Disclaimer: Harry Potter and co. belong to JKR.

A/N: I know. It's late! Sorry, I've been so preoccupied with University these past few weeks. Just bear with me, I do intend to finish and update more regularly from now on. Fingers crossed.

The moment eternal - just that and no more -

When ecstasy's utmost we clutch at the core

While cheeks burn, arms open, eyes shut and lips meet

- Robert Browning


"Sweet Merlin, how do you survive in the real world?" Hermione ran a frustrated hand through her tangled mass of curls, slamming shut yet another empty cabinet in Malfoys vast penthouse kitchen. Despite it being a comfortable modern space filled with all the necessary magical and Muggle appliances, it was overwhelmingly empty. All she had found so far was a six pack of green jelly in a dark corner of the pantry.

Malfoy lounged lazily in a rather uncomfortable looking stool, his elbows propped on the marble island, his hands cupped his amusedly titled head from where he had watched her extremely unsuccessful expedition to scavenge food.

"My major-domo usually takes care of that kind of thing. Seeing as how I was meant to be at my ancestral home for the duration of this week, he ensured all perishable food items were removed from my kitchen. You could just accept my earlier offer…"

Hermione's mouth twitched in reluctant amusement. She shot him a quelling look, careful to conceal it, however. "I know you usually date the stereotypical one-meal-per-week supermodel, but I assure you that realistic women like me need more to survive than a shot of semen to last me through the day."

He sighed dramatically as he listlessly slid off his perch. "Modern women; none of you have any concept of working for your meals. You just want to waltz into the lap of rich man and expect to be spoon fed. Just look at me, I'm not complaining, I'm perfectly happy to eat pussy and green jelly for the duration of the day."

She snorted, skirting his grasping hands as she made for the flight of stairs, the towel from her second shower still tucked tightly under her arms. "No more sexual favours until I'm fed, Malfoy."

She shot him a look over her shoulder needlessly; he was already ascending the stairs, his lascivious eyes firmly fixed on her swaying arse. "I'm going to get dressed and go out for breakfast. You can do what you like."

Malfoy tucked a finger between her shoulder blades, snagging the back of towel and pulling it away, discarding it over the railing of the staircase. His hands greedily cupped the globes of her backside before sneaking forward to still her flexing hips, pulling her back to tuck her against his burgeoning arousal.

Hermione smacked his hands though he resolutely held tight. "Did you hear me, ferret?"

"Acknowledged and dismissed, Beaver." He kissed the curve of her shoulder, lightly scraping his teeth over the area, sinking the incisors lightly into her skin, effectively holding her in place so his hands could go wandering. "I destroyed your clothing and you don't have any money. See…ouch, you banshee!"

She released the grasp she had on the lobe of his ear and continued to ascend the stairs. "That's why I'm going to borrow one of your shirts, floo to my apartment and go from there."

Malfoy stood open-mouthed and gaping behind. "But…but I want to have sex! I got you away from mother's prison and you want to celebrate our miraculous escape by doing something as banal as eating and getting dressed?"

She shouted over her shoulder as she turned the corner towards his bedroom. "We celebrated several times last night as your bed sheets, the chaise lounge upholstery and the wool rug would attest."

Malfoy caught up to her in several bounding steps just as she was pulling on a pristine white shirt from his laughably immense walk-in closet. She buttoned each pearl button with aplomb as his fingers closed convulsively around her arms.

"Don't worry," she stated with a cool smile. "I'll have the shirt dry cleaned and returned to you before you know it."

She gently pried his fingers from her arms while he did a remarkably adorable impression of a fish out of water.

"You…you can't."

Hermione raised an eyebrow. "Oh? Is this one of those annoyingly prissy shirts that need to be hand-washed and…"

Malfoy's brows snapped together angrily. "No, you bint. I meant that you can't leave…"

"Because?" She prompted as she walked around his frozen form.

"…Because…because…well…aren't you going to fish for another date? A diamond ring? A commitment in some way, shape or form?"

Hermione spun and eyed him, unsure of how to interpret his words. Cool though he may be, Hermione wasn't silly enough to brush him aside as an emotionless snake. They had all learned harsh lessons during the war and whatever the enmity between them, she didn't want to hurt him anymore than she had to. The sex was cataclysmic but that was by no means a reason or a foundation for the beginning of a relationship…if that was what he wanted.

"Is that what you want?" She ventured hesitantly.

"No. Of course not." He spat instantly. "We're two consenting adults. We can just have sex and go our separate ways. No regrets or recriminations involved."

Hermione felt a curious twinge somewhere in the region of her chest but brushed it aside. She smiled serenely. "No regrets. I'll see you for the ball on the solstice."

She moved from the room and swift footsteps carried her down the stairs to the large fireplace which looked oddly fitting in the parlour to the side of the front door. The marble and golden detailing around the mantelpiece seemed to belong in an ancient Italian manor rather than a sleek London penthouse. A beautifully carved box, inlaid with mother of pearl detailing sat beside a vase full of blooming roses and a quick look inside revealed what looked like ashes with a faint verdant glow.

She grabbed a handful and stepped into the immense fireplace before she could allow the thoughts which pushed at the back of her mind to come to the forefront.

Hermione tumbled into her own living room a moment later, coughing as she brushed dark streaks off her shirt. She patted down her hair as she propped herself up on her coffee table, staggering to her feet as she winced at the soreness between her thighs. A good hot soak in her bathtub would take care of that but Hermione found she was in no mood to sit alone and contemplate the past few days.

Instead, she rushed into her bathroom and found what spare toiletries she could and washed her face, brushed her teeth and set about concealing the purpling love bites on her neck. Once she had dressed, Hermione paused at leaving her apartment, smiling bemusedly as she finally remembered leaving her wallet and all her bank cards at Malfoy manor.

With a dry laugh, she resigned herself to a scrounged meal at home until she could turn up at Harry's door when he finished work for the day.

A quick check of her own kitchen cupboards revealed almost as little as Malfoys. She didn't need a major-domo to tell her a week's time could spoil most of her provisions. She was left with two options. A long forgotten box of stale breakfast cereal and several cans of aged sardines which could likely survive nuclear fallout.

A pounding knock interrupted her musings.

"One moment!" She yelled as she did a quick survey in the reflective surface of the toaster to make sure the skin of her neck looked relatively normal. A hopeless cause she saw with a frown.

Hermione darted to the door, praying it wasn't another travelling salesman intent on selling her a share in a house that likely didn't exist. She undid the deadlock and swung open the door with a polite smile. It dropped instantly.

"Malfoy. What…?"

The blond frowned lightly as he stared at her blandly. "You left your wand." He shoved it into her hands and Hermione blushed. She hoped that he didn't misinterpret her forgetfulness as some feminine ploy to extend their acquaintance.

"Oh. Thanks Malfoy."

He nodded, leaning against her doorjamb, his hands tucked leisurely in his pockets.

Hermione watched him as he watched her. He remained silent and unmoving for several moments more as she internally debated the significance of his actions. Behind him, she could see her gossip mongering neighbour, Mr. Caruthers limp up the stairs. His beady keen eyes was already glittering at the sight of a foreign presence in their shared corridor.

She waited just long enough to meet those gleeful eyes to offer a forcibly calm smile before she stepped aside. "Come in."

Malfoy pushed off and walked in with a small relieved smile. Hermione slammed the door behind him.

"Do you want something to drink? I think I have tea and instant coffee or…"

Malfoy made himself at home in one of her flowery armchairs. "Tea will do."

Hermione nodded awkwardly and set about boiling the water, popping small teabags into two mugs. As her small silver electrical kettle bubbled to life, she stared needlessly at it, fiddling emptily and struggling for something to say. She was burning with curiosity about why he was here but it seemed rather rude to demand his purpose after he had so graciously returned her wand to her.

The click from her kettle startled Hermione and she jumpily grasped the appliance, filling the two mugs before setting them in front of Malfoy who surveyed her living room and adjoining kitchen with something akin to morbid curiosity.

"Sweet Merlin's britches, Granger, it looks like Umbridge's personal little love dungeon."

Hermione fought the urge to tip her scalding tea all over his lap.

"It is a little too floral but I've had this apartment since I graduated Hogwarts."

"I would've thought my father paid you enough to change that."

Hermione's instincts rose to the forefront. Did he know about her agreement with Lucius Malfoy? Was Draco in on the deal for the grant? What would be his purpose for bribing her to make an appearance when Narcissa obviously had matchmaking on her mind? Was this some sort of sick joke? Had it all been planned…Good God had she been paid to have sex with Draco in some sick roundabout way?

"What do you mean?" She demanded.

Malfoy sat forward and eyed her curiously. "My father does pay you a salary doesn't he? I knew you were a bleeding heart but…"

He trailed off but Hermione caught his meaning and relaxed slowly. "Of course. But rent in London is bloody expensive and I'm saving to buy a nice cottage of my own…"

"Yes, yes, alright, Granger. I didn't ask for your life story."

Hermione closed her mouth with a click, grinding her back teeth together as had become her habit these past few days.

"Can I help you with something then?"

Malfoy stared at her for a while as if attempting to puzzle out a particularly tricky riddle. "Aren't you going to offer me some sustenance after I so graciously brought you your wand?"

She ground her teeth harder, suppressing the spiteful retort at the tip of her tongue.

"I don't have much…" she glared when he snorted, standing so that she could rifle through her cabinets again. "I have Coco Puffs though…"

Hermione frowned at the expiry date. They were cutting it close but there were likely enough preservatives in that one box to preserve human flesh for an eternity.

Malfoy stood close behind her, reaching for the box curiously. "Coco puffs?"

"Yes. Muggle breakfast cereal. I don't have any milk but…" She eyed a can of orange fizzy drink with a shrug.

Malfoy ripped open the packaging with a shrug, digging his hand into the plastic and coming out with a handful of the chocolate grains. He tasted them experimentally, licked his lips with a happy moan and proceeded to reach for another handful.

Hermione eyed him balefully. Draco Malfoy apparently had more in common with Ron Weasley than he was liable to admit. She didn't say as much, not wanting to exasperate an already awkward situation with hostility.

She sat down wearily, wincing as the muscles in her thighs quivered with effort from the slow descent. Malfoy plopped careless down across from her at her circular dining table.

"I brought you something." He said suddenly in-between mouthfuls.

Hermione looked up from where her tense gaze had rested just as his legs brushed hers, making her jolt in surprise.


Malfoy set down the comical looking cereal box, reaching into his pocket and retrieved a small rectangular package wrapped in non-descript brown paper. He set it before himself on the table and nudged it towards her with an agonised expression.

"It…occurred to me…after you left." He said as if explained it all. He shrugged his shoulders and waited.

Hermione knew instantly what it was and took it with a grimace. A pregnancy test. The fact that he thought she had been irresponsible enough to sleep with him without thinking of contraceptives was vaguely insulting but she could understand his reasoning behind it.

"I'm not pregnant. I'm on the pill." She stated resolutely, almost expecting the answer that came.

He scoffed. "Muggle medication; Malfoy genetics –"

"Despite you delusional, arrogant presumptions, your swimmers are not exempt from the rules of biology." Hermione interrupted with a huff, ripping open the brown paper with a frown. "The combined oral contraceptive pill functions by interfering with the natural hormonal fluctuations within the woman's body and hence –"

Malfoy interrupted with a slash of his hand through the air. "Thanks for the inconsequential rant, Granger. But I wouldn't trust your nonsensical muggle science to de-worm that fur ball you call a cat. So be a good girl like you were last night," He spared her a knowing smile, "and drink the bloody potion."

Hermione was already uncorking the vial just to shut him up. She pitched the small stopper at his head contrarily and threw back the potion, swallowing the bitter, viscous substance with a grimace. She fought the urge to gag and set down the glass bottle to wipe her mouth, uncaring that his lips twisted into a sneer at her actions.

"Were you raised by wolves?"

"In a cave too, for effect." Hermione shot back with a snap. Nausea twisted her stomach and she snapped her mouth shut instantly. She salivated and swallowed convulsively before the glass vial started vibrating frantically from where she had placed it. The movement stopped the instant her eyes flew to it and glowed a vibrant red.

She met Malfoy's eyes across the table.

"I had to be sure." He muttered to her, snatching up the bottle to examine the colour as if he expected the potion to change its mind. "I have another in my pocket if…"

"No." Hermione set her foot down firmly. "These things are nearly a hundred percent accurate. Another wouldn't alter the result."

His lips twisted. "Shall we celebrate then?"

"I'd rather not if it's all the same to you."

"It's not all the same to me. Now that your muggle science has quite surprisingly done its job, I think it would be our duty to further test its capacity for protection against pureblood sperm."

"Get out." Hermione wasn't sure if she was annoyed or amused. It seemed safer to go with the former emotion when it came to Draco. She pointed a finger at the front door.

"Your manners could do with a spruce up."

"Get out." She repeated as her lips twitched, almost into a semblance of a smile.

"Alright; I'll get out if you get out with me."

"Get out."

"I'll buy you breakfast." He checked his watch. "Lunch, I'll buy you lunch."

Hermione snorted just as her stomach rumbled ominously. She briefly debated the merits of stubborn denial but didn't think her body would likely forgive her for it. "Deal."

"You're a cheap date, Granger." He gave her a stunning smile.

"What makes you think this is a date?" She shot back with a wicked smile.

"My name is Draco Malfoy –"

"Well done for remembering! Can you spell it too?" She interrupted as she stood.

He shot her a quelling look. "– and women can't resist me."

She heard him stand to follow her. His steps sped up as he rushed past her, opened the front door with a flourish and bowed.

"Cliché." She sidestepped him.

Malfoy closed the door as he rolled his eyes. He stepped up beside her and offered the crook of his arm.

"Unimaginative." Hermione dismissed.

"Chivalry is dead because you killed it." His dry comment was whispered huskily in her ear. "Now stop arguing Granger and hang on."

A quick squeezing apparation and Hermione found herself standing in Diagon alley, at the mouth of a seedy looking side street where the shadows drowned the filth in darkness and shady witches mingled with morose, shabby wizards.

Malfoy's hand tightened on her arm, dragging her away from the light. "Why are we going into Knockturn alley? I know you think I'm a cheap date but this is taking the joke too far." Hermione demanded, her eyes darting about in case any of her acquaintances and colleagues spotted her going into a dark alley with Draco Malfoy of all people.

"There's a great little café down this way. I promise."

"I bet that's what all the axe murderers say these days besides, there's nothing down there but the lost and forsaken."

Malfoy gave her a sardonic glance, turning to face her while he tucked a hand into the pocket of his dark pants. "That's a poetic way of saying stolen merchandise and whores." He took her hand firmly in his own and exerted the slightest pressure, leading rather than forcing. "Come on, Granger. Where's your sense of adventure? Don't you know that you have to dig through dirt to find treasures?"

"These pants really aren't good for digging…" Hermione protested as the dank smell of the alley closed over them. Just breathing the air made her long for another shower. His grip on her hand however was firm and she reluctantly tripped past a dozen questionable shops with grimy windows and over uneven cobblestones. A few minutes later, the alley widened and the store fronts disappeared, replaced with neat private gardens of private residences. The air was surprisingly refreshing and the road had become an even paved surface.

"Bet you've never seen this end of Knockturn Alley, Granger."

Hermione fought the blush which was rising to her cheeks as he seemed to absentmindedly wrap an arm around her waist, pulling her close as he melodramatically swept his hands across the scene.

"Of course the locals like to call it Knockturn Lane; though how changing alley to lane makes any difference is really beyond my comprehension."

Hermione snorted, happy to just let his arm stay where it was. "Malfoy –"

Draco grunted, interrupting her as the arm around her waist tightened. "I've screwed you silly on my bathroom floor and spent an entire night asleep at the crux of your thighs; I think you've earned the right to call me Draco."

"Draco." Hermione rolled it around on her tongue, tasting a deeper meaning than he probably intended.

"Yes. Well done. Now can you spell it too?" He quipped, throwing her words back at her with good humour and a smile.

Hermione felt her lips twitch reluctantly. She shook her head as his fingers tightened against her hip, steering her onto a gravel garden path leading to a small, neat cottage with a number of wrought iron tables with accompanying chairs.

"Merlin Malf…Draco, it looks like some shady backyard operation." She stared wide eyed as he guided her to a chair facing the deceptively quiet suburban lane. Instead of sitting across from her however, he dragged the opposing seat next to hers, forming a continuous bench and sat close enough to press her tight against his chest. One arm around her, he picked up the menu, sparing it a careless glance before throwing it down and gesturing high for a waiter who looked old enough to be Albus Dumbledore's crib mate.

"Ungrateful lil' whelp; back are ye? Well, ye ain't welcome n'more. Struttin' yer skinny arse back like ye own the joint. Ye din own shit…ye can kiss me saggin' behind. I'll give ye whats comin' to ye…"

Hermione watched with morbid fascination as the old man's arthritic fingers reached for his belt buckle, struggling with the mechanism as he tugged at his gangrene suede pants. With a triumphant gurgle, he flung the belt back, cursing the teeth of his zipper with something that sounded rather colourful and heavily Slavic.

"Grandpa!" A tall leggy red head rushed out of the cottage, a scrunched apron in her grasp as she teetered on sky high heels. She flung the apron around the old man's waist, tying the loose ends with a jerk and pink cheeks. "God Grandpa, that's not Billy!"

"Eh? Ungrateful brat's back for…"

"That's not Billy, Grandpa. Billy is in America with his girlfriend. Why don't you go inside and…"

"Hussy!" The old man hissed even as he began shuffling towards the door, mumbling under his breath and shooting Draco harsh, suspicious looks.

"That happens every time I come here," Draco whispered in her ear with a smile, "though usually I get the full Monty before his wife stops him. Apparently I bear some resemblance to his delinquent son."

Hermione jolted and eyed the blushing red head approaching them. "And you still come back huh? Food and show."

"Value for money." He murmured to her with a cheeky wink.

"The red head part of the show?" She whispered to him.

"Never seen her before." He kissed her cheek in an oddly sweet gesture. "She can't compare to you."

Draco got a mouthful of her hair as she swung around wildly to avoid his gaze, trying the hide the blush blooming on her cheeks. She didn't have the chance to retort as the waitress stopped at their table. Hermione smiled stiffly.

"Hello, I'm Melody, I'm…awfully sorry about my grandfather. He has dementia and he well…"

Draco waved away her apology casually. "Where's Annie, anyway?"

Melody seemed to melt under his gaze, her smile softening like melted ice cream. "Grandma rolled her ankle last week and I'm helping out. Are you…are you a regular here?"

Hermione could practically see the beginnings of infatuation in the other woman's eyes. Draco graced her with a casual smile even as his arm tightened around Hermione. "Yes, don't worry, I'm well used your grandfather being a little less than conventional. I just couldn't stay away from Annie's muffins."

Melody giggled, purposelessly in Hermione's opinion.

"Oh well, Grandma's conked on pain killers so I'm doing most of the baking, but I do make a killer peach pie."

Draco smiled charmingly at Hermione and she smiled back stiffly. "What do you say? Feel like a little peach pie?"

Hermione forced herself to nod even as she fantasised about lobotomising the ginger poodle in front of them with a teaspoon. Whoa, damn it, she did not just have that thought. She was a perfectly reasonable, modern woman and…

"No peach pie?" Draco raised his eyebrows as Hermione snapped her head up at his question.


"You just growled." He replied, tilting his head so that he blocked her view of Melody. "Don't you like peach pie?"

"No." Hermione ground her teeth. "I mean yes. I like peach pie just fine but…"

"Good. We'll have two slices of that and some pheasant sandwiches; oh and some of Jamaican coffee Annie seems to favour if you have it." Draco ordered, his eyes still completely focused on Hermione, a curious smile pulling at his lips.

Melody's head bobbed inanely and Hermione gritted her teeth as the other woman rushed away.

Draco stroked down her arm calmly as Melody rushed back in record time, a laden tray balanced precariously in her hand. She stood conspicuously to Draco's left, looking like she had done a good deal of primping and coated her lips in something that was likely named beach-babe pink.

She started placing plates on their little table, pushing aside the salt and pepper shakers even as she pushed her chest out, her former high collared sweater missing along with the stained apron she had worn earlier.

Draco reached out to help, pouring the coffee into two mismatched teacups, and pushing one towards Hermione.

"Just call if you need anything else." The poodle added. "Anything at all." She retreated with notable reluctance at Draco's nod.

"Anything at all." Hermione imitated, her voice purposely breathless and pitchy.

Draco chuckled low, another kiss landing on her cheek much to Hermione's surprise. "No need to be jealous, love. There's plenty of me to go around."

Hermione growled and elbowed him, satisfaction rolling through her as he grunted and the arm around her waist loosened just enough to allow her to stand.

He pulled her down without ceremony. "Now, now, no need to be like that, darling." He spoke even as he took a large mouthful of the pie and set down his fork as he chewed and swallowed. "Besides, this pie has nothing on your sweet taste. Now, if Annie had been here to bake me muffins, well then you'd have a fight on your hands."

She drew back just enough to punch him in the arm but Draco just laughed and drew her back to his side. She jolted violently as she felt his free hand begin to snake up her stocking clad thigh. He purred with approval.

"I'm so glad you had the foresight to wear a skirt."

"Malfoy." She hissed.

"Draco." He corrected.

"Draco. Stop it now, we're in public for goodness sake."

His thumb began drawing circles on her inner thigh.

"But I'm just trying to reassure myself that you're all the woman I need."

"God." Hermione groaned as she tried to pull his hand away. "Do you get your lines off pre-schoolers?"

Draco pouted but his hand retreated much to her relief. However, that was woefully short lived as he pulled out his wand, twirling it casually between his fingers as he watched an elderly couple saunter past their table with sweet smiles and settle a few feet away. Melody rushed up to them, her eyes flickering longingly towards Draco.

"Darling, if your eyes don't come back to me this instant, I'm going to develop a complex."

Hermione continued to watch Melody, her own reasoning unfathomable. "You already have a complex." She muttered.

A spark pinched her and travelled up her arm, spreading quickly like a shock of static electricity. She spun just quickly enough to see him tuck away his wand with a smug smile.

"What are you doing?"

"Teaching you a little lesson." Malfoy returned innocently.

Hermione stood and groaned as a hot fist of sensation clamped around her abdomen.

The elderly couple looked over at them with alarmed expressions even as Hermione collapsed into his arms, her head tucked against his shoulder and she muffled another moan.

"Not to worry!" Draco raised his hand in greeting. "My wife is in her first trimester, the nausea still gets to her."

Hermione scoffed even as the heavy tingles started again.

"Stop it, Draco."

"No. I don't think I will." He replied with a calm smile even as the tingles turned to sharp, hot pinpricks.

They stabbed angrily at her feet, making them burn even as her hands began to throb and burn. She squirmed in her suddenly abrasive clothing, trying to escape the sharp pain.

"What is this?" She demanded breathlessly.

"Patience, darling. Patience."

The pain began crawling up her calves, sending her muscles into spasm and similarly in her forearms. She clasped them around Draco even as his arms came around her calmly, tucking her head once more against his chest even as her fingers began closing convulsively on his shirt. The pain faded in her hands and feet, a heavy throbbing heat settling into her joints as they curled.

It was pain and pleasure. She wasn't sure which.

It shifted again, burning in her chest, burning brighter in her thighs. Hermione felt her mind whirl and teeter precariously at some unknown precipice.

"Shh…just hold on."

"I can't." Hermione heard herself whimper, detached from her voice but focused on the burn.

She arched as the pain shifted between her thighs, tormenting her as Draco sweetly caressed her hair and smothered her moans with an encompassing kiss.

She waited with all the patience she could for the burn to fade, for the pleasure to take hold at the crux of her sex like it had with every other piece of her body. Little by little, the pain waned and the heat became intense. Any moment any moment…her back stretched, she threw her head back, lolling against Draco's shoulder as her eyes stared unseeingly and hot tracks of tears ran down her cheeks.

The release stole through her like a thief in the night, sweeping the confines of her body and leaving her empty, aching and craving desperately for something that could only be found in the arms of the man holding her. She clamped her thighs together as she cried into the neck of his shirt, her shoulders shaking as he stroked her hair back.

"There is a fine line." He murmured to her, strangely intense. "Between what we think we want…and what we truly need." His gaze suddenly seemed far, far from there.

Hermione couldn't understand him even as her body calmed and her tears abated.

"You're so…pure." He murmured as he traced the tracks of her tears with one finger. "So extraordinarily unexpected."

He lowered his head and captured her lips with his. He caressed her heatedly and Hermione responded with something akin to desperation. She parted her lips and allowed him to plunder at will, drinking in his taste like she was dying and he was life giving.

A/N: Interpret at will...I dare you.