Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns the characters you recognize.
A/N: REVISED. Read again! Used to be Never Give Your Heart, but I thought that this new title is much more appropriate. Reviews are much appreciated. Thank you! :D
"Why are you wary of me then? I assure you that I have good intentions. I won't bite—at least not very hard." Small fires leaped in his eyes as he added in a throaty murmur, "and not where it will show."
NO MORE MISTAKES
"Congratulations, Hermione! I hear you're going to make the presentation for that huge company. M.Q.S., is it?"
Hermione Granger looked up and smiled at the girl standing in the doorway of her office. "Thanks, Gillian. But I'm not doing it alone. It's a group effort."
"Oh, I don't know about that but even being on the team is exciting! Aren't you thrilled?"
Thrilled didn't even begin to describe it, Hermione thought wryly. Terrified, annoyed and yes, a little excitement were the words. M.Q.S. was a giant in its field and would mean thousands of pounds to the advertising land agency lucky enough the land the account. Hermione had worked hard on the campaign they were presenting this morning, so part of the glory would be hers—or part of the responsibility for failure. To everyone else at McNulty and Trent it represented money, but to Hermione it was a golden opportunity to rise at last from assistant executive to head of the accounting department.
"Do you think Draco Malfoy will be there?" Gillian continued eagerly.
"He'll be there, all right," Hermione answered grimly, wishing it were otherwise. She and Draco Malfoy aren't friends, they aren't enemies either. But what she head of that he was a fire-breathing dragon according to people in the know. He not only owned M.Q.S., but ran it with an iron hand and could be brutal when anything else displeased him. The fact that he was doing something right because his company made millions, didn't excuse his ruthlessness in Hermione's mind. But then again, he was a Malfoy, and would always be a Malfoy.
"What do you say to a gorgeous hunk like that?" Gillian breathed.
Hermione gave her a wry look. "I have nothing to say to him."
"Come on now, Hermione! Draco Malfoy is an eligible bachelor. Are you sure?" Gillian teased her.
Cool brown eyes surveyed her from under delicately arched eyebrows. "I'm sure. I know Draco Malfoy personally. I've known him since I was twelve. I also expect him to look at me the same way he would look ate any competent advertising man."
Gillian's glance swept over the girl at the desk. Hermione's long curly brown hair was pulled back from an exquisite hear-shaped face and secured with a tortoise shell barrette, but the severity of the hairdo couldn't detract from the petal skin, the tilted nose, or the curves under the jade green silk blouse and Gillian started to grin. "If Draco Malfoy ever mistakes you for a man, they're going to have him committed. I don't think there's any of that though. From everything that I've read about him, he's a real connoisseur of women. Any man who can sleep with an Italian model, a French countess, and an American jet setter all in the same years has to have something for him."
Hermione's lip curled. "And you think that's admirable?"
The other girl's grin was impudent. "Well, you have to give him credit. The man's not all that young, you know."
"He's only twenty-eight," Hermione stated crisply, "not exactly over the hill." She had no interest in defending Draco Malfoy after what he had done to her and her friends for years, even though he had already apologized over and over for his past behavior during their last year and the times they bumped into each other unexpectedly. All she knows now is that he's a womanizer, a tyrant and probably a bully, but the way these youngsters denigrated anyone over twenty-five got under Hermione's skin. Maybe it's because she was a year older than him.
When Gillian had reluctantly gone back to the switchboard, Hermione stuffed some papers in a briefcase and took a few deep breaths to steady herself. It was idiotic to be so nervous but this account meant everything to her. It was her job, after all. It's what keeps her going these days…
After graduating from Hogwarts a valedictorian, she did not notice that she was throwing away her life as a great career woman. She and Ron Weasley had married two weeks after graduating. They did not have kids because she wasn't ready, and ignored the fact that Ron did not want such a huge responsibility on his shoulders. Hermione got a job, and was unfortunate not to accept the internship from St. Mungo's, just because Ron did not want her near any hospital. While he was training to be accepted in Chuddley Cannons, she focused on her work. McNulty and Trent were just rising, and she wanted to be part of it. John Warren, a good friend from way back, who was the owner, was good enough to make her the account executive, knowing how smart she was.
When Ron Weasley walked out on her, she was devastated, of course. But she was and is a strong woman. So moved out and moved to Wiltshire, a couple of blocks away from the main building where she had been working. Miles away from London and miles away from Ron Weasley. Her cool self discipline, coupled with a keen intelligent mind, was finally paying off and if there were scars left from her early, disastrous marriage, no one knew about them. The only signs were certain wariness in the brown eyes and a defensive set to the slim shoulders.
Walking into the opulent Malfoy offices a short time later, Hermione felt her nerves tighten. The presence of her boss and good friend, John, by her side should have given her moral support but she could sense that he was as nervous as she. They were directed to the board room where they found a number of executives of the company already assembled.
Except from one woman named Janis Marshall, who was introduced as Malfoy's personal assistant, they were all men. Probably a glorified name for secretary, Hermione decided cynically. From everything she had known or heard about Malfoy these days, he felt women had a very definitely place in the world—but it wasn't in business.
During the introductions she looked around for Draco Malfoy but the great man hadn't arrived yet. When he came in a few minutes later, the easy going aura in the room subtly changed and Hermione knuckles whitened as they clutched her brief case.
Forgetting their past, even without his reputation to precede him, Draco Malfoy would have been formidable. His height alone was commanding and the dark suit, custom-tailored for his broad shoulders, slim-hipped frame, could only be described as elegant. How he got those muscles, she'll never know, as she remembered the tall and scrawny kid she knew. But it was the enigmatic gray eyes that proclaimed him a man to be reckoned with.
His nod to the assembled executives was business-like and when the pair from McNulty and Trent were introduced, he acknowledged each of them with a firm handshake. It was as if he didn't know who Hermione Granger was. Hermione's fingers were icy cold in his warm clasp and those impassive gray eyes racked her face briefly. She knew that he was aware of the extent of her nervousness and annoyance but he made no comment.
A large polished table dominated the room and instead of parchments and quills, there pad papers and fountain pens at each place. When they were all seated, the meeting got underway immediately with no preliminary pleasantries. She and John were well-prepared and this professional approach should have reassured Hermione but she had the sinking feeling that if they failed to hold his attention ever for a moment, all their efforts would be dismissed contemptuously. It was the lengthy presentation with charts and art work to back it up. They took turns explaining the campaign, and as soon as she was on familiar ground, Hermione forgot her nervousness. It was a good concept, one she was proud of, and threw herself into selling it enthusiastically.
There was still a lot of material to be covered when Draco Malfoy stood up and looked at his watch. "It's after one, let's have lunch and we can continue with this afterward."
Hermione hadn't a clue as to how it was going and she longed to talk privately with her boss but there was no opportunity as everyone filed out together and crowded into elevators.
When the doors opened at the top floor, she stifled a gasp of surprise. John had murmured that they were to lunch in the executive dining room but this looked more like a penthouse apartment. There was a living room to the left of the big square foyer and an elegant dining room through a door on the right.
The people of M.Q.S. people led the way to the living room where a waiter took their drink orders. Comfortable couches and chairs were scattered around the room but Hermione gravitated toward the large picture windows that offered a truly breath-taking view. She was staring in mute appreciation when Draco Malfoy joined her.
"It's a beautiful view, isn't it?"
"One of the loveliest," she agreed.
He lounged negligently against the wall, looking down at the crowded streets below where pedestrians and cars looked like charming toys. "I've always enjoyed this view. I can't understand people who are afraid of heights. Like you." He smirked.
"Everyone is afraid of something, but I'm not scared of the sight. I'm more scared of falling," she said coolly.
"I suppose so," he murmured, an amused expression on his face.
Hermione didn't bother to respond. But after a few moments of silence, she said, "You're making it big, Malfoy. When we were in Hogwarts, I didn't think that this spoiled brat could do it better than me." She half-smiled at him, but her thoughts went to the day she got married to Ron.
"Thank you, I think. I honestly, didn't think it too. I was sure you'd be the Mistress of Magic…saving elves, changing the world, saving the world along with Potter and the Weasleys. Or the world's best healer or something," he said thoughtfully, not intending to sound mean. "I hope I may call you Hermione, as you can call me Draco. I'm not so used to being formal."
"Yeah…okay," she muttered, confused.
"The last time I bumped into you, you were married to Weasley, right? So how are you doing? A houseful of kids?"
Sudden hot anger flowed through her and Hermione glared at him. "That's none of your business. However, if you must know, I am back to Granger now." Then she moved to sit beside her boss as the lunch arrived.
When lunch was over, and they had all filed back to the board room, Hermione was enormously relieved. It was like being back on solid ground after picking her way through a mine field. The meeting continued for another two hours. Draco Malfoy's face gave nothing away at all which made her move nervous. After they had finished, the gather broke up into small groups as Hermione busied herself filling her briefcase. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Draco approaching and apprehension gripped her. It had been a long day and she didn't feel equal to any more verbal sparring. But her fears were groundless.
"I wanted to congratulate you on a good job," he said. "You and John really did your homework. Always knew the studious one, Hermione."
Ignoring his teasing and the way he said her name, she murmured, "Thank you very much."
He looked at her thoughtfully. "I've never worked very extensively with women before, but a female slant might be enlightening." She held her breath. Did that mean he was about to make a commitment? Her hopes were dashed as he smiled winningly and asked, "Will you have dinner with me tonight?"
The disappointment that coursed through her was followed by anger. She might have known! It was the old story—you be nice to me and I'll be nice to you. The advertising equivalent of the American casting couch. All you have to do is sleep with the boss and fame and fortune follow. Well, not this time! The irresistible Draco Malfoy was in for a rude awakening. No mane was going to use her again! She would make it on her own merits which were very good indeed, or she wouldn't make it at all.
Ice coated her voice and she gave him a withering look. "Thanks, but no, Draco. I'm on a diet." Without waiting for him to make his invitation more explicit, Hermione picked up her portfolio and marched out the door. But she was very aware of those gray eyes burning a path down her straight back.