Recap: Years later ... Joking! Okay, so hate turned to love and then hate again as Hermione and Draco try to figure out what the heck they're doing. They finally make love and then fight the morning after. Lavender keeps seeing stuff. Blaise is whipped. Hermione is mad at Ron for sneaking around with Parvati and also mad at Harry for keeping Ron's secret. And, uh ... yeah.

Only a Seer would risk sneaking out after curfew on a Sunday… and dressed so provocatively. Lavender hurried up the staircase towards the Astronomy Tower, her pink slippers softly scuffing the marble floors. She paid no heed to the storm raging outside or to the darkness that lay ahead.

At the bottom of the spiral staircase that led up to the Astronomy Tower, Blaise was waiting for her.

"Lavender," he greeted, his eyes wandering appreciatively over her scantily clad body.

"I thought I had fully satiated your appetite this afternoon," Lavender purred, her lips curving into a wicked smile. Walking into his open arms, she kissed him sensually, her hand eagerly reaching for his nether regions.

"Actually," Blaise mumbled against her lips, wincing as he stopped her hand from further exploration, "That wasn't why I owled you."

Lavender leaned back in his arms. "Oh? Something wrong?" she asked with deceptive sweetness.

"Er," he began. "Well... it's Malfoy."

With a single name, Lavender's charm and patience evaporated. "Malfoy?" she hissed.

"Darling, please - he's very distraught," Blaise explained in a rush.

"Distraught?" she said, shoving out of his arms. "I snuck out of my dormitories in my lingerie to be with you. I thought you had settled all this at quidditch practice-"

Lavender was hit with a vision of earlier that afternoon when two Slytherins had been engrossed in a midair conversation. She swore aloud when she heard Blaise's inspired speech instead of the one they had rehearsed.

"Perfect, Blaise," she said, coming out of her fit. "Just perfect. I ask you to do one thing, one simple task-

"He's in a horrible state," he fumbled. "I dunno what to do with him!"

Lavender retied her robe. "Where is he?" she snarled.

Blaise's gaze drifted up the winding stairs. It was too dark to see the top, but Lavender could hear a low voice... singing?

"What's he doing?" she asked.

"He's gone mad," Blaise explained as he led her up the stairs. "When he disappeared after practice, I didn't think anything of it. Figured he'd come here to sulk. By the time I arrived, the bloody idiot had taken a draught of Goblin's Breath."

Lavender gasped. "But it's been banned for nearly a century!"

"And for good reason," Blaise said. "Lucius had some hidden at the manor. We tried it once. Foul stuff." Blaise shuddered for emphasis. "Absolutely foul."

As they drew closer, Blaise flourished his wand. The landing was illuminated, revealing a disheveled Draco slumped over the top few steps shivering in his soaked quidditch robes.

"He looks drunk," Lavender observed.

Blaise grunted. "He's delusional. Just keeps singing that same bloody song over and over. Almost certain it's the one from the ball Warbeck opened with."

"Did you try a sobering charm?" Lavender asked, waving her hand in front of Draco's face as he continued to mumble out of tune.

"Yes," Blaise said. "As you can see, he'll need something a bit stronger than that."

"Blah?" Draco said, struggling to lift his head. "Tha' you?"

"It's me, mate," Blaise grimaced, hovering over him.

"I'm 'eartless bastard," Draco muttered, his eyes bloodshot and not focusing.

"Interesting," Blaise noted. "It's the most lucid he's been in the past hour."

Draco turned a pitiful face towards his friend. "You were righ', Blah," he said.

Blaise shook his head sadly. "I take it back. He's worse than I thought."

"'I can' have her," Draco continued hoarsely.

"Can't have who?"

"Herminny," Draco slurred.

Blaise snorted. "Technically, you've already had her, mate…"

Blaise's voice faltered. He and Lavender gaped at Draco, completely stunned by what they were witnessing.

Draco Malfoy was crying.

"I LUB HERMY!" Draco sobbed, his bottom lip quivering.

"He's deranged," Blaise croaked.

"Grup… leggo," Draco whimpered. And with those final eloquent words, he passed out.

Lavender sniffed in distaste. "This is so... sad." Pulling out her wand, she transfigured her naughty lingerie into school attire. "Come on," she said, flourishing her robes as she descended the stairs. "We need a remedy. I remember something about the severe effects of Goblin's Breath being irreversible if not treated immediately. We'll need to break into Snape's private store, but-"

"Very impressive, Miss Brown," Blaise said, grinning. "So you're a Seer and a Healer."

Lavender rolled her eyes.

"Hermione isn't the only girl at this school who reads," she replied.

"You can read as well?" he asked with sham astonishment.

"Amazing, isn't it?" she said, giving his head a quick thwack with her wand.

Hermione had never felt so well rested when she opened her eyes and found herself still in the Room of Requirement. Stretching out across the chaise lounge, her hand brushed against parchment. She retrieved the small scroll and read Lavender's brushed script.

I conjured an appropriate ensemble and marked a few pages in The Witch's Guide to Wizardly Pleasures. It's a bit of a crash course, but I'm sure you'll be able to teach that gorgeous Slytherin a thing or two in the art of lovemaking. Make him weep.


Hermione actually laughed aloud at Lavender's final order. Her laughter was cut short, though, when she picked up the appropriate ensemble Lavender had mentioned. It was a slip the color of deepest emerald green… and it was completely sheer. Hermione gulped, contemplating in utter confusion the purpose of wearing a gown that concealed absolutely nothing- although she did note with some amusement that the color choice was very Slytherin. She relaxed a bit when she found a silver robe to accompany the indecent piece of lingerie.

Equipped with her newfound sex attire, Hermione set to work studying the passages Lavender had marked in The Witch's Guide to Wizardly Pleasures. She would not only prove to Draco that she was a knowledgeable lover, but she would also drive any thoughts of other women from his mind. She smiled deliciously to herself and recalled Lavender's written words.

Make him weep…

There was only one cure for Goblin's Breath: Hair of the Werewolf. After performing a drying spell on his robes, Lavender and Blaise had managed to transport Draco back to the Slytherin common room. They sat him up on a sofa and poured a dram of potion into his mouth. Then … they waited. A few moments of gurgling and random spasms later, Draco opened his eyes and focused on the two people sitting with him.

"Blaise," he croaked. "What is your Gryffindorgirlfriend doing in our common room?"

"Seems to have done the trick," Lavender said lightly, rising to her feet.

Blaise retrieved an empty green bottle and handed it to Draco. "Goblin's Breath, mate? What possessed you?" he scolded.

"Perhaps it was your encouraging words to him earlier, darling," Lavender suggested. With an airy chuckle at Draco's venomous glare, she settled herself into an armchair and gave the dark and dreary room a glance over. "Well, this is cozy," she drawled. "Shall I call for tea and crumpets?"

"Blaise," Draco practically growled. "Get her out of here."

Blaise coughed awkwardly. "Er, Lavender- Love," he added gently, "Thanks for your help, but it might be best for you to return to Gryffindor Tower-"

"And leave you to muddle things up?" she said. "Absolutely not."

"Muddle what up? What is she on about?" Draco said.

"Hermione was right. You are a witless sex fiend," Lavender muttered. At Draco's speechless rage, she rolled her eyes. "Yes, I saw your altercation this morning."

Draco fumed at Blaise. "Is there any way of ripping out your girlfriend's inner eye?"

"She can't help it, mate," Blaise pleaded. "The damn thing has a mind of its own-"

"Shush!" Lavender snapped, holding Draco with her leveling glare. "Do you think I enjoy seeing you and Hermione? All your interludes? Your private thoughts? Your secret daydreams? Dragons and butterflies and pig-man creatures? Well, I don't! And to be quite frank, I'm sick of it! There I was this afternoon trying to whip Blaise into submission when visions of a lovesick idiot"-she waved her wand for dramatic flair- "moping in the rain popped into my head!"

"Enough!" Draco said, rising. "This is ridiculous. I'm leaving."

"No, you're not," Lavender said in dangerously quiet voice, her wand now fixed on him. "If you want my inner eye out of your business, then you'll stay exactly where you are. Whether willingly or by force, it makes no difference to me."

"Are you seriously going to allow this?" Draco blasted at Blaise.

"Just listen to her," Blaise mumbled. "She'll get her way eventually. Always does. Best to get it over with."

With a dramatic breath, Lavender relaxed back into her chair. "Very good, darling," she praised. "I've trained you well. Now, fetch us some whiskey."

Blaise dragged his feet as he set to work summoning the drinks, ignoring Draco's wrathful sneers.

"Sit down, Draco," Lavender commanded. She watched him as he crankily took his seat. "Now, listen carefully. I shouldn't be telling you any of this. But between Hermione's nagging and your sulking, I'm at my wit's end. So I've decided to break all the rules of Divination to prevent you from making this next error. For my sake. Not yours."

Blaise handed drinks to them and took a chair.

"Down to business," Lavender said, setting aside her drink. "I don't know why, but some sort of window was opened in my mind. This window allows visions of you and Hermione in. According to Trelawny, Seers may sometimes become concentrated on a person or persons of familiarity where there may exist… unresolved conflict."

"And how does one go about closing the bloody window?" Draco bit out.

Lavender pursed her lips. "You and Hermione need a happily ever after… so to speak," she explained. "You need to kiss and makeup. Yes, I know everything would be easier if the two of you weren't together. But that would leave the situation unresolved. I can't have that. The ingenious plan of trashing yourself into oblivion is not an option."

For once in his life, Draco looked helpless.

"You're mental" he said, kicking the sofa with his heel. "I can't make Hermione happy. I'm not the one-"

"Yes, you are," Lavender insisted, leaning forward. "She loves you. You love her. Perfect. Tell her. End this," she urged.

"How do you know she loves me?" he demanded, standing and towering over her. "It's impossible! For her to fall for me is just- you don't know what you're saying! You make it all sound so fucking easy, and it's not!"

"I never said this would be easy!" Lavender exclaimed. "Hence the 'growing up' portion of this lesson, which is the only correct point Blaise managed to explain-"

"Oh, just SHUT UP, WOMAN!" Blaise bellowed.

As Draco and Lavender stared with slacked jaws, Blaise downed his fire whiskey and wiped his mouth.

Draco was the first to recover. "Thank you," he said as if Blaise's outburst had been long overdue. "'Bout time you grew a pair with this little chit-"

"Both of you can shut up," Blaise amended, waving a hand at Draco like a maestro silencing the orchestra. "Lavender, stop trying to play God. Malfoy, stop being such a coward and man up."

"Sorry?" Lavender and Malfoy cried simultaneously.

"You heard me!" Blaise said, advancing on them. "Draco, you are my closest mate. Like a brother, really, so I cannot- will not let you destroy what may be your only chance at a real life."

"You said it yourself!" Draco pleaded. "I'm the heartless bastard, incapable of giving Hermione what she deserves, remember? I'm Draco Malfoy, for fuck's sake!"

"Mate, listen," Blaise said a bit more calmly. "You're seeing the glass as half empty again-"

"Fuck your stupid metaphors!" Draco snapped, shoving Blaise back a step.

Blaise shoved him back harder, causing Draco to stumble. "No, fuck your stupidity!" he retorted. "I said those things to you today because I thought you would choose the right path- not because I thought you would run away and obliterate yourself like the coward you are-"

"I'm not a coward!" Draco insisted.

"Prove it," Blaise challenged. "Recognize this as an opportunity to 'grow up' and be the man your father couldn't be."

Draco's eyes went wide as he looked at his friend as if seeing him for the first time. With an inward cringe, Blaise's words hit home. Running away, drowning himself in self pity … just like his father … a coward. Draco's desperate actions from the afternoon seemed so foolish now … and cowardly. In his attempt to be nothing like Lucius, Draco had created what he feared most. He was the spitting image of him.

But Blaise was right. Draco had a choice – a chance to lead a different life. Foreign emotions crept over Draco, emotions he had learned to suppress and avoid his entire life … doubt … fear … hope …

"How do I do this?" he said, posing the question more to himself than to his friend.

Blaise shrugged. "That's a question every man must answer for himself."

Draco looked at Lavender. "She really loves me?" he asked skeptically.

Lavender clenched her teeth. "Yes," she said. "Now, off you go. Hermione practically has her legs spread for you."

With a heavy countenance and insecurity weighing him down, Draco left the common room.

"Unbelievable!" Lavender vented while Blaise pulled her to him. "They always doubt me! I could predict the sun will rise tomorrow, and they would still doubt me!" Exhaling her frustration, she looked at Blaise approvingly. "Apart from yelling at me, I thought you were brilliant."

"Oh, now I'm brilliant?" he said. "I certainly don't feel brilliant, being thick enough to love a witch like you and all-"

"Blaise," Lavender cooed, patting his chest. "You've had your podium moment. Now, carry me off to bed. I'm exhausted from playing God."

Hermione had never felt so foolish.

Hours had passed since she had left the Room of Requirement, intent on seducing Draco. And with so much time on her hands, her body had cooled and her brain had taken over. She had been pacing the common room in the most indecent scrap of clothing, wondering why she wore the damn thing at all. I might as well be naked, she thought sourly to herself. Where is he?

She glared at the infamous sofa in their common room as she jabbed an iron stoker into the fire. Something had to be done.

"Confringo!" she hissed.

The sofa burst into flames. Hermione watched it burn, but the relief she sought remained elusive. With a wave of her wand, the sofa vaporized into nothing, leaving only a few puffs of smoke.

It was an impossible situation. He can't love me, Hermione reasoned. She couldn't even imagine him saying the words let alone actually feeling the emotion. And for her. Of all people. A mudblood. She didn't doubt that Draco cared for her. That much she could believe. But it wasn't enough. The idea of her and Draco… as a couple … logic was firmly set against that notion.

Hermione started at the sound of the door closing.

Draco came forward in a determined fashion, tossing his quidditch robes over an arm chair. He faced her with a sulking glare.

"I'm not going to apologize for calling you an inexperienced bookworm," he declared as if they were in the middle of a heated exchange. "I know I should, but I won't. Because I'm an ass."

Hermione stared. "Fine," she said with a shrug. "I'm not going to apologize for implying that you're a witless sex fiend."

"You shouldn't," Draco snapped. "Because when it comes to you, I am."

What he was saying and how he was saying it were in such disaccord, Hermione had no idea how to interpret Draco's seemingly foul mood. "Excellent," she said. "That's settled. Why're you angry?"

"I'm not angry!" he bellowed. He closed his eyes, raked his fingers through his hair and took a deep breath. "I'm ... I'm terrified," he said in a much quieter voice.

Hermione attempted to remain calm ... though her heart was doing somersaults. "Terrified of what?" she said.

Draco seemed to struggle to find the words. "You're ... smart," he said lamely.

Hermione blinked. "Have you been drinking?" she asked.

"No ... yes- fuck- wait!" he said, holding up his hands as if to ward off potential questions. "Give me a moment. I'm trying to explain."

Hermione nodded and visibly relaxed. It was amazing how caught up in doubt she had been only moments before. Just seeing him again was enough to erase all the cons. The hours of pacing and fretting were gone. He was here with her now, and that was all that mattered. She was impatient to hear his explanation. The fact that he had requested a moment to collect his thoughts was testament to how important his next words would be.

With a steadying breath, Draco finally spoke. "I wish you were stupid," he said. "That is - You're the smartest witch I know."

There seemed to be a ringing in Hermione's ears. "Is that really what you're trying to tell me? Really?" she blasted. I hate Draco Malfoy, her mind seethed. "You wish I were stupid? More like Pansy, perhaps-"

"No!" Draco cut in. "Damn it. Just- I'm the worst possible choice for you!" he said.

Hermione's shoulders deflated, her spirits sinking from disgusted rage to heartbreaking disappointment. Oh. He was ending it. That's what he's trying to tell me. And she should let him end it. Because that was the smart thing to do. There was no other rational option.

"That's why I wish you weren't so bloody smart," Draco explained. "You know better than to give it a go with me. And if you weren't so bloody smart ... I would never have fallen for you. I'm the last person in the world you should be with."

Hermione numbly nodded. "Yes ... Logically, I agree."

Draco nodded his own head in defeat.

"But," she said, "I feel otherwise."

Draco looked up, a cocktail of emotions brewing in his eyes. "And ... how do you feel ... about ... all this?" he said, his hands gesturing between them.

"You mean, how do I feel about you?" she asked, feeling strangely calm. "Is that what you're really asking me?"

"Yes," he breathed as if her answer would determine the course of his life ... because it would.

Hermione felt like a prisoner who had for so long dreaded her execution. But now that the axe was about to fall, she felt suddenly at peace. "I've fallen for you, too," she said clearly, honestly, confidently. "I'm in love with you. I realized it this morning, hence my tantrum."

Draco closed his eyes and exhaled. "In that case ... " He came forward, in his hand a small black box with silver stitching. "You demanded exclusivity ... " He opened the box. Inside were two rings, one masculine, one feminine. The bands were intertwined silver and gold with a mix of rubies and emeralds.

"I thought these could be symbolic," he explained. "Not only of our fidelity to each other but, also, the union of our houses." He took the female ring from its velvet bed. "Will you wear it?"

The rings, the gesture, his sincerity ... once again, Draco had turned Hermione's world upside down in a matter of seconds. And she loved that. She loved him. And for the first time, she had no wish to change him. As she felt the solid weight of the ring slide onto her finger, she grinned with elation.

"Do you feel exclusive now?" Draco drawled, bringing her finger to his lips to kiss the ring.

"Not yet," she whispered, caressing the blond stubble at his jaw. She removed the masculine ring from the box and placed it on his finger. "There," she said. "I assume a proper consummation is in order now?"

Draco ran his hands down her body to the ties of her silver robe. "That feels about right." He looked down between them. "What is this you're wearing?" He parted the robe, revealing the sheer green confection beneath. He inhaled sharply.

Hermione blushed. "I may have had a seduction plan in mind. I even read a few passages from The Witch's Guide to Wizardly Pleasures to educate myself."

Draco's face lit up with pure adoration. "To clarify," he stated slowly. "I called you an inexperienced bookworm… so you did a little homework?"

"Naturally," she admitted sheepishly. "Partly to educate myself. But, I also want to make you happy. Because ... well, that's what you do when you love someone ..."

It struck Hermione as the words left her mouth why Draco had wanted to keep her in bed. The only thing that came naturally to him was being cruel ... because it was all he had ever known. Giving her physical pleasure was the only way he knew to make her happy, to show his love.

"I think Draco could learn to love you," Lavender had told her in the Room of Requirement ...

Pondering that thought, Hermione played with Draco's sweater. "What if you teach me the art of lovemaking in bed ... and I teach you the art of lovemaking out of bed?" she proposed.

Draco stilled her hands against his chest. "Can we start with the lovemaking in bed?"

"Yes," she laughed ... and then something swelled within her, a giddy tenderness that caused her to throw her arms around him and tuck her head into his neck. Draco stood still, his arms down awkwardly at his sides. Hermione felt his hesitation and knew instantly what was wrong.

"You've never been hugged before," she said into his neck.

His choked up silence was confirmation.

"Not even by your mother?" she asked quietly.

"I don't remember," he said gruffly, sounding very far away. And then as if coming to life, he embraced Hermione in return, letting his head fall on her shoulder.

They stood there ... just hugging. The moment was sweet and simple and yet more meaningful than anything either one of them had ever experienced. Draco and Hermione were incased in some sort of golden bubble of warmth and love ... true magic in its basic form.

Still embracing one another, they touched foreheads.

"So ..." Hermione said, "Come tomorrow ... are we an official couple for the whole school to see?"

Draco sighed. "Can we draw up contracts later? We have some consummating to do."

"Yes, yes, lovemaking first, I know, but we really should think this through-"

"Lesson one in the art of lovemaking," Draco instructed. "No thinking allowed."

Hermione yelped and laughed as Draco threw her over his shoulder and marched to his bedroom.

Later, though, as Hermione slept, Draco couldn't stop thinking, stressing. If anyone had told him two months ago - especially Lavender - that his new mission in life would be to make Hermione Granger happy, he would have told Lavender that she was one lost marble short of being a complete nutter. Then again, everything in his life was topsy turvy now, so what did it matter?

It had been the longest day, but he couldn't rest. Not until he had a plan of action. The happy reunion was over. But Hermione was right. At breakfast, they would face everyone as a couple. The upset between their houses would be one issue. That would simply take time to smooth over. Potter and Weasley, on the other hand ... Draco wasn't sure there was any way to bridge that gap with so much history and hatred on both sides. Unless ...

The Fat Lady snored loudly as her portrait flung open. A very grumpy Ginny stepped out of the portrait hole. Tightening her robes against the chill of the corridor, she eyed Draco with blatant irritation.

"I'm here. What do you want?" she said, keeping her voice low.

"I need your help," Draco blurted out.

She crossed her arms and lifted her chin as if claiming her higher status. "Continue."

"I need an ally," Draco insisted.

Ginny's superiority crumbled as the full weight of that request settled on her. "And you're willing to do your part? You must really be in love if you think you are."

Draco shrugged. "For Hermione's sake, I can set aside my hatred for your entire family and Pothead, yes. I can be ... civil. I need to at least try. For her."

Ginny half smiled at that and extended her hand. "I'm in," she said. They shook on it. "Mind you," she warned. "Just because we're allies doesn't mean we're friends."

"I'd rather be friends with a dung beetle," Draco assured her.

"If you botch this up, I'll turn you into a dung beetle," she said, muttering the password and disappearing inside the portrait.

Author's Note: One epic chapter left and an epilogue. To all the new readers: Welcome! To the people that have grown old like me reading this thing since I started it almost 10 years ago ... thanks for hanging in there. See? Told ya I'd never give up on this story! Holy shit ... it's really been 10 years! That's a decade! I was just a little teenager ... now, I have a job and pay taxes. When did that happen?

Over the years ... like, actual years since I last posted, I wrote five versions of this chapter. I hope to post some funny remnants when this all over. Would have posted sooner, but after reading the final book and crying nonstop, I put Harry Potter on my bookshelf and went into a mourning period. Anyone else do that? Pretty sure there's no way this chapter could possibly make up for the long wait, but I hope you enjoyed it anyways. Cheers.