Chapter 26 : Holy Cricket!
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Hermione stood in the open kitchen, waiting for the toaster to pop. She could hear sounds of rushing water coming from the other room as Draco took a quick shower. Unlike him, she felt no need to pester him mentally while he did so. The sound of the toaster startled her and made her jump, shooting crispy bread high into the air and nearly out onto the counter. She grabbed a plate, heard the water turn off in the bathroom, and as she smeared thick jam across the slices, Hermione almost felt “normal.”
“You wouldn’t happen to have any clothes I could wear, would you?” Draco called out, ending her five seconds of normalcy like it was his job.
“Umm…” Hermione honestly didn’t know how to reply.
“Merlin knows that bathrobe of yours would fit; it’s certainly long enough on you.”
Hermione, who’d just changed into jeans and a tee shirt, frowned at her toast. “Well,” she declared loudly, “I’m not wearing it anymore, so help yourself!” She prepared to stomp into the living room in a huff, but her pathway was abruptly full of a very half-naked man. “Wha-” she began, her snack almost sliding off it’s plate.
Draco had barged out of the bathroom immediately in nothing but a towel. He stood in front of her expectantly, his expression slowly falling into a frown. “Mi!” he scolded, “don’t tease me like that!”
“What on earth are you talking about?” she asked, trying to keep her gaze glued to his face and only his face.
“You said you weren’t wearing the robe anymore! So, I thought…”
“That I was standing in the kitchen, making toast… naked?” Hermione let out a laugh, unable to help herself. It was such a ridiculous mental image! True, I may be modest to a fault, she thought while trying to rein in her hilarity, but of all the guys in the world, I’m sure Draco will find a way to break me of it. He’s certainly determined enough!
“I heard that,” Draco said with an impish smile, referring to her thoughts on modesty versus what she’d actually said. Hermione stammered in front of him as he slowly backed her further into the kitchen. In a bold gesture, he snatched her plate away and put it on the counter, out of her reach.
“What’re you up to?” she asked with mock confidence. It felt odd to her that she’d somehow forgotten, over the course of the last few hideous days, how aggressively predatorial he truly was. Her mind had been literally saturated with images of him fighting and attacking. She'd managed to abandon her memories of just how differently he attacked her.
"Quite a lot has happened to us recently, Mi," Draco said quietly. He'd succeeded in cornering her against the cabinets. His countenance was calm as he gently brushed a stray curl from her cheek, taking the time to run his fingers through the rest of her hair and revelling momentarily in it's simple softness.
“Yes, it has,” she whispered, biting her lower lip in remembrance.
“Like the fact that… we got married.”
Hermione gulped. She certainly hadn’t forgotten, per se… not at all. It was more that, in the myriad quandaries pertaining to trying to survive, followed by trying to ensure that Draco also survived… their wedding (of survival, naturally) had been pushed back a bit in her memory banks.
I’m really his wife, she thought. Her eyes flicked quickly to the ring upon her finger. When had it become so second-naturedly comfortable? She didn’t even remember the last time she’d consciously thought of it. Even in the muted light of the kitchen, it sparkled beautifully. Hermione found herself suddenly gazing at him, then; their eyes met, and she couldn’t look away. She rose slightly up on her tiptoes and captured his wicked smirk in a fast kiss, wrapping her arms around him as she did so. Draco returned the kiss happily, holding her close and smiling against her lips.
Hermione’s blood began to warm considerably. Her hands grazed across the skin of his back and shoulders; she loved feeling his muscles move under her touch. Her breath caught in her throat when she suddenly felt his lips there. He trailed kisses down her neck and back up again, meeting once more with her mouth in a fiercer kiss than before. Hermione wasn’t the only one to be struck with a sense of hot-bloodedness.
“I’ve really, really missed you,” Draco murmured softly between kisses.
“I…hmm… you,” she didn’t get out much of a response, as he chose that moment to return to her ever-so-sensitive neck. She’d never felt anything like it before. How on earth did her make her feel so powerful and yet so weak at the same time?
Draco could feel the familiar crumblings of his control. His restraint was fraying at the edges as he held Hermione in the kitchen. In the back of his mind he felt that maybe they were suddenly going too fast, simply because they’d literally just gotten out of a life-or-death situation… several of them, actually. Is there supposed to be some sort of time period where we do nothing but relax a bit? Even as he smothered her with kisses, Draco couldn’t help but wonder. Is this some sort of knee-jerk reaction to the crisis we’ve been through? Have our bodies had enough time to realize that we’re actually safe now? Or am I just a lovesick git who’s gone too long without getting his hands on his unbearably hot wife? As Hermione put her warm hands on his sides, running them along his skin and making him shiver in serious want, Draco decided that he was definitely a lovesick git.
“Oh, Merlin… I can’t take it… I can’t take you,” he murmured fervently while twisting his left hand in her wavy hair. She smelled so good, and she tasted even better. He slid his right hand down her neck and across her collar bone. Against his cheek, she panted slightly in response. The sound alone nearly pushed him over the edge. “I want… oh gods, Mi… I just need-”
The passionately entwined couple jumped a full six inches off the tiled floor at the sudden harsh noise. Their heads snapped around to look at the door, where the intruding sound had obviously come from. Their chests heaved in unison as adrenaline flowed thick and fast in their veins; Draco tried not to notice the fact that Hermione’s chest was heaving beautifully against his own.
“What the hell?” he growled, squashing away his hormones painfully as he and Hermione found themselves disturbed for seemingly the umpteenth time.
“I… err… I can't imagine... I guess I should see who that is,” she distractedly mumbled, straightening her shirt and making her way to the door.
“See who it is?” he repeated disbelievingly. “Who could it even be? Why the hell does it even matter?” He was so aggravated at being interrupted; he saw no point in actually answering the door.
“Draco!” she whispered, spinning on her heel to face him. She brought a finger to her lips in an effort to impress upon him the importance of their silence; the person out in the hall might’ve been able to hear them. All she accomplished, however, was drawing his attention to her kiss-redened lips. He stared longingly at them as she continued to speak.
“I haven’t been in Chicago in months; I have no idea who could be trying to visit!” Hermione turned back to the door and placed her hands against it’s frame. “I didn’t say I’d open it,” she muttered, “I just want to know who’s behind it.”
He watched as she leaned against the door, craning her chin to the side to better peer through the tiny peephole. Who in shite’s name could it possible be? Draco brooded sullenly. No one followed me when I disapparated; of that, I’m certain. Could someone from the Ministry be looking for her? Surely not someone from Femme- Suddenly Hermione jumped back and gasped; Draco’s blood pressure skyrocketed in response.
“What is it? Who is it?” he hissed frantically. She hopped from foot to foot before him, biting her lip and looking more frazzled than he’d seen her since their time together at Hogwarts.
“Oh, holy cricket… it’s Ron, for pity’s sake!”
“Weasley?!” Draco inhaled sharply in apparent horror. “Good Gods, Mi; I’ll get him out of here-”
“Oh, no!” she put her hands against his chest and tried to keep him at bay.
Bang-bang-bang! “ ‘Ello? You in there, Hermione?”
“Oh, Merlin… Draco!” She turned to him with desperation in her dark brown eyes, “you’ve got to hide!”
“…What?!” he froze, staring at her like she’d gone mental.
“Please! He’s been in Spain all this time! He has no idea what’s happened!”
“Well, I’m not hiding in the damn coat closet, Mi! We’ll just have to tell the git, then, won’t we?”
“Not like this! He doesn’t know anything-”
“You’ve got the front page of the Prophet, right there-”
“Ergh!” Hermione clenched her teeth in frustration. “Can’t we be adults and talk about this rationally?”
“Hey, I’m right here,” he spread his arms wide and raised his eyebrows expectantly. Something about his statement and appearance reminded her of a person looking for takers for a fight. She realized that the visual was added to greatly by the fact that he was standing there shirtless, something she’d somehow forgotten about.
“Draco!” she gasped, her agitation burning anew, “you’re in a ruddy towel, for Merlin’s sake!”
“Well, excuse me… would your bathrobe be better?” Their first married-couple argument was a strange one indeed, carried out in a barrage of whispers. Out in the hallway, Ron obliviously scuffed a foot.
“Draco…” Hermione looked at him. The barest sliver of pleading shadowed her eyes; it was just enough.
Look at her, man, he thought to himself. See how she’s looking at you? How long are you going to let her look at you like that? He ran a hand back through his hair before bringing his gaze back up to hers.
“Draco,” she repeated, tilting her head to the side. Somehow she managed not to blink; her eyes held him captive like the recipient of a master-spell.
It’s your name she’s saying, he knew. Managing to break their locked gaze, Draco’s eyes traveled over the rest of her figure, taking all of her in. It’s your ring on her finger. It’s your- his train of thought crashed to a stop as his eyes widened in amazement. It’s… heh, heh… well, it’s certainly your love-bite on her neck-
Hermione jumped again. Something in Draco’s eyes unnerved her, but she didn’t have time to worry about it along with the stressful appearance of Ron. “Please, Draco?” she asked once more.
Taking two steps forward, Draco took her chin in his hands and lifted her face to his. “Patience isn’t one of my virtues, love,” he murmured against her cheek. Gently he nipped at the skin just at the corner of her bottom lip before capturing her mouth in a head-spinning kiss. He drew it out until she was nearly out of breath, and just when she literally began to swoon, he pulled back. “Hermione… don’t make me wait.”
She watched in a combination of awe and uncertain relief as he walked away, the bath towel hanging dangerously low on his hips. He glanced at her over his shoulder as he stepped into her bedroom. The smirk on his face could’ve been seen from space. Just as the door began to lazily swing closed behind him, his meager attire “slipped” to the floor, and Hermione got a glimpse of what was truly a perfect bum.
Her jaw fell open in pure shock and Draco threw his head back in viscious laughter, slamming the door shut before she could see any more.
“You home, Hermione?” Ron’s voice could be heard from the hallway. In the living room, Hermione shook her head and put her hands over her face. Her skin felt like lava and she was sure she was as red as a tomato.
Go on, doll. Draco’s voice suddenly filled her head. Let the redhead in; Merlin knows I’m not stopping you.
You… you… she clenched her fists, unable to come up with anything more. All she got in response was a wicked chuckle. Fine, Hermione thought to herself. Raising her chin defiantly, she shook back her hair, squeezed her eyes shut for three seconds exactly, and reached for the doorknob.
Ron sighed visibly when the door opened and he saw his long-time friend standing before him. “Hermione!” he smiled, walking right up to her and grabbing her in a tight hug.
“Hello, Ron,” she said while politely extricating herself from his friendly embrace. Fractions of her discomfort began to melt away as she stood beside him. He was one of her dearest friends and her first love; it really was very good to see him again, even with such unfortunate timing. “I was… in the shower,” she smiled apologetically and fidgeted with a strand of hair, “sorry about that.”
“Oh, no… sorry ‘bout all the knocking. I was starting to think maybe you weren’t home, or something.”
“No big deal,” she concentrated on smiling in her desire to keep him at ease. She felt like she had a sign on her face that read: “your most hated nemesis is in my bedroom… naked.”
“I haven’t seen you in so long! You look… good,” Ron gulped, which caused Hermione to gulp in return.
He looks nervous, she thought. What reason could he possibly have to be nervous? This cannot be good… Hermione cleared her throat. “So,” she said, taking a seat on the couch, “when did you get back from Spain?”
“Just a couple days ago,” he replied, nodding as though he were agreeing with something… perhaps her change of subject.
“Oh, and how was it? Did everything go well?”
“I suppose so; Spain’s great. We didn’t really get to finish our mission, if that’s what you mean, though. Those blasted vampires are a tricky bunch, even if they do leave an easy trail to follow, know what I mean?”
Hermione shuddered at the unwanted visual. “Er… yeah, I suppose I do,” she grimaced comically.
“Yeah,” Ron nodded again, not picking up on her obvious discomfort, “I know we’re meant to have good working relations with all magical creatures, however monstrous and all. Some of them, though…” he trailed off, as if he were remembering something specifically unpleasant. Hermione felt an odd, smoldering trill run through her veins, almost like the aftereffect of a shouting match. Ron was just talking about his job at the Ministry and being his usual, candid self. It was perfectly normal. All the same, she felt strangely angry. It was then that Hermione figured it out. Draco was listening.
Get out of my head, please! She told him pointedly.
I’m not in your pretty little head, Draco coolly replied. I can hear that big idiot right through the wall.
Well, then you can hear me too, and you know you have nothing to get worked up about! Your anger is messing with my body, so stop it!
At least some part of me gets to mess with your body.
“Are you all right, Mione?” Ron asked. As they sat beside each other on the couch, she’d clenched her fists and her jaw and looked for all the world like someone on the verge of a mental meltdown. Even he couldn’t stay ignorant of her disturbed state.
“I’m… fine,” she worked her locked jaw to get the words out. “Tell me Ron,” she turned to him and smiled a little too brightly, putting him on edge, “what brings you here at…” she glanced quickly at her clock on the wall, “seven o’clock in the morning?”
“Is it really that early?” Ron flushed. The effect clashed oddly with his fiercely red hair. “Sorry; it’s weird over here in America. I’m still on Spain’s time.” When she did nothing but smile and nod at him in response, raising her eyebrows, Ron sighed. He’d always been terrible at hiding things, particularly from her. “I… well, Hermione, I’m here because, well…”
“Yes, Ronald?” she asked, gently prompting him.
“Well, basically I just wanted to… to tell you in person,” he ran a hand back through his hair nervously.
“Oh, just spit it out,” she forced out a laugh to try to lighten his mood. In truth he was making her nervous, as well.
“I asked Susan to marry me,” he blurted.
Hermione blinked. She blinked a second time. The smile was still settled upon her face, and all she could concentrate on for a long moment was the sound of Draco’s laughter in her head. At least he’s not bloody laughing out loud, she thought to herself.
While she watched Ron’s face go from pink to red to a sickly-looking green, Hermione realized that he was seeking her blessing on the matter. He had made a serious decision and, as one of his dearest friends and his first love, he wanted her to know. After his arduous work in Spain, Ron had plucked up his courage and come all the way from his home in London to do something she hadn’t: to tell her he was getting married. A thought suddenly occurred to her.
“She said, ‘yes,’” right?” Hermione asked.
A good deal of tension left Ron’s shoulders and he exhaled. “Yeah,” he replied, leaning back into the sofa, “yeah, she did.”
“Ron, this is wonderful!” Hermione’s smile widened naturally. She was truly happy for him.
“Oh, Mione, you have no idea how glad I am to hear you say that,” he replied. “I was so nervous about telling you.”
“For heaven’s sake Ron, why?”
“Well, you’re just… you, that’s all,” he muttered. “I care a lot about what you think.”
Hermione was so touched. In her heart, she felt guilt swell up. Here was Ron, going out on a limb to tell her that her opinion mattered, and she’d gone and married a Malfoy of all people without him even knowing. How in the world am I going to tell him? She wondered desperately. She had no way of knowing that Ron wasn’t entirely clueless. He watched the variety of expressions flit across her features as he shifted his weight on the squashy piece of furniture.
“So,” he began, “that’s my news. Before you ask, we haven’t gotten anywhere with the planning, or anything. I’ll be leaving all of that to her,” he chuckled and then cleared his throat; Hermione felt his mood shift and knew the subject was about to get serious once again. She just didn’t anticipate how serious.
“I heard from mum that Draco Malfoy’s alive,” Ron declared without further preamble, “that you found him.”
Hermione fought to stay still as feelings of distress swamped her body. Why is it so much harder to talk about this with Ron than it was with Harry? She wondered in frustration. She already knew the answer, however. She’d once loved Ron, and his and Draco’s families had been bitter enemies for as long as anyone could remember. I can’t let any of that matter anymore, she told herself as she gathered her resolve. Draco simply isn’t the same person he used to be- The sound of a door opening sent fuzzy warning bells through Hermione’s head. Before she could react, she heard him speak. Oh, how she wished that it was only in her head, but this time, it wasn’t. Draco had decided to make an appearance.
“Well, if it isn’t Ron Weasley,” Draco drawled as he strode into the living room. He fell confidently into a chair to the right of the sofa, as though he were in his own home.
Ron’s mouth sagged open in total shock, and Hermione’s mental warning bells increased in clarity. For one thing, was she glad: Draco was dressed. He wore his black pants and a grey tee shirt that she recognized as a general article that circulated in and out of her sleeping attire. It was probably the only thing she owned (aside from her bathrobe) that would’ve fit him.
“Wha- wha-” Ron goggled nonsensically. This time his face turned purple, as though his air supply had been cut off.
“How eloquent,” Draco smirked, “I heard mention of my name and decided to see what all the fuss was about.”
“Oh, how lovely of you,” Hermione said, her whole body clenched with apprehension.
“Isn’t it, though?” he replied, boring his eyes into hers. Your stress was radiating across this flat like ash from a volcanic blast. He told her silently. You didn’t think I was going to stay in there forever? Listening to you stammer as you tried to think of something to tell your precious first love?
She nearly gasped in indignation. For your information, I was simply going to tell him the truth, Hermione pursed her lips defiantly, trying to keep from yelling her thoughts aloud. Whatever Ron and I had was virtually a million years ago! And I’m your wife, now! I can’t believe how jealous you are!
You can’t? I find that hard to believe. How would you like it if Pansy just dropped by and we gabbed on like old chums?
Pansy?! Why you-
Either way, Draco smoothly interrupted her. To be honest, I flat out hate the very idea of you sitting out here conversating with him like it’s the good old days. Like you said, you’re my wife. He raised his eyebrows challengingly, waiting for her reply. She was too surprised to give one.
Draco had never made it a secret that he was possessive. It’d been nearly the first thing he’d owned up to on that fateful day at his manor. In the solitude that had wrapped it’s way around their relationship, however, Hermione hadn’t paused to think about how greatly that possessive streak of his would increase when he found himself confronted by other guys. Especially Ron, she thought only to herself. Oh, Merlin… what have I got myself in the middle of?
“So, Weasley,” Draco crossed his arms over his chest casually, “you and Susan, eh?”
“Me and…” Ron’s jaw abruptly snapped shut and his thoughts finally assembled themselves into a straight line. “What the bloody hell are you doing here, Malfoy?” he barked.
“Me?” amusement was blooming across the blonde man’s face. “Why, I’m-”
“With me,” Hermione blurted. Ron spun around to look at her, his eyes wide with disbelief. “He’s with me,” she continued. In her heart, she knew it’d be better for Ron to hear it from her own mouth, instead of Draco’s. “A lot has happened since you’ve been gone, Ron.”
“Obviously!” he said with a frown.
“Ron, it’s not like I could explain anything to you before; you only just got back!”
“Ever heard of owls?” he asked waspishly.
“That would be one seriously long letter,” Draco mused.
Hermione ignored his comment. “It’s not precisely the sort of thing to confess via mail,” she told her friend.
“Confess… wait! When you say, ‘with you,’ you mean… Malfoy is with you?!” Ron jumped up from his spot on the couch, his hands balled up into fists at his sides.
“Well, that is what she said,” Draco rolled his eyes.
“Ron! It’s really something that’ll take a bit of explanation-”
“It sure as hell will! Let’s see if I can sum it up: first Malfoy’s dead, then you find him… alive, and now you’re dating?!”
“Well-” Draco tilted his head to the side as he began to expound on Ron’s brash statement.
Hermione cut him off before he could blatantly reveal everything in his usual, uncaring fashion. “Ron, will you listen to me for one ruddy minute! Stop acting like I’ve purposefully wronged you!” she exclaimed, standing up and unconsciously going up on her toes so she could get in his face.
“F-fine!” Ron yelled, momentarily surprised by her spike of anger. Hermione used his moment of stunned silence to get a word in edgewise.
“Draco actually was the one who found me,” she said quickly, “through a series of circumstances, I ended up at his home-”
“The git kidnapped you! It was in the paper; mum and dad knew all about it!” Ron interrupted. His silence was never prone to lasting long.
Draco tossed his head back and laughed at the memory. “That’s right! It was in the bloody paper! I’d completely forgotten,” he rubbed his chin and continued to chuckle.
“How could you forget something like that?!” Ron glared at him, looking appalled.
“Oh, stop acting so self-righteous,” Draco replied. He could’ve been watching paint dry, he appeared so bored.
“Enough!” Hermione actually held her arms out, as though she were separating the two men from a physical fight. Her chest heaved slightly and her cheeks were getting pink. Draco didn’t have to be able to read her mind to know that she was approaching a code red fury. Ron didn’t have to, either, for that matter.
“Both of you just keep quiet!” she continued, her eyes snapping from one man to the other. “Ron, you might want to sit down for this.”
He gulped. Her expression and tone held no room for argument, thus setting his nerves to fraying. “Oh, ok, Hermione,” he said calmly. “I’ll… I’ll just… sit,” he plopped back down onto the sofa a bit anxiously.
“Good, yes,” she said as she sat back down, too. Shakily, she ran her hands through her hair, not quite knowing where to begin. “Well, Ron… Draco is…” she trailed off for a moment before trying again, “You see, Draco… well he’s-”
“I’m a werewolf,” Draco announced bluntly.
“What?!” Ron was once again on his feet.
“Draco! What’s wrong with you?” Hermione wailed. She put her head into her hands in exasperation.
“What?” Draco shrugged. “It’s what you were trying to say, isn’t it?”
“Not ruddy like that!”
“It’s true?!” Ron gaped.
“Yes, yes,” Draco flapped a hand, “but don’t go spreading it around will you? As you can see, people tend to react a bit… strongly to it. I’m trying not to make life too difficult for Hermione, you know?”
“Oh, well bravo!” she joked sarcastically. “You’re doing a bang up job of making my day a piece of cake, Draco!”
“Thanks,” he winked, “I thought you might say that.”
“Wait, so… you’re a werewolf?! What in Merlin’s bloody name is going on here? He kidnapped you, you started dating, and now he’s not even human?” Ron could only stare. His eyes looked like they’d pop out of his head.
“Technically, we started dating after I found out he was a werewolf,” Hermione mentioned quickly. Before he could question her on that, too, she said, “Ron, Lupin was a werewolf and you had no problem with him.”
“Sure, but I have a problem with Malfoy, anyway! This just adds to it!”
“Glad to know where we stand, Weasley,” Draco snorted.
“Ronald, if you ever want to know what’s going on, you’d better sit down and put a sock in it,” Hermione couldn’t take arguing with him anymore. She sounded a bit too much like his mother for his liking, and he promptly snapped his mouth shut before falling onto the couch once more.
“Thank you,” she sighed. It was beginning to feel like she was fighting for her life yet again. She took a deep breath, preparing herself mentally and emotionally for the story that would blow her friend’s mind.
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