can give us this one day, my love.”  Theo knew Narcissa would have smoothed things over quite easily if Draco had to depart from the luncheon early – the woman was a master manipulator and would probably wrangle more funds out of her guests with the news of her grandchild’s impending arrival for leverage.   

 

Theo cupped her cheek in a reassuring manner, seeing the panic in Hermione’s eyes as he gently stroked his thumb over her cheek.  “Besides, Granny Cissa has been looking forward to Salem’s arrival since we announced it.”

 

Hermione frowned, “We are not naming her Salem – Leo, stop that.” Hermione’s attention was redirected to their toddler who was currently attempting to bounce on the sofa.  So much for ever returning to that nap. With a stern look from his mother, he quieted down.

 

“Leo, lovebug, go get a toy or two to take to see Grandpa Lucius.” The toddler scurried off to his room without another word at Hermione’s suggestion. Thank goodness for small miracles and toddlers who were generally well behaved.  Lucius would be in charge for a few hours until Narcissa could get away from her luncheon.  Had he been the one to accompany his wife to the function, Leo would be spending the day with Luna until his baby sister was born.  

 

“I still don’t see what’s wrong with Salem.  It’s a perfectly acceptable name.”  Theo dropped a kiss to Hermione’s curls as he took the bag from her hand, distracting her from the dull ache in her back and slowly building contractions with his petty argument over their daughter’s name.  He knew the little girl wouldn’t be named Salem.  They’d already decided on Lavinia Lyra weeks ago – both Draco and Narcissa insisted the girl’s name follow the Black family tradition and Hermione had already refused several of the other possible names related to the heavens.  Simply coming up with Leo’s name had been a chore and if Draco had his way, their first child would’ve been saddled with Scorpius Abraxas Eros Malfoy-Nott… but Hermione had finally put her foot down and named the child Leo Carlisle honoring both her husband’s family tradition as well as her own grandfather.

 

Hermione was about to school Theo, for what seemed like the seventh time, on why she refused to call her daughter after a town in America which openly persecuted wizards and witches when Leo came bounding back into the room holding a tiny harmonica and a well-loved stuffed niffler.

 

Theo’s eyes brightened at the musical instrument knowing that Lucius would likely banish it and replace it with something far more quiet before the day was out.  That harmonica had been the bane of his existence since The Chosen One had gifted their son a set of muggle musical instruments for his second birthday.  Theo had solemnly vowed to repay the favor if and when Potter, Pucey, and Abbott decided to procreate.

 

“Sissy?”  the little blonde boy asked as he took his mother’s hand, Theo guiding the pair of them towards the floo with a hand resting protectively on Hermione’s back.

 

“Yes, my love.  But first you get to go spend some time with Grandpa Lucius until Granny Cissa is finished with her luncheon.  They’ll bring you to meet your sister once she’s arrived.” 

 

With a flash of green fire, the little family was zipping through the floo network only to be greeted by a somewhat distraught Draco once they stepped out of the grate at St. Mungo’s.

 

“Thank Merlin.  Where have you been?” Draco, who was clad in his third best set of formal robes, scooped his son up in one arm before wrapping the other around his wife.  “I thought for sure you would be checked in –“

 

Hermione placed a finger over Draco’s lips, effectively silencing the wizard as she offered him a reassuring smile.  “She won’t be here for hours, yet.  Theo, can you get a Calming Draught from my bag for Draco?”

 

“I don’t need a Calming Draught,” Draco muttered, pressing a kiss to the head of blonde curls in his arm as Theo snaked an arm around Draco’s shoulder.

 

“She’s right, love.  You need to calm down.”  Theo and Hermione shared a knowing glance between them.  The complications surrounding Leo’s birth had sent Draco into a full-on panic attack when Hermione finally went into labor. It was clear the wizard was expecting the worst to happen again from the moment Theo’s patronus notified him of their wife’s impending delivery.    

 

Theo passed Draco the tiny vial of Calming Draught, labeled in Dracos’ own hand as Hermione separated from the two wizards to speak with the welcome witch.  Begrudgingly, Draco downed the potion.

 

“Take Leo to your father. By the time you get back, I’m certain Hermione will be all checked in.”

 

“Is Pansy -?”

 

Theo held up his hand, stopping Draco mid-sentence before tapping his finger against their two year old’s nose, eliciting a giggle from the little boy.  “I firecalled her before we left.  She should be here momentarily.”

 

Green flames licked at the grate behind them as a witch stepped out wearing heavily tailored lime green healer’s robes with her hair hair pulled back away from her face in a tidy bun.  Several designations were embroidered along the collar while her name was inscribed just above her heart.  Without a word, she lifted her godson out of his father’s arms and pressed a kiss to his cheek before doing the same to both wizards, promptly depositing the toddler back into Draco’s arms.

 

She crossed the room on clicking heels and draped an arm around Hermione’s shoulder, ignoring the welcome witch who was currently droning on about some hospital procedure.

 

“Have you been here long?”

 

“Only a moment or two.  We’ve already dosed Draco with one Calming Draught.” Hermione frowned, glancing back over her shoulder as Draco disappeared into the floo holding their son tightly against his chest.

 

With a curt nod, Pansy turned her attention back to the welcome witch who looked mildly intimated by Pansy’s imposing, yet professional, stature. “Mary-Anne, is Mrs. Malfoy-Nott’s room ready?”

 

“It should be, Healer Longbottom,” the welcome witch waved her wand in a complex fashion, isolating the required information on a chart in front of her.  “She’s in the Eileithyia Ward, Room 204.  Healer Carrington is the attending and Medistaff O’Malley, Ruvan, Le, and Smythe are on the floor today.” A stack of papers flew to her hand with another swish of her wand.  “We’re just lacking these forms.”

 

Hermione felt Theo’s hand press against the small of her back, rubbing his thumb in small circles, and she leaned into the comforting touch.  “All set, love?”

 

Pansy passed Theo the stack of forms to be completed along with a self-inking quill.  “Complete these and give them back to Mary-Anne when you’ve finished.  Bring Draco up to the ward when you’ve finished.  We’ll be in room 204.”

 

Looking down at the stack with a sigh, Theo pressed a kiss to Hermione’s temple and retreated back into the waiting room to fill out the necessary documents while Pansy escorted Hermione to the ward.

 

Lavinia Lyra Malfoy-Nott came into the world a few hours later all dark curls, pink cheeks, and brilliant blue eyes – once she stopped crying anyway.

 

The next morning, Draco and Theo were curled up together on the sofa sleeping soundly, while Hermione watched the pair of them as she stroked her fingers gently through her daughter’s coffee colored curls.  She knew the quiet would dissipate once Granny Cissa and Grandpa Lucius arrived with Leo in tow, likely followed closely by Nana Ophelia and Auntie Imogen. After that would come the Potters, the Longbottoms, the Zabinis, the Scamanders, and probably the majority of the Weasley family to greet the newest member of their large and very diverse family.

 

She relished in the quiet, her eyes observing the rise and fall of Draco’s chest as he clung to Theo.  Theo’s lips were parted and his eyes fluttered beneath heavy lids as he snored softly, caught in some dream or another.  She pressed a kiss to her daughter’s forehead knowing that if she opened her eyes, Hermione would see Theo’s sapphire eyes staring back at her. 

 

They hadn’t planned it – to have each man father a child, but it had worked out that way nonetheless. They hadn’t planned their children at all, simply letting nature take its course as it pleased - shifting and changing their world for the better.  Hermione’s fingers brushed over the spot on her head where Theo had accidentally slammed her against the wall all those years ago. 

 

“Fuck, Granger.  Where are you going?”  He exclaimed, his voice laced with concern as he caught Hermione by her arm, stopping her so suddenly that her back slammed against the wall.  The back of her head made contact with the wall almost as soon as her back did, the sickening crack echoing throughout the deserted corridor.  Blinding pain blurred Hermione’s vision, sending her world spinning as she wobbled on unsteady feet.

 

“Shit.”  He cursed, moving in close to her and cupping her cheeks in his hands.

 

“Look at me, love.”  He said calmly.  Hermione tried to comply, her amber orbs meeting a pair that were sapphire blue. 

 

“There’s a good girl.”  He praised with a slight purr to his voice.  Or perhaps Hermione had merely imagined the purr given the reverberations of her blood pounding in her skull, distorting the sound.

 

She tried to remain standing but slowly started to sink, her legs giving out.  She felt a pair of strong arms grasp her desperately to keep her falling to the ground.  “Stay with me, little lioness.”  He whispered as the world continued to spin around her.  The last thing she saw before the darkness completely clouded her vision were the sapphire blue eyes of Theodore Nott.

 

Had she felt the shift in her world then?  She certainly hadn’t known where her life would lead when she ran out of the common room after Ron had put his hands on her the first time.   

 

Draco traced a finger just to the side of the bruises in a gentle caress even as Hermione stood frozen against the door, her mind a flurry of emotions that left little room for coherent thoughts. 

 

Draco’s voice was laced with an eerie calm, despite the look of rage which had so recently marred his features.  “Please release Theo, Pansy.  He won’t be going anywhere.” 

 

Hermione felt the whisper of magic as Pansy released the sticking charm which was holding Theo in place and he quickly crossed the room to stand next to Draco.  They bore matched looks of concern as they towered over her. 

 

Theo grasped Draco’s hand as the two of them watched her closely before Draco spoke to her in a calm, gentle voice.  “You live with us now, Granger.  Do you understand?”  Theo’s hand went to her shoulder as Draco’s fingertips trailed lightly up and down her arm.  The tone with which he said the words left no doubt in Hermione’s mind that saying “no” was not an option. If she examined herself too closely, she would’ve found that she didn’t want to say no. 

 

Across the room, Draco stirred and pressed a kiss to Theo’s chest before opening his eyes and giving Hermione a sweet, sleepy, smile – his gaze shifting between wife and daughter.  Theo’s arms tightened around Draco as he pulled him against him once more with a slight huff, as though he expected the other wizard to leave.  Hermione released a quiet chuckle as she watched them.

 

No.  She couldn’t possibly have known how these two wizards would completely turn her world upside down – but she wouldn’t have it any other way.