AN: Just a little plot bunny two-shot.

The Side Witch & The Gift

It's been five years, well almost five years, eight since the War ended. I've gone from the brightest witch of the age, my potential was lauded before I ever left Hogwarts, and now, I'm nothing more than a dirty little secret. I knew better, but I suppose I wanted to be daring and dangerous. Well, that was a fantastic idea, wasn't it?

I knew exactly how it happened. I was coming straight off my breakup with Ron. It shouldn't be any surprise we didn't last. I love him dearly and we gave it a good go, but in the end, we were simply too different. I'd be lying if I said I didn't resent him, but I suppose he thinks the same of me.

He wanted adventure and the bright lights of fame and Merlin, that's the last thing I wanted. In the beginning, it was new and exciting, but after awhile, I just wanted my privacy. I wanted to be able to go to the shops without being barraged with questions. I wanted to be able to dine in a quiet little restaurant without the flash of bulbs in my face.

Harry understood, but not Ron, never Ron. Harry had been famous from the time he was a baby, but Ron, as the youngest Weasley brother had always been in the shadows. I didn't blame him, but I wanted something different.

I wanted to build a career before I became a walking Weasley cliché. I wanted to have a husband and children, of course I did, but not at the tender age of nineteen, and Ron wanted the reincarnation of his mother. Don't get me wrong, I adore Molly, truly, I do, but I also don't wish to be her.

I couldn't tell Ron that bit though. I couldn't tell Harry either, considering he married Ginny. They're lovely together, though I had my reservations when we were younger. She's grown up and stopped resenting me quite so much, if at all, which definitely helps. We're actually quite close now and well, if Ron wants to blame someone for the demise of our relationship, he should probably blame Ginny.

She pointed out the imperfections in our relationship. She pointed out the flaws in our conflicting personalities. She analyzed Ron's immaturity and my stubborn resilience. She opened my eyes to the truth. I've always been a stickler for the truth. At least, I used to be.

I hate my job, have I told you that? I absolutely hate it. The Ministry is using me as a poster child for their agenda and I'm letting them. I've learned it's easier to go along with it than to fight it. It allows me to aid abused magical creatures and that's what I always wanted to do. At least, that's what I thought I wanted to do before I actually started doing it.

The Wizarding Community is still so ridiculously antiquated and prejudiced, it is mind-boggling. They're not interested in creating safer environments for their house elves or banning centaur hunting season. They want to live their pretty little lives and pretend irritating things such as Muggles don't exist.

They hate me, I think. Sometimes I think he still hates me too. I should have walked away, I tried more than once. He fought me with logic and Godric knows I can't argue with that.

He's right though. He's my dirty little secret just as much as I'm his. The very idea of informing Harry, or gods forbid Ron, how I spend my weekends is completely laughable. I don't doubt they'd have me committed to St. Mungo's and forced to undergo intensive anti-Pureblood therapies. If such a thing doesn't exist, well they'd invent it specifically for me.

They don't take issue with any other Pureblood as much as they take issue with him. I can't say his name. I've never said actually, but that's not the point. He's never said mine either, but what does it matter? I'm going to end it this time. I actually have an honest to goodness reason and even he won't be able to refute it.

I crumpled the Daily Prophet in my hands, resisting the urge to set it on fire, but just barely. He really had a lot of nerve. I knew exactly what he was going to say. After all this time, I knew exactly how his pompous mind worked.

He wasn't going to say anything remotely endearing or romantic. He wasn't that sort of man, never had been, and I knew that long before getting involved with him. He probably wouldn't bat an eye and he'd simply watch me go. It wasn't as if I hadn't gone before, but this time was different.

I stared at myself in the mirror with a critical eye. I wasn't beautiful, but I liked to think I was pretty. My hair wasn't nearly the disaster it was when I was a child. Ginny had finally seen to that and I allowed her. It made her happy and it made me feel better about myself, so what was the harm? My teeth weren't ridiculously large, but that was only due to a mishap in my youth. I had relatively clear skin, except for the smattering of freckles across the bridge of my nose. My eyes were large and a boring shade of brown, but they got the job done.

My body was another matter completely. Somewhere along the way, I had left behind the flat-chested girl of my youth and blossomed into an adequately busted woman. Ron said they were too large for his tastes, but I was no longer concerned with his wants and needs. He was someone else's problem now. My legs weren't particularly long, but they were well shaped, at least I thought so. My stomach was toned but only because I spent a respectable amount of time making sure of it.

He said I was thin, but I never knew if it was a compliment or an insult. I'd seen the witches on his arm and from appearances, it looked as though he preferred the sort of witch with an abundance of curves. It never made sense as to why he chose me for his secret liaisons. He had his choice of willing witch, and at least I knew he wouldn't be lonely after I was gone.

"You are a stupid, stupid witch." I told myself that delightful little snippet every morning, of every day, of every month, of every sodding year, I spent in the shadows.

My reflection only blinked and I closed my eyes. I had made my decision. That wasn't the truth. It wasn't the truth at all. I probably would have spent the rest of my life as his dirty little secret. It's shameful to admit it, even to myself, but that doesn't make it less true. He made the decision with his actions, and I wasn't going to allow him to continue down this road. At least not with me.

"Hermione!" Fantastic, I wasn't expecting Ginny this early, but I heard her heavy feet on my narrow stairs just the same.

"I'm here." I called back, because it was pointless to pretend I wasn't home.

"My, don't you look lovely. What's the occasion?" Her brown eyes sparkled with mischief and I knew she was teasing me.

She walked around me in slow circles, letting loose a few whistles and catcalls which only caused me to roll my eyes. It's my birthday you see, and it's the one night of the year I wear more than pleated skirts and vests, at least in public.

"It's just a little something I had hiding away in the back of my closet." It's as close to the truth as I'm willing to get. He bought it for me, but I'd never worn it. He had inquired of it once, but I brushed him off, unwilling to play into his fantasies.

"I don't care where it came from it's delightful. It makes your waist so tiny! I'm totally jealous. Your breasts look amazing! Ron is really going to kick his own arse. Gods, Hermione, you're completely on display. I've never seen you wear something so daring." Ginny eyed the long slit up my thigh which amazement, and I couldn't help but to smile.

She was right. I'd never worn anything that made me feel the way this did. The shimmering emerald green material clung to my every minuscule curve, but it's not like I could tell you what it's made of. I was never that sort of girl. It accentuated my high, round breasts, and I swore if I drew a full breath, they'd be spilling over the top. It stopped just above my knee, but that wasn't the shocking part. It was the slit that stopped just before my knickers.

"I love it." I whispered in a conspiratorial sort of way, and she gifted me with the largest smile I've seen since James was born.

"You naughty witch!" Ginny had finally caught sight of my silver garter straps peeking out from the slit to attach to my shimmering sheer stockings. "Those silver heels really round out that outfit. Grab your clutch, we can't be late. You know how Harry gets."

I nodded and twisted my soft curls onto my head. It was a simple matter to fasten them with a diamond and pearl clasp. He gave me that as well. Now that I really thought about it, everything I was wearing was a gift from him. They spanned the five years I had spent tumbling in his bed, and it was only apt I display them before I walked away.

"I'm ready." Ginny's brow furrowed, and I knew it was directed toward the pearl choker, showcasing a sparkling diamond in the center, but I wasn't willing to discuss it. The matching earrings and bracelet completed the look and it was glaringly obvious they were expensive. Exceedingly expensive and not the sort of ensemble I would purchase for myself.

She suspected something was amiss, and I almost told her. Ginny was a nosy friend and she knew I had a secret suitor, using the term loosely. I'd always been tight lipped about it. I knew that was going to change, but not tonight.

"I refuse to spend the entire evening reminiscing over Hogwarts days until I stumble home in the wee small hours of the morning. I'm warning you, Ginny, not a minute passed eleven."

"Yes, you've got to make sure to hurry off and see your beau. There's nothing better than birthday sex." Ginny laughed and grasped my hand, dragging me along.

There was no point in arguing with her. She would roll her eyes and nod knowingly, while I sputtered about how wrong she was. Ordinarily, she wouldn't be wrong, but as I said, things were going to be different this year.

It was a simple matter to Apparate from my flat and soon Ginny was dragging me along. I didn't stumble in my ridiculously high heels and I was quite proud of myself. I was soon laughing, excited for the evening when we stepped into the venue.

It was supposed to be a quiet little evening spent with friends. However, Harry always went overboard and this year was no different. I expected a quaint little restaurant on the outskirts of Diagon Alley or even Hogsmeade, but no. It was a delightful French nouveau sort of place, complete with a ballroom.

It was posh for my standards, but Harry always insisted on celebrating birthdays in style. Personally, I think he's grandstanding just a bit, but he insists otherwise. I suppose it has more to do with his childhood, but we don't like to discuss such things anymore.

"Shit." Ginny cursed and I glanced at her quickly, but she wasn't looking at me. "Harry said he'd secured the venue. I don't know what they're doing here. Please don't let it ruin our night."

The world seemed to stop when I followed her gaze. He was there. He was there, and he wasn't alone. A cold hand had reached into my chest and squeezed my heart. I could feel Ginny's bony elbow in my side, but I couldn't breathe, let alone do anything more than stare.

When a tall wizard stepped into my view, I shook my head, willing my eyes to remain dry. I could do this. I'm Hermione Granger, I could do anything.

"Ms. Granger. Ordinarily, I wouldn't apologise, but I've been informed by a rather reliable source, it is your birthday. We expected our festivities to end hours ago, but I'm sure you understand the plight of youth." Ginny was squeezing my hand so tightly, I was sure the circulation was cut off, but I finally managed to look into the silvery eyes of Lucius Malfoy.

He and I had spoken a few times since I testified for him before the Wizengamot. He'd always been polite, but never friendly. Strangely, he treated me quite a bit better than he did Harry.

"I don't know, Mr. Malfoy. I've always been fastidious when it comes to keeping time." It amused me to see his lips twitch in amusement. If I wasn't mistaken, he winked slightly as well.

"Yes, I suppose you have. You do realise your talents are being wasted at the Ministry." Lucius pulled on the sleeves of his pristine black dress robes while he barbed me.

"I don't know what you're insinuating, but she's the brightest witch the Ministry has seen and…oompf." I slammed my elbow into Ginny's ribs and smiled congenially.

"Yes, Mrs.….Potter." Lucius never managed to lose that derisive edge in his voice when addressing Harry or his wife, but it never bothered me. "That's exactly my point. One would think as the brightest witch of the age, she would much rather work as the Head of my Research and Development Department at Malfoy Industries, rather than wasting her talents among Ministry fools more interested in lining their pockets, than traversing into the future. Food for thought perhaps?" My mouth must have gaped open because there was a long aristocratic forefinger beneath my jaw, tapping gently.

"I was under the impression Malfoy Industries was a family business and as such your son would…" I swallowed hard, the words caught in my throat.

"Ah yes, my son, ever the topic of conversation. Draco has decided he'd much rather have a hand's on approach, and has taken over the Potions Department. It was on his suggestion the position is being offered to you. He seems to recall you've always had a propensity for diligently poring over books during your years at Hogwarts. Perhaps such habits have continued into your adulthood?" I couldn't believe what I was hearing.

Lucius Malfoy paid me a compliment. Me. Hermione Granger. The Mudblood bane of his existence.

"Y-yes." I finally replied. "That bit hasn't changed."

Lucius carefully lifted my left hand, mindful of the daggers shooting from Ginny and stroked my diamond and pearl bracelet with knowing eyes. I could hear my heart fitting to burst as it pounded in my ears, but remained silent. He held my hand delicately, sandwiching it between his and downright smiled at me.

"My son has impeccable taste." Ginny coughed into her hand, and Lucius chanced a quick look over his shoulder. "Usually. I expect to see you the first week of October. I'm assuming that gives you more than enough time to give your notice. Good day and may I be the first to wish you a happy birthday." Lucius released me and swept passed us toward the atrium.

Narcissa pretended she didn't see me. I wasn't expecting anything less. She'd never forgiven me for besting her son in nearly every subject. I thought it was ridiculous, but she's not the sort of witch willing to change with the times. It doesn't matter that she saved us all, she was doing it for selfish reasons. Ask her, and that's exactly what she'll tell you.

"Granger." There it was. I wasn't expecting it, not then. "Go with my mother, I'll be along shortly." He spoke to the pretty little brunette witch at his side and she nodded, offering me a small smile.


Ginny scoffed and made her way toward Harry. I felt his eyes scour me from head to toe and heard the sharp intake of his breath. He remembered, it seemed.

He leaned close, much closer than he ever had before in public. I could feel his hot breath on my ear and I sucked air through my teeth, willing my knees to remain still.

"My flat. Eleven." He kissed my cheek then and I gasped.

"I don't take well to demands." I managed to speak without a quiver to my voice and inwardly smiled.

"What are you doing?" I didn't recognize the emotion in his voice, and was immediately on the defensive.

"I'm planning on enjoying my birthday." I crossed my arms protectively and Ginny was immediately at my side, thrusting a flute of champagne into my hands.

"Shouldn't you be with your little fiancée? Hermione hasn't the time to talk to you. We've got to do all the celebrating we can before she slips off to meet her beau." Ginny thought she was helping, but silently I groaned. I could feel the whip of his head as he turned from Ginny to me.

"Beau? Really now. Surprised that hasn't made it to the front page of the Prophet." He sneered, just like I knew he would.

"How can it when it's always filled with you and your slags? Leave Hermione be. She's due a lovely little boyfriend who appreciates her." Ginny downed her champagne, ignoring the drops that landed on her blue chiffon dress.

"Boyfriend." He scoffed, rolling his grey eyes skyward, his lips twitching with distaste.

"No. Not a boyfriend." I finally spoke up, resigned to my fate and his. "Not even a little, not even at all." I walked away then, refusing to grace him with a backward glance, but I could feel his eyes on me until I stepped into the loo.

I slumped against the heavy oak door, squeezing my eyes closed while Ginny's fists pounded on the other side. It would have been smarter to head directly to the bar, but I needed a minute. I needed a singular moment to memorise the smolder in his eyes as he looked at me. I needed a moment to try to identify the unfamiliar emotion in his voice. I needed a moment to recall the feel of his lips on my cheek, the closest he's ever come to my mouth.

"Hermione Granger you open this door right now or I'll blast it to bits!" I wanted to splash some cool water on my face, but I wasn't going to risk ruining my masterpiece, besides the fact Ginny would have murdered me.

It had taken her weeks to teach me the proper way to apply eyeliner and mascara. I'm not even going to detail the lessons involved when it came to eye shadow. That woman is absolutely relentless in her quest to find me a husband.

"Just a minute." I straightened my shoulders, adjusted my cleavage, and opened the door to face the rest of the evening.

I pasted a smile on my lips. I sipped champagne. I mingled with 'my' guests, and I avoided Harry like the plague. He was avoiding me just as avidly as I was avoiding him. Despite my failing relationship with his brother-in-law, Harry was still my best friend.

I knew he saw my interactions with the former Slytherin. I knew he saw my conversation with Lucius. Harry wasn't one of the best Aurors the Ministry had ever seen, by being obtuse. Sure, he was reckless, stubborn, and spontaneous, but he wasn't stupid.

"Wow Hermione you look…you look…wow." I cringed and walked quickly away from Ron.

I sidled between Lavender Brown and Luna Lovegood, nodded curtly, and slipped through the French doors. I closed them tightly behind me, and even crouched behind some shrubbery, only to bump into Harry.

"Seems we had the same idea. Operation Avoid Ron." I watched Harry shove his round spectacles up the bridge of his nose and groaned.

"I thought we were avoiding each other. Ron had never factored into the equation."

"That too." Harry studied me the way he studied the wizards he had captured and I didn't like it, not one bit.

"Alright then, get it over with." I sat beside him on the stone bench and crossed my legs.

"I thought about it for a bit. I wanted to rage at you honestly, but I've had a bit of time to really think about it. It's not up to me to tell you what you should or shouldn't do. I gather it's been going on for quite awhile. I have a million questions, but I'm not going to ask them…"

"I'll give you three." I was quite proud of Harry. He had grown so much from the angry child I once knew. I suspected his friendship with Blaise Zabini had aided in that, as well as finally telling Ron to grow up. I wish I had been there for that conversation, as Ron refused to speak of it.

"Did it start while you and Ron were still…"

"No. Absolutely not. We'd been over for half a year or so." Harry fidgeted on the bench and I knew he wasn't completely comfortable with any of this, and I couldn't blame him.

"How…how did it even happen? I mean, it's not like you're in the same social circles or…or anything. I don't understand." Harry ducked behind my shoulder, and I saw Ginny peering through the glass and closed my eyes. "That doesn't help Hermione. That never helps. She can still see you." I laughed because he was right. It was instinct, and it never made a bit of sense.

"I bumped into him at a pub. I was completely pissed. I stumbled and he caught me. I thought he'd drop me the moment he realised who I was, but he didn't. He laughed and…I'd never really heard him laugh before. We wound up closing the pub and then he asked about Ron. He asked me if I'd finally come to my senses and dismissed that ginger git. I snorted and said why, do you want to have a go? He smirked and said…maybe. He sent me an owl the next day, and it sort of went from there. It was an unspoken sort of agreement. We didn't discuss it and we most definitely never flouted about in public. You don't have to worry, Harry. He's getting engaged and I'm ending it."

Harry touched my cheek and I jumped, startled by his actions. He wiped a few tears from my cheek that I never realised were falling in the first place. Sometimes I really hated being a woman. I hated crying when I was angry. I hated crying in general, but especially in front of anyone else.

"Do you love him?"

Now that was a really good question. If Harry had asked me that five years ago, the answer would have been a quick, resounding no. However, after five years of seeing someone every weekend, it was difficult to pretend there wasn't some…emotional investment there. Of course, I was positive it was only on my end.

He wasn't soft and warm. He wasn't inviting. He wasn't…anything that Ron was, which I suppose was the draw in the first place. He was calculating, manipulative, and ridiculously sexy and he knew it.

At the same time? He was attentive, intuitive, perceptive, and highly intelligent. There were nights we simply bantered about our Hogwarts days or even whatever sort of amended law I was attempting to get passed through the Wizengamot. He was eerily logical, yet impassioned when something piqued his interest.

He'd never given me the slightest indication I meant anything to him, other than a late night shag. He'd never begged me to stay when I told him I was leaving. No, then he was terrifyingly silent. He knew my body better than I did, but kissing was absolutely out of the question. He'd always been completely adverse to it, not that I'd ever tried. I had seen him spur the attempted affections of many a witch, and knew better.

Did I love him? Yes, I suppose I did. It really wasn't fair of Harry to ask me that, but I did open the door for it. Some part of me believed that he had a right to know before Harry. I wasn't stupid enough to tell him. I didn't want him to end things. I wanted to retain the small bit of dignity I had left. I wanted to be the one to walk away. I didn't want to be yet another witch discarded by him. It didn't matter if no one knew I had once been his, I knew.

"Yes. Yes, I do, but like I said, Harry. You don't need to fret over it. It's over. He doesn't know it yet, but it is. I'm going to start the next year of my life without this cloud of deceit hanging over me. I can't do it anymore. I can't." My voice broke and it was Harry's strong arms holding me upright.

I clung to him, and sobbed those tearless sort of sobs. I refused to allow the tears to fall. It wasn't the first time I had cried over him, but it would be the last. Gods, I hoped it would be the last.

"It's half past eleven." Ginny finally discovered our whereabouts, but she was anything but angry. "Was it Ron? I'm not against hexing my brother."

"No, it wasn't Ron…this time." I laughed into Harry's lapel and wiped my nose.

I was sure I looked a fright, but I didn't care. He'd never seen me as anything less than perfect. Perhaps it was time for him to see me in a new light.

"That actually makes me a little sad. I was looking forward to shouting off a good Bat-Bogey. It's been awhile. I could get rusty." Ginny sat beside me, threw her arms around me, and suddenly I was the middle of a Potter sandwich.

"Please let me go, I'm late as it is." I wound up mumbling into Harry's damp shirt, but they understood me.

"Go on then, and make sure to tell me all about it!" Ginny leapt to her feet, dragging me with her and shoved me toward the hidden stone staircase.

I didn't bother to correct her, and I was happy Harry remained silent. The last thing I needed was to hear Ginny's disapproval on top of everything else. I waved my hand over my head in a silent goodbye, and hoped Ginny would drop my birthday presents at my flat.

It was harder to Apparated to his flat than I thought it would be. I hadn't done it very often. Normally, I'd simply step into the Floo, but I wanted to do everything different this time. I lightly knocked on his door, and I'm sure it surprised him. I'd never knocked before. I held my breath when I heard footsteps as they didn't sound like his, even through the heavy door.

"Who would be calling on you this late?" The voice was feminine, and I cursed myself for even showing up in the first place.

I turned to go, hurrying quickly away, anxious to get to the alley before one of them made an appearance. I heard the door creak open, and a muted curse, but I didn't turn around. I couldn't run, not in silver stilettos, but I moved faster, the wind whipping at my cheeks when I stepped onto the street.

I turned the corner and the streetlamp flickered, scaring me just a little. It was entirely too late to be wandering around, despite the prestigious neighbourhood. I stepped into the darkened alley and removed my wand from the strap on my thigh and he was there.

He grasped my wrist, halting my movements, and I cried out. He pushed me against the brick, holding me in place, and I stilled. I wanted to lash out at him, push him away, curse him even, but I did nothing. I stood there and waited.

"You're late, Granger." I could feel his chest heaving with the exertion of chasing after me, but I wasn't going to look at him. At least that was the plan, but the best laid plans of mice and men…or some such nonsense.

"I was delayed." I spat, angry with him for ruining my perfect plan. Angry with myself for falling victim to him, for allowing him to press up against me, no matter how wonderful it felt.

"I didn't think you were coming." He released my wrist, but wrench my wand from my fingers.

I kept my eyes closed, to protect myself, and I think it irked him. He sighed heavily and I knew he was raking his fingers through his hair. It was something he did when he was exasperated, angry, and nervous, though he was rarely nervous.

"It's better this way. Go back to her. I'm sure she's waiting for you." I tried to sound detached, aloof even, but I couldn't pull it off nearly as well as he did.

"Is that what you want?" His voice was low and soft, the gentlest I'd ever heard it. His hands were on my sides, with only the slightest bit of pressure, and I liked it. I liked it more than I should. Of course, now would be the time he decided to change things.

"Since when has it mattered what I want, Malfoy?" My eyes were doing it again. I could feel them filling, but even so, I was resolute.

"Granger…have you been…have you been…crying?" I almost laughed, almost. His inflection was a cross between disgust and absolute incredulity.

"Oh what does it matter? Yes, I have, actually. It has been known to happen." I pretended I didn't feel the nimble fingers of his right hand toying with my garter, and I finally opened my eyes to glare at him. "You've wasted too much time here with me, she's going to be furious with you."

"She shouldn't have shown up uninvited and unannounced then. Look, let me get rid of her and…"

"No." I shoved his hand from my thigh, and valiantly attempted to regain my wand.

"Fine. Go to your flat. I'll be there in half an hour." He seemed nervous, rather than angry, and I didn't like it. I didn't like it when he wasn't being…himself. By the time I processed his words, I was standing alone in the alley, with my wand at my feet.

This wasn't the way it was supposed to go. I was supposed to state my case. I was supposed to walk away with my head held high. I definitely wasn't supposed to be pacing my flat while drinking scotch and soda like it was going out of style.

I hadn't even bothered to change, and my subconscious knew it was for him. I wanted to see his face, in the privacy of my flat, while I sported his House colours. I didn't even ask how he knew where my flat was, but he was capable of discovering anything of interest. I guess where I lived was of interest to him, and I wasn't sure how that made me feel.

"You really should consider switching to water. I can't imagine you'll be able to deliver your rousing speak otherwise." I screamed, tossing my drink into the air and closing my eyes.

One of these days, I'm going to have to delve into why my go-to action is to close my eyes, but it wasn't the time. Thankfully, my glass sailed across the kitchen and only smashed into the door. Being covered in sticky scotch on my birthday would have been a perfect way to end the day.

"You know…you're sort of cute when you're flustered." Draco Malfoy was in my kitchen.

Draco Malfoy was in my kitchen smirking at me, wearing those charcoal grey slacks that perfectly matched his eyes. He did that on purpose, I know he did. He always had an agenda and I knew from the leering set in his eyes, he was planning something.

"Stop it. How did you…you can't just…I mean…" He kept walking toward me, which only caused me to retreat, but the wall stopped me.

His arms were braced on either side of my head, and he was looking at me. I mean, really looking at me. He wasn't sneering, smirking, or making some lewd comment. I watched him swallow, his Adam's apple bobbing, and if I wasn't mistaken there was a trace of fear in his grey eyes.

"Look Granger, I know what you're going to say. It's nothing you haven't said before. You're not wrong, but you're not right either." I had a hard time keeping focus. His lips were so close I just wanted to grasp his face in my hands and plant one on him.

I had imagined what they felt like so many times, I'd lost count. I wondered what they tasted like. I'd wondered as to his reaction, and gods, I wanted it. I wanted so much more than he was willing to offer me. I deserved it. I wanted it from him, but I was fooling myself. I had been fooling myself for years, and I was tired.

"I don't want to argue with you, Malfoy. I'm so tired." I was tired, exhausted really, and I knew my shoulders were slumping under the strain of it all.

"Then…don't." His warm breath was against my neck, followed by his lips, and my arguments just seemed to disappear.

It was a simple matter for him to maneuver me through the kitchen. I didn't have a particularly large flat, as I didn't need one. I had often imagined him scoffing at my simple means, but he didn't. He pushed me through the door at the far end of the kitchen, and then we were stumbling down the short corridor to my bedroom.

He slid down the zipper of my dress, and then it was pooling at my feet. He nudged me with his hips until I could do nothing other than fall. He tossed his wand on the floor near my dress before joining me on the bed.

I couldn't resist him. I didn't want too. Perhaps one last time wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. It would give me something to hold onto while I spent my evenings drowned in vats of ice cream and sappy films. Then again, it could make me more miserable. There really was no way to know.

"Malfoy…I…" His finger covered my lips, and he shook his head.

"Not yet, let me have this." I hated the way his eyes were my undoing.

The way he stared at me made me feel naked. I was partially naked, but that's not the point. He made me feel completely bare with a look. The power he had over me made me doubt my intelligence. It was unnerving, disconcerting, nerve wracking, and absolutely exhilarating all wrapped in a pretty little bow.

I watched him with eager eyes as he slid my knickers off. I noticed that while he removed my sandals, the garters remained in place. When he removed my bra, he sat back on his heels and studied me.

"Divine." He whispered. He removed his clothes posthaste, and soon I was sighing.

His skin was so pale and so smooth. I was addicted to the sinew of his muscles stretching across his taut abdomen. I always swore there wasn't a bit of fat on him. He really was the perfect specimen of man, and he probably knew that as well.

It was different this time. I don't know why he was doing this to me. It was like he knew I was walking away for good, and he was trying to tempt me into staying forever. If I had been any other woman, it probably would have worked, but I was always ridiculously stubborn.

Draco Malfoy didn't close his eyes. It wasn't the hurried, lust-filled experience I had come to expect. He was slow. He was gentle. He stared at me while my lips parted, and unfamiliar sounds escaped between my lips.

He moaned. He sighed. He eased his way between my thighs, and moved so slowly, I was in agony. My skin was on fire, every nerve ending standing at attention, demanding release. He hitched my leg over his hip, and drove into me deeper, but never harder. My toes were curling, my fingers scrambling for purchase on his sweat soaked shoulder blades, and he never increased his pace.

I had long since given up on the idea of him kissing me. I guess that was part of the reason I knew we had to part ways. I love kissing, well, I love good kissing. I had always been desperate to find the appropriate partner, but I knew it was possible.

It definitely hadn't been Ron. Viktor had also been a disaster. I had managed to exchange a few passionless kisses with Cormac, but I'd rather not remember that, thank you very much. I knew, in my deepest heart of hearts, Draco Malfoy was an absolutely amazing kisser, and it drove me absolutely mad with fury that I hadn't been able to sample those particular wares.

I could feel my orgasm building slowly and I would have done anything for him to just do what he did best. I wanted to feel him slam into me, driving me across my own bed for the first and last time. I wanted to feel those long hard strokes that drove my teeth into his skin, but Malfoy, it seemed, was distracted by my lips.

I studied him, flexing my hips up to meet his lazy thrusts. His eyes continuously strayed to my parted lips. Confused, I bit my bottom lip. A terrible habit really, as I always managed to chew it ragged. He sucked his breath through his teeth, and latched onto my throat.

The motion of his lips, his tongue, combined with the overwhelming full feeling of him inside me, made my head fuzzy. I locked my arms around his neck, my hardened nipples scraping across his chest, and moaned.

"Oh God. Oh God." I don't know how many times I said it, but it seemed to spur him on, and then I was falling. The Muggle roller coaster was finally tipping over the incredible dive, and the it was rushing, rushing rushing, flowing over the smaller hills and valleys, much like the waves crash onto the shore.

He was grunting, holding my hips still, but pulling me into him at the same time. It really was quite a talent. I could feel him spill into me, grinding into my pelvis. I could have cried. I might have cried.

Draco Malfoy didn't collapse on my chest and roll off me. He pushed up on his hands, still firmly lodged between my thighs, and quirked his head to the side. His thumb brushed over my bottom lip and he frowned for a second, and then he was kissing me.

He was really kissing me. Draco Malfoy, Pureblood Playboy, was kissing me. It was everything I'd ever hoped for, and more. He nibbled my bottom lip, drawing it into his mouth and sucking lightly. His hands held my face in place and my heart was pounding so furiously, it literally ached. He pecked my lips, once, twice, three times, and I wanted more.

He rolled to his side, but took me with him, finally dipping his tongue between my parted lips. He tasted me with more passion than I knew he was capable of even having. I whimpered, and he held me tighter. Draco Malfoy held me. He held me against his chest, his hands stroking my back, and I didn't want him to let me go.

Somewhere along the way, I had closed my eyes, memorising this moment. I don't know how long we laid there, wrapped around each other. I don't know how long he kissed me, but my lips were swollen, and a little sore but that didn't matter. I don't know how long it was, but I started to cry.

This made it harder. It made everything so much harder. I didn't know if I could do it anymore. I wanted to stick to my beliefs. I wanted to tell him so very much, but he was breaking my heart into irreparable shards, with a simple kiss.

"Happy birthday."

Draco Malfoy had never said those words to me. He'd never even alluded to them. He'd always given me a gift, normally in a small, square box just before he drifted off to sleep. He had impeccable taste, and I had hidden most of his gifts in the top drawer of my bureau.

I couldn't take anymore. I pushed against his naked chest, refusing to be drawn back in, and sat up. I snatched my dressing gown from the bottom of the bed, and slipped into it, tying it around my waist with hurried fingers. He hadn't moved an inch, but I could feel him watching me. I couldn't look at him, not again. I couldn't get lost in his eyes, his body, and Merlin forgive me, those lips.

"I need you to go."

"Granger." I could hear the amusement in his voice and it set me off. I was angry again and that was better. I flinched away from the hand on my shoulder, standing, yet still staring at the ground.

"I can't do this anymore, Malfoy. I can't. I don't expect you to understand. I've given you everything, and never asked for anything in return. I always kept hoping you'd just want to give it, but you're not that sort of man. I should have been honest with you, with myself, but I wasn't. I was busy enjoying the tidbits of affections you deigned to bestow upon me. It was easy to convince myself to just enjoy it. I was coming off a bad relationship, and it felt good. I liked the way it made me feel, but I liked it too much. This isn't going anywhere. It's never going to go anywhere, and I don't want to be fifty, living in a one bedroom flat, without a husband, and without children, because I wasted my life with a man, who could never lower himself to give me those things." I drew a shaky breath and heard the bed creak behind me, but I had my strength back. I was going to be alright…eventually.

"You're…you're serious. I thought this was just another one of your moments, but you're serious. What happened Granger, did your beloved Potter discover your sordid little secret was me?" He was absolutely seething, but I suspected it had more to do with his pride than anything else.

"Harry knows and what of it? He has nothing to do with my decision. He didn't even care, so take that Draco Malfoy. I need you to go. Go on then! Go and marry your pretty little witch, with her perfect bloodlines, and make your parents over the moon. I won't be the sort of witch that sneaks around with another woman's husband. I might be many things, but I refuse to be a home wrecker." I was shouting at him then, the tears freely flowing down my cheeks, and I didn't even care. Five years worth of pent up emotion was breaking through the surface, and I was incapable of holding back any longer.

"Fine. If that's what you want. Fine." He thrust his legs into his rumpled slacks, muttering under his breath before he glared at me. "I was going to…you know what? Never mind. It's obvious your mind is made up. You have no idea what I…dammit Granger!" He shoved his arms into that delightful sapphire blue button down, and I refused to waver. "I wasn't aware I was supposed to be a fucking mind reader. You shouldn't believe everything you read in the Prophet. I thought you'd…fuck." I had never seen him so rattled.

Later, I would remember this moment with curiosity, but at that moment, I felt free. I wasn't allowing my stilted emotions to get the best of me. I wasn't allowing my desire for him to run rampant in my life. I was saying what I needed to say, well most of it anyway.

"If you really want me to go, I'll go. Just…don't turn down the job offer from my father because of me. It's an opportunity to do something in a place where you would excel. Granger…I…" He took a step toward me, but I stepped away. I didn't trust myself, not yet. "Fine, I won't touch you either. Here." He slammed one of those familiar square boxes onto my bureau. "I know you're not going to open it today. When you do…come find me."

I watched his hand reach out, and then pause. He sighed, and gods be damned if there wasn't sadness in those captivating eyes. I couldn't resist. I didn't want to resist. I stroked a wayward blond strand off his forehead, and watched his eyes close with a soundless sigh. I stretched onto my toes, and kissed his cheek, entirely too close to those delicious lips.

"Goodbye." I whispered, and he was gone.