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The Captive's Dream by Elysium

Format: Short story
Chapters: 5
Word Count: 17,003
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Contains profanity, Mild violence, Scenes of a sexual nature

Genres: Humor, Romance, Action/Adventure
Characters: Harry, Hermione, Draco, Fred, George, Ginny, OC
Pairings: Draco/Hermione, Harry/Ginny, Other Pairing

First Published: 10/12/2011
Last Chapter: 05/20/2015
Last Updated: 05/20/2015

Summary:




When Hermione agrees to try out the Weasley twin’s newly renovated Patented Daydream Charms, she doesn’t expect her irksome co-worker to join her on the adventure. Nor does she expect the impact of their sojourn to Regency Era England to bleed into reality.
 


Chapter 1: Volume I
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Author Note: I've been meaning to upload this for ages now, and finally got around to it. It's a five part story that was written for the Reverse Challenge at Hawthorn & Vine. It was the runner up for Best Kiss and was also nominated for six other categories:  Best Romance, Best Adventure, Best Draco, Best Hermione, Most Original and Favourite Story.

The story is finished so you don't have to lament my terribly lax updating with regards to this! It's a little bit silly and whimsical, but was a lot of fun to write. And a final note, the title comes courtesy of the poem "The Captive's Dream" by Anne Bronte. 

  




 

 

The last errant noises from Ministry personnel leaving their offices had faded out; this was hardly very surprising given that the clock had just struck seven on a Friday evening. Hermione Granger was well aware that she ought to have packed it in for the night along with her co-workers but had, not for the first time, elected to stay on.

This was a recurring situation as Hermione was rather prone to throwing herself into work to the detriment of any social life. Her friends rolled their eyes at such unhealthy dedication, but she couldn’t help herself. Not only was her job serving a greater purpose, but she really didn’t enjoy the solitary nights at home when all was quiet. Perhaps it was a hangover from the war, and the demise of her relationship with Ron, but she never quite got used to sleeping on her own in an empty house with no one around. She would never tell anyone that of course; she rather hated the thought of pitying stares and people thinking her less than able. But she was only human.

In any case, there was something about this small space, her office, which imbued her with comfort. It was her domain, not dictated by other people or other things. Everything else she had ever achieved had somehow not been her own. Sure, she’d been lauded at school but she had always been that Muggle-born girl that was smart, or Harry Potter’s friend. Here, however, she was just Hermione Granger, and she was making a difference.

Although her circumstances were unusual, and certainly not what she would have forecast when she was younger, she enjoyed the working environment even in spite of one colleague in particular. Or perhaps—and this thought only ever occurred to her in fleeting moments that she later put down to a combination of insomnia and momentary derangement—he contributed somewhat to the aforementioned enjoyment. That said, she would rather face a Blast-Ended Skrewt head on than ever confess such a thing to him. The backlash would be intolerable. Draco Malfoy would hold that kind of information over her forever.
 
Hermione leaned back in her stiff chair, glancing at the ceiling cornices as she thought of her ever vexing colleague. Malfoy was a student at Hogwarts in the same year as her. In fact, he was someone about whom she had been wholly aware during her entire schooling education. It was funny, if one stopped to reflect, how that had been the case ... for there were so many other students who could have come across her path and yet it was always him. His incessant need to make her, Harry and Ron as miserable as possible saw to this fact. She had only known him as the vile, purist he purported to be. She knew now that there was somewhat more to him than that, though he tried his very best to conceal this fact.

In his own way, slow and unassured, he had taken steps during the war and since which had shown a certain reluctance to follow the path laid out for him. He hadn't been brave the way Harry was, but she had come to realise over time that his questions and his doubts meant something also. It meant a possibility of change. It meant hope, for him at least. Of course, she hadn't really given any of this, or him, much consideration until he was thrust more permanently into her line of sight.

Malfoy had joined the Department of Magical Law Enforcement alongside Hermione as part of restitution for the crimes he was involved in. Placing someone with a known criminal past in such a role might have seemed an absurd decision at the time, but there was a method in the madness. Although it was known that he was very young when he joined the Death Eaters, and that he had not physically carried out the unsavoury task with which he was burdened, it was agreed that some punishment for wrong decisions and the repercussions had been important. Kingsley Shacklebolt had personally seen to it that Draco was placed with Hermione, upon her transfer to this department, so that he could have a hand in undoing the wrongs of himself and his forebears. He had, shockingly, taken it in his stride. Or at least, she reflected, far better than one would have expected. But then it was easy to make that assessment now: two years down the track when most of the horrid discomfort had faded.

The job involved the rewriting of old pro pure-blood laws. Since wizarding law was bound by magic, it was not necessarily up to the Wizengamot to pass all judgement. There were still some early dated laws that existed to this day and they had consequences of which most people were wholly unaware. It involved a lot of research, hours poring over books and debating issues. Hours for which they were cooped up together. That kind of close contact had an effect on a relationship, even if the two parties involved were disinclined to admit as much.

Although she would never profess that he was anything other than extraordinarily stubborn, prone to unnecessary rudeness and unutterably arrogant, she found he had a few redeeming qualities. His unexpectedly droll sense of humour never failed to catch her unawares, though she tried her very best not to laugh as it still seemed a sort of concession that she wasn't sure she ought to make. Her surprise at him engaging her in any kind of banter was understandable because, frankly, as a child his idea of humour had been entirely without wit.

He was intelligent, though she had never really thought of him as especially academic. More than that though, it was his sharpness and the fact that he was so well read which amazed her. Having been surrounded by boys who considered watching the numbers change on a Quidditch scoreboard as reading, she would never have guessed Malfoy to be anything different.
 
She supposed that was in part due to the fact that he always called her a know-it-all or bookworm at school ... and to think he had harboured similar—although perhaps with less vigour—tendencies all along. When she asked him about it one late night at the office, he had glanced at her without responding for a moment, as he was wont to do, before deigning to indulge her curiosity. He didn’t always though. Indeed, much of the time he ignored her entirely. She suspected this was because he knew that nothing vexed her more. In any case, he told her that though she liked to broadcast her knowledge as a way of proving a point she was unaware she was trying to prove, it was simply an expectation of him that he be well read. She had never viewed it that way.

Those moments and throw away comments gave her an unhindered glimpse into what it must have been like to be raised a Malfoy, a pure-blood in a world increasingly unconcerned about that fact.
 
He intrigued her, even when she knew that no good could come from such a fascination. It was just that he was so strange: in his mannerisms, the things he said, the way he looked. Indeed, she had become increasingly conscious of the latter, and of her own awareness of that fact.

She couldn't be blamed though; she put it down to that strangeness. After all, Hermione Granger had always been one to study what she couldn't fully comprehend.

He wasn’t like other men, handsome and regular. There was nothing regular about the man. He had a cool refinement and aristocratic hauteur in his carriage which both fascinated and incensed her all at once. It was the unusually seraphic quality to his features that made her glance when he wasn't looking. The fair colouring and piercing ash-like gaze in a face that was all lines and harsh angles made him look like one of the painted angels she had seen in church when she was little. He looked unearthly. There were times when she would get distracted by this fact, and an almost imperceptible curve would form upon his lips and his unwavering gaze would meet her own for a split second longer than necessary. She wondered, in those moments, at his thoughts beyond the carefully concealed expression.

She never knew of course. Usually he would break the moment with an insulting or sarcastic comment about her or some aspect of her life. He held the curious belief that he was entitled to run commentary on her but that she could not reciprocate.

Hermione closed her eyes and blew the curls off her forehead. She knew why she had waited back tonight; she wanted to spend some time in his company. She wasn’t sure why that was exactly. After all he wasn’t really very likable, but there was something about the way her spine tingled and the confusion of his words that always made her feel at her most alert around him. Even when this was accompanied by an almost irrepressible urge to clobber him with a nearby blunt object. The air became suffocating and every uttered syllable was part of a convoluted and compelling word game between the two.

It was only two nights earlier though, as they argued over one of the intricacies in an Act they were looking to overturn, when the dynamic had changed. He had called her stupid and ignorant, and she suggested that perhaps he didn’t want the laws overturned, that he might still be the prejudiced git he had ever been and that he was just a very good actor.

He’d reached over and pulled her up out of her seat, a cool hand gripping her chin and tilting her upwards as he leaned his head down to look at her. His grip on her wrist was firm and his thumb brushed over her pulse point.

“You think I’d touch you at all if that was the case?”

The fierceness in his expression, and the clenching of his jaw as he spoke had shocked her. And despite what he said, it was strange, because he never touched her in even the most fleeting accidental way. She was alarmed that he would do or say anything to change the status quo. They never went that personal; they were always too scared to. Or at least she was. She couldn’t quite say what the reasoning was for him. They stuck to the bickering, the biting remarks and the competitiveness because it was what they knew ... it was safe in a situation that somehow was not.

He had watched the bobbing of her throat as she swallowed, before releasing her to recollect his previously unrattled composure. He’d excused himself then, and she was left with the searing feeling of his skin against her wrist and a whole lot of uncertainty. She hadn’t been quite sure how she would handle their next encounter, as something had seemed to shift that night. Yet her concern proved unfounded. He acted as though nothing had changed, and showed no acknowledgement of the discomfort she felt at his behaviour. But he hadn’t stayed back late the night before. She had, there was much to do and she would rather be there than at her house.

It would seem he wasn’t staying back tonight either.

Turning her attention back to her desk, Hermione shuffled some of the paperwork before her when a loudly coloured package came loose. Brow furrowed in curiosity, she unwrapped it quickly and a wry smile curved upon her lips as she realised what it was.

Hermione had made a promise to Fred and George only days before, at the Weasley Sunday dinner, that she would take a look at their latest invention. It wasn’t so much a new product as it was a revamped one. They had released the original edition of the Patented Daydream Charms while she was still at Hogwarts. She had been impressed by their ingenuity at the time as well as the magical prowess the item had required to create. The original charm, however, had been a generic one. It made the person transport into a lifelike dream sequence which had in reality only lasted half an hour or so.

The new version, however, was apparently tailor-made to the individual. When she had quizzed them on how it was possible to do so when they were mass produced, Hermione had received the typical Weasley twin grin. According to them the magic lay in its ability to access the landscape of one’s mind. The charm drew on people and experiences and inferred the information, applying it to the dream. That way it would feel as though it really was real.

Hermione had been utterly fascinated at their ability to do this and had readily agreed to try it out. She knew it had been through all its testing phases, but the twins liked to bounce things off her when they could because of her refreshingly frank opinion. They had told her, quite cheekily, that if she enjoyed it she could consider it an early birthday present. Hermione twisted the small box in her hand, and grinned rather mischievously.

“Whatever that look is about, it can’t be anything good.” She jumped at the low voice which interrupted her thoughts, and then cursed the combination of relief and eagerness at seeing him.

Draco Malfoy stood against the door frame, his tall and lithe form taking up much of the space there. There was something about his ability to dwarf a room, particularly one as small as this, with his presence that always caught her off guard.

“Uh,” she said, flustered because he had startled her, but he took it to mean she was up to something shifty. “Nothing really ... just something from a friend.”

Her vagueness had clearly piqued his curiosity for he uttered a swift Accio and then held the small box firmly in his grip. “Playing around with Weasley merchandise, I see. Never took you for someone who enjoyed fun, Granger.” He quirked a brow at her.

She quelled the urge to huff at his baiting and the fact that he used underhand trickery to take the object from her. “What I do for fun is none of your business.” She tried to ignore the amused look on his face, which suggested he had taken her comment exactly the way a male would. “I promised the twins I would try it out for them.”

“Granger,” he said in the condescending tone of one addressing a delinquent child, “this is an old product. Have you been hallucinating that people need you again?”

She chose to ignore the temptation to throw something at him. “It’s an old concept, but actually this one here is a new version ... they’ve spruced it up a bit. They said it’s much more advanced magic now … it’s supposed to have added features …”

He lifted a brow, which seemed to suggest his renewed interest. “What kind of … features?”

He was looking at her rather intently and she found it entirely too distracting. “They’re … uh … more personalised, I think. Fred said that they draw on your own memories and so on … so they include places and people that—‘

He cut her off. ‘They really were the only useful ones of the Weasley brood.’

She rolled her eyes in response to that. Malfoy liked to make digs at her friends whenever possible, with a particular enjoyment derived from those directed at Ron.

‘So,’ he continued before looking up from the small box, ‘do they actually work?’

‘Well if you’d give it back to me I could find out, couldn’t I?’ Her arms were crossed indignantly before her.

She watched him peer inside the small box and pull out two slips of parchment. ‘Two per box.’ He grinned. ‘Shall we?’

She flushed just a little bit because it seemed a rather intimate thing to sit there with him and be caught up in a daydream. ‘I don’t think—’

‘Actually,’ he interrupted, ‘your problem is that you do, prodigiously and to the great detriment of any fun. What are you afraid of, Granger? I won’t see what naughtiness goes on in your head.’ The grin which unfurled across his features was distinctly indecent, and she was so caught in the blinding whiteness of it that she quite forgot to respond. His grin grew wider still.

She coughed. ‘Don’t be a prat, Malfoy. I’m afraid of nothing … and anyway these things are designed for children … so there’ll be no …’

‘Naughtiness?’ he supplied quite unhelpfully.

‘Right.’

He handed her one slip of parchment and leaned back in his chair, tugging the collar of his robes loose. She eyed him uncomfortably.

‘Uh, what are you doing?’

He looked up at her and continued the removal of his robe. ‘What ... Merlin, don’t get your knickers in a twist!’ He watched her narrow eyed expression. ‘I’m not planning to strip down in your bloody office, Granger … it’s just quite warm—that’s all.’ He folded the robe over the back of his chair and sat down again, his crisp pants pristine. She found the way he pushed the soft fabric of his jumper up his forearms distracting.

She declined following suit, and sat straighter than she had a minute before. He seemed to notice this and a trace of his trademark smirk quirked his lips. The way he constantly made assumptions about what she was thinking irked her to no end. The fact that he was so frequently correct in his assumptions was even worse.

Hermione glanced at him to find his eyes on her once more. She inclined her head toward the slip of paper, muttering the incantation under her breath as she did so.

As the last syllable was uttered, Hermione glanced around the small office watching the fibres of space start to shimmer and dissolve into darkness. Warmth and quiet wrapped around her like a cocoon, and it wasn’t until the silence was rent by a loud roar of malicious laughter that she opened her eyes. 
  


 

 


Chapter 2: Volume II
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Even before she opened her eyes, the clear smell of open country air hit her nostrils. What followed was the realisation that she was not, in fact, in her bed, as she could generally expect to be. Her back was propped against a wooden interior wall, and she could feel the same texture on the seat beneath her. She was also acutely aware of the stinging sensation when she moved her wrists, and upon finally opening her eyes to gaze about, she realised that they were rather harshly bound.

Lady Harmony Garner was not at all surprised to find herself in the small space afforded by the post-chaise. The crunching of stone and dirt beneath the wheels of the carriage had alluded to this fact. She was, however, rather disconcerted to find that she was not alone. A young man, most likely her assailant, was seated opposite her in the far corner of the chaise, and very much asleep.

A swelling sense of panic bubbled deep within, and Harmony tried her very best to soothe her anxiety with the swiftness for which the situation called. Her focus became the act of clearing all cobwebs from her mind; it was imperative that she establish just how she had come to be where she now was. She did not get on at all. Indeed, all she could recall was kissing her father’s papery fine cheek, wishing him luck on his venture, and going straight to bed.

It was clear then that this man, she turned to cast her gaze upon him, had removed her quite literally from the luscious folds of her bed, and thrown her unceremoniously into a carriage. Her contempt built rapidly.

The windows of the carriage were concealed by a heavy plum drapery, preventing her from gauging the hour. Harmony pushed her shoulders back and inched ever closer to the window, lifting her wrists to brush the fabric back. She was greatly relieved to see that the sky beyond was still a blanket of inky darkness. That meant, she surmised, that they had not travelled far.

She could only hope then that her nurse maid would uncover the truth and send word for her father and his men swiftly. Once they did, the uncouth individual who had dared to abduct her would very much regret that decision. Yet, in spite of the confidence she felt at such a rescue, fear still burned like a fire in her throat and she struggled to pull oxygen to her lungs.

She took a deep breath and assessed the situation. Harmony was still dressed in her night clothes, but she wore her ermine-trimmed pelisse in order to preserve her modesty. Of all the indignity, she thought. The young woman cast her dark eyes toward the still figure of the sleeping man.

He was a contrast to the heavy darkness. The man wore full black clothing—the better for stealth, she presumed—from his worn boots, to his heavy coat. His breeches too were black, but she averted her eyes quickly from straying in that direction. It was his skin which caught her attention. It was the shade of palest milk, disturbingly soft in appearance. His hair, ghostly in hue, was bound from his face by a ribbon at the nape of his neck.
 
The shadows in the carriage gave him a sinister sort of beauty, deepening the hollows of his cheekbones, and showing the strong line of his nose. When Harmony’s gaze fell upon his lips, a wave of heated embarrassment suffused her skin. If truth be told, she could not help but think that were circumstances different, were he some lovely and polite gentleman as opposed to her unscrupulous abductor, she might very well have been pleased to dance with him at an assembly.

This was all frivolous, in any case, as she felt rather confident in her assertion that he was not a regular attendee at the balls of St James’ Court. She most certainly would have recognised such a man if he were. She surveyed him once more, determined to find some indication of his intent, or his identity. Her success was entirely non-existent. The make of his clothing suggested Quality, and yet the carriage in which they travelled was far too simple to be of fashion.

The indignation surged again, a pulse that ran thickly in her veins. This man, she thought, whoever he was, had been audacious enough to remove her from her chambers and escort her into the countryside in her undergarments. Her father would have his head once they were discovered. Pity it was such a handsome one at that. After all, it was much easier to perceive villainy in the unattractive.

Such musings came to a halt upon the young woman realising, with both relief and trepidation, that the carriage had slowed its pace. It was, she acknowledged, the most likely opportunity she would find for an escape. Harmony eyed the young man once more, noting the way his head rested against the side panel of the coach, and his long legs sprawled carelessly before him.

The item, however, which caught her interest most in this second perusal of his form, was the glint of metal which caught the dull sliver of moonlight peering through the crack in the curtains. Harmony knew that if she were to have any hope of success in this venture, she would need to sever the ropes tied about her wrists. Relieving the young man of the blade he kept securely at his hip was the most viable option she had.

So, after taking a deep and calming breath, she inched toward him, taking much care not to lose her footing in the moving vehicle. The leather pouch, in which the blade was encased, was mere inches from her fingertips. She cast a quick glance back toward his face, ensuring that he was indeed still sleeping. Her fingers carefully grazed the leather, brushing the draw strings before a strong hand trapped her own against a solid and very warm thigh.

Harmony’s eyes flew upward to clash with the mercurial gaze now fixed upon her.

‘I must say, you are rather forward for a lady of Quality, after all ... we’ve not yet been introduced.’ The words were uttered in a lazy drawl of unconcern, and coupled with a look of sheer smugness, both of which were clearly intended to make her gasp in shock.

She did.

The insinuation by this heathen was appalling, and very un-gentlemanly, even for a kidnapper. Upon his release of her hand, now seared from the curious heat of him, she threw herself into the far corner of the carriage. Her head raised with as much hauteur as she could muster.

‘You know perfectly well that I was reaching for your blade.’ She paused to assess him before continuing, disdain colouring her every word. ‘I presume you are the one responsible for this.’ She raised her arms in reference to their bindings.

‘Actually,’ he said, ‘you can blame your father for your present situation. He had other options ... he elected not to take them.’

She raised a brow and her response was scathing. ‘But of course ... when one does not get his own way, it is natural the next recourse is to remove an innocent woman from her bedchambers!’

The man turned his head, lifting the fold of fabric over the window in order to divine their location. It vexed her excessively to know that she was being ignored. The man, whose name she did not yet know, would begin to realise that she did not defer to people like him, and she certainly would never accept being disregarded quite so blatantly.

Sir,’ she said, her tone clearly denoting she felt he deserved no such address, ‘I demand to know why I have been treated thus. Do you know who I am? My father will—’

‘Your father will comply with my demands or he will never see his daughter again.’ He turned his silver gaze upon her, causing her skin to tighten and tingle. ‘And regardless of who you are, Lady Garner, you should remember that you are at my disposal. Quite literally, if you continue to talk so incessantly.’

He turned his head back toward the window. Her gaze narrowed at him, despite the underlying threat in his words. Harmony had never really mastered the skill of being silent. Her mother was forever admonishing her for her cheek.

‘Will you, at the very least, tell me the name of my abductor?’ She pushed her shoulders back, sitting with perfectly straight posture and a look of cultivated disdain lighting her features.

He sighed in aggravation. ‘At the risk of indulging your whims, I’ll deign this once ... for fear that you shall never tire otherwise.’ He arched a brow in daring at her, and she rather felt he saw through the hauteur. ‘I am Lord Darius Marfly, unimportant enough to be of no concern to either yourself or your forebears. I do, however, defer to someone who is. Lord Tòmas Ryder.’

She gasped at the name uttered, and realisation struck her. Lord Tòmas Ryder was an enemy to much of England. He was a man of great evil, building armies in the north in the hopes that he would bring war upon their country. His was a name which wrought fear in women, and encouraged valour in men. Harmony knew much of these matters because her father always indulged her curiosities, and told her. He was a man of great honour. A man who she knew would bravely throw his force behind the King’s men. In fact, he had already pledged such support to the General, Henry Power, who would lead the troops to battle.

She could see now just why she was so involved.

‘Your intention is to convince my father to retract his pledge of support for the English …’

He merely nodded.

‘But that would cause him great dishonour. He cannot go back on such a promise!’ She leaned forward as she spoke the horrifying words.

The young man turned towards her appraisingly. ‘Such things are not of a woman’s concern. Think about your reticules and your tapestries instead.’

She spat venom in response. ‘You call yourself Lord, but how can you when you defer to such a man. It is weakness.’

He lashed out, grabbing her wrist and pulling her close. She tumbled until she fell atop his thighs. She was immediately conscious of their heat and strength beneath the very thin layers of her underclothes. His grip on her arms was strong and he held her face very close to his. The look of fierceness in his eyes caused her the first true pangs of fear.

‘You know nothing of what you speak, stupid girl. I am many things, but not weak. Never weak.’ He glared at her. ‘You cannot fathom what it is that drives me.’

With that ominous statement, he let go of her immediately and uncaringly thrust her back to her side of the coach. She had never been treated with such complete disregard for either her feelings or her station. It was clear that this rogue was another sort of man altogether, and she decided then that she had best be cautious in her dealings with him.


*


It was some time later. The quality of light in the carriage was brighter and so she could only presume that it was deeper into morning. There had been an uncomfortable silence in the passing minutes or hours which had descended upon the two seated there. She had the misfortune of being caught sneaking glances at the volatile young man on more than one occasion. She thought it only reasonable given the tedium that such a long journey without conversation could yield. He was also rather a riddle. And try as she might, she never had been able to resist them.

But she had also used the time to formulate some semblance of a plan. And it was with such a scheme in mind that she chose that moment to interrupt the silence with a delicate cough. As she had come to expect, the polite request for attention was ignored.

‘Lord Marfly,’ she said with as much grace as she could muster, relishing the look upon his face when it finally turned toward her. ‘We have been in this carriage for a long time ... I am feeling rather ... delicate.’ She stressed the words quite carefully and noticed the look of distrust and realisation which lit his features.

‘Be that as it may, Lady Garner, I have not the means to accommodate you.’ He made a sweeping gesture toward the window. ‘We are in the countryside and there is no place to stop.’

Very well, if she could not have them stop at an inn, she would run through forests and fields to evade him. If the man had done his research better, he might have known just how determined a young woman she was.

‘I must insist.’

His aggravation was clearly written across his features, but she also saw a small measure of resignation and she took delight in it. ‘In that case, My Lady, I will have to offend your delicate sensibilities and offer you a bush on the side of the road.’ The arch in his brow showed the enjoyment he took in extending her such an offer.

She sniffed irritably, but nodded her head in acquiescence. Although it peeved her that he seemed to think this acceptable, it was of little concern. All she needed was a minute or two in privacy. Harmony watched as Lord Darius Marfly knocked three times on the wood behind him, noting the signal to stop. He sent her a look of warning, before opening the latch and stepping outside into the soft light of dawn. The hand he extended to her was firm in its grip, and she valiantly ignored the strange swooping of her stomach when she touched it.

Once she had vacated the carriage, she turned and, with as much hauteur as one could muster when wearing her hair loose about her face and traipsing around in night clothes, she raised her wrists before him.

‘I cannot imagine you think I’ll manage in this condition.’ He muttered wearily under his breath and pulled the blade from its case at his hip. The silver metal cut cleanly through her bindings, and it disconcerted her to see quite how comfortable he felt in using it.

She swallowed as she watched long and nimble fingers toy with the weapon as though it were nought but a piece of straw. His other hand lifted to brush her chin, guiding her face upward to meet his. ‘Do not attempt anything untoward … I will know.’

Curse the man, she thought. Of course she was going to try something; she was not the simpering fool he clearly believed her to be.

‘Good heavens, no,’ she said sweetly.

His grip upon her upper arm was firm but gentle as he brought her to a small clearing, which was concealed by rather large bushes.

‘None of my men will see you from here.’ He turned to gesture some ten feet or so away. ‘And I will be standing right there, lest you get any ideas you shouldn’t.’

‘It is extremely untoward! I am a lady and ought to be treated as such.’ She quirked her brow, as he often did, raising her chin in defiance.

He let out a string of muttered imprecations and stalked further away, keeping his back to her.

Eyeing him carefully, Harmony licked her chapped lips before casting a quick and cursive glance around her. And then she bolted, ducking and weaving between trees and bushes. Her feet were quiet on the soft earth, which was fortunate because she heard him call out to her.

She ran faster.

The cold morning air bit at her exposed ankles, and her unbound hair whipped in manic curls around her face. Her heart stuttered when she stared ahead at the clearing which opened up before her. There was no more cover under which to hide, and she was certain he would gain ground if she stood still a moment.

This fear was validated when she heard the cracking of twigs beneath heavy footfalls from behind her. She fled, ignoring the ragged quality of her breathing and the burning sensation in her throat. She cast a quick glance over her shoulder and saw him emerging from the trees, the weak sunlight making him burn an ethereal blaze of pale gold.

The footfalls grew louder and faster and she cursed her body for being so weak. Still she ran, even as she knew that he would catch her. His voice was deep and threatening when it called out to her, making her lose her footing for a split second. It was enough. She felt a solid weight hit her from behind, strong arms wrapping about her waist and pulling her to ground. She gasped as the air rushed from her body, wriggling around to face her tormentor.

The pale strands of his hair had come loose to fall around his face, several of those strands tickling her forehead. His gaze was stormy and intense, and his breath was a little bit ragged. He was propped on his elbows, staring down at her, and she was conscious of the rise and fall of her breasts with each lungful of air drawn in. So, it appeared, was he.

She wriggled again, an attempt to free herself from his weight, and the look he gave her was strange and unfamiliar.

‘Stop moving,’ he said in a low murmer. Harmony flushed red, realisation causing her stomach to tingle. She was not a girl with that sort of experience of men. She’d had her fair share of secretive kisses and gentle embraces, but never anything more scandalous.

Her skin seemed to burn from where it met his, and the already erratic pulsing at her throat increased. She licked her lips instinctively to moisten them, and noticed the way his eyes seemed to follow the movement. This was a decadent sort of entanglement to which she was very much unaccustomed. It was also incredibly improper, not least of all because he had abducted her only hours earlier. That was a difficult thing to remember when his hard thighs encased her own. It made her begin to wonder about what those breeches concealed.

‘For a lady you know how to cause great torment,’ he whispered, his voice now low and husky in the cool morning air.

The words were sufficient both to make her flush with embarrassment at the insinuation, and realisation at just how precarious the moment was. She raised her knee swiftly to dislodge him, but the man clearly read her move and captured her thigh more tightly between his own. It was at this point that she realised just how high up her leg her garment had ridden.

She pushed roughly against his chest, seeming to take him by surprise, because despite his superior strength she managed to roll them both around so that she was now astride him. Something both sweet and sinister pulsed through her, and she was mortified at the strange feeling that curled in the pit of her stomach.

She swallowed visibly, before pressing her small hands against the wall of his chest. He could easily have brushed them away, but remained as he was, back firm to the ground and gazing up at her with a curious expression.

‘This is no way to treat a lady,’ she whispered, the breathless quality of her voice still evident. She could feel the fast thrum of his heartbeat beneath her fingers and it was highly distracting. His face caught the morning sunlight at such an angle that yielded him almost seraphic in his features. It was deception, she knew; there was nothing of the angel in this man. And yet she wanted nothing more in that moment than to brush her fingers across his skin.

Something seemed to shift in his gaze, for he chose that moment to sit up, his face coming unbearably close to hers so that she could feel the cool rush of his breath against her cheek.

‘You are like no lady I have ever known.’ And with that curiously whispered statement, he raised her from him to set her on her feet. His hands were gentle on her now, but she could sense that he was not about to let her run away again.

She was not entirely sure she would have in any case. He was unlike any man she had ever known.

He interrupted her thoughts and she turned her face towards his to catch the last of his sentence. ‘You will have to forgive me for this; I’ll take no more risks with you …’

She was about to ask to what he was referring, before she was swiftly hauled over his shoulders in a most undignified manner. Her squeals and the pounding of her palms across his shoulder did nothing to stop the man as he trekked back through the clearing and the woods toward the carriage.


*


‘I am to be engaged, were you aware? The betrothal is almost finalised. He will have your head for this.’

‘Your would-be fiancé? Will he now … a fearsome fellow, I suppose?’ The lack of concern in his tone aggravated her. This was most likely because, whether he knew it or not, his mocking response was warranted.

The man whom her parents wished for her to marry, Reginald Westley, 5th Earl Westley, struck more of a slovenly than fearful figure. Her lip curled in instinctive distaste at the thought of marriage to such a man. He had little manners and certainly not the charm or handsome looks to compensate for his faults in character. What he did have, however, was a title and the extensive wealth and land which accompanied it. A good match, her mother had said.

She was not, however, about to share her lack of enthusiasm for the man with her present companion.

‘Indeed. Have you knowledge of him, then?’

The smile he sent her was mocking. ‘Certainly. His conquests are notorious in some circles.’ The expression shifted to appraise her intently. ‘To confess, I think you wasted on such a man. And in any case, you are not his yet.’

Her face flushed from his words and what they suggested, something she was not unaware of, in addition to the heated look he sent her. She did not like how responsive she was to such looks.

‘Whatever sort of man you think him to be, he has pride … he will not like to think you have … touched me.’ She hesitated only briefly, but noted that she had his full attention now. It was a great feat indeed.

‘And have I?’ His brow raised in question and there was a merciless quality to his ash-like gaze. ‘Touched you, that is …’
 
She swallowed, shifting uncomfortably on the seat at the turn in the conversation—her own doing, unfortunately. He moved across his seat so that he was directly opposite her. He leaned forward with his elbows resting on his long and lean legs, so that his face swam before her.

‘Has your pearly white skin been tainted by my own?’ He moved closer, and his hand rose so that it skimmed a breath above her throat. Even though she could not feel the scrape of his skin against her, the heat was consuming. ‘You act for all the world as though I’ve ravished you.’

Her breath caught at the gently stressed word and the way it was formed on his mouth. He pulled back quickly then, a barely concealed anger clear in his bearing.

‘Whatever sort of villain you perceive me to be … know that I am not that sort of man.’ He turned his head toward the window once more. ‘You will come to no harm under my care, and when your father complies with our demands, you will be safe to marry your knight with little thoughts of me.’

She watched him with an overwhelming sense that he was, above all, a complicated man. What other qualities he owned, she could not fathom; she only knew that her interest in him was increasing with each torrid moment. Lord Darius Marfly had told her that she could not hope to understand his motivations, and given his strange pride and scruples, she began to think he was correct.

They settled once more into silence, the quality of which had become increasingly tense. It was during this time that Harmony began to yearn most fervently for a bath, even above the wish for her rescue. The hours of travel, and the sojourn in the woods, had given her lamentable state of dress an even more rumpled and unseemly look.

She had begun to wonder whether they would ever stop their travelling, when the coach finally slowed and a shout rent the air. Lord Darius flicked a finger beneath the drapery to assess their location, before casting a cursory glance toward her.

‘We have arrived.’

Her heart soared with relief at the prospect of escaping the small boxed confines. She was about to say something before he continued speaking.

‘The woman with whom we are staying is loyal to me. Do not think that she will assist you in escaping. I guarantee you she will not.’

‘How could this woman not protest? No matter how loyal, surely she would object to your dragging a woman into her house in my current state.’

He grinned then, and the sight made her blink in response. ‘Ah, but it’s quite ingenious. In your … current state, as you put it … you look thoroughly debauched. She will think you nothing more than a conquest and I’ll do nothing to disabuse her of that notion.’

She gasped and reached to smack him, an extremely unladylike reaction but he’d driven her to provocation. He caught her wrist swiftly before continuing, ‘Would you prefer anyone to know the truth? If your reputation is to be preserved, it is best that no one be aware you ever left your estate.’

She pulled back her hand and narrowed her eyes at him. She wanted nothing more than to claw at his perfect features, for as much as the degradation horrified her she knew his words to be true. There would be no higher insult than for even the slightest suggestion to reach the ton that she had been soiled.

The sun was strong as it hit her eyes upon vacating the post-chaise for the second time that morning. It was, however, a relief to know she would not have to spend the immediate future cooped up and feeling quite so wretched. The carriage had left them before a humble little house, laid out over two floors. She saw a figure in the window upstairs looking down at them. Shortly thereafter that same person flew out the front door. She was an older woman with greying hair and a homely figure.

Harmony watched disbelieving as the woman gathered up Lord Darius, in all his breadth, into a bone-crushing embrace, before releasing him and holding his face close to hers. There was a maternal sort of affection there that one could not fail to notice.

‘Let me look at you,’ the older woman said to him, before casting him aside to set appraising eyes on Harmony. She must have looked an awful sight because the other woman turned to cuff the young man about his ears. ‘What’ve you done to the poor thing?’

She cast a reproving look back at him, his expression rather sheepish, before gathering Harmony toward her. ‘You can call me Mrs Pommeroy.’ Her words were kindly, something for which she was most grateful. ‘Come now, let’s get you cleaned up.’

It was, she reflected, the most delightful prospect she’d had all day.


 



Chapter 3: Volume III
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The house glowed with the warmth from the hearth in the kitchen. Its welcome heat coated her skin and she felt relief that, despite her situation, she could have some creature comforts for the time being. Harmony was seated at a roughly-hewn wooden bench near the open fire. Before her was a plate of coddled eggs and freshly baked bread, homely food but delicious nonetheless. She told the older woman as much.

Harmony was still trying to decide how to get around her present situation. The woman clearly adored the rake, Lord Darius, just as he had suggested, and although Harmony felt she would be more than cared for, she tended to think the other woman did not intend to question the situation. Furthermore, Harmony had no plan of running off into the woods again, certainly not before she had a decent bath and was more suitably dressed.

Her gaze strayed toward the window, beyond which she could see the strong form of her captor who was presently talking with his men. She sighed and, when she turned her attention back to the amiable Mrs Pommeroy, noticed the knowing look in the woman’s eyes.

‘Come now, let us get you all cleaned up.’ With that, the woman bustled up the stairs with Harmony following directly behind her. The woman led her into a deceptively spacious room with a large bed and, in the far corner, behind a charming screen sat a wonderfully inviting tub.

Harmony opened her mouth to speak but was again interrupted. ‘Now you wait just here while I fetch some things.’ The woman ambled out of the room, leaving Harmony once more to her thoughts.

She walked toward the window, peering out to see what lay beyond.

‘Planning another escape route, I’d venture …’ the low rumble of his voice startled her, for she had not heard him enter the room.

‘Just so that you can chase me down again? I think not.’ She pushed back her shoulders and gave him a rather imperious stare. She felt more confident now that she was on firm ground again. ‘What are you doing in my room?’

He barked out a laugh that caught her unawares, and she felt the look of haughty superiority slip from her features. She watched as he dropped a bag of various effects at his feet before spreading his arms expansively. ‘This is our room.’

Her mouth fell open in what she felt sure was a most horrible display. She could feel his amused gaze upon her, even as her own eyes despairingly took in the solitary bed in the room.

‘But … you said that—’ Her heart was beating an unsteady rhythm, and she clutched a shaking hand to her chest.

‘You need not fear your virtue, My Lady, as I have already said. I have no need for sleep.’ He paused and looked at her knowingly. ‘And I should not risk it in any case … for fear you would kill me as I slept.’

She had no time to respond to that, because Mrs Pommeroy had returned with various linens and what appeared to be some fresh garments for Harmony to wear. No matter the simplicity of their make, she would very gladly swap the flimsy nightclothes she currently wore for something more substantial.

She had never felt as exposed as she did beneath the gaze of that errant lord.

‘I am needed elsewhere,’ he said by way of departure, and she began to wonder just where that might be.

A short time later, her tired body slipped into the liquid heat of the bath, relishing its inviting warmth. The clean scent rose up around her, reminding Harmony just how wretched she had felt only minutes before. Her introspection was broken when Mrs Pommeroy ducked her head around the corner of the screen and asked whether she would like assistance with her hair. Hermione acquiesced fervently. To be frank, however, it was more the company she craved than anything else. And she had an inkling that the other woman knew as much.

She chewed her lip to prevent the questions from falling from her tongue. It was to no avail. She was an eternally curious person by nature, one always prone to asking questions regardless of whether it was her place or not. She did not think the other woman would hold it against her for indulging in a few such curiosities.

‘Mrs Pommeroy … do you mind my asking how you know Lord Marfly? I don’t wish to—’

‘He’s a curious one, isn’t he?’ The older woman’s laugh was deep and rich. and laden with affection for the subject of her comment. Harmony swirled the water about her knees and nodded her assent.

‘He is that,’ she said.

When the woman did speak, Harmony listened with rapt attention. ‘I was his nursemaid, I was … raised him from when he was a babe. Of course, his mother died in child birth.’

Mrs Pommeroy told of the quiet and inquisitive boy he had been and of his fierce loyalty to his family and their people. She also told Harmony of the sins of the father: the gambling and the building of debts. The young Lord had received nothing from his father but an empty title and those obligations upon the older man’s death, and worse still, the pledge of allegiance to that dreaded man Lord Tòmas Ryder, the owner of said debts.

She tried to control the sharp intake of breath as the history was revealed. It did, however, shed much light on the sort of man he was, and the many cryptic statements he had made.

‘Is he a good man still? I wonder,’ she whispered the words, not certain of an answer.

‘You don’t seem so certain that he’s not. He is a good man, and he does all he can for the people loyal to him … he suffers another man’s poor decision.’ She continued smoothing the comb through the wet tangle of Harmony’s curls. ‘He’s been led down the wrong path now, I fear … but not beyond redemption.’

Harmony sat quietly and wondered about that. She was left to such thoughts, shortly thereafter, when Mrs Pommeroy announced that she had best tend to other things about the house. The young woman was left thus in a state of introspection, pondering all that she had heard and witnessed.

It disconcerted her to a small measure to realise that she had not given the least thought to making an escape. Aside from the fact that it would likely be pure folly to attempt such a feat, given she had no mode of transport nor inkling of where she was, a certain part of her was keen to find out more about the man behind her present circumstances.

Why that was, she did not want to contemplate. She told herself that she could never be swayed by a few pretty tales, from an indulgent old woman. She told herself she was likely bored at the prospect of her future, could find little pleasure in the thought of ever marrying a man she held no interest in. It would be far too easy to wish for the handsome lord to be a hero in disguise, but Harmony had never considered herself as one prone to flights of fancy like some of the other ladies of the ton.

Yet, in spite of such reassurances, she found herself stretched out on the bed and gazing at the ceiling, wondering just what it would be like to know such a man. She flushed to recall the way heat had pooled in her stomach, and her skin had tingled to feel the warmth of his firm thigh against her own. She tried most valiantly not to think about what it would be like to kiss a man like him. She suspected it would be very unlike the polite and practiced attentions of the gentlemen she knew. She found their touches respectful, their kisses soft and sweet. Somehow, she did not think the embrace of Lord Darius would be any such thing, and yet she felt strangely certain that he would never hurt her.

It was an extraordinary assertion for a woman to have about the man who had, only that very morning, snatched her from her bed.

She felt she understood the enigmatic young man much better now, thanks to the musings of his former nursemaid. And, although she could never suggest that his treatment of her, his decision to partake in such a scheme, was the right thing to do, she rather felt she recognised those motivations a little better now.

After all, Lord Darius Marfly had nothing to gain directly for his involvement in the exercise. But Mrs Pommeroy had talked extensively of the way his father gambled away their fortune after his wife’s death. Lord Lawrence Marfly had become entirely owned by Lord Tòmas Ryder, a man who, though not of old blood like the Marflys had been, managed to accumulate a vast wealth on the continent. With such wealth inevitably came power.

Lord Ryder was known to be a brutal man, one who slaughtered all in his path. He was also a man who would never allow someone to escape the hold he had over them. Those in his debt remained that way for life, and it would seem that in the case of the late Lord Marfly, that obligation had extended to his heir.

Harmony could not deny the lurch she had felt in the pit of her stomach as Mrs Pommeroy spoke of that very occurrence, when the son was not yet 17. It had been left to him then to ensure the livelihood of his people, to regain what respectability had been lost. He had tried to evade Lord Ryder, but it had been in vain.

It was these thoughts and others of the same nature, which flittered restlessly across her exhausted mind, as she lay back staring at the ceiling. And it was in this same position that, sometime later, she succumbed to the seductive pull of sleep.


*


The warmth was like a luscious coating wrapped around her, calling her to stay in its safe knell. But there was something, a tingling of her skin, which caused her eyes to flutter open in reluctance. Even before her heavy-lidded gaze scanned the room, she was struck by the sudden and inexplicable realisation that she was longer alone. The darkness of nightfall was overwhelming, but for the warm glow of a fire in the hearth and the beacon of the moon peaking in through the far window. He stood there, bathed in its pale glow.

Harmony realised then that she must have fallen asleep in his absence. It was a disturbing thought to know that he could have stood there watching her in a most vulnerable state. His back, however, was turned to her; his gaze was entranced by whatever mysteries lay beyond the windowpane.

His voice was low, uttering words before she could fumble to find her own. ‘It is little wonder you fell asleep. It has been a long day.’

He was a master of the understatement, she mused.

‘You were gone a long time.’ The statement was revealing, but she found herself thrown by the situation and could not hope to conceal her thoughts. This strange man had flustered her from the first. It seemed she had no defence to the fluttering of her stomach upon her looking at him. It was especially so in that very moment, when he fairly glowed in the surrounding darkness: a deceptive siren call, which seemed to cause an ache in the very centre of her being.

‘I trust you found some way to pass the time.’

Her throat felt dry. ‘Yes … Mrs Pommeroy tells a great many stories of your youth.’ His head snapped toward her then; his piercing gaze seemed to cut through the layers of cloth and skin to the very heart of her.

‘It was not her place to tell such tales,’ he whispered in a tone that was dangerously soft.

Harmony extricated herself from the folds in the bed, and brushed errant wrinkles from her simply made garment. She took several steps forward then, in spite of his slightly menacing demeanour.

‘I think perhaps she is correct … on a few points.’ He raised a brow at her in question, but the reaction was belied by the intensity of his gaze. ‘I do not think you wholly bad … regardless of your … acquaintances.’

‘Is that so?’ he whispered.

‘I know about your father and—’

‘Enough!’ He cursed under his breath and glared at her, eyes dark and intent. ‘You have no idea what you speak of.’

She pushed her shoulders back and raised her voice. ‘I do. She told me all.’ Her voice softened, ‘I think there can be better for you … I think—’

‘What is this?’ he burst out, throwing his hands up in the air. ‘What sort of temptress are you. One day in your company and you think to convince me with pretty words and smiles.’

He turned his back on her and she noted the hunching of his shoulders, his raggedly drawn breath. Quite without her knowing why or how, she stepped forward and pressed gentle fingers to his back.

His tone was raw. ‘What are you doing?’

Her caress was tender, a mere breath across his back as she tried to reason that very same riddle. ‘I … I do not know.’ She took a deep breath, watching the way her fingers fanned out against the starkness of his coat. ‘You would have me think the worst but … I do not think you are what you want me to believe …’

His anger lashed out and he moved so swiftly to face her, grabbing her upper arms and hauling her against the warm breadth of his chest. Her gaze flew to his, ferocious in its gleam.

‘You would think me some sort of hero? Stupid girl.’ The words were whispered so that the softest expulsion of breath tickled her cheeks.

Her heartbeat stopped when his lips took her own. She gasped at the unexpected force of the kiss, the texture of his mouth as it tugged on her own. Her lips parted and she knew the sweet taste of brandy on his tongue. It was dizzying, the feel and the taste of him. It was a kiss clearly intended to dominate her, to punish her for speaking out of turn. Somehow, they both forgot that fact.

He moulded her to him, her body pressed flush against his chest. Her fingers curled in the fabric of his coat, clutching. When he set her back from him, she struggled to pull that heady rush of air to her lungs.

‘You are treading dangerous ground,’ he whispered, a husky quality evident in his voice. ‘You should go to sleep and forget your fancy notions.’

Her pink tongue brushed her bottom lip, moistening its swollen shape. She could not help but notice the way his eyes, darkened to obsidian, seemed to track the unconscious action. It released a fluttering in her abdomen, a giddy realisation of power she had never known. He was right, Harmony knew. She ought to go to bed, and yet she found that she did not want to.

‘I find I’ve slept enough,’ she whispered archly. His probing eyes searched hers, a warning clear in their ashy depths.

‘You should know the offer in your eyes … it can torment a man … and I have no intention of—’

‘Does it torment you?’ she whispered.

He pulled her toward him once more, using a broad palm to push against the small of her back. She could feel the heat of him searing the soft and yielding curve of her belly. He was beautiful, she thought, like something of another world. Harmony moved a hesitant finger to brush the line of his jaw, allowing it to dip into the hollow of his cheek.

 

‘You are beautiful,’ she whispered, taking in that gaze, those haunting eyes and the inviting texture of his lips.

‘As are you, My Lady.’ He shook his head. ‘I fear you will be the death of me … Perhaps that is your intention.’

She grinned and leaned toward him. Her nerve endings snapped with feverish excitement, the likes of which she had never known. Harmony knew two things quite acutely then. The first was that she could not find it in herself to care at all for issues of her reputation in that moment. The second was that she could not suffer a marriage to a man she did not love nor yearn for. Yet she yearned for this man.

‘Please,’ she whispered. A groaned imprecation fell from his lips before they brushed her own once more. She opened to him immediately, revelling in the feel of his lips against her own, and the gentle sweep of his tongue.

Large hands swept through the heavy drape of her curls, cupping the weight of her head with their capable strength. A mumbled noise of dissatisfaction fell from her lips when his moved away. She gasped again, though, to feel the gentle suction of his mouth as it traced a path of torment along her jaw and the soft skin of her neck.

Her fingers clutched at the fabric of his clothes, uncertain what to do and yet eager to touch the heated skin beneath. He pulled away again, his molten gaze intent on her own and she watched as his deft fingers moved to detach those obstacles. The breath caught in her throat at the sight of his pale skin, stretched over taut and intriguing muscle.

In that moment, she wanted nothing more than to feel its silky touch against her skin.

‘You are sure?’ he whispered even as his hands moved to her own garment. She nodded yes, distracted by the fingers that trailed over her.

A flush of another sort raised across her skin when she stepped from the last folds of fabric. She had never stood facing a man like this before, but she found the heat of his gaze and the transparent want in its depths to be reassuring.

‘Exquisite,’ he whispered, and she lifted her hands instinctively as though to cover herself.

He shook his head, and grasping one fine wrist in his hand, he tugged her toward the slightly dusty old mirror, which sat in the far corner of the room. Harmony lifted dark eyes to watch him standing by her in the mirror, his intent gaze watching hers reflected. She swallowed as she fought to keep her hands still at her sides.

The sight of herself, flushed and breathing heavily, the glow of firelight dancing on her skin, and the knowledge that he was watching caused a surge to ripple through her. The heat within was building to an intolerable point; it was a curious sort of need that she had ever known. Harmony cast her gaze up from the reflection of herself to catch his piercing gaze.

A gasp rent from her throat when she watched him move to stand behind her. She could feel the heat radiating from his skin, tickling the fine slope of her back. In the mirror, she watched him; the colour of his eyes and the slight upturn to his mouth captivated her. Her throat convulsed when his hand skimmed over the smooth plain of her stomach. She whimpered with the knowledge that he was about to touch her there. Harmony’s gaze caught his, noting the ravenous quality, which lurked there and which she thought must surely mirror her own. Lord Darius pressed a kiss to the seam of her shoulder and his hand fell away as she turned to face him.

She pressed her palms flat against the searing heat of his chest, and moved to match her lips to the action. He was salty on her tongue. Harmony relished the shuddery feeling in her stomach at being this close to something so decadent. She placed open-mouthed kisses along the ridge of his throat; he was heat and salt and sweat. She wished for nothing more than to bathe in him all evening.

Harmony shivered beneath his questing fingers, which brushed in taunting circles across her collarbone and down over her gently rounded hips. His arms then braced around her, and swept her effortlessly against the wall of his chest before he moved them toward the bed.

When he placed her down upon the bed, a broad palm pressing against her stomach to keep her steady before his intent gaze, she was certain that she had never felt quite so lovely before. The image of herself, reflected in his gaze, sent a pink flush across her exposed skin, and he seemed to delight further in her responsiveness.

Harmony’s eyes grew wide as she watched his deft fingers rid his lower body of its final shield of clothing. And the sight of him quite as undressed as her, caused her breath to quicken. She had never seen a man without his clothes before; she had never known quite what to imagine. Yet, although there was something infinitely strange about the sight of that part of him, she felt a torrid sort of fascination as well.

He leaned over her then and the weight of him against her made the blood sing in her veins, and she revelled in the touch of his mouth to hers once more. His teeth grazed across her lower lip, toying with its pillowed texture. And when her lips parted on a rather breathless sound, his tongue brushed across her own. It was dizzying.

He pulled away from her once more, and blazed a trail of heated kisses along the delicate line of her jaw. The path moved down across her collarbone and she clutched at his shoulders as a grasping sort of feeling swarmed within her. She wanted something, though she was unsure precisely what. Her toes curled in anticipation and her fingers gripped him tighter. Her gaze clashed with his then, amid the tingling sensation and the mind-altering fog of caresses. His, normally so piercing with its brightness, was a dark shade she could barely recognise. And there was a possessive sort of gleam in the way he looked at her that made her want, most fervently, to have him hold her always.

 

She was lost then, in the exquisite maelstrom of sensations, all wonderfully new and exotic to her. She could feel it, something strange and unknown, but so wonderful, drawing closer, closer. Then, with the dizzying build up, she quivered and her vision began to fray to a dusky sort of darkness.

 

And it was gone, and she was Hermione once more. Reality sharpened around her: white walls, an office desk, and piercing silver eyes.

 

 


Chapter 4: Volume IV
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Hermione’s heart hammered an unknown rhythm in her chest cavity as realisation and recollection caved in on her. With eyes wide and glazed, she focused on the only other person in the small room. Him. She swallowed hard as he stared back at her with the same intensity. She could only hope he was unaware of the quivering of her thighs and the ragged quality of her breath.


Oh dear.

‘That was,’ she swallowed again, ‘vivid …’

He nodded in response, his gaze not leaving hers. Really, she thought, this was not something she was equipped to deal with, not after what she’d experienced in that dream. She quelled the urge to fan her flushed cheeks and resolved to talk to the twins.

He was still staring at her, and not moving.

She shifted uncomfortably in her chair. ‘Er … are you all right, Malfoy?’

The sound of his voice, low and rough, was the exact cadence it had been in the dream. She cursed the clarity with which she recalled every single second. ‘Fine … I—’
 
‘—should go,’ she interjected. The desire to escape and hide for fear that he would somehow know was killing her. ‘I … er—it’s late and … cats …’ She had partially moved out of her chair then.

He stood too, and was much, much too close for her comfort. He cocked his head to the side. ‘Cats?’

 

‘I, well … Crookshanks is a cat … they eat.’ This was now embarrassing. He was standing right in the way of her getting to the door and seemed disinclined to move.

‘How astute,’ he whispered, and she felt a fleeting envy for his ability to articulate. ‘Fleeing your office for fear of neglecting your cat. Such concern …’ He leaned down a bit so that when she tilted her gaze toward him, she was conscious of the heat radiating from him and the familiar scent.

She should have pushed past him straight away, but curiosity was a funny thing and so it made the words tumble from her lips. ‘Did you … er—enjoy yours? The dream, I mean.’

She could barely differentiate between his iris and the dark outer rim of charcoal. His eyes were pretty, she thought.

‘Oh, yes …’ She swallowed and he seemed to watch the movement. The air around was too thick to choke down, so she did all that she could, and pushed past him toward the exit.
 
‘Good … that’s,” she coughed, “good—okay, bye then.’ She flew out the door before he could say another word.



*


The vast store was an explosion of colour and noise: reds and greens, clanging and laughter. Squeals of delight rang out over the two floors as all manner of people sampled the merchandise in the Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes’ flagship store.

This was not altogether surprising, given the fact that it was a Saturday afternoon, and very much prime time for all the children to be running amok in their favourite prank store. As crazy a place as it undoubtedly was, Hermione always felt a rush of warmth when she came here. It reminded her that even when they were young and so much horror loomed ahead, there had been good times too.

‘It’s madness in here!’ Hermione exclaimed to one of the twins, George, based on the earless left side of his head.

He shot her a grin before shouting to one of the harried looking staff members to cover the front. He then led her to the back room where they met Fred, with tea in hand.

She had come, as promised, to regale the twins with an uninterrupted flow of praise for their latest product. Or so they no doubt hoped. In actuality, she would not dare criticise the extraordinary magical ability and creativity they had put into the Patented Daydream Charms. What did concern her, however, was the very unexpected nature of her own.

A quick flush, not the first, rose upon her cheeks as she recalled the awkward moment the night before, when she had fled her office and, most particularly, Draco Malfoy.

She hadn’t slept a wink for thoughts of it all. Rather shocking thoughts at that. Even though it hadn’t really been Malfoy, but some dreamed up vision of him, she couldn’t quite get by the fact that she’d seen his bits. And, well, experienced them. She flushed again.

‘So,’ Fred spoke up once she was seated at the small lunch table, a piping cup of sweet tea before her. ‘Have fun?’ She stared at him in horror before realising he was asking an innocent question.

Well, she thought. Where to start?

‘Yes, it was … well, the magic was amazing,’ she said. ‘Really, I could see what you meant about the mindscape, because there was just so much detail in the dream … lots of funny little things.’ She paused. ‘And it was vivid.’

She coughed as her mind began to stray. ‘Really, really vivid.’ Both twins raised their brows in response to that, and she continued, taking on her most disapproving tone. ‘But … it’s really not appropriate for children, is it? What with all that, er—adult content.’

A matching pair of grins unfurled across the two freckled faces. ‘What adult content, Hermione?’

 

She felt, in that moment, like the proverbial deer caught in headlights. ‘Er … Malfoy said the same about his …’

Silence fell and the twins exchanged a very curious look. ‘Malfoy tried one too?’ asked George finally.

‘Well … yes,’ she said, ‘he was getting nosy about the whole thing and so we both just ended up doing it together … well, not together … at the same—’

She heard a whispered something, which sounded distinctly like kinky, muttered under breath. Before she could appropriately respond to that insinuation, she was interrupted.

‘You’re not actually supposed to share them,’ said George. ‘It says so on the box. Because the magic on both charms is interconnected … they’re a set.’

Fred, taking on his best patronising-teacher-to-an-unruly-child voice, spoke up also. ‘Now, Hermione, these are perfectly safe for children of 16 or above … it’s justyour mind that’s been in the gutter.’

She was unutterably mortified.

Her cheeks burnt red, and she would have liked nothing more than to flee the merciless grins beaming down at her, but she had one more question. ‘Er … one more thing … are there any side effects?’

They looked at her, red brows raised in unison once more. ‘Such as?’ asked George.

She coughed. ‘Such as thinking certain thoughts about someone because I was—er, well … interested in that someone in the dream?’

‘Hermione, the dream is just a distorted version of your own fantasies … with a different backdrop and storyline,’ said Fred.

‘So if you like someone enough to shag him in the dream,’ George added, to which Hermione gasped, ‘then it’s because you like him enough to shag him in reality.’

Well, damn, she thought.

‘But really, Hermione,’ said Fred, his face contorted to show either his distaste or confusion. ‘Malf—’

‘I never said it was him!’ was her screeched response.

The pitying looks from both of them said quite enough on that score.


*


Monday was excruciating for Hermione. She had never really been one for concealing her emotions all that well, and was constantly informed by all and sundry that she was the worst liar known to mankind. She personally thought that repeated accusation was a bit presumptuous. Surely, there was someone worse out there.

In any case, she found as the day drew on, and her discomfort at work increased, that she was indeed very bad at feigning a lack of concern about what had happened. The worst part about the whole thing was that she couldn’t very well blurt it out to one of her friends, or worse to Malfoy. It wouldn’t bear thinking about.

Not that she’d had much interaction with him since Friday night. She wasn’t entirely certain whether he was only responding to her clearly awkward behaviour, or whether it was something else entirely, but she did know that he seemed to be avoiding her. She told herself that this was a good thing, because she needed some clarity before facing the man. Memories of him like that kept flashing before her eyes when she saw him.

It wasn’t quite true, though. In actuality, she turned quickly at every sound from his office, which was located next to hers, and was constantly wondering what he was doing or thinking.

Tuesday was much the same, and Wednesday was possibly worse. By that stage, all possibility of avoiding one another had ceased and they were thrown into poring over heavy texts together once more. By Thursday evening, Hermione was just about ready to claw her way out of her skin. They had spent the last two days cooped up together in an office, which until recently had seemed amply sized for two people, but now felt entirely lacking in air.

Every time she looked at him, she remembered the touch of his lips on hers. She remembered the scent of his skin, how his touch caused her blood to pulse in her veins. It was dizzying to recall. Moreover, on more than one occasion she had resurfaced from those recollections to realise that his gaze was boring into hers, searing in its intensity.

She wished, most fervently, that she had never volunteered to test out Weasley products. Regardless of what the twins said about her apparently having an existing attraction for Malfoy—and try as she might, she now could hardly deny—it had never been quite as visceral as this. The urge to touch his hair, and brush fingers across his jaw was intolerable.

‘Alright, I’ve had enough,’ he almost barked at her, jolting her from another internal dialogue, before storming out of the room.

She was utterly perplexed by his outburst until the fair-haired man returned a moment later with a bottle of Ogden’s finest held firmly in his grip.

Hermione gasped, scandalised. ‘What are you doing?’ she hissed. ‘We’re at work!’

He placed the bottle and two small glasses on the desk, shoving aside the ancient text he’d been perusing. ‘It’s after hours and, frankly, after you brought those charms into the office last week, you can’t talk … I rather think they were more scandalous than any amount of liquor consumption on Ministry property could hope to be.’

He raised a brow as though daring her to refute his logic. She blew out a sigh. He had her there.

‘Well, anyway,’ she said, ‘we’ve loads of work to do so you shouldn’t really—’

‘No,’ he interrupted. ‘Enough work. And it’s not me … we will both be partaking. Bottoms up, Granger.’ He handed her a glass with a generous allocation of amber liquid.

She was absolutely determined to reprimand him further, before an insidious little voice inside her head told her otherwise. ‘Oh, all right … just the one, then.’

An hour and an innumerable amount of those little glasses of alcohol later, Hermione felt like singing on the tabletops. This was an absolutely hilarious urge, she thought, because she really was an atrocious singer.

‘Granger,’ said her thoroughly unscrupulous companion. She leaned in conspiratorially to listen. ‘Tell me,’ he whispered, a funny little grin creeping upon his features, ‘what did you dream about?’

‘You know,’ she said, forgetting about his question entirely. ‘The twins said we weren’t supposed to doit together.’ She nodded her head to show her authority on the matter, before noting the rather lecherous expression on his face.

‘I bet,’ he said, by way of response.

‘No, the dreams … that’s disgusting,’ she said, and she swatted him to punctuate the statement.

His eyes unfocused for a moment before he stared back at her, through the fog of amusement and liquor. ‘That’s not how I remember it.’

Hermione wasn’t aware she’d responded with her mental agreement aloud and rather breathlessly, until something flickered across his features. Silence rushed into the room, thick and laden with tension. He stared at her, his eyes widening a fraction and his pupils dilating.

‘Why weren’t we supposed to try the dreams together?’ he asked, and she was rather confused by his change of topic. He seemed suddenly very interested in a conversation, which had, only moments ago, held very little intrigue for him.

‘Oh, I don’t know … it’s the magic, they’re sets, you know? So they’re just intended for one person.’

He leaned back quickly then and stared at her. She couldn’t begin to imagine what was going through his head, until he spoke again and she stopped to think more clearly about their conversation.

‘What did you dream about, Granger?’ His voice was low and rough as he repeated the question from earlier.

Her eyes widened. ‘I … was,’ she paused, her throat dry and her heart hammering a wild rhythm in her chest. ‘A boat … I was on a boat. With Ron.’

He was shaking his head at her, and looking across at her with the strangest expression she’d ever seen. ‘Never took you for a coward.’

She narrowed her eyes at the prat, finding it typical and very unforgivable of him to hold this against her. ‘I am not a coward … and what makes you so sure I didn’t dream about Ron?’

‘Because that would not explain why you’ve gone bright red every time you looked at me this past week.’ A lazy sort of grin unfurled across his lips. ‘Tell me something, Granger … do you think about me naked often?’

Hermione’s stomach dropped to somewhere in the vicinity of her ankles. The knowledge, that sudden burst of clarity, was entirely too horrifying for her to process.

‘You are insufferable,’ she mumbled through hands that came up suddenly to mask her features, which were indeed as red as he suggested. She pulled a deep and dizzying gulp of air to her lungs and tried to calm herself. ‘Look, it was a glitch obviously … because we shared a set it automatically put us in the same dream and it wasn’t our fault.’

He rolled his eyes at her before responding. ‘The irony of all this is that I think you actually believe that is true.’

Her tone was defensive when she finally replied, ‘I have no idea what you mean by that.’

He sneered at her, and it was a look of such disdain that she almost felt bile at the back of her throat. ‘That’s entirely the problem,’ he replied, before standing up and leaving the room without a backward glance.

She wanted to die, quite literally, from humiliation. With a sob of unmitigated horror, and something less definable, Hermione let her face drop into her hands. It was one thing to acknowledge an attraction in the safety of her own mind, but knowing she had somehow dragged him there as well made the whole thing more torrid.

And she just knew that all of this was on her, because there was no conceivable way that Draco Malfoy would ever fantasise about her, and certainly not in the context of some fanciful romance novel, like those her mother had always read.

 

 


Chapter 5: Volume V
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The two weeks that followed The Revelation, as she had started to call it, were awful. Hermione felt weary from exhaustion and all attempts to remain unconcerned around her, now very cool and aloof, co-worker. Ever since that night, over a tipple or two too many, when they had realised the truth about the daydream charm, things had been stilted. She couldn’t quite work out whether he was angry with her, or just wished it had all never happened.

She hadn’t realised quite how much she enjoyed his company, his mocking comments about her hair, which she had always thought she hated, and the sight of him before her, poring over texts in her small office. It was quite a revelation to her, just how much she missed it, how ordinary their relationship had become. She only knew it now, recognised it for what it was, because it no longer existed. Draco Malfoy rarely looked at her, and when he spoke, it was only out of necessity and with a sort of impersonal politeness she had never experienced from him.

It made her ache, deep in the pit of her stomach, because she was so confused about how things had come to be the way they were. There were times, when she was most in denial, when she would wish she’d never had that dream and seen him quite in that way. It haunted her now: his remembered touch, the taste of his mouth. But she was a realist, and if the surge in the pit of her stomach told her anything, it was that the charm had only brought to the forefront of her mind something that had lingered hidden beneath the surface far longer.

What made the whole situation worse was the fact that her birthday was mere days away. She was turning 21 and having a special celebration, the kind she’d never had when the world was war-torn and she was distracted. Harry and Ginny had arranged the whole thing, in cahoots with her mother, and it was to take place at her family home. Although she had been rather uncertain about the idea at first, she couldn’t deny how much she wanted it, if for nothing else than to have her parents there and so actively involved.

The reason this party, which by rights ought to have been exciting, was causing her such turmoil was that she knew she wanted him to be there. Somehow along the way she’d come to want his presence around her even when she was outside the context of work, and she wasn’t quite sure how it happened. She only knew that it had.

The difficulty, of course, was that with everything being so strained between them, and his often surly disposition, she didn’t really know whether he would even come if she did ask him. It was for this reason that she left it so late asking the question. She didn’t want to make it seem like the very important thing that it was.

She was sitting at her desk and had made several half attempts to leave her seat and ask him the question. Finally, when Hermione recalled his biting remark about her being a coward, it grated on her nerves sufficiently to motivate her into action.

She took a deep breath, and used the most calm and unconcerned voice she could muster when she finally approached his office and peered inside.

‘What is it, Granger?’ He was seated at his desk and didn’t even look up at her. Already he had her on the back foot. Damn him, she thought.

‘It’s my birthday on Saturday,’ she blurted out, with a complete lack of coolness and finesse. She kept her fidget-prone hands still and watched him as he dropped his quill and turned to look at her. He said nothing, but stared as though waiting for her to say more. She did.

‘Well … they’re throwing me a party, my parents that is, and I thought—’ She was just about to ramble inconsequentially when he interrupted her.

‘I know. Potter told me.’

‘What? Oh.’ She paused and the awkwardness set in again. ‘When … when did he tell you that?’

‘It’s an occupational hazard, bumping into Potter around here … and he seemed to be under the impression you would want me there.’ He was staring at her, and all she could think was how beautiful his eyes were.

Before she could say a very fervent yes to that statement, and wonder a little more closely at Harry’s perceptiveness, Draco continued. ‘But I find that hard to believe … given the fact that you’re only telling me now, two days from an event that was planned over a month ago. Am I wrong?’ he questioned and her heart jolted.

‘Sorry, I was … of course, I want you to come.’ She could feel her teeth worrying her lower lip. ‘We’re friends, aren’t we? I just … I didn’t know if you would want—’

‘Friends?’ he interrupted, gracefully extracting himself from the desk chair, and coming to stand before her. ‘We’ve never been friends, Granger.’

He pushed his hands into the pockets of his elegantly cut trousers, and shrugged before leaving the office. He seemed to be making a habit of doing that. She felt completely and utterly wretched.


*


The light wind kissed Hermione’s bare shoulders, and she relished the cool caress on an otherwise warm evening. She was standing in the back garden of her parents’ house, watching with amusement as her motley group of family and friends, wizards and Muggles alike, came together in celebration of her birthday.

Even though she’d been classified, in the wizarding world, as an adult for several years now, it meant a lot to her parents to be able to celebrate this with her. They had missed out on so much that was vital to her life, and she couldn’t bear to deprive them of what was a very special night for them.

She watched her mother and father for a couple of moments, holding back a short laugh at the enthusiasm of Mr Weasley, who was sharing with them his very great excitement over the discovery of their sprinkler system. Her mother had spent all day in the kitchen cooking up a feast, and Mrs Weasley had even helped by making an enormous birthday cake. The garden was decorated with pretty fairy lights, the variety made of glass and electricity instead of small elf-like people, and music mixed with the smell of food that lingered in the air.

It was lovely, she thought. Hermione was distracted from such musings when she felt an arm deliberately bump her own. She turned to grin at Harry who was gazing out at the scene as well.

‘Great turn out.’ She nodded in agreement. ‘So are you enjoying yourself? You’ve been rather quiet.’

She turned quickly and rather guiltily toward him. ‘Of course, I am, Harry!’ She paused and sighed before responding. ‘It’s just been a long week … that’s all.’

‘So, I suppose he’s not here yet.’

She raised a brow in question. ‘Who?’

‘Malfoy,’ said Harry with the air of someone all-knowing. ‘Since you’ve been beadily watching the doorway all night, I assume you’ll be the first to know.’

She sniffed in response. ‘I wasn’t staring at the door! And, anyway, what’s all this business about you inviting him … that was, well … surprising.’ She gave him a small smile.

‘Yes, well …’ He was clearly trying to fathom it all himself, judging by the wrinkled brow. ‘Clearly you like him for some reason or another … and I suppose he’s not so bad now … in small doses.’

She cast him an appraising look, amused at his tremendous effort toward civility. Despite what both he and Malfoy said on the topic, they each seemed to rub along without much fuss. Relations between the latter and Ron, however, were an entirely different story.

‘Well,’ she said. ‘It won’t matter much anyhow. I don’t think he’s coming.’

Harry threw an arm over her shoulders and leaned in conspiratorially. ‘And why is that?’

‘He said we’re not friends.’ She didn’t mention how wrong it felt to say that, and how bereft it made her feel.

‘Of course you aren’t,’ Harry agreed readily. ‘What is it with women always wanting to put that friend label over every relationship … makes things bloody confusing. Ginny and I aren’t friends,’ he said as though this were some huge revelation.

‘Of course not, you’re much more than that … You love her.’

He nodded, cast a sidelong look at her, and said, ‘Exactly.’

The look she sent him in return was one of bewilderment. ‘Just when, Harry Potter, did you get to be so wise?’

He tugged on a curled tendril of hair and grinned. ‘Somewhere between the drinks table and here, I suspect. But I have every confidence it will pass.’ His gaze shifted from hers and he gave her a quick peck on the cheek. ‘Happy birthday, Hermione. I believe that’s my cue to leave.’

A funny sort of spasm seemed to erupt in her stomach: that odd thing, anticipation. When her gaze fell upon the back door, she noted the tall man there, the pale crown of his head glowing in the semi-darkness. The air rushed into her lungs in a gush, so that it felt like she’d been holding her breath all evening. It was a funny twist of fate that of all the people she was happy to see, he was the one to cause such giddiness.

She wandered toward him as calmly as she could, but she still felt a slight quiver in her legs. She’d planned everything she wanted to say to him if he did show up. Whilst she was eternally grateful that he had, and indeed saw it as a kind of gesture in itself, she was rather nervous about what to do now. The mere sight of him, so bright and shiny in her parents’ garden, was rather startling.

Her skin tingled when his gaze fell on her, reminding Hermione how it had felt to stand bare and exposed before him in the dream. This moment felt a little similar.

His voice was low when he whispered happy birthday, and there was something about the softness of the words that made them feel secret and special, and only for her ears.

‘We should … can we talk?’ She rubbed her arms in spite of the warm evening air.

The fair arch of his brow seemed to indicate his agreement and so with her muttered cue that he follow her, he did just that, through the house and to the footpath out front.

‘Granger, where are we going?’ he asked in an irritable voice as she walked stiltedly, further from the house.

She turned to look at him and smiled tremulously. ‘Actually we’re nearly there … it’s just the park behind here.’ When they entered the clearing, Hermione pointed toward the old swing set she played on in her youth. ‘I used to come here a lot,’ she said. ‘The first time I experienced magic was here … I got stuck up the top of the bar and couldn’t get down for an hour.’

The look on his face as he watched her warmed her cheeks. It seemed strange to Hermione to be sharing something personal like that with him. Strangely good.

‘How did you get down?’

‘I jumped,’ she said. ‘Broke my leg in two places.’ She grinned as he shook his head, amusement lingering around the curve of his mouth.

‘That sounds about right,’ he said. ‘So did you lure me here to regale me with stories of your youth?’

‘How’d you guess?’ She stuck her tongue out at him in a childish manner that was reminiscent of when she was four and hadn’t quite overcome a mild tendency to brattiness. His eyebrows shot up in amusement.

Hermione pulled the metal links of the swing toward her, before sitting gingerly on the perch. Her feet kicked off and she felt the giddy rush of air against her face. She cast her gaze at her companion, who was looking at the other swing with a look of confusion and mild disgust. He even prodded the seat with his wand, but did it so quickly and subtly that she almost missed it, which was probably his intention. Draco Malfoy didn’t like to be viewed as ignorant of anything.

‘You sit on it.’

Why?’ His disdain for the pastime rang clear in his words, and she almost cackled at the thought of him being afraid of a little swing.

She shrugged and kicked her feet off the dirt again. ‘This is how Muggles fly.’

Her heartbeat thrummed a new rhythm as she watched him lower his lengthy form to sit precariously on the seat. Draco Malfoy immersed in the places of her childhood was a funny thing to behold. That he even bothered to try the swing out caused a fizzy burst of hope to sing in her veins.

His feet barely kicked off the ground and he looked extremely uncomfortable, but shockingly he made no criticisms to her. In fact, they sat in complete silence for a moment or so before Hermione finally spoke up.

Her voice was the barest of whispers in the salty night air. ‘It meant something, didn’t it?’

He stopped all attempts at swinging and turned to look at her. His gaze was clear and bright in the moonlit park and it seared her to her core. Her cheeks flushed when he didn’t respond, and she was about to make some sort of flippant comment and flee before he nodded.

‘Yes.’

She blew out a gust of air. He would choose now to be succinct, despite all of times she’d listened to his endless monologues about one thing or another.

Her toe moved in swirling shapes in the dirt. ‘How could it have been there … before … and I didn’t even know?’ She wasn’t so much asking him as she was posing the question to herself.

He spoke then, his usual exasperation coming through. ‘Some things you don’t learn from books, Granger. Shocking though that may seem. Surely you have some degree of intuitive thinking?’

She scoffed. ‘Right, and you do?’

‘Yes.’ He stared at her simply and she was silent for a moment, processing.

‘You knew? When?’

He looked away, so that all she saw was his profile, glowing in the surrounding darkness. ‘A while.’

He gave up all pretence of swinging, and stood up next to the pole. She followed suit, and when she slipped, she felt him grip her upper arms to steady her. The touch of his hands made her bare skin tingle.

He spoke up again. ‘You spend too much time worrying about other people … people you don’t even know, and all of your causes, to think about much else.’

‘I’ll have you know—’

‘This is a reasonably important moment, Granger, so please don’t fuck it up by talking.’

He kissed her then, right when she was preparing to lay into him for such unnecessary rudeness. And although she could still recall the way he had felt in her dream, it was nothing like this, because this was real. His touch and his taste were of Draco, and although her mind had been incredibly ignorant of the fact that she had wanted this, him, for so long, another part of her had clearly known it.

He tugged her closer, one hand carding through the thick mane of her curls, moulding her head so it was flush with his. He tasted of warmth and sweetness, and a heady sort of rush shot through her.

He pulled back and she stared at his mouth before he laughed a little raggedly. ‘You keep looking at me like that and we’re never going to make it back to the party.’

She squirmed and he grinned down at her. ‘You know,’ he said, and moved a finger across her heated cheeks, ‘I never would have taken you for one to blush … but I was very pleased to discover you flush that pretty pink all over.’

Goodness that was embarrassing. The memory of the dream shifted back into her thoughts and she flushed again. The uninhibited sound of his laughter rang out in the still night air. She tried to keep the strange desire to grin at bay as they began walking back toward the house. She almost restrained herself from indulging her curiosity, but the urge was too strong.

‘I was wondering, though … if that was a, well, shared dream then where did your … part come into it?’ She turned to look at him, her head tilted.

The slight dilation of his pupils before he responded had her catching her breath. ‘I assure you ... my fantasy, or one of them, certainly crept in there. In fact, I would say it was the most vivid part.’

His grin was wolfish and her heart did funny acrobatic things in her chest. ‘Ah,’ she murmured; she definitely remembered that part.

‘Whilst we’re on the topic of fantasies … I’m definitely interested in further exploring the part about you being tied up and at my mercy …’

She was hardly going to tell him but, Merlin, so was she.

- The End - 


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