STORY DETAILS: A Draco Malfoy x Hermione Granger one-shot story. Story is novel compliant up until after the Final Battle of Hogwarts (May 2, 1998). From that day onward, it's an Alternate Universe (following the EWE [Epilogue? What Epilogue] format and characters are a little OCC [out of character] as a result of the plot). THIS IS A ROMANTIC/DRAMA STORY.

TIMELINE: January 31, 2009-January 1, 2010

SUMMARY: Sequel to "The Hate Of His Life."2010 has come, and Draco Malfoy finds that sometimes unexpected miracles happen at the turn of a decade.

RATING: NC-17 (M – including explicit consensual sex, profanity, alcohol consumption).

PICTURES TO GO WITH THE STORY (get rid of all spaces in this URL to load it properly): http:/ / s905 . photobucket . com / albums / ac260 / RZZMG / The%20Hate%20of%20His%20Life-At%20The%20Turning%20Of%20A%20New%20Year/



"Happy New Year!" the cry rang out enthusiastically. Mini horns blew, champagne glasses clinked together, people kissed. Magical fireworks lit up the fifteen meter cathedral ceiling proclaiming that 2010 had finally come.

Draco Malfoy made his way out to the front balcony of his ancestral home to escape the stifling ballroom for some air, a bottle of the finest champagne in the world open and held casually in his hand. He unbuttoned his formal jacket, for the warming bubble spell around the Manor House - made so couples could roam the estate if they wished without fear of catching cold – made the night air almost as balmy as the overcrowded inside party room. Still, it was a nice touch his mother had suggested, and he silently commended her on the idea. The invisible line where the spell terminated was close to the front gate; cold snow lay half a meter thick over the hedge rows and beyond. However, within the confines of the magical barrier, green, lush grass dotted with crimson poinsettia shrubs and dark green holly bushes dominated (encouraged and bespelled into life by his mother's magical botanical expertise). The fountain had been turned on for this occasion as well, although the albino peacocks were safely nestled away in the Aviary in the rear of the estate because they tended to frighten unsuspecting people with their shrill cries (plus, they'd lost one of the stupid birds already, when it had accidentally ingested some holly berries and poisoned itself).

He cringed, thinking of things now dead... His ex-wife was here with her beau, Ernie Macmillan. Usually, the idea of being in the same room with Astoria wouldn't be too unpleasant for Draco; they'd parted on reasonably amicable terms, after all. But to see her with that ponce Macmillan bothered him. Sure, the guy was Pureblood and he'd done quite well for himself after the war working for the Ministry, but it was the way he looked at Astoria that bothered him: as if she were a nice arm ornament to show himself off with. He was sure his former lover could have done much better, given how beautiful she was, and how charming she could be.

He derided himself. This was the same internal conversation he had every time he was thrust into the happy couple's presence over the last six months, and Draco wondered for the thousandth time if it wasn't just bitter grapes talking. No, he wasn't upset about losing Astoria, but about her being so bloody content in a relationship, while Draco sat it out on the sidelines, once more unlucky in love.

He sipped at his champagne and looked down towards the ground level to spy various Ministry guests and Heads of State taking advantage of the comfortable outdoors, wondering again at his life…

He'd be thirty in a few months, and had achieved more than he'd expected by this age - certainly more than anyone else from his old school days (much to his parents' satisfaction). For instance, he was an unparalleled, successful business man who was both respected and feared in the board room (and he was disgustingly wealthy as a result). Over the last twelve years, he'd traveled the world, brokering everything from a few thousand galleon pittance deals to multi-million galleon mergers, financing both small and large wizarding venture capitals (everything from curse-breaking expeditions in Antarctica to herb and spice trading between Old World Europe and the Orient), staying in hotels from Buenos Aires to Vancouver, from Beijing to Rome. Further, he'd continually engaged in a number of important wizarding charity causes, acting as patron (including the arts, medicine, education, Quidditch, and a particularly small, but vocal House Elf rights group), and in doing so, he'd earned the admiration of the wizarding community as a whole (which had helped pave the way for his family's name to be publicly restored). He was still touted by the Ministry to be a powerful warlock in his own right (case in point, he'd been called upon annually for the last four years by the Auror Training Program – by Potter himself - to teach newbie adepts in the ways of Occlumency and Wandless, Non-Verbal Hexes for three weeks every April). And, ironically enough, he was even recently named the 'Most Eligible Wizard of the Year' by Witch Weekly's society pages.

And yet, an unfortunate consequence of such hard-won financial and social success was that Draco was soul weary, lonely, and starting to feel his years catch up.

The truth was, his very busy schedule – which he'd initiated after he'd left Hogwarts in the summer of 1998 - had left him with very little time to devote to the ideal of a wife and a son… which was why he could now add "divorcee" and "absentee father" to the list of his glorious 'accomplishments.' Worse, over the last year, since the split with Astoria had been finalized, it also prevented him from trying to engage in any kind of serious relationship with a woman (there had been plenty of one-night flings, but never anything deeper). Being even jokingly labeled by Blaise, Greg and Theo as 'the guy who couldn't get laid by an honest girl to save his life' was starting to eat at him, frankly.

He mentally cursed himself for beating up this dead horse again. Why couldn't he just leave well enough alone? Picking emotional scabs… that wasn't like him. And he despised that he was feeling sorry for himself.

It was all Ernie-fucking-Macmillan's fault, he decided. The git's smarmy smile and his arrogant reminder of what Draco had thrown away had put him in a piss poor mood again.

With a frown, he took another drink.

"It's a new year, Malfoy," a familiar, nostalgic voice surprised him from his right. "A new decade, in fact! Time to throw out the old and ring in the bold! No scowling allowed."

He swung about in surprise.

And there she was.

Draco felt his breath catch in his chest. Muggle-born or not, a woman now of thirty instead of nineteen, but Hermione Granger was still the mostbreathtaking witch he'd ever laid eyes on, even after all this time.

She sidled up to him daringly at the balcony railing, her small fingers resting on the stone as she looked out over the view. Her long, curly hair was tamed up into an elegant French twist, her lips were rouged, her cheeks pinked, and her eyelashes teased to perfection. Her long, red, fairy-dusted dress sparkled in the moonlight. She was abso-fucking-lutely stunning.

"I didn't see you on the guest list, Granger," he teased, trying to open up their first conversation in over seven years smoothly. Gods, he'd only said a few words to her at their Five Year Reunion back in 2003, since her husband had been on her arm the whole night. Now, though, they were alone, apparently. And he knew Weasley wouldn't be anywhere in sight tonight…


Inside his chest, his heart had picked up the pace.

"Gate crashing my party?"

She sniffed in mock insult. "No, unlike some people, I don't have to bust my way into the fun." It was clear she was referring to that incident in Sixth Year, when he'd interrupted Slughorn's Christmas Party, and he couldn't help but smile at her cheekiness. She then grinned impishly up at him. "I'm here as an official guest of a guest, actually."

"You're someone's date then?" he inquired politely. Inside he felt disappointment rip through his chest.

"In a manner of speaking," she explained, seemingly oblivious to his pain. "See, your mum invited the Head of the Auror Office in London to attend tonight's gala – along with most of the Department head staff for Magical Law Enforcement."

Ah, so Potter was here; Draco hadn't seen him yet. But then, there were well over three hundred guests at tonight's soiree, thanks to his mother's over exuberance.

Granger continued her explanation in a mock, tragic voice, placing one hand dramatically over her heart for effect. "Sadly for him, his wife didn't want to go to yet another… how did she phrase it?... Ah, yes! 'Another stuffed-shirt event.'" She grinned impishly. "Well, that of course, was positively fortuitous for me, because I really wanted to go to this shindig tonight… but had somehow been accidentally overlooked when the invitations arrived to the office for everyone else." She rolled her eyes to indicate she knew exactly why his mother had intentionally kept her off the guest list, and that it came as predictably no surprise. "In any case, I simply asked Harry if I could go in Ginny's stead, and et voilà! The Mudblood is here hobnobbing with all you rich and famous types once more." She finished with a purely wicked smirk. "Of course, when I greeted Lady Malfoy to comment on how lovely she looked tonight, she was quite apologetic about the mistake with the invitations. I dare say she was swooning with remorse when I left her by the punch bowl not two minutes ago."

Draco laughed from his gut – a first in months - just imagining his mother's discomfort over being bested by a Muggle-born. "So you are enjoying yourself, then?" he asked puckishly.

She slid her eyes over and peeked at him sidelong, that playful smile still tugging her rosy lips. Draco felt his stomach flip. "Well, you spared no expense on the spread, but the majority of the company… No, are you?"

Truth or Dare? Decisions, decisions. He went for broke, liking that they could be so honest with each other once more. It was very much like that summer after Seventh Year… "No, not really."

She indicated the bottle in his hand. "Is that why you're out here, drinking alone?"

He offered the champagne up to her, dodging her question with one of his own. "Care to join me?"

Granger looked at his outstretched offering for a second, biting her lip in consideration, and then took it from his hand firmly, much to his surprise, tipped it back and drank up. Her moist, ruby lips molded over the bottle's crown and Draco felt his 'friend' in his pants suddenly wake up and take notice.

"Wow, that's… really good," she quipped, pulling the bottle back to look at it. "Pernod-Ricard Perrier Jouet. And your family's name is even on the label! How'd you pull that off?"

Draco smirked. "For 10,000 galleons a bottle, it had better be good, and it should definitely be personalized."

Hermione almost choked, her face turning red. "Godric, that's three-fourths as much as I make in a year at the Ministry!"

Draco chuckled. "Enjoy it then. Bottoms up."

She paused, shook her head and handed it back to him. "I never drink alone. Standing rule."

Now that was an interesting little tidbit. He placed his mouth over the lip of the bottle, and could almost imagine tasting her at the same time as the fizzy alcohol made its way down his throat. When he pulled the liquid courage away, he asked the really profound question: "And why not?"

For a moment, she looked a little sad, but then she shook her head and the grin was back in place. "Because I'm a cheap drunk, and I'd probably fall down some stairs and break my fool neck."

A better opening line couldn't have presented itself, he thought. "But I'm here to catch you this time, Granger," he offered, handing the drink back to her. "So drink up."

She gave him the oddest look then, as if what he'd just said had heightened the tension between them some and she didn't really seem to mind. She reached for the bottle and their fingers briefly touched. Just that much was enough to make things in his lower regions tighten. "All right, then," she agreed. "But you have to finish at least half the bottle with me."

He felt his patented "naughty smirk" wind its way up his left cheek as he was handed yet another great line to work off of. "Drinking games should be played in… private… don't you think, Granger?"

She stopped with the champagne half the way to her mouth, and her eyes widened slightly, locking onto his. She went back to biting her lip for a second, and he could see her mind turning over the proposition, logically concluding where it might lead them, deciding if this was what she wanted. He patiently waited her out, leaning casually against the stone railing and raising an eyebrow challengingly at her, his smirk still firmly in place.

After at least a full minute, she nodded. "Okay, where?"

Draco's heart sped up to insane proportions. He held his hand out to her confidently. "Come with me."

"Said the spider to the fly," she murmured jokingly and reached out to touch him. When their fingers connected fully, an electric shock traveled up Draco's arm, into his spine and down into his cock, jerking it awake fully. He stopped and stared at her for a few seconds, wanting to remember this moment… And then he was leading her through the grand ballroom, around the outside, so as to attract as little attention as possible. He still felt the hawkish eyes of the more attentive vultures scope him and Granger out, noting their hurry and hand holding, and knew there would be press about this come tomorrow. But truthfully, he didn't care a whit. It had been twelve years since their one reckless moment, and he had no intention of being stopped from sharing more than a simple kiss with her this time.

He felt her tug on his arm to halt him. "Wait, let me just tell Harry where I've gone."

She released him and moved off into the crowded, loud audience, and her absence ate at Draco, even though she was only moving a few meters away to where Potter was currently in a lively discussion with the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot and the Minister of Magic for the Asian Offices. She approached and whispered in her friend's ear, he bent his head to listen more closely, and finally, he jerked back as if shocked. Then, he simply nodded, they exchanged a few more words, and before he knew it, she was heading back towards him. As she approached, her hips swaying, her breasts bouncing slightly with each step, his stomach twisted up in knots.

Merlin, don't let him fuck it up this time!

She came back to his side and hesitantly took his hand again. Just the feel of her warmth intimately touching him jolted him back into action. He quickly led her to a side exit, down a long, empty hallway, turned left down another corridor, then took a flight of stairs up, and finally entered the East Wing of the Manor House. As they walked, neither said a word, the tension between them was too palatable. He reached for his wand inside his jacket inside pocket and waved it as he approached his bedroom door; it opened automatically and then shut quietly behind them when they entered. He waved the fireplace into life, and led her over to the couch that was situated right in front of it.

Lounging back on the plush sofa, he stared hotly at her as she took a seat about half a meter away, turning her body towards him. He'd waited so long for this… This time, they were going to play this game through to its conclusion. No stopping at a simple pull of lips. He was determined tonight would be a night neither one of them would ever forget.

Hermione's eyes darted nervously around the room, taking in the details of where she was, and she licked her lips in what he knew to be partial fear. "It's very… House colors for you in here," she stated fretfully. "Was this something you added after you were sorted into Slytherin, or was this always the palette for your interior design?"

He burst out laughing again. Of all the things to say at a moment like this... "I don't think there was ever an expectation that I wouldn't be sorted into Slytherin," he explained. "So, it's always been green and black for me."

"I guess that makes sense," she acknowledged, still not looking at him directly. "Personally, I never liked such bold colors as red and gold together until Hogwarts. My room as a child was sunny yellow with pale blue trim. I've always liked softer colors."

"Not fiery enough for you," he commented quickly, assuredly. "You're definitely a Gryffindor, through and through."

Now she looked at him, seemingly surprised that he'd paid her such flattery. "Well… thank you, Malfoy. I think." She turned her head and looked at him inquiringly out of the corner of her eye. "That was meant to be a compliment, wasn't it?"

His smirk slithered back to life almost on its own. "Yes. However, I actually think you'd look much better in between green and black, Granger." The innuendo did not escape her. A charming blush crept up her cheeks, and she reached for the bottle of champagne in his hand, grabbed it and took a drink quickly. "Now, now, Princess," he teasingly chided her. "No drinking until we've decided upon a game." He took the alcoholic beverage back from her with a 'tsk' and held it hostage. "How about it?"

She paused, seemingly embarrassed. "I… don't know any drinking games, honestly. I've always just enjoying talking over a Butterbeer or three."

Draco's astonishment could not have been more sincere. He felt his eyebrows shoot into his hairline even. "You're shamming me, Granger. Gryffindor was known for its wild parties."

She blushed again. "I never… attended… any of those. I was too busy."

He snorted indelicately. "Okay, but you went to college, Granger. No one gets out of there alive without having had at least one hangover - especially in France."

She shook her head, and then stopped, her face scrunching up in adorable confusion. "How did you know I went to college in Paris?"

Draco shrugged nonchalantly. "People at the Ministry talk. I listen." He waved it off, not wanting to delve into the why he found it important to pay attention to such gossip about her. "So, you're green in this case, right? Okay then, we should start with something easy. How about 'Truth or Dare'?" He scooted a little closer, pretending to lean in to explain the rules to her, but really, he'd just wanted to press his knee against her thigh. "We take turns asking each other a single question. You can either answer it truly, or don't answer it and take a sip of champagne. The game ends when the bottle's empty or someone passes out."

She grinned. "It's rather brilliant in its simplicity, isn't it?"

He nodded seriously. "So, since I'm holding the bottle," he raised it and waved it in the air between them; there was still a good two-thirds left. "I get to ask you first." Hermione bit her lip again and nodded in acquiescence. He leaned back against the couch back and thought up a safe first question. "Do you have aspirations to be Minister of Magic someday?"

Laughter bubbled out. "No, absolutely not. Although I'd rather like to be Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, where I currently work."

He waggled his eyebrows at her. "Ah, a woman who's honest about her ambitions. What a novel idea." He was only partially joking, and he was sure she'd picked up on that by the pause that greeted his observation. To by-pass the awkwardness he nudged her with his knee. "Your turn. Ask me a question now."

Granger's eyes narrowed in thought and she tapped her index fingers together as she considered her query. "Okay, I've got one: are you really one of the richest wizards in the world now?"

He frowned, and was a little disappointed by the question honestly. He didn't think Granger cared all that much about such things. "Yeah, so? Why do you ask?" That came out a little accusatory.

She didn't seem to notice; instead, she snapped her fingers as if at a lost opportunity. "Freckles, there goes my case for an ethics violation." When he gave her a confused look, she explained. "As part of my job at the Ministry, I hand out citations and fines for journalistic malfeasance. I've been after that vile insect, Rita Skeeter ever since she came out of retirement last year and went to work for Witch Weekly. She's the one who edited the final story about you for the magazine this last month, you know. Everything that woman touches is fouled, and I was really hoping I'd get some proof that she'd crossed the line from opinion into blatant exaggeration of the facts so I could shut her down once and for all. But, it seems, in your case… cadit quaestio. It's back to the drawing board now…"

Draco was greatly relieved when the truth was revealed. He'd been hoping his cynical nature was overreacting this time, and clearly it had been. Granger just wasn't the type of woman to be persuaded by money, he now understood. She was the type to want to earn her own way. She'd been that way at Hogwarts, and later she'd worked her way up to her current position as Under Secretary to the Department Head for Magical Law Enforcement on her own merits and hard work (instead of simply jumping at one of the numerous offers she'd received for Junior Vice Chair of this or that Department when she'd graduated from college). She'd humped the great white paper trail for years, put up with Ministry politics, and did her job admirably - all for a crap paycheck.

He knew all of this because he'd kept tabs on her progress through the years secretly, as he'd previously hinted to her.

"Ah," was all he could think to reply to her explanation. His mind was caught on one particular turn of phrase she'd used, though. "Freckles? Is that the new, hip swear word of the week over at the Ministry?"

She snickered. "Last week it was 'codswallop.' I think 'freckles' sounds considerably more charming, though."

He snorted and made a face. "Sounds like something the She-Weasel would say."

Hermione laughed, and the sound was lovely. "That's decided it. I'm adding 'freckles' permanently to my vernacular now – just because you dislike it, Malfoy."

Her tenacity was unreal. No woman had ever countered Draco as this one before him did. "You've got a fresh mouth on you, Granger. Careful, or it just may need to be put to a better use," he warned with seductive lowering of his eyelids and a purposeful ogling of her lips.

Her smile dropped as she tracked his eye movements and read his silent meaning. She looked down hurriedly. "It's my turn again," she pointed out, trying to get them back on track to abate her clear uneasiness.

"Is it?" he asked, really not concerned with whose bloody turn it was, more alarmed by her reaction to their suggestive exchange. She seemed as if she'd wanted him to be bold earlier, but now… Perhaps she was reconsidering coming to his room with him? Was he being too aggressive? He pulled his stare away, concentrated on the lip of the bottle in his hand and relaxed back into the couch away from her, giving her that extra half-meter to ease her down. "Then, what's your question for me?"

The sound of his breathing and his heartbeat in his ears competed with the crackling from the fire for the loudest sounds in the room. She was utterly still, and he knew she was debating with herself about the wisdom of being here alone with him. Did she want him as he wanted her? If not, now would be the time for her to figure it out, make her excuses and leave.

Please give this a chance, Granger.

She opened her mouth to speak, and he held his breath.

"Was your school reputation with the girls really earned or was it simple exaggeration?"

Draco controlled his exhaled breath carefully, not wanting her to know how he'd sat on pins and needles for those infinite few seconds, wondering if she would hazard this play or walk out of his life again, perhaps forever. "I'm not sure, Granger," he replied carefully, neutrally, playing along again. "What did you girls think of me back then?" He was baiting her, sure. He remembered the gossip and nicknames well; he just wanted to see if she was willing to repeat any of it.

She coughed delicately behind a hand to hide her mortification. "I can't believe I'm saying this… Okay, you were called Slytherin's 'Sex God,' and it was rumored you'd had at least twenty girls by the end of Fifth Year."

He snuffed in amazement. "I'd have been bloody hard pressed to juggle that many affairs, don't you think?"

She pushed the bottle at him. "Answer or take a drink, Malfoy. Your rules."

Draco stared her down for a few seconds, considering if he should tell her. "Some of it was true."

"Which parts?" she pressed.

He smirked again. "That's two questions."

She shook her head adamantly. "So ask me two, but answer already."

He felt a strange blooming hope in his chest at how riled up she was over this issue. Apparently, this was something she'd thought about. Which meant she'd been thinking about him. "I only slept with three girls at school, but I messed around a lot. Standard hormonal teenager things, you know."

Hermione's eyes were wide. "Actually, I don't."

Wait, what?

"You mean to tell me that you never slept with a bloke in school?" he asked, incredulous. "What about Krum and the Weasel? You and Potter never had sex either?"

Hermione's jaw dropped in righteous indignation. She began sputtering, clearly angry. "Is that what you thought? Is it? Well, no, I never - not with ANY of them! Well, I mean, I married Ron, so yes… but only after I married him! And… and… Harry. Ugh. He's always been like my brother. That's absolutely… ewww. Yuck." She scrunched her face as if she'd just tasted something sour.

Draco put his one free hand up to ward her indignation off. "Okay, calm down, Granger. I was curious, that's all. Look, if it'll help, I'll take a drink as punishment." He tossed back the bottle and sipped a mouthful. "There, see? Penance done. I won't even ask you my second question."

She huffed a bit, but calmed down quickly. "No, go ahead and ask. It's only fair."

He looked at her warily. "You sure?"

Granger nodded, put her hands in her lap and motioned for him to continue with her head. "Yes, ask away."

He inhaled deeply and let it out fast. "Why'd you divorce ginger boy?"

She looked quickly into the fire, staring for long seconds, and then reached for the bottle. As she started tilting it towards her mouth, she stopped, exhaled sharply, and then lowered the drink as she changed her mind. "If I had to be one hundred percent honest, Ron and I were never right for each other. He was a good man, hard working, honest, sincere. But, I could never have serious conversations with him without them blowing up into fights. And, he had absolutely no personal ambition. He was content to follow Harry around forever as his right-hand. I… needed more than that. I needed someone I could talk to about important things, someone who was willing to try for more and who wasn't afraid to walk his own path." She peeked at him from the corner of her eye. "Plus, the chemistry between he and I… I wanted fire, something that smoldered and would occasionally burn me up. With him, it was always like we… missed each other. Our timing was never right. We were completely incompatible in the bedroom."

Wow. That was way more than he had expected. But all good to know. "Why'd you stay with him for so long then?"

She paused and looked him in the eye again. "That's a third question," she pointed out.

He nodded. "Fair enough. Your turn, then."

She looked down at the bottle lip and ran her fingertip over it. Obviously, she wanted to ask him something important, but was scared to do so. He waited her out, enjoying the warmth of the magical fire and her presence, knowing she'd get to it sooner or later. She'd removed her shoes in the intervening moments since her decision to stay, and so she clearly wasn't going anywhere soon.

"Why did you kiss me that day?"

Ah, now that was the question, wasn't it? The one that had hung between them since that summer after Seventh Year, when he'd found her after their graduation ceremony in the West Wing hallway, alone and crying because she would be leaving Hogwarts finally and for good.

The truth was that Draco didn't think he'd ever see Granger again after that day, and he'd wanted just one memory of her to take with him… because he'd loved her for years - pretty much since the first time he'd ever seen her. Of course, he hadn't realized that earth shattering fact until the final battle with Voldemort (what a night of revelations that had been!), but he didn't have the guts to tell her the truth after everything that had gone down between them. Even though they'd become tentative friends during the summer, he knew it was an impossible dream to have Granger for his own. She was, after all, a Mudblood, and a war heroine, and The-Boy-Who'd-Conquered's best friend, and she was dating the Weasel. He, on the other hand, was a Pureblood, and had been a follower of Voldemort, and his father would disinherit him if he knew his son's secret feelings, and the world would boo her if they knew she was seeing a former Death Eater anyway. So, even though he had wanted her, he knew there was simply no way Draco would ever be allowed to openly court Hermione; there were too many insurmountable obstacles. So instead, he'd found a moment for just the two of them that humid August afternoon, and he'd taken his chances… because he'd wanted her to remember him, too.

He took the bottle from her hands and took a sip, watching her eyes widen, then sadden in disappointment. And then he told her everything.

"You… loved me? All those years?" she seemed on the verge of either sobbing or hitting him. "You made me think… You made me hate you, Malfoy!"

He nodded slowly. "That was the plan at the time." He took another sip and suddenly felt emboldened, staring her down. "So tell me… why'd you stay with Weasley for so long, Granger, if you knew he wasn't right for you? Why'd you take your maiden name back after the divorce? Why'd you let me kiss you? Why are you here now?"

She blinked, grabbed the bottle from him and chugged a good portion of it. Then, she answered.

"In chronological order, I let you kiss me because I'd seen how much you'd changed over the summer, and I was… attracted to you. Not just physically, but… emotionally. You came back to Hogwarts for the extended study to finish out Seventh Year that MacGonagall offered, despite what you'd been through; I was at your trial, remember? I heard everything. Yet, despite the hateful taunts and stares and whispers from the other students, you never quit. You were so determined to graduate – to try to make a fresh start - even knowing you were the most hated boy in the history of the school. I admired that strength and courage so much that I actually put aside my natural reservations towards you in the hope we'd get to know each other better. That's why I started talking to you on a more personal level." She shyly glanced at him. "You know, I really looked forward to our evening study groups in the library, because sometimes we'd work together on figuring out a problem and I felt like… you and I were on the same level and could understand each other. You challenged me to think in a different way. I've never had that with anyone before or since. And the occasional banter back and forth was… well, it was fun. You kept me on my toes, because I never knew what outrageous thing you were going to say next. I thought we were becoming good friends by the end of term. That was why I… fell for you." She brushed a hand over one of her loosened tendrils and tucked it behind the shell of her left ear nervously. "But, I also felt guilty about feeling that way, because technically I was dating Ron. I was terribly conflicted that whole summer." She sighed. "So, on that day… I thought I'd never see you again and… just in case it was the only time, I wanted to know what it was like to be held by you and to kiss you back."

She inhaled deeply, looking into the fire for the rest of her confession. "The main reason I stayed with Ron was because it was expected - by all of our friends, his family, my family… heck, the whole wizarding world wanted us to stay together. Even after we split and it made the papers, we both received 'fan mail,' if you can believe it, begging us to reunite." She blushed a bit over that. "Ron was a good man, like I said, but he was never 'it' for me. I knew the day we were getting married, but I rationalized my negative thoughts and feelings as simply pre-wedding jitters. Every day after that, I kept telling myself that he and I could, maybe, make our marriage evolve into the kind of love I wanted. It never happened, though. Then Rose came in late 2006, and a year and a half later there was Hugo, and I felt… trapped. I tried really hard to make us a family, to do the right thing… but Ron and I kept slipping past each other. We never talked about it, but it wasn't a surprise to him the day I handed him the divorce papers. He just signed them and handed them back, and it was done very amicably. He'd known all along, I think."

She bit her lip again. "But there was another reason I stayed with him, and I'm a little ashamed to admit it now, but it's the truth… and since we're playing this stupid game, and I'm confessing everything now, I might as well just say this, too." Her right hand curled into a fist and pressed itself over her heart. "For years, I carried a little flame around for you, Draco, and I was hoping... you'd try to contact me, maybe... want to pick up where things were left off. But after so much time had passed… I thought that maybe my feelings were not reciprocated and I was just carrying around a silly school girl crush for too long. You never came after me."

"Because you were with Weasley already!" Draco explained, shocked to his core by her revelation. She'd felt the same way for him as he had for her, and neither one of them had known it! He ran a hand through his long, platinum bangs in frustration, trying to control the ire in his voice. None of this was her fault; it was just lousy timing and misunderstanding. "And in September, you moved almost three hundred and fifty kilometers away to Paris! Besides, it was like you said, everyone expected you and the red-head to be together for a little while after the war ended. I know I did. So, after I left Hogwarts, I threw myself into trying to rebuild my family's reputation, thinking I'd just wait you and Weasley out. I didn't think you'd last. And I figured that if a little bit of time went by, it would be easier for people to accept anything that might happen between us. But years passed, Granger, and you didn't stop seeing him. At that point, I thought the same thing you did – that it was all one-sided. So, I started thinking about my own future."

She nodded in understanding. "When you married Astoria in 2004, I think that cinched it for me. That's when I finally agreed to marry Ron, you know. And when Scorpius came for you that January two years later, I saw the pictures in The Daily Prophet - you looked so happy and proud. I really thought that you loved the life you had, and that I'd overly exaggerated my feelings for you for too many years. I thought it would be best to just let you go." Hermione smiled sadly. "But I… couldn't. I know this is going to sound mentally unbalanced, but when I read that you as Astoria were divorcing, I think that was the catalyst for me to finally serve Ron the divorce papers this last February. And I changed my name back to 'Granger' so you'd know I was free again." She looked over at him, tears in her eyes. "I… never really got over you after that summer, Draco. That's why I wheedled Harry into taking me as his guest tonight; I told him it was because I wanted to tweak your mother's nose for intentionally not inviting me, but really, I wanted to see you again. And… I followed you out onto the balcony in the hope we'd have a chance to talk, maybe see..." She sighed in anguish. "I wanted to know if… if there was even the slightest possibility that you felt the same way I did? The way I still do."

Draco groaned and rested his eyes against the palms of his hands, cradling his head to keep from screaming. "Blast it all the bloody hell, we really fucked it up, didn't we?" He sighed and looked at her sincerely, dropping his guard completely – something Draco Malfoy had not done in years. "Yeah, I felt the same way for you. And no, I've never gotten over you, Granger. I loved Astoria, but… she was never 'it' for me either. It's always been you."

A small sob escaped Hermione's lips, and she covered her mouth with her free hand as she began crying. "I wish I'd known sooner."

Draco gave her a quirky smile, calmly took the bottle from her hands and put it down on the ground next to the couch, behind him. "You're here with me now, Hermione." He scooted until their bodies were practically touching and stared at her longingly. He'd waited so long… a dozen lost years. "And I don't want to think anymore about what went wrong, and why this didn't happen sooner. All I want right now is to take you to my bed. Do you want that, too?"

She firmly nodded, swiping her cheeks clean. He licked his lips, and she mimicked him, and that was what undid him. Grabbing the back of her neck, he pulled her to him just as his mouth dropped to hers and his other hand grabbed her around the waist to haul her against his chest. Her fingers grabbed the lapels of his jacket and her mouth opened with an equal hunger to his own. They both groaned at the sensation of their mouths – tasting of champagne – explored each other once again.

It was the same feeling as that day: the same giddy, flipping motion in his abdomen, the same pounding pulse in his veins, the same heady, nebulous feeling of free falling. He kissed her with everything he had, all of the years of pent-up longing and frustration unwinding, curling around them, dragging them both under the uncontrolled wave of his feelings. He couldn't wait, he couldn't be as gentle or take as long as he usually liked to during foreplay. Her small whimpers, the way her hands ran through his hair, gripping him tightly and pulling him against her, her ardent kisses… they inflamed him, almost made him lose all sense of himself.

He pulled her chignon out, let that luxurious, dark, curly hair he'd dreamed about touching for years run through his fingers once more. He tried to unzip her dress in the back, but the zipper got stuck part of the way down, so instead, he ripped it, and pulled the thin, spaghetti straps down her arms. She wore a strapless bra underneath, which he unhooked with practiced hands, and then tossed to the side, baring her to his hot stare.

She was so fucking beautiful.

Grabbing her hair a little roughly, he pulled her back so she arched towards him, and he took her left breast into his mouth. Hermione cried out in wild abandon, her voice lowering into a seductive moan. He bit, nipped, scraped, sucked, and flicked her nipple, leaving bruising marks on her skin in his passing. He then turned his attention to the other side and repeated the attention, all the while working her dress up over her legs, pulling her closer so he could bunch the fabric past her knees and up her silky thighs. His hands glided to her knickers; she was wearing a thong. He moaned, running his fingers under the tiny slip of fabric in the back, down her arse, then back up. She urged him on with a repetitive 'yes' so he reached up and yanked the underwear hard, tearing the thin side and ripping it open. All the while, he kept up his sucking of her breasts and throat, marking her with his teeth. She wantonly reveled in that pleasure-pain just as he'd always fantasized, squirming against his erection and begging for more. He'd known it would be this way with her – consuming, mad, almost feral.

Pulling his wand from the inside of his jacket pocket, he pressed it to her stomach, spoke the charm for preventing pregnancy, then tossed it to the floor heedlessly.

He abruptly stood, dragging her up with him and pushed her dress off of her. The iridescent fabric shimmied down her hips, puddling at their feet. He slipped the remnants of her thong off her as well, and so she was fully nude in front of him for the first time. He'd dreamed of this day, never thought it would happen, thanked Slytherin for the opportunity and knelt at her feet to worship her with his mouth and hands.

Slinging a leg over his shoulder and steadying her hips, he began lapping all up and down her wet slit, lathering her with his saliva. He suckled on her clit when her hands grabbed his hair and pushed him into her deeper. She cried out his name over and over again, imploring him to keep going, not to stop. Gone was the gangly, shy teenager; in her place was a full woman who knew what she wanted from him. This moment was almost worth the wait…

He ran his hands up and down her sexy torso. Despite having had two children, she was in fan-fucking-tastic shape, her belly flat with only a tiny swell at the bottom, her hips wide, her thighs strong and muscled, her breasts perky. He delved into her opening with his tongue and fingers, tweaked her tiny, pink nub and made her come right there, standing up, in front of the fire for him to watch freely. It was absolutely beautiful – her face scrunched up, her mouth parted in ecstasy, her nipples hardened tight as she breathed hard, and then her head was thrown back and she wailed his name.

Christ, she was absolutely gorgeous.

She tasted and smelled so damned good, too, and he wanted to bring her again in the same way, but she was having none of it, pulling him up, beseeching him to take her to the bed. He stood, and together, they shucked the rest of his clothes in a hurried excitement, backing towards the large, four-poster bed against the wall. When they got there, he turned so she was on her back, and they fell together, sliding towards the center of the black, satin sheets.

Hermione's hands reached down between them and began stroking him, and Draco thought he'd prematurely ejaculate right there. Luckily, he stopped her by shoving aside her thighs to lie in between her swollen, drenched lower lips. He slid a few times back and forth, and then eased himself down to her opening and watching her face intently as he glided inside her body for the first time. They both gasped; it was absolute heaven. She was warm and moist and tight; he stretched her out, and it was obvious that she hadn't been with a man in a while. As he reached the very end of his full seven inches, burying himself up to the hilt, he bumped her cervix lightly. They fit just perfectly together.

The first time was quick – six or seven minutes at the very most - both of them wanting it too much to be patient or tender. It was hard, rough sex and the bed rocked forcefully as he plunged into her ruthlessly again and again, and as she met him thrust for thrust with equal enthusiasm. Her legs wrapped about his waist, her fingernails dug into his shoulders. They kissed fiercely as they fucked each other crazily and came together with honest, loud exclamations of pleasure shouted to the ceiling.

The second time, ten minutes later, was much more along Draco's style of love making.

"Do you want it fast or slow?" he asked Hermione, nipping at her lips, his fully erect cock sliding back into her wet channel. "This time is all for you."

Granger's eyes widened, as if the concept of being sexually free were foreign to her. Hell, it probably was. She'd indicated that she'd been a virgin on her wedding night to ginger-boy, and he was guessing that Weasley had been her only lover. As a gambling man, he was further betting, from Granger's description, that her husband hadn't been all that great in bed. He probably was a standard missionary type of guy - straight vanilla. Draco liked to experiment, and he didn't mind being the dominant or the submissive to his partner.

He began swirling his hips, pressing against her clit as he moved. "Tell me how you like it," he coaxed. "I'll do whatever you ask."

Her eyes glazed over in growing passion. Her fingers tightened on his shoulders, and she dug her nails in again. "Can I… be on top?" she asked shyly.

He nodded. "Hold on as I roll," he bid, and when she was ready, he moved onto his back smoothly, taking her with him. He then pushed her into a sitting up position and readjusted her over his length. The feeling was exquisite. Using his hands and hips, he taught her how to ride him. Watching her as she moved over him, empowered by the freedom he was giving her... his heart slammed under his ribs. Merlin, he still loved her, didn't he? Even after all these years, after everything they'd separately gone through, she was still the girl he'd loved deep inside. He saw it in the gentle curves of her face, heard it in her voice as she called out for him as she neared her climax, felt it in her hands, which touched him tenderly everywhere. He reached up and stroked her clit with one hand as the other worked her nipple, and he watched as she came on him.

When she came down from the high, he held her to his chest, used his stomach muscles to bring him up into a sitting position. "Wrap your legs around my waist again," he directed her, and she followed his instruction. In a smooth rolling motion, he was up on his knees, facing the other way, and Granger was hanging on him, still impaled on his throbbing member. He widened his stance and began kissing her passionately as he placed his hands on her hips. Using his strength, he drove himself into her strongly. As they moved, her desire was stoked again, and she began driving down on him in time to his rhythm. It was the perfect angle, the perfect build up, the perfect sounds and smells and tastes, and their fucking brought Draco and Hermione both together again in one powerful, pulse-pounding orgasm that dragged each of them deeper together, locking their cores, forcing great cries from both of their throats.

When the climax let him go, Draco fell back on his haunches and held her tightly to his chest, trying to regain his sanity. He came back to himself minutes later, his breathing returned to normal, his heart rate dropped back to safe levels. He nuzzled her neck and bit her ear lobe as he gently laid her down on his bed once more, thrusting his thighs under hers. Her auburn-brown hair fanned out across his sheets and one pillow case, and he decided she looked very good in between green and black.

"Give me ten more minutes and we can go again," he guaranteed her, not withdrawing from her body just yet. He pulled back and looked her in the eye, smirking arrogantly. "You're going to come so much tonight that you're going to be sore for the next two days. I promise."

He kissed her with his eyes open, watching her reaction. She was clearly astounded.

"You really are a 'Sex God,' aren't you?"

Now he grinned with a full flash of predatory teeth. "We've got twelve years to make up for, Granger." He nipped at her lower lip as she began worrying it. "That could take time."

She raised an eyebrow. "How long?"

He shrugged, continuing to nibble away on her throat, down her collar, towards her breasts. "It all depends."

Granger blinked. "On what?"

He took a nipple between his teeth and tugged on it, suckled, and then pulled back and looked up at her once more. "On how long it takes for you to say you love me."

She playfully pushed him. "And if I admit that, what then? You were rumored to move on rather quickly once the 'new' had been rubbed off a girl in school, Malfoy."

He gave her a censorious look and then bent back to her breast, venerating her soft skin with tender kisses. The fingers of his right hand, in the meantime, snuck down between them to begin rubbing her clit as his left hand maintained a firm grip on her hips. "In this case, I don't think that would be a very strategic move, kitten."

"And why's that?" She yawned and stetched, which caused him to harden again inside of her canal rather quickly. They both felt it, and his knowing smirk overtook his face again at her eyes widening in renewed interest.

"Because hypocrisy is one weakness a man can't afford," he clarified and started moving his hips slowly again, in and out.

She smiled, intuitively understanding, rocking her pelvis in time with his. "Oh, well… then, tactically speaking, it would behoove me to hold out on you for a bit, wouldn't you say?"

He tilted his head, his lips fastening on her throat. He breathed hot against her ear and she shuddered in response. "Maybe until the next round or so, sure."

They made love several more times before the first dawn of the new decade finally crept through the tall, thin bedroom windows, to lie across their exhausted, entangled bodies. Hermione was on her side, her cheek pressed to Draco's heart, and he had one arm tightly around her waist, the other gently stroking the hand that lie over his right peck.

"Truth or Dare," she whispered the challenge tiredly, wrapping her left leg over his, and pressed a tiny kiss to his nipple. "Do you love me?"

He nuzzled his nose into her hair. "Well, since I can't reach the champagne at the moment, I guess I have to answer." He stifled a yawn and kissed her curls. "I've always loved you, Granger. From the very first time I could remember seeing you. Nothing's changed."

He expected an immediate reciprocation, of course. When she was silent for more than half a minute, though, he peeked open one eye and tilted down to look at her. "Well?"

Hermione's eyes were closed, but a small smile graced her sleeping face. Draco wasn't sure whether to strangle her or kiss her for her bloody evasion of the question, because now that meant he'd have to keep trying to get his answer from her.

As he shut his eyes and nestled down into Granger's arms, lulled by her even, soft breathing towards his own rest, his last thought was that he was looking forward to getting started on that first thing after lunch…



1 galleon = approximately £5.00 (5 British Pounds), according to J.K.R.

Cadit quaestioLatin; Legal jargon for "the matter admits of no further argument."