Chapter 1

Cafeteria, Ministry of Magic, London, England

18 December 2003, Thursday

'What're you looking at, Hermione?'

Hermione quickly looked away and focused on Harry, who was sitting adjacent to her at a table in the Ministry cafeteria.

'Nothing...' She mumbled and immediately changed the subject. 'So how's your department doing? I hear that you've made headway on the hunt for Avery.'

Harry began to tell her about how he was spotted in China, but Hermione was only pretending to listen, she already knew all this anyway. No, her focus was back on the white blond head of Draco Malfoy who was currently taking a seat across from Theo Nott a few tables down.

Everyone admitted that he had changed, even Harry, although there was still no love lost between them. Hermione could even go so far as saying that Draco had become famous for his reformation. He was undersecretary to the head of the law department, part of the Wizengamot and convicted all the Death Eaters caught by the Auror department. Everyone knew it was only a matter of time before he took over the whole department, and only at the tender age of twenty-three.

Six whole years since the war and Hermione's been in love with him the past two.

She felt utterly foolish of course, they hadn't even spoken unless you count the times when he would absent-mindedly say good morning in the lift, not even looking at her and she would only nod, her tongue thoroughly tide up, or the times their departments intermingled, which was practically never.

She knew he never noticed her, but she couldn't help but notice him.

He had grown out of his skinniness from school, his shoulders had widened and he had grown taller. Hermione knew the top of her head only reached his shoulder; she had remembered because he had squeezed in next to her at the lift, and at the close contact she couldn't help but notice he also happened to smell delicious, his cologne making her weak at the knees and a tiny bit lightheaded. His patrician nose was no longer up in the air, and his full, firm lips were only in a sneer when he was in court. His mercurial grey eyes were intense but never at her and his white blond hair flopped into them, making him look boyish and endearing, which of course he was neither.

She didn't remember when she had first noticed him in the capacity other than loathing but when she had, she realized how lost she had become.

That was when the dreams came.

She would dream about his long, slender fingers running down her body, his beautiful eyes locked on hers, his lips whispering her name. The dreams were so vivid, she would wake up panting.

After that, every time she looked at him, her cheeks went up in flame. Not that he noticed. She was really a non-entity to him and she admitted her pride took a hit at the fact.

The dreams continued, and every day, her unrequited feelings grew.

Harry finished up what he was saying but at the uncharacteristically glassy look in Hermione's eyes, he sighed, deciding to keep silent.

Hermione seemed to snap out of it, when she sensed Harry had finished talking and blushed. 'I'm sorry, Harry. I just have a lot on my mind.'

Harry just shrugged, not taking offence, but in a quiet voice he said, 'its Malfoy, isn't it?'

Hermione's head snapped round and her eyes widened alarmingly. 'What?'

Harry patted her hand, 'Don't worry, Hermione. You don't make it obvious. I wouldn't have noticed if Ginny hadn't said something to me.'

Hermione still looked stressed, thinking hard, 'Ginny knows?' Not knowing she had inadvertently confirmed their suspicions.

'Of course she does. She's very perceptive you know.'

'How long?' Hermione mumbled.

Harry coughed into his hand, 'A while…'

'And you're only mentioning that you know now? Why?'

'I don't know. I just saw you staring at Malfoy and you looked so miserable, I don't think I could've not said something.'

Hermione slumped in her chair, looking a little dejected. 'Are you mad?'

Harry smiled kindly, then pulled a face, 'No but I can't account for you taste in men.'

Hermione's sat up from her slumped position so fast Harry's eyes blurred, a look of horror on her face, 'Ron doesn't know, does he?'

'No, Hermione, don't worry, but even if he does, why does it matter?'

'He hates Draco more than you do and you know what a temper he has.'

'Yeah well, that's his problem, isn't it?' Hermione only shrugged.

After a few minutes of silence, Harry couldn't help but ask, 'So what are you going to do about it?'

'What are you talking about?'

Harry gave her a look that said clearly he knew she was playing dumb and it wasn't a good look, 'What are you going to do about Malfoy?'

Hermione looked down brushing a lock of hair behind her ear, 'There's nothing I can do. He doesn't notice me and I haven't the guts to talk to him.'

Harry sighed, dragging a hand through his hair, making it stick up even more at the back, 'I can't pretend I know anything about all this, Hermione. You were always the person out of all of us that knew about feelings stuff, so maybe you should ask Ginny for advice.'

Hermione looked at him incredulously and stood up, 'Thanks a lot, Harry.' She said sarcastically.

Harry looked pleased to have helped and Hermione rolled her eyes. 'See you later.' She said, waving a hand behind her as she walked away.

'Dense man.' She muttered furiously as she walked.

She heard a cough and looked up, right into Draco Malfoy's eyes and stopped dead. She swallowed hard, her face going scarlet, 'Erm, not you.' She mumbled in embarrassment.

He looked ahead of him again, beginning to walk away, and drawled- his face completely bland, 'Never dreamed it.'

Hermione watched his back as he exited the cafeteria and groaned; she was such a dork. What was wrong with her?

Maybe she should have that chat with Ginny.

XXXXX

Potter Residence, Godrics Hollow, London, England

Same day

'It's simple really, Hermione, you need to attract him,' Seeing the look on Hermione's face, Ginny quickly tried to explain. 'Not that you aren't attractive, but it's hidden behind, well no offense or anything, hideous clothes.'

Hermione had gone to the Potter's house after work, (Harry was still at the Ministry) and had confronted Ginny about the knowledge of Hermione's stupid love of all things Malfoy, and what she should do now.

Hermione looked at her clothes in dismay, she never really cared about the way she looked, always wanting people to see her for her intelligence, but she had to admit that Ginny just may have a point; she did look a bit drab.

Hermione looked at Ginny as she spoke again, 'Malfoy always dresses impeccably. He always looks good, and you, Hermione, need to start caring about your appearance. It's important.'

Hermione sighed, conceding. 'I know, I've been meaning to get a new wardrobe for a while now, but I've been putting it off. I just want you to know that I want to do it for myself, and not for Draco. If he wants me, it shouldn't be because of the way I look. There are more important things than that.'

Ginny patted her on the knee, 'It wasn't in doubt, Hermione.'

Hermione smiled genuinely before it became forced, 'So… Shopping?' she said, trying to sound enthusiastic. Hermione hated shopping.

Ginny laughed, seeing through Hermione immediately, 'I'll make it as painless as possible, you give me the money and I'll make the selections.'

'Agreed.'

Hermione wasn't worried about what Ginny might choose for her. Ginny had fantastic taste, not that Hermione would at first feel comfortable in anything Ginny chose but, hey, she was willing to try. She just wished all this wasn't necessary.

'We'll have to go Saturday. I'm busy tomorrow.'

Ginny clapped her hands in glee. 'That's perfect! The Ministry Christmas Ball is on Saturday night. We can get you an amazing outfit that will knock Malfoy onto his perfect arse.'

Hermione bit her lip, feeling uncomfortable. 'I wasn't planning on going, but I guess you're going to make me.'

'Oh, most definitely,' said Ginny, smug smile firmly in place.

XXXXX

The Ministry of Magic, London, England

19 December 2003, Friday Morning

The next day, Hermione was feeling slightly better about herself; the pity-party she put herself through finally over, and her usual optimism firmly in place.

Hermione leaned back in her chair and put down her quill. She had managed to miraculously get all her work done that morning, leaving her free for the rest of the day. She knew she needed to get cracking on next weeks work, but for once, Hermione decided against it.

She looked out of the window in her office, and sighed at the sunny day. Of course she knew the window were a fake, but when it was a good day outside, Maintenance usually kept the windows in sync to the day outside.

Picking up her handbag and slipping on her pumps back (she usually shook off during the day), Hermione decided a long lunch was in order. She promised herself she would come back in later and get started on next weeks deadlines.

After lunch at the Leaky Cauldron, Hermione walked around Diagon Alley, window shopping. She popped into Flourish and Blotts to see if the book she out an order in had arrived then went into the Magical Menagerie to pick up some cat food for Crookshanks. After shrinking all her goods to fit into her pocket, Hermione glanced at her watch and sighed. It was already twenty minutes after one o'clock, and remembering her promise to herself, strolled back to the Leaky Cauldron to floo back to the Ministry.

There was a bit of a line waiting at the grates, and she was just about to unshrink her book, when a tall woman with silver hair barreled into her.

'Oh, I'm so sorry.' She muttered quickly, her hair swishing out behind her as she ran out of the Leaky Cauldron, toward muggle London.

'Oh, don't worry about me,' Hermione muttered sarcastically, rubbing her arm, 'you only nearly ripped my arm off. No big deal.' Hermione bent down to pick up the tiny book (she hadn't had a chance to enlarge it yet) she had dropped when the woman had bashed into her and paused. The woman had dropped her bangle.

Hermione picked it up, and examined it; it was the most beautiful piece she had ever seen. It was made out of a metal that looked like white-gold, but Hermione couldn't be sure, it looked too fine to be of any metal she would recognize, probably goblin made and was about a centimeter in thickness. There wasn't a clasp as it was made to slip over your hand and wrist, and on the inside, it was inscribed with runes she didn't recognize. Hermione felt an excitement at the unknown, itching to get her ancient runes book out and start researching, but with a sinking heart knew she had to find the owner and return it to her. She would probably miss a piece like this dreadfully.

She walked around the people to look for Tom, who she knew remembered all the clientele and was trust-worthy enough to return the bangle to the silver haired woman.

She went to the reception desk and only saw a very shifty character who scowled at her. 'Waddaya want?' He asked rudely.

'I'm looking for Tom? Where might I find him?'

'Sick, ain't he? Ugly, old codger caught 'imself the Dragon Pox.' He snickered, 'I'm filling in 'til he get better. Now waddaya want?'

Hermione looked at the man again; he was completely bald, with a droopy eye. A scar mangled the left side of his face from his eye to his chin, pulling down the side of his mouth so he looked terribly lopsided. He was also leering at her in a manner that made her feel very uncomfortable. There was absolutely no chance that she was going to leave the bangle with this creep.

'Um, yes, I was looking for a lady with long silver hair. Does she come to by here often?'

'How I supposed to know that, I's told you I was filling in for Tom. Won't know the locals, will I?'

Hermione looked around, ready for the conversation to end, 'Yes well, if you see her could you please give this to her?' Hermione took the quill on the desk and a piece of paper and wrote her office number at the ministry so that the lady could owl her. 'Tell her to please contact me. I have something of hers.'

The creepy man took the paper and looked at Hermione with speculative eyes, 'Wha's init for me?'

Hermione sighed and reached into her purse and gave the man a sickle.

'A'ight then missy, I'll keep an eye out.'

'Thank you.' With that, Hermione turned and walked back to the fireplace, slipping the bracelet onto her wrist for safe keeping.

Hermione dug into her pocket for her floo powder and threw some in the fires. Stepping into the grate, she called out 'Ministry of Magic' and whooshed away. Stepping out into the Atrium, she dusted off her clothes and determined to get a head start on her work; she strode to her office without another thought to the bangle, not noticing when it tightened gently around her wrist.

XXXXX

The Ministry of Magic, London, England

19 December 2003, Seven O'clock PM

Hermione pushed the button to call the lift, tiredly rubbing her eyes. She had once again let time get away from her and the corridors were empty, only candlelight coming from some of the offices, indicating she wasn't the last one in the Ministry again.

The lift stopped at her floor with a nerve-racking clatter and rumbled open and she stepped in and pushed the button for the Atrium. Just as the doors were closing, Hermione heard a voice, 'Hold the doors, please.'

Hermione knew that voice, deep and smooth and she felt her stomach riot with the butterflies trying to escape. She stopped the doors and it clattered open again.

'Thanks.' He said, as he walked into the lifts and leaned on the wall as the door closed once more. He spared her a glance, and then proceeded to look into space, completely ignoring her again. Surprise, surprise.

Hermione took a deep breath, hoping that her voice was steady, 'Working late?' She asked, softly.

His eyes settled on hers, and he just nodded.

That was it for her courage and she moved her eyes to the numbers above the door, watching them count down.

Hermione gritted her teeth in frustration, where was the Granger wit when she needed it?

She risked a quick glance at him again, and jolted when she realized he was still looking at her, a puzzled expression on his face. He seemed to mentally shrug, focusing on the wall behind her again.

His handsome face kept drawing her eye, but she made sure she wasn't being obvious about it. Her heart was beating so hard, and images from her dreams kept popping up behind her eyes. She felt herself get wet and she had to bite her lips to keep a moan in.

The ding came making Hermione jump, indicating they were at the floor they wanted and at a nod in her direction, strode out, walking towards one of the many fireplaces lining the walls.

Hermione watched him go, longing obvious in her eyes.

I wish that he loved me.

She shrieked in surprise, as the bangle she forgot she was wearing became poker hot, but before Hermione could do anything about it, a second later and it was cool again.

She stared at the bangle in amazement. What just happened?

Hermione tried to tug it off, but to her surprise, it wouldn't even go past where her hand met her wrist. How peculiar.

She shrugged, thinking that she would take a better look when she got home.

Authors Note: I know that you are used to my smutty stuff and trust me; it's going to get very steamy in the chapters to come. But as an author you have to get your base down before you can get to the interesting bits. Stick with me, you won't be disappointed.