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They never, never wager anything on their wizarding chess games, which makes Draco wonder if Hermione has cheated. Because she never, never wins their wizarding chess games. Except this time she has. This time, when they've promised each other to grant the winner a boon.

Draco pouts. He had a good request all tucked away, just for an occasion like this. Which is why, of course, he decided to challenge her. Winning was a sure thing.

Only, evidently it wasn't.

She smiles at him, eager and excited and he knows she hasn't cheated. She's too Gryffindor. Also, for the most part, she doesn’t really begrudge him the things he wants which makes it easier--if not much--to say, "All right. What will it be?"

"I want you to brew something for me."

And now Draco's listening, because, "You do all right with brewing."

"This is, well. This takes more skill, instinct."

The one area in the one discipline where Draco can far outmatch her. But the kinds of potions that take instinct are the kinds in which Hermione would normally never take an interest. Not that Draco hasn't seen her go calm and calculating and just this side of evil. She told him, once, in the cell she had shared with him, that sometimes darkness could not be fought with anything but darkness. She hadn't sounded sure of herself, but she had sounded determined. And when Potter and Severus had managed to extract them from Voldemort's clutches--Potter reluctantly trusting Severus only because it had been Draco's life on the line as well as Hermione's--Draco had watched as she had balanced her anger and her fear and her logic against Potter's tides of emotion, how she had focused Potter's love with his rage, how she had crafted him as weapon even as she never forgot he was friend.

Yes, Hermione could be calculating, but she was almost never cruel.

Draco takes the bait. He always does with her. The things she brings up are too interesting not to. "What potion?"

"The ninth love potion variant."

"All right. I'm assuming you realize I'm easier than that."

Hermione holds up her hand, the one that bears the rather ridiculous rock he insisted on. Draco has never been good about not marking what is his as his. She gave in surprisingly easily on the issue. She does that when she senses things are important to him.

"Yes, love," she says, "I received that owl."

"Is it. . .for a friend?"

She tilts her head in that way that she does when she's about to bring up something dangerous, something that will drive Draco to his knees. He braces himself against the chair. She says, slowly, "I suppose, in a way, that you are my friend."

Draco frowns at her, but she doesn't seem to notice. She continues, "Of course, you have to share it, because, well. I'm not quite that selfless."

The ninth love potion variant is not, in the strictest sense, a love potion. It does not create false emotion. Rather, it heightens previously existent sensations. Draco says softly, carefully, "Hermione?"

Equally carefully, Hermione says, "I won a favor. Make the potion."


Once a week Severus will accede to Draco's wishes and grace them with his presence at dinner. At first Hermione would spend these evenings largely hiding in the kitchen, making friends with Draco's house elves, whom she still thinks might catch on to her ideas of what fair wages means. Slowly, as she began to understand all of Severus' edges, to know when he was truly going for the jugular and when he was just being fond, slowly she began to stay with them throughout the meal.

It has been a while since the house elves have spent that particular evening with her.

He knows what she has done halfway through dinner, knows why he had to brew the potion--Severus would catch it if there was the slightest hint of taste, the slightest smell in his wine. He knows, but he can't quite believe.

Severus knows too, within minutes of it beginning he knows and he stares at Draco with horrified accusing eyes, but Hermione only says, "No, look at me."

He does then and Draco tenses because Severus is going to kill her, possibly with his hands, and while Draco probably would have enjoyed that as a child she is his, his, HIS, and-

Severus asks, his voice less steady than it should be, "Why?"

Her eyes are a little bit sad but mostly determined--like when she sent Potter up against the Dark Lord, Draco thinks--as she says, "Because it was the only way to make you see what he wants."

"I know-" Snape bites off but Hermione's ahead of him, talking on top of him, "To make you admit that you want it too."

"In the Muggle world, I believe taking advantage of someone who is intoxicated or who has his inhibitions lessened in any way is referred to as rape." He snarls the last word.

Draco's hand tightens on his wand. He was there when Bellatrix and Greyback came to their cell for a little entertainment. The Dark Lord had plans for Draco but Hermione, Hermione was just the pawn, the bait. She had to be alive, nothing else. That's all she was at the end of the visit, too. Draco has never since been able to use the word "mudblood."

She says softly, "You can leave. The potion will not make you stay. You could even seek relief with someone else."

"Not of the type I would garner with him."

"No," she says, and it sounds apologetic, "but relief."

"And what do you want, little girl? To watch?" Severus makes it sound dirty, wrong, but Draco doesn't think it is. Not in this instance.

Her eyes stray from Severus' to Draco's for one second, not even, and Draco knows, knows that isn't what she wants at all. She says, "I, well-"

"She's my wife," Draco says, opening his mouth for the first time all evening. "And you can't tell me she isn't enticing."

Hermione blinks at him then. He does not often compliment her appearance. He buys her things, dresses and books and whatever else her heart desires, but his words are often sticky and late and not particularly good gifts.

Severus takes another sip of the potion-laced wine. "No, I certainly can't."


Draco leaves the torches burning in the room, because it is not every day that each and every one of his fantasies plays out before his eyes, and there isn't enough fire in the world to illuminate that.

Hermione does watch, a little, just as he watches the two of them: Severus' long fingers stroking confidently over her breasts, her stomach, flicking the peaked aureoles. Hermione's throat is long when thrown back, and the scars left by Greyback's fingers, fingernails barely show anymore, are faint shadows of survival more than anything else. In that, she matches Severus.

When they finally surround Draco, Severus leaning up against the headboard, settling Draco over him, onto him, Hermione riding him, letting Severus' lazy thrusts do most of her work, Draco thinks that even if she did cheat at the chess game, he doesn't mind so very much.


The elves leave coffee for them in the morning. It is charmed to stay warm. Severus makes a move as if to get some, but Draco presses him down next to Hermione--who is still pretending to be asleep, knowing that occasionally Draco will be chivalrous--and goes to get the tray. It's actually easier to carry it than magic it, as he has only found out from trial and error.

Draco takes a sip and nudges Hermione. She takes his cup from him and finishes it off without opening her eyes. Then she kisses him, which is always the magic formula for rousing her. She says, "Mm, tastes like coffee," and hands Draco her cup.

Draco snorts and takes another sip. On her other side, Severus is sipping his own coffee slowly, his eyes wary.

Hermione kisses him too. "Also like coffee. Good morning."

Severus scowls and takes refuge in his heated beverage. Hermione looks at Draco, her eyes calm and yet searching. He smiles at her slightly, to let her know she has done well. She pecks his cheek and says, "Shower."

He grabs her hand and holds on until she slips past the length of his arm.

Severus says, "I should be going."

Draco wishes Hermione would have stayed. For all that he knows Severus better, she often can handle him more efficiently. "I think it's a bit past the time for shoulds, yes?"

Severus flinches a bit at that. Says, "Your wife drugged me."

"I brewed it."

"Well, she certainly couldn't have. Did you know?"

Draco thinks about lying. "No."

Some of the fight seems to leave Severus at that. "She's. . .frightening, in her loyalty."

"Terrifying," Draco agrees, a smile tugging at his lips.

"She undoubtedly means for you to join her," Severus says, looking off at the door Hermione used.

"I rather think she meant for us to join her."

"I hardly-"

"She would have waited to see you off otherwise." Draco knows his wife, even in situations he's never conceived of, he knows her. She has a knack for giving him things he never thought he'd have.

"Draco, I can't-"

But Draco shakes his head. Hermione is often the one who knows how to implement something, but Draco is the one who can make things last. It was he who sat by Hermione's hospital bed all those weeks, he who made her see that he was serious about wanting what he wanted, he who didn’t laugh when he said the words, "marry me" and heard her giggle.

And Hermione does not put plans into action that aren’t meant to have lasting effects. She does not even like flowers as gifts (given or received)--the short span of their lives upsets her.

Draco says, "Walk out. You can't walk out. We'll find you. You know we will. Even you're not that good. Not up against her. Not up against us."

Severus snarls, bares his teeth at Draco, but after a minute the expression subsides. "What if I validly don't want this?"

Draco just looks at him for a moment. "Ninth variation, Severus."

"Nothing but physical-"


Severus, who originally taught Draco every single one of the thirteen known variations does not say anything. Draco nods, and makes for the shower. If nothing else, he will still have Hermione. He will always have Hermione.


It turns out to be a good thing that their shower is large enough to comfortably hold three.

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Skin by egelantier, photo by microbophile