Voldemort’s right-hand man was oblivious, watching the play. Hermione raised her gun. She had a clean head shot...
“Not in front of my son,” said Malfoy, softly. “Please.”
He turned, and Hermione saw the little boy sitting on his knee. Her hand sank to her side.
“Thank you,” Malfoy whispered, hugging the boy. “I owe you one, Granger...” His eyes met hers.
Then he jerked his head towards the door: Go!
Because his bodyguards had been bloody useless!
He opened the door of the Box and cautiously peered outside. Further down the curving corridor, two of his men were half-heartedly standing guard, wands drawn but hanging at their sides.
Draco had a good mind to emasculate the pair of them for leaving his son exposed!
He lifted the boy in his arms and, rubbing his little back, left the Box and hurried along the corridor, down the staircase, and outside to his waiting carriage.
His bodyguards followed.
“Home,” he called to the Thestrals, and closed the carriage door.
Scorpius was huddled in a corner, bewildered and shivering. Draco sat down beside him and pulled him into a protective hug. The boy's reaction—completely trusting—almost broke his heart.
The world had changed the day Draco learned he was going to be a father.
So far, he'd managed to keep Scorpius safe from the Dark Lord's influence, but he knew that couldn't last much longer. Eventually, his son would receive a letter from Hogwarts and fall under the influence of the Carrows—and who knew what might happen to him then?
Draco needed to act.
He looked out of the window, beyond the bodyguards flying in formation around him, and into the distance. A few pin-pricks of light, and thin curls of smoke, and jagged shadows, were the only evidence of a once-thriving Muggle world but, above it all, high in the velvet sky, the constellations were shining like diamonds...
Nothing, he thought, can corrupt the stars.
He'd seen Granger's expression when she'd spotted Scorpius on his knee; he'd read her character in that moment as easily as he might read a grimoire.
Nothing can corrupt Granger, either.
The old Gryffindor spirit—the honour he'd ridiculed as a child—still burned brightly in that woman's breast.
He could trust her.
He had no other choice.
He just needed to find her, and convince her to help.
Ron was waiting for her in the hallway of number twelve, Grimmauld Place—it seemed the Order's inside man had already informed him that Malfoy was still alive.
“We screwed up,” said Hermione, wearily. “He had his son with him.”
“What?” Ron's frustration boiled over: “Have you any idea how hard it was to get hold of a Muggle gun and make it work in a Magical space, Hermione?” Hermione took the weapon from under her cloak and handed it back. “You should have shot him anyway!”
“No,” said a quiet voice. “You did right, Hermione.”
Her best friend put a brotherly arm around her shoulders. “Mrs Weasley's got some supper waiting for you,” he said, gently.
“I'm tired,” said Hermione, with a weak smile. “I think I'll just go to bed.”
Hermione was exhausted, but she couldn't sleep.
There was something off about Malfoy, she thought. Something...
He could easily have called his bodyguards, and had me killed on the spot. Why did he let me go?
She turned onto her side and, thumping her pillow, tried to get more comfortable.
She'd sometimes wondered whether Malfoy might fancy her—it would explain why he'd provoked her so much at school, always trying to get her attention, and his weird behaviour at the Quidditch World Cup, when he'd risked warning her about the Death Eaters, and then again at Malfoy Manor...
And there might have been a spark of something tonight, when he looked at me.
But that couldn't be the whole story.
He seemed so weary, she thought. If his son hadn't been with him, I think he would have sat still and let me shoot him. He—
She sat up suddenly. Malfoy wants out!
Hermione had roused Harry from his bed, and they were sitting together in the kitchen, drinking hot chocolate and talking quietly.
“No,” she admitted. “But, then again...” She shrugged. “Yes.”
Harry nodded, thoughtfully. She knew he trusted her intuition—which, in any case, was just the ability to read body language and rapidly assess its implications. “What shall we do?” she asked. “If we could turn him—if he'd spy for us...”
Harry set down his mug. “Don't say anything to Ron, or Moody, for now,” he said. “The Order's still watching Malfoy, so we”—he meant himself and Hermione—“will look for a chance to get you close again, and sound him out.”
“Has something happened to concern you, my Lord?” Daunt asked, with a deferential gesture that indicated Draco should precede him into the archives.
“I'm a father,” said Draco, blandly; “I'm always concerned.”
“Of course, my Lord.” Daunt unlocked a door.
Draco looked inside. “All of this...?”
The room was lined with shelves, but the surveillance scrolls had long since filled those, and been jammed between them, and behind them, and into every other conceivable nook and cranny, and then had overflowed in piles onto the floor. Draco suspected that the current filing practice was simply to open the door and throw them in.
“Yes, my Lord,” said Daunt. “Every rumoured sighting of the late Harry Potter”—Draco felt a twinge of responsibility for the fate of Old Scarhead—“every observation of his former supporters, and all deductions and projections relating to the now-defunct Order of the Phoenix.”
In other words, thought Draco, having recently learned first-hand that the Order was far from defunct, a roomful of bugger all. “Good,” he said. “I'll take it from here.”
He set to work with various sorting and summoning spells, then searched the selected documents until he found the evidence he was looking for.
He waited for the scattered applause to die down. “And our man's first report from Malfoy Central is that Malfoy's acting weird—going to the same place every day, sending his guards off, out of sight, then picnicking with mini-Malfoy. It's like he's inviting us to take another pop at him...”
Harry shot Hermione a significant look.
“Is it just me,” said Harry, “or does it look like Malfoy's asking for a meeting?”
They'd gone up to the attic, and opened a window, and were leaning out so that Harry could smoke.
“Mm,” said Hermione, thoughtfully. “Going to the same place every day, sending his bodyguards away—I think he's telling me to be there before he arrives.”
Harry exhaled a cloud of smoke. “I don't suppose you'd take someone with you—just in case?”
“No, we don't want to risk spooking him... But can I borrow the Invisibility Cloak?”
“Of course.” He stubbed out his cigarette on the windowsill. “The question is,” he said, turning to face her, “what does he want? We haven't got anything to trade—'cept maybe your virtue.” He grinned.
“Well,” said Hermione, trying not to blush, “I suppose I'll find out tomorrow.”
“I knew I could rely on you, Granger,” said Malfoy, as Hermione slipped out of the Invisibility Cloak.
He was sitting on a teddy bear-patterned picnic blanket. His son was curled up beside him.
Hermione jerked her head at the child.
“Sleeping Charm,” Malfoy explained. “It'll be impossible to get him to bed tonight, but I'd rather deal with that than have him overhear us.” He pointed at the blanket.
Hermione sat down. “So,” she said, “why the elaborate invitation? What do you want?”
“D'you have any children?” he asked, and she must have looked confused, because he smirked. “Weasel not up to it?”
“Don't be disgusting! I mean, Ron and I... We—it's none of your business!”
Malfoy held up a hand. “I only ask because I'm not sure anyone without children can really get this, Granger, but what I want is what's best for my son.”
He grabbed her by the lapel and pulled her close, and spoke in her ear so softly, it was a miracle she heard him. Hermione was startled, but quickly realised that, if one of Malfoy's bodyguards chanced to see them, it would look as though they were kissing. “I want the Dark Lord dead, Granger,” he said, “and I want you to help me kill him.”
He released her.
“Me?” she whispered, pressing her hand to her chest. “Why d'you need me?”
“Because it's a two man job.” He drew her close again. “I need someone of unimpeachable character, Granger; someone I can trust. And the other night, I realised that person's you. Besides, you have one of those Muggle killing-contraptions.”
“A gun,” said Hermione. Then, because his lips were far too close to her skin, she pulled back. “I still don't understand any of this, Malfoy.”
“No...” He beckoned her closer. “One thing you can say about the Dark Lord's reign,” he explained, softly, “is that with your lot inventing ward-tunnelling charms, and our lot inventing spell-nets and charm-blockers, and the Dark Lord himself getting extra creative with the curses, it's advanced the practice of Magic by about two hundred years...” He brought her even closer. “One of the the Dark Lord's favourite inventions is a spell that yokes two people together—it allows the caster to tap into certain, um, bodily sensations experienced by his counterpart.”
Hermione frowned. “Why would he want to share somebody else's bodily sensations?”
With a sigh, Malfoy released her, dug in his pocket for a hip flask, unscrewed its cap and took a swig. Then he offered it to her.
Hermione refused. “Why, Draco?”
Malfoy checked that his son was still asleep. “It's my job,” he said, quietly, “to... Merlin, there's no easy way to say this... Basically, Granger, I take care of his sexual needs.”
“You have sex with him?”
“What? No! Of course I don't...! Fucking hell!” He remembered himself, and checked on his son again. “No, Granger, I don't have sex with him, I just supply him with women. Muggle women. He thinks he's safe with Muggles.”
Hermione took the hip flask from his hand, and drank. The Firewhisky scorched her innards like a liquid thunderbolt. “What's he do to them?” she croaked, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.
“He doesn't do anything—well, he scares them shitless, obviously—but he's not capable of doing anything other than paw at them. He has to watch.”
“Watch...?” Hermione battled the haze of anger and alcohol. “You mean, you? You're his... proxy? You rape women so that he can feel—”
“No!” He grabbed her arms and held her, hard. “Shit, Granger, no! I make a deal with them—whatever they want for themselves and their family in return for one night with him and me. If they say no, I let them go. And when we have sex, I make it as good for them as I can. I'm a pimp, Granger, and a surrogate cock, but I'm not a rapist.” He let her go. “You might feel sorry for me in all of this.”
Hermione gazed at his bowed head, and did feel... not sorry, exactly, but she understood why he seemed so weary. Then another question occurred to her: “So, your son...?”
“Is a half-blood. But his magic's already astounding,” he added, proudly.
“And his mother?”
“Safe in America, married, with another kid.” He looked up at her. “Scorpius should never have happened, Granger, but he did, and now he's all that matters.”
Hermione looked at the little boy with the platinum blond hair; no one could doubt he was his father's son.
“God,” she said. “God...”
She lay back on the blanket and looked up at the sky. Malfoy wanted what she wanted, and he was fighting for the one cause no Malfoy would ever betray. “How,” she said, cautiously, “would we convince You-Know-Who that I'm a Muggle?”
She felt Malfoy lie back beside her. “That's the easy part,” he said. “I've modified a Disillusionment Charm to hide a person’s magic.”
“You’re sure it works?”
“I’ve tested it with Scorpius.”
“Your son can cast a modified Disillusionment Charm?”
“Like I said, he's precocious.”
Hermione thought for a few moments, then, “Tell me the entire plan,” she said.
“If I do, there's no backing out, Granger.”
“I’m not the type to back out.”
“No,” said Malfoy, and Hermione thought she heard a smile in his voice, “that's why I chose you.” He drew his wand, and cast a White Noise Spell above them. “Okay. So you know about the Dark Lord's Horcruxes?”
“And you know there's only one left—the snake, Nagini.”
“That snake, Granger, is safer than a Gringotts vault. She never leaves the Dark Lord’s chamber, and the chamber's protected with every charm and ward known to man. The only person who can get in there, and get anywhere near the snake—”
“Is you, when you have sex with You-Know-Who.”
“Sex for You-Know-Who—yes. You're so bloody quick.”
“So... The plan’s simple: I take you into his chamber. You distract him—he, er, he likes to have a good sniff at his women—whilst I kill the snake, then you whip out your Muggle killing-contraption, and... BAMM!”
“I'm not entirely ignorant of Muggle culture, Granger.”
Hermione smiled. Then, “BAMM,” she said. “Could it really be so simple?”
“Well, no,” said Malfoy. “For one thing, you'll have to keep your thoughts shielded—have the plan safe in a sealed portion of your mind, and let the Dark Lord see terror in the rest. Titillate him with it. I assume you can do that?”
Hermione’s Occlumency skills were less polished than she would have liked, but she would practise. “Yes.”
“And,” he added, “you’ll have to keep your Muggle killing-contraption—”
“—hidden, beneath robes designed to reveal everything you’ve got. Can you do that?”
“I'll think of something.”
“And,” he said, with a sort of finality, “I'm assuming that, with the snake dead, the Dark Lord will become mortal and, when you shoot him, he'll die instantly. Because, even with the two of us...”
“But it's absolutely worth the risk,” said Hermione, turning onto her side to face him. She thought of another problem: “What'll happen to your son if the worst should come to the worst?”
“Pansy,” Malfoy replied. “Scorpius often stays with her—she has a daughter the same age—and she and I have already discussed what we’d do if anything were to happen to the other. You can't expect to last long when you work for a madman, Granger. I'll take Scorpius to Pansy’s the moment Voldemort tells me he wants a girl.”
“You and Pansy,” said Hermione, after a moment’s pause, “I mean, I always thought you and she would get together.”
“Pansy’s a good friend,” said Malfoy, in a tone that piqued Hermione’s curiosity even more, but also told her that the matter was closed.
Malfoy sat up, and took out his hip flask again. “C’mon, Granger,” he said. “Let's drink to success.”
“What'm I going to tell Ron?” Hermione had taken Harry up to the attic and explained Malfoy's plan. “He's not going to like it.”
“I don't like it,” said Harry.
“But you won't try to stop me?”
Harry patted his pockets, feeling for his cigarettes. Hermione understood why a man in hiding would need an indulgence, but she still wished he'd never started smoking.
“D'you trust Malfoy?” he said. “I mean, this couldn’t be some elaborate plot to capture you, could it?”
Hermione had considered that possibility herself, but could see no reason why Malfoy would bother thinking up such a complex scheme. Besides... “Yes, I trust him,” she replied.
“And you're absolutely sure you're willing to—you know?” Harry gave up the search for his cigarettes. “I mean—god, Hermione—you're not just talking sex with Malfoy, which is bad enough, you're talking sex in front of a madman who could kill you at any minute.” He turned to her, and his face was filled with all the brotherly concern she loved so much. “Let's find another way.”
Hermione grasped his hands, smiling. “No, Harry,” she said. “It won't come to having sex with Malfoy, honestly... So if you want to worry about me, worry about me killing.” She sighed. “This is the best chance we've had—probably the best chance we'll ever have. I couldn't live with myself if I didn't take it.”
“How's Malfoy going to signal you?”
Hermione brought a coin out of her pocket. “Familiar? Of course,” she added, grinning, “his version's the business—more secret, longer range, more brilliantly charmed than anything I could have created.”
“You like him,” said Harry.
“Fatherhood's changed him,” Hermione admitted. “I think... I really think that if we'd made friends with him in our first year at Hogwarts—if he'd been with you and Ron instead of Crabbe and Goyle—he might have turned out okay, you know?”
She noticed the expression on Harry’s face, and realised what he must be thinking: “God, I’m not suggesting... Harry, he was a little shit! Nobody would have wanted to shake hands with him!”
But Harry said nothing, and Hermione was left feeling she’d badly hurt her best friend.
“Of course, my Lord,” said Draco, with a low bow, swallowing the bile that rose into his mouth.
She deftly stole the gun and holster from Ron's armoury, cast Malfoy's modified Disillusionment Charm upon herself to conceal her magic, left her wand on her dressing table, and hurried to where Malfoy had told her the Snatchers would be operating.
Within an hour, she was standing amidst a line of Muggle prostitutes, in some empty, cavernous chamber of Malfoy Manor, being examined by Malfoy, who was working his way through the provocatively-clad women like a farmer selecting livestock, examining their teeth and eyes. He was wearing traditional robes, wrapped around and tied at the waist with a broad sash, which left a deep V of pale, muscular torso bare, and made it obvious he wasn’t wearing much, if anything, underneath.
Given the circumstances, Hermione wished her body didn't feel quite so impressed.
Suddenly, Malfoy grasped her chin and turned her face to the light. “Mm,” he grunted, “take your coat off. Let me see your figure.”
Hermione shrugged off her duffel coat.
“Pull this up,” he ordered, tugging at her sweater. “I want to see your tits.”
Hermione did as she was told.
“This one’ll do,” said Malfoy to the Snatchers. “Obliviate the rest and put ’em back where you found ’em.”
Malfoy was acting as though he didn’t know her, so Hermione—assuming they were being watched—played along.
He handed her a set of robes, and she put them on, carefully keeping her gun, which she’d magically obscured and strapped to her thigh, concealed. The robes were white, and very low-cut, and she allowed Malfoy to fuss with the bodice, and loosen her hair and arrange it over her bare shoulders.
“Come,” he said, leading her out of the chamber.
This is it, Hermione thought, nervously. Let’s hope Malfoy’s plan—
Malfoy gave her hand a hard, warning squeeze, and she quickly shielded her thoughts. Her effort was rewarded with a gentler squeeze.
The room he led her to was not, as she'd expected, a bed chamber, but a gentleman's study, lined with bookshelves and with glass-fronted cabinets—containing fascinating instruments that, under different circumstances, Hermione would have loved to examine—and cluttered with heavy, Victorian furniture. A fire burned in the massive fireplace and, standing before it, one hand resting upon the mantelpiece as he gazed into the flames, was the Dark Lord himself.
Curled up beside him, was his familiar.
Hermione’s breath kept sticking in her throat.
“Let me see her,” said Voldemort and, as he turned to look, Nagini roused herself and, snaking towards Hermione, reared up, and regarded her with small, hard eyes.
Hermione didn't try to hide her fear.
“Come closer,” said Voldemort.
Malfoy gave her a little push.
Hermione staggered forwards.
Voldemort’s deathlike hands gripped her, and brought her nearer and, as his clawed fingers stroked her bare skin, she felt something slide up her legs, around her hips, and around her shoulders, encircling her and Voldemort and binding them together.
Nagini’s broad head rose beside Hermione's face, and her cold tongue flicked Hermione's cheek.
“She trembles like a young kneazle,” Voldemort wheezed.
Part of Hermione’s mind was aware that Malfoy’s plan had already started to go awry—how would he kill the snake when it was coiled about her?—and her thoughts were racing, trying to find some way to dislodge Nagini, and get things back on track.
From the rest of her mind, she banished everything but fear, letting You-Know-Who have what he wanted; letting him luxuriate in it.
Voldemort was ecstatic, trailing his thin, reptilian lips across her throat and snuffling up her scent—he seemed, somehow, to be trying to absorb her essence...
“She is ripe for it,” he crowed. “Draco, I grow impatient!”
“Yes, my Lord.”
Hermione thought she glimpsed a flicker of panic on Malfoy’s face as he came towards her.
“Take her,” Voldemort ordered. “I want her now.”
Hermione felt Nagini slither away from her body—too damned late!—then Malfoy took her in his arms and lifted her, and carried her to one of the tables.
“Take her!” Voldemort wailed.
Usually, he had to work at getting a decent erection with one of the Dark Lord’s women but, tonight, his damned cock had sprung to attention the moment he’d set eyes on Granger—in that ridiculous coat and shapeless sweater!—and now it was so fucking hard he could scarcely think.
All he wanted was to bury himself deep in her, palm her gorgeous tits, and fuck her till he burst, emptying himself inside her. Keeping it in his robes was torture and the strain was giving him the jitters; sweat was trickling down his back.
The Dark Lord was getting a bonus tonight.
Draco reached out and cupped Granger’s cheek, forcing her to look him in the eyes, willing her, somehow, to read his shielded thoughts—he could abandon his plan, fuck her for the Dark Lord’s pleasure, then let her go, safe and sound, back to the Order; or he could try to adapt his plan, play with her until the Dark Lord was as worked up as he was, his defences down, and then strike, hoping that Granger would still be in a fit state to back him up...
He held her head steady, trying to bore into her mind, but something distracted her, and she pulled away, and looked down.
He heard her gasp, then felt her warm, strong hand wrap itself around his shaft, and he might have lost it, there and then, had the Dark Lord’s squawk of warning not given him a timely burst of will power. He managed to hold it back, but denial turned it inward, sending ragged spears of sensation shooting through his body.
Shaking, Draco struggled to focus, to make the decision.
She knew he was trying to tell her something, but she was too distracted by the hard, thick, fascinating flesh in her hand to work out what. She drew his cock between her legs.
Malfoy sucked in a breath, and Hermione’s innards melted.
Then Voldemort moaned.
But Hermione's sudden revulsion was cut short by the swish of a blade.
Hermione and Malfoy sprang apart, gasping, their desire extinguished, as though someone had doused them with cold water.
“Potter,” Malfoy panted. “You're alive!”
Harry was standing over the corpse of Nagini, the sword of Gryffindor in his hand, his Invisibility Cloak pooled about his feet. “A little late,” he said to Voldemort, “but I've come.”
He dropped the sword, and drew his wand.
“Avada Kedavra!” cried a voice.
But it wasn't Harry's voice, and it wasn't Voldemort who fell.
The BAMM was deafening.
Draco turned—slowly, as though time itself were impeding him—to see the Dark Lord sink to his knees, blood seeping from between the fingers he was pressing to a wound in his belly.
Granger had broken away and, dropping the killing-contraption, she—slowly—ran to Potter and fell down beside him, taking him in her arms. “Harry,” she sobbed, rocking his lifeless body, “Harry... Oh, Harry...”
Draco drew his wand, and went over to Voldemort. The Dark Lord was sprawling, unconscious, before the hearth. His hand had fallen to his side, and Draco's stomach churned at the sight of the blood spreading across his robes. Now that the moment had come, he found he couldn't do it. With bitter self-contempt, he recognised the real reason he'd needed Granger—she was prepared to kill, but he... Draco stared down at his former mentor, and tried to summon up the hatred required to cast the curse, but the creature—for Voldemort was no longer a man—seemed... pathetic. Draco thought of Scorpius, and tried to summon up the rage required to protect his son, but—
“Draco!” Granger's voice was like a light, piercing the fog filling his brain. “His scar's gone! It's... There's nothing there!”
Draco dragged himself away from Voldemort, to Granger's side and, as he looked down at Potter, Potter opened his eyes and smiled.
Draco was just as astonished as Granger, especially when Potter raised his wand and pointed it straight at him. He stared, mesmerised by the magic he sensed building in the wood, until Potter's voice reached him—“Doooown, Malfoooooy!”—and he understood.
With superhuman effort, Draco threw himself aside, sailing through the air for what seemed like a lifetime, until, at last, he hit the floor with a jarring thud—
The two spells collided above Draco's head with an ear-splitting bang, forming a ball of golden fire, then a wand flew—spinning, spinning—through the flames, and Potter raised his free hand, and caught it.
Draco scrabbled round to look behind him. Voldemort was lying in the hearth and, this time, there was no mistaking the fact that he was dead.
“What the fuck just happened?” he said.
Granger sounded as sceptical as Draco felt. He crossed to the sideboard, found a bottle of Firewhisky, cracked the seal, and knocked some back.
“In King's Cross?” she added.
“In my mind,” Potter corrected, “which, for some reason, looked like King's Cross. A sort of heavenly King's Cross...”
Draco handed Potter the bottle, and was surprised to see him take some very healthy swigs.
“Dumbledore explained everything.” Potter handed the bottle to Granger. “You see, When You-Know-Who tried to kill me at Godric's Hollow, he accidentally left a shard of his soul in me—so I became a sort of Horcrux.” He rubbed his scarless forehead. “And, just now, when he Avada'd me, he destroyed it.”
“But you lived,” said Draco. “Again.”
“Yes, because Voldemort used my blood to rebuild his own body, so he was a sort of Horcrux for me and, whilst he was alive, I was tethered to life, too. Now he's dead”—he smiled—“I'm mortal.”
Draco heard Granger chuckle.
“But the wand business?” he persisted. “Why did the Elder Wand fly to you?”
“Ah...” Potter's annoying smile grew even more annoying. “That, Malfoy,” he said, “was thanks to you.”
“You mustn't think like that, Harry,” said Hermione. “You've defeated him now. And you've got work to do. Rebuilding.”
“You'll have to tear down the rest of the Dark Lord's regime first,” said Malfoy. He took the Firewhisky from Hermione's hand. Hermione found herself wondering whether he normally drank so much, then chided herself for worrying about him, as if she were his girlfriend or something...
“I suggest,” said Malfoy, taking a swig, “that you and Granger go and fetch the Weasel, and whoever else you've got left from the old days, and hit the Manor and the Ministry simultaneously, as soon as you can.”
He took another mouthful of whisky, then passed the bottle to Harry. “I don't think there'll be much resistance. I can't think of anyone who still believes in the old bullshit. Just... Just be fair to Pansy, okay? And to Theo and Blaise. And poor old Goyle—he's not bright, but even he'd started to question things. We were led astray, Potter, but we'd all started to see sense.”
“What will you do?” said Harry, quietly.
“Yes,” said Hermione, “what will you do?” She had a sinking feeling...
“I'll make sure I'm gone by the time you get back,” said Malfoy to Harry.
Then he smiled at Hermione. “Like I said, Granger, Scorpius is what matters now, and I can't risk having him grow up with a father in Azkaban.”
The Apparition point was outside, in the rose gardens. As they crossed the immaculate lawns, dotted with white peacocks, Hermione was struck by the brightness of the stars overhead—it was as if a perpetual haze, caused by Voldemort's Dark Magic, had dissipated.
The sky was beautiful!
Hermione wished she wasn't feeling as though fate were giving her everything she should be wanting with one hand, but taking back something she shouldn't be wanting with the other...
As they approached the roses, Malfoy caught her by the hand, and slowed her down and, when Harry had got a few yards ahead of them, he bent towards her and said, softly, “Fancy finishing what we almost started, Granger?”
Hermione looked up at him, frowning. “I thought you were going away?”
“I am, but there's no reason I can't occasionally have company—if I can trust her.”
Hermione felt a grin spread across her face. “You can,” she said and, coming up on tip-toe, she added, in a whisper, “and, god, I do.”
“D’you still have the coin?”
“Then I’ll be in touch. Soon.”
His expression brought a rush of blood to Hermione's face and neck, and she began to ache again, as she'd ached before, when she was holding him and longing to have him inside her.
She had no idea what might happen between them. Their connection was mostly physical, though she suspected she might be carrying the beginnings of something deeper in her heart, and that she might have sensed the same in Malfoy, too. But Malfoy would be on the run, with his son, who would always—rightly—come first and, although she'd already vowed to herself that she would not rest until she'd won him a pardon, she had no illusions, for he had been Voldemort's right-hand man...
He would summon her whenever he could.
And she would have to make do with having mind-blowing sex with him.
She saw Malfoy smile knowingly, and she smiled back, amazed that she'd become the sort of woman who'd commit treason just to have mind-blowing sex!
That's Draco Malfoy for you, she thought.
At the Apparition point, Harry was getting impatient.
As Hermione turned to join him, Malfoy caught her hand again, and held her back a split-second longer. “Keep it warm for me, Granger,” he murmured.
Hermione was still grinning when the Apparition spell hooked itself into her navel, and jerked her into the ether.