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The Co-Existence of Shame and Bliss


Hermione lay awake, the sun streaming through the window bathing her bedroom in golden rays. She lay on her side, her head propped up by her elbow, a small smile on her lips. That smile grew as she traced her lovers face with her eyes, delicately covering every detail of his countenance with her memory. It was surreal. In the whole time they had been seeing one another, he had never, except for the very first time, spent the whole night in her bed without her waiting for the moment he would spring up, throw on his clothes, growl at her for not waking him, and leave. Hermione smiled so hard she thought her face would split.

Draco slept peacefully beside her, his face relaxed, his eyes gently closed. His chest rose and fell slowly with the rhythm of his breathing, and his pale hair spread over the pillow behind his head. He smiled in his sleep, his eyelids fluttering, but not opening. Hermione lifted her hand, risking waking him by trailing her fingertips lightly up his chest, over his jaw and cheek and into his hair. Draco groaned, rolling towards her slightly, one arm lifting to wrap around her waist. Hermione closed her eyes, loving the weight of his arm on her body, opening them instantly to stare at him again, afraid he would disappear if she did not look at him every second of the morning.

"It's rude to stare," Draco mumbled and she jumped. His eyes opened slowly, stormy in the morning light. Hermione watched as the colour morphed from dark grey to silver. Draco raised his eyebrows at her and she giggled, but did not stop staring at him.

"I'm sorry," she said eventually, kissing his forehead. "This is just..."

"Excellent," he finished, rolling fully onto his side so he could look at her face. "Hermione, I meant what I said last night, about loving you."

"I know," she replied, trailing her fingers down the side of his face. "And I love you, too. But Draco, what do we do now? I mean, you can't really stay here..."

Draco sighed, rolling onto his back and staring up at the ceiling. "I know."

Hermione smiled sadly, sliding close to him and draped her arm over his chest. "It is nice to have you here, though, like this. Not in rush to go home. I like it," she whispered, kissing his chest lightly.

"Me too," he replied, kissing the top of her head. "I guess we should get up. I don't even remember what day it is, but I think we need to go to work."

"I don't want to," Hermione mumbled, pulling him close and rubbing her face against his neck. "I don't want to leave this room. Can we just stay here? Please? I need a day off. I need a day with you," she said, lifting her head to look at his face. "Everything has changed, Draco."

Draco was silent, his fingers tracing her cheek slowly, his eyes floating around her face, before he nodded just once, sliding his arms around her and lifting her onto his body. He kissed her, deeply and passionately, his hands holding her close, their bodies pressed together. Hermione sighed against his mouth, loving him so intently that she felt faint and giddy. Draco rolled them over, breaking their kiss to press his lips on her neck, his teeth grazing her skin, making her jump. Hermione giggled and wrapped her arms around his neck, her fingers tangling in his hair as he bit her collarbone sharply. Her back rose off the bed and Draco slipped his arms underneath her, one hand splaying between her shoulder blades, the other in her lower back. He sat up swiftly, bringing her with him, her legs falling either side of his hips.

They made love slowly, much slower than ever before, taking all the time in the world to enjoy one another, neither having to rush off and be somewhere else. Afterwards, Hermione lay in his arms, her body coated in sweat, her skin burning and tingling. She sighed blissfully, her head resting against his chest, hearing his heart pounding in her ears. Draco kissed her, his lips lingering over hers, his touch stirring the fire in her belly, until he groaned, slipped out of her arms and pulled himself out of bed. Hermione watched him lazily, lying on her stomach, as he wandered naked from the bedroom to the bathroom. She heard the shower start and felt her eyes widen as the sound of whistling floated from the bathroom. She giggled, feeling light and carefree, grabbing a pillow and squeezing it against her chest. A quick glance at the bedside clock showed it was after eight and with a regretful sigh, Hermione crawled out of bed, throwing her dressing gown around her shoulders. She had never been able to sleep in, no matter how little sleep she had had the night before.

Once in the kitchen, she scribbled a quick note to the Ministry, pausing at the end and wondered if she should mention Draco's absence. She shook her head, folding the note and walked to the back door. Her owl, a beautiful golden brown female, landed lightly on the perch at the base of the stairs at Hermione's call. She had been a gift from Ron on their two-year anniversary. Hermione stroked her soft feathers, holding out the note. The owl gave a gentle hoot, taking to the sky in a gush of wings. Hermione watched until she was out of sight before turning back to the house.

Draco was still in the shower and Hermione stuck her head in the door, immediately engulfed in a cloud of steam.

"Don't use all my hot water," she warned playfully, tilting her head and admiring the long length of his pale form through the glass shower cubicle. "I still need to have a shower too."

Draco laughed. "Well, if you came and joined me we would save water," he suggested, flicking a stream of water at her over the top of the cubicle. Hermione giggled, opening the door fully. She strolled in and leant against the edge of the sink.

"I've never seen you this … whimsical, Draco," she commented. The shower door slid open and he stuck his head out, dripping water all over the floor.

"Well, I’m happy," he replied. "Come here and give me a kiss if you won't get in."

Hermione shook her head, not trusting the wicked glimmer in his eyes. "Nope. I'm going to make coffee. You want one?" Draco nodded and she left the room, closing the door gently behind her. Humming happily, Hermione went back to the kitchen, filling up the kettle and putting it on to boil. She stood and stared out the window, smiling.

The sound of a door opening and closing echoed through the house and she turned, expecting to see Draco in the hall, perhaps wrapped in a towel, perhaps in nothing at all. In the background, the shower was still running and with a lump in her throat, Hermione stepped cautiously into the hallway, looking left and right. No one was there and swallowing, she moved slowly into the lounge room, realising with a sinking of her heart she did not have her wand. It was still sitting on the dresser in the bedroom.

Hermione squealed as something attached itself to her legs. Looking down, her heart flipped over in shock and fright. Reuben, Harry and Ginny's six-year-old boy, had his little arms wrapped tightly around her legs, his face buried against the cloth of her dressing gown. He was crying quietly, rubbing his teary eyes on her legs. Hermione took a deep breath, calming her beating heart, reaching down and untangling the child from her body. She dropped to her knees, cupped the boy's chin and lifted his blotchy face, figuring he must have gotten in through the back door.

"Hunny, what's wrong? Where's your mum and dad?" she asked gently, rubbing his face dry with her sleeve. Reuben's bottom lip trembled and he threw himself into her arms, sobbing loudly on her shoulder. Bewildered, Hermione put her arms around him, holding him close. Her head was spinning, and she was feeling sick from the growing tension in her stomach, all the happiness of the morning dissolved into fear and apprehension. "Reuben, tell me what happened?"

The little boy pulled away, rubbing at his eyes, his face turned towards the carpet. "Mummy says we're leaving. She packed bags for us, but I don't want to go, so I came here. Can I hide here, please Aunty Hermione? Can I?"

Without giving her a chance to respond, Reuben tore away from her, running down the hall. Hermione leapt up and followed him, calling his name. She caught up to him, grabbing his arm as he pushed the bathroom door open. The child stopped dead, staring up at Draco in surprise. The blonde was standing in front of the mirror, a comb in his hand. Draco met Hermione's eyes, frowning and Hermione sighed, happy to see he was at least wearing a towel. She pulled on Reuben's arm, but the little boy slipped out of her grip, stepping into the room. He folded his arms over his chest.

"You're not my Uncle," he stated, staring at Draco. Draco blinked, startled.

"Erm ... No, I'm not," he said softly. Reuben turned around, a confused look on his face.

"Who is he? And where is Uncle Ron?"

"He's ... a friend, from my work. He's just staying with me for the moment. Uncle Ron does not live here anymore, remember, sweetie?" she said gently, taking the little boy's hand and pulling him away. She mouthed a 'sorry' to Draco, who shrugged, but still looked startled and a little put out. With Reuben's hand firmly in hers, Hermione lead him back to the lounge room, sitting him down on the couch. She knelt before him, looking at him seriously.

"Where's mummy and daddy now?" she asked, the knots in her stomach tightening. She had meant to go and see Ginny last night, but Draco's arrival had put that plan on hold.

Reuben shrugged his little shoulders. "I don't know. At home? Mummy was crying, and she yelled at dad. Lots. She woke me up with her yelling. Then she came and said we had to leave, but I don't want to," he wailed, beginning to cry again. Hermione brushed his messy ginger hair off his head, planting a kiss on his forehead. She looked up to find Draco, now dressed, leaning in the doorway, a frown on his face. Hermione blinked away quick tears, standing up.

"I've got to go and see Ginny. Something's not right," she said, her voice wavering. "Can you watch him, please? Just make sure he doesn't run off."

Draco nodded. "Of course," he replied gently, coming into the room. Hermione gave him a grateful smile, racing towards the front door. Just as she reached for the handle, the door flew open. Ginny rushed inside, faltering when she saw Hermione. Her face was stained with tears and her eyes swollen and bloodshot. Her hair was tied into a messy bun and she had a suitcase and her wand in one hand and her four-year-old son, Caden, in the other. The little boy still looked half-asleep.

"Is he here?" Ginny breathed, tears building in her eyes and Hermione nodded quickly. Ginny turned to Caden, telling the little boy to go and find his brother. The dark haired child did as he was told, nodding solemnly to his mother. He wandered off down the hall, trailing his favourite teddy behind him.

"Ginny, what's going on?" Hermione asked, drawing her friend into the house and shutting the door. She felt Ginny tremble and looked at her in concern. "Tell me. Reuben said you were leaving?"

"I can't ... I just can't ... I don't trust my husband, Hermione," she whispered tearfully, wrapping her fingers around Hermione's arm. "I can't stay married to him if I can't trust him."

"You're going to divorce him? Ginny," Hermione began, but the redhead sighed, rubbing at her temples irritably.

"I don't know," she replied. "I honestly don't know. I need more time to think. I thought that when I came back things would be different. That we would talk and sort this out, but ... I don't know what to say to him, and he's not talking to me either and this is such a mess!" she finished, stamping her foot, her eyes blazing with anger and tears. Hermione swallowed.

"Where will you go?"

"Mum and dads. They're expecting us. I just came to get Reuben and tell you what's going on," Ginny said softly, heading towards the lounge room. Hermione nodded, following numbly. She could not believe what was happening. She glanced back at the front door. She would have to go and see Harry later, or contact Ron and get him to make sure Harry was all right. Ginny stopped suddenly, Hermione running into her friends back. She sucked in a breath, quickly remembering Draco was in her lounge room.

Ginny turned confused eyes on her face and Hermione swallowed, recalling the conversation she had had with Ginny, the night she had come back. Ginny's raised her eyebrows and Hermione sighed, shaking her head, not knowing what to say. She had told Ginny she had been seeing someone since she split up with Ron, but had not told her who. Ginny, of course, had swiftly put two and two together.

"Well," she breathed, and Draco raised his head. He was sitting on the lounge, Reuben beside him looking glum and shy. Caden, however, did not seem to care who's lap he curled up on to sleep, and the little boy was lying with his head on Draco's knee, his teddy clutched tightly against his chest. Draco looked at Ginny, shifting his eyes to Hermione, a faint blush spreading over his cheeks. Ginny threw her hands in the air, grabbing Hermione's arm and pulling her towards the kitchen.

"Watch the boys, Malfoy," she called over her shoulder.

"What does it look like I'm doing?" the blonde called back, irritated. Ginny scowled, practically tossing Hermione into the kitchen, shutting the door behind them.

"He's lost none of his charm, then," she snapped, rolling her eyes back towards the lounge room.

"Ginny..."

"Please, tell me the truth. Is that," Ginny lifted a shaking finger, pointing at the closed door. "Who you've been seeing since Ron left?"

Hermione dropped her eyes, fidgeting with her sleeve. She felt like a naughty girl, caught out by her mother doing something she shouldn't have been. "Yes," she mumbled, not raising her head.

"He's married," Ginny said faintly. "Hermione, he's bloody married! You're bloody married! What the hell are you doing? Are you mad?" Ginny's voice had risen in both pitch and volume, and Hermione shook her head miserably, looking at her friend, her eyes pleading.

"I know this looks bad, but I can explain," she stammered. Ginny frowned, folding her arms over her chest.

"Then please do," she shouted, making Hermione jump. Ginny was red in the face and looking as angry as Hermione had ever seen her. "Please explain how it's suddenly okay for everyone to be unfaithful to their partners! He's married, Hermione. He's got kids. You're friends with his wife! How on earth did you ever think this was okay?"

"Ginny, I know this is hard for you, especially at the moment, but it's not like that. I'm serious about him, I really am. We want to be together. It's just complicated at the moment, but I'm not trying to deliberately hurt anyone. I never wanted it to go this far, honestly, but..." she faltered, running her fingers through her hair nervously. "It doesn't even feel like an affair anymore, Ginny. It feels like I have been with him forever."

"And what about my brother? He has no idea about this I take it? No, of course not. He'd go completely mental," Ginny sighed, shaking her head. "How long, Hermione? How long have you been sleeping with him?"

"Since Ron," Hermione answered in a small voice. "Not long after the charity ball for St Mungo's. It was all an accident, to begin with. I was lonely and angry and afraid, and ..."

"He took advantage of that? Sounds very Malfoy to me," Ginny snapped. Hermione shook her head, feeling her own anger building.

"It wasn't like that, Ginny," she said firmly, staring her friend in the eye. "Look, I don't expect anyone to understand this, and sometimes I don't even understand it myself, but it happened, I don't regret it and now that I know the outcome is having that man out there in my life, I'd do it all again."

Ginny said nothing, just stood and stared at her, her arms folded and her body tense. She closed her eyes, thinking, opening them swiftly and looking at Hermione sadly. "Are you going to tell Ron, Hermione, or are you going to let him find out by accident, like I did? He wants you back, you know."

"I know," Hermione replied. "But I'm not going back, Ginny. Not because of Draco, but because my relationship with Ron ended for a reason. I don't love him anymore," she added gently.

"Do you love him? Draco? Do you love him?" Ginny asked evenly, and Hermione saw her swallow.

"Yes," she said.

"And he's left his wife?"

Hermione nodded and Ginny narrowed her eyes.

"Are you sure?" she asked suspiciously. "Because, Hermione, I don't want to see you get hurt. No one should have to go through what I have just been through with Harry. I'm not happy about this, not at all, but I don't want Ron to get hurt either. Merlin, I don't want Pansy to get hurt. She might be ... well, I don't know the woman at all, but I'm sure she doesn't deserve this."

At the mention of Pansy, Hermione felt guilt stab her sharply in the side. She looked at Ginny, swallowing any doubt she still had in her mind about Draco, and nodded.

"Their marriage is over," she replied. Ginny stared at her, before turning abruptly back to the lounge room to collect her children from Draco.






Hermione woke suddenly in the middle of the night, the sound of knocking on the front door rousing her. She sat up, sliding her hand under her pillow and withdrawing her wand. She felt Draco shift beside her, his arm lifting to stretch across her lap.

"What is it?" he whispered. "You alright? What the hell is that noise?"

"The front door," Hermione answered, lifting his arm and sliding out of bed. "Go back to sleep. I'll be back in a moment." She grabbed her robe from the floor, wrapping it around her naked body. Draco gave her a weak smile, turning his face back to the pillow.

"If you're not back in five minutes, I'm coming to get you," he murmured sleepily.

Hermione wandered down the hall, switching on the light in the lounge room. She crept towards the front door, her wand held securely in her hand, her heart racing. She glanced at the clock on the wall, noticing it was three a.m. The knocking continued and she winced as the sound tore through the house. Cautiously, she opened the door a crack, peering out, before throwing the door wide in surprise.

"Harry?" she asked, blinking. Her friend was standing on the front veranda, one arm braced against the wall of the house, a stupid grin on his face. Hermione's eyes dropped to his hand and she sighed softly, noticing the bottle dangling from his fingers. "Oh Harry," she whispered, watching him sway slightly.

"Hermione," he slurred, waving the bottle at her. "Wanna' drink?"

She shook her head quickly, ushering him inside and leading him to the couch. He stumbled against her, almost knocking her over as she helped him sit down. "Harry, look at you. You're a mess," she admonished gently, taking the bottle from his hand and setting it on the coffee table.

"She's gone, Hermione. She took my kids and she's gone," he whispered, falling back into the couch with a defeated sigh. "My life is over. Finished. Gone."

"No, it's not," Hermione said gently, sitting beside him and taking his hand. "You made a mistake. Give her time to calm down and then you can sort this out. You just need to talk to her."

He shook his head, turning to look at her through bleary eyes. "Nope. I know my wife. She ain't coming back."

Hermione sighed, giving Harry's hand a squeeze and climbed to her feet. She scooped up the bottle of whiskey, taking it to the kitchen and stashing it in the cupboard out of sight. Filling a glass with water, she carried it back to the lounge, pushing it into Harry's hands, forcing him to drink it.

"I love her so much," Harry whispered, his eyes filling with tears. Hermione bit her lip, putting her arms around him and pulling him to her, his head falling to rest against her shoulder. She let him cry, feeling tears in her own eyes as his body shook against hers, her hand rubbing his back, offering the only comfort she could give him. Harry pulled away, sniffing and rubbing his face, giving her a weak smile of thanks.

"Granger, what the heck are you doing? I'm lonely in there," Draco's voice floated down the hall, annoyed and sleepy and Hermione twisted sharply on the couch, her heart sinking to see him leaning against the wall, nothing but a towel wrapped around his slender waist. Harry turned, following her gaze, and Hermione heard him suck in a breath in shock.

"Malfoy?"

"Hey, Potter," Draco drawled, wandering into the room. Hermione stared at him, blinking, her eyes following his lean body as he disappeared into the kitchen, coming back with a glass of water. He stood, drinking, before setting the glass down on the coffee table. A strange sound escaped Harry's mouth, and Hermione turned to look at him, feeling sick.

"Harry..."

"Oh my god. Hermione, please tell me I'm imagining things," he said faintly, his eyes moving between Draco and Hermione. He shook his head and closed his eyes, opening them again quickly, looking at Draco.

"Nope, still here," the blonde quipped. Hermione glared at him toxically, and he shrugged, giving her a look that said it was too late, they were busted again, so what could they do about it. She groaned, knowing he was right.

"Harry ..." she began again, but he shook his head, looking at her sadly.

"Does Ron know? Does his wife?" he asked softly, his eyes flickering back to Draco. Hermione shook her head and Harry sighed, rubbing at his temples.

"Shit," he said simply, his head falling back on the couch. "What the hell are you two doing?"

"Well, we would have been shagging if you hadn't have knocked on the door," Draco said sarcastically and Harry closed his eyes, groaning.

"Please, Malfoy, don't. I don't want to know. I don't want to think about it. I don't want to believe it. I'm too drunk to deal with this," he mumbled, closing his eyes.

"Then don't think about it, Potter. It's simple. I kept your secret; you keep ours," Draco answered, and Hermione turned to look at him, frowning. He shook his head, his eyes on Harry. His face and tone had grown serious and Hermione swallowed, her own eyes finding Harry's face.

"Please, Harry. Just forget what you know. Please," she begged, shaking him until he opened his eyes and looked at her. "Please. We are going to tell everyone, but just not yet. No one would understand."

Harry looked from one the other, shaking his head slightly. Hermione felt Draco's arm slide around her waist as he sat down beside her, pulling her back against him. Harry's eyes rose over her head, locking on Draco's face. Whatever he saw there caused his expression to soften a little.

"Do you love her, Malfoy?" he asked quietly, his voice hitching a little at the end, reminding Hermione of how much pain he was going through. Hermione's breath caught as Draco's arm tightened around her and she blinked, waiting and wondering what he would say, if he would admit it to Harry.

"Yes," Draco answered in a low voice. Hermione's eyes filled with tears as he pressed a kiss on the top of her head. "I do."

Harry sat and watched them carefully, blinking. He stood up suddenly, stumbling slightly. "I'm going home," he announced with a sigh. Without another word or a backwards glance, he walked quickly to the front door, Hermione jumping as the door slammed, echoing through the house. She turned into Draco's body, her arms winding around his neck, her heart constricted and a lump buried in her throat.

"It'll be fine. He won't say anything. He won't even remember; he's too drunk," Draco whispered, attempting to comfort her. Hermione shook her head, crying softly. "Come on, darling. Come back to bed. We'll deal with this tomorrow," he said softly, rising to his feet, bringing her with him. Hermione nodded against his chest, her knees trembling. Without another word, Draco scooped her up in his arms, carrying her like a baby back down the hall. He laid her down gently, sliding in beside her and pulling the covers over them both. Hermione rolled into him, tucking her head against his neck, breathing in his scent. They lay silent for a while, the only sound being that of their breathing and the night outside the window. Draco's fingers stroked her hair, soothing and relaxing.

"You knew about Harry, didn't you?" Hermione asked him in a quiet voice.

"Yeah. He told me, when Ginny first disappeared, and made me promise not to say anything," Draco replied softly. "Are you mad I didn't tell you?"

Hermione shook her head. "No. Impressed, actually. I thought you'd have taken the opportunity to make his life a misery."

Draco chuckled. "Yeah, well, he's miserable enough as it is, especially now. There was no point. Besides, it's not as if I could take the moral high ground on this, Hermione. It'd be a bit too hypocritical, even for me."

"What are we going to do, Draco?" she asked him, her throat tight. "I don't mean about Harry knowing about us either. I mean..."

"I know," he replied, his fingers ceasing their gentle manipulation of her scalp. He was silent, and Hermione could feel the tension in his body and his breathing. She lifted her head, looking at him. He was staring off into the darkness, so she touched his lips with the tip of her finger, bringing his eyes to her face. Draco leant over and kissed her suddenly, pulling her up and over his body, her legs dropping either side of his hips.

"What do you want?" he asked her, the intensity in his shadowed eyes making her heart jump. She swallowed, licking her lips and letting her eyes close briefly. Her stomach flopped over as his hands slid along her back, the heat from his skin setting a fire in her body. She knew his question referred to much more than the here and now. She knew it had nothing to do with sex or lust. She opened her eyes, looking straight into his.

"You, Draco. I want you. I want you here in the morning. I want to be able to wake up with you next to me. I want you here in the evening. I want to fall asleep with you near me. I want to know that you belong to me and me only. I want you, totally and completely."

Hermione held her breath as his eyes closed. A tremble passed through his body, his fingers pressing into her ribs. She saw his eyelids flutter, and his breathing had become shallow and forced. She swallowed nervously, waiting and wondering if she had said too much. She knew he loved her, but beyond that, she was not sure what he wanted. His eyes opened and he lunged for her, kissing her tenderly, rolling them over gently until his weight rested on top of her. He pulled away, his hand rising to push the hair back from her face, his fingers tracing her cheeks, her nose, her lips and her jaw.

"Then you've got me, Granger. I promise," he whispered, bending his head to kiss her again, his hand sliding gently down her body, dipping along the graceful curve of her hip and finally underneath her, splaying in her lower back. Hermione ached her back as he kissed his way down her neck, his lips warm and filled with assurance against her skin. "We'll find a way to make this work."

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