Mr & Mrs Malfoy by phlox

Author Notes: Prompts listed at the end. Any likeness to a recent popular movie are completely deliberate (though, of course, no copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made). A million thanks go to my beta, eucalyptus, for giving invaluable feedback and support. This story is thrice as good as it was when you first laid eyes on it, T!

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He ducked under a too-low overhang that couldn't possibly hit him and sped up his chase. His feet were coming down hard again and again on the ground, breath heavy, heart pounding. It was late afternoon, the Muggle market only half full, and few bystanders to get in the way as his quarry zig-zagged through it.

It was obvious to Draco that the wizard had either used a very heavy glamour or Polyjuice from a person too physically unlike him. He ran like he was uncomfortable with the space he took up and was unprepared for the reach of his limbs.

It was the first lesson he'd ever learned about disguising himself: keep close to your own dimensions, or be spotted from a mile away. Draco always kept his simple; cover enough to cloak his identity, but easy to keep up when things got hairy. This bugger's shoddy camouflage wasn't slowing him down any though, as he stayed maddeningly out of range.

The man stumbled, dodging two kids chasing a ball that rolled into his path. Draco quickened his pace to pull ahead. His target was nearly within reach but refused to break stride. Then the man drew his wand, a bold move around Muggles. The movement brought his arm up and across his chest, over his head and bent back to aim behind him with a quick flick.

His aim was true, his pace never slowed. Still, Draco was unprepared for the spell that shot out to bring some sort of tropical fruit spilling down in front of him. The world and Draco's view of it rolled roughly and flipped. When it righted itself, his target was out of the market and turning left a street and a half up.

Draco tore around the turn and ran flat out. He pushed himself to the limit of his endurance until it suddenly seemed like he was running through treacle. The world was going past more and more slowly, as though he was trying to travel the wrong direction on one of those moving pavements.

He could just spot the man in the distance, slowing now as he glanced over his shoulder to see his pursuer losing ground, when the world around him went to gray-scale, and he was sucked back into the present as if through a straw.

"Circe's tits, you're out of shape, Theo," Draco said, leaning his palms on the edge of the Pensieve to catch his breath.

"Did you get a look at the wand?" Theo said, arms crossed tightly over his chest.

"No, you never did get close enough for me to make up the distance." He wiped his forehead, trying to cool off from the exertion of his run through the memory. The air was much too heavy in this room, overheated by the fire blazing in the hearth of the study. The Nott estate was always kept too stuffy; Theo's mom took ill years ago, and she couldn't abide the cold.

"Could you identify him, though?" Theo was on edge and all business as usual.

Draco nodded. "Yeah, it was him." Tossing the hair out of his eyes, he straightened and cleared his throat. "Same technique with casting spells over his shoulder as we saw in Kyrgyzstan and Sydney... frankly, it's that same bungling of the disguise I observed in Sri Lanka. The bloke's only weakness is concealment of his person."

"You'd think that would keep him from repeatedly getting there ahead of us."

Draco pursed his lips at Theo's unflattering statement of the obvious. This guy was becoming a nuisance. It didn't bother him quite as much as it did Theo, as he didn't view him as a threat, but he hated wasting time, and the wizard often either got in their way or did the job for them, rendering months of preparation pointless.

"Well," Draco said, "he ruined this job for all of us, so we're going to have to track Lestrange down again if he hasn't already gone too far to ground."

Theo was already making his way over to the desk to make notes in a thick, leather-bound notebook, fat with use, and Draco could see that his friend seemed to be going without sleep again. He usually did when they were working on a target, but some projects seemed more personal to him than others. Draco always tried to keep an eye on him, starting to worry when the circles appeared under his eyes and the bones became more prominent on his face. Theo didn't have the same perspective as Draco did, being without a strong personal life of his own.

At that thought, Draco checked his watch to find that he was running late. "Listen mate, I have to be going but we'll take this up tomorrow, alright?"

Theo didn't look up from his scribbling but grunted in the affirmative as far as Draco could tell. Though he didn't want to run out on his partner when he seemed disturbed about the latest developments, he knew the consequences of being tardy and wasn't in the mood for polite silence tonight. Stepping into the Floo, he tried to say farewell but Theo was lost to his task. Shaking his head with a sigh, Draco called out his destination.

Emerging into a modern and well-appointed reception area, he shook the soot from his robes and immediately saw who he was looking for; she was walking down the hallway that led away from the lobby, holding a rather animated conversation with her receptionist. It was rare that Draco saw this kind of energy and enthusiasm from his wife anymore, so he trailed the two down the hallway, keeping his distance, appreciating the view.

He'd met Hermione Granger again three years after the Battle of Hogwarts (nearly to the day), in a ramshackle hut with a leaky roof in the middle of a hurricane.

Draco had been busy in the intervening years. He'd taken up the job of assassin for the Ministry of Magic (strictly as a sideline, mind you) and had been in Costa Rica at that time tracking Antonin Dolohov. In partnership with Theodore Nott, he'd struck a deal with the Ministry to track down Voldemort's remaining supporters and eliminate them. This included not only those with the mark, but also the far more subversive people who had assisted them during the war with money and favor.

Those in the latter group – seemingly harmless bureaucrats and blue bloods with deep pockets – were done away with, but granted deaths he and Theo made to look like accidents. Nothing too dramatic, and nothing to arouse any alarm in the greater public. It was to the monsters who were killers themselves that the Ministry wanted brought the hellfire of the judge, jury and executioner all in one package. Their bodies were rarely found.

They both knew what the Death Eater philosophy had done to their families and didn't want it ever again seeing the light of day. Theo's mother had been all but destroyed by his father's incarceration and subsequent Dementor's Kiss; and though Lucius was still very much in possession of his soul, Draco had enough bad feelings about the war and his family's part in it to want to rid the world of anyone who would seek to disturb his peace ever again.

Besides, the Ministry paid by the head, and it was damn good sport.

It could take years to locate a target and even more to get into the position to make contact, but in those brilliant moments where he ended the lives of those who had destroyed so many, Draco found the sweet freedom of redemption.

As point person for the Ministry, Theo did most of the research. Draco was left with most of the legwork, as it was important for him to remain as anonymous as possible to the powers-that-be in the government. He still had business dealings in a lot of the circles from which they were trying to purge, and any leaks of his involvement would imperil his position.

In spite of his Muggle-born wife, Draco retained much the same reputation Lucius had enjoyed; he was respectable (quote, unquote) and viewed as a powerful opportunist. Even his relationship with Hermione was sometimes regarded by pure-bloods with an indulgent wink. It suited his purposes perfectly, as he could still move among them and get the information he needed without anyone suspecting his ulterior motives. It caused cynicism from their friends, however, as even their closest mates could never figure out what brought them together, much less how it was they had survived for so long.

None of that doubt affected Draco and Hermione. There was never any room for other people in the heat they had between them.

That passion had taken them off-guard from the very beginning, ruling them even as their eyes met from across the room of a shanty bar, halfway around the world from all the things that were supposed to keep them apart. There was the same energy and tension between them as they'd cultivated through their childhood, and it felt like only a few charged moments of feint and parry passed before he had her up against the wall of what passed for a loo in that place. The rain water dripped through the roof to mix with their sweat, and the lights from the failing generator seemed to flicker in time with his frantic thrusts.

It was weeks later when they got around to asking each other what they had been doing in Costa Rica in the first place. Draco used his go-to story of work and family connections in the area (a tale which had the added benefit of being nearly always true). He received in return a lengthy explanation about the local wizarding policies toward house-elves, and how Hermione's research on international law helped in her advocacy of their better treatment. The zeal in her eyes and the flush to her cheeks as she spoke had Draco instigating the beginning of what was to become a habit with them. Hearing about his Witch's various obsessions became a sure way to ignite his answering fixation for her, and many a discussion like that ended with the christening of another room in Malfoy Manor with their activities.

Of course, when they disagreed – when the baiting and challenge and debate had escalated to a full-blown argument – the resulting coupling was explosive, each trying to best the other, and both finding their perfect match and equal.

Draco never did catch up with Dolohov, but he couldn't bring himself to care.

It had been ten years since, seven since their wedding, and in that time Hermione's passion had, little by little, gone more and more into the lobbying firm she founded for the rights of Magical Creatures and less into stoking the flames between them. He knew that he too had begun to put all of his extra energy into his own pursuits, finding less and less of his days to share with her.

The Seven-Year Itch had hit them with a vengeance. Though something that Muggles regarded as nothing more than myth, it was taken very seriously by pure-bloods. The traditional wizarding world knew that it was a matter of the transit of Saturn, which made angles to each chart in seven year cycles, exerting pressure on couples (and as individuals) to change and grow. It was either a time of crisis for a marriage, or a transition to what was considered the maturing of the relationship and the people in it; settling in to the rest of what would be inevitably staid lives. As to which scenario they were experiencing, Draco hadn't yet figured. It was only when he saw her in moments like this, here in the midst of the work that fueled her passion now, eyes bright and expression fierce, that he recalled that he was missing anything in their relatively pleasant, ordinary life together.

Hermione's receptionist turned and saw him first, abruptly ending their conversation and scurrying away. As his wife turned slowly herself, a neutral expression had replaced whatever had taken it over before. As she greeted him, he took her hand and kissed her cheek automatically.

"You know we're supposed to be there at six."

"It's five-'til," he replied.

"Yes but," she began with patience, "Mum and Dad disconnected from the Floo Network. We'll have to Apparate a few blocks away." She raised her eyebrow, surely anticipating his reply.

"I didn't know about that."

"I told you two weeks ago, while we were eating breakfast and discussing returning the books you borrowed from Dad. Remember how you mentioned having enjoyed the one about the aliens, and that you'd have to ask him for more of the same?"

At times, Hermione's memory and attention to detail could be absolutely infuriating.

"I'm sorry, love," he said, squeezing her hand. "I'll explain to Mum that it was my fault."

She nodded and accepted another kiss, this time a quick buss to her lips. "How was your day?"

"Fine. Yours?"

"Fine. The usual."

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Anti-Apparition wards were a bitch.

Draco would have given anything to deliberate and determine his way to his bloody destination instead of shimmying and scaling up the western face of the Rowle's chateau in the south of France in the middle of the night. Making the journey even more unpleasant, he'd noted with dismay that this estate was far grander than the Malfoy's own in Arles and decided something definitely needed to be done about that. He planned to convey his pique to both his realtor and interior decorator when he returned home. Wiping the sweat from his brow, he observed with a sigh that his upper-body strength wasn't quite what it used to be, and made another note to work on that with his trainer.

Draco had received word from Theo just hours before that Thorfinn Rowle was reported to be accessible for the next few days from this location. Since Rowle had been a member of Voldemort's inner circle to the bitter end and on their list of targets for years, it was a priority to get there. Draco had been at a meeting of the Board of Trustees of Malfoy Incorporated when his wand began buzzing incessantly, and he'd had a hell of a time getting out of there with the flimsy excuses he'd offered. Theo's preferred method of communication in periods of alert was a bother, especially when the sensation propelled him from his seat in shock as it had then. He'd had surprisingly little trouble getting out of dinner with Hermione and her parents, though. It turned out she'd needed to stay the night at their place anyway, for some reason that escaped him. (Truth be told, he hadn't really been listening.)

So, as soon as he could get his disappointingly underdeveloped arms to pull his thirty-year-old carcass up to the roof, he'd be sitting pretty to wait for Rowle's return.

Once on the roof, he inched his way over to enter the master suite. He was shocked that it took less than fifteen minutes to get through the locking spells on the window, though the wards on the property had been even easier to break. Of course, Death Eaters were not all the brightest lamps on the street, and Draco recalled that Rowle was one of the dimmest. Finally, he pulled himself into the room and behind a settee, casting the usual Disillusionment, cloaking, and silencing spells on himself and the area around him and settled in with exhaustion. It turned out to be a long wait: hours later, the only change was his mood, which had gone from cranky to downright cantankerous.

In the darkness, Draco's thoughts strayed to the bed he'd be sleeping in and the warm body he'd be holding if not for this assignment. He and Hermione slept apart frequently enough, traveling as they both did for work, but when they were together during the night, their bodies sought out each other's warmth instinctively. In those moments, his relationship with his wife was completely uncomplicated. Now, he and his body were missing her scent, her cold feet, and even her snore.

He must have dozed off to those thoughts, because when he was startled awake some time later, it was the late afternoon sun that lit the room. At that moment he heard a scuffle and went rigid, waiting. Rowle's big, blond head came through the doorway, and he looked as tired as Draco felt, appearing as though he'd aged fifty years in the last thirteen. Things shifted into slow-motion then, as they always did when he was tensed for attack. Adrenaline coursed through him, his vision sharpened, and plans swirled and coalesced in his mind.

It was thus with perfect clarity that he saw a figure emerge from the shadows on the other side of the room. The person was slight of build and dressed in all black; he appeared bald to Draco at first, until he realized he was wearing a close-fitting cap on his head.

Draco was so shocked to see another person in the very room where he'd spent the night that he found himself letting down his guard and moving out into the open.

Rowle saw Draco out of the corner of his eye and tensed. Whipping about to face him, he froze for only a second before reaching frantically into the pockets of his robes. Thus, he unknowingly put his back to the intruder directly across the room. The bloke took his opportunity and aimed his wand to shoot Rowle from behind.

Draco would never be able to justify what happened next.

All he could think was that the git was in the way. Draco had spent the night on the floor, away from his wife and his own bed, all the way in bloody France for fuck's sake, and this guy was turning it all into a waste of his time. He took aim at the bastard then, firing a hex that had the figure diving to dodge it.

Draco was stunned for a moment. He'd protected Rowle from attack. By the time he came to his senses and set his sights on who he'd actually come there to kill, Rowle had pulled both his wand and a Portkey from his pockets and disappeared under cover of his own protective spell.

"Bloody buggering fuck!" Draco growled to the empty space where his target used to be. Performing a quick check to be sure that his glamour was still covering him, he turned his wand and all of his ire on the person opposite. He found a wand trained right back at him.

They were motionless for a dozen pounds of Draco's heart. Then, the other wizard cast a few easily deflected hexes for distraction and darted toward the door as Draco shot after him.

Draco needed to exit the chateau as quickly as possible and cross the wards. Rowle could be returning with reinforcements, so running was definitely the thing to do. As for why specifically he was chasing this person as though his life depended on it, he couldn't say.

He needed to do something with his anger though, and what Draco would do to him if he could catch him just might do the trick.

The bastard was quite the runner though – Draco was having trouble keeping up. Stumbling into walls, they tore down narrow hallways. They knocked into furniture running through overfilled rooms. He'd almost fallen flat on his face a few times because the little shit kept throwing things back into his path. Draco blew a chair to pieces with a well-aimed curse, but everything else he cast just missed the wily bugger.

As they rounded the corner to descend the staircase, he seemed close enough to reach out and grab. But then the bloke vaulted astride the banister to slide downstairs. Draco rained curses over him as he flew out of his range and leapt off at the bottom.

Draco was surprised to see him turn away from the front door and veer off toward the back of the house. Rounding the banister, he caught sight of him as he sprinted down the hallway toward the kitchen. The guy scared the daylights out of the house-elves as he burst through the kitchen door, if the shrieks were any indication, and Draco came barreling in just in time to see him headed toward the door at the other end.

In his haste, the man jostled an elf working at the stove, who startled and jerked the contents of his saucepan into the air. Being right next to him, the guy was hit with a glob on his left hand as he raised it to shield his face. Draco was heading toward them too fast to avoid it, and a big splash made contact with the skin on his chest. It was some sort of thick syrup, and it clung to the skin where it landed, sizzling and burning like hell.

Draco abandoned his chance to close in, giving a yelp of pain and trying to rub the stuff off with the cloth of his sleeve. The other man tried to shake it off his hand as he pulled open the door and stumbled through.

Draco was momentarily blinded by the afternoon sun. When his vision finally adjusted it was to see the bane of this mission sprinting flat out through the lawn of the back garden. Draco realized the logic of exiting the back way as the wizard crossed the wards, which were much closer to the house here in the back. He watched him Disapparate and thought, clever bastard, as he walked himself past the invisible barrier. With an exhausted sigh and a pop, he too was gone.

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Draco stared at the mark on his chest as though he could make it vanish by the sheer force of his consternation. Burns were a tricky business to treat, and anything slightly more serious than a surface injury needed to be seen by a professional healer. Amateur spells could heal them for the most part, but would leave behind a discoloration of the skin that could last up to a month. Such was the case with his wand work now, as he had a patch of skin, even more pale than the rest of him, about 10 centimeters below his collarbone and shaped like a splotch with three drip marks coming off of it.

He had no idea how he was going to explain this to his wife, but he could probably convince Hermione to have the lights out for any clothing-free activities for the next month, and would just have to bathe when she wasn't around to try to avoid the conversation entirely. At that train of thought, he realized with a start that he couldn't recall the last time he'd even had sex with his wife, lights on or off. With a sigh, he realized it probably wasn't going to be that difficult to hide.

He arrived freshly showered back in the study just as Theo was emerging from the Pensieve. He must have been in it the entire time Draco was freshening up.

"I can't tell who it is," Theo said, agitated.

"Yeah, I know." Draco flopped down on the sofa, giving a groan of satisfaction at the comfort to tired bones. "The Ministry must have put someone new on the job. 'Course, it's possible we're not the only ones who want to kill Rowle. Stranger things have happened," he finished with a yawn.

Theo abruptly stopped pacing in front of him. "Someone new? The Ministry can't do this to us – they can't just keep sending more people to get in our way!"

Draco sat up, eyeing Theo carefully. "Look, I know it's a pain in the arse..."

"The fucking bastards. They just want to make it harder on us... they must think it's too easy, think we could use a little competition. They can't fucking do this to us!"

Draco realized he hadn't been watching Theo as closely as he thought, because his friend seemed to have lost the plot somewhere along the way.

"Theo, we just wanted them dead, and for all of it to go away, didn't we? It's satisfying and bloody good fun, but it doesn't actually matter how that happens," Draco said carefully, "or who does it."

"It does!" Theo yelled, his face red. "Because we're supposed to be doing it, Draco. You and me." At his friend's penetrating look, Theo lost some of his certainty and implored, "Don't you think we should be the ones doing this?"

Draco shook his head, his eyes never leaving Theo's. "No, I don't, mate. I think we've done enough," he said gently. "Listen, I'm going to fight like hell to get to the targets, and will mow down anyone who gets in our way... especially this wanker." He gestured to the Pensieve. "But we don't have anything to make up for. This isn't vengeance, Theo." He took a deep breath, and the look he leveled at him held years of meaning. "There's no peace in that."

They'd started this whole thing with the simple goal of making sure the horrors of their past stayed safely in the past, never to return. It wasn't supposed to fill their lives with more darkness. Theo slumped and looked at him wearily.

"Now, why don't you get some sleep now. There's nothing more to be done tonight," Draco said, getting up from the sofa and heading toward the Floo. "I, unfortunately, have to get going so I can spend the evening deep in the lions' den."

Some of the tension left the room at his sour tone, and Theo answered with a tired nod. Draco concentrated on his friend's weak smile as he disappeared through the flame.

He was still turning the situation over in his mind when he entered their bedroom at Malfoy Manor, just in time to see Hermione emerging from the shower.

"Hey, how was the trip?" she said, presenting her right cheek to him for a kiss.

"Fine. Lousy Portkey, but fine. How are Mum and Dad?"

"Good, the same."

"Good," he said distractedly, going to fetch his dress robes.

Every other month or so, they went to dinner at a formal restaurant with as many friends of Hermione's as could fit around the table. That meant, of course, that Draco was the lone Slytherin amongst a dreadfully earnest gang of Gryffindors, but he'd grown used to it over the years and had learned to just drink heavily from the start. At first, it had been great fun to show Hermione off, dressed as she always was to the nines. The usual snark and stab at Potter and Weasley was entertaining initially, but as time wore on their tempers seemed to shrink in opposite proportion to the expansion of their waistlines, and Draco's needling ceased to get the desired reaction. He would have enjoyed some tension between himself and his childhood rivals, but it seemed like they'd all outgrown it and, to his mind, more was the pity. It made for a boring evening.

"I was thinking about repainting the bedroom," Hermione said loudly, her voice carrying out to him.

"What? Why?" He walked toward the bathroom tying his tie, robes over his arm.

"The green is really old and tired," she said, contorting her face at herself in the mirror as she put on her makeup.

"It's always been this color," he said, having difficulty making eye contact with his chin raised to fix his collar. When he'd flattened it and leveled his look at her, he saw that she was giving his reflection a knowing look.

"Exactly." She nodded firmly, as though her point was made.

Hermione had a way of taking something you'd said during an argument and making it seem as though you'd said it in support of her side of the debate. There was a time when Draco had found it adorably clever.

He shook out his robes with a sigh and decided on a different tack. "What color were you thinking?"

"Yellow."

"Cute," he said dryly, not believing that even she would think it was alright to stick him with a Hufflepuff color. He did a double-take at her serious look, his eyes widened. "Yellow?"

"A very pale yellow. Buttercup. Sort of a cross between Goldfinch and Golden Straw, but not. That's just in the bedroom, in here—"

"What about in here?" he said, looking about the bathroom in a daze. He hadn't been sure they were still speaking the same language for a moment until she started referencing rooms.

"Oh, I thought we'd redo the whole suite," she said innocently to the mirror.

He took a breath and decided to go all in, a last-ditch effort to see how set she was on this. "I really like it the way it is," he said firmly.

She looked down, a pot of loose powder in one hand, dipping a massive brush into it with the other. First blowing on it to remove the excess, she swept it in large arcs over her face.

"You'll like it once you see it on the walls."

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Draco and Hermione were always unfailingly affectionate with each other in public. Upon arriving at their destination, they brushed themselves off from the Floo, clasped hands and headed for the back of the restaurant with smiles on their faces. He knew they made a smashing couple as they made their way through one of London's most fashionable eateries, walking past the wizarding world's social and political elite, skirting the impressively sized dance floor complete with a big band. After all these years, heads still turned for the unlikely couple, and tonight Hermione looked especially gorgeous; a maroon, backless, halter dress clinging to her every curve, her shapely legs teasingly flashing from through the high-cut slit as she walked.

Everyone else had already arrived and were seated at their usual table: Potter and his Weasley-wife; Weasley and his insipid twit Lavender; Longbottom and Hannah; Luna and her husband Scamander; the other Weasley Twin and his wife Angela; and Dean Thomas, the lone bachelor, with his arm around whomever he was shagging that month. They were all talking at once as they entered, mostly and predictably about their ever-expanding broods. Draco would swear that birth control was only taught in Slytherin House, but that his wife's lack of urgency to start a family matched his own. He suspected instead that he might have just found the only Gryffindor with class and restraint. An heir was required of him, and he would have it, but there was time and good times still to be had.

Once the usual catching up about babies and jobs was past (babies mostly, very few asked anyone about work), and the men had finished bad-mouthing each other's Quidditch team, some sort of group discussion was always begun. Usually it involved politics of some sort, or more rarely a social scandal, but tonight Draco and Hermione were the surprise topic.

"So, next weekend is your party!" Luna chimed in.

"Oh, Merlin, I'd forgot that," Potter said, rubbing his eyes and dropping his glasses back to rest on his nose. "What year is this then?"

Draco had forgotten too. He wasn't sure exactly how the idea was born, but Ginny, Luna and Lavender had all conspired to throw a party to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the union of Hermione and Draco Malfoy. The girls had said that they were such an "inspiring example of a solid and steady commitment," and they wanted to commemorate "the great romance of it all." It's what they said at any rate, though Draco knew it was bollocks. He wasn't sure whether his wife saw through it, but he was well aware of how her friends had been dead set against the two of them at the very beginning. They battled as they'd tried to get her to come to her senses and drop the (insert any one of a host of tired and derogatory names for Draco here). It had hurt Hermione deeply and imperiled her friendship with a number of them. Ginny and Lavender had been the biggest offenders and were now always trying to come up with ways to make it up to her. Luna was one of a few who had never disapproved of them, being a great believer in fate and looking for the best in people, snakes and all. She was at the center of the preparations only because she was actually a surprisingly good party planner, if you didn't mind the weird decorations and the even weirder explanations that went along with them.

Hermione reached over to take Draco's hand as it lay on the table, giving it a tight squeeze that was either meant to convey commiseration or distress. Her eyes roamed the others at the table, an indelible smile curving her lips.

"It's their tenth," said Ginny, smiling a little too broadly at them.

"Tenth!" interjected Angelina. "That can't be right, it was only two years after we—"

"It's ten years they've been together," Lavender corrected. "They've been married for seven."

Dean let out a loud snort and said, "Hang on... we'll be marking the occasion of you two crossing paths on holiday and shagging like rabbits?"

"Ugh, please," Weasley said with a grimace. "I'd like to be able to keep my food down tonight."

Ginny sat up straight and looked sincere as she smiled over at the couple of the hour. "Well, we thought it would be something special to commemorate. It's a chance to celebrate the happiness of our dear friends."

"Yes, they deserve our congratulations," Lavender overplayed, as she usually did, and raised her glass.

A hastily worded toast was called, and the table drank to the once and future happiness of the adorable couple.

Out from amongst a great chorus of "cheers" and "here, heres" came the voice of the Weasley twin: "Oi, Draco, Hermione... how about it?"

Draco left Hermione completely out in the cold, requiring her to thank the table, which she did deftly and in practiced earnest. He squirmed in his silence, inexplicably uncomfortable with the whole business. He didn't fancy a whole host of outsiders tromping about in his marriage, and it felt like bad luck to celebrate the anniversary of anything but an official wedding. Further, they were mucking about with the seventh-year crisis hanging over them, and it just seemed like a tempting of fate. He was not ashamed to admit that he was superstitious, but he was too prone to suppressing his feelings in general for him to get his reservations out in the open. He planned on getting through the event by getting out-and-out pissed from the start.

The food mercifully arrived then and the conversation ceased. His wife extracted her hand from his without a word, turning her attention to her meal.

Draco and Hermione had developed the habit over the years of each sharing a bite of their meal with the other when dining out. It made for a few arguments when ordering, as one can become quite opinionated about what the other is eating when one has to taste it, but it was fun and silly, and it made her friends roll their eyes delightfully when they did it. He'd already presented a bite of Filet of Sole to her mouth when she absently directed a fork full of Filet Mignon to his, not stopping in her conversation with Mrs Potter to do so. As such, her left hand was waving the meat in front of his face absently until he wrapped his fingers around her wrist and steadied it to turn it toward his mouth.

At that moment, Draco found his eyes drawn to the back of her hand. At that angle, in the soft, yellow candlelight of the restaurant, he could see that she'd used make-up to try to cover a pale patch of skin. It stood out against her tan and was shaped like a splotch with three distinct drip marks. It matched the mark on his chest perfectly.

Staring at it as he was, trying to process the information, questions and conclusions swirling and coalescing in his brain, he didn't recognize that the fingers holding her wrist had tightened to an iron grip. Hermione turned to him, annoyed, but when she saw where his eyes were focused, alarm gave way to resolution in the millisecond before she schooled her expression to neutrality. She shook her arm, trying to dislodge her wrist, but he held fast. The cold Filet Mignon and the fork attached to it hit his plate with a sharp clank.

"Draco, what are—"

"Burned yourself, did you?" he said lowly.

She was completely calm and collected as she answered, "Yes, Mum and I were making toffee." She smiled and wound herself up to tell him what was sure to be an incredibly amusing anecdote when the words caught in her throat at his reply.

"Rowle."

Her shock at hearing the name led her to overdo the mock confusion and irritation in both the furrow to her brow and the pitch of her voice. "Pardon me?"

He looked deep into her eyes as the world shifted into slow-motion. He saw the poised and confident woman he expected; he saw his match and his equal. Adrenaline pounded in his veins at the challenge staring back.

"Yes, dear, let's dance," he said, standing, his voice raised so the table could hear, yanking her up with him. She narrowed her eyes, but her friends were already chiming in about food getting cold and joking about the honeymoon never being over, and she was too aware of where they were and who they were with to contradict him. Dragging her behind him, he maneuvered their way to the dance floor as the band began playing heavy stringed music.

Hermione's heels clicked on the parquet as Draco swung her around to face him, clasping her hand and raising it on his stiffened arm. The other hand firmly gripped her hip, his eyebrow raised, smirk firmly in place, ready for a spirited tango. Hermione rolled her eyes and heaved a great sigh as she draped her arm over his shoulder. She never could appreciate his theatricality.

"Draco, I don't have any idea what's gotten into you, but I'd like to finish my—"

"Been following me, have you?" he said tightly, beginning the dance by moving her backward across the floor in long, elegant strides.

Her face, turned out, snapped back to face him. "Following you? Why would I—"

"You don't trust me, is that it?" He pulled her hard against him, hand sliding up between her shoulder blades. As he swung her around, tightening their embrace, he took them in short, quick steps around the floor. He paused, twisting their torsos as he bent her back slowly.

Hermione turned her face out, eyes rolling heavenward as she said with a sigh, "I don't know what you're on about."

Draco held the position, leaning in to her ear. "You just had to check up on my story?"

Her face again whipped to meet his, her expression challenging. Draco could see in her gaze the very moment that she came to a decision, her eyes narrowed as she dropped all pretense. She pushed almost imperceptibly against him, and he swung her around, continuing the dance. She spun out, twirling back in to curl her leg around his.

"Ignoring the fact that it's absurd for you to be offended that your wife might have checked up on a lie..." She held the pose and his gaze as he shifted his weight out to the side, stretching her leg. Tiredly, she said, "It's irrelevant."

He released the pose and straightened. "Indeed?" he said, annoyed at her tone, pivoting them slowly in place.

"Yes," she said, a spark igniting in her eye. "I was there first."

He froze on the dance floor, looking at her in disbelief. "You were... What?"

Her tone was mocking. "I can't imagine how I didn't see you come in... you were like a bull in a china shop."

Draco's brain took far too long to process what she was saying. As he recognized the sheer absurdity of it, he felt back on solid ground. He relaxed his hold and opened the space between them. Shaking his head, he scoffed, "You were there for Rowle."

Hermione's smile was indecipherable as she moved her hand to press into his chest, pushing back. She looked down at the floor between them as she dragged a large, slow figure eight with the toe of her right foot.

He kicked at her shin and her eyes snapped up to his. As he jerked her back, she swung her leg up around his thigh. Her groin was pressed to his, her arm wrapped around his neck, her face inches from his own.

Her voice was harsh, pushing out from deep inside her. "Upset, are you, to find out I was there to kill your mate?"

Draco went slack in shock, and something like disappointment passed over her face. She shook her head, slowly sliding her leg to the ground. She rubbed against him as much as possible in the process, bringing him back to himself in time to stop her from turning away and leaving him on the dance floor.

"My mate? The hell... I was there to kill him!" he said, remembering to keep his voice down only halfway through.

He pulled her to him and turned them quickly into a steep dip, her back seeming to bend in two over his arm. When she launched herself back up, she kept her arm stiff to push back and hold him at bay. She was as far from him as she could get without abandoning him completely, and this annoyed him even more than her allegation.

"No, that's what I was there for, dearest," she said in a ferocious whisper. Hermione released his hand, dragging it across his chest to the opposite shoulder, walking languidly around him. From behind, she wrapped both arms and a leg around his torso, growling in his ear, "It seems you were the one who kept me from it! Been missing the good old days late—"

Draco bent forward to dislodge her, forcing her back. Turning abruptly, he twirled her once before pulling both her arms to drape over his shoulders. He drew one leg around him and gripped her thigh, dragging her across to the darkest corner of the dance floor.

Pulling her arms from around his neck, he took both hands in his. He lifted them above her head, bringing them down sharply behind her back as he dipped her. He held them there, their eyes locked, their breath mingling.

"This is what you think of me?" he said, unable to keep the hurt from his voice. "After all these years, you think I'd have anything... " He shook his head and straightened. Still holding her hands against her lower back, he continued, "Don't you think you know me better than that?"

She spun out from his hold and returned, clasping his hand high to resume the dance. After a breathless pause, he obliged and moved them slowly with rocking back-and-forth steps.

"Maybe I've never known you, Draco," she said dispassionately.

Anger clutched at his chest, but it got him back in control. "So you were there to... what? Get something on me? Prove that I really am as bad as everyone always said I was?" he said, voice a rough whisper. His hand was clasping hers too tightly, his arm heavy around her waist, fingers digging into her hip.

Her look was fierce. "I have no such interest in whatever it is you apparently do in your free time, Draco. But it became my business when you protected the Death Eater I was there to eliminate!"

"Elim... You weren't doing anything but getting in the way!" he spat. He spun her around, gliding them away from the dark corner and forcing her across to the center. He flung her into a low dip, holding her a foot off of the floor. His smile was cruel as he asked, "Why didn't you kill me then, huh? The big, bad man you found lurking in the dark, scary room?"

She shrugged as best she could, clinging to him as she was to keep from falling. Her bored expression, however, was very convincing. "The Ministry doesn't pay by the head for Death Eater's lackey bodyguards."

The ice that shot through his veins at that was almost soothing. He slowly straightened, pulling her up to stand, supporting her as she regained her balance. Stepping back, he held her hand limply, dropping his hold from her waist.

He waited for his breath to even out, then began, his tone conversational. "You know, this feels familiar. One of your precious, little, illogical rants."

That was a fighting word, and Draco knew it. A shadow fell across Hermione's expression, leaving her eyes cold.

"I seem to recall that I was supposed to have insulted your aunt last Christmas... Something about how I wasn't properly effusive over the pudding, wasn't it?" he said pleasantly. "Then there was the time at the Minister's Ball, where I apparently was unforgivably rude to—"

Her eyes flashed with anger. "Are you trying to defend yourself by implying—"

"I'm merely saying that I've grown used to your wild accusations and fanciful stories." His tone was patronizing, but his anger was resurfacing as he continued, "But I was done defending myself from those charges years ago." Draco bent at the waist, bringing her hand to his lips. His kiss lingered, his thumb brushing over her knuckles as he released it. He raised an eyebrow, mocking, "You'll let me know when you have enough to indict me? Or... will I just be killed in the night, never the wiser, another victim of my wife the brilliant assassin?"

He laughed darkly. Hermione was practically vibrating with indignation, but he couldn't have cared less as he turned on the spot and thought of home. Just as he Disapparated, he saw the icy fury in her glare, and knew she would be following hot on his heels. He was counting on it.

At Hermione's pop of Disapparition right behind Draco's, their dining companions reacted with a practiced mixture of exasperation and amusement.

Ginny shook her head and said, to no one in particular, "Merlin, everything is foreplay with those two."

Ron, having already started on Hermione's abandoned steak, replied, "Oi! I'm eating here," his speech only slightly impaired by the food stuffed in his mouth.

::


::

Draco landed in the foyer of Malfoy Manor and ran straight to position behind the grand staircase. He'd just gotten his back to the wall when Hermione appeared, casting her Shield Charm in time to take the hex he sent slamming into it. She darted toward the shelter of the marble table against the wall, shooting an entire quiver of arrows at him.

"Clever, dearest. That was almost invigorating," he shouted, his voice bouncing off the marble of the entrance hall as he Vanished the last of the darts.

"Well, I know you're slow to get started, sweetheart. Don't worry, it happens to everyone, and it's not a big deal," she said, sugar dripping from her echoing voice. "You just let me know when you're ready for me, baby."

Draco's stomach twisted until every emotion he owned transfigured into white-hot fury. In quick succession, he sent three Expulsos to dislodge her from her shelter. It destroyed the table as well as the floor and wall against which it stood. Hermione was sent somersaulting out to roll in front of the staircase, making him leave his protected alcove.

He dashed to the end of the curved railing before she could regain position. Seeing her up and running toward the other side of the steps, he shot a Trip Jinx at her. It sent her tumbling, rolling over onto her back as she slid across the floor. Draco tried to push his advantage by coming out from behind the banister.

Still sprawled on her back, she released an anti-gravity mist that had him arse over tit for costly seconds before he could manage the counter-jinx. He fell hard on his side with a grunt and ducked back behind the stairs as Hermione sent severing hexes that sawed away at the railing. He swore and ducked as splinters and chunks of wood rained down on his head.

Draco had soon had enough of that. He twisted to the side and reached up to grasp the undamaged part of the railing. Heaving himself up, he vaulted over the bar to come down hard on the stairway, shooting a Blasting Curse from above as he landed. Hermione was on the move before the dust had cleared, and he had to duck to avoid a jet of fiery sparks shooting toward him. He took the steps in a few leaps and veered around the banister at top speed down the hall after her.

She'd gotten herself just inside the library, judging by the Stinging Hexes coming from around the door. Draco darted for cover behind a rather substantial pillar that supported a bust of Abraxas Malfoy the First, c. 1423. Casting a combination Stealth Sensoring and revealing spell to judge her position, he aimed Levicorpus at where he thought she would be. He heard an annoyed grumble followed almost immediately by the thump of Hermione coming back down as she countered it, and he made for the doorway between the two sounds.

Back against the wall, he darted his head quickly around the door frame to take stock of the situation. He could see nothing, but knew she'd gained cover somewhere inside the vast and overfilled room.

"You really want to do this in there, Hermione?"

"Had enough already, baby?"

She'd used a cloaking spell on her voice, bouncing it back and forth to hide from where it was coming. He'd have to dive in and wait for her to cast and reveal her location. He huffed a few bracing pants, then pushed himself around and through the doorway.

Ducking and weaving, he cast his own Shield Charm to deflect the flurry of curses which seemed to come from every direction at once. He dove behind the cover of a heavy oak desk, coming down hard. The last of her hexes blew off the corner in a shower of wood and sparks.

He twisted around and shot from around the other end, bewitching two sets of medieval armor to spring into action. A heat-seeking charm got them moving in her direction to both distract her and flush her out of hiding. The squeak and scrape of metal on metal was excruciating, but they headed toward the back of the library and veered to the right.

A thick, heavy, red jet of light came shooting out from behind one of the stacks. It knocked the armor closest off its feet, blowing it to pieces, and Draco let out a low whistle at the power behind it. He made his move then, crouching and ducking behind a succession of furniture. When he looked up, his new position was nearly to the rows and rows of books. From behind a stack to the left, he saw another strong spell, mustard yellow this time, come screaming out to disintegrate the second set of armor to dust.

There was quiet then, the only sound the pounding in Draco's ears. He knew exactly where she was. Long bookcases were set up in two sets of rows that spanned the room. There was a walkway between, and that was where Hermione had placed herself. She couldn't move without trapping herself within an aisle of books for far too long. There was nothing for it; she would have to make a break eventually.

He was happy to note that she was right in the midst of her favorite section of books, those on magical theory and history, some of the oldest and most priceless in the collection. Draco smirked and sent a series of relatively harmless spells (that nevertheless made a lot of noise on impact) toward the bookshelves around her. It had the exact effect he'd expected. She darted away toward where the tomes on dark magic were kept, along with a collection of offensive (but valuable) texts on blood supremacy and pure-blood history.

Draco took off running after her down the aisle, his Jelly-Legs Jinx just missing her left foot. Without breaking stride, she brought her right arm up and across her chest, then arcing over her head. She bent it at the elbow to aim behind her, giving a graceful flick of the wrist. Her aim was true as she sent Obscuro straight at him.

But it wasn't the sudden blindness that stopped him in his tracks.

The darkness brought clarity, pushing everything from his brain but the flash of recognition. Draco knew that wand move. He'd seen that same technique of casting spells over the shoulder before.

He muttered the counter-jinx to restore his vision and leant back hard against the stacks to catch his breath. Swiping the back of his hand across his forehead, it came back with blood on it. He could feel the sting of sweat mixing with various cuts, and the shake of muscles strung out on adrenaline. Pushing off, he proceeded to calmly walk toward the back of the room where Hermione had taken shelter within the small sitting area.

"Kyrgyzstan," Draco said, his voice booming off the stone wall in the enclosed space. He tersely deflected two hexes that came at him from behind a leather armchair. "Kyrgyzstan and Sydney, son of a bitch..." he muttered, stalking fearlessly out in the open. His Shield Charm took a few more hits before Hermione leapt out of hiding to send a whopper of a Stunner that had him leaping to the side.

The shock of her own epiphany had her indecisive. Draco could see the wheels turning in that brilliant little brain of hers as she recalled all the times they had unwittingly met in battle before this. Her eyes were wide and wild, her body tensed tight as a bowstring. His mind had slowed down to one thought only, and that was of reaching her, and his pursuit would not end until he could put hands to flesh and feel her bones under the squeeze of his fingers.

"Kyrgyzstan and Sydney and probably fucking Sri Lanka. You're shit at concealment."

Hermione faced Draco fully as he rounded a low table and they stood with nothing in between them. She cast her Disarming spell only a fraction of a second after his whispered Expelliarmus. The sheer outrage at losing her wand led her to stand her ground as he closed in.

Draco reached out and wrapped his hand around the back of her neck, squeezing just a little too hard. He continued forward, dragging and pushing her up against the wall, his body pressed all along hers to force her bare back into the cold stone. His eyes roamed over her face, seeing her hair fallen from the elaborate coif she'd tamed it into for dinner, the perspiration dotting her hairline and her top lip, and the scratch along her cheekbone deep enough to be trickling blood.

"You're a fucking nuisance," he hissed.

"Tired of always getting my leftovers, Draco?" she said. Her voice was soft, belying the fire in her eyes.

Draco knew that fire, and the answering flame that had ignited all those years ago exploded from where the embers had sat cooling in his gut. His mouth came down on hers, the kiss everything that they were; full of passion, rough around the edges, and perfectly matched.

Draco began to kiss and nibble his way down her neck, fiddling with the clasp to her dress and teasing his fingertips around the fabric clinging to her arse. Hermione had none of his patience. Roughly yanking at his robes, she demanded their removal. She made quick work of his tie, the buttons of his shirt, and the shirt itself before he could manage to get his hands back on her. Draco responded by getting her down to her lingerie in a flash. Things escalated quickly from there, as they were wont to do between the two of them.

They sank to the floor to spread out across the thick rug. Hermione was naked save her garters and stockings, her hands impatient at the belt to his trousers. He swatted her hands away, pushing her to lay back down as he knelt between her legs. Taking her in as he smoothed his hands over her skin, his stomach twisted at the sight of a long bruise blooming over her hip. It was sure to be black, purple, and painful within the hour.

Draco's face must have shown concern and not a little remorse, because Hermione heaved a sigh and propped herself on one elbow. His eyes met her steady gaze as she reached to stroke up the side of his torso. Her hand passed over a sore spot that must have been beginning to bruise, the result of his hard landing after her anti-gravity jinx. She raised an eyebrow as she pressed down, hard, into what felt like a couple of cracked ribs.

Draco held back all but a wince and met her pointed look with narrowed eyes. He pushed her down roughly and pressed fully against her, only room enough between them to rip off the rest of her underwear. He wrapped his hand in her hair and claimed her mouth in a brutal kiss, and she returned every bite and suck.

Working furiously, she managed to unzip, yank, and cajole his trousers off of him. He kicked them from around his ankles while working his way down her body, greeting all his favorite places with his mouth. She squirmed, getting impatient with his slow exploration, and Draco smiled against her skin. Her hand tugged at his hair, yanking to raise his head to look at her.

Her eyes were inscrutable. "Ever catch up with Dolohov after Costa Rica?" she said, voice low and hoarse.

"Lost the trail," he said, shaking his head and giving her a curious look as she tightened a fist in his hair and pulled him insistently to crawl back up.

Leading him directly over her, she leaned up to whisper hotly in his ear, "I killed him in Senegal with a pair of rusty scissors."

He jerked back to look at her. A lifetime's worth of frustration, annoyance, disappointment and impatience sharpened to this one moment here with his wife. She looked back at him with much the same in her eyes, just a flicker of challenge in the darkness there. A bank of unspoken anger, mistrust, boredom and love swirled and pulsed in the air and the magic between them.

Draco was sure he had never been so hard in all his life.

He grabbed both of her hands, slamming them down to the floor above her head. Holding both wrists in one of his, he nearly tore his pants in his haste to get them off his body. Hermione gasped and arched beneath him as he positioned himself just outside her opening. He stilled then, running his hand up her side, tickling at her ribs, squeezing her breast. Trailing up to where her wrists were captured, he separated them to fist each hand in his own, forearms resting over hers to secure her fully.

What no one knew about Hermione Malfoy, née Granger, best friend of The Boy Who Lived, War Heroine, Champion of Magical Creatures, and The Brightest Witch of Her Age, was that she liked to be overpowered. It was true that she wanted to wrangle and wrestle, to struggle and battle fiercely, and would never accept being treated as the lesser sex. Few were up to the task. Few could compete with her head-to-head, but those who could... After a spirited brawl with her equal, what she wanted was to be bested. What she longed for was to be held down and fucked.

The very moment Draco discovered this, nearly a decade ago, was the instant he realized that he would never allow anyone else to have her. He vowed then she would be his, that no one but he would ever see her lose herself so completely. Never would anyone else know of the power that rocked her when she felt safe enough to relinquish all control.

He slid slowly into her, holding himself just far enough above her to evade her kisses. Watching her eyes slide shut as her face contorted in almost pained ecstasy, he reveled in the long, high-pitched whine that fought its way out from deep within her. As he moved inside her and a faint, giggled "Senegal" bubbled out from her throat, Draco knew Hermione was his.

He claimed her again and again with each stroke; his swotty, passionate, infuriating, funny, violent, obsessive, loving, forgiving, brilliant, crazy wife.

::


::

"You're kidding, that little waif of a thing?"

"Hey, she's a bloody good researcher, and she is as discreet as they come. Besides... Theo?" she said, eyebrow raised meaningfully.

Draco could see her point at that, as his friend didn't exactly scream "Secret Ministry Hit-Man" or inspire romantic wondering. Still, to hear that Hermione had been partnered up all this time with her wholly unremarkable receptionist, who had been contacting her at all hours of the day and night via a two-way mirror, and all of this for years right under his very nose, was rather a lot to take in. He stopped thinking about it, though, as Hermione offered another spoonful of ice cream to him from her perch astride his lap.

On their way back out of the library, they'd taken one look at the damage to the entryway and by silent agreement had decided to ignore it in favor of the kitchen. (After all, they had missed dinner.) They were currently in the midst of the most interesting conversation they'd ever had, comparing notes on their work through the years. Draco was getting distracted, however, by the swinging of her legs to either side of him, and the way it made her jiggle inside the oversized, half-buttoned white shirt she wore. And, how her movements kept inching her closer to the growing bulge in his pants. He gave his head a little shake to focus it, because he'd been holding on to this next question and it was important.

"But why, exactly. I mean, did Kingsley recruit you?"

Hermione shook her head as she leaned back over the table behind her to set down the empty bowl. "The Mind-Healer I was seeing after the war suggested it," she said with a shrug. At Draco's incredulous look, she amended, "Well, she said something about directly confronting my demons and physically regaining my power, and... this really did the trick."

Draco laughed, sliding his hands up her thighs and under the shirt to grasp her waist, and his grin widened at the unapologetic smile that brightened Hermione's face. Leaning forward and wrapping his arms around her, he began to chart a course; from the intriguing flash of cleavage between the buttons of the distracting shirt, up past her collarbone to her neck, arriving to suck behind her ear as she moaned and ground herself against him. There was no barrier to keep the wetness from soaking through the thin cotton of his pants. So, with a growl, he gave in and began to plan a strategy for the immediate utilization of the kitchen table.

"Wait, wait..." Hermione pulled him back by his hair. "Draco, before I forget, I wanted to talk about the anniversary party..."

He groaned, surly at the interruption, not above pouting when he felt deprived. "That's what you're thinking about right now?" Draco was rather insulted.

She ignored him. "I know this whole anniversary party is terribly annoying, but we're just going to have to grin and bear it, because, believe me, Ginny is not to be trifled with. So... can I count on some solidarity in this?"

Draco gave a shrug, and Hermione's gaze sharpened.

"Why are you so uncomfortable with it?" she asked.

He gave another shrug. At her impatient huff, he dropped his head to watch his fingers making shapes on her thighs as he spoke. "I just don't think of it as the tenth."

She seemed surprised at that. "Well, what does that matter, really?"

"It does matter," he retorted, annoyed. "Because the real anniversary is the seventh... and that's just not a milestone to be celebrated with others. It's... difficult and private."

She scrunched her nose and looked skeptical. "You don't really believe all of that seven-year nonsense, do you?"

He raised his head, arching his brow and glaring ironically at her until she relented with a shrug. "I believe it now more than ever," he said, firmly. "I'd say it's worst is over..." He smirked at that and worked his hands back under the shirt. "But you can't say it isn't real."

"Well, likewise, you can't say that the tenth anniversary isn't real," she said smugly and with a firm nod.

"No, but..." He was frustrated, struggling to articulate things he was never comfortable speaking of to begin with. "Those three years don't count." At her affronted look he hurriedly added, "They were just a mess of wondering... and we weren't sure of anything... and you weren't mine. You weren't really mine until you agreed to stand up in front of everyone and take my name."

"Oh really," she began, eyebrow raised. "And when was it you became mine, then?"

Draco's eyes darkened and his cheeks flushed. "That's different," he muttered.

Hermione straightened and her lips curled in the small smile that meant she felt she'd won a point. It was maddening (but, truth be told, it always turned him on).

Taking his head in her hands, she tipped it up to look seriously into his eyes. "Draco, we've been each other's since that ridiculous hurricane. Everything began that instant where we decided to dive in and not look back. Sure, a lot of it was anxiety and insecurity, but that's as much a part of us as the boredom and the silence of the last couple of years. To celebrate it is to celebrate the never-ending process of becoming us."

He snorted at that, and she laughed self-deprecatingly, though she continued in earnest.

"We're not even the same Hermione and Draco now as we were last night, for gods' sake... and if this has been important, and real, and a part of who we are, then... it's no more important than that first moment, or all the ones that come after."

He shifted, always awkward when discussing his feelings about anything, much less his hopes and fears about their relationship. "Then how can you actually commemorate an anniversary of anything? Anniversaries are markers... ends in themselves."

Hermione kissed him then, a quick and noisy smack of her lips on the center of his forehead, his nose, his cheek. She then kissed more lingeringly at his mouth, because she knew him well enough to understand his insecurities, even if he could never articulate them. She knew him, and that his fear about how they'd gotten into their rut was at the heart of his discomfort over how they began. How could they ever know they were okay? How could they know where they were going? How would they ever be sure?

She smoothed her fingers back through his hair, over his jaw, down his neck and chest, and left them to rest over his heart as she smiled gently.

"Well, what I propose to commemorate is that instant of perfect possibility, Draco... because I will never experience another one."

::


::

Draco stood straightening his tie in front of the bathroom mirror, happily watching the reflection of Hermione hopping around behind him as she put on her hose and heels. The guests had already begun arriving downstairs, but he and his wife had gotten a little carried away with some early celebrating. Hermione had insisted that they should christen their newly yellow suite 'for luck.' He was never difficult to persuade, even less so when she was wearing garters, so they were running a bit more than fashionably late.

"Draco, come on!" Hermione rushed into the room tugging at her dress, trying to straighten her makeup in the mirror with frantic hands. "Mum and Dad are already downstairs, and I'm almost positive I heard your mother commandeering the elves to rearrange tables."

"I'm not the one with my arse hanging out, dearest," he said, smirking down at the back of her backless dress, which was hanging too far down her backside.

"Bugger!" she growled, hands flying back to fiddle with it. "That is absolutely the last time I trust that new designer at Malkin's. She said she was going to use some newfangled affixing charm—"

"Shhh... I got it," he said, drawing his wand to cast a simple adherence spell to the area right above the crack of her lovely arse. The area right above that wasn't too bad either, he thought, his fingertips trailing up her lower back, leaving goose bumps in their wake. She shivered, and he leaned forward to kiss her shoulder, looking up at her in the mirror from under hooded eyes. She squirmed back against him, making to leave.

"You know, if you ever want to get anywhere on time... or stay anywhere 'til the end, for that matter, you should really start wearing dresses with more fabric."

"I'm well aware of that, sweetheart," she said with a smirk. Giving a hurried thank you and a quick kiss to his cheek, she rushed out.

Draco caught up with her walking toward the grand staircase, and grabbed her hand to bring it to his lips as they rounded the corner and began their descent. Over half the party was already assembled, and thus a great burst of applause greeted their entrance. He squeezed her hand as he saw the banner strung over the entrance:

Draco and Hermione, A Decade Later (give or take).

As they usually did at events, they parted to mingle separately. Draco headed toward his mum, who was eyeing the new banister with a raised brow, and Hermione went to greet her gaggle of friends. It was therefore nothing unusual when nearly an hour later they were still across the room from one another. Just then, Draco felt a powerful buzzing from his wand, so intense that he jumped a little at the sensation, sloshing a bit of champagne on his robes.

Theo hadn't made it to the party, as he'd said he was following up a really promising lead. If he was interrupting him, now, in the middle of his anniversary party, it must indeed be promising and urgent to boot. Draco scanned the room for his wife and found her halfway behind a potted plant, speaking excitedly into her two-way mirror. Draco's heart skipped a beat. It could only be...

Hermione looked up and caught his eye, mouthing: Lestrange.

They held each other's gaze for a long moment, the electricity buzzing between them even at that great a distance. Draco felt lightheaded. A giddiness he'd never experienced overtook him as he raised a brow and dipped his head in question. His wife planted her hands on her hips and raised her chin high in response. They stared intently at each other, eyes narrowed, barely breathing. Until, by silent agreement, they both turned on the spot and (very rudely) abandoned their own party.


:: The End ::