REVISION 2.0 – April 20, 2011

DAISYKINS' FIC CHALLENGE requirements were:

- Draco x Hermione – give me hawt, come in my shorts kind of SEX!
- Astoria has to bring some serious angst to the plot
- The word 'cherry' has to appear at least five times
- An HP-canon magical creature must be referenced in some way
- Heavy use of Slytherins!
- Harry must show up and he cannot be a prat
- None of the Weasleys can have a speaking role
- A sexy night club or bar scene
- You have to do something funny with Cormac McLaggen, like in your other fic
- A happy ending (no character deaths)

STORY DETAILS: A Draco Malfoy x Hermione Granger story. Post-Howarts-EWE (Epilogue? What Epilogue?) format. Novel Compliant. THIS IS A ROMANCE, DRAMA, ANGST STORY.


CHARACTERS FEATURED (alphabetical order, last name): Gregory Goyle, Hermione Granger, Astoria Greengrass, Daphne Greengrass, Mr. & Mrs. Greengrass, Draco Malfoy, Lucius Malfoy, Narcissa Malfoy, Theodore Nott, Harry Potter, Blaise Zabini

SUMMARY: Five years after graduation, Draco and Hermione come to a crossroads in their relationship when Draco ends up engaged under contract to Astoria Greengrass instead. With a little Slytherin help - and one Gryffindor's - can these two get their happy ending?

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

Images for this fic can be seen here: http:/ / s905 . photobucket . com / albums / ac260 / RZZMG/ Unbreak%20My%20Heart



Mid March, 2003

A late spring rain battered against the slate roof of The Five-Headed Hydra as the black storm slowly crept its way across London's skyline. The intense splattering of drops against the large, Murano glass front window was occasionally interrupted by the rumble of thunder across the horizon. As a result of the foul weather, this dark, sleazy pub in Knockturn Alley was lightly populated – a rarity on a Friday - most choosing to stay in their homes instead of brave the squall. Draco preferred it that way. He didn't care for the game of people-watching tonight. He was in a foul enough mood now as it was.

"You didn't answer me," Teddy reminded him, sipping his pint of helles lager, the light gold German ale still working off its foam top.

Draco shrugged, letting the lie roll easily off his tongue. "Doesn't bother me in the slightest." He stared down at the shot of Firewhiskey twirling between his long, pale fingers. The reddish-amber alcohol swirled, spinning in a controlled circumference. "I'm marrying Astoria, remember?" With a tilt of his aristocratic, blond head, he threw down the liquor, put the empty glass down on the darkly-stained oak bar and motioned the keeper for another.

Nott glanced over at him as he took a sip. "So, it wouldn't wig you if I asked Granger on a date?"

A bitter smirk wound up Draco's cheek as he spun the newly delivered drink counterclockwise this time. "Like I said, why should I care if you want to go out with her? She doesn't belong to me."

The pint glass stopped on its way back up for another taste, and Teddy's eyebrows shot up into his long, dark bangs. "You've been seeing her for five years off and on, Drake. You sure?"

In his chest, Draco's icily reserved heart sneered. Did he mind? What the fuck kind of question was that? "I'm officially engaged, Ted," he sarcastically reminded his friend and tossed back his last shot for the night. "Can't have my future wife's reputation ruined by rutting around with a Mudblood now, can I?"

He could feel Teddy's astute, blue eyes cataloguing his every nuance, so Draco kept his face as neutral as possible. "But you've thought about keeping her as a mistress," Teddy stated point blank, seeming to peer into Draco's very soul and pull out his deepest secrets, as usual.

Draco shrugged again as if to say, "yeah, so?" He didn't voice the sentiment, however. How could he not have considered the idea? Granger was the best lay he'd ever had, hands down. She was wild, daring, naughty and equally as exuberant as he was about sex, and she gave the best head of any woman who had ever sucked him off. Bonus: she was smart. He actually enjoyed talking to her, unlike any of the other witches he'd brought to his bed over the years. Besides, she made him laugh. All he had to do was push one of her buttons and watch her go off on a tangent that could last for hours. It was just like being back in school, only better, because as an adult, he actually had time to sit and listen to her fuming rants. They always amused him. And, best of all, she'd never held any of his one-off affairs against him, engaging in her own as whimsy struck. They both silently understood that such flings had always been meaningless, and only added to the spice of coming back together later. But that kind of open-ended trust was hard to come by, he knew, and was what made Granger provocatively appealing. So, yes, he'd thought about keeping her on the side. He'd have been a nutter not to.

Shit, just thinking about her now made his cock hard in his pants. He hadn't been with her since the betrothal announcement had been made public by his parents a month and a half ago. It had been the oddest fight they'd ever had. She'd rather calmly and bluntly told him that she wouldn't be his consolation fuck toy anymore, and then she'd literally hexed him out of her flat. One second, he'd been in her bedroom getting redressed after an amazing afternoon of sex, the next his half-naked arse was freezing on the icy sidewalk and his clothes were tumbled out of the second floor window to lie in the snow at his bare feet. Just like that it had been over between them. Five years and not even a screeching accusation or an affected tear was cast his way. And she'd refused to give him back his favorite tie, too, the mean slag.

He was aching for a good table ender now, but he couldn't risk screwing anyone else; it wouldn't do to knock up some chick just before he walked down the aisle. And Astoria wouldn't give it up either. That left him with wanking, which was hardly a satisfactory substitution. Even doing it two to three times a day wasn't completely taking the edge off.

Teddy put his lager down on the bar top and stared into it as if it contained all the secrets in the universe - which it probably did, Draco sardonically mused. "Listen, I'm not just talking about a date or two here, Drake," his friend warned, making Draco's inner alarms go off. The dark-haired wizard turned his head, staring him down with a serious weight that belied his barely twenty-three years. "I'm going to court her."

Draco nearly choked on his own spit, turning incredulous, steel gray eyes at his best friend. "You can't be serious! You mean to make Granger your wife? But you're pureblood! What would your father think?" It was a pathetic argument, but it was the first thing that sprang into his mind.

Teddy's eyes hardened. "Screw my old man. I'm not letting him or his idiotic ideals dictate my life. I want her." Piercing baby blues burned holes into Draco's skull. "Understand that I'm only asking you out of courtesy, Drake."

In a flash, hot jealousy slid through the length of Draco's guts, but he quickly banished it using sound, rational logic: he was only feeling this way because Hermione had belonged to him first. He'd been the one to take her cherry at the Ministry's All Hallows Eve party the same year the war had ended, after all, and he'd brought out her hidden sexual identity in the weeks, months and years following that incredible night, teaching her all of the techniques necessary to please a man and her own needs. He took immense pride in the fact that he'd turned Granger from a shy, naïve bookworm into a nympho sex goddess.

That he'd achieved all of that only after a massive amount of manipulative scheming and maneuvering on his part – a lingering touch here, a sly smile there, a randomly stolen kiss, tantalizing words whispered in her ear, hot staring contests across rooms, owl'd notes containing risqué innuendo (all relentlessly pursued activities, thereby assuring she didn't give herself to that idiot Weasel first) - was the point of contention here. It had taken such a herculean effort to enthrall and eventually ensnare the former Gryffindor Princess that Draco was somewhat irrationally possessive of her. His reaction, therefore, was perfectly natural to Teddy's declaration.

That's what he told himself anyway. Because the roaring green-eyed monster inside couldn't possibly have anything to do with the fact that it was one of his two best friends after Hermione, nor that this time, the "fling" would probably morph into something more serious for her, and there wouldn't be a bloody thing Draco could do or say to prevent it. No way. That was ridiculous.

He had no further business thinking about Granger like that anyway, now that he was trapped into marrying the Greengrass bint. Sure, Astoria was adequately attractive, well-mannered, had her own fortune to add to the pile, connected to the peerage, and raised in the customs that a pureblood witch-wife should be. He was even assured she was a virgin. But she was also cold, like all Slytherin women. There was no real joy in her pale blue eyes as she measured everything about her for its worth and how it could be used to her ends only - even him.

He bit back a sigh and simply nodded. Then, he slipped his mask back into place, feigning indifference. "Take her. She's all yours," he offered, feeling his chest tighten even as the words slipped out of his mouth to fatefully lie between them. He then called the bartender over for another shot, deciding six definitely wasn't enough for the evening.


Early April, 2003

After two additional weeks of non-stop gloominess, the weather finally broke the day before, and spring's warm rays touched everything with life. Green exploded everywhere around the Manor, and Draco's pollen allergies had almost immediately started kicking his arse. His eyes itched something fierce and his nose wouldn't stop filling up and running over. Taking a potion earlier that morning at breakfast, he now miserably sat in his steaming bathtub, letting the Epsom salt and Eucalyptus-Citrus oil soak into his skin and sinuses.

"Draco," his mother's syrupy voice called from outside the closed door between the bathroom and his bedroom with a small knock. "Your father and I are going into the Alley this afternoon. Would you care to join us?"

He considered it. It might do him some good to get out of the house, where he'd enforced his own captivity over the last few days. He was beginning to bore of the limited activities around here. "Give me twenty minutes," he called back.

Within half an hour, the three Malfoys had Apparated to Diagon Alley. His parents stopped first at Gringotts for some galleons from their vault – it was considered gauche to carry around cash on a regular basis - and then they accompanied his mother to Twilfitt and Tattings so one of her custom-ordered dresses could be adjusted one last time by the seamstress. By then, it was lunchtime, so they left the main strip and cut between the tall, Victorian buildings towards their favorite restaurant, Poseidon's, which served an excellent butterfly fish in a lemon-dill sauce, and who catered to only the very richest of clientele. Excellent food and genteel company were definitely on the carte du jour for him right then.

As if by some dooming trick of fate, however, they were literally seated next to the Greengrasses, who had apparently come to the Alley that afternoon as well. Draco's mood was instantly ruined, and he frowned at his mother in forthright disappointment. Clearly, she'd set this whole thing up in advance – as he should have guessed, given how buzzy she'd sounded at his bathroom door that morning. Her smile faltered a tad under his glare before she turned her complete attention to his soon to be in-laws, ignoring his displeasure. Robbed of the chance to make her feel terribly guilty for her deception, he instead occupied himself by staring daggers at the back of her blonde, coifed head, hoping she'd feel his simmering magical aura and at least be made slightly uncomfortable by it.

She knew he did not want this marriage – he'd certainly shouted enough about it in the beginning - but his mother, in all her infinite wisdom, seemed determined that he go through with it, as his station in life dictated. Consequently, he was forced to endure Narcissa's continued trickery as she attempted to impress Astoria upon him by setting up these oh-so-obvious rendezvous. Last week, it had been an "accidental" run-in at the nursery, where they'd gone together to pick up a new rose varietal for her gardens.

Polite trivialities and faked smiles were exchanged between the two families as they were seated, of course, and Draco picked at his plate in a most sulky, undignified manner throughout it all, trying his best to ignore the sinking feeling in his abdomen. He knew what was coming as soon as the dessert course was whisked away, and he wasn't looking forward to it one bit.

As predicted, after the final coffees and teas had been served, and the slices of orange-cherry cake gobbled down to many compliments, Astoria approached him. Draco fervently wished that there had been something harder than wine on the menu, because even one glass of Romanée-Conti's Pinot Noir just didn't do a thing for him. "Would you care to walk with me through the Alley?" she respectfully requested, holding her petite, pale hand out to him, palm-side down.

Draco felt the weight of every eye in the establishment turn on him, and knew the part he was required to play. With a civil smile, he stood and tucked her arm under his. "Of course." He turned to his parents. "I'll meet you at home later then." He and his father traded a long look and a nod, and his mother positively beamed at him. With a slight bow of his upper body towards both tables, he and his fiancée left the restaurant, walking side-by-side as if they were the most contented of couples. As soon as they were down the street a ways, however, he lowered his voice. "What game are you playing at now?" he growled under his breath, careful to keep the mannerly, courteous mask in place upon his features.

Astoria hummed, stopping them to look into the window of Magical Menagerie. She smiled down at some calico-striped and spotted kitten Kneazles frolicking and batting away at each other in the front display. "Now, why would you say something so hurtful, love?" she asked, her sugary soprano filled with false offense.

Draco's jaw clenched as he worked to rein in his growing temper. "Because, love," he mockingly bit back, "you never do anything without a reason."

She looked at him, all bogus charm. "Can't I wish to simply spend some alone time with the man who will be my husband soon?"

He did not deign to reply to such a load of bullshite, afraid he'd draw negative attention to them because his ire was growing by the second and was getting harder to contain. Instead, Draco bit his tongue quite painfully to keep himself in check.

She stepped onward, clearly aware she was upsetting him and enjoying every moment of it, but he had no choice but to make it seem as if this were his intention, too; as if they were simply out on a stroll about the town, enjoying each other's company. They continued down the cobbled alley together, and at practically every shop, Astoria stopped and looked in – even Quality Quidditch Supplies, which Draco knew his little fiancée had absolutely no interest in whatsoever. He indulged her, patiently waiting for her to slip up so this whole sham would finally be revealed. He didn't have too long to linger before all became abundantly clear.

As they approached Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour – and now Tea Shoppe as well, to handle the slowing economy during the off-season months – Draco looked about the crowd of patrons in the doorway with only mild interest… but then his legs abruptly stopped working, halting in place without conscious thought. His heart slammed under his ribs and he almost lost all composure right there in the middle of the pedestrian causeway.

"Oh, look!" Astoria cooed in faux surprise. "Isn't that your friend, Mr. Nott? And who's that with him? Why, I believe it's that girl you were involved with at one time! Well, isn't this awkward? You don't suppose they're out on a romantic tryst, do you?"

Yes, it was obvious they were.

"Bitch," he snarled under his breath at the blonde next to him, barely containing his rage. He purposefully flexed his left bicep hard enough to trap Astoria's small hand and then squashed it between his arm and his ribs with applied pressure. From the corner of his eye, he saw her wince and frown and took immense gratification from her discomfort.

"Stop it, Draco," she warned in a soft tone. "It wouldn't be good for you or your family if I screamed right now. After all, you need me to get back into society's good graces, don't you?"

Trapped. He was utterly ensnared by the circumstances of his birth and the decisions he and his family had made in supporting the wrong side during the war. No matter his mother had actually bald-faced lied to save Potter from the Dark Lord during the final battle at Hogwarts, or that his father had actually hexed five Death Eaters, two giants, and one huge Acromantula on his way into the castle, thus keeping the amount of collateral damage on the "good side" to a minimum, or that all charges against them had been dropped by the Wizengamot and the matter dismissed. The Malfoys were on the edge of being social pariahs because those families who silently approved of Voldemort's blood purity sermonizing - too cowardly to openly pledge their support - were now politically on top of the food chain. Astoria's family was one such clan. Moreover, Lord Greengrass had recently been named Head of the Board of Regents, taking over the position Draco's father had, at one time, governed. There was even talk of him pushing to make the Minister's position an elected post (instead of appointed by the Wizengamot), and it was clear who the first rival candidate of Shacklebolt would be in such a run-off.

Of course, Astoria knew all of this and she ruthlessly exploited it to get what she wanted in this instance: Draco in her bed, his family's money in her bank account. As she'd explained in succinct detail the night of their engagement party back in February, she planned to live out the rest of her life in secure comfort, leaving any child they might beget in the hands of nannies while she traipsed around the world entertaining at his expense. And when she came home, she expected him to fulfill his husbandly duties as often as she saw fit. She could care less what he did the rest of the time, but there would be no divorce – ever. And no other woman was to have his child or she'd have to "take steps." She'd left that threat hanging in the air between them, her implications crystal clear: he either played ball or his family and loved ones would be buried - perhaps even literally.

Aside from physical violence against her person, there was little Draco could do the prevent Astoria from getting her way – especially with his parents so fervently behind the match. The thought of the bleak future that awaited made him physically ill.

"My, oh, my," Astoria faked interest. "It would seem your friends have seen us." She waved and gave a phony smile that did not reach her gleefully malicious gaze. "Well, there's nothing for it now. We absolutely must go and say hello." With a tug, she led him towards the outside café area where his ex-lover and his best friend were enjoying their date. With every step closer, the bile in Draco's stomach turned over.

"Hey, Drake," Teddy broke the ice first upon their approach, offering his hand in peace. Draco shook it and nodded, unable to use his voice right then, keeping his eyes trained on his friend.

"Why, good afternoon, Theodore," Astoria pleasantly greeted him, intentionally snubbing Granger and pressing in closer to Draco's side. "So nice to see you again." She adjusted her possessive hold on his arm and held a limp-wristed right hand out for Teddy to take. "We apologize most sincerely for interrupting your tea."

Teddy was sharp. He'd known what Astoria was from the moment the Sorting Hat had declared her in their House years ago, and like Draco, he didn't believe a single wit of the lie she'd just told. He returned her phony courtesy with his own brand, however, taking her hand and bowing over the back of it in old-world style. He did not kiss the knuckles, Draco noted. "Not at all. It's always a delight, Astoria." He turned to his right. "I don't believe you've ever had the pleasure of being introduced to my friend, Miss Hermione Granger. She graduated with Draco and me." He looked up at Astoria with frosty, cerulean eyes. "Perhaps you already recognize her, however, as she is frequently mentioned in The Prophet for not only her acts of bravery during the war, but her years of dedicated service to the Ministry and Hogwarts since?"

Against him, Astoria's waif-like frame tensed up, and Draco internally applauded his friend for his sly maneuvering. His fiancée turned her light pastel gaze onto Hermione's tawny flecked-dark brown one, and with a small nod of her head she was forced to acknowledge the woman she saw as her rival. "Yes, Miss Granger, a pleasure." She sounded like she'd just bitten into something sour and did not hold her hand out in greeting.

"Is it now?" Hermione challenged, her tone slightly contemptuous. She didn't bother to reach out a hand either. "Funny how I don't feel the love, Astoria. A nice girl like you wouldn't be lying now, would you?"

A small shudder of anger rippled through Greengrass' body, and Draco could practically hear his fiancée's teeth grinding together. It made him hope she cracked a few and would need major dental work.

Hermione's gaze shifted to him and he could physically feel the air all around them soften. Her voice became shy, uncertain as her mood shifted in an instant. "Hello, Draco. How have you been?"

He had no choice then. He glanced over and they connected gazes, and it was positively electric. His pulse uncontrollably sped up again. "Hello, Hermione. I've been… adequate. You?" There, that sounded passably cordial, but not too friendly.

For a second, pain flashed through her eyes. He caught it, and was quite sure Astoria had as well; he felt her triumph oozing out of her every pore. This is why she'd dragged him out for a walk. But how had she known Teddy and Hermione would be here on a date? Was she having Granger followed and spied upon? He wouldn't put it past her. It would be the Slytherin thing to do, and she certainly had the money to pay off a private investigator.

"I'm… adjusting," his ex-lover commented with a sigh. Was that sadness in her voice? Before he could make up his mind on the matter, she turned a brilliant smile upon his best friend. "Teddy and I were going to a movie after this. He's never been to a Muggle cinema before."

Draco felt his throat tighten. She had taken him once to see a moving picture in Leicester Square, and he'd been awed by the experience. The movie had been staged to look like Montmartre in Paris, and it was a musical that was both profoundly beautiful and sad. It reminded him of the famous wizard opera, La Traviata, and had actually made him rethink his prejudice towards all things Muggle. "Then I'm sure he's in for a pleasant surprise," he commented with a forced smile.

Not to be outdone, Astoria just had to open her mouth again. "How quaint. We were just finishing some shopping ourselves, what with the wedding only two months away and all."

He saw Hermione's smile waver for a second, and something in Draco hurt for her.

Gah, why the hell was he feeling this way? It wasn't like he was in love with Granger or anything. She'd been a good fuck, some laughs, and some interesting conversations. Their time together had been the most fun he'd ever had, true, but now it was over. It was time to move on - time to grow the hell up.

Teddy was carefully watching them all - evaluating, processing, and judging the reactions, Draco knew. He suddenly stood up. "Well, fun though this has been, we have a show to catch." He bowed his head at Astoria and held his right hand out for Draco. "See you later, Drake." They shook. Then, Teddy reached out with his left hand and took hold of Hermione's small fingers in his, and the move looked smooth, as if practiced.

With a sinking feeling in his chest, Draco swallowed hard. "Later." It was all he could manage to get out past the lump in his throat. He purposefully directed his gaze down at the now empty table, not wanting to watch them walk away together, focusing on the details before him instead of the sound of their perfectly in-sync footsteps moving off together. Two delicate china tea cups sat on matching saucers, the rose pattern an old Brit favorite. An empty server of milk and two opened sugar packets lay next to a small demitasse spoon. They were Hermione's he knew; she always took her tea with cream and sweet. But more than that, he knew it was her cup he was staring at because there was a dark cherry red imprint of her perfect lips remaining on the ceramic rim where she'd been sipping.

He flashed back to the time he'd taken her to a wizard's nightclub in France near Beauxbatons' campus. She'd worn a skimpy, little black skirt and a red halter top and a pair of sexy, black heels, and no stockings or knickers, and her lips had been painted that same color of red. Her body had gyrated and ground against his in time to the beat of the music, and the room had been sweltering hot and dark, and in the crowd of people, they'd pressed in tight and he'd slipped his hand under her skirt and finger fucked her hard. She'd been more than ready for him and came in under a minute, right there in the middle of the dance floor, mewling into his ear, her fingernails gouging his shoulders through his thin, silken shirt. Later, when they were alone, those cherry lips had wrapped around his cock. It had been the first time she'd actually volunteered to get on her knees before him without his prompting - a major milestone.

"My, look at the time," Astoria drew him back to the here and now. She was staring up at the large, ancient clock above Gringotts that was visible all up and down the main strip of the Alley. "I should be getting back. We've been gone so long that mother and father will wonder if you haven't taken me away to deflower my innocence in secret, darling."

Draco's raging hard-on deflated in an instant. He turned to his fiancée, and without a sound, pushed her against the brick wall of the establishment, checking to make sure no one was too near to hear him. He leaned forward and spoke in a mild, low voice in her ear. "Let me make this perfectly clear, Astoria: I'm only going to fuck you once – and only after we're married. That'll do to get my heir. But I promise you, you won't enjoy my taking your virginity, darling. In fact, I'll make sure you hate me for it."

She was breathing hard against his chest, and when he pulled back to look into her eyes, he was sickened to see them gleaming with lust. Her alabaster cheeks were colored by the blood flowing in excitement under the skin. Her lips were parted in desire. Pushing away from her in revulsion, he turned on his heel and stalked away, uncaring now about appearances. He just wanted to get the hell away from his sado-masochistic bride-to-be.


Early May, 2003

A month later, Draco was in the General Registration Office at Ministry headquarters, making sure all of the required paperwork for his impending marriage had been properly filed and the fees paid in advance. After, he stopped by Blaise's desk in the Department of International Magical Cooperation, under the office of the International Confederation of Wizards. His friend was busy writing an owl to one of his secretaries in Italy when Draco sat down in the chair across from him to wait.

With the letter finally sent, Blaise turned to him and they shook hands. "Hey, mate, where have you been for the last month?"

Draco proceeded to tell him all about the tedium of wedding planning, and how he'd been required to participate despite his protests, per his mother's direct interference. His friend's dark eyes assessed him. "You look strung out," Zabini commented off-hand. "Why not hang with me and Greg tonight? We're thinking of hitting a club. Might do you some good to get away for a bit."

Draco ran a weary hand through his long, platinum bangs, pushing them back from his eyes. "Not a good idea," he grunted, thinking of how hard up he'd been of late. All of those women in such close proximity would prove too tempting.

"When's the last time you got laid?" his friend asked him, getting to the heart of the matter, folding his arms across his broad chest and leaning back in his chair. Draco snorted, not bothering to reply. Blaise gave him a knowing look. "You've got to get over Granger, man. She's kind-of seeing Ted now."

That caught his attention. "What do you mean, 'kind-of'?"

Blaise pursed his lips and winced like he could kill himself for the slip. "Look, they're dating, yeah? He asked and you approved. So, let that be the end of it, Drake. Move on."

Draco felt his ire growing. What wasn't Blaise telling him? "What do you mean, 'kind-of'?" he grated out again through clenched teeth. His hands gripped the chair arms to keep him in his seat, the knuckles whitening with the effort. The tension in his chest was enough to snap his temper at any minute. "Tell me." It was a command, not a request.

Zabini took a deep breath and closed his eyes for a second. When he opened them again, they were filled with unhappiness for his friend. "She won't sleep with Ted. Hell, she hasn't even kissed him yet. She says she's not ready. But it's tearing him up. He's come to talk to me a few times about it." He sadly smirked. "You two have got to let go of each other."

Draco's eyebrows shot down in stubborn disapproval. "I haven't done anything to encourage Granger. She's free to live her life however she wants. We were never anything anyway."

Blaise sniffed in amusement and shook his head. "Then come with Greg and me tonight to the club. Find yourself a bint and get Granger the hell out of your system."

It took Draco less than a minute to decide. "Fine, I'll go."

The Muggle club Blaise and Greg took him to was jam packed with eager, young hotties wearing tight, little clothes. It didn't take long for the three tall, good-looking men to each have a girl hanging off an arm. Draco left his friends near the bar on the hand of a gorgeous Betty Page look-alike, who dragged him into the center of the dance floor. Some Euro-trash beat was playing and it was literally wall-to-wall skin. The lights flashing about the room in different colors were disorienting, but there was nothing confusing about what this brunette wanted from him. She practically crawled on him the second they started moving. She pressed her mouth to his ear and told him in explicit detail what she expected him to do to her tonight, so they spent the whole song running hands up and down each other's bodies with raging lust. Everything was heading in the right direction, until Draco went to kiss her.

She was wearing cherry red lipstick.

He jerked back, bumping into a girl behind him, pushing away from his dance partner. It was suddenly all too much. He blinked, pulled away, shoved through the crowd for an open space, needing to breathe. The brunette chased after him, wanting to know if she'd done something wrong, but he only shook his head. "It's not you," he shouted in her ear over the heavy bass.

She gave him a look then – one he'd never forget: part understanding, part pity. With a nod of her head in goodbye, she left him to hunt down more available prey.

That's when Draco was finally willing to admit the truth to himself: he was irrevocably in love with Hermione Granger. There could be no substitute. She was it for him.

Closing his eyes, he swallowed a few times, fighting back the all-consuming pain in his chest, feeling suffocated by his life. He wanted to scream at the unfairness of it all. Both Greg and Blaise were at his side in an instant, their prospects nowhere in sight. All he could do was helplessly look up at them. "I'm sorry," he mouthed. Blaise just nodded, and led them out.

Draco finally stopped walking when they were in a relatively dark part of some Muggle shopping mall's parking lot and pulled out his wand. "I'll talk to you guys later," he muttered, having moved from full on shell-shocked into depressingly numb.

"Drake," Greg stopped him before he Apparated away. He turned and looked up at his taller friend. "Don't drink alone, mate. Owl or Floo if you need to."

It was probably the first profound thing his friend had ever said to him, and made him look at the man in a new light. Gregory Goyle may not have been the most intelligent of men, but he was definitely one of the most loyal.

Draco nodded in understanding and thanks, and went home.


Late May, 2003

Draco stalked through the Ministry first floor hallways looking for her. It had taken him three whole weeks to come to terms with his feelings and to carefully weigh his options, but he'd finally made a decision, and it was time Hermione knew: he wasn't giving her up. Unfortunately, he couldn't find her upon his initial search, so he decided to look floor by floor.

At the elevator, he internally groaned, running into his oldest school rival.

"Malfoy," Harry greeted him.

"Potter," he returned the polite acknowledgement and pressed the button for the second level. Swiftly, the lift moved towards its destination.

He and Potter were not friends, never would be, but they had a small respect for each other after everything that had happened. In fact, if it hadn't been for old Scarhead's testimony to the High Inquisitor in advance of the Wizengamot trail the summer after Voldemort's defeat, his father would currently be rotting in Azkaban, so technically, Draco owed him one. He would never let on that little fact, but he knew he'd have to repay that debt at some point.

Not strange, Potter got off on the same floor as he did, since this floor was where he currently worked in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement's Auror Offices. Draco ignored him, moving off to the left to poke his head into the first set of offices on the right, into the small Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Offices. He did not see Granger anywhere, although he did catch the back of Weasley Senior's red, balding head.

When he turned around to continue down the hall, Potter was standing in front of him. The guy had obviously been waiting for a chance to talk to him, so Draco came to an immediate halt, forcing his impatience aside for the moment to hear what his former enemy had to say.

"She's in the cafeteria having lunch," he stated, reaching up and grabbing the spectacles off his face. He tiredly rubbed two fingers over the bridge of his nose. "Look, Malfoy, I know what's going on. 'Mione's told me everything." He readjusted the glasses onto his face and blinked. "And I have to say I'm not thrilled with the idea of you two being together over the last couple of years."

Draco crossed his arms and sat back on his heels. An old fashioned verbal fight with Potter was just what the doctor ordered right about now. "It's been five years, actually," he mocked with a leering smirk. "Right under your nose, too. Bet that burns you up."

Harry blinked, but his face didn't seem all that surprised or upset. "Whatever," Lightning Bolt Brain stated, unwilling to rise to the bait. "The point is she's not taking your impending marriage well. She's hardly slept in weeks, and she doesn't eat much. She'd dropped weight and it's affecting her job performance. Robards has already let me onto the fact that she's probably being passed over for a promotion because her boss is worried that the extra stress will tip her right over the edge. Not to mention her relationship with Teddy is in trouble. So, I have to ask you, for her sake, please consider leaving her alone. Just get married and let her go. Don't seek her out."

Draco's ire shot through the ceiling. His arms uncrossed, his fists clenched by his side and it was only with supreme effort that he didn't reach for his wand or pummel The-Boy-Who-Lived-To-Annoy's face into the marble floor. "Keep your nose out of my and Hermione's business," he menacingly growled. "I'm warning you nicely, Potter."

"She's in love with you," Harry let the truth shatter the quiet of the hallway. "And it's destroying her."

His anger instantly deflated, Draco backed down. A weird buzzing had begun in his ears as his blood pressure jumped. "Did she… tell you that?"

Potter stared at him through narrowed, deliberative eyes, but shook his head. "She doesn't need to. It's obvious."

Draco unconsciously took a step back, caught himself, and decisively turned, heading for the elevator, his long legs quickly taking him back down the hallway, his resolve renewed. Potter jogged to keep up, but he ignored him, repeatedly slamming his finger on the up button, as if doing so would somehow hurry the lift along.

"Malfoy, leave it," Potter reiterated, his tone more concerned and hurried. "You're only going to hurt her if you do this."

As soon as the elevator arrived, he pushed past the two men getting off and moved in, thrusting his thumb onto the button for the first level once more. Potter, damn him, jumped in just before the doors closed. It was only the two of them in the car at that moment as it headed up a level. Every nerve in Draco's body was thrumming with energy. He was so close…

"What do you think is going to happen if you go to her now?" Harry persisted. "You can't change anything unless you choose not to marry that Greengrass girl." He made the mistake of putting his hand on Draco's arm. "Hermione won'tbe your mistress. She's already told you that."

Before he comprehended what harm his actions might possibly cause long-term, Draco had Potter slammed against the elevator wall, the front of his shirt fisted through his hands. Using all the strength in his arms, he yanked the shorter man off his feet and brought him up to eye level. He snarled into his nemesis' face. "Stay the fuck out of my way, Potter, or this time I will kill you."

Harry's face was purpling as his collar dug into his windpipe. Draco unceremoniously dropped him as soon as the ping announcing their arrival on the correct level rang out and the door opened again. Rushing out, he pushed past the throngs of visitors and workers hanging out by the rebuilt magical statues in the Atrium, circling around towards the opposite end, where the double-door entrance to the cafeteria was. Behind him, he heard Potter scrambling to his feet and chasing after him.

Just as he was about to throw the doors open, Potter grabbed him again. The guy clearly had no self-preservation!

"She's having lunch with her boyfriend, Teddy," he hissed. "They're on a date."

Lurching to a stop, Draco stood undecided in the door for a second, but determinedly, he shook his hanger-on off and proceeded forward. He stopped in the entry and looked about. It was packed, and there were a lot of tall, pointy hats blocking his view, but he eventually spied Granger and his best friend sitting at a small square café table in front of a faux tropical waterfall diorama. They were sitting with faces very close together, talking like lovers. Teddy was holding their entwined hands across her lap. Something he said made her smile, but she shook her head. With a slow movement, he reached up and tilted her chin so she'd look at him. Then he leaned down and gently kissed her. And she kissed back.

Draco's heart fell out of him.

It took a few seconds for his sanity to return. When it did, he sniffed in sad acceptance, swallowed back his grief, and turned on his heel, walking out, leaving a silent Potter staring after him.

She'd finally made her choice to move on, it seemed.

He immediately Apparated to The Leaky Cauldron and proceeded forthwith to get smashed off his lousy arse. He was a violent drunk when alone, as it turned out, and Tom the Proprietor finally had to Stupefy him around five that evening, sending an emergency owl out for a member of the Magical Law Enforcement Patrol to come pick him up. It was a surprise to all, therefore, when the most famous celebrity of the war, dressed in his Auror's green cloak of office, came instead to take personal charge of the offending wizard.

Using the Floo network, Harry managed to get a stumbling, loudly protesting Draco through his house and, with his mother and father's additional help, up into his bed, where he passed out without further ado.


Early June, 2003

"Draco, please won't you talk to us?" his mother pleaded over the breakfast table. "You've been so distant for weeks."

Draco didn't reply. He merely finished buttering his freshly baked, cinnamon-apple-raisin muffin and sipped his morning spiced tea. He felt neither alive nor dead, but something in between – someone uncaring. It was only this morning that he'd finally decided to rejoin the world. He'd actually gotten up and instead of reaching for liquor he'd reached for some soap and his shaving kit. He'd bathed, got rid of the scruff on his mug, combed his hair, cleaned his teeth, and dressed in crisp, pressed clothing. But he still felt less than human. Deep inside, he knew he'd never be the same.

"What do you want me to say?" he rasped, his voice painfully thin and raw from too many days of hard alcohol consumption. He cleared his throat and drank up the hot tea with lemon in it, hoping it would help to clear his vocal chords.

Lucius looked up over the top of The Daily Prophet to finally glance at him. His expression was one of annoyance. He folded the paper up, and laid it next to his plate. "Your mother and I would like an explanation as to your behavior over the past few weeks, Draco."

It sounded like a nicely phrased request, but Draco understood that his father's appeal held all the weight of a directive not to be defied. Well, fuck him. He could wait until Draco felt like talking. He calmly ate his muffin, chewing and swallowing, chewing and swallowing. Then he chased it down with more tea and cleared his throat again. Rinse, repeat. He did this until the muffin was gone.

"It's simple really," he finally got down to explaining, resentment embittering his tone. "I can't stand my future wife to be. She's a manipulative, insensitive, ruthless, greedy, vindictive bitch. To add misery to misfortune, I'm in love with someone else, but I'll never be able to have her because she's Muggle-born and you'd never approve, regardless of what she means to me. Your ingrained prejudice leaves no room to care about your only son's happiness. That, I believe, succinctly sums up my current predicament."

For the first time he could ever recall, his parents had no reply. They simply stared at him with mouths opening and closing like fishes out of water.

With a tip of his head, he swallowed the remainder of his tea, gently put the cup down, wiped his mouth and stood to leave. "Consequently, I hope you'll find it in your cold, uncaring hearts to pardon my foul mood and offensive activities of late. But to be fair, I should warn you to resign yourself to the fact that they are most likely not going to improve or change ever." With that, he scooted his chair back and walked out.

"Draco, wait, please!" his mother begged, but he didn't turn back, knowing full well there was no use talking to either parent further. There was nothing more to be done about his situation. He'd turned it over and over in his head and could find no way out. With his hands shoved into the pockets of his Italian-stitched, light woolen slacks, he let himself wander through the house and out the back door to the grounds, as he continued to lament his unalterable future.

Established convention – honor, if that's how one wanted to see it - demanded Draco think about his family name and values before his own wants and desires. It was how he'd been raised; how every Malfoy had been raised as far back as his line could be traced. And his parents were both staunch conservative traditionalists, unwilling to break out of that mold. Pureblood is as pureblood does. Yet, even if by some miracle his parents did embrace the idea of ditching the long-held institution of elitism, he was still rightly fucked. If he didn't marry Astoria, he was sure Lord Greengrass would apply his considerable powers to prevent future mergers and acquisitions, to block supply chains and to stall the delivery of goods that were the very lifeblood of the Malfoy business fortune. At that point, their family's long-established trade and venture capital empire would simply crumble and they would be in utter ruin. His hands were forcibly tied. So, the conclusion was inevitable: there was nothing left for him to do but to obey the customs set-down by his forebears and to go through with marrying a witch he wholly despised, because when it came right down to it, a person's safety and status in life was dictated by the pedigree of their family and its wealth of connections - and currently, Astoria's associations were greater than both he and his father's combined.

By chance – or perhaps subconscious wish - his feet took him out into the flower gardens, which were in the first full blooms of the summer. Rose varietals of all kinds and colors and shapes blossomed like exploding stars all around, but instead of achieving the peace he'd sought by taking this short stroll to begin with, he realized with a start that this place brought him closer to misery. The fragrance lingering on the humid, summer air reminded him of Hermione. She loved roses. In fact, she regularly dripped this exact same scented oil into her bathwater. Over the years, he'd come to associate this intoxicating perfume as being exclusively hers. He'd loved inhaling it on her skin and in her hair, and most especially between her legs.

He stopped, closed his eyes and deeply inhaled trying to recapture a memory of their time together, but it was difficult when the vision of her kissing Teddy kept flashing through his skull.

After five minutes of mental and sensory torture, he sighed in defeat. Potter was right, the bloody bastard. He had to let Granger go, for both of their sakes.


Mid-June, 2003

The wedding was in two weeks, and the Manor House had become a riot of activity, as it would serve as the stage for the ceremony and reception. Draco's mother, for all her earlier excitement, was now only half-hearted in her enthusiasm. She lackadaisically made decisions on decorative details, letting Astoria take the lead on it all. She'd also, Draco noted, cooled off on her previous adoration for her future daughter-in-law. Draco's father likewise greeted the girl with a detached air. Apparently, his parents were trying, in their own way, to show some sort of respect for their son's feelings without actually allowing him out of his obligations. It was a small, heartless victory, but better than nothing, he supposed. At least now they'd be on the lookout for his fiancée's scheming as he'd denounced her true character to them at last.

The Sunday before the wedding, his parents popped another surprise upon him: the Greengrasses were all coming for brunch. "To get to know each other better," his mother commented, checking her hair in a gilded hallway mirror one last time before preparing herself in the Entry Hall to greet her incoming guests. They were, apparently, flying a bespelled carriage in, as Mrs. Greengrass did not care for other forms of transportation or magical movement.

Just as their house-elf was about to answer the bell, the sound of the Floo being activated in the Drawing Room whooshed loudly throughout the house. His mother rather flippantly turned to Draco. "See who just arrived," she indicated for him to go with a shooing motion of her hand, and turned to greet her guests, who were just then stepping through the front doors.

With such a convenient dismissal, Draco gladly turned about and headed towards the fireplace and the unexpected visitor. The sound of three more successful Floo entrances in successive order echoed in the corridor, however, and Draco drew out his wand, his suspicious nature taking hold. Crouching down, he turned the knob to the Drawing Room and threw it open fast, peeking his head around the opening, his wand at the ready.

Blaise Zabini, Gregory Goyle, and Theodore Nott looked down at him with some amusement. He stood up, his knee joints cracking from the sudden pressure, annoyed with looking the fool. "What the hell are you three doing here?" he grumped. "Today's not a good time to come by. The future in-laws are here for brunch."

From behind the taller trio of boys, Harry Potter stepped around. "Yes, we know."

Draco's frown became an outright sneer. "What the fuck are you doing back in my house, Potter? I warned to keep out of my business."

Blaise's hand on his arm was meant to contain the situation. "Down, boy. He's here to help this time."

The other party was heading this way. Draco quietly shut the door behind him and no one said a word until the company was past and down the hall, entering the Grand Dining Room, their loud voices speaking of irrelevant subjects simply to make courteous small talk. He whirled on his four guests once the voices faded out. "What the hell are you talking about? Help with what?" he rumbled in as low a voice as possible.

Greg smirked. "You'll see," he mysteriously offered.

Draco was in no mood for games at the moment. "One of you'd better start talking, or I'm throwing the lot out."

Teddy waved his wand over the room, speaking the charm for muffling sounds. When it was safe, he explained. "Potter called us together after your last visit to the Ministry, Drake, and we all sat down and hashed out the same conclusion: you're meant to be with Granger. The two of you played at hair-pulling back in school like some kind of kindergarteners, and are completely blinded in love with each other as grown-ups. This wedding being shoved down your throat was just not fair to either of you. And none of us care for Astoria – even Potter, who doesn't know her well enough to hate her yet. In any case, mate, we decided to butt-in and do something about it for you."

Draco's mouth gaped open. Now he looked like an asphyxiating piscine.

"We went to your mother, and together, the five of us came up with a plan that's going to get you out of marrying Greengrass," Harry informed him, pushing his glasses further up his nose.

"Wait, what?" Draco asked, flabbergasted. "You did what again? And why would she help?"

Blaise put a brotherly hand on his shoulder. "Drake, we did what any self-respecting Slytherin – and I guess one Gryffindor - would do: we went behind your back to get things done on your behalf." He grinned a mouth full of perfectly white, straight teeth. "And as for your mum, she wants you happy and in a secure marriage with someone stable. We convinced her that Astoria was definitely not the right match given that criteria and she was willing to consider Hermione once we explained the benefits of you marrying Granger instead."

"I came to discuss it with her," Teddy explained. "You were hidden in your room, drowning your sorrows in liquor and had no clue. Although your mother doesn't like the fact that your girl is Muggle-born, she also sees the political potential of being allied to her. She is best friends with Potter, after all."

Draco looked at the Golden Boy in question, and Harry just shrugged with a grin. "It helps to know people in high places," he cheekily challenged.

"Not only that, but she's a very famous war heroine in her own right," Teddy started ticking off Granger's list of pluses on his fingers. "She got that promotion at work, with a little nudge from Potter, so she's the new Junior Secretary to the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and she's got all of the teachers at Hogwarts and most of the shop owners in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade to vouch for her."

"And don't forget she's connected to the Bulgarian consul through her close friendship with Viktor Krum," Blaise pointed out. "The man's become a high-ranking member of the International Confederation of Wizards because of his previous Quidditch celebrity. His voice holds weight."

"Right," Teddy continued, starting to run out of fingers to count on. "Besides, right now, it's more ideal to be seen as non-elitist. The wizarding world's tired of that whole 'superiority through blood status' bullshite rhetoric after Voldemort. Marrying Granger will show everyone that the Malfoys have changed for the better - that you've become more accepting and approachable. That'll go a huge distance in fixing your family's reputation and may even open up new business opportunities."

Blaise slapped Draco on the back. "Your mum's smart enough to see the winds of change blowing, and she knows that for her family to survive the climate, she's going to have to break with tradition. That's why she agreed to our scheme to break you and Astoria up."

Draco's heart thrust itself painfully against the underside of his ribs. His mother… He sniffed back the wave of tears that were threatening to embarrass him. "So, what's this plan?"

Teddy put an arm around Greg's shoulders at that point and brought him in for a manly half-hug. "The big guy here was the whiz! He came up with an idea so brilliantly simple that it made the rest of us feel like a bunch of idiots for not thinking of it ourselves first!"

Goyle blushed, and looked down at his feet, not used to such open praise. "It wasn't nuthin' big."

"Bollocks!" Blaise disputed the humble pie with a slug to Greg's arm. "You are definitely Slytherin, through and through, my friend."

"So, would you like to fill me in on the big secret?" Draco sarcastically requested, feeling the anxiety gnawing away at him. "Or will my skeleton turn to dust in this exact spot before you spit it out?"

Harry cleared his throat behind a fist and evilly grinned. "We hired Cormac McLaggen to seduce Astoria." He held up a manila envelope in his hand and shook it back and forth. "And we've got the pictures to prove it."

Draco's mind whirled to a complete stop. "You hired…" He broke into a huge grin and started hysterically laughing. "Fuck me merry! THAT'S BLOODY BRILLIANT!"

Cormac McLaggen, a.k.a. the Halfblood, former Gryffindor heartthrob, a.k.a. the current Keeper for the English National Quidditch Team, and the wizard more crudely known in mainstream circles as "The Big Below Gigolo" (as quoted by Witch Weekly). He was famous, rich, handsome, and charming, and there practically wasn't a woman alive (aside from Hermione, apparently) that the studly blond couldn't have if he put his mind to it – which he quite often did. At last count, he was somewhere over the one hundred mark for documented lovers, and it was said his personal goal in life was to fuck as many beautiful women as possible. He specialized in virgins. For that reason, well-bred mothers literally kept their easily influenced, under-aged daughters under magical chastity belts in his presence.

That the prim and proper Astoria Greengrass lost her cherry to such a disreputable lady-killer while engaged to the pureblood Malfoy heir… If that incident was made general public disclosure, it would positively ruin her family in social circles. It certainly meant the end to his unwanted engagement regardless. This was the exact out Draco had been so desperately hoping for!

He threw himself into a big bear hug around Greg, laughing until tears poured from his eyes. He gave his hulking friend a sloppy, wet kiss on his cheek. "I owe you my life, mate."

Blaise coughed. "Technically, you owe all of us," he corrected as Draco pulled back, wiping the salty tracks off his face with the heel of his hand, still ridiculously grinning. "See, Greg thought up the plan, I tracked down McLaggen, your mother's money paid him to do the deed, Teddy made sure Astoria was in the right place at the right time, and Harry got the photos taken and developed. It was a team effort."

Draco shook his head, sniffling, and dropped his head, embarrassed to let them all see how overcome with joy and thankful he was. He had to give himself a second before he was emotionally stable enough to comment. "Why did you do this, any of you? With the wizarding paparazzi following McLaggen around so closely, if the press had caught wind of this, you could all have been disgraced for this kind of stunt."

Greg rubbed the back of his bristly, short curly hair with one hand. "Well, you were too sad, Drake. I didn't like it."

Teddy nodded. "And I'd made my decision in the middle of May that I was going to give up on Hermione. I couldn't stand to see either of you so miserable anymore. She obviously wanted you, not me." He lightly punched Draco on the arm. "Oh, and hey, that kiss you saw that day… Yeah, Harry told me you were there in the cafeteria. That was the only time, and it was our goodbye. That's all it meant, Drake, I swear."

Draco nodded, that odd coiled pressure in his chest beginning to unwind. Hermione hadn't wanted Teddy. The relief was palpable. He turned to Zabini, his other best friend, and they shared a wicked grin. "What's your story then?" he asked, anticipatorily waiting for the punch-line.

Blaise, of course, didn't disappoint. "Pffft, I just wanted you to get laid as quickly as possible," his handsome, ebony-skinned friend grinned. "You're too cantankerous to handle when you don't get a regular serving of kitty pie."

Draco chuckled and shook his head in disbelief. "Git." Then, almost reluctantly, he turned to the remaining member of the group - the only one of the four whose motives were a mystery. "And you?"

Potter raised a dark eyebrow, and the lightning shaped scar on his forehead wrinkled. "Well, I certainly didn't do it for you," he commented, his smirk calling him a liar.

Draco narrowed his eyes and studied the guy who had been his greatest adversary for so many years and wondered what might have been different if they'd actually shook hands the first time they'd met. "I heard a rumor you were almost sorted into Slytherin by the hat," he insolently commented, grinning like a shark. "Something to that, then?"

Harry shrugged and adjusted his glasses again on his nose. "Maybe."

The two men shared a moment then of complete understanding, and Draco nodded his head in deep and sincere thanks. No, he and Potter weren't friends. But maybe they weren't so different that they couldn't get along on occasion. Stranger things had happened, after all – like he and Granger.

Without further ado, Blaise turned Draco around and with a wave of his wand, the door to the Drawing Room opened once more. He then pushed them all out into the hallway one at a time. "I think we've given the soon to be ex-in-laws plenty of time for idle chit-chat, don't you? I know I'm just dying to say hello!"


After the Greengrasses left in a huff, Astoria sobbing in shame, her face in her hands, Draco turned to his mother and gave her a silent, knowing smirk. She evenly stared back, giving nothing away in that enigmatic she-devil gaze of hers, and then she turned to her husband to soothe his shattered nerves. Lucius clearly hadn't been prepared to receive such distressing news in advance. Draco assumed his mother planned it that way to maintain the edge of realism to the scene as it played out; she was always one for melodrama.

At one point, when the Lord of the Manor had yelled (when he'd turned over photo number five of ten), and his pale, pointed face had rouged an interesting shade of maroon and his eyes had nearly popped from their sockets, the eldest Greengrass daughter, Daphne (who thought the entire affair amusing, as she clearly did not like her sister or parents, and who kept giving her former schoolmate, Teddy, the eye from across the room), made the rather comical observation that Lucius could probably have given the Dark Lord a run for his money in the "ominous and foreboding" department. That little quip nearly set Draco's father into an apoplectic rage. Thankfully, Narcissa had been there to relieve her husband's temper with a calming hand and a rational voice. She quickly and logically pointed out that it was for the best that such a disgraceful episode had come out now before the wedding, as it saved them all from the embarrassment of a public divorce, and quite possibly, having to explain away another man's child (at this, Lady Greengrass swooned into her husband's arms).

By then, Lucius had calmed adequately enough to civilly request the Greengrasses leave his house, calling the engagement officially off and chillingly wishing the parents luck in selling off their youngest daughter to someone else in the future. The family of honey-blondes saw themselves to the front door without a glance back (all except Daphne, who slipped an intrigued Teddy a small note on the sly with the request that he should owl her later, and threw him a coy smile on the way out).

When the house settled, for a quiet few moments, Draco's father stared at his mother's placid expression, and something flickered in his eyes in acknowledgement. That same grin that often graced the side of Draco's face wound its way up Lucius' cheek with the same wicked gleam in the gray eyes to accompany it. "You were quite the voice of reason there, my dear," he complimented. "How very… quick thinking of you."

The jig was up, and clearly, Draco's mother knew it, too. Still, she didn't appear quite ready to admit her part in the duplicity just yet, it seemed. Instead, she passively stared back at her husband with wide, innocent eyes. "But that's why you married me, darling. I'm very talented with my mind and my mouth."

Lucius lowered his eyes to his wife's lips in consideration, and Draco couldn't help but blush and shake his head. Gads, they were so not doing this here in front of his friends!

His father sighed. "You know, I find I'm rather tired after all that excitement." He stood, holding a graceful hand out to his wife. "Perhaps we should retire to… rest… my dear?"

Narcissa took the hand extended to her with a light pink staining her beautifully sculpted cheekbones, and a twinkle in her mischievous, sky blue eyes. "Yes, that sounds like an excellent suggestion, darling."

Tucking his mother's hand under one arm, Draco's father elegantly strolled with his wife past them all, his long, black robes dramatically billowing behind him. "I'm sure you'll see your friends out, my son," he suggested turning to him as he brushed by, and Draco nodded in humble acquiescence, not wanting to push his luck by suggesting that the four unexpected outsiders – no matter their good intentions – stay for a late lunch without a direct invitation from the Lord of the Manor first. This was, after all, still Lucius' home and Draco had to respect his sire's rules.

As his father got to the Dining Hall door, he stopped and turned. "Oh, and your other lady friend, Draco - the one you informed us about at breakfast a few weeks ago - perhaps you would now be interested in bringing her by to meet us? For dinner, this next weekend." It was a direct decree, not to be objected to, and Draco nodded again in obedience.

With that, the elder Malfoys quietly left, heading upstairs to their bedroom. Everyone let out an explosive breath.

"That man is scary," Harry commented, his hand over his heart, as if trying to keep it in his chest. "I think Daphne may have been right."

Greg clapped Teddy on the shoulder. "Speaking of… Smooth operator, Ted! Way to go."

It was Teddy's turn to be self-conscious. His eyes lit up. "Man, did you see her? She was- Wow! I can't believe that's the same Daphne Greengrass! What the hell happened to her thick glasses and short, boyish haircut?"

"You shoulda been lookin' lower, mate," Greg grinned and held his hands out in front of his chest to simulate large breasts. "KA-POW!"

Teddy shook his head, scratching it as if unbelieving of his luck. "Yeah, and her legs…" He blew air out between his teeth in a low whistle. "Never can tell how they're going to turn out, huh?"

Draco chuckled, recalling a certain Gryffindor know-it-all with a flat chest, bucky teeth and unmanageable hair. "Nope, definitely not."

Blaise clapped his hands together. "Well, lads, I thought that went over rather splendidly. Yes, a very gratifying end to the weeks worth of planning. So, who's all for a drink? Drake's buying."

There were hearty "hear, hears" all around in response, so the five of them decided to Apparate over to Knockturn Alley to check out Draco's favorite dive.


Happily buzzing from all of the alcohol he'd consumed that afternoon with his four friends (Potter had rightly earned the title over their twelfth shot of Firewhiskey together when he'd been the only one aside from Draco still standing, and then again only after he'd joined him in a rousing rendition of "Show Me The Way To Go Home"), Draco made his way up the small walkway to Hermione's flat humming and feeling quite floaty. He wasn't drunk anymore, thankfully, as several hours had passed since his last drink (plus he'd downed five pints of water, scarfered a carved beef sandwich and chips, and shared an entire bowl of roasted peanuts and salted pretzels with Blaise in the interium). Despite that, he could still feel a smidge of the lingering courage that being inebriated lent. He was counting on that, in fact, to get him through the next few minutes, praying Granger didn't throw him out on his ear once she heard what he had to say.

To his relief, there was a light on upstairs in her bedroom, indicating that she was home. He knocked on the door twice before she answered.

Dressed in a pair of cotton pajama shorts and a thin tank-top, and with her hair down, floating about her face, and barefoot, Hermione was the epitome of deliciousness. Draco wanted to reach out and smother her with kisses, but he restrained his impulses, knowing he had some explaining to do first. "Hey," he greeted, leaning against the frame. "Can I come in?"

She shook her head and stared up at him with a nervous vulnerability in her eyes that hadn't been there since the days before he'd kissed her for the first time. She careful stepped back behind the door to hide her body from his view. "I don't think that's a good idea, Draco. What would Astoria think?"

Draco raised one golden, arched eyebrow at her and put his hand on the wood, pushing it slightly inward. "That doesn't really matter anymore, and if you'll let me in, I'll explain, why."

She hesitated a moment more, then took a deep breath and opened the door wide for him, stepping to the side.

An hour later, he'd told her the whole story and now they were lying down on Hermione's couch, kissing as if the world didn't exist outside of the cocoon of warmth surrounding them. It was gentle, tender, make-up kissing – something Draco had never experienced before, and found he thoroughly enjoyed. His free hand cupped her cheek, feathered the skin of her jaw, and tangled in her curls. "I love you, Granger," he whispered against her lips, trying the words out for size. Surprisingly, they didn't stick in his throat as he'd assumed they would. But then again, he'd rehearsed saying them every day since his big epitome regarding his feelings for this beautiful witch.

Her fingertips lightly caressed the hair on the back of his collar, which she knew turned him on. "I love you, Draco," she murmured back.

They slowly tasted each other, reacquainting themselves with intimate licks and nips. He sucked on the pulse in her throat, leaving a love bite behind, and she returned the favor. He placed soft kisses over her eyelids and nose and cheeks, before settling back on her lips. After another ten minutes of familiarizing themselves with the other, she became restless, greedy for more. Desperately, she tugged his body over hers and he fell into the cradle of her thighs, his hardening length pressing against her core, making them both gasp. Her knees came up in automatic response and her golden, slender legs locked over his hips as she rubbed against him. Draco moaned, liking where this was leading. He hadn't expected this tonight, but he wasn't going to turn it away either; he'd been craving her for far too long.

He gently lowered his weight so as not to crush her with his greater size and pressed his chest against hers. Through his black, silken shirt, he felt Hermione's breasts. She wasn't wearing a bra. He suddenly needed to get them a lot closer, with a lot more bare skin touching. He groaned as he ran a hand under her tank, cupping her curving breast, flicking and circling an areola. She bit at his lips and gripped his shoulders in growing excitement and that's all it took for the level of desire between them to skyrocket. They began tearing their clothes off, and when they were naked, pressed together once more, Draco muttered an expletive under his breath at how good it felt.

It was hot, so hot as their flesh caressed against each other. Small drops of sweat beaded his upper lip and his skin was already dewed with perspiration as he tongued his way over her pulse, gently biting, making her gasp. His lips traveled down her shoulder, over the delicate bones at her collar, and further south until he found and latched onto a nipple. Paying equal attention to the other side as well, he left behind a small, barely visible imprint of his teeth around both tiny buds as his mouth continued lower, over her abdomen, his goal firmly in mind: he needed her sweet flavor in his mouth and her rose-scented perfume in his nose.

He lapped into her bellybutton once, twice before continuing his wet trail down, down, down until he finally cradled her clit with his tongue and began sucking on the soft, sensitive flesh. She cried out and thrust her hips towards his face for more, her hands tangling in his platinum hair at the same moment. Thrusting two fingers into her glistening opening, he rolled her tiny bead around with his lips, swirling in circles, lapping at her salty arousal as he rhythmically moved his hand in and out of her, stroking that delicate flap of skin on the upper inside. Gods, she was soaking wet and so ready and her loud cries of ecstasy drove him mad!

He looked up between them. Hermione's head was thrown back, her eyes squeezed shut, crimson stained her cheeks, her lips parted as she gasped in pleasure and he couldn't remember any sight more fucking beautiful in his whole life. His cock throbbed for action, but he held back just a little longer, wanting to give her some apology for all he'd put her through.

"Draco, I'm almost there," she whimpered, clenching her lower body and shoving her pelvis against his hand. "Ooohhh, yes," she hissed as he nipped her little nub, only to soothingly lathe it with his tongue a second later. With a few more passes of his lips, she finally came for him and greedily, he drank up the flood of wetness that accompanied her orgasm, swallowing her fluids, reveling in her taste again.

As she lay back, panting hard and nicely buzzing from the endorphins rushing through her system, he slid into her with a single thrust. The familiar feel of her body tightening around him, cradling him deep inside, was a homecoming. They both cried out at the feel of being reconnected after so many months apart. Her silken, moist flesh surrounded and caressed his penis, drawing him further into her. "Christ, I love you," he shuddered against her ear as he began plunging into her hard and fast, just as they both liked. "I love eating your pussy, baby," he murmured, knowing she liked him talking dirty to her. "I love your scent and your taste," he breathed against her lips and she moaned, shivering in response. "I love your tangled hair, and the way you glare at me when you're angry, and when you bite your bottom lip when you're nervous… I love that fucking cherry-red lipstick you wear. I love it all." He slammed his body into hers, punctuating each thought with an intentional pulsing of his shaft against her walls.

Tears flowed from her cheeks. "Don't leave me again, Draco," she begged, pulling him down to kiss her. "Please don't."

He shook his head. "You're mine, Granger." He wrapped his arms around her and pulled them both up so that he was kneeling and she was leaning against the back of the couch, her legs wrapped around his waist, still connected, still moving. "I'm not ever letting you go now," he growled and using all his strength, he shoved up into her with long, deep strokes. His blood raced through his veins like lightning, centering on his balls. That familiar fire began to wind its way up into his length. "Come for me again, baby," he bid her, holding himself only with the barest of control now. His body strained against the pressure and his lungs ached. "Please, fuck, Hermione come!"

She earnestly rode him then, her pace wild and frantic, her clit shoving against him as she used her muscles to drive him into her, until his name was torn from her mouth on a wail of ecstasy. Her whole body gripped him, her insides pulsing over him in rippling, undulating waves that completely undid him. Gripping her thighs and with a hard slam up into her, the lava burst up through Draco's cock and he released his seed into her in an explosion of red behind his lids and a shout of her name. His climax spurted out of him for long seconds, filling her up, saturating deep into her womb. Every drop of him was utterly wrung out, given over completely to her, until he collapsed from sheer exhaustion, slumping against her breast.

When sanity and body function returned long minutes later, he leaned back. Instantly, he was captured by her coffee-bronze gaze, and they stayed like that, staring, neither saying a word, simply drowning in the other for many more minutes. Then, almost shyly, Draco moved in and kissed her again. It was a sweet pull of lips, not heated, but warm and full of promises. It was the best kiss he could ever remember giving and getting.

After a dozen heartbeats, Hermione pulled away and wrapped her arms about his neck. She gave him a tentative smile. "So your parents really want to meet me in an official capacity?" She bit her lip in consternation, and Draco fought back the smirk that threatened to overwhelm his face.

"Next weekend for dinner," he confirmed, trying to sound as tragically afflicted by the fact as she was.

She made a nervous moue. "From what you've told me, your mother knows I was 'the other woman,' but do you think… Is your father's going to wig when he realizes it's me you were talking about?"

Now he couldn't help but laugh. "Probably not as much as when I introduce you as my new fiancée." He waggled his eyebrows at her.

Hermione's eyes widened and she blanched. "A-are you asking me to marry you?"

Draco grinned. "I thought the term 'fiancée' was pretty self-explanatory."

They spent the next several minutes arguing about how a proper proposal was done. She insisted it should be performed on bended knee – to which Draco pointed out he was already in that position on the couch. Then Hermione countered with even more requirements – something about roses and a home-cooked dinner. He told her that she was lucky to get fucked first, which in his opinion was much better than half-dead flowers and over-baked chicken.

"Okay, then, what about a ring?" she argued with a triumphant smirk, knowing this was the sticking point to the whole kit-n-kaboodle being legitimized.

"Well, hey, since you're offering, I want mine to be titanium with emeralds, size ten!" he mischievously beamed.

She tsk'd in annoyance. "No, I meant for me, you prat."

He gave her a faux hurt look. "Hey, it was my birthday you missed this month, Granger! I think a ring would be an adequate gift, personally."

She sighed and rolled her eyes. "Just forget it."

He studied her for a moment longer, letting her suffer for being so argumentative. She was just being fussy because she liked to fight with him so much, he knew. "Stubborn witch." He reached over and taking his platinum Slytherin Crest off his right hand (his parents had given the snake-shaped band to him first year, after his sorting), he put it on her left ring finger. It slid around, because it was too large for her dainty hand, but as soon as he could reach his wand, he'd fix that problem by shrinking it down to fit. "There. Issue addressed. Now, say 'yes'."

She stared at the ring on her finger, blinking, clearly in shock. "Well, I-I-I…" she stumbled, touching the ring, as if needing to feel it to know this was really happening. She looked up into his eyes and smiled. "YES!" She threw her arms around him and he held on, adjusting the width of his stance to keep their balance so they didn't fall off the couch. She started bawling then, so Draco spent the next several minutes riding out the storm of her tears, rocking her gently back and forth, pressing his face to her temple and kissing her instead of insanely fucking her like he wanted to.

After long minutes, she finally quieted. Unfortunately – or fortunately, as the case may be - she unintentionally shifted on him at the same time, and immediately, his cock jerked in response. Still lodged inside of her, he couldn't help but piston his hips in and out of her, recapturing their earlier desire within seconds. "Can I have you again?" he asked his wife-to-be with a boyish grin. "To celebrate, I mean." He leaned in and nibbled at her lips. "And you did miss my birthday, you know. How about we call this round a two-fer and make it even?"

Hermione was too caught up in moaning to answer him, so Draco took that as a 'yes' as well. They exchanged a hot, wet kiss to seal the deal, and the fire that had always existed between them grew into an all-consuming blaze once more.



Musical selections listened to while writing this fic:

"Broken" – Seether & Amy Lee

"The Beauty & The Tragedy" – Trading Yesterday

"What's Left Of Me" – Nick Lachey


Murano glass = a type of glass specially made in Italy; they are known for custom designing medieval-themed stained glass windows, often with some mythological creature or Christian saint theme

The movie Draco & Hermione went to see was none other than "Moulin Rouge!" which debuted in 2001. I thought it somewhat apropos to the drama in the fic, and it fit the timeline.

Table ender = a person who has sex on the end of a table; a derogatory term for a loose woman

"Show Me The Way To Go Home" = a popular drinking song.

Yes, the ring I mentioned above actually exists. It is pictured on Draco's right index finger in two of his official Sixth Year photos (check Google Images until you see the ones of him in his school uniform robes).

Two-fer = slang for "a two-for-one deal"