I worked on this story on and off for over three years and it is to me a very personal and intimate story. I aimed to be as true to canon characterisation as possible, although clearly after the trauma of the war everybody is going to react to and deal with their new situations differently. But, at heart, I wanted this to be a story of the complexity and intensity of attraction and love. This is a gritty story full of angst, albeit angst with the tang of many lemons.

The author's notes which follow in each chapter are most likely the originals and now largely redundant. Apologies.

I hope this story conveys a little of the adoration, sometimes dichotomous and never easy, and passion I will always have for this pairing.

LL x

Rose was having a tantrum and Hugo had just been sick.

While Hermione was trying to placate her four year old daughter, her son tottered into the living room covered in his own vomit, smiling broadly as if he had just achieved a great feat.

Hermione slumped back into the sofa, ignoring her little girl's screams for a moment, trying to blot out the sights and sounds from her mind.

The arrival of Hugo achieved one thing, however. Rose promptly stopped wailing and started laughing and pointing at her brother, who joined in the hilarity and took a step towards his sister, threatening to transfer the offending material onto her.

In the midst of this, Hermione realised that the mood of the room had turned from frantic despair to exultant mirth, and took the opportunity to whisk her children up in her arms and practically throw them into the bath.

She stripped the clothes off and doused her children in the warm water. The laughter continued. Hermione joined in, but after a moment her hilarity faded and she realised she was laughing not so much with shared humour, but manic hysteria.

Her body slid defeated down the bathroom wall, and she hid her face in her hands, trying not to show that her laughter had changed into sobs of despair.

Luckily, the children were engrossed in their bath, and as they proceeded to empty much of its contents onto the floor, Hermione closed her eyes and wept.

Ron was away. Again.

She had not been back to work since Hugo's birth, and her life seemed to be spent in a haze of nappies, Barbie dolls and sick.

Her children were beautiful, enchanting and bright, and she adored them more than she could imagine. She had thought herself to be a good mother, still did, but she no longer felt in control. Ron was a decent father when he was around, but his job took him away a lot, and at those times, resentment bubbled up in Hermione.

She resented the fact that he had the opportunity to get away; resented the fact that he was not there to help her; resented the fact that he existed in blissful ignorance of what she was going through.

She knew the emotion to be futile, to be a sign of bitterness which would eat away uselessly at her, but she could not deny it was there.

Hermione had planned to return to work part-time when Hugo was three and Rose started school. She still did, but she had increasingly felt that the moment could not come soon enough. It was still months away. She did not wish to go back full-time, but the joys of being a stay-at-home mother were not what she had perhaps envisaged. Her mind ached for adult company and conversation. She attended toddler groups, but the conversation invariably centred on children. First time around with Rose, Hermione was happy to join in the discussions on breast feeding and eating regimes, but when Hugo arrived, the novelty had worn off.

Her friends came over when they could, but they were often either busy with their own children or working. And anyway, whenever she had broached the subject of her feelings of frustration and suffocation, they had merely offered her the usual platitudes - "Oh, they'll grow out of it", "It'll be better when you go back to work", or they had droned on about how so-and-so's childcare routine worked wonderfully for them.

Hermione had smiled patiently and nodded. Were their holier-than-thou patronising attitudes genuine? Or was it a bluff, designed to reassure them, build up a wall to conceal the turmoil of their own lives?

She may have wondered about it, but it did little to help her. There seemed to be no-one who understood, no-one she could truly talk to. She started to believe there was something wrong with her; that she was the only mother in the world who felt stifled, smothered. Even her family, although helpful, did not seem to pick up on, or understand her frustrations. Molly Weasley was a great support in terms of babysitting, but being the earth mother that she was, was the last person Hermione would confide in about any anxieties. That would have simply reinforced her feelings of failure.

She had wondered at one point if she had post-natal depression, but the feelings had come too late, not really starting until Hugo was well past two.

In any case, Hermione's problems weren't caused by a sense of loss of her identity, but by a realisation of it. She knew full well who she was and what she was capable of, but simply found herself unable to live in that persona.

Her existence was such a far cry from what had been until the end of the war, that she hardly believed she was the same person.

She tried desperately to suppress her feelings of lack of fulfilment, and on the whole, delighted in her children's company and provided them with an extremely happy, loving and stimulating environment. But there were times, such as today, when the suppressed torments would surface, and she would find herself huddled in a corner, weeping with sudden desperation.

When Ron returned home, he had his own needs, which she believed herself happy to provide for. He was not too demanding, but he enjoyed his food and his sex, and despite invariably being exhausted after a day with the children, Hermione found herself complying with both expectations. She enjoyed his physical proximity, and believed him to be a thoughtful lover. Their love-making had settled into a predictable and rather boring pattern, and would rarely last more than fifteen minutes. She told herself she was satisfied, although she often found herself locked away quietly in her room, bringing herself to a climax, even if he was around.

And she could tell that the feelings of resentment which surfaced when he was gone seemed to melt away on his return, and Hermione would always greet him with great love and happiness. Things were better when he was around, and the burden of childcare was alleviated somewhat. However, Ron still took a back seat when it came to supper, bath, and bedtime, and Hermione found herself cursing him sometimes for not getting up off his arse and helping her. They rarely talked significantly about anything anymore, both were generally too exhausted to do so, and Hermione found the delights of discussing Quidditch rules paling as the years went by.

She would slump in a chair when the children were finally asleep, and Ron was good at providing her with a glass of wine, but it would not be long before a familiar question would be thrown at her. "What's for supper?"

The night of Rose's tantrum and Hugo's vomit-fest, Ron returned late. He walked in, and Hermione beamed genuinely at his grinning face as he kissed her hello.

"How was it?"

He had been to a meeting to discuss the next Quidditch World Cup.

"Yeah, good, I reckon. It's gonna be pretty bloody exciting. Biggest one yet. And what's more – you're looking at the new assistant England coach!"

"Really! Oh my god, Ron, that's brilliant!" She threw her arms around him and clasped him tight, her joy for him warm and genuine.

"Yeah. Seymour announced it as we were on our way home. I'm chuffed to bits. Well, you know how long I've been waiting for something like this."

Hermione was filled with pride. Her husband had been a top-ranked Quidditch coach for an age now, but had never got the call up for the national team. At last he was in. She kissed him hard again. He smiled, a blush crossing his cheeks.

She ruffled his hair and returned to her wine.

"How were the kids?"

"Adorable and charming. Apart from between 2:23 and 4:07 today when I looked into getting them adopted, but by 4:08 I'd changed my mind."

He looked at her, alarmed for a moment, but she merely smiled exaggeratedly. Ron chuckled, not discussing it anymore.

"Oh, nearly forgot to tell you. We'll need a babysitter for Friday."

"Why?" A strange mixture of curiosity and tension filled her. As much as she loved going out; a rare event these days, her husband had a tendency to spring these things on her at the last minute. It never seemed to dawn on him that, 'We'll need a babysitter ...' actually meant quite a lot of planning and phone calls and worrying that you had the right person and guilt about leaving your children, especially with only two days notice. And of course, he never sorted one out himself.

"There's a reception at the Minister's residence, part of the planning for the World Cup. Representatives of all the teams and countries and various other bigwigs will be there. You've gotta come, babe. It's important, and I want to show you off to everyone." He grinned at her.

She smiled. It would be nice to go out. She'd sort out a babysitter. Of course she would.

Ron was around for the rest of the week. It was nice to have his company, and the children seemed calmer and more settled. Hermione's mind eased. She found a sitter for the Friday night, and started to look forward to the reception.

"Who did you say would be at this do tomorrow?" she asked over supper the night before.

"Oh the usual Quidditch lot, a few ambassadors and the like from the different countries, quite a few old bores from the Ministry, y'know." He put a large forkful of lasagne into his mouth.

"Anyone I know?"

"Well, Harry'll be there, Kingsley I s'pose. Oh, I'm afraid I think Malfoy's going. He's managed to wangle his way back into these things recently."

"Draco?" Hermione's heart sank. That was one part of her former life she did not want reminding of.

"No, I mean his dad, and mummy dearest I suppose. Malfoy Senior's on the consultancy committee for cultural links during the tournament, or some poncy thing like that."

Hermione rolled her eyes in despair. If anything, she hated the older Malfoys more than their son. She could not forget their role in the lowest point of her life. She had suffered her night of torture at the hands of Narcissa Malfoy's sister, in Lucius Malfoy's house. It had always mystified Hermione how Harry had been so quick to exonerate them after the war. If it had been up to her, they would all be rotting in Azkaban for the rest of their lives.

She had hoped that after the war they would disappear from society. Indeed they had for a while, but they now seemed to have crawled back out of the woodwork, reputations largely and, to Hermione at least, mystifyingly restored, and were appearing at more and more functions and events. She supposed with cynical disdain that it was largely due to the vast amounts of money Malfoy threw at organisations to gain reacceptance.

"Oh well," she sighed. "I suppose the Minister's house is big enough for me to avoid them."

Ron smirked at her. "Course it is. Don't worry about that, babe. They're not worth it."

Hermione had pulled out a dress for the reception she had not worn since before the children were born. It was red satin and fell to the ground with an open back. She had wondered if she would still get into it, but was surprised when she found it an even better fit than before. She hadn't realised how much weight she had lost recently.

The dress was quite simple and could be worn to formal and semi-formal events, but as she put it on that Friday night, she wondered if it was too daring for the Minister. She nearly took it off, but Ron had come into the room just as she was looking at herself. He had been bowled over by her appearance.

"Blimey! You look incredible! I know I said I wanted to show you off, but ..."

"It's too much," she had said quickly, starting to undo it. "I'll take it off."

Ron was quick to stop her. "No, no. Please don't. You look beautiful. I'll be really proud of you."

She had smiled and kissed him warmly, pulling the dress back over her shoulders.

They arrived at the reception later than intended, due to issues with the children settling with the babysitter. Most of the guests were already there and the house was alive with the sound of conversation and company. Hermione took a glass of champagne and made her way into the main reception area.

She soon fell into easy conversation with some of her ex-colleagues. It was good to catch up; it reminded her again of her old life and how she missed it.

Later the Minister himself came over to see her, commenting on her dress and how lovely she looked. Harry approached them with Ginny and they were able to spend a few minutes just talking with them, away from the bustle of ministry intrigue and Quidditch banter, although Hermione and Ginny suspected that neither Harry nor Ron would have minded if they had spent the entire evening talking of nothing but Quidditch.

At a certain point she stood with Ron while he spoke to a broomstick consultant. Hermione had little to add to the conversation and allowed her eye to wander round the room. There were several people she had not seen for a while.

Suddenly a loud, shrill female laugh sounded from across the room. Hermione glanced over to the source. It was Narcissa Malfoy. She had clearly had too much to drink. Hermione noticed her glazed eyes. The sight of the woman immediately turned her stomach, but she continued to stare over at her. Mrs Malfoy was leaning in unevenly to a portly man next to her, who did not seem remotely worried about her state of inebriation.

Hermione's eyes moved to a man dressed in black on her other side. Her gaze moved up the taut body to the man's face. It was the woman's husband. Hermione felt her heart skip a beat. She had not seen Lucius Malfoy for years, not since his trial after the war, when Harry had exonerated both him and his wife. He had not changed. She noticed curiously that he did not look a day older. He must be in his early fifties now, but easily appeared at least ten years younger. As she allowed herself the time to study him properly for the first time, she supposed he must be considered good-looking. The interaction between him and his wife was fascinating.

Lucius Malfoy stood looking down at Narcissa with an expression of pinched revulsion on his face. As another laugh punctuated the air, his face flinched and he pursed his lips further.

Hermione watched the little scene with curiosity. Malfoy Senior certainly seemed to be disdainful of his wife. Considering Narcissa's current state, Hermione could not blame him. She had always thought the Malfoys, despite their past and reputation, to be a close family, devoted to each other. Perhaps she had been wrong. Perhaps the events of the war and the time since had changed them.

She continued watching as Narcissa drained her glass and reached out for another as a waiter passed by with a tray. Before she could bring it to her lips, her husband had removed it from her grasp and placed it back on the tray. Narcissa turned to him, a look of contempt on her face. Words passed between them, but it was impossible for Hermione to hear what was said.

With that, Ron finished his conversation and ushered his wife into a different room.

They moved away, and Hermione dismissed the Malfoys from her mind.

As the evening wore on, Hermione started to feel her limbs grow thick and heavy with the signs of encroaching tiredness. She had taken the children to the zoo earlier and only now realised what an exhausting day it had been. As Ron and the England head coach started to discuss team lists, she excused herself and headed outside.

The cool air immediately revived her, and she walked a short distance out onto the terrace, letting the sounds of the party drift further away. Hermione inhaled deeply, feeling as if the air itself would restore her soul as well as her alertness. The moon's light, reflected on a pond just below the terrace, imparted a cooling blue glow to her surroundings and the heady scent of roses caressed the air. She closed her eyes and stood completely and deliberately still, enjoying her moment of perfect peace and solitude.

She could sense the moonlight through her closed lids and turned her head up and to the left towards it. The light grew brighter behind her shut eyes. She smiled to herself. The constancy of the moon was always a comfort.

"I trust you are well, Miss Granger?"

A voice spoke behind her. She was surprised, but not startled, as the voice was familiar to her. It was deep, eloquent and refined, and underpinned with a keen intelligence. Hermione felt an immediate affinity with it. She had heard it before, but could not remember where. She stared into the shadows to see who had spoken to her.

The owner of the voice stepped forward. It was only then that Hermione reeled in shock.

It was Lucius Malfoy.

She turned swiftly away from him, stunned and distressed that she had not recognised his voice earlier, horrified that she had thought it a voice of someone she knew, perhaps even a friend.

She drew her arms around her and turned her back, ignoring him.

Footsteps approached her, causing a grip of tension to hold her. Why was he here?

"These functions can be remarkably tedious, I'm sure you agree?"

Malfoy had come to stand directly beside her. Hermione could sense his presence, but refused to look around. She breathed deeply with anger at his presumption. Despite not looking directly at him, she was surprised by how tall he was. She had never really noticed before. And there was something else; an aroma which she knew was coming from him. It overwhelmed the scent of the roses, but Hermione could not deny its allure. It was a deeply aromatic perfume, with the merest hint of musk. She wrinkled her nose slightly in an attempt to rid it from her senses.

"Come, Miss Granger, we are on the same side now, surely? Can we not manage one or two civil words to each other?"

His words immediately inflamed her and she could remain silent no longer, hissing out to him, "I am no longer called Miss Granger. And I cannot ever imagine you and I being ... on the same side."

He continued without missing a beat. "How can you be so sure, Miss Granger? There are many aspects of my previous life that I have re-evaluated over the last few years."

She laughed in derision and countered sardonically, "How lovely for you. And how convenient that your moral reawakening managed to keep you out of Azkaban."

He was silent for a while before continuing, "Cynicism is not an attractive trait."

"Neither is malicious bigotry and a proclivity for torture." Her retort was immediate.

They were silent for a moment, but neither moved. She expected him to go. He did not. Finally, with a faint huff of exasperation she turned to him.

"Why are you still here?"

"I came outside to take some air," he replied matter-of-factly.

"Well, why don't you take some air over there, away from me?" She pointed to the other side of the pond.

"I did consider doing so, but you see ..." He turned his head to look down at her."I find myself rather enjoying our little conversation."

She tutted and turned away again, determined not to humour him by continuing it.

Hermione heard him breathe in deeply next to her. "Yes. I do not think I can stand much more of this little gathering. The company is rather stifling, do you not find?"

She did not answer.

He continued, his voice deep and silky. "Indeed, I should imagine, that with two young children, no intellectual stimulus from a job, and Mr Weasley to have to minister to at home ... you find your entire life rather stifling."

Hermione spun to look at him, her eyes widening in shock. She was met with deep grey infinity, staring straight into her soul.

"What did you say?" She tried to sound indignant, but only managed to murmur it out in confusion.

On seeing her reaction, Lucius Malfoy's mouth twitched at the corners into the faintest hint of a smirk.

"I was simply expressing my sense that you may be finding certain, if not all, aspects of your life rather ... suffocating ... at the moment, Miss Granger. Judging by your reaction ... apparently I was right."

Hermione could only stand staring at him, her mouth hanging open in shock. How could this man, this man who represented all things she abhorred, whom she still believed to be evil, whom she knew to be bigoted, prejudiced and judgemental in the worst possible sense, how could he pick up on the turmoil of her life when everyone else, including her family, her friends, her husband, had failed?

Her face flinched and she shook her head unknowingly in disbelief.

"How ... how dare you?!" She reacted with fierce anger, terrified by his words. "How dare you presume to tell me what is going on in my life? I have a wonderful home, a wonderful husband and two children whom I adore and love. I am perfectly happy."

His smirk widened imperceptibly. "Of course you are."

She hugged herself tight and spun her head away from him. "Go away." Her words were spoken with low desperation, as she tried unsuccessfully to hide the emotion in her voice.

He drew himself up and slowly turned to her. "As you wish. Goodbye, Miss Granger. I have enjoyed our little ... chat."

She grimaced and turned once again to him, almost shouting in exasperation. "I ceased to be Miss Granger five years ago, when I took on my husband's name. Why do you persist in calling me that? "

He looked at her momentarily then spoke, surprising himself with the unexpected honesty of his answer. "I could never associate you with that other name. He is not worthy of you."

Hermione simply stared at him for a time. He stared back.

As she stood before him, tears began rolling down Hermione's cheeks. Still, she did not move, but spoke low and fierce to him, "Get out of my sight."

Malfoy inclined his head slightly to her and stepped back. "Until next time, Miss Granger."

She recovered enough to call after him, "I sincerely hope there will not be a next time."

"You say that with surprising conviction, Miss Granger."

"Surprising? Why surprising conviction?"

He waited until she at last met his eyes before responding. "Because we both know you don't mean it."

Her eyes could not move from his, although she willed them to with all her resolve. Malfoy held her gaze equally, then suddenly he nodded to her again, turned and was gone.

Hermione drew in a deep juddering gasp of air. It was only then that she realised she had been forgetting to breathe.

Hermione stood in the garden for a while after her encounter with Malfoy.

His stark words had seared her. How long had she waited for someone to come straight out with it, to see what was happening in her life, to understand the vice-like grip she felt squeezing the life-force from her every day of her existence. She had reached out to her friends, her family, but they were either too busy, too disinterested, or too martyr-like to respond to her. She was sick of the platitudes, the stock responses and reassurances.

None of them were her. None of them had been through what she had been through. None of them had left behind a life so different to what she had now.

And now this. This man. This wizard who had witnessed her at the lowest moment of her life, at the time where she had been stripped bare, her soul exposed, crying out. Why him? Why had he, when all others had failed, been able to see what she was truly going through. And his words. They echoed in her mind. He had said so much in so few words. He is not worthy of you. Hermione shut her eyes tight, trying to squeeze the phrase from her mind.

Lucius Malfoy represented all she abhorred; his prejudice, his intolerance, his arrogance, not forgetting the fact that he had been Voldemort's second. As she stood, his aroma still lingering in the air around her, she swayed on her feet

It was too much to think about. She tried to eradicate his words from her head, but his parting shot remained. She had said she hoped they would not meet again. His response rang through her head. We both know that isn't true.

The arrogance of the man! It was intolerable.

She huffed in frustration and turned swiftly, storming back into the party. Luckily, Ron was looking distinctly jaded. His face brightened as she came up to him.

"Hey, babe. Where've you been? Most people have gone. Do you wanna head home? I've had it to be honest."

"Yes. Let's go. The sooner, the better. Come on. We said we'd be back by eleven for the babysitter anyway." She held her hand down to him and practically pulled him up onto his feet. As he rose unsteadily, she hugged him tight to her and kissed him.

"Whoa! Where'd that come from? Not that I'm complaining." He smiled blearily.

As they left, Hermione was aware of a pair of cool grey eyes fixed on her from the corner of the room.

Lucius Malfoy sat in the dark solitude of the drawing room at Malfoy Manor, a half empty glass of whisky in his hand, scowling.

The reception he had had to attend the previous night had been tedious. Narcissa had not helped matters by making a fool of herself yet again by consuming too much alcohol, and there had been all those Quidditch yobs to butter up.

But it wasn't that which had plunged him into the foul mood he now found himself in.

He thought back over the events of the previous evening. Narcissa had become drunk, but had luckily been taken home early by some of her friends. He had felt obliged to stay, partially to make amends for his wife's behaviour. But the party had grown increasingly dull and he had stepped outside for some air.

Standing on the terrace, bathed in moonlight, was a woman. She was slender and elegant, standing there, tall but surprisingly fragile in the blue darkness. Her thin dress hung down her, open at the back, so that the elegant curve of her spine was highlighted by the shadows. It fell further in a drape of silk, caressing her hips and legs. Her hair was lush, with silky curls tumbling down around her, the edges alight as if with St Elmo's fire as the moon caught them. He saw her breath moving her, and the base of her back rising and falling gently; an extraordinary combination of strength and vulnerability. He had never seen anything like it. It was a sight of sheer perfection.

The vision was so exquisite he had gasped in with wonder. All his life he had sought beauty, sought perfection. It had always eluded him. He had nearly lost his home in his quest for it, his family ... his soul. And now, here it was, suddenly, unexpectedly, standing before him, so simple as to melt his mind with confusion.

He could only stand and gaze on her. If his life had ended at that moment, he would have been happy.

And then she turned her head toward the moonlight. Her face was exquisite; even more beautiful than he could have imagined, completing the image.

Beautiful and terrible, because it was then that he recognised who it was. It was the Granger girl.

He had stood, horrified, ashamed, entranced. The mudblood girl. The embodiment of all he despised and abhorred. He may have turned from the dark ways, but his pureblood beliefs had not died. He still detested muggles, still despised muggle-borns, and she was the epitome of his prejudice.

But still he had stood, unable to move. He waited for the revulsion to take him, bear him away from her. But it did not. Her beauty was so mesmerising, so consuming, her sublimity so profound, that he found himself instead frozen to the spot.

He needed to reach out, needed to make contact with her. And so, drawn to her by a force he did not understand, he had spoken to her, calmly, with a touch of concern which had surprised even him. He had approached her, he had needed to. He had walked up to her and stood in close proximity. Immediately it had sent a rush of blood to his head. He had spoken further after her initial silence. A silence he could hardly blame her for.

She had not been polite. He had not expected it, but still he conversed with her.

He had spoken intimately to her, saying things he would not say to anyone else. And yet, at that moment, they had been the right things to say, the natural things to say; things he thought quite obvious. He knew enough about her to form an opinion; Draco had kept him informed about what was happening in the lives of the Weasleys and Potters. It had always provided amusement around the dinner table.

It was clear to him that she was not happy, not satisfied with her life. It seemed obvious why. She had two small children. He recalled Draco's early days. The strain on his marriage, on his wife, and indeed on him, had been unbearable. Granger was remarkably intelligent. She had had a high-powered, stimulating job at the Ministry and now she was at home all day. And she should never have married Weasley. That too was obvious to him.

And he had found her alone, breathing in the moonlight.

He had simply spoken the truth. His words had surprised and upset her. It was curious to him.

After the encounter, he had waited until she had left, watching her all the while.

But now, in his home, the seat of the Malfoys, his ancestors, the manifestation of his beliefs, his values, he thought back on his meeting with her. Why had this girl entranced him? Enthralled him so?

How dare she? How dare she, a little mudblood tart, enter his mind so instantly and profoundly?

He desperately wanted her to be gone from his head, had drunk copious amounts to try to wash her away. But the more he drank, the more she seemed to engrain herself there.

And there was more. Not only was she in his head, she was in his body. It was not just his blood which had stirred last night. The dull throb in his groin was undeniable.

He took another gulp and scowled. Even now, sitting here, her image before his eyes, he felt the ache between his legs. He shifted in his seat, trying to subdue it. He could not.

He knew what he wanted. He knew what he wanted above all else.

He wanted to possess her, possess her body, enter her, feel her enveloping him ... taste her. He wanted to taste her mouth, that full red mouth which had been so close to him. But more ... he wanted to taste her essence, her womanhood. He wanted to strip away all she had and meet her at the core of her being, at her most vulnerable, at her most alive. To feel her on his lips and tongue, to breathe her in, drink her down ...

He closed his eyes and groaned into the room, partially through desire, partially through angry frustration. Slamming the glass down next to him, its contents were thrown out onto the side table and floor.

"Fuck!" he hissed in anger.

Malfoy rose and strode to bring the decanter to him, pouring another full glass. His mouth watered, but not with desire for the amber liquid in the glass. He inhaled deeply, almost imagining he could smell her already, and threw a large mouthful of whisky down his throat in a vain attempt to rid himself of the idea of her.

Since Narcissa there had not been another woman, despite the fact that their sex life had grown tiresome and predictable long ago. Sex was a rare occurrence between them now. He had not thought he cared. He found ways to assuage his needs, normally locked away in a far corner of the house. It was curious to him, as he had always considered himself a strong, skilful and sensitive lover. Indeed, in the early days of his marriage he and his wife had been insatiable, and although she was far from experimental in her tastes, they had enjoyed a passionate early life together. Before his marriage, he had had many women, and had tried many different things. Life had been good in that respect.

How different now. He suspected Narcissa had affairs. If truth be told, he did not care if she did. If it made her tolerably more pleasant to live with, so be it.

But he had never taken another woman. Sometimes he wondered why. He did not believe it to be through moral rectitude. He had simply never found a woman whom he considered worthy of him, who would present him with enough of a challenge, and therefore, he had never found any desirable. He knew he was attractive to women; significantly so. He noticed the looks, the flirtation. There had even been several direct suggestions and requests, some from women his wife would have called good friends, but all had gone ignored or haughtily declined. They were simply of no interest to him.

And now, the first time he had ever felt that stirring of intense longing deep within, the thought that he desired someone above all else, someone who must be worthy of him, it was her.

The mudblood.

The Granger girl.

His stomach churned. He was not sure if it was with revulsion or another surge of desire. He suspected the latter.

He took another slug of whisky.

Placing a hand over his eyes, he rubbed hard down his face, as if trying to scrub her face out of his memory. It did not work.

With his eyes open, he could merely see her standing beside him, with them shut, her deep brown eyes, staring in defiance at him, burned behind his lids.

He had to have her.

This burn, this searing pain of need would not go away until it was addressed.

He groaned aloud again and drained the glass before pouring himself another.

He would have her. Just once.

That would be enough. That would take away the thirst the alcohol he was now pouring relentlessly down his throat did not.

The front door sounded. Sharp footsteps followed. Narcissa came into the room.

"Oh," she said with terse surprise. "Are you still up?"

"Apparently," he drawled with sardonic dryness.

"It's ridiculously dark in here. Why don't you put some lights on?" She flicked her wand and the room immediately blazed with light. Lucius flinched and squinted against the sudden visual onslaught.

"Where have you been?" he scowled over to her.

"With Druella Goyle and the others. We were playing bridge."

"How is the fat cow?"

Narcissa sighed. "Really, Lucius, you could at least pretend to be tolerant of my friends."

"I merely speak the truth. She is grossly overweight and looks like a large bovine creature, her udders scraping the floor."

Narcissa chose to ignore this and lit a cigarette instead. She looked at him sharply. "Is that whisky you are drinking?"


"I thought as much. The colour is too light for firewhisky."

"Your powers of observation are staggering, my dear. But then, as it pertains to alcohol, that is hardly surprising."

She rolled her eyes a little and approached the drinks cabinet. "What has happened to all the firewhisky?"

"I drank it."

Narcissa turned to him in surprise. "Oh." She walked over. "You really are in a foul mood, Lucius. Perhaps you should go to bed."

He studied the contents of his glass. "Perhaps I should. Although when I do, it will not be under instruction from you."

She sniffed derisively. "Did you stay late at the reception last night? I haven't really asked you about it."

He did not look up. "Not especially."

"I saw Potter was there, and Weasley, with her, his wife."

Lucius did not respond, merely stared into his glass, swirling the liquid.

"Did you see them?"


"Funny isn't it? Do you remember that night, all those years ago, in here? Bella crucioing her, time and time again."

Lucius' eyes flicked up, the image of the girl lying writhing in agony, screaming, screaming, passing across his vision. He looked out at the direct place it had happened and a sudden wave of nausea swept over him. He gagged and brought his hand to his mouth, rising and rushing from the room.

Narcissa tutted after him. "Really, Lucius, it is not like you to drink so much. You should control yourself."

Hermione and Ron had returned home quickly after the reception. Luckily, the children had behaved well and were fast asleep. The babysitter left by floo and Ron went to bed. Hermione had stayed up a while longer, although found her mind dominated by her encounter with Malfoy.

As she sat there in the semi-darkness, she realised that it wasn't just his apparent ability to see into her soul which was disturbing her. His physical presence too had been tangible as he had stood beside her, his aroma intoxicating. She could not deny it. The whole occurrence had been exciting.

She stood abruptly and took herself to bed rapidly, cuddling into her husband, who was already asleep, in an attempt to blot out the night.

The next day dawned with familiar mundanity. Rose came crashing into their bedroom at half past six and Hugo woke up demanding milk a short time later.

The image of Lucius Malfoy was pushed to the back of her mind, somewhere behind overdue library books and the need to contact Rose's future school about uniform.

It would not remain there for long.

You know I love to hear your thoughts, good, bad, indifferent. LL x