A quick note before our regularly scheduled programming!:

To my shock and delight, I was chosen as this month's Featured Author at Hawthorn & Vine (the Dramione archive, for those of you who aren't familiar with it). I can't express how thrilled and honored I am, and I'm so grateful to all my amazing readers and to everyone who voted for me!

If you're interested, I would absolutely love for all of you to check out my Q&A post at H&V and ask me questions! The post is on LJ, so you can still drop by and comment even if you aren't a member of the archive. The link is below (take out all the spaces and replace the "DOT"s with actual dots):

hawthorn-vine DOT livejournal DOT com/39473 DOT html

I look forward to hearing from you guys! =) And now, back to the show. Thanks again for reading- just one chapter left!

It was not long before Harry and Ginny had a second child. They held another dinner for their friends and family, and after everyone had spent the evening cooing over Albus, Hermione and Ron escaped upstairs for a hard drink.

"If someone asks me one more time when Lavender and I expect to have our first…" He muttered something profane under his breath and took a sip of Firewhiskey.

"You're a Weasley," laughed Hermione. "Of course they expect you to procreate quickly—and often."

"Just because Ginny's pumping out babies like there's no tomorrow," he grumbled.

"Oh, forget about other people. Who cares what they think?"

"I just don't want to spend the rest of my life explaining to people why we don't have—" He broke off suddenly.

Hermione's smile disappeared. "What do you mean, the rest of your life?"

He gave a heavy sigh and ran a hand through his hair. "Listen—don't tell anyone about this, but… Lavender can't have children."

She stared at him in surprise. "Ron, I'm so sorry."

"No, it's fine. I've accepted it, now. But it's because she was attacked by Greyback—you know, in the war—and so she'll never be able to get pregnant. I just don't like everyone asking us over and over about it, you know?"

"That's terrible," she breathed. "I had no idea."

"Neither did we. We just found out a few months ago, from a Healer." Tears began to stream down his cheeks. "I just—I always thought I'd have kids, you know? Who doesn't expect to have kids when they grow up?"

She rushed over to him and threw her arms about him. "I'm so sorry to hear that, Ron. I really am."

They were still holding each other when the door suddenly burst open.

"What are you two doing up—"

Ginny stopped dead in her tracks.

Hermione and Ron sprang apart. Lavender, who was right behind her, suddenly started shrieking hysterically; and she raced down the stairs in tears. Ginny stood in the doorway, glaring fiercely at the both of them.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" she demanded.

"Bloody hell," groaned Ron, leaving the room to chase after his wife. "Lavender!"

It turned out that Lavender was particularly skilled at making a scene, and by the time lunch rolled around the next day at work, everyone at the Ministry seemed to have heard about what had happened at the Potters'. Whispers in the halls followed Hermione everywhere she went, now embellished heavily with all sorts of exaggerations:

I heard she caught them in bed.

They say Lavender threw a bloody fit in front of everyone.

She found them naked in the nursery.

The whole party saw, if you know what I mean.

By the time Hermione got home, she was completely drained.

When she wandered, exhausted, into her bedroom, she found Draco sitting on her bed and waiting for her.

"Welcome home," he said, his voice strangely hoarse.

"What are you doing in here?"

"Waiting for my lovely wife," he replied sardonically. "How was your day, darling?"

As she drew nearer, she noticed a faint smell of Firewhiskey. "Are you drunk?" she asked disbelievingly, and he suddenly turned vicious.

"I can drink as much as I damn well please!"

"I wasn't complaining—"

He rose from the bed. "Don't you have something to say to me?"


"Isn't there something you ought to tell me?"

She suddenly realized what was happening. "Draco, if this is about last night, then you should know that—"

"Last night?" he scoffed, stepping closer to her. The alcohol from his breath stung her eyes, and she blinked uncomfortably. "It's not about last night. It's about every single day of my wretched life since I put that stupid ring on your finger."

"Listen to me. Nothing happened. Ron was just—"

"Don't you say his fucking name to me!" he shouted, and the lights flickered. It was the first time she'd ever seen him exhibit uncontrolled magic. "What the fuck do you see in him? He's an embarrassment. He's barely a man. He's a poor excuse for a wizard."

She started to say something, but he cut her off.

"He didn't want you the way you were," he growled, moving even closer. "But I do. I'm the only one who really knows you—knows how sick you are, how twisted. I'm the only one who wants you for what you are, but you're too dense to see that." He grabbed her by the arms before she could resist. "What do I have to do to get rid of him? Do I have to kill him? Or would that just make you pine after his ghost?"

"Draco, I—"

"Shut up."

And before she could respond, he kissed her so forcefully that she stumbled backwards; had he not caught her by the waist, she might have fallen. There was nothing loving about the urgent way he claimed her mouth, as though he were dying of thirst and she alone held the last drops of water in the world. She gasped when he spun her around and slammed her against the wall, gripping her tightly with one hand while he fisted her skirt and pulled with the other. The fabric gave way with a loud rip as he tore it away from her; and she had only vaguely noticed him undoing his belt before he lifted one of her legs, pulled her underwear to the side, and thrust violently into her.

He had been aggressive before, but never like this. "Do you think Weasley could satisfy you?" he snarled into her ear, picking up his speed. "Do you think Weasley could take you like this?"

She fought not to moan, clutching at his arms for purchase as he drove into her again and again. "How do I get him out of your head?" he breathed. "Do I have to fuck it out of you?"

She wanted him to stop talking, so she turned her head and tried to capture his lips with hers; but he tangled one hand into her hair and jerked it back so that she could not reach him.

"Draco," she pleaded, without being sure what she was asking for.

"I thought I'd have you if I married you," he whispered hotly against her exposed neck. "I was wrong. But if only for one night," he said, his voice thick with rage as he forged a trail along her collarbone with his tongue, "you're going to belong to me completely."

When Hermione woke the next morning, Draco was gone.

She went hesitantly in search of him, even peeking inside his bedroom, but he was nowhere to be found.

It was only late that night that he returned, marching directly to his room and quietly closing the door before Hermione could even catch so much as a glimpse of him. He stayed away from her for days afterwards, and though she wished he wouldn't, her pride kept her from seeking him out on her own. After all, he had treated her terribly—it would be undignified for her to approach him before he'd even apologized.

So she waited. But as the weeks went by, Draco still kept to himself. And when, one morning, she finally decided to leave late for work in order to confront him at breakfast, he barely looked at her as he took his seat and summoned a house elf for his food.

Eventually, she was appointed Head of Magical Law Enforcement, and then she no longer had any time to worry about the frequency of their interactions—or even to interact with him at all.