The blond and brunette were locked in a tight embrace, standing in the light-filled bedroom.
"Hermione," Draco said playfully, as he came up for air.
"You're kissing me like you're ready to jump a cliff or two."
"Maybe, you say. Well, maybe we'd test that theory, if we weren't in your neat-as-a-pin Muggle bedroom."
Hermione giggled and stepped out of the circle of his arms. "I have to finish packing."
He grinned devilishly and followed her around the room with his glinting eyes. "As it is, I'm still tempted to throw you on your pretty, pastel bed...on your pretty, pastel ass."
She turned her head toward his mischievous smirk and gave a tremulous, self-conscious laugh.
"Wha-at?" he asked.
Her cheeks were a little pinker as she said, "You always make me feel undressed, even though I'm fully clothed, and you've never even seen me when I'm not."
He felt a twinge around his heart, remembering who had seen her that way, but covered it by stepping toward her. "Yet," he said positively.
She grinned and said in a small voice, "yet".
Draco took her hands and adopted a more serious tone. "Does it bother you that I've fantasized about you almost daily for so long?"
With her head down, she raised her eyes to look up at him. Draco wondered if the witch knew how seductive she was.
"It doesn't bother me," she said, "but I don't know if I'm fair to you, because I haven't done the same."
Undaunted, he picked up her trunk and followed her out of the room. "Come on, you've never thought about me?"
They reached her living room and he set the trunk in the fireplace. "All of the years we've known each other and become increasingly attractive, and you've never had any...interesting ideas about us?"
Hermione bit her lip and looked around her, making sure her parents weren't in the vicinity. "I have had a recurring dream the last couple of years," she said, seating herself on the sofa across from the fireplace.
"Tell me," he urged with a grin, moving to sit next to her.
Her brown eyes sparkling, she began, "You're lying on a bed and I use a Sticking Charm so you can't move."
"I like it so far. State of undress?"
"Complete," she answered with a smirk.
Draco smiled brightly. "Go on."
"Well, you watch me undress in front of you."
"And then...nothing," Hermione finished, her grin taking on an evil look.
She laughed. "No, I just leave you there writhing. It was a punishment for you and you never did anything that would cause me to stop punishing you."
He gasped in mock shock. "That's just...mean." He moved closer and put his arms around her. "I need to squeeze the mean out of you and encourage kinder thoughts."
With a glossy smile, she pulled his head down for his lips to meet hers, kissing through their teasing.
"Hermione," called her mother, walking into the room and stopping short at the sight of the snog session on her new heather tweed divan.
Draco looked up. "You caught me again, Mrs. Granger."
She smiled tolerantly, her face carrying that pinched look of the perpetual dieter. "Well, you don't seem to be doing anything that Hermione doesn't like."
"Mother," said her daughter, askance, as she extracted herself from the young man's grasp and smoothed her hair.
Mrs. Granger enjoyed tweaking her daughter with just a little more discomfort. "Your mother warned us that you're very enthusiastic about her."
"Yes," Mrs. Granger continued, "she was here last week when you walked Hermione to school."
"So you met her?" asked Draco, sitting up on the edge of the sofa.
"No, I didn't. I was at the office, but Mr. Granger said she was a very nice woman and obviously very proud of you. Didn't she tell you?"
"No," he said slowly, "but I haven't seen her since then."
"Are you ready to go, honey?" asked Thomas Granger, coming into the room.
"Almost," Hermione answered, "Oh, there's another book I wanted to take. I'll have to go look for it."
Draco watched her leave the room then grinned at her parents. "Mr. Granger, Hermione tells me you have a man cave? I was hoping to see it."
Something about the younger man's tone and his steely eyes made Thomas leery. "Of course, this way," he said, raising his arm to indicate the left side of the house.
He led Draco into a much darker room, with several reclining chairs grouped around a large television and a billiards table at the far end. Draco closed the door and swept his wand across it. "Muffliato." He turned to face Thomas with his arms folded over his chest.
"You met my mother?"
Thomas unconsciously moved behind one of the recliners. "Yes, she was trying to follow you and Hermione. She was rather conspicuous, so I suggested that we should talk."
"Talk where?" Draco asked with a definite hardness in his voice.
Thomas felt the change. Draco was no long a suitor for his daughter, eager for her father to like him. He was a powerful young man demanding answers.
"We sat in my car. It was cold, so I thought she'd appreciate the heater."
Draco sneered. "You warmed her up, did you?"
Granger shook his head then moved to the small refrigerator behind him. "Would you like a beer?"
"It's a bit early in the day, isn't it?"
Thomas handed Draco a bottle and sat in one of the recliners with his own. "This is the time of day you chose to bring up the subject."
"Alright," Draco said, magically flicking off the bottle top and sitting in a chair across from Thomas, "What did you and my very beautiful mother discuss, sitting alone in your heated sedan?"
The brown eyes, so similar to his daughter's, squinted. "I don't like your implication, Draco. All we discussed was you and Hermione."
He studied the older man's face for any subterfuge and found none. The text of their conversation had been innocent, if not the subtext. He sighed. "My mother is an alluring and dissatisfied witch. I don't think she would have done anything overt, but if she were attracted to you, she might have unwittingly enchanted you."
"You think she was attracted to me?" Thomas asked, unable to keep the note of hope and excitement out of his voice.
The young wizard glared at him. "Whether she was or not, it is not something you should think of pursuing. I would take that personally."
Thomas returned the stare, refusing to be quelled by the younger man. "My first opinion of you was right; you are dangerous."
"I'll never hurt Hermione," Draco stated, "but I won't hesitate to do damage to anyone who endangers my relationship with her. An association with my mother represents a threat to that and, therefore, to you."
"Well, once again, I think we understand each other," Thomas said, rising from his chair. "Hermione is determined to date you and, as we all know, there's very little I can do about it at this time. But regardless of what you think of me, I'll do anything to protect my daughter, even if it means dying at the hands of the boy who claims to love her. Now that would have a negative effect on your relationship. Don't you think?"
Draco leaned forward in his chair, running his thumb over the droplets on his bottle and wondering whether he was sweating as obviously. He hadn't wanted this confrontation to be so tense, but he'd reacted strongly to the idea that he and Hermione could be affected by what their parents might do. In truth he knew his mother was miserable and wouldn't have minded if she found someone to make her happy. And this was, after all, the man who had raised Hermione. He had to be exceptional.
He looked up at the older man. "Thomas, do you have experience in affairs—the logistics, comfort with the deceit required, the stomach for it?"
Thomas sat back down. "No."
Draco nodded. "Association with the Death Eaters meant a fair amount of debauchery. It was one of Voldemort's early lures for followers. Mother was forced to participate. After that experience, she could use some tenderness, but my first consideration has to be Hermione. I don't want her to be hurt and your being involved with anyone, especially my mother, would hurt her, correct?"
Thomas ran his hands through his sandy curls. "Perhaps." He sighed and took a long swallow from his bottle. "This isn't a conversation I ever expected to have with Hermione's boyfriend."
A warm feeling coursed through Draco. It was the first time that anyone had referred to him as Hermione's boyfriend. He shrugged and explained."In the Pureblood community, some marriages, such as my parents', are still arranged. It makes for a certain...flexibility about love and relationships."
"And that's what you want to bring my daughter into?"
He could see the younger man's resolve and his sincerity and knew Hermione's determination to be with him. His daughter wasn't a normal young woman who would, even symbolically, move from his care to that of her husband's.
He had accepted years ago that she would never need him. Any relationship she continued with him and her mother was strictly by choice. Her life was all about choices, especially now, since she'd helped vanquish the threats to her adopted wizarding world.
Thomas shifted uncomfortably at that thought. It still rankled that she'd been in so much danger and, had not only not felt the need for her father to protect her, but had instead taken him out of harm's way, like an infirm old man.
He'd been trying ever since they'd come back from Australia to reclaim his manhood. Was that part of what fueled his desire for Narcissa? Had she enchanted him? Was it simple, middle-age crisis? Did any of that matter when he couldn't think of anything else?
He looked again at the young man across from him. "I taught her to swim, ride a bike, and to read when she was three. I was the one she cried out for when she had bad dreams."
Thomas stood and walked over to Draco's chair. "No matter what I do, I won't hurt my little girl and I'll do whatever is in my power to make sure no one else does either."
He lowered his bottle and Draco clinked his against it. It wasn't perfect, but they had an understanding.
"Draco, have you two finished bonding? Professor McGonagall is expecting me," Hermione called from the other side of the door.
"We're coming, honey," said Thomas.
Draco put his arm around her as they exited the room. With their good-byes finished, the couple stepped into the fireplace.
"I admire a man who surrounds himself with extraordinary women," Draco said, glancing first at Mrs. Granger then Hermione.
He and Thomas shook hands, the older man having the last word in their meeting of the minds, "Thank you, Draco. So do I."