After the war it seemed as if she was on the fast track to her happily-ever-after. Her job was going brilliantly; she'd been working for the ministry for four years and had already been promoted thrice, she and Ron had a comfortable relationship that had turned into an engagement. Okay so maybe it wasn't her happily-ever-after but it wasn't horrible and she was… content. Content was good right?

Then eight months ago it had all gone up in flame. Ron had been working late the past two weeks, so she had spontaneously decided to surprise him at work and see if she could ignite that flame she was sorely missing. Unfortunately he had already found that flame with one of the personal assistants that worked at the ministry, and she had witnessed it in full flame.

She'll never forget that night but the image of his freckled pasty white ass thrusting back and forth as he pounded into the woman bent over his desk paled in comparison to the reaction it brought from her. All she could think was; dear Merlin is that what he looks like when we're together?!

There was no hurt or sadness, she wasn't even shocked; there was just mildly disgusted fascination. The next morning she told him she knew and that she was leaving, quick like ripping off a band aid she had blurted it out and escaped out the floo with her belongings safely shrunk in her pockets.

Was letting Ron believe that his cheating ways was the reason she had left the cowards way out? Yes and maybe she should have sat down and explained everything to him, but honestly she couldn't even explain it to herself, trying to explain it to Ron would have been impossible.

After a week she had contacted him and told him there was no hard feelings, that she knew things had been weird for them. After all it was true, she didn't hate him, okay yes she was a little annoyed that Ron had chosen to go behind her back instead of being her friend, but it was Ron after all. She had always known he had the emotional range of a teaspoon.

Once the media finally let the drama die down, her Harry and Ron were back to being the 'Golden Trio' more or less anyway. Two months later all hell broke loose in the form of the Ministry stabbing them in the back with a Marriage Decree.

Hermione had read and re-read the blasted decree a thousand times over searching for something, anything, to get her out of it. Alas, whomever had written it was a master because it all boiled down to one thing, you had to marry before your twenty sixth birthday. By law they couldn't force anyone to procreate, but they had created many benefits for those willing to do so quickly, and for those who were sterile, they were given extensive benefits if they adopted children orphaned by war.

Harry and Ginny were already married and, luckily, safe from the nonsense but she had avoided spending any time alone with Ron after she had seen the looks he had given her. No matter the circumstance she wouldn't condemn them to that; she loved him, platonically, too much to even consider it.

It was three months before her twenty fifth birthday when Malfoy had sauntered into her office with a business/marriage proposal. At first she had out right laughed at him, but he had patiently waited until her giggles subsided and given her another proposal. If three months before her twenty sixth birthday she found someone she would prefer to marry he would never mention it again, but if she didn't, he would be there.

Four months and thirty six truly horrific dates after her twenty fifth, she had sat down and pondered Malfoys offer. She had to admit, strategically, it was an excellent move, Malfoy was a brilliant Healer who seemed to be moving up the professional ladder at the same lightning pace she was at the Ministry. As Husband and Wife, they would be a force to be reckoned with.

They would both have a lot to gain from the marriage, but it would come at a cost. She'd never have the fairy tale marriage she envisioned, of course the wedding would be beautiful, the Malfoys never seemed to do anything by halves, but it would be loveless. Could she do that?

A week later she had agreed, and they had negotiated some conditions, surprisingly Malfoy had insisted that his parents never found out that the marriage was a sham. Upon hearing this Hermione had insisted they had a… date of sorts, once a week to present a united front, even more surprising Malfoy had agreed almost instantly. However when she had told him flat that if she found proof they were going back to the old ways she would walk away without even batting an eyelash, which she thought was a very nice way of putting it, Malfoy had almost burst a blood vessel before he calmed himself and told her tightly it was an impossibility.

The next week they had started the weekly meetings, they were civil, respectful and she had actually seen him smile once or twice, which was… odd. Not bad odd, just different. Meeting Narcissa and Lucius had been more tense then the meetings she conducted to avoid war with other nations but Malfoy had charmed the pants off her parents, and Mrs Weasley which had shocked everyone.

When Ron and Harry found out they had stood shocked for at least ten minutes, they had been on good terms with Malfoy for a while considering how often the Aurors were in and out of St. Mungos but they obviously hadn't expected him to start 'dating' her. Not that they were actually dating, but they didn't know that.

All this had led to this night. She had dressed herself to the aces and even impressed Narcissa with her elegance, which if she were honest, she was a little proud of. Now, after four hours of smiling and laughing with the crème de la crème of society and friends and family, she was exhausted. Which is how she found herself here, on a small empty balcony hiding from her engagement party and subsequently her fiancé.

"I do hope you don't mind me interrupting." A voice quietly spoke from behind her, turning to it she met the gaze of her fiancés slate grey eyes.

"Not at all, please do." She gave a small smile and gestured beside her.

It was always like this, all stiff, polite, formality.

Malfoy sighed and ran a hand through his striking blonde hair. "Look Hermione, I know this isn't at all what you had imaged for life, but…" He looked up from the ground to stare into her eyes. "I promise you'll never want for anything…"

"…except everything that money cannot buy." She gave him a small sad smile and left him on the balcony.

It was that night Draco Malfoy had sworn to himself to try to give her that too, even if it took the rest of his life…