A Contract Most Inconvenient

Chapter 1

Hello everyone! This story has been heavily inspired by the heap of unfinished Hr/Multi fics out there, most especially Ten Too Many by flibbins. While the first few chapters of my spin on the trope do have quite a few similarities to these, this is is not at all intended to be an outright copy of any of the other stories out there! In fact, considering that they're mostly unfinished, mine will turn out to be quite different by chapter four or so.

An update that was posted on chapter 16, but belongs here too: I will eventually be going back to chapters 1-3 and rewriting/reorganizing them at some point in the future. I can't say when for now, but I do want to distance myself from Ten Too Many as much as possible. Although the trope and some of the main plot points are the same, this has very much become my own story past those first few chapters and I want it to reflect that. I'm not happy with the high amount of scene parallels that I wrote in 1 and 3 especially, but it's not a pressing issue for now. These changes won't materially affect the direction of the story in any way, but I will announce when I've done it so that those who want to go back and re-read can do so.

Follow me on social media! On tumblr, I'm blankfishxx, and on Facebook you can add me as Blank Fish!

CHAPTER ONE

Hermione Granger sat quietly at the kitchen table at Grimmauld Place, staring hard at the glass of water she clutched between her hands. The house was nearly silent, save for its perpetual mysterious creaks and the sound of the ominous-looking clock that ticked in the corner of the kitchen, its ticks somehow nearly deafening in the silence. She lifted a finger and began tracing her fingertip along the rim of the glass, eyes trailing after her scarlet-painted fingernail as she began to move it faster.

It wasn't until a pale hand covered hers that she realized the sound of her thudding heartbeat had begun to drown out everything, including that infernal clock.

"Hermione," Harry repeated, as quietly as though he knew exactly how much any sudden noise would affect her in this moment.

She opened her mouth to answer him, but could only manage a watery smile in return.

"You're supposed to be drinking that," he said lightly, gently using his hands to pry hers off of her glass.

"I'm sorry," her voice was strained, and came out in a croak. "I-"

"Shh, 'Mione," Harry sat down and scooted closer to her, smoothing his fingers through her curls. "I know, I know," he soothed.

His words came seconds before she felt more tears bubble over, leaking freely down her cheeks that had only just dried from the last torrent. "I can't stop, I- I-" she hiccuped before burying her face in her best friend's jumper, taking comfort in the warmth of his solid body.

Grief, she mused, had the strangest ways of presenting itself. It could, for example, manifest itself as an incomprehensible mass of emptiness and pain in a pair of green eyes behind a round pair of glasses as they stood by, helplessly, as their friend's casket was lowered into the ground. Or, it could manifest itself as a mother's horrifying screams that would haunt the dreams of those who heard it, attempting to hurl herself into her son's grave, even as the dirt had become to pile in. It could creep up on you like a thief in the night, appearing suddenly and unexpectedly as you sunk to the ground, broken as you watched the light fade from yet another victim's eyes, only to realize that you hadn't even learned this one's name.

It had only been a year, but that year felt like an eternity. One year since Voldemort's fall, and one year since the true chaos had begun. It has crept up on them slowly, interrupting the post-victory lull only at small intervals, only truly giving cause for alarm once it had been much, much too late.

She'd been finishing the last leg of her accelerated Healing apprenticeship when the first patient had come in. Daphne Greengrass, her fair skin skin looking sallow, contrasted heavily against her gleaming auburn hair. Her breathing had been shallow, and she'd had a fever. Healer Janne has assured her family that it was nothing to worry about, that all the needed was fluids and a few days of observation, and she would be fine. By the time the tenth patient of the day had rolled in, Healer Janne told his spouse that yes, there was something nasty going around, and no, she needn't worry. By the next week, they they had sealed off St. Mungo's, having left only a designated area area outside for possible cases to be dropped off because, no, under no circumstances, could those who were already in have visitors.

Even those measures has been fruitless, and within two weeks the borders to Wizarding Britain had been closed. No one out - or in - which meant that, in third week, Charlie hadn't even been permitted to return for Bill's funeral. And when Ginny fell ill in the fifth week, Hermione had had to spend countless nights researching wards and charms until she'd managed to get a muggle phone working long enough for him to tell his baby sister a short good-bye.

Ginny ended up being one of the few lucky survivors. By the end of the second month, Severus Snape had presented the committee of the brightest minds in their community - including her - that Kingsley had gathered with a tentative inoculation, it had been late, much too late, and the mass immunizations they rolled out had seemed practically useless by then, as the plague had claimed all its British victims, dying out as quickly as it had come. It was mainly rolled out in the rest of Wizarding Europe, which had been affected, although not on as catastrophic of a level as Britain had been.

By the third month, they realized how dire the situation had become. Their population had been decimated, and a disproportionate amount of women had been affected, leaving many a family without wives, daughters, and sisters. Even when the borders had finally re-opened, due to the results of their unexpected plague coupled with the recent war, immigration had all but stopped and they were face with a new problem that proved even more devastating than the last - their population had dwindled to a number so low that their reproduction rates could not keep up. As they stood, the British Wizarding Society would cease to exist within a generation. Drastic measures would need to be taken in order to ensure their continuation.

And so Kingsley had re-convened his committee. Hermione and Snape were assigned to repurposing Muggle reproduction technologies into magical uses, and they began by attempting to extract eggs and sperm from willing donors, hoping to grow children outside of the womb, to be returned to their biological parents or fostered by others. Despite the amount of trials they went through over the months, their solutions failed. As Hermione had suspected, conceiving magical children was a much more delicate process than for Muggles, and even if they were to succeed, their tests were proving it likely that it could take years before they could figure out a method that wouldn't produce squibs at best.

As so they moved on to the idea of natural conception, coming up ideas that included incentives and benefits to present to couples should they marry and conceive enough children to help satisfy the requirements. And so they ran the numbers. And ran them. And ran them until they brought in Arithmancy masters who only confirmed what they had suspected. There wasn't enough time, nor enough couples that had volunteered to fill the gap that had been created in their population. And so they were forced to turn to ancient spells, from a time before magic was declared "dark" or "light", where it had just existed, hovering on the sharp precipice of complete neutrality.

The first thing they'd discovered was a way to shorten pregnancies enough that they began to work with renewed hope and vigor, aiming at finding a way to roll out the required amount of pregnancies. Shortly afterward, they stumbled upon what Hermione had since dubbed The Spell. The one borne from a time as desperate as theirs had become, so old that it had fallen out of many history books, only to be replaced over time by things scholars had considered to be more important. History, she recalled bitterly, was always bound to repeat itself, especially once it had been forgotten.

And so Hermione found herself here, now, in the kitchen of Grimmauld place, sobbing into Harry's chest as the minutes counted down to the final meeting where they would officially ratify the new Marriage Law. All too soon, the clock dinged noon, and she clutched him closer for a brief moment before pulling back.

"I have to go," she sniffled, wiping at her blotchy face before padding over to the sink to splash some cold water on her face. "Do I look alright?" she asked Harry.

"Like a beautifully drowned rat," he quipped at her over a slightly strained smile.

She giggled, flicking water at him before they walked to the drawing room in companionable silence. She had her hand full of Floo powder when she felt him clutch at her hand suddenly, tugging her towards him.

"We've always got each other, right?" Harry said quietly, searching her eyes. "No matter what."

"Always," she smiled, this time genuinely. "Always, Harry." She leaned up to kiss him quickly on the cheek, smiling at the slight blush that rose on his cheeks. With one last look behind her, she threw the powder into the fireplace and stepped toward her fate.

X

That evening, Hermione found herself perched at the kitchen table once again, this time clutching a steaming cup of tea tightly between her fingers, staring blankly ahead of her out the dark glass of window. Harry sat beside her yet again, this time anxiously clutching his own cup of tea.

"What if it's Ginny?" he asked quietly. "What if it's her? After everything, after her saying she wanted to live, truly live after she almost died and that maybe, just maybe that life doesn't include me anymore, but maybe, just maybe we'll find our way back to each other, because that's just how the fates work, don't they? That's just what-"

"Harry!" Hermione clamped a hand down over his mouth before moving to smooth it over his cheek, then raised her other hand and began kneading the muscles in his shoulders softly. "Whatever it is - whoever it is - you'll always have me, Harry," she soothed.

He exhaled and nodded, letting his eyes flutter shut under her ministrations before they flew open again a few seconds later. "What if it's Umbridge? Oh Merlin, I'm going to be sic-" A loud thump at the window startled them both, and another joined at as their eyes flashed to the window. Two owls hovered there, pecking at the window impatiently.

"We can still run," Harry broke their frozen silence. "We can live as Muggles again, we could be happy," his wide green eyes looked panicked, and Hermione couldn't help but smile as she reached over to adjust his spectacles.

"I'm not sure how well we'll make out with this law, but I know we wouldn't be able to survive without our magic, Harry. That...that is a fate worse than death," she said sadly. She sighed, standing as she steeled her nerves in order to finally open the window. Before she could take a step, however, The window flew open and the owls dove in, circling the kitchen before dropping their respective letters in front of them.

"Master has a letter!" Kreacher announced happily, his small head bobbing up from behind the table to close the window once more.

"Damn elf," Harry muttered as Kreached departed as quickly as he came, glaring at the letter in front of him.

Hermione didn't bother to admonish him, as her heart was currently lodged in her throat. In the letter before her were the names of up to ten men she would be required to magically bind herself to in marriage, effectively becoming a broodmare. Up to ten men, and she was due to provide at least one child for each. Her heart dropped from her throat to her stomach as she picked up the letter, thumbing her name that was emblazoned across the front in golden script that glittered in the kitchen's firelight.

Her eyes felt surprisingly dry now, and she knew it was because she'd practically cried herself dry in the weeks since they'd finalized the idea for the law and determined how many men each remaining woman would need to be bound to in order to produce as many magical offspring as possible.

She turned to look at Harry, who was staring at her with a fearful expression that she was sure matched her own. "Together?" she croaked.

"Together," Harry nodded in agreement, before tearing his envelope open.

She took a deep breath and tore hers open as well, eyes skimming over the pages of introductory paperwork within, although she practically knew the words written by heart now after having spent all that time drafting them. Her hand shook as she neared the final page before turning it over to look at the first of the pages profiling each of her future husbands, lifting it higher into the light and looking at the photograph that stared back at her from the page. She knew this face, yet she double-checked the name on the top of the page in disbelief.

Lucius Malfoy.

A strangled noise, somewhere between a gasp and cry, escaped her then, and she dropped the page in shock, gripping the table hard as she tried to steady her breathing. Ten possible perfect matches for ideal procreation, and the first was a Death Eater.

""Mione?" Harry scooted closer to her, his letter abandoned on the table. She felt a wave of jealousy rise within her then, knowing his page had only one face displayed on it, and desperately wishing hers was the same.

"I can't do this Harry, oh gods, Harry, it's awful, it's horrid," she wheezed, feeling dark circles start to cloud her vision. She dimly felt him reach over and pick up the sheet she had abandoned, and soon felt him tugging at her chin, forcing her to look at him.

"You can do this," he said steadily. "You can and you will. We'll do this together, I promise."

She sank back into her seat, feeling her breathing steady. "I can do this," she whispered to herself, before reaching over plucking up the next page from the pile.

Neville Longbottom's face stared back her her, smiling awkwardly as the camera flashed brightly in his eyes. She breathed out a sigh of relief and heard Harry's identical one from beside her as he read along with her. She put Neville's page down over Lucius', careful to cover the blond man's sneering face from view. She picked up the next profile and smiled brightly at the familiar face looking back at her.

"The Minister's wife, huh?" Harry joked as he read over Kingsley's profile. "Impressive."

She giggled as well, equally comforted and daunted at the idea of marrying a man who she now called a close friend. Her next match was Sirius, who had all but absconded himself from society and its problems since he had been unceremoniously spit back out from the Veil upon Bellatrix's death. He spent his days lounging around the house or visiting Andromeda and Teddy, and had gone to bed early on this particular evening, seeming relatively unfazed by the whole thing.

The next page wiped the smiles off their faces, however. Snape's signature sneer looked back at her, almost mocking the pure shock that had taken over her face. While they had become cordial while working in such close proximity over the months, the could hardly call this a union she was thrilled about.

She shook her head and plucked the next page from the file, resolving to deal with her emotions later. Draco Malfoy stared back at her, and her heart began thundering in her chest once again.

"This prat too?" Harry scoffed loudly. "I am so sorry Hermi-" Harry cut off sharply, and she looked up at him.

"Harry, what is it?" she reached over and plucked the next page out of his hands. He had gone white as a sheet, and when she looked down at the name on the page she soon realized why.

The gods had shown her no mercy, none at all. They had been cruel, so cruel to her that she wondered briefly if there was a moment in time she could pinpoint where she had mucked up so horribly that she had deserved something like this.

Arthur Weasley's kindly eyes looked up at her from the page, and in her shock and disbelief she found herself skimming over his profile, because no, it couldn't have been that Arthur Weasley, surely not him…seven children...previous spouse named Molly Weasley (née Prewett)...

At this, she felt a sole tear leak down her cheek. Things had already been strained between Hermione and her second family since she'd broken things off with Ron, and with Harry and Ginny having separated, too, she'd distanced herself even more from the family, feeling too awkward to interact with them as easily as she always had. Now, she had been thrust back into their fold in the cruelest way.

"What do I do, Harry?"

"I think you mean, what do we do," Harry said solemnly, pushing over a sheet until she saw her scowling face staring back up at her from the page, before lining it up beside the last page in her pile, which displayed his own.

X

The next morning, she found herself staring down into a cup of tea yet again, her eyes trained hard on the steaming liquid in the cup, studiously avoiding the eyes of the red-haired family that surrounded her at the table. She didn't look up when Harry nudged her, nor when Arthur cleared his throat to speak.

"This has been an...unconventional….time," Arthur spoke steadily, his voice steady despite the tension that loomed in the room. When Arthur had called them over that morning, Molly had turned away at the sight of Hermione without as much of a greeting. Hermione's eyes had filled with tears of shame, and she'd been in this position since, fighting back her tears.

"Quite," Harry said awkwardly, filling the gap of silence that had followed Arthur's words.

"You've both become part of our family now, even though in quite an unexpected way," Arthur continued, his voice finally betraying some of the strain he must have been battling inside.

At that, Hermione flicked her eyes up briefly to see him reach beside him to grasp his ex-wife's hand, only for her to pull away. Hermione's eyes flew back down to her tea in shame. All existing marriages had been dissolved by the Ministry months earlier as they'd begun selecting the matches, but many couples - such as the one before her - has continued to live in feigned ignorance, carrying on as they had been until last night's letters had shattered their last semblance of normalcy.

"I'm so sorry," Hermione finally squeaked out, watching as her tears fell into her drink and spattered the table around it. "So, so sorry," she sobbed quietly, burying her face in her hands to muffle her tears. A throat cleared beside her, and she knew it was George before she felt a hand join Harry's in rubbing her back. This time, no one mumbled apologies or condolences, instead leaving the implications of the situation to hang thickly between them, permeating every movement the room's occupants made.

When she finally looked up, she found herself looking into Ron's eyes. He wore an unreadable expression, and she swallowed before looking over at Molly. Molly stared out the window, seemingly detached from the events surrounding her. Ginny sat quietly in the far corner, offering Hermione a small, but guarded, smile when their eyes met.

"Perhaps we should, um," Hermione stood abruptly, overwhelmed. She gestured towards the living room, her eyes meeting Arthur's.

"Perhaps we should," he nodded and stood as well, only turning back to face Hermione once they were out of earshot.

"I was thinking that we should owl the...others, and meet sometime today. I spoke with Kingsley briefly last night, and he mentioned that the Minster is expected to marry quite early on in the process, of course…" he trailed off.

"Thank you, Arthur," she spoke quietly. "That would be lovely of you."

She froze as he pulled her into a hug, squeezing tightly. "This isn't your fault, don't ever forget that," he spoke into her hair. After a moment, she hugged him back before pulling away and stepping back. "I shouldn't leave Harry for too long," she looked towards the kitchen area, although she couldn't see it from where they stood.

"Alright," Arthur agreed. "But there's one last thing." When she turned to him in question, he leaned down and kissed her softly. It was relatively chaste, but made her stutter for breath all the same once he pulled away.

She was at a loss for words, and her smiled down at her in the fatherly way she had grown so accustomed to over the years, striking a sharp contrast to his actions. "To seal the betrothal," he explained.

She flushed a deep red. Did she have to with all…?

Arthur chuckled at her expression and answered her unspoken question. "Yes, it is customary. We'll be binding ourselves using some very old magic that I'm unsure we'll ever fully understand, so it's best to follow as many customs as we can in the meantime."

She nodded, then went off the find Harry. Today would be quite the day indeed.

X

That afternoon, she found herself seated at the head of the table in the now-crowded kitchen of Grimmauld Place. Her fiancés sat around the table, in various levels of discomfort. Harry and Sirius were most at ease, chatting happily in the chairs nearest her. Further down the table, Neville sat quietly, giving her a small smile once she caught his eye. Arthur was seated near him, chatting casually with Kingsley, who sat across from him in his stately minister's robes, looking regal even as lines of exhaustion marred his face. The three Slytherins sat quietly at the end of the table, the Malfoys looking as poised as ever while Snape looked equally uncomfortable and annoyed.

Kingsley cleared his throat. "Shall we?" the deep baritone of his voice carried through the room, and it was soon quiet.

She waited for him to speak again before realizing with a flush that all eyes in the room were on her, waiting for her to speak. "Um," she started, flustered. "Thank you all for coming."

Her eyes darted around the room, and Kingsley must have felt her panic because he cut in. "We have quite a few main orders of business to discuss today," he said. "The wedding, living arrangements, establishing our family-" the men in the back bristled noticeably at that "-as well as a few other things. How shall we proceed?"

Hermione found her voice again. "Speaking of… family matters, I'd like to elect Arthur as our head of household as he is the oldest, should no one object." She looked around the room, expecting some disagreement. She was surprised to find none, and thus continued. "Alright, well, as that's settled, I think the next order or business should be living arrangements. Harry, Sirius, and I live here currently, and we do have the space to accomodate you all should you choose to live here. Once we start...expanding…though" -she couldn't bring herself to say having children quite yet, as though it would make the situation all too real- "We might need more room."

Neville spoke first. "I would volunteer Longbottom Hall, but, my grandmother, you see…" he trailed off. Hermione winced internally at her memory of the shrill woman. No, Longbottom Hall wouldn't do.

"We could try the Burrow, but we may encounter the same… expansion issue as we would here," Arthur added.

"I couldn't ask you do to that, Arthur," Hermione said. "It should be left to Molly… or your children."

A scoff sounded from the back of the room. "And you could hardly expect a Malfoy to set foot in that hovel," the elder Malfoy spat. "We'll stay at the Manor." Arthur scowled back at him, although he did not protest.

"Thank you, Lucius," she ground out. "While we're on the topic, I would like to remind you all that we are to become a family, and our children will be raised as siblings. As such, I expect that you will all treat each other with as much respect as you can muster, regardless of your ill breeding."

Lucius shot her a deep glare at her last words, and she stared back defiantly.

"Any objections to living at Malfoy Manor?" Again, the room was silent, and she nodded briefly.

"So, about the wedding…" Harry cut in, ending her stare down with Lucius.

"I would like to hold it this weekend, if no one objects," Kingsley said. "As the Minister, there are certain expectations that I have to uphold."

Hermione swallowed at that before nodding slowly. A few days was all she had before her life would be permanently upended in the most inconvenient fashion.

"We'll need to have dress robes and the like prepared in a short time," Sirius mused.

"We'll call our tailor," Draco muttered, scowling down at the table. "And bring a menu to our kitchens. And have all your rooms prepared. We may as well have the grounds prepared for the ceremony as well," he snapped, his voice dripping with disdain.

"Thank you for your hospitality, Draco," she smiled robotically, refusing to meet his eyes and ignoring his answering scoff.

"I'll arrange for our seamstress to measure you in the morning," Lucius drawled, and she nodded sharply.

"Who do you plan to… give you away, Hermione?" Neville asked, timidly.

Her breath caught at that, and she swallowed the pang in her heart. Her eyes strayed to Arthur, who looked back at her sadly as he silently acknowledged that he would have been the best candidate to stand in for her father.

"I can stand well enough on my own," she said dismissively, looking around in hopes that someone, anyone would interrupt and end the topic. Mercifully, Arthur did.

"As the Granger Family, I expect us to vote equally on all major decisions. We may sometimes need to give Hermione's vote more weight than ours." He waited for any objections and continued when he heard none. "As for expenses and the like," Arthur continued. "How shall we divide them? And how shall we provide for Hermione?" he looked about the room.

"I have plenty of money of my own," Hermione interjected hotly as her fiancés began to discuss. Between what she'd received for her Order of Merlin and substantial bonus she'd gotten for her aid during the crisis, she wasn't in want of much.

"We could create a trust for her, and for each of our children," Kingsley mused.

"I don't need your money!" she spoke again, her protests meeting deaf ears.

"Malfoy women all always well taken care of," Lucius said simply.

"And I have plenty, more than I could spend," Harry added, smiling at her indignation.

Sirius nodded in agreement at that, pouring a generous amount of brownish liquor from a flask into his coffee before taking a swig. "What's mine is yours, love."

"Let's just move on, shall we?" Hermione said through her teeth.

"Well, erhm, I suppose we should discuss, um, arrangements," Arthur, faltered on his words, and the room lapsed into silence. "As you all know, one of us is due to...bed her… every night," he finished, flushing slightly.

Hermione flushed deeply at the change in topic, suddenly wishing they could go back to the topic they'd been discussing beforehand. She looked up briefly and met Lucius grey gaze, flushing more deeply at the slight smirk he wore that deepened as he sensed her discomfort before she could bow her head down again.

"I'd like to keep my own rooms," she said quietly into the table.

"Speak up, Ms. Granger," Snape spoke his first words of the evening. "You're not a bloody child," he snapped.

She thought it impossible to grow redder than she already was, but somehow felt herself doing so. She exhaled softly before looking up at no particular spot in the room. "I'd like to keep my own rooms," she started again, "But I don't mind, erm…"

She hoped someone would cut in and finish her sentence for her, but no one did. She felt all their eyes on her.

"I don't mind visiting… in the evenings," she sped through her last words, hoping no one would ask her to repeat them. Mercifully, no one did.

"You're not required to have...relations...while pregnant, or for up to two weeks after giving birth," Arthur reminded her.

She knew their eyes still hadn't strayed from her, and she knew they were now looking at her expectantly. Considering she would be spending the better part of their marriage pregnant, she knew that she held the upper hand in dictating their sex lives. "I won't, erm," she swallowed audibly. "I won't deny you… while I'm pregnant."

Her eyes swept around the room and landed on the Malfoys before she hastily added: "Unless you're being a complete prat." These words, thankfully, came out clearer than her previous ones.

The men nodded, still quiet, some shifting uncomfortably at the topic. She took a deep breath before opening her mouth once more.

"I, erm, I'm, I-" she stopped, hesitating. "I haven't, I mean-" she didn't have to finish her sentence before eyebrows in the room began to raise in understanding.

"You're what 'Mione?" Harry asked, at the same time that Snape exclaimed "You're a bloody virgin?"

She hadn't thought it was possible to flush an even deeper shade of red at this point, but she somehow suspected she had. She nodded meekly into her lap.

"You spent all that time alone with Harry and Ron and you never once…?" Arthur said, astounded.

"Really, Hermione, color me shocked," Sirius quipped.

"It wasn't exactly the most romantic of times, what with looking for Death Eaters over our shoulders and all," she snapped at him, crossing her arms indignantly.

"I mean, I'd always thought that you and Ron…" Harry trailed off.

"Well, we didn't," Hermione bristled. "Are we finished here?" she shoved her hair back, rising. "I'll be in the drawing room to… seal the betrothals and whatnot," she muttered, stomping out of the room. She set to pacing in front of the floo once she reached the drawing room, waiting anxiously for the first in line to appear.

Surprisingly, it was Snape. He waltzed up to her slowly, looking down at her beneath his nose, a familiar scathing look she had shrunk away from during all those years at Hogwarts. She did her best to stand her ground now, staring up at him in an attempt to appear as a woman, although she knew she likely still seemed a child in his eyes.

He moved closer until his intimidating figure loomed over her, before snatching her by the chin and twisting her face this way and that. Her eyes widened at his examination, and thus she barely registered the moment where he leaned down to brush his lips against hers quickly.

He had disappeared through the Floo by the time she finally blinked, and she had but a moment to gather her thoughts before Draco stormed into the room. He met her eyes briefly before kissing her just as quickly, the feather-light brush of his lips against hers barely qualifying as one.

Lucius was on his heels, and leaned down towards her once he approached. She tilted her head up and let her eyes flutter closed, refusing to meet his eyes and acknowledge the dangerous beauty that had been bestowed upon either one of the Malfoys. The long sleeved dress she wore suddenly felt too hot and too tight as he approached, her eyes sweeping over the mass of lean muscle that hinted through his robes and up to his long, silky blond hair.

Instead of kissing her, though, he shocked her by leaning down to whisper in her ear, letting his warm breath fan over her cheek as he whispered in her ear. "I'll be expecting you at the Manor tomorrow morning," he breathed before taking his leave.

And so Neville found her alone in the drawing room a short time later, still gaping after her encounters with the three Slytherins. When her eyes met his, however, her smile was genuine. "Neville," she smiled, moving over to grasp his hands tightly.

"I'm glad you're one of my…" Hermione hesitated over the word.

"...men?" Neville finished helpfully, and she laughed.

"I suppose so," she laughed. "Are you happy with this? With, erm, me?" She twisted her fingers nervously in the hem of her dress until she felt strong fingers tug at them until Neville raised them to his lips and kissed them sweetly.

"I'm thrilled," he said, blushing as he searched her eyes.

She smiled again, and reached up to meet him halfway as he leaned in for a kiss. Unlike those before him, Neville did not immediately pull away. Instead, he pulled her flush against his body, and she gasped softly into his lips as she felt the lean contours of his body against hers. His hands explored her back and she lifted her arms to wrap them around his neck. He deepened the kiss, sliding one hand around her body until he gently cupped a breast, and squeezed. She moaned at that, only for him to pull away. Her eyes fluttered open in surprise and she found him smiling down at her knowingly. He lifted a finger to trail down her cheek and across her lips. "I'll see you soon," he promised, before he disappeared through the Floo.

She sunk into an armchair, fanning herself as her cheeks flamed. Had she always been this… randy? She waited patiently for Kingsley, resolving to head for the library once he'd gone. She clearly had plenty of research to do before the weekend.