“It is my pleasure to introduce Mr and Mrs Harry Potter!”
Everyone in the room turned to look at the striking couple as they walked down the grand manor staircase. Hermione knew this spectacle certainly wasn’t her friend’s idea, but she also knew exactly how much he was willing to endure to please his new bride. It wasn’t the path she would have chosen for one of her oldest friends, but she couldn’t deny that the newly minted Mrs Potter made him happy.
“I’m surprised she let him keep his last name. Not to mention the fact that she took it.”
The familiar drawl of the man now standing next to her made Hermione pause, holding her lips against her glass just before taking another sip. “I’m not. She always was rather good at taking what she wanted.”
“I suppose you’re right.” He laughed, that same soft sound she’d heard too many times in far less appropriate places. “I used to know someone else like that, too.”
She tightened her grip on her glass and tipped the rest back.
“Did you ever expect it, ‘Mione?” Ron clumsily carded his fingers through whatever was left of his previously coiffed hairstyle. She was sure Susan would be over any moment to rein in the redhead who was already beginning to slur through that sleepy smile she knew too well.
“No.” She shrugged, considering the couple currently huddled in a private moment, matching grins painted on their faces. “Can’t say I would have ever pegged it.”
“I mean I know the war was a long time ago and everyone’s moved on. I get it, but her?” Ron lowered his voice to a whisper, glancing around as though someone would overhear. “Pansy bloody Parkinson?”
Hermione laughed, her lips curling into a soft smile as she watched one third of their trio spin his new bride on the dancefloor. “Sometimes I think we’re all a bit scarred from what we’ve been through. I think we’re all different versions of ourselves than the kids who staked their opinions on who was in which house.”
“Leave it to you to go all deep with this shite.” Ron chuckled, low and slow, and Hermione could tell he’d definitely had a few too many. “I guess I should have known after you fell victim to the charms of a Slytherin, too.”
Hermione barked a laugh. “I was hardly a victim, Ronald, and I’ll have you know I resent that. After the war I think we were all a mess of broken pieces. It’s hard for me to accept that who someone once was has any bearing on who they’re capable of being.”
They both stood there a moment, Ron watching Harry, and Hermione willing herself not to scan the crowd for a familiar flash of blond hair.
Susan popped up on Ron’s other side, a smile on her face and affection in her eyes as she wrapped an arm around Ron’s waist. “Alright, love. I think it’s time we said our goodbyes to everyone.” Ron mumbled his assent and Susan turned her warm smile on Hermione. “Nice seeing you again, Hermione.”
“You, too, Susan. Take care of him.”
“I always do.” Susan wasn’t even looking at Hermione as she said it, and once again, a familiar pressure built in her chest.
“Would you believe she had that thing shipped from halfway across the world?” His breath was tickling the loose tendrils dancing across her shoulders and she fought the urge to lean back into his chest. It was a practised move, one she had to consciously force herself to stop.
“Did you expect anything less?”
“No. Not really.” The rumble of his laughter sent shivers up her spine. “I hope it tastes like a thousand Galleons.”
“Two,” she said, keeping her eyes focused on the couple in front of her as Harry delicately deposited a small piece of cake between Pansy’s perfectly painted lips.
“Yeah.” This time she turned, laughing as she glanced over her shoulder. It was clearly a mistake. He was far too close for it to be an accident. Her breath caught in her throat for a moment before she turned back around.
“I hope it tastes like gold.”
A long arm reached out to pull the champagne flute from Hermione’s fingers just before she tipped the rest of it back.
“Hey now! That was mine.” She pouted, even though she was well past the point of caring about trivial things like that.
“I think you’ve had enough.”
“And what makes you think you have any say in what I do anymore?” It was meant to be playful, but his smile slipped into a scowl. She felt her own smile start to die and instantly regretted her words. “Sorry. That wasn’t… I didn’t…” Blowing out a frustrated breath, Hermione looked around at the last few lingering attendees.
“It’s fine, Granger.” His tone suggested it was anything but as he ran a hand through his hair and looked away. “It’s not like you’re wrong. I guess old habits die hard.”
They do , she wanted to say, but this time she stayed silent. It wasn’t her place to say anything else.
“It tastes like velvet.” She practically moaned around the mouthful of the decadent dessert. “Safe to say, worth every knut.”
“Doubtful.” Draco was carefully examining the artfully crafted flower on top of his piece of cake. The little petals were so thin they almost looked real. He frowned. “It looks more like a craft than a cake. Nothing edible should have foliage on it.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Oh come on, you haven’t even tried it yet. I happen to know for a fact that you will love it.”
“Really? And how can you be so positive?”
“Because you have a serious sweet tooth, Draco. I don’t believe you’ve ever met a sweet you didn’t like, and for the price of the cake, it should be the most delicious thing you’ve ever tasted.”
“Should it now?” Draco arched a brow.
Hermione felt herself flush, gulping down the sudden lump in her throat.
He tilted his head to the side, considering her for a moment, and the weight of his gaze made her hotter, made everything inside her draw up tight. “Care to wager on that?”
The challenge in his eyes was unmistakable, and whether it was the fog of her rapidly dissipating intoxication or the stupid sense of bravery that too often got her in trouble, she couldn’t stop what came next.
“And what would I win?” She held both her breath and his gaze, issuing a challenge of her own
His chuckle was low and dangerous. “Rather full of yourself, aren’t you, Granger?” Tapping the tines of his fork against his lower lip, he feigned consideration. “How about this: whoever wins gets to pick their prize after the fact.”
Hermione scoffed. “Like I’d agree to that.”
But she did anyway.
“Nope.” Draco’s smirk was downright sinful as he licked the fork clean. “While it was rather pleasant, I have to say it’s far from the most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted.”
Hermione knew that look. Hermione knew him, knew that glint in his eye, and what that particular curl of his lips meant. Words dripped from his lips like honey and, well, he'd never been known for playing fair. “You’ve only taken one bite. I hardly think that counts.”
“I’m sorry.” There was intention in his eyes. They were walking a fine line. “What doesn’t count?”
“I don’t want to play games, Draco.” Suddenly tired, Hermione cleared her throat, letting her eyes wander around the mostly empty room. “I should probably head home. It’s getting late and it looks like most everyone has already left.”
“Now who’s not playing fair?”
He gave her the most insincere frown she’d ever seen, and if she didn’t know what that look meant so well, she might’ve laughed. Not that she could when it took effort just to even draw in a breath. He was too close. Too much. She felt smothered by the scent of his cologne, and the taste of tainted memories thick on her tongue.
“I think the odds were always weighted in your favour anyway,” Hermione said, unable to look at him any longer. “It’s a rather subjective marker in my opinion, so the results should be nullified. Maybe we should just call it a draw.”
She felt him before he whispered, “But I haven’t even named my prize yet.”
He didn’t have to.
He’d already won.
And when he covered her hand with his, she didn’t even try to stop him.
They landed in her bedroom; his fingers laced with hers and that dizzying sense of unease she always felt after Apparition tickling her brain. Draco barely had time to slide the plate onto her nightstand before their lips collided.
He tasted like sugar, sweet enough to mask the lingering bitterness of the memory from the last time this had happened. His hand was wrapped around the back of her neck and his lips slanted over hers like they were carved to slide into that exact place.
It was easy to figure him out all over again. It hadn’t been that long after all, not really. The few months may have felt like an eternity, but really it was just a handful of days in the greater picture of the lasting marks they’d left on one another. Especially in this place. He probably knew her room as well as she did by now, the space in her drawers were still gaping from when she’d packed that stupid box full of remanants of what they once were.
He didn’t let her dwell, too attuned to the occasion of her mind whirring to life, her rationale overshadowing the urgency of her body’s response. “Are you wearing them tonight?” The whispered words slid over her skin before his lips sealed them there to stain. “Tell me, love. Did you wear them for me tonight?”
She managed a nod, a slight dip of her chin as her fingers dug into his shoulders, holding him to her, holding them together with nothing more than sweat and skin. His fingers pressed bruises into her hips and his lips seared his presence onto the flush of her chest, branding himself on her body as though he knew it still belonged to him. He panted her name like a prayer against the curve of her neck and she moaned her penance as his lips traveled down her body and wrapped around the fabric still covering her nipple.
When he peeled the clothes off her skin and she thumbed at the buttons of his shirt, it felt familiar in the worst kind of way.
Slices of moonlight cut across the still made bed, painting their tangled limbs with a glow. The ghosts of their promises were still echoing in the thick of the air between them. For all the filthy words that’d spilled from his lips just moments before, they were silent for a long time, save for the exchange of each breath.
“Why?” he finally asked, skimming familiar fingers along the length of her arm. She loved it when he did that.
Clearly, that much hadn’t changed.
It took her a moment to compose herself, thinking about where she’d intended this to go. Where could it go, really? Was there even an ounce of possibility they hadn’t explored before it’d all come crashing down in an epic show of failing to be exactly what the other needed?
“Why what?” she asked. Stupidly, she knew, but this time he’d have to let go of that controlled composure if she was even going to pour salt into that painfully open wound again.
Hooking a finger around the now ruined lace still decorating her hip, he snapped the band lightly. “Why’d you wear them tonight?”
“Why does it matter?”
His sigh sounded just as resigned as her own. It was rather fitting, actually, that she’d never be able to wear them again after tonight. She’d wear the shape of his bite and the bruises from his fingers for days, but never this pair of knickers again.
Delicate fingers traced her name across the plane of his chest and she willed herself to have the courage to give him something more than a sham of an answer. “They matched my dress.” That much was true. “I’ve been told color coordination is rather fashionable.”
The rumble of a laugh rocked her head against his chest. “Really? And you expect me to believe that?” Shifting them both so their noses nearly touched and tightening an arm around her waist, he tentatively leaned a fraction closer. “Tell me there’s more to it than that.” It may not have been a question, but his gaze begged for an answer.
“There is.” There was, after all, and she’d always been a shite liar, especially in these waning moments of affection when part of her was pressed against him in the most intimate way.
“I don’t need another pair.” She was laughing, the light tinkle of sound that she hadn’t heard from herself in too long.
“What kind of gentleman would I be if I didn’t replace such a fine pair of knickers? It is my fault they’re ruined, after all.”
“If I’m not mistaken, you bought them in the first place.”
He hummed, tugging her closer. “That’s right, I did.”
“It’s not like I’ll wear them for…” For our honeymoon , she thought. He hadn’t actually proposed, but when he’d given them to her, he’d suggested offhand she could wear them on their wedding night.
The reminder of that big, important thing they’d been skating around all night edged too close for the levity of the moment. Hermione wasn’t ready to release her grip on the facade, choosing to kiss him silent instead. If this meant enough, they’d have time to untangle the sordid details later.
“Now that was the most deli—”
Hermione tugged him up from between her knees and kissed that smug smirk off his face.
Time was irrelevant and sleep could come later, she reasoned, panting again and clinging to every curve of his body she could reach.
The first hints of color snuck into the sky and she knew they were both in desperate need of sleep. But every waking minute they’d captured was well worth the impending exhaustion. In the silence of the room, she listened to the steady thump of his heart. It was even and tangible, beating to the same rhythm of her own.
“I’ve missed this,” he whispered against the top of her head. “I’ve missed you .”
She didn’t hesitate. “I’ve missed you too.”