Disclaimer: The Harry Potter series and characters are owned by JKR and the usual band of suspects. Penny Jordan owns the plot and some of the text, from her book The Blackmail Marriage. Any deviations are my own.

Narcissa Malfoy stood in the middle of Diagon Alley, tapping the toe of her shoes impatiently against the uneven cobblestones as she scanned the crowd of shoppers and Ministry employees on extended lunch-break. Hermione was not aware of it but Narcissa had been looking for her all morning – and Narcissa did not like to be kept waiting. Finally, she caught a glimpse of the shock of ridiculous bushy hair she had been looking for turning down one of the seldom-used lanes just off the main thorough-fare of wizarding London. All the better for her purposes.

"Ah, it's the Mudblood. I've been looking for you." Hermione turned quickly to face the older woman, brandishing her wand. Narcissa narrowed her icy gaze. "Now, now, there's no need for that. You Muggles really have no manners."

Hermione kept her wand trained on Narcissa, watching her intently, saying nothing.

"I had hoped we could ignore your lack of social graces and converse like civilised folk. Obviously I set my hopes too high."

Hermione did not move a muscle, but her eyes darted around the narrow lane. "What do you want?"

Narcissa raised an eyebrow, "Simply for you to realise that you could never amount to more than a fleeting amusement to my son."

Hermione raised an eyebrow in question, otherwise standing motionless. She was well aware, of course, of Narcissa's antagonism to the relationship growing between Draco and herself.

Narcissa gave a contemptuous shrug. "How could you have thought otherwise? My son is a prince, of pure blood and grand destiny!" She smiling coldly, "Of course he is also a man – and you are a very pretty girl – once you get past that unfortunate layer of Muggle-filth." Hermione's face burned in equal parts with humiliation and anger. "Yes, a very pretty girl, and so… obviously available." Another elegant shrug of her thin shoulders accompanied these words.

"It was inevitable that he would pursue you. You planned his seduction expertly. But he will never marry you – you were merely a cheap thrill. If the very idea were not so distasteful it would be laughable. You are nothing. Nobody. You are a foolish and immoral young woman with a history of throwing herself at famous men for what you can get out of him, and the entire wizarding world knows this! When Draco marries it will be to a woman of appropriate background and status. Not a Mudblood whore."

Hermione chocked back a gasp. There was something about that word that cut right to the core of her, even now.

"However, that is not the point. I have sought you out today on Draco's instructions. He does not wish to have any further contact with you."

"No! I don't believe you. Draco said–"

One thin eyebrow arched haughtily.

"And what did he say? Was this before or after he took you to bed? You are not so naïve, Mudblood. You know how men work."

Hermione was silent. Narcissa's words had planted a niggling seed of doubt. Draco had not made any declarations of love, nor given her any promises. She accepted that. That hadn't stopped her from reading more into it than what he had obviously felt. She had just never imagined that this would happen. Last night he had informed her he was going away on business and she had not seen it for the excuse it was. When he insisted that she return to her own house instead of falling asleep next to him, Hermione had believed that it was an effort to prevent gossip. It appeared that this was not the case. Quite simply, she was not needed any more. She had fulfilled her function and was thoughtlessly discarded, like yesterday's news. The cheap romantic dreams she had not even been aware she was harbouring until this point were now proven false by the hard reality of Draco's mother's announcement.

Narcissa smiled thinly as she watched Hermione's thoughts processing across her face.

Hermione admitted that up until this winter her feelings towards Draco had been mostly inimical. Six years of loathing at Hogwarts, and then the year hunting for Horcruxes when she had much bigger things on her mind than school-yard rivalries. It was only later, out of Hogwarts, that things had changed – or at least she thought they had…

"Draco has lost interest now that he has satisfied his curiousity. You couldn't have been good for much…" Narcissa's small, malicious smile widened. "Draco knows where his duty lies. You were merely a distraction that he wishes to forget. Surely you must realise this yourself? People always did make such a fuss about your intelligence. I understand you're starting your Mage in Economics? Perhaps you should apply that fantastic mind of yours to your studies, rather than plotting to steal the attention of my son."

Hermione tried to speak, to tell Narcissa politely, but firmly, to fuck off but she simply continued talking as if Hermione had never opened her mouth.

"I almost forgot, Draco asked me to give you this," holding an envelope out to Hermione, she frowned slightly, shaking her head. "He understands that study is expensive. Surely you, both as a student of the marketplace and a whore with Galleon signs in her eyes, will recognise the value of his offer?"

Hermione stared disbelievingly at her tormentor with heat rising in her cheeks. Opening the envelope, Narcissa took out a cheque made out to by Gringott's for a sizeable amount of Galleons.

"Draco wished that I convey to you that he didn't want you to think he was unappreciative of your… talents."

At that moment, the thin control Hermione had on her temper broke. Flicking her wand at the cheque she muttered a quick incendio and watched as Narcissa's studied calm broke as the paper in her hand quickly combusted into flame.

"Tell Draco to keep his money! I don't want it – or him! I made a huge mistake. I thought that the snake had something genuine left. Tell him he just lost his chance of ever regaining his humanity – if he ever had it that is... I want nothing to do with your insane, intolerant, bigoted, inbred, Death-Eating family ever again!"

"How dare you?" Hermione's outburst had shattered Narcissa's cool detachment, yet she continued to speak in a low ominous tones despite her wrath, "My son is wizarding royalty; he can trace his line right back to the days of Merlin on both sides of the family. And even you, bleeding heart elf-lover, must admit that he has finished his childish infatuation with the Dark Arts."

Much as she disliked Narcissa, Hermione had to admit that Draco had reformed. He had recently taken to providing his backing to causes that Hermione deemed to be just and a benefit to all of magic-kind. But at that moment she was in no mood to acknowledge any good in Draco. In fact, right now she felt that she hated him even more than she did his beautiful manipulative mother.

Partly incapacitated by tears and partly too angry for words, Hermione turned sharply on her heel and disapparated. She wanted to get as far away from Narcissa, from Draco, from anything Malfoy related, from anything even remotely blonde or arrogant as she could.

Watching the space where Hermione had been only moments before, Narcissa wiped the ash residue from her fingers with a clean handkerchief, before running her hands over the front of her long white robes.

She smirked, "Mudblood bitch."