Chapter 21 : Practice
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Spring had come on quickly, and with Ginny and Harry’s wedding plans taking up everyone’s thoughts, it was easy to forget the drama they’d all endured. Now, with the end of May nearly upon them, and the rigors of teaching for final term mostly behind them, the Professors’ were enjoying a much deserved reprieve.
The wedding was scheduled for the coming weekend at the Weasley homestead. Hermione and Draco had arrived at the Burrow first, having just Apparated near the barley meadow.
“I can’t believe I agreed to stay here,” Draco groaned while he glanced round, looking much out of place among the unkempt gardens.
Hermione was already making her way toward the toppling collection of rooms which served as a house. “It’s just one night, Draco. Really, I think you’ll survive.” I hope I will, she thought. She hoped to be accepted once again into this family that she loved. And she hoped they’d come to accept Draco as well.
“Good grief!” cried Draco. “Don’t they have de-Gnoming services out here in the boondocks?!” He was kicking a small, but persistent Gnome from his pant leg.
“Come on. He’s just a little one,” called Hermione over her shoulder, trying not to snigger. “Just toss a piece of those cinnamon sweets you love so much. He’ll go after that. Everyone knows Gnomes love sweets!” She turned to face him, pointing at her head. “You have to be clever, Draco, like me.”
“Harrumph….” Draco dug into his trouser pocket awkwardly (the Gnome was really tugging), and pulled out the ruby-red wrapper. “My last one. You little bugger… Here!” He teased the sweet under the Gnome’s tiny nose, and then tossed it far and away. At once the Gnome was after it, moving so quickly he was out of sight in an instant.
Hermione couldn’t help but laugh. “See. Cleverness.” She smiled, took his hand and they resumed the short trek to the Burrow.
The two of them banged through the ramshackle side-door that led directly into the kitchen. The smells were wonderful, the room, all a-clutter. Hermione felt like she’d come home.
“Hello, Mrs. Weasley,” Hermione said.
Molly was at the stove. Her caldrons were bubbling away, and she was using her wand to direct the spoons in each pot to stir at different speeds. “Hermione—” came Molly’s short reply; she didn’t look up. Molly then stuck the wand behind her ear, and bustled to the sink to rinse her hands. Only then did she turn to face the pair. “Hello, Draco dear. Well, come in, come in. I’ll show you up to your rooms.” She turned and bustled out of the kitchen.
“Hurry up, now!” Molly called.
“Rooms?” Draco murmured. “As in… separate?”
Draco was in the attic, Hermione was down one floor, in Fred’s old room, directly across from Ron’s. How ironic, thought Hermione as she began unpacking the few things she had brought. She stopped, gazed out the crooked window over the meadow. Wildflowers where everywhere dotting the green field with spots of bright yellow, rusty red and purple. There was a time when she thought her own wedding would be here, and she’d be marrying Ron. That seemed like a million years ago.
At once, arms came around her waist from behind.
“Draco—“ Hermione turned in his embraced. “I’d like to finish unpacking.”
“Is something the matter, my darling girl? You were so looking forward to a long weekend away—practically giddy, actually. Now you seem… glum.”
Hermione pulled from his grasp, crossing the room to fiddle with Fred’s old Quidditch trophies which where collecting dust on an overflowing shelf. She narrowed her eyes. “It’s Molly. Did you see how cold she was to me?” Hermione huffed and crossed back to the bed. She started smoothing the coverlet which didn’t need smoothing in the least. “She barely looked at me, and didn’t even hug me. Stupid old Witch,” Hermione grumbled.
Draco found this quite amusing for he had noticed no such thing. He supposed it was something only woman did—notice things that didn’t happen. “Well, I’m sure she’s just preoccupied with the wedding of her only daughter. Mothers’ of brides tend to be in a quandary, of sorts. Or so I hear.” He sat back against the bedstead, propping a pillow behind his head.
Hermione pursed her lips, then simultaneously pulled them to the left, a strange little habit she displayed while concentrating or mulling something over. “I suppose that could be it,” she conceded. “But it’s not my fault about Ron. Of course, Molly would take her little Ronnie’s side…”
“Come here.” Draco gazed at her intently. “Let me rub your shoulders. I can tell your getting tight just looking at you.”
She compiled, crawled across the bed, and settling between his legs, eased her back to him. His hands began working the knots in her neck and upper back. “I guess I’m being overly sensitive. I have been a bit more emotional lately.”
“Mm hmm,” Draco mumbled with his mouth on the crook of her neck and shoulder. He laid soft kisses there, and behind her ear.
“I mean, why should I care?” She turned to the side.
“Exactly.” Draco swept her shirt up and over her head then pulled off his own. “Turn around,” he said firmly, taking her hand, easing her all the way round to face him. She turned, held both his hands as she rose up on her knees before him, deciding if she should oblige his obvious advances. She watched his eyes sweep over her, lingering at her bare waist, her brassier covered breasts, and her neck. Then he focused on her mouth. There was unquenchable hunger there in his eyes, and his gaze alone made Hermione burn for him.
It was then, in her moment of weakness, that he pulled her down so she was straddled across his lap. “I can’t wait until everyone here sees us, and realizes we’re together.” His words were forceful, but his kiss was tender. He swept his lips across hers lightly, before pressing them hungrily, kissing her more deeply. His fingers wandered up her back to the clasp of her bra.
“Wait.” Hermione pushed lightly at his chest.
“Hermione.” His long fingers laced with her slender ones. He’d said her name with a drawling timber to his voice. The way he drew out the second syllable—she knew what that meant.
Straddling his lap as she was, she could tell how much he wanted her. He leaned in for a second kiss. But Hermione moved away. Her eyes narrowed in a delicate gesture, one that said, if you want me, come and claim me.
Draco regarded her, confused for but a moment, and then made to kiss her yet again. Again, she pulled back, smiling mischievously. Draco looked amused, and gave a throaty chuckle, while he raised his eyebrows. Without a second beat, he seized her head with both hands, holding her still. She closed her eyes and parted her lips, awaiting his violent kiss. Draco moved slowly though, close enough for her to feel the heat from his mouth, but he did not kiss her. Her breath seemed to cease as she waited for what seemed an eternity. Quickly then, he fisted his hands in her curls and pulled her waiting lips to his.
Hermione gave a satisfied moan that was stifled by his ravaging tongue. His hot mouth covered hers, drew heat and lust and desire forth of such magnitudes it was frightening. The ever heightening degrees of need he stirred in her were staggering. She needed to break the kiss, or be consumed by it.
Draco gazed at her lazily, and then nuzzled his nose in the soft waves at her temple. “You’re still playing hard to get, are you?” he whispered against the shell of her ear. He nipped her neck, as his fingers broke the clasp of her bra. “That’s all right. You know I love the chase…”
He’d gotten his way. She leaned away from him, arching her back, giving him a lovely view. “And I love when you catch me,” she managed to whisper before her silenced her with a lusty kiss.
Ron trudged up the many steps of his childhood home to his old room at the Burrow. He was beat, and glad for the time-off from work, even if it was for Ginny and Harry’s wedding. He wasn’t looking forward to seeing Hermione with Draco, but he supposed there really was nothing he could do about it. Like Harry, he was working for the Ministry, but in the Muggle Department, which he hated. His father had pulled some strings to get him the job, but Ron loathed every minute of it. It was boring, mundane, and didn’t interest him in the least.
As Ron approached the landing he heard a musical laugh—one that seemed surprisingly familiar to him. He stopped.
He cocked his head, like an Irish Setter, trying to hear it again. Then he heard a softer sound, like a groan. The sound was erotic, low, and definitely a sound of pleasure.
No, though Ron, that can’t be Hermione. He didn’t believe himself however, so he edged closer to the twin’s old room, straining to hear the delicate feminine murmurings.
There is was again, “I love that… when you do that…”
It was Hermione.
Another voice answered. “Well, in that case… I’d better do it again… and again. And again.”
Ron heard more approving sighs from Hermione., “… touch me… yeah, like that…”
"Blimey!!!", Ron whispered through gritted teeth.
It was too much. Ron’s teaspoon mind could not—would not accept that Hermione was in Fred’s old room with Draco. He had to see for himself. He crept silently to the door, slowly pushed it open, and was blown away by what greeted his eyes.
Hermione was balanced on Draco’s lap, both of them naked from the waist up. Her arms were rested about his shoulders, and his blond head was buried in her cleavage.
Rage ripped through Ron, like a convulsion and gripped his throat like a cheetah on a gazelle, leaving his mouth dangling open, with sputtering gasps spilling forth.
Apparently, they hadn’t even heard him come in, as they just carried on right before his eyes. Malfoy raised his face to Hermione’s and she lowered her lips to his. Ron watched as Draco greedily accepted. They shared a deep, loving kiss. Draco’s hands sailed up her back, and disappeared into the tangles of her chestnut hair. Her soft silly, lovely chestnut curls that Ron would never touch again. Hermione pulled back, gazing at him with a look of love and lust that left Ron’s guts rolling.
Draco’s words were the last straw. “Hermione, I’m going to make you mine…”
“What the BLOODY hell is this!!” screamed Ron.
Draco and Hermione jumped up off of the bed.
Hermione yelped and tried to quickly hide herself behind Draco. “Ron?!?! Oh good god! Don’t you knock?! Get out! GET OUT! GET OUT!!”
Ron yelled back. “Malfoy! What are you doing in my mum and dad’s house— in my dead brother’s room? You… you filthy snake!!” The look on Ron’s bright red face was one of pure, unmitigated frenzy. He lumbered forward just as a strong hand grabbed at him from behind. It was Harry.
“Ron! Don’t,” Harry caught the edge of Ron’s robes and hauled him backward.
Ginny was on him, now, too, pulling his arm, helping Harry to hold him back.
Ron shouted his objections in a flurry of obscenities and incoherent raving.
Hermione squeezed here eyes tight, and hid behind Draco. She could do nothing else, for her bra and shirt lay tossed across the room. She was mortified.
“FUCK!” roared Ron as he tried to break lose form Ginny and Harry.
“Yeah, Weaslbee you idiot”, taunted Draco. We were trying to do just that until you blundered in here, interrupting us!” Draco stood still, shielding Hermione from view. It was this and nothing else which kept Draco from charging Ron and throttling him. Instead, he leered nastily, thoroughly pleased with this little turn of events.
Ron growled. “Harry! Le’me go!”
“Come on, mate,” soothed Harry. “Let’s go on down and have a drink. We can talk things over. Yeah, mate, that’s right. Come on now.
“Ron, will you ever learn to knock?!” shouted Ginny, scowling darkly at Ron.
Together, the betrothed couple successfully pulled Ron from the room. His angry protests could be heard dying away as all three receded down the winding staircase. After a few more moments, all fell silent.
Draco turned back to Hermione. “I’m so sorry that happened.”
She closed her eyes and sighed. “No, I don’t think you are.”
“What?” Draco asked with injury in his voice.
Hermione stared him down. “You certainly didn’t make the situation any easier.”
Draco’s eyes widened with innocence. “Sorry? I’ve done nothing. How can you be angry with me?”
“Really?” Hermione shot back, then mimicked him, ‘Fuck—that’s what we were trying to do Weaslbee’, good grief Draco!”
Draco’s playful demeanor changed. “I want him to back the hell off, Hermione. He’s got no right to interfere with us. I was putting him in his place.”
Hermione crossed the room to retrieve her shirt and yanked it over her head. “You were antagonizing him.”
“So. Do you really care that much about Weasley’s feelings?” Draco frowned as he watched her put her shirt back on.
“Well, yes, actually. I don’t what to hurt someone unnecessarily—even after what he did to me.”
“That’s not what you thought last month at the restaurant… you couldn’t have cared less about his feelings. Unless public humiliation is your way of showing you care.”
Hermione sighed. “I was rip-roaring drunk, Draco. Remember? My goodness, I was pissed beyond comprehension.”
Draco scowled. “No argument there. But, that ruddy git deserves to be antagonized! Who cares about his feelings? He certainly didn’t care about yours. He cheated on you, Hermione!”
“Thanks for reminding me of that, Draco,” she snapped.
Draco exhaled heavily. He hadn’t meant to hurt her, not at all. “I’m sorry. Really. I should have realized you wouldn’t like it. It’s just… I really fucking hate that jumped -up -bastard. Don’t expect me to go skipping though the meadow with him. It’s never going to happen.”
Hermione burst into peels of laughter.
“What now? Hermione, have you gone mad?” Draco frowned, as he watched Hermione grab her sides and flop down on the bed, barely breathing with force of her mirth. “What a visual image that makes! You and Ron… skipping…through the meadow!”
Draco did not find one bit of this amusing. He sighed and waited for her moment of hilarity to dissipate.
Finally, able to breath, Hermione stood still grinning. She went to Draco, put her arms around him, and propped her chin on his chest. “I forgive you. Don’t be angry. I just don’t want to taunt him with our relationship.”
Draco backed up taking her along. He led her back to the bed, and dragged her down on top of him. “I’ll be honest—I do. I want everyone to know you’re mine. Mine and mine alone. He fucked up, so too bloody bad for him.”
Draco whipped her shirt back up over her head and laid hot, wet kisses down her throat, down further…
“I’m not a possession,” she said weakly. She’d wanted that remark to come out sterner than it had.
Draco’s hand was full of one breast, his mouth full of the other. Fingers and tongue teased and played. He paused and said, “What’s wrong with that? Don’t you want to be mine? You know I’m all yours don’t you?”
Before she could answer, he pulled her down, kissing her senseless. Rolling deftly, she was at once beneath him. He divested his trousers, his shorts, and settled heavily between her open thighs. The summery skirt she wore rode up, and all that lay between the two of them was flimsy cotton. Draco slowly moved against her. She moaned at the warm pleasure which rippled through her.
She murmured his name.
“Yes, love, that’s right. Say it, Hermione. Say you’re mine.”
Hermione groaned and rocked in time with his rhythm.
“Say it,” he whispered into her mouth, then took what he wanted, kissing her deeply, swirling his tongue languidly with hers. He whispered hotly around their kiss, “Say you’re mine.”
“I’m yours,” she acknowledged in a wisp of breath.
“Say my name,” he commanded.
“I’m yours Draco, only yours.”
At those words, they became one. “And I’m yours,” he whispered hotly. “You’re the only witch, who’s ever owned my heart… and my soul.”
After the rehearsal, and an uncomfortable meal with Ron and Molly throwing her rancid looks, Hermione decided she and Draco should go back to her flat for the night, and return in the morning for the wedding. This was more than fine with Draco, but he teased her about it.
“Don’t get me wrong, Hermione, I find your flat much more accommodating than the Weasley shanty, but I didn’t have a problem staying there for your sake. In fact, I was rather keen on having that red-headed buffoon hear you scream my name throughout the night….”
“What? You were planning on making me yell at you again?”
“Ha! I was planning on making love to you so skillfully that you cried out my name for more.”
Hermione couldn’t help but smile. True, it was a childish comment, but she was secretly pleased that Draco was trying to make her smile, even if the joke was a crude one.
“Actually, I’m really tired. I think I’ll turn-in early. You don’t mind, do you?”
Draco eyed her. It wasn’t like Hermione to go to bed early. “Are you ill?”
“No. No, I just—it’s the wedding, and that stupid thing with Ron, and then Molly… I’m getting a huge headache and I just want to be well rested for Ginny and Harry’s big day tomorrow.”
“Allight. I’ll be in soon. I just want to go over some of my final examination questions for the Advanced Potions class.”
Hermione kissed him lightly. “Okay. I can’t promise I’ll be awake, though…”
Draco returned the smile, but as soon as she was out of the room, a frown shadowed his face. He was worried. Something felt odd to him. It’d been too long since he’d heard from Snape, and he didn’t like feeling out of the loop. He was concerned for Hermione, as well. She was tense and he couldn’t help but think it was more than Ron and the wedding. He was glad she was still wearing his mother’s pendent. Thinking of the magical jewelry, he glanced down at Albus Dumbledore’s ruby ring. For a moment, he contemplated taking it off, but he knew he shouldn’t. It was the only way the Inner League could contact him.
The last month had seemed surreal. For so long he’d been beholden to an organization that really cared nothing for him, beyond his ability to serve them. And he’d been on pins and needles all school year, looking for that damn Potions Book, waiting for word from Snape, or anticipating Pansy to show herself again. But now, it seemed as if he’d been forgotten by the lot of them. It was a welcome respite, but the longer it went on the more suspicious Draco became. He had an inkling that the Order was using him, and wasn’t so sure he wouldn’t be prosecuted for treason based on his past actions at Hogwarts and his involvement in Dumbledore’s murder. It was the Order that arranged his current job, and the Inner League that protected him from a Ministry tribunal. All along Draco felt Snape alone made sure he wasn’t completely taken advantage of, but now he wondered what Snape was on about? Draco had wondered more than once if Snape was really as loyal as he would have them believe. Snape had shown himself as a turncoat in the past. Draco just hoped he wasn’t left hanging out to dry. Especially now that he had Hermione. He couldn’t bare it if he had to go to prison and leave her behind, leave his hopes and dreams behind. It had been so very long since he had allowed himself to hope, to dream of a future.
Before long, his contemplations melded into dreamy thoughts, and he fell asleep right there on the sofa.
“Draco! We’re going to be late!”
Draco rubbed his still closed eyes. Had he really fallen asleep on this tiny settee? The spasm-like pains in his neck and lower back told him that he had, indeed.
“Oh, hell,” he grumbled and unfolded himself from the cramped position. “What time is it?”
Hermione popped her head out round the archway of the sitting room. “Time for us to go… Oh gosh, I’m the Maid of Honor for pity’s sake.” She disappeared again and he heard the bathroom door slam.
He stretched mightily and trudged down the narrow hall to the closed door. “Hey, I need to get in there if we’re going to be on time. Hermione?”
It took an unusually long time for her to answer and when she did her voice was clipped. “I—I just need… to—to finish up so I can Apparate straight away. You can show up any time after you get ready.”
That sounded fine to Draco. Maybe if he played it right, he could miss all the nuptials and arrive in time for the celebrating with Fire Whiskey. He stumbled to her room and plopped down face first. He was snoozing in seconds.
“Draco,” came a gentle voice, a cooing voice. “Draco, I’m going. Get up and dress, I expect to see you at least at the reception, you know.”
He opened one eye. Then the other. Above him hovered an angel. Her luminous skin was pale and perfect, dusted with pink on her cheek, and lips. Her brown eyes where deep and warm and full of the most amazing… something. He had no word to describe it. Her corkscrew curls glistened with sable and chestnut, gathered in a low, side ponytail. She was magical. He’d never seen her look more beautiful. “Hermione, what is it?”
She smiled and frowned at all once. “What do you mean?”
“You’re…” he reached up, compelled to touch her, to see if she was real. He leaned up on an elbow. “You’re radiant. What’s happened?”
She laughed softly. “You’re silly. I must go—but you’ve got to get ready.” She knelt closer and kissed his face. “I love you.” She crossed the room, looking back only once. “See you later.”
And then she was gone. It had seemed a dream. But for the fact that he was awake. Draco heaved himself up and into the bath. After a good soak, and tea and toast he was dressed and ready. In the washroom, he checked his look in the mirror. He looked ravishing if he did think so himself, and he suddenly felt excited to greet his lovely girlfriend. “Looking good, ole’ boy,” he told himself.
As he turned to go, something on the basin caught his eye. It wasn’t a wand, but some kind of stick. Draco picked it up, examining it. It was white with tiny windows, with blue lines in them. His eyes widened as realization dawned. It was a muggle pregnancy test. For a moment he had the sensation that his head floated above his body. Could it be? he thought. Was Hermione carrying his child? Their child? In another instant a feeling of joy and pride so powerful rose in him like a wave it nearly knocked him down. His eyes filled with tears and he couldn’t help it, even as they spilled over and ran down the sides of his nose. He had to see her, now. He had to be with her immediately. Merlin! He had to hold her, touch her, protect her. He was going to be a father. He would do it right. He would be a father Hermione could be proud of. Forgetting he was a wizard, dropped the stick and ran out of the bathroom out of the flat and stopped. Wait. I’ll just Disapperate, he thought dumbly. Outside on the stoop, he locked and warded the door. When he turned to find an inconspicuous apparition point he was surprised to see Hermione standing nearly on top of him.
“Hermione!” He suddenly found he couldn’t speak the words her wanted. “What are you doing? I thought you’d gone an hour ago.” Draco scowled, thoroughly confused. Something wasn’t right here. She looked… different. “Why aren’t you dressed for the wedding?”
Hermione smiled eerily and moved to embrace him.
“Hermione?” Too late, Draco realized his mistake. Before he could reach his wand or even utter a word, the Hermione doppelganger turned quickly, Disapparating them both straight away.
In seconds he smelled it. The dank mossy smell of a cellar. The spell came quickly, binding his hands and feet, and his eyes. He was yanked up, and smacked hard against a damp stone wall. He heard the faint pants of his own breath, and the thunderous thuds of his heart racing hard against his ribcage. “Who are you? What do you want?”
No reply met his feeble questions. At once his head was jerked back, and a vial pressed to his lips. He struggled against his binds, trying in vain to keep from swallowing the liquid. “Veritaserum?” Draco choked around the nasty tasting potion. “Who are you?! Did the Inner League send you? Answer me, coward?” Draco’s mind was reeling and the panic he felt not knowing where the real Hermione was, or if she and his baby were okay, made him nearly mad with worry.
This time a low chuckled rumbled through the cellar. Draco’s blindfold was torn away and he was stunned to see Hermione’s image standing before him. The double’s perfect rosebud lips curled into a nasty sneer and the small delicate hand raised a vial to those lips. Draco watched in horror as the wavy, russet locks smoothed and turned white; the lovely face grew older, longer, creased, and the shapely feminine form grew taller, bulkier.
Draco shuttered violently then as he realized his predicament.
“Hello, son,” said Lucius. “It’s been far too long…”