AN: This is SLASH. You have been warned. (it's also my first attempt at writing be warned about that as well.)

I do not own these characters, nor the wonderful world of Harry Potter.

She could not understand how one person could be so horrible to every single person in existence with the exception of one. She did not think she ever would.

Draco Malfoy was still the same blatantly arrogant bastard he had always been in Hogwarts, just now with good looks and great hair behind his pride, Hermione thought to herself, smiling slightly.

His white-blonde hair was combed to perfection, away from his face, which was now no longer pointed, but angular and aristocratic. His grey eyes were icy and glacial, with absolutely no emotion beside that of manipulation and malice. A smirk played around the edges of his cruelly thin lips, but even those suited his face-they were made to seem fuller by his swooping cheekbones, his sharp chin, his hollow cheeks. His eyes were large and angular, giving the illusion that he was both staring you down and looking disdainfully through you.

He was wearing the best of the best, with robes of deep, charcoal grey lined in black silk and accented with emerald green. An earring, black onyx, shone darkly on his left ear-a sign of rebellion that even his father nor the head of his department's regulations could have prevented, because the post-war Draco had wanted a touch of something Muggle in his life to show how unlike his family he was.

There was really nothing on earth like a Malfoy, Hermione thought humorously to herself as she took a sip of her champagne. Proud to the point of foolishness, loyal to the point of idiocy, and apparently even individuals when one gives them the chance-but cruel, all of them.

For Draco Malfoy, despite his loyalty to the Ministry and his newfound beliefs about Muggles and their rights and his individualism, was cruel.

Hermione saw the cruelty everywhere. In the flinching of his coworkers and even his boss when they approached him, in the twisting of his mouth when he said a certain phrase or word. She saw it in the glint of steel in his eyes; she saw it in his hands as their elegantly long, white fingers wrapped around the stem of his tall glass of champagne of which she had yet to see him actually take a drink from.

It would be hard to overcome so many years of being taught to be cruel, she supposed, sipping again at the bubbling drink in her hand with a sigh. She twisted her hand in the sparkling red fabric of her dress, and tried to relax. She hoped he wouldn't notice her here, because she could see that Malfoy was looking for an escape from his coworkers.

An escape that was not forthcoming, because she did not want to become the next focus of his cruelty, and God forbid that he come this direction before she was suitably intoxicated or before she had company of her own.

"Oh shit," she sighed, noticing who was now approaching Malfoy. It was the young daughter of an ambassador; she had recently graduated from an American school of magic, and was dressed in a revealing sort of formal dress. Not exactly what one should wear to a Ministry ball, but not something that would get one ejected from it either. However, it would not save her from getting royally rejected in the form of one Draco Malfoy.

Really, there was nothing quite like it.

"Shall we sit back and enjoy the show?" Blaise asked, appearing behind her shoulder, grinning maliciously. She and he had become quite good friends recently, as they worked in the same office, and she turned to scowl at him though her eyes still smiled.

"That's rude, Blaise," she scolded. "She's going to be very hurt."

"She knows he's taken," he pointed out. "She's just trying her luck. Like every other girl since they started dating."

Hermione shrugged, deciding that if she looked at it that way, Blaise had a point. The girl had it coming. She tried one last time, deciding that doing so would mean that she defended the girl enough to actually enjoy watching her get shut down. "She doesn't know who, though, Blaise."

"Does it matter who, Hermione?" Blaise asked, incredulously, frowning. "If it were Luna Lovegood or Neville Longbottom or some sort of nobody from the second floor of the Ministry, then what would it matter? She would still be trying to steal him from someone."

And then she really decided to enjoy the show, as Blaise had so wonderfully put it.

She couldn't quite hear everything that was being said, but she could see Draco's trademark smirk. She was fairly positive that every article that ever came out about the latest Malfoy mentioned that smirk, and that he actually did receive royalties from it-she wouldn't be surprised if it was true. He was laughing on the inside at this girl's attempts to woo him.

She kept trying. She tried to ask him to dance, to buy him a drink.

"What have I missed?" Ron's voice asked as an arm wrapped around her waist. He watched slightly curiously as the girl stepped a bit closer to Draco. He kissed Hermione's cheek, deciding that there was nothing of worth going on. "Another charming little child trying to get into the ferret's pants?"

"Precisely," Blaise answered, grinning at the man he considered one of his best mates. "How've you been, mate? Haven't seen you around. The missus keeping you locked up?"

Ron snorted. "You know it," he laughed, kissing Hermione lightly on the nose to show that he was joking. "I love my short leash," he added, adding a growl to his voice to enforce the innuendo. Hermione blushed.


Blaise just winked.

"Hello, Hermione, Blaise," Harry said cordially as he strolled up behind them, completely ignoring his two best friends' antics. He was very used to the newly weds' by now.

"Harry, you look very nice tonight," Hermione complimented, looking him up and down. He wore black robes with silver edging and silver accents, completing the look with an emerald tie that matched his eyes precisely. She knew that he and Ron had just gotten back from an Auror mission running slightly late, and so they had been late to the ball.

"Thanks, Hermione," Harry said, smiling. "You look gorgeous, of course. I'm sure Ron has already told you, though."

"He hasn't," Hermione pointed out, looking at her husband of three months and glaring, but laughed when he blushed.

"You're stunning," he finally said, kissing her. "And I'm foxy."

"Very much so," she agreed, kissing his nose.

"Not that this isn't very nice...but it's getting interesting down there," Blaise said, turning them back to their nightly entertainment.

Draco had finally gotten past his own amusement at the persistent girl. Gone was the patient, laughing, cruel smirk-in its place was a scowl that should be in the nightmare of every child. His skin was paler than normal, a sure sign of anger, and his eyes were no longer a cruel, glacial grey-instead they were two pits of turbulent storm, glaring into the heart shaped face of the ambassador's daughter.

"He could cause a war," Hermione breathed.

"It'll be fine. Harry's on it," Ron said, summing up the situation.

And indeed, Harry was on it. He had taken one glance at the blonde aristocrat's face, set Hermione's champagne-of which he had been about to partake-down, and just about sprinted through the coalescing crowd to the base floor of the domed hall where the angry man was standing with the woman who had made him so.

And it was a good thing that he did, for Hermione knew that even so he was too late, because Draco was already beyond furious.

"How dare you," the ex-Slytherin hissed, his voice carrying through the now silent ballroom, sending shivers down the spines of everyone in hearing distance, "how dare you even approach me in such a blatant, forward fashion, you harlot. You are perfectly aware that I am in a relationship with someone I adore. I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt before-you being from the Americas-but then you had the audacity to even dare mention that you could even possibly be better for me at all."

"We are in trouble," Blaise breathed, terror visible in his wide, dark eyes. "He's talking in italics again. I hate it when he does that."

"You are completely unaware of who my significant other even is. Without that information, how could you know with incontrovertible proof that you would be a better match for one such as I? And then, then you, scum, say that since I am dateless here tonight, right now, clearly our love is not enough? That since we are not public clearly we do not care for each other enough?"

Draco was beyond rage; he was apoplectic. His cruelty in this moment knew no bounds. The girl was near tears, red in the face with humiliation, but she had gone a step to far. Malfoy looked completely unstable in his cruelty, his ferocity in ripping this girl to shreds, because she had been cruel to him in insisting that he did not feel enough love.

"I cannot even begin to fathom where one could create such an idea as the one that one does not love another enough. I love him more than I care to admit, filth, and you most likely cannot even begin to comprehend what that means."

Suddenly Draco stopped, and the whole room gasped to see why.

Harry Potter had finally reached him through the crowded room, and had placed a single, gentle hand on the blonde's thin waist, quieting him instantly. The tan hand rested on the charcoal fabric, the blonde's tense build relaxed slightly, and he turned only slightly so that the corner of his gaze captured the smallest bit of Harry's face within it as they were exactly the same height.

And there was the conundrum Hermione had been talking about.

The oddity that was Harry James Potter and Draco Abraxas Malfoy.

As soon as Harry's hand created pressure on Draco's waist-before Draco had even seen or heard Harry behind him-the cruelty had drained from Draco's face and eyes and mouth. The vitriol had stopped spilling from his lips. His eyes stopped swirling grey clouds and turned into a gentle, sea-blue grey that was both heartbreaking and beautiful. It was love.

Harry stepped forward, never releasing Draco's waist, pulling him slightly tighter against him, and suddenly Hermione saw a bit of cruelty and kindness war in the expression on Harry's face. It settled on kindness.

"Hello," he greeted the girl, smiling. "I'm Harry Potter...I believe you've met my boyfriend, Draco Malfoy?"

She stared up at him, open mouthed. "I don't believe it," she whispered, looking back and forth between them. "I'd heard that you hated each other."

The cruelty flashed in Harry's eyes again. It was brief, mixed with possessiveness, and Hermione thought for a moment that he was spending a bit too much time under Draco's influence.

"Believe it," he said, leaning down. He added quietly, though in the absolutely still and silent room the words carried everywhere, "He is mine."

And to seal the deal, Harry Potter pressed his lips to those of Draco Malfoy.

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