Chapter Eight :: Vicissitude

Hermione sighed and frowned as she tried to focus her attention on the tome in front of her. It wasn’t going to distract her, and she knew it, but she couldn’t help herself. Ever since she’d been able to pick one up, books had been her way of losing herself; a way of forgetting the troubles that surrounded her.

An escape.

She rubbed her legs together beneath her desk, trying to relieve some of the tension she was feeling, when Harry entered the room. Involuntarily she felt her back stiffen in response. Taking deep breaths, she tried to relax, but it just wasn’t doing any good.

She knew that Harry had been following Ginny; she’d found the photographic evidence stashed deep inside his underwear drawer. She hadn’t been snooping, she reminded herself. She’d been putting away his clean laundry, and had been trying to make room in the already overstuffed drawer for the rest of his things.

When she’d stumbled across the pictures, she’d fallen to the floor, staring at them. She’d blinked repeatedly, trying to tell herself that she wasn’t seeing all the things she thought she saw. For one, it was proof that Harry had been following his ex wife, and that was further proof that he wasn’t ready to be with her.

Secondly, it showed that Ginny had not only moved on, but she’d chosen the one person in the world that would hurt Harry the most – Draco Malfoy. His white-blonde hair had been a dead giveaway. Immediately she’d also realized that Harry didn’t realize who was snogging Ginny so heatedly – if he had recognized Malfoy, the man would have been splattered across the pavement the moment Harry knew.

She’d kept her mouth shut, though, not wanting to interfere with whatever was going on between the love of her life and his former wife. She’d done enough damage as it was, and wasn’t particularly keen on being the one to let Harry know that his ex was letting Malfoy put his hands all over her.

Harry would be furious if he ever found out that she’d known and had kept it from him, but that was a risk she was willing to take – rather than see her lover in Azkaban for the murder of his ex-wife’s new lover.

“Hey,” Harry said softly, giving her shoulder a gentle nudge. She forced a smile to her lips and glanced up.


“What are you reading?”

“Theories of Advanced Arithmancy,” she rattled off. Immediately he cringed.

“Oh – forget I asked, then.” She rolled her eyes good-naturedly and shook her head.

“Always avoiding a good book,” she teased, looking back down at the pages open in front of her. She’d been reading the same paragraph all morning.

“I would never avoid a good book,” he said, grinning. “I just wanted to tell you that I’m going to a match this weekend, so I’ll be gone Saturday and Sunday.”

“Both days?” she asked, turning concerned eyes to him. She’d never be able to shake the suspicion that he was cheating on her whenever he left her, but she supposed that that was her just desserts – after all, he’d told Ginny he was working late when he was actually coming to see her, hadn’t he?

Harry laughed and wrapped her in a tight hug. “I’ll be with some friends, not another woman,” he assured her, as though reading her thoughts. She closed her eyes and let the warmth of his body seep into her, comforting her.

“Just be careful,” she whispered, tears stinging her eyes.

“I’ll be fine,” he said, pulling away and dropping a light kiss on the top of her head. “And I’ll come back to you, Hermione. Don’t worry.” With that, he turned and went into their room to pack a few things for the weekend.

“I can’t help it,” she whispered, staring after him. “Worrying is what I do best.”

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

It had been a long, stressful week at work, and Ginny was more than happy to be going home for two days of nothing but rest and relaxation. True to his word, Malfoy hadn’t invited her to the two parties he’d had since their argument at the restaurant. More to her surprise, he hadn’t tried to contact her at all since their confrontation the morning after.

Her cheeks began to burn as she thought about their encounter. She’d shagged a total of two men in her life – Harry and Malfoy. Two sworn enemies, different as night and day. Literally. Harry had dark hair and green eyes, and Malfoy had gray eyes and white-blonde hair. Harry had a sunny disposition, though he was rather introverted, for all his fame. Malfoy was cruel and outgoing, and had the reputation to prove it.

Harry was sweet and tender as a lover, and Malfoy – her cheeks began to burn again. Malfoy had been nothing short of animalistic, and she had responded wildly to that. She had enjoyed it, much more so than she’d ever enjoyed making love with Harry.

She ought to be ashamed, she thought. Ought to, but she wasn’t. She deserved something after all she’d been through, and Malfoy had been more than willing to provide what she needed – why should she feel guilty about it?

She patted her pocket lightly as she strolled home, enjoying the cool evening air. The picture went with her everywhere she went – as protection against retaliation, she told herself. Even though she’d changed the wards on her flat to keep Harry out, she still feared that he would get in and find the photo.

So she’d taken to carrying the thing around with her, still pausing at times to staring at it. Sometimes it was hard to believe that it had actually happened – especially now that Malfoy showed no interest in her whatsoever. She shrugged and moved her hand away from her pocket. She supposed that that was how he operated – find a woman, shag her once, and then lose interest. It certainly seemed to be his modus operandi for all of the other women she’d seen on his arm throughout the years.

She stopped in front of a small newsstand and browsed through the papers, barely glancing at the headlines. When her eyes fell on the Daily Prophet, however, she let out a little gasp. She grabbed the paper, fished several knuts out of her pocket, and dropped them on the counter. It seemed her evening walk was over as she apparated home and dropped on the sofa to read.

Lucius Malfoy Found Dead

Azkaban guards reported that upon arriving for their morning shift yesterday, they discovered the lifeless body of Lucius Malfoy inside his cell. Although they are conducting a thorough investigation, no foul play is suspected. Funeral services will be held Wednesday evening at six o’clock p.m. at Malfoy Manor.

Ginny frowned to herself. Why hadn’t she heard about this before seeing it in the paper, like everyone else? She was an Auror, and the Aurors had all been on a rotating schedule as guards for Malfoy’s prison cell. She’d done guard duty there only last week, and was scheduled to guard him again on Friday night.

Why hadn’t she been told about his death?

She dropped the paper onto her coffee table and went into the kitchen to find something to eat. Invariably, her thoughts drifted to Draco, and she wondered how he was taking the news. She knew nothing of his relationship with his father, except that he visited him on the last Sunday of every month. Frankly, she didn’t blame him for not going more. Azkaban was eerie enough, without having to see someone you loved imprisoned there.

Perhaps she ought to go to the funeral tomorrow, she thought. A frown rose to her face, and she shook her head as she began to wash off a potato. Why in the world would she even entertain that thought? Just because she’d shagged the man’s son once, she now felt obligated to go to his funeral?

Her scowl deepened as she used a fork to poke holes in the potato, and then put it on a baking sheet and popped it in the oven.

Still, she mused thoughtfully, it wouldn’t hurt her to show up. Pansy would definitely be going, which meant that Neville would ostensibly be dragged along to accompany her. It wouldn’t look suspicious if she went in order to be an additional pillar of support for the two of them.

She deserted the kitchen in favor of the hearth, tossing in a handful of powder and calling out Neville’s name. When her eyes focused on the scene laid out in front of her, she sucked in a breath.

Draco Malfoy was sandwiched between Neville and Pansy on the sofa, his head in his hands. Pansy was rubbing small, comforting circles on his back, while Neville just stared at the floor and shook his head.

She was just about to back out without saying a word when Malfoy happened to glance up and catch her eye. His eyes were red-rimmed and bloodshot, and he didn’t look as though he’d slept in a while.

“Enjoying the scene?” he snapped acidly. Pansy and Neville looked up at the sound of his voice, and Ginny’s mouth simply opened and closed repeatedly. It seemed that for once in her life, words had deserted her.

“Did you need something, Gin?” Neville asked gently.

“I was actually… I was just … no,” she bit out finally, unable to tear her gaze away from Malfoy’s. “I’m sorry I bothered you.”

She backed slowly out of the hearth, sitting back on her haunches and frowning. She would have simply sent an owl if she’d thought that Malfoy would be at the Longbottom/Parkinson residence – but that was the problem, as of late.

She never stopped to think things through anymore.

If she had, she thought, pulling herself to her feet, she would never have slept with the man in the first place. Now, like it or not, she felt a connection between them – one that she was certain he didn’t feel.

The remainder of her day off passed without much fanfare, and she went on about her normal day-off activities. She cleaned her bedroom and the bathroom, then moved to the living room. Tomorrow when she woke up, she would finish by cleaning the fireplace, and then she’d clean the kitchen before taking the rest of the day off to relax before she had to report in for her shift.

Sleep came fitfully, bringing with it the memory of Malfoy’s mouth on her skin. When she awoke, it was to find that she had literally soaked the sheets with her sweat. She felt as though she were burning alive inside of her own skin, and the feeling shamed her. Yesterday she’d felt sorry for him, and last night she’d lusted for him. Today was his father’s funeral, and she had come to the conclusion that she had no place there – not even tagging along with Neville and Pansy.

It wouldn’t be right for her to pretend as though she’d meant anything to him, other than a quick outlet for some sexual frustration.

She showered quickly, and then pulled her hair back into a loose ponytail at the base of her neck. She pulled on a tank top and a pair of old shorts, and set about changing the sheets on her bed. When she’d finished that task, she set to work on the fireplace.

Two hours later and covered in soot, she was starting to feel better. Cleansed, perhaps, of the object of her thoughts. Any lustful urges she’d had were instantly quelled at the recollection of the red-rimmed eyes she’d glimpsed the night before – and then she felt guilty. Why she should feel that way, she didn’t know, but it didn’t change the fact that she did.

She’d just finished rinsing the soot off of herself and had plunged her hands into the soapy water that filled the kitchen sink when she heard a loud noise in the living room, indicating that someone had apparated. She wiped her hands off on a dishtowel, but before she could turn around, arms had encircled her waist, and someone’s mouth was on the sensitive spot where her neck met her shoulder.

“W-who-“ she stuttered, totally caught off guard.

“Please,” he said, his voice choked. “Please. I just need to feel something tonight.” His soft drawl caressed her ear and caused her eyes to flutter closed, and she relaxed against him.

She was so confused that she didn’t stop to think about her state of dress or the fact that she was sweaty from cleaning all day – nor did she stop to reason why he had chosen to come to her, of all people. There was a time and place for analyzing and cataloguing things, and this was not it.

She lifted her right arm so she could cradle his head with her hand, while her other hand gripped the side of his hip tightly. His mouth moved over her flesh at a fevered pace, dipping to taste the exposed skin of her shoulder before moving back up to sample the flesh just beneath her ear lobe.

Her breath rushed past her lips, and she pushed into him, seeking some sort of release for the feelings that were building. Just as quickly, his hands moved from their position on her waist to cup her breasts, both kneading and caressing with the same touch. The fire was back, building inside of her, rising to incredible heights, and making her wonder that her touch didn’t scorch his smooth alabaster skin.

When she moaned and her knees started to give out, he turned her to face him, and instantly their mouths were fused together. He pulled her shorts down and she kicked them away as her fingers fumbled with the clasp of his dress pants.

Dress pants. Funeral attire.

The realization broke through the haze of lust, and she forced herself to pull away from him, though she was careful not to retreat too far.

“What are we doing?” she breathed through swollen lips.

“I need this,” he said, his voice husky and his eyes cloudy. His hands sought her skin again, and before she could come up with any semblance of a reply, his mouth was fastened to hers. He must be in pain, indeed, she thought, if he had come to her seeking a way out of it.

She opened her mouth to protest, but when his hand moved around to cup her bum and give it a gentle squeeze, all that escaped her lips was his name. It came out as a moan, and it seemed to be what he’d been waiting for. He divested them both of their shirts, and then his pants were a thing of the past. She’d barely wriggled out of her knickers when he hoisted her onto the kitchen table and slid into her.

The sheer heat of her was enough to make him shudder uncontrollably, and his eyes closed as his forehead dropped to her shoulder. When he made no further move, she wrapped her legs around his waist, crossing them at the ankles and shackling him to her.

“Draco,” she breathed, her thumbs gently caressing the back of his neck. “Please.”

He began moving inside of her, slowly – so slowly that she thought he was trying to torture her. His hands moved to her waist, and he held her in place as he sought completion. Her hands slipped from his neck to his shoulders, and she heard a small hiss of pain as her fingertips brushed the marks she’d left on him from the last time they’d come together.

His movements slowly changed from rhythmic and tortuous to jerky and erratic, and suddenly he was spurting hot jets of himself into her.

She was about to ask him if he could keep going when she realized that his shoulders were shaking silently. It wasn’t until she felt the hot splash on her breast that she realized what was happening.

He was crying.

Her own satisfaction was pushed to the back of her mind as she wrapped her arms around him and began whispering soothing words in his ear. How difficult this must have been for him, she wondered, if he had felt overwhelmed enough to cry in front of her? She managed to disentangle herself and push off of the table, all the while whispering to him, and then led him into her bedroom.

She turned down the sheets and helped him into her bed, and without giving it another thought, she crawled in beside him, enfolding him in her arms once again. He cried silently, never once letting a sound slip past his lips, until the sobs dissolved into hiccups. She smoothed his hair away from his face and whispered until her throat was raw from the effort, and when his breathing steadied in sleep, she snuggled closer to him.

He’d shown her more vulnerability in an hour than Harry had ever shown her in his entire life.

She was certain of the bond between them now, no matter how much he denied it or fought it. He had bared his soul to her, and it had shaken the very foundation of her being. To see Draco Malfoy, stripped of all pretense and defenses, reduced to tears, was not something that she would ever forget.
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