The wind whips as Hermione stands outside her flat...


She waits outside, in the cold, trying to wrap her overly large brain around the fact that in front of her stands a very surly and demanding Draco Malfoy holding onto the reins of a gruesome creature. They alone are able to see the beast because both had experienced death as no two young people should have ever experienced it.

Hermione's job at the moment is to step into the thestral's attached carriage, something that she simply cannot make herself do. Seconds before, Malfoy had frustratedly spat this command at her, his eyes boring into her own, silently daring her to refuse. Instinctively, she'd balked at his tone and now he is growling at her again to do the impossible: share the cramped carriage with the likes of him.


A storm brewing...


Twenty minutes earlier, she'd refused to ride along with him on his broom. Ten minutes before that, he'd refused to step foot in her Muggle car. They'd spent a half hour arguing... loudly. As luck would have it, the trains weren't running because of an ongoing labour strike and airplanes were grounded due to inclement weather. And to make matters worse, there was to be no use of the Floo Network or Apparating in order to get to Scotland.

Travel and arrive together, their notes had ordered.

Exasperated beyond belief at his innate contrariness, Hermione had thrown up her hands and sarcastically offered up the idea that they ride a thestral to the Ministry's temporary office in Scotland. To her utter shock and dismay he'd begrudgingly accepted the ridiculous suggestion and somehow managed to conjure up a thestral and a carriage, just like the ones they'd ridden up to Hogwarts castle all those years ago.


Stalling while the wind whips around her...


"Wouldn't a horse have been a more normal choice for Muggle London, Malfoy?" she asks, shifting uncomfortably on her feet. The wind picks up the curls framing her face.

"Horses were normal in Muggle London back in the 19th century," he huffs irritatedly. "They are also very visible and unable to fly, neither of which is an issue if we use a thestral. Has age dimmed your wits, Granger? For Merlin's sake, just get in. I am not going to beg. GET. IN."


She is convinced the Ministry exists to ruin lives...


It was the new asinine marriage law that had had them snarling at each other for the better part of the morning. She had received her Ministry summons after preparing her morning tea. Malfoy had received his, as well, but only just after waking. Hermione grimaced thinking about all the reasons her life had come to this: facing a Ministry-sanctioned arranged marriage with the likes of Malfoy.

With the loss of so many young people in the aftermath of war, the number of magical births were on alarming decline, and a year ago, the Ministry had decided to step in to remedy the situation before it reached catastrophic proportions. According to leading mediwizard researchers, the cause of the low magical birthrates was also due to an overly used healing spell, performed by too many who worked in triage during the war. It was later revealed that the healing spell had the unfortunate side effect of causing sterility among pureblooded witches. It was unclear how the magic worked, but it appeared Muggleborne witches were immune to the spell's effects because of their blood chemistry. Ironically, those who had once been reviled seemed now, the only hope for a pureblooded wizard to beget an heir.

Armed with such findings, the Ministry had set itself to the task of matchmaking in order to assist the still moneyed and powerful, Pureblood families in preserving their family fortunes by finding suitable Muggleborne brides with whom to marry off their sons.

This other world reality, unfortunately, meant that Hermione's newly minted single status, one she'd at last found some happiness in claiming, made her a clear target for the interfering law. So, this morning's owl had not been a complete surprise. But having been paired with Draco Malfoy was enough to shock her entire system. Once Hermione had read the note, it had fallen from her suddenly laxed hand. It fluttered to the floor and rested there like an injured bird at her feet as she breakfasted in a silent daze.

Across the Thames, in a small pocket of magical London, inside his townhouse, Draco, had been fuming. Upon re-folding the note and touching the Ministry's seal to check for authenticity, Draco had been unexpectedly portkeyed to Hermione's flat where she was thankfully completely dressed, and calmly partaking of some orange pekoe tea, toast, and marmalade.

According to the Ministry's missive, they were now magically bound to one another, this pre-matrimonial, engagement charm was cast over them after the act of reading their Ministry summons. To leave one another's sight for more than ten minutes before serving audience with the new minister would result in an emotional pain worse than the physical pain wrought by the late Bellatrix's Crucio. They would both feel its effects at the same time.

Earlier, when he'd abruptly appeared in her kitchen, Malfoy had been slow to regain his footing on her newly mopped tile floor. He nearly lost it again when he beheld the sight of her. Had Hermione not been stunned speechless at the sight of him, Malfoy's startled squeak of, "Granger?" would have been laughable. As it was, they had simply gaped at one another for a full minute before he set off on an unintelligible tirade that involved some surprisingly colorful swearing as he paced maniacally around her little flat.

Though Hermione's concern about his mental stability had grown as his temper tantrum showed no sign of abating, she had been thankful it was he and not she doing the ranting. He was, in fact, giving increasingly loud voice to her inner turmoil while she was presented with the luxury of placidly witnessing the unusual sight of a quite ruffled Malfoy.

He'd neglected to dress properly before touching the Ministry's seal. The sight of the usually impeccably dressed wizard prowling around her place barefooted and so completely disheveled had simply arrested her breath. His blond hair was still mussed from sleep. His features seemed less sharp and far less intimidating with his hair falling across his forehead without so much as a drop of his favorite pomade combed through it. His dark grey jersey vest had pulled tight across his well-formed chest as he made angry slashing gestures with his hands, spitting out words so quickly that she had barely registered them. Her eyes had followed his hands, which drew her gaze to his loose pajama bottoms. These hung low against his still slim hips and taught abdomen. And since she hadn't seen him in years, she had to admit that time had done wonders for his previously reed-like physique, not that she'd ever give voice to that alarming thought.

As he bellowed, Hermione was offered yet another plausible reason why his name was set next to hers in the note earlier that morning. It had something to do with that blasted, horrid, hateful, ladder-climbing, Pansy Parkinson, mistress of the current Minister or Magic. As she had stared at him and sipped her tea, she had wondered, why Malfoy? He had his pick of witches, of this she was quite sure. And while Pansy certainly had enough reason to dislike Hermione, she'd reasoned that Pansy must have coerced the Minister into believing that such a match was a good one.

But why, really, would the Ministry pair the likes of her to the purported gem of pureblood bachelors? It was a well-known fact that, at least publicly, there was no love lost between Malfoy and herself. Since he'd switched sides mid-war, the two had been at each other's throats throughout the worst dueling and even during the rebuilding. Their quarrels had been loud, heated, and plastered all over the press. Act of God, certainly wasn't a viable reason for the Ministry to arrange such an unwise match. Perhaps Pansy decided to use her wiles to convince the Minister that a Malfoy/Granger pairing was desired. Hermione surmised it was the witch's wicked way of exacting revenge on Malfoy, or his family, while hurting Hermione in the process.

Though Malfoy's shouting was evidence to the contrary, never in her wildest dreams would Hermione have pegged Pansy as so vindictive as to lay waste to one of her own, no matter the reason. A forced marriage to the likes of someone as vile as Malfoy, Hermione decided, was obviously her penance for making a prize enemy of the most vindictive, and if not the most popular, certainly the most politically powerful witch of their graduating class. What hadn't occurred to her was that perhaps Malfoy had managed to land on Pansy's bad side alongside herself. How lovely it felt to be cast in the role of being his punishment, she'd thought wryly. Regardless the reason, Malfoy's deafening rant against Parkinson had lasted for far too long.

Weary of listening to his snapping and snarling, Hermione had hastily finished her toast and moved to grab her scarf from the hook by the door. She'd thought to slip out and continue with her morning, surely he wouldn't miss her absence, so involved was he in his outraged soliloquy.

"Where are you going, Granger?" he had asked, voice dropping a full octave. He'd stopped mid-stride across her tiny living room, his hand was curled around the back of his neck, having just dragged through his hair and tossed up a few new cowlicks in the already tousled mess.

"To the corner news stand," she had replied matter-of-factly, methodically wrapping the scarf around her neck three times. "I'll be back within the appointed ten minutes. I need to purchase a paper," and be alone... away from you, she added silently. She was straining to appear unbothered by his presence and, more importantly, trying to seem oblivious to the other possible heartbreaking reasons he might be shouting like a madman about being forced to marry her.

"Do you have anything to say about this?" he'd asked, shaking his owl post her, incredulous at her lack of emotional response. She shrugged with her back to him, an action that had aggravated him to no end.

"What's there to say that you haven't already bellowed to the entire city?" she'd replied dispassionately, shrouding her hurt. "We'll simply have to lodge a formal complaint with the Ministry and fight their decree of marriage between us. Surely, someone there will agree that we are not suited." She looked at him pointedly, awaiting his rejoinder. When none came, she continued with more strength in her voice, "We know what's to be done, Malfoy, and we'll do it together — even if we end up hexing each other. But we're not going anywhere until I finish my morning routine. I will accomplish this without complaint from you. I must go about my normal life if I'm to survive the better part of the day, perhaps even night, in your less than charming presence. We've a long way to go. Perhaps you should get ready."

She had frowned at him then. Her expression had him looking himself over, at last, to realize his dishevel. In her mind, it had been with some melodrama that she stepped into the the blistering cold. After all, she'd fully intending to leave him locked in her flat, never to return. But as the ten minute mark approached, Hermione found herself desperately needing to see him. A sharp pang that threatened to pierce her heart set off a domino effect in the rest of her body. She was starting to feel frantic, her heart heavy, then racing, then pained. She simply knew that setting eyes on Malfoy would ease the oncoming desolate feelings of abandonment and loneliness that began to wrap around her heart.

Clever and warped was the spell that came attached to the blasted Ministry's marriage decree, she thought hatefully. It forced her to want to be in the prizewinning git's presence even though her head told her it was the worst possible thing for her. A Crucio was certainly more merciful than this!

When she'd at last wrestled the door to her flat open, she was gasping for breath and stumbling over the threshold, needing to drink in the sight of him. Simply setting eyes on the blond abruptly put a stop to the sheer terror that had gripped her on her mad rush back. As soon as she was able to properly breathe again, she noticed that Malfoy appeared just as relieved to see her. To her chagrin, she saw he had actually listened to her last suggestion.

Gone was his sleepwear, which had presented a nearly touchable side of himself to her. Now, he was a far more daunting specimen, dressed in transfigured casual wear which, due to his clever use of tailoring spells, accentuated his more attractive assets. She'd frowned at herself for noticing anything good about the stubborn swine. She was also incredibly angry that she had no control over the fact that she still desired him.

Even after all this time, she could hardly reconcile how she'd harboured these unrequited feelings for him. The mere idea of being forced to marry him, feeling this way about him, and knowing he could never feel the same... it was more horrifying than facing Voldemort! At her dour expression Malfoy had frowned, and as if no time had passed since their last quarrel, he launched into a new argument about their means of transportation.


The storm is rising... seeming to originate in the depths of Malfoy's irritated glare.


"We're only going because we have to object to this marriage," Hermione announces, as if assuring herself the impossible can be done. Once spoken, she expects him to say something... anything. But he simply stares at her and repeats his earlier demand. The wind blusters and he stands stoically, his lips starting to blue from the cold.

"Get in, Granger."

As if Mother Nature echoes her dark thoughts, foreboding rain clouds gather above her. Another blast of freezing wind sets her shivering. She stares at the open carriage door as though it is a gaping hole leading to hell. Then, she slides her gaze to Malfoy's aggravated expression, his hand still grips the reins and with the other he gestures with mock gallantry toward the open carriage door. Mephistopheles come to life, she thinks bitterly.

Since she knows the task needs to be accomplished and there seems no immediate alternative solution, she takes her time making her way to the carriage door. With chin held high, she climbs in, ignoring his offered hand, which she silently assures herself is more an innate gesture due his contemptible upper-class breeding than his actual desire to assist her.

"You could have asked more politely," she points out indignantly, after taking a seat that faces in the direction they would be traveling.

"You could have been a real witch and been fine with riding a broom," he spars. She purses her lips at him, noticing there is very little heat in his reply. She watches him settle himself on the bench across from her, his feet stretching to touch the edge of her own seat.

"Keep to your side, Malfoy," she reflexively orders, lightly kicking at his leather ensconced toe.

He just shakes his head at her. His feet don't budge and he proceeds to turn his gaze to the window, muttering a disillusionment spell that cloaks the flying carriage and its contents from sight.

They hadn't thought about how cold the flight to Scotland would be, particularly while the carriage is trapped in the dark rainclouds. Streaks of rain run across the glass and Hermione traces the trail of one with her fingertip. Malfoy sits watching her beneath heavy lids.

She shivers.

Instantaneously, she feels a warm bubble cast over her. She purrs audibly and then shoots a suspicious look at her travel mate, suddenly realizing that he isn't as asleep as she'd assumed.

"I could've cast the same spell," she mutters in a most uncharitable tone. It is grumpy enough to cover her confusion over his uncharacteristic kindness.

"I know, Granger," he replies tiredly, "only you didn't, and you were shivering. So I cast it for you. Shall I remove it?"

Hermione knows she should simply thank him, and if not that, have the grace to remain silent, and leave well enough alone. It is the volatile combination of his presence and her mouth, she decides, that now has him interacting with her, something she'd been glad to avoid for the last hour. And now, he had asked her a question and she can no longer remain silent without appearing belligerent or worse, acquiescent.

She shakes her head quickly, settling back into her seat and closing her eyes from the sight of him reclining on the bench in front of her. She half-fears him using Legilimency to peer into her mind. If he attempted that, he would discovered that her shiver did not come from being chilled... the opposite, in fact, is true.

His previous silence had been a blessing, allowing her to live in the lazy daydream she'd begun weaving in her imagination nearly as soon as she saw his shoulders relax, his chin drop to his chest, and his breathing go deep and even. She'd had similar fantasies featuring one Draco Malfoy for many years now. But just this one time, she allowed herself to revel in it. Instead of pushing the disturbing thoughts away, she toys with them, even ventures into the previously uncharted waters of weaving a bit of reality into her most secret desire.

As always, the unbidden fantasy of being with Malfoy shocks her senses, worse now that he is in such close physical proximity. She frowns at this object of her darkest fantasies sitting there in all his haughty glory. She further resents the torture of his sinfully seductive masculine scent. It is simply too much for one witch to handle. The mere sight of him so close sends her stomach flipping and her thoughts spiraling to recent memories of how virile he'd appeared that morning in his night clothes. Add to this his complete disregard for her, and she'd allowed herself nearly an entire hour of pure feminine indulgence— a complete abandonment of herself into a fantasy life where Draco cared for her, lusted after her, and was even a little bit in love with her— at least just enough to reciprocate the feelings she had, only a few months ago, reluctantly started to accept herself having for him.

While she might have imagined the flash of desire in his eyes three years ago, she'd nurtured the faint memory and it grew in mythical proportions. It had grown so big, in fact, that thoughts of Malfoy had haunted her long after their final and most passionate quarrel. There had been something in the way he'd looked at her. It had frightened her and she'd dashed into the much safer sanctuary of Ron's embrace. But that had been a poor choice. And now she was without her red-headed best friend who'd turned unpardonably vindictive all because she'd once murmured her lascivious thoughts for the blond Slytherin while she slept in Ron's arms one fateful night. Worse, was that she'd been unable to deny her feelings for the Ferret in the light of day.

It was because of Ron that her life was in the wretched state is was in, robbed of funds, all of her precious things, wrecked in one sweep of his wand and the rest stripped away after years of blackmailing her with his knowledge of her forbidden lust for Malfoy. All of her savings had been used to privately fund Ron's ever growing gambling debts and years of miserable debauchery as he nursed his wounds from their failed relationship. She couldn't turn him away, though, but with such a tormented history with wizards, it truly was no wonder that Hermione had been single ever since Ron had stormed out of her flat.

The irony was that the monster Ron had become was the one she'd once feared Malfoy was. But no matter how much she pushed him to beastly behavior, Malfoy never did anything worse than offer her icy indifference when she'd angered him. Sighing, she gazes quietly across the carriage at him again. It truly is a shame the formation of a man's looks isn't directly related to the content of his character, she thinks. If this were so, Hermione is fairly certain she wouldn't have ever developed this long held infatuation for the undeserving, belligerent man that he was. She also would absolutely not be sitting across from the likes of Draco Malfoy wondering how it might feel to have the right to touch him like a wife might... perhaps even what it might feel like to kiss him. All of this races through her mind when she should have been offering thanks for his little warming spell.

As it was, she had been caught up in these disastrous thoughts of him and she'd responded to his unnervingly thoughtful charm by bristling like a harassed porcupine.

"What happened to you, Granger?" he queries softly, having stared at her openly for at least two minutes waiting for a proper reply to his first question. "You've no proper robe, your rather thin garments seem to hold no body heat on their own and your hair is an abomina— What?"

Hermione's eyes had taken on a glossy sheen when they had latched onto his. To Draco's great horror, she looks on the verge of tears.

"Are you quite through insulting me?" she asks, her voice quivering, her usual confidence failing her. When he clears his throat and shifts uncomfortably, he watches her chin jut out, daring him to continue. This small gesture assures him that she would respond better to his unique brand of frank honesty than any sort of compassion.

"Those hideous garments and the atrocity that is your hair insults you, Granger," he drawls, his gaze raking down her body, attempting to make a point, but instead, inspecting her for any invisible wounds he might have inflicted upon her with his words. "I'm merely doing you the favor of pointing out this obvious fact. Why do you choose to make yourself unattractive?"

"Stop talking, Malfoy," she bites out, shaking her head, his last comment still ringing in her ears. She wonders if he means more by it. "When you speak, you do your face a grave injustice."

"What is that supposed to mean, witch?"

She scowls then, realizing she too might have said too much because now he looking at her expectantly. Big silver eyes, lined with lush blond lashes that no man should have ever be graced with, least of all his sort. She grit her teeth at the sheer injustice of it. "The toxic rubbish that constantly spills out of your mouth ruins your looks, you cockroach," she snarled, her face averted, eyes closed once more.

Malfoy knit his brows. Somewhere in that insult was a hidden compliment. Did she actually think him attractive?

"So, you find me easy on the eyes, Granger?" he asks smugly, leaning back, his hands behind his head in an effort to taunt her into more conversation. She, however, can't see his new arrogant posture.

"I don't know about that," she retorts smartly, trying to will her voice steady and keep hot heavy tears from falling because he'd noticed something about her that she'd been attempting to hide, "but I can assure you that your voice is certainly grating to the ear."

He smiles at her then, and as soon as he realizes she isn't looking, Draco's smile stretches into a grin. Now he can look his fill, no longer relegated to sneaking peeks at her under his lowered lids. Granger really did look quite dreadful. His first observation of her at her breakfast table had been a critical one. When she left him alone in the ten agonizing minutes it took her to fetch her morning paper, he'd noticed she lived too sparsely, as though she might need to flee at a moment's notice. All her worldly belongings would surely be able to fit in one trunk, he'd decided. By the time she'd returned to her tiny flat, he decided he needed to discover why she lived as though she were on the run. He'd also decided that he despised her hair. She wore it much shorter now, revealing ridiculous curlicues, which were, in his opinion, far too girlish for her twenty five years. It was cut so short, and he wondered if she'd sold it all for profit, or perhaps, offered it all up as a charitable donation for some Muggle cause.

Whatever the case, she needed the length of it back.

His eyes glaze over, wistfully recalling how three years ago her hip-length hair had swished impertinently, mocking him with every sway when she'd turned her back on him after making a final, cutting remark. On that day, she walked out of his life with nary a glance backwards. He'd long forgotten the reason for that particular argument, yet he'd been unable to shake from his mind's eye the image of her in that heated moment. It was, after all, the very moment that his future came into sharp, technicolor focus.

Not even Trelawney's prophetic orbs could have foretold how his future would solidify around the one witch who raised his ire like no other female on the planet. He'd long known that had the situation been more ideal, Granger would have been his perfect partner, equal in magical power, with intelligence and wit that nearly matched his. He'd been stymied when she didn't return to fight and when it was clear she wouldn't come back, Draco had a startling epiphany. Hermione Granger was the one. She was the one witch who, for better or worse, he was going to marry. The revelation had knocked the wind out of him. So, on that day, he'd watched Granger leave without attempting to call her back and he'd locked away the truth until it came spilling out of his mouth at Parkinson's blasted party when she'd poisoned his drink with Veritaserum.

It hadn't been any easier to forget Granger when she was gone, he'd admitted to Pansy while under the influence, perhaps her absence from his life had made his longing for her even more pronounced.

He'd sworn to himself that when he was 23, if no other suitable witch presented herself to him, he would approach Granger with a more friendly countenance. He'd given himself a week after his birthday to seek her out. But weeks turned into months, and months into years of silent avoidance. Yet, Draco knew that marriage to Hermione Granger was a necessity, not because he needed to pass on the Malfoy name, but because he needed to find peace. And something inside him knew he felt most at peace with Granger. Though they argued incessantly, Draco never felt a more complete and passionate connection with anyone. No other witch was her rival, and that was even when she threatened to hex him to kingdom come.

Yes, marriage to Granger is an eventuality, he thinks bitterly, but not this way! Not forced! Not... speeding to the Ministry cooped up in this carriage with her fully expecting him to join her in violent protest against a marriage that he'd secretly hoped to secure through far more courageous and honorable means than this... this... Ministry sponsored outrage!

Draco feels another wave of heated anger crash over him once again.

How many times had he told Pansy to stay out of his business? Did that blasted witch ever listen? No! Never! And now that infernal Parkinson would pay! He would make sure she was saddled with a Muggleborn wizard twice her age, grizzled and fat, simply because she needed a husband of her own to keep her too busy to dally with the Minister or interfere with the way Draco lived his life.

Bugger that Pansy and her meddling! Marriage law, indeed! And worse yet, the blasted portkey unexpectedly transported him to Granger's place long before he'd had time to prepare himself to face her. Thanks to his now former best friend, he'd behaved like a deranged maniac in Granger's home when he should have been calm, controlled, collected, and armed with a plan to woo the witch and make the situation work to his advantage.

He'd been so riled at Parkinson, however, that he knew his ranting had given Granger the wrong impression of his true feelings about her. She also made it clear to him how she felt about the forced marriage as well, having had prolonged her escape to the corner for so long that it took a magically induced physical ache to force her into begrudgingly returning to him before he ran out to search blindly for her in his own immediate need to see her.

So, yes, he is grinning at having the pleasure of being able to look his fill of the witch while he contemplates the daunting task of convincing Granger that he indeed wants her for his wife. It is a task he'd been running from for... well, from the moment she'd turned her back on him and he'd watched her sashay out of his life with an angry swish of her ridiculously long, bushy mane.

Yes, she needed the length of it back and he, well, he needed to bring her around to the idea that marriage to the likes of him wouldn't be such a horrendous endeavor.

"Why do you hate me so much, Granger?"

He speaks the words almost as soon as they pop into his head. Since the words hit air, he, of course, expects an answer.

Silence.

"Granger?"

Draco inches forward on his seat, balancing on his toes, leaning toward her reclining body. His long torso breaches the distance separating them. His gaze is firmly set on the outline of her face, so lovely in the low lights that his whispered Lumos had glowing in the cabin. He is so caught up in examining up close the gentle curves he'd long caressed in his memory that he barely feels the turbulence of the wretched weather outside.

"Please, Malfoy, just stay on your sid—"

A thunderous boom shakes the carriage, which lurches backwards causing Draco to pitch forward. One of his hands lands on Hermione's right shoulder, while the fingers of his left buries into her headful of incredibly soft curls. Too startled to shriek at the sudden weight of him on her, Hermione's eyes fly open and her mouth rounds as she watches the door of the carriage swing open. Rain pours into the cabin, dousing her upturned face, missing Malfoy completely. She panics when she sees his heels pumping as his toes scramble to find purchase before slipping out the door. Fearing that they both might tumble out at the next bump of turbulence, Hermione, opens her legs wide, wedging her feet against the sides of the benches. She grabs hold of Malfoy's waist to anchor him to herself. All the while she is pulling up her ankle length wool skirt, intent on grabbing her wand from her thigh holster. She feels the strength of its length pulse up her arm as she quickly charms the door shut and locked. Her swift movements has her body arching up toward Malfoy, her partially bare legs seem nearly wrapped around his. At the feel of her gripping his side, he instinctively pushes his body flush against hers. She finds herself unable to breathe as Malfoy stills above her, his hips between her thighs. She can feel his heart pounding against hers.

Merlin, the rain on her skin smells like perfection, Draco thinks, his fingers moulding to the curve of the back of her head. He knows he should put himself to rights. But this is the closest he's ever been to her. Draco feels her everywhere and it is as if his body has a mind of its own. Her curves act as a homing device to his hand at her shoulder which begins to move without his bidding. Reverently, he slides it down against her front, his eyes never leaving hers. She watches his palm travel to rest at her breast, yet another lovely part of her to mould his fingers against. She closes her eyes at the exquisite feeling of him touching her at last.

"Open your eyes," he rasps enjoying her pleasure. His fingers curl into her hair and tug just a little when she refuses. "Watch me touching you."

"But, you hate me, Malfoy," she hisses as his fingers tweak a most sensitive peak. Her own hand moves to clasp his bum. He smiles appreciatively.

"Does this feel like I hate you?" he whispers against the sensitive whorls of her ear, grinding himself against her. Her eyes fly open at the feel of him pulsing against her belly. He feels her hands grip him more forcefully.

"Malfoy..." she breathes, dragging her hand up his back so her fingers can comb roughly through his slicked-back hair, purposefully pulling it out of its unforgiving style.

"It's Draco, Hermione." He smiles at the way her mouth falls open at the shock of him saying her first name. She goes mute when she realizes he is lowering his face toward hers. He chuckles at how her lips push forward in anticipation. "If I had known this would quiet you so effectively, Granger, I would have done it years ago."

"Calling me by my first name, you mean?" she gasps, feeling his hand graze against her bare thigh while his nose brushes hers. His stubble roughened cheek works the raindrops into hers, wetting them both.

"No," he murmurs against her neck, his other hand, cupping her jaw and pulling her lips toward hers. "This," he whispers before locking his lips to hers. The feel of the heat of his mouth closing over hers has Hermione pushing up against him with her body, while pulling him closer with her hands. He tastes the cool fresh water of the rain in her kiss. She's the first to pull away.

"Malfoy..." she groans. "I thought we aren't good together."

"For once, bookworm, you thought wrong," he says, a smile tugging at his lips before catching her up into another breathtaking kiss.

"I'm poor," she admits, pushing her hands against him, making him stop his advances.

"I'm rich," he replies offhandedly, nuzzling against her jaw. "I don't care that you're not."

"There's a reason. Listen," she insists nearly sobbing in her want. She fights against temptation by averting her face. "Please, Draco..."

"It doesn't matter," he whispers. "Say that last part again." She feels his soft smile against her lips. "I like the way it sounds," he adds. "Say it again."

"I won't resort to begging, you wretch," she grumbles.

"No, my name," he whispers. "Just say my name."

"Draco."

"Marry me, Granger," he hums against her lips.

"Wha-?"

"I'm tired of living without you," he growls, his forehead against hers."I don't care that you're poor. You won't be when you agree to marry me. I'm tired of denying myself of you. I'm tired of being alone. And even though I'm going to kill Pansy for forcing the issue, I have her to thank for finally giving me a reason to be alone with you after all these years."

"But marriage? You and me?!" she breathes, utterly distracted by his uncharacteristic smile beaming down at her. "Have you gone quite mad? We can't even be in the same room for five minutes without attempting to hex each other!"

"We haven't hexed one another yet, and it doesn't seem as though you're truly fighting the idea of marriage right now," he observes, his hand tightening in her curls.

She breaks eye contact, even as her hands hold him close.

"We're not fighting about this, witch," he breathes, his eyes raking over her, daring her to argue. She shakes her head and he remembers Pansy's reprimand in the note this morning.

I hope you enjoy my gift to you. Tell that Granger how you truly feel, Draco, Pansy had written. If you don't, there's zero chance that she'll agree to marrying the likes of you. She's a smart girl, and totally undeserving of you… but you love her and you have to know that every smart woman wants a man who's willing to sweep her off her feet. Tell her how you feel.

"Damn it, Granger," he sighs. "You're going to make me say it aren't you?"

She stares up into his face, confused, eyes questioning... hoping.

"Buggering hell," he softly swears but then takes hold of her face in a light grip so as to look directly at her. "I love you, Hermione. Damn you. So, say yes to marrying me. Please, Hermione."

"Say that again, Draco," she whispers, flirtatiously. "I like hearing it."

"You want me to say your name, again?"

"No," she laughs, staring at him expectantly. She watches a frown form on the lips that just tasted hers.

"Say yes, Hermione," he demands huskily, "I'm not going to beg."

"No! Not that! I meant the other thing about— Oh, never mind... But about the not begging thing? Really, Draco? You won't beg?" she shifts under him, slipping a frisky hand between them to touch him in a place that makes him groan. "Not even a little bit?"

"Hermion—," he begins on a protesting gasp, his eyes flutter shut so he doesn't notice her sultry little smile.

"I love you, too, you prat. And yes, Draco Malfoy. Yes. Let's get married," she says pulling his lips to hers again.

After a heated snog that surpasses each one of their most feisty fantasies, Draco pulls up for some air. He stares down at her flushed face, thoroughly enjoying the sight of her appearing so ravished beneath him.

"So, Granger, we've still a long ride yet to Scotland. Do you think you might want to—?" he wiggles his eyebrows suggestively just as he wiggles his hips against hers.

She smirks, feeling a delicious ache below as he slides himself more comfortably against her. The carriage is warm and cozy and suddenly, she can think of no better way to spend the rest of their journey. With a suggestive lift of her own brow she sighs, "Perhaps, Draco, but only if you beg..."


Originally written for Malfoy Manor's October Weekly One Shots

Prompt #1: Rain on her skin smelled like perfection...

Disclaimer: Sadly, all recognizable characters belong to J. K. Rowling and not to me.