Ready for Ralph

The box elder bug seeking refuge in the warm hotel would have been so easy to zap with his wand, but Draco preferred watching it, as he lay with his hands behind his head, mulling over what had just happened downstairs with Hermione.

All these years, he said to himself, I've waited for a chance with her and I finally get it. She likes me in spite of herself. But she's not comfortable with me. Part of her still sees me as the brat I was in school and a Death Eater.

He glanced at his arm where he'd received the sign of the Dark Lord just a little past his 16th birthday and, as the youngest recruit, a deadly assignment to kill Headmaster Dumbledore. The task had dominated his sixth year at Hogwarts, Voldemort's threat to kill his mother Narcissa weighing daily on his mind.

"May you slowly rot in Hell," he cursed Voldemort, not for the first time.

There was a knock at his door. "What?" he called out grumpily.

"It's Hermione. May I come in?"

Still staring at the black insect, he challenged her. "I have enchanted locks on the door. If you can break through them, you can come in."

It took her a few minutes but eventually, Hermione stood before him and he felt his anger melting. Those big brown eyes and delicate features, coupled with the strong, no-nonsense jawline, got him every time.

"I'm sorry, Draco," she said in a soft voice, "I didn't mean to hurt your feelings."

He snorted and returned his gaze to the elder bug, approaching its ceiling destination. "Malfoys don't have hurt feelings," he said in a monotone. His eyes slanted to her. "But I want you to answer one question. Have you and Weasley shagged?"

She quickly looked down, nervously twisting her wand in her hand. "That's a very personal question, isn't it?"

"It's a very simple one—yes or no," he answered shortly.

Hermione took in his long, lean frame, stretched over the length of the bed. "Yes, but..."

He sighed heavily. "So you've gone that far with him, but you're not even comfortable with me kissing you."

She looked so serious and torn. He wasn't as angry as he sounded. He really was rather hurt, though he'd never admit it.

"I need to explain," she said, sitting next to him on the bed.

He raised one knee. "Go ahead."

Again Hermione found his presence and scent disconcerting, but she took a deep breath and began. "With Ron, it was a natural progression. We'd known each other so long and been through so much together, it was something nice to share."

Draco felt jealousy knotting in him with her explanation, loosening slightly when she described the experience as simply "nice".

Her downcast eyes suggested timidity as she continued, "But contact with you is different. I feel as if I'm jumping from one cliff to another. The jump is thrilling and it's so good when I reach the other side."

He smiled at her analogy and touched her arm, and felt the shiver.

"Still, I know the more I jump, at some point I'm going to fall. I don't know what that will be like but it makes me...cautious, even more so than I usually am," she said with a small laugh.

He sat up next to her, leaning on his arms and enjoying the discomfiture he felt in the young woman whom he'd always thought was so collected, and enjoying the fact that he was the cause of it.

"Then you're not uncomfortable because of my past? You're not ashamed to be with me?"

"Is that what you thought?" Hermione asked, her eyes wide with surprise. "No, actually, you would have more reason to be uncomfortable with me for that." She shrugged. "At least my family doesn't know our history. Imagine what your parents would say if they saw us together. For all that your father's been giving interviews about their overcoming their prejudices..."

"You're right," he interrupted her. "It's sugar-coated rubbish."

They smiled at each other in understanding.

"I just need a little time to...adjust to you," Hermione said, feeling tingly from his closeness and the intensity of his gaze. "You stir me."

Her words delighted him. "Hmmm, so I need to ease you into familiarity with me," he said, smirking and lifting an eyebrow, "until you're...ready for Ralph."

With a nervous little laugh, Hermione asked, "Do I detect a double entendre?"

"You do," he answered matter-of-factly, leaning toward her for a mostly chaste kiss. "Well?"

"Nice," she said in a half-whisper.

He put his arms around her and drew her in for a deeper kiss, subtly licking her lips, then rubbing the back of her neck. "Too much?

"Still good," she said, slowly shuttering her eyes.

He fell back on the bed, pulling her on top of him.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, as his hands glided down her back to her rear.

His breath was labored as he asked, "Do I have to stop?"

"No," she answered, pressing her mouth on his.

With a little growl, he rolled so that he was hovering over her, testing the limits on the front of her body. She seemed to lock her muscles below her waist.

He snickered. "Well, there's no question of my boundary."

"Can you be satisfied with that for now?" Hermione asked, twisting to her side and raking her fingers in his soft, blond hair.

"I think so. I'm glad you've allowed me...access to your ass," he said, lightly tracing that part of her body with his fingertips. "I'm quite fond of it."

"You are?" she asked, her cheeks pinking.

He nodded with a grin. "Did you know it tenses when you're angry or nervous, like now," he said, feeling a gentle firming. "And wriggles a little when you're happy or excited, like now," he added, in response to the sudden, faint tremor under his fingers.

"Draco," she chided.

His grin widened at her fluster. "I can tell you about the way your buds harden noticeably, even under your school robe, when you walk in a drafty room...and how good I've become at controlling drafts in the Great Hall."

"You're incorrigible."

"I can tell you other things," he relented. "There's your tiny, secret smile, right at the corners," he said using one finger on her mouth, "when grades are passed out and you see you've gotten another O. It's like you're biting the inside of your mouth to keep from breaking out in a big, boastful smile."

Hermione demonstrated the big smile for him. Draco's expression became more serious. "We've always been together; you just didn't know it."

She rose up on her elbow. "Do you want to hear my observations of you?"

"Are they all horrible?" he asked, moving his hand down her body and rocking it back and forth in the curve of her side.

"No. At the Yule Ball I couldn't help noticing what an elegant dancer you were."

"Thank you," he responded, hoping there was more.

She smirked. "Well, let's face it. In fifth year you were a total arse, with Umbridge's Inquisitorial Squad and all."

He rolled his eyes and sighed. "Yes, not a shining moment for me."

"After that though," Hermione continued, "you were so intense. I couldn't help looking at you, even with everything that was going on with me. Your emotions were right on the surface. That's nearly irresistible. No wonder you pulled so many girls that year."

He lowered his eyes. "Well, I had to do something to release that tension or I would have gone mad. I almost did anyway."

"Did you take girls to the Room of Requirement?"

He nodded. "Not where I was working on the Vanishing Cabinet. I created a romantic little space, but I only used it a few times." He looked back up at her. "I almost invited you there once. Would you have come with me?"

With a firm expression, she shook her head no.

Draco grinned at her honesty. "Would you come now?"

"Would you still respect my boundaries?"

"Always," he said. "And I'll catch you when you're ready to jump another cliff."

Even a very experienced woman would find such a statement hard to resist, and Hermione was far from very experienced. She moved closer to him, succumbing to her desire for his kiss.

Her bracelet jangled with her movements and, unnoticed by either of the young people, the sapphire and ruby began glowing. From deep in Hermione's psyche, her ancestor witches signaled their approval of Draco. They guided her in nibbling his neck and whispering his name and touching him, until he was groaning in response and squeezing her tighter. They told her when to stop.

"I should go back to my parents," she said breathily.

He closed his eyes and sighed, clearing his head. "Right," he said with a husky voice, lifting himself from her and lying by her side, "you need to go and alter their memories, before I alter your clothes."

Giggling, she rose from the bed. "I'll see you in a few hours." She leaned over him for a goodbye kiss.

I won't say I love her. It's too soon, Draco said to himself. Of course, I've been working up to it for years now and that was before I knew how lovely she was to hold, and just be with. But I won't say it.

"I..." he said hesitantly, cradling her face in his hands, as he sat up in bed, "I'm addicted to you."

She smiled down at him.

"I can't get enough of you," he said, staring into her eyes, "and I want so much more."

She bit her lip. "I better go while I still can."

"...and while I'll still let you," he finished with a grin.

She Disapparated from the room. Draco lay back, much happier than he had been in the same position before Hermione's visit. He saw that the insect had reached the ceiling and was now scurrying over its surface. "Well done, you," he congratulated the creature, feeling a sense of good will to all, as he closed his eyes.

In her room Hermione also lay down for a nap. Outside forces seemed to be controlling hers and Draco's thoughts, as the emerald added its glow to the other gems and they caught fire from each other.

Beautiful and brilliant, our boy, Draco heard in his head. She is someone we would have chosen centuries ago, before that upstart Salazar and his purity nonsense. She is worthy and will soon be ready.

In their separate rooms, Draco and Hermione shared a dream. They held and explored each other, undressed and loving, then voracious, then playful and finally, spent.

"Bonnie Jean," Draco said upon awakening as he stretched and eagerly leapt from the bed.

Hermione's mother witches still spoke to her. You're ready, dear. Her skin was flush and her eyes sparkled. Her smile was lascivious. You're ready for...

She rose lazily and sighed, "...ready for Ralph."

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