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Deadly Sins by MajiKat

Format: Novel
Chapters: 14
Word Count: 56,454

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Strong Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Horror/Dark, Mystery, Romance
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Draco, Pansy, Ginny
Pairings: Draco/Hermione, Draco/Pansy, Harry/Ginny, Ron/Hermione, Other Pairing

First Published: 06/22/2007
Last Chapter: 07/07/2009
Last Updated: 07/07/2009

Beta and Dedicated to || Hushabye Mountain

A young woman's disappearance reveals a tangled web of love, lust, guilt and redemption. What is shown on the surface is a glimmering facade - a slice of a picture perfect life. Who will survive the suspicion, accusations and deceit? Not all romances and born from attraction. Some come from necessity, and revenge...

Chapter 1: A Web of One's Own Making
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A/N: Okay, this is going to be a little different from my other fics. I'm aiming for a more adult kind of story. The characters, just to give you some background, are in their late twenties. This fic has been written for CelticKisses' Motive Challenge, and deals primarily with the issues of trust, consequence, action and reaction. What I'm trying for here is a bit of an examination of what makes people do the things they do. It is a long story, so things may not make alot of sense in the beginning, but it will all be answered by the end. Keep that in mind when you read - it will make it easier on you :) This fic is loosely based on the Australian film Lantana.. I own none of the characters you recognise.

In any case, I hope you enjoy it. As i have mentioned, it is set a long time after school, so characters may seem well and truly OOC and away from canon, but people change. So, enjoy!!

A Web of One's Own Making

Shuffling the last of the papers irritably, Draco Malfoy pushed his blonde fringe from his forehead, sending a mental reminder to himself that it needed cutting again. He glanced at the clock on the wall. In the dim light from the lamp at his elbow, he could see it was close on midnight. He let the stack of papers fall from his hand, watching with disinterest as they tumbled haphazardly across the polished surface of his desk. He had shuffled and reshuffled those papers constantly over the last hour and could not remember if they were important or not. Draco glanced at the clock again, watching the minute hand shift closer to the twelve. A small smile played on the corners of his lips as he watched time tick by. He really should be getting home, and he had already missed dinner but he knew it would be waiting and warm for him when he did finally go home. He let his eyes rove around his office to distract himself from the time.

Draco had a large office, located on Level Two at the Ministry for Magic. Shelves crammed with books on every topic conceivable lined one wall, reaching from the deep green-carpeted floor to the gleaming white ceiling. There were even a few texts from his own collection in there – tomes on Dark Magic he had inherited from his father. Draco's desk sat in the centre of the room, one corner piled high with papers he still needed to file, a large window behind his chair. Magical Maintenance had decided it was going to rain for two weeks straight, and the constant drizzle outside the window was starting to send him mad with cabin fever. Draco reached forward and picked up a small, framed photograph of himself with his arm around a dark-haired woman with blue eyes and a wide smile. His photographic self was smiling, although his eyes held a bored expression. Sighing, he set the picture back in its place. He did not like it, and the only reason it was on his desk in the first place was because that is what people expected you to do with pictures of loved ones. Draco risked another quick glance at the clock, his eyes falling sharply from the clean, white clock face to the closed door of his office. A frown crossed his face briefly before he shrugged, climbing gracefully to his feet and swinging his discarded robes from the back of his chair to his shoulders, letting them drop gently down the length of his body.

Draco paused in the darkened hall, locking his door securely, the light from the tip of his wand illuminating the stencilled words on the glass panel of the closed door. Draco Malfoy: Head, Department of Magical Law Enforcement Squad. The gold lettering glimmered in the blue-tinged light and Draco could not help a smile crawl across his face at his name and title staring back at him. He had a good job, one that he enjoyed immensely, and one that he was proud of. It was not considered as glamorous as being an Auror, but Draco enjoyed the thrill of the chase and being a Hitwizard provided him that small pleasure. Besides, he thought with a mocking grin, he liked getting right into it, getting his hands dirty. Manhandling criminals was a sure fire way to make yourself feel powerful. Footsteps sounded down the hall and he glanced up sharply, watching a slim figure with swaying hips approach quickly. He turned, folding his arms and leant casually against the wall as she came nearer, her long hair catching glints of reflected light. Their eyes met and he saw her lips curl into an inviting smile and he felt himself begin to smile in return. As she walked, she slowly unfastened her robes, letting them swing open, revealing her figure-hugging black work dress beneath. Without breaking eye contact, she slid her hand down her body slowly, enticing and alluring and he could not help but follow the motion of her slender hand with his eyes, drinking her in.

"You're late," he stated when she reached him, pausing a hand span from his chest, her body so close to his it left him screaming inside, his blood on fire and his senses filled with the scent of her hair. She shrugged delicately, reaching up to run a manicured nail down the side of his face, tracing the strong line of his cheek and jaw.

"I had work to do, but I'm here now," she purred, the sound of her husky, throaty voice making his fingers twitch. Draco took a deep breath, closing his eyes slightly as her fingers moved into his hair. "You need a hair cut," she commented, laughter in her voice. His eyes flew open and he reached up, snatching her hand away from him, pulling her body closer in the process.

"You sound like my mother," he growled, restraining himself from throwing her against the wall and kissing her. A spasm of emotion crossed her face and she shrugged, her spare hand sliding down his chest until it rested on the flat of his abdomen, just above his belt. He bit his lip as her fingers slipped under the edge of his suit pants, the heat from her skin burning him through his clothes.

"Come home with me," she whispered, her fingers massaging gently, driving him insane with want and need. He nodded swiftly and she smiled up at him, removing her hand from his body. "Give me five minutes before you floo in," she added and he nodded again, closing his eyes. She was gone in a cloud of perfume and lust, her footsteps echoing down the darkened halls, the sound growing fainter and fainter until he could no longer hear her swift movement. Draco let his body fall against the wall, his heart beating unusually fast. She had not asked him to her home for weeks, and he wondered why she did so now. Usually, it was a motel room, the desk in his office, or the large comfortable couch in hers. Draco closed his eyes and counted to ten, before starting the slow walk through the dark halls to the lifts. Stepping inside one, Draco straightened his clothes, brushing his robes free of lint, waiting with growing impatience for the lift to reach Level Eight of the building.

The Atrium was empty, save for the Guard Wizard seated at the security stand. Draco passed through the golden gates quickly, nodding curtly in greeting. The Guard Wizard threw Draco a wave and a nod, followed by a mumbled, "see you tomorrow, Mister Malfoy." His footsteps echoed off the dark polished floor as Draco walked swiftly along the right-hand side of the hall, passing the Fountain of Magical Brethren, scowling at the golden statues as he passed. Draco thought it was a hideous choice in interior décor, and although he understood the symbolism behind the piece, it did not stop it being horrible to look at. He chose a fireplace down the furthest end of the Atrium, away from the sharp ears of the Guard Wizard. He snatched up a handful of floo powder, stating his lover's address in a stage whisper and preying he would end up where he was meant to, before stepping into the green flames in the grate.

Within minutes, he was standing in a well-kept and organised lounge room. The lights were dimmed and the heavy curtains drawn, casting the room in a warm orange darkness. Draco looked around the room, taking everything in. Nothing had changed since the last time he had been there. The same photographs littered the mantle, and he scowled at the faces of his past, and at the faces of people he did not recognise. He was on edge and jumpy, his eyes constantly checking the time. Being in her house was a reminder that what he was doing was not right. A motel room was impersonal; it was a room, nothing more, that they could both leave. It represented nothing but a quick snatch of time from their lives. Here, though, he was confronted bluntly with the fact that she had a life outside of work and their affair. She had interests, friends, and family, and seeing in the interior of her house again made it all far too real, and for a moment he considered slipping out the back door and going home. Shaking the dust from his robes, Draco walked slowly around the room, his fingers trailing delicately over the soft fabric of the couch, the rows of neatly stacked books in a mahogany case, and the polished surface of a small ornate cabinet in the corner. He bent down, examining the contents inside, protected from dust by thick glass panels; a Hogwarts Head Girl's badge gleamed at him from its place against a dark velvet cushion, beside it sat a Prefect's Badge.

Draco smiled, slowly straightening up. A door opened gently and he turned, his eyes flying across the room to where she stood in the doorway, bathed in the bright glow from the kitchen. She held a drink in each hand, the amber liquid dark with shadows. Smiling, she beckoned him towards the couch and he went, feeling somewhat confused. This was not the way it usually happened, and she was acting like they had all the time in the world. Draco let his body fall onto the couch, sinking back against the cushions as she took a seat beside him, his body practically itching he was so tense. She had shed her robes and shoes, her slender body seeming even smaller in the midnight coloured dress. She handed him a drink, and he watched as she tucked her legs up underneath her body, cat-like and graceful, twisting to face him on the couch, her own glass grasped firmly in her fingers. Her eyes sparkled with familiar desire, and without taking his eyes from her face, Draco downed his drink in one gulp, setting his glass aside quickly. She sat still as he took her glass from her hand and placed it on the coffee table, her eyes following his movements, an amused smile on her face.

"Why the hurry?" she asked him playfully, running her fingers along his collarbone. He glanced at her, his eyebrows raised, as he worked his belt loose, kicking his shoes from his feet at the same time. She rolled her eyes skywards, her fingers moving to his cheek, walking casually over his skin. Draco shook her off, irritated, her touch so tender it was almost painful.

"I don't have all night," he barked, hearing her sigh in response. She reached for her glass, taking a long, painfully slow sip, her eyes returning to his face.

"No, I don't suppose you do. Haven't you ever heard of foreplay, Draco? Just once, I'd like it if you could stay with me a little longer," she replied, her light tone only just managing to hide her annoyance. She turned around on the couch and lifted her hair so he could unzip the back of her dress. Draco fingers trembled as he reached for her, exposing the smooth, creamy skin of her back to his eyes. He leant forward and placed a warm kiss on the back of her slender neck, feeling her shiver in response.

"You would, would you?" he murmured in answer to her statement. She shrugged and let her curtain of hair drop as he lifted the dress from her skin and slid the straps down her shoulders, watching with a smile as she lifted her arms free. She reached behind and unclipped her bra with one hand, her slim fingers snapping the clasp open expertly. She turned back to face him, her long waves of hair covering her chest and shoulders, a quizzical look in her eyes.

"Wouldn't you?" she asked, beginning to slowly undo the buttons on his shirt.

"Sometimes," Draco replied as she worked the last button free, pushing the shirt from his shoulders. She sighed and ran her hands down the length of his chest, her fingers dipping into every curve and line of his muscle. He leant forward and grabbed her in his arms, pulling her close and planting a string of eager, wet kisses on her neck. She melted against him, and he held her tightly as he climbed to his feet, drawing her body with his. Grinning at her wickedly, Draco lifted her up against him, swinging her legs in the air, eliciting a girlish giggle from her mouth. He paused, his eyes sliding left to right and back to her face when her giggles became louder.

"The bedroom's that way, remember?" she laughed and pointed. He growled and squeezed her tightly, pressing their lips together, walking blind in the direction her hand was raised in, need, guilt and desire raging strongly in his blood, making him feel dizzy.

Draco woke with a groan, his head pounding. He rolled over slowly, flinging his arm out, encountering nothing but the cool, crisp linen of the expensive sheets. He opened his eyes and as the clean, white walls and familiar furniture of his own bedroom swam into focus, he let out a sigh of relief. He had fallen asleep in his lover's bed after she wore him out, his eyes snapping open in alarm just before dawn. He had shaken her awake angrily, pulling on his clothes and yelling at her for letting him fall asleep. She had mumbled a sleepy apology, sounding like she didn't mean it at all, which irritated him. Without a word of goodbye, he'd apparated home, sliding into his own bed as quietly as possible, preying desperately he would not wake the sleeping woman curled under the blankets. His wife had rolled in her sleep, turning into him and sliding her arm around his waist, and all he could think was that he had not had a shower. Draco wondered whether she had ever smelt the scent of another woman in his hair, on his clothes or his skin. If she had, she had said nothing.

Pushing the bedclothes off his body and sitting up, Draco rubbed at his face irritably, feeling new growth littering his chin, scratching the tips of his fingers. Sighing, he stood and stretched, catching a glimpse of himself in the mirror. His blonde hair was ruffled and his face drawn and tired, his complexion paler than usual from lack of sleep. He had bags under his eyes and he scowled at himself, stripping off his clothes quickly, intending on showering before his wife came to wake him for breakfast. Naked, he turned from the mirror, reaching for his bathrobe. His eyes flew back to his reflection in shock, and he twisted his body, his scowl increasing. Three long red gashes marred the skin on his back, running from his shoulder blade to his hip. Draco cursed explosively, pulling the robe around his body quickly.

"Little witch," he snarled in a whisper, thinking of his mistress and the smug smirk she'd be wearing right about now. Fingernails were not allowed, neither were love bites nor marks of any kind. Despite his annoyance, Draco began to smile, letting the memory of what educed his sharp red wounds fill his mind. The bedroom door opened suddenly and he jumped, lifting his face, hurriedly pushing the satisfied smirk from his lips. He repressed a sigh and a roll of his eyes. She was wearing the blue dress today, the one she claimed brought out the colour in her eyes. The one she had forced him to buy for her in Venice while on holiday last year. The one that spoke of plans, and he had a sudden recollection they were supposed to do something important today.

"Good morning, darling," she cooed, crossing the room and planting a kiss on his cheek. Draco smiled automatically and cupped her face, his thumb tracing the curve of her soft cheek. Her dark hair was piled on her head, twisted up in an intricate little knot, a few loose strands floating around her face. She was wearing the faintest touches of make-up; a little colour on her cheeks and lips, her eyelashes darkened with mascara and her eyelids the weakest blue.

"You need to hurry, Draco. Your mother has already been to collect the children, and we are supposed to be there within the hour," she admonished gently, moving to open the wardrobe. He folded his arms as she began pulling clothes from the hangers, scrutinising piece after piece and shaking her head.

"Pansy," he began with a sigh, "where are we going?"

She answered him without turning around, her voice slightly muffled, her head buried in the closet. "Lunch, remember? I told you the other day, and I sent a letter to your office yesterday to remind you to double-check the booking," she said, turning her head to look at him over her shoulder, her face falling slightly. "I take it you did not check the booking?"

"No," Draco replied, "I didn't. And I didn't get any letter, and I have no idea what you are talking about, Pansy. What lunch? With who? If this is one of your silly little charity meetings where the only thing people are interested in is my money, then I'm not going," he snapped, stalking towards the en-suite. Her voice floated to his ears, tight and filled with traces of hurt at his tone.

"Ronald and Hermione, remember? I organised lunch with them a week ago."

"Weasel and Granger? Are you bloody mad woman?" Draco almost shouted, striding back into the room to flop on the edge of the bed, his robe pulled tight around his lean body. Pansy looked at him, disappointment in her eyes.

"I know you have not warmed to the idea that Hermione and I are friends, Draco, but I thought it might be nice to catch up with her. She has been so busy lately, and we have not a chance to chat in weeks," Pansy stated simply, laying a pair of Draco's best black pants on the bed. He sighed, pulling at his hair.

"Alright, but why is Weasel coming then? Don't tell me you're friends with him too now? Next, you'll be telling me you've invited Potter and his brats to dinner."

Pansy put her hands on her hips, ignoring his last comment. "The last time I spoke to her, she was a bit down. As Hermione's friend, I feel like I need to..."

"Pansy," Draco let his head drop into his hands wearily. "Granger dumped him for a reason. Unless you want her to kill him in a crowded restaurant, I'd suggest you call the redheaded twit and cancel. Don't play matchmaker, Panse. Just don't get involved, alright?"

"It's all arranged, Draco. All those two need is time to sit down and talk about their problems. I'm sure that if they can only listen to one another things will be alright between them," Pansy replied shrilly. Draco raised his head, looking at her in disbelief. Her blue eyes shone with emotion, and he repressed a sigh, knowing her words referred to more than one relationship.

"They broke up months ago. She doesn't want to see him," he stated.

"How do you know what Hermione wants?"

"I work with the annoying woman, remember? For some reason, she finds it necessary to tell me every detail of her life. She did tell me, just recently, that she wants a divorce and she never wants to see Weasley again," Draco replied, standing up and wandering back towards the bathroom. "Too many things to sort out, was what she said. Plus, she also said she doesn't love him anymore, so I'd say that's a fair indication that she's over it. You're wasting your time with this."

"If you say so, but I'm still going to lunch with them, and I'd like you to be there. You are still going to come with me?" Pansy asked in a small voice, trailing him into the bathroom. Draco met her eyes in the mirror and nodded.

"Of course, darling. I wouldn't miss it. But you are responsible for disposing of Weasleys' corpse when Granger murders him. Now get out, I want to have a shower," Draco replied, watching his wife nod her head sadly and drift from the room. He shut the door firmly behind her, locking it, before turning back to the mirror and removing his bathrobe. He twisted his body and examined the nasty red welts running down his skin, his face caught between a guilty frown and a smirk.

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Chapter 2: Transgression in the French style...
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Transgression in the French style...

Hermione hummed to herself as she picked out an outfit for the day. She had been rather reluctant to accept when Pansy had invited her to lunch; the whole friendship still left Hermione rather startled. The slightly stuffy brunette had been a wonderful shoulder to cry on when she had ended her relationship with Ron. Hermione and Pansy had met up by accident, at a charity Ball for St Mungo's. Hermione had gone along at Ginny's request, her friend insisting that she come and meet people. Hermione and Ron, at that stage, had not officially broken up, but their marriage was only just hanging on and Ron had moved out of their house and into a motel close to the Ministry. Things had been so tense between them that Hermione had eventually broken under the stress after weeks of keeping up a brave appearance. She had ended up blubbering her eyes out on Draco Malfoy's chest. The caustic blonde had snapped at her over a report she had left for him, and while normally his rudeness did not bother her, Hermione, much to Draco's discomfort, had dropped to the floor in his office and wept. The annoying and aloof Hitwizard had got down on one knee beside her and wrapped her in his arms, letting her cry without saying a scathing word about it.

After grudgingly accepting Ginny's invitation, once her friend assured her that her "git of a brother" would be nowhere near the event, Hermione had allowed Ginny to take her shopping for a new outfit. It was there the girls first encountered Pansy. Hermione knew she had married Draco straight after school, and had been rather shocked to find the wife of Draco Malfoy working in a dress shop, until Pansy explained that she managed Madam Malkins now, the older witch having retired to the coast. Pansy had been nothing but professional, leaving both Ginny and Hermione perplexed at her out of character behaviour. Not one nasty word passed between them, Pansy smiling and cooing over every outfit Hermione tried on. Later, she told herself Pansy was simply doing her job, finding it hard to believe someone as inherently nasty as Pansy Parkinson had an ounce of pleasantness about her.

At the Ball, Pansy, with her dashing husband in tow, had marched up to Hermione and told her again how stunning the deep red gown looked on her. Hermione smiled a little at the memory of Pansy demanding Draco back her up in her opinions. The tall blonde had raised an eyebrow disdainfully at his wife, before letting his smoky eyes trail over Hermione's body. He had intoned a husky-voiced agreement that left Hermione blushing and feeling strangely heated, and Pansy beaming. She had shooed her husband away, Draco leaving with a gratified expression, and taken Hermione's arm, drawing the surprised witch into animated conversation. Halfway through the evening, Hermione felt herself begin to relax in Pansy's company, realising quickly that the other woman was incredibly lonely and starved for attention. Hermione remembered thinking at the time that being married to Draco Malfoy would have more than one drawback.

Since that evening, much to the surprise of Harry and Ginny, Hermione and Pansy had maintained their newfound connection, meeting regularly for coffee and gossip. In Pansy, Hermione had found someone who could draw her away from her problems, filling her head with unimportant things that she once would have found annoying and distracting, like which style of robes were the most popular at the moment. Hermione had also discovered Pansy gave a great deal of money to various charities and organisations. She assumed the majority of the money was from Draco's inheritance, but Pansy confided that, since she did not have to work, the money she earned as a shop manager went straight to St Mungo's. Hermione had told Ginny, who had refused to believe her but had gone digging anyway before admitting in a small voice that there were regular and rather large donations of money from a Pansy Malfoy.

Hermione scrutinised herself in the mirror, piling her long chestnut hair onto her head, turning her face to the left and the right, before letting her hair drop again. The restaurant Pansy had chosen was expensive and Hermione wanted to at least look the part, even if this lunch would cost her half a weeks pay. Leaning forwards, Hermione gasped sharply, noticing a light bruise colouring the side of her neck. Scowling, she grabbed her compact, attempting to cover the mark with make-up. She decided in the end to leave her hair loose around her shoulders. Hermione stared at herself in the mirror, watching as her eyes slowly filled with angry tears. Biting her lip, she flung her compact down on the dresser, turning and storming across the room to fall face-down on her bed.

"I can't do this," she muttered, rubbing at her teary face. It was also around the time she was getting to know Pansy, three months ago, that Hermione did the one thing she never thought she would do in her life – she spent the night with her new friend's husband. In an extremely depressed state one evening after work and after another screaming argument with Ron, Hermione had dragged herself to the nearest bar, downing drink after drink in an attempt to wash her failed relationship away. It was not until she was on her fifth whiskey when another body slid into the chair beside her, ordering a drink for himself and another one for her. After her initial confusion at Draco's company, Hermione let herself relax, pouring out her intoxicated misery over Ron straight into his ears. The rest of the evening was still a blur, but waking up the next morning with a pounding headache, naked in a motel bed with an equally naked Draco next to her, the signs were clear. She had slept with him. Shocked and angry with herself beyond belief, Hermione had dressed and slipped away before he woke, sick to the stomach, vowing to never think about what she had done again. Seeing Draco at work each day was harder than she thought it would be, and eventually the sly little looks he threw in her direction, along with her mounting guilt, wore her down and she confronted him in his office, screaming accusations and insults until he grabbed her and kissed her rage away. That was the beginning of their affair, and no matter how hard Hermione tried to end it, something kept pulling her towards him, even though she knew how wrong it was.

Wiping her eyes dry, Hermione sat up, straightening out her hair. She took a deep breath, steadying her nerves. She had not seen Pansy in weeks, her guilt at her affair with Draco weighing so heavily on her conscience she found the other woman's company unbearable. She had accepted this lunch invitation with one purpose in mind – to tell Pansy the truth, even though she knew it was going to cost her her friendship and perhaps Pansy her marriage. But, Hermione thought as she struggled into a pair of tight black pants and a crimson fitted shirt, Pansy had the right to know. Hermione slipped her feet into a pair of black-heeled shoes, ran a brush through her hair and retouched her make-up before apparating to the restaurant.

The Chaudron, a ritzy French-inspired restaurant, was set by the river and surrounded by weeping willows and lush green lawns. Hermione gazed up at the building in awe. Ron had always wanted to take her there, but they could never seem to find the time. Taking a deep breath, Hermione walked slowly up the grand sweeping stairs. A waiter in traditional service blacks met her at the door, asking in a stuffy voice which party she was with. Hermione told him, feeling annoyed at the way the man eyed her clothing and hair, before ushering her inside. She was immediately enfolded in a pair of arms, her head swimming with Pansy's expensive and rather strong florally scent.

"It's so good to see you, Hermione," the other woman gushed, squeezing her before planting a kiss on Hermione's cheek.

"You too, Pansy," Hermione replied warmly, feeling guilt and nausea spread through her body at the happy smile on Pansy's face. Her friend looked immaculate and elegant in a peacock blue dress and black heels, with her hair swept from her face. Hermione's eyes drifted over Pansy's shoulder and she felt her blood immediately freeze in her veins.

"Granger," Draco intoned politely, dipping his head, his stormy eyes flashing. He was standing behind his wife, dressed in his customary head to toe black, his hair falling soft around his face. Hermione gulped, trying not to think about the previous night when that hair was wound around her fingers. Pansy tossed her husband an exasperated look and he rolled his eyes, striding forward to plant a lingering kiss on Hermione's cheek. Her face burnt as he pulled away and she forced her gaze to the floor, collecting her thoughts before Pansy took her hand, leading her through the restaurant to their table by the window. Hermione drank in the view, appreciating the wonderful and relaxing sight of the river outside. Pansy smiled and seated herself, indicating Hermione should do the same.

"We're just waiting on one more person," the brunette explained, pouring herself a glass of wine and passing the bottle to Hermione. Draco slid into a seat beside his wife, a small frown on his face. Hermione raised her brows questioningly, but Pansy shook her head. "It's a surprise, my dear."

"This place is amazing, Pansy," Hermione said to her friend, who smiled happily at her compliment.

"Ce restaurant sert de la bonne nourriture," Draco stated, Hermione frowning at him slightly. He smirked, his eyes twinkling. "This place serves good food."

"I didn't know you spoke French," she said, busying herself with the menu so she did not have to look at him. Draco laughed, but said nothing.

Half an hour and a bottle of wine later, the mystery guest had still not arrived, and Hermione was beginning to feel light-headed. She knew there would be no telling Pansy anything about her relationship with Draco today. Pansy sat chattering non-stop and Hermione listened with half an ear, her eyes sliding from her friend's face to her husbands. Draco sat beside his wife, an outwardly bored expression on his face, and Hermione wondered not for the first time why he had married her in the first place. Draco's eyes connected with hers and Hermione felt her heart jump a beat. When he threw her a sly wink she looked away, forcing a smile onto her face and turning her attention back to Pansy. Hermione jumped as a foot touched hers under the table, her eyes flying back to Draco's face. A tiny smirk played on the corners of his mouth and she resisted the urge to lean across the table and slap him as his foot, now devoid of his shoe, ran slowly up the inside of her leg. She shifted in her seat, hating the fact her body was responding to his sneaky caress. Pansy ceased her talk, glancing at her watch, before standing up quickly and saying she was going to go and have a look out front. She had still not said who was joining them. With a smile to Hermione, Pansy placed a quick kiss on her husband's forehead, dashing away towards the front doors. The minute she was gone, Hermione reached down under the table and grasped the foot now resting in her lap, digging her nails in.

"Ouch, Granger," Draco snapped, withdrawing his foot and frowning at her. Hermione leant across the table, seething.

"What the hell are you playing at?" she hissed, her anger growing when he shrugged in reply. "This isn't a game, Draco."

"I thought games were supposed to be fun, and here I was believing you were enjoying yourself. I must have been mistaken," he replied, his low, husky voice sending a shiver down Hermione's spine. She closed her eyes, pushing the feeling away and sat up straight. She took a deep breath to calm both her temper and her desire, opening her eyes and giving Draco the sternest glare she could conjure.

"Just keep your hands, and feet, to yourself. This is hard enough as it is, Draco, without you making things more difficult. Do you have any idea what it is like to sit here talking to your wife with you right beside her?" Hermione said softly. Draco's expression did not change, and Hermione sighed regretfully. "Do you even care?" she added, picking up a menu and pretending to read it.

"Of course I care, Granger," Draco replied snappishly, leaning across the table towards her. He took the menu from her hands, his fingers brushing her skin lightly, his touch causing her to feel dizzy. Her reaction did not go unnoticed. Draco smirked, his eyes lighting with mischievous fire, his fingers weaving their way through hers. His thumb massaged the palm of her hand and Hermione bit her lip. They stared at one another, desire, need and guilt burning in Draco's silver eyes. "I want to see you later tonight," he said, his voice low and insistent, and Hermione found herself nodding, unable to refuse him and not sure if she wanted to. Draco released her hand abruptly, sitting back in his seat, his eyes floating over Hermione's head.

"Well," Pansy said lightly as she joined them once more. "We can finally order."

Hermione smiled appreciatively, realising this meant their mystery guest had arrived. She turned in her seat to see who it was, her mouth dropping open in shock as her eyes took in a very familiar face, framed with messy red hair. Her estranged husband looked uncomfortable, his hands moving subconsciously to the front of his shirt, smoothing the fabric down. He was wearing a pair of neat chocolate brown suit pants and a bone coloured shirt, one Hermione recognised as a Christmas gift from his mother.

"Ron!" she spluttered, knocking her knee on the underside of the table. She repressed a groan of pain, scowling instead and dropping her eyes to the ground.

"Hello, Hermione," Ron began, sliding into a chair beside her. He gave a cautious smile, his eyes dark and filled with pain, hope and longing. "How have you been?"

Without responding, Hermione swung back to face Pansy, who was wearing an expression of smugness mixed with fear. "What the hell were you thinking? Pansy!" she moaned, not caring if Ron could hear her.

"I said this was a bad idea," Draco drawled, smirking at his wife, who instantly looked embarrassed. He glanced at Ron, his smirk widening. "Thanks for coming, Weasley, but it seems my wife made a stupid mistake. Sorry for the inconvenience. Get yourself a drink on the way out."

"No, it's alright," Hermione found herself saying, looking at Pansy. Her friends face lit up into a grateful smile as she passed Ron a menu, telling him he could order whatever he wanted and that lunch was on them.

"I'm not paying for Weasley," Draco interjected rudely, snatching up his own menu with a scowl. "I don't mind paying for Granger, but I'm not paying for him. I'm not made of money."

Pansy rolled her eyes and patted his arm. "No one is asking you to pay for anything, dear. We all know how much you loathe parting with your money," she added waspishly.

"Maudite garce," Draco muttered under his breath, earning him a scowl from Pansy. Hermione had no idea what he had said, but Pansy's reaction and the scathing tone in Draco's voice was enough for her to know it had not been nice. Hermione watched Draco throw his wife a hateful glare, wondering again why they were married. It was clear that he despised her, and Hermione was certain Pansy was not happy being married to him. She never talked about their life together in any detail, and Hermione knew nothing about their marriage at all. She studied her menu, her eyes touching briefly on Draco's face. He glanced up, catching her gaze for a moment, his eyes burning into her skull. The waiter came and took their order, Hermione finding herself ordering a salad only, her appetite non-existent despite not eating that morning. With Draco across from her and Ron beside her, she feared any food she put into her mouth would come straight back up before it even touched her stomach. Silence fell around the table as their menus were collected, Pansy jumping in and engaging Ron in conversation quickly, filling the uncomfortable quiet with chatter. Hermione could sense her ex-husbands confusion. Like she had been, Ron was more than likely flabbergasted at Pansy's overtly chipper display.

By the time their meal had arrived, Hermione had not said more than three words to Ron and Draco had drunk his way through a bottle and a half of expensive wine, his comments growing ruder and more intrusive as time wore on. Pansy sat through her husband's behaviour, a long-suffering expression crossing her face whenever her smile and cheery demeanour faded. Throughout their meal, Ron and Pansy chatted about his job with the Department of Magical Games and Sports and her charity work, and by the end of the meal Pansy had promised to donate funds to some of the struggling quidditch teams in the league. After their plates were cleared and the dessert menus were placed on the table, Ron cleared his throat, turning towards Hermione. She met his gaze, her heart sinking at the hope and admiration burning in his eyes. She snuck a look at Pansy; the brunette was smiling, her hands clasped together and a faraway romantic look in her eyes.

"Hermione, I..." Ron began awkwardly.

"I'm going to get another bottle of wine," Draco announced suddenly, standing up. "Granger, come and help me choose," he suggested, offering Hermione his hand. She took it with a grateful smile, letting him pull her to her feet. Pansy tossed Draco a frustrated look and a sigh, shaking her head at him sadly. Hermione glanced at Ron quickly, but he would not look at her. His gaze was turned to his lap and she noticed he was fidgeting with his napkin. Suppressing a pang of guilt, Hermione followed Draco to the bar, leaving Ron with Pansy. Draco reached back and grabbed her arm, steering her past the bar and away from the dining area, leading her towards a darkened corner out of sight.

"What are you doing?" Hermione hissed at him when he slipped his arms around her waist, pressing her back against the wall.

"I've wanted to kiss you since you got here," Draco murmured in her ear, his lips brushing her lobe gently, turning her knees to water. "You left some delicious scratch marks on my back, Granger. That's against the rules," he admonished softly, kissing his way down her neck. Hermione sighed and let her head fall back, exposing her flesh to his lips. Her arms slid around his neck, her fingers massaging the base of his skull.

"This is so wrong," she whispered, shaking her head. He pulled away to look at her, his fingers trailing delicately through her long mane of hair.

"I know, but you love it," he stated, pressing his body against hers firmly. Hermione groaned and closed her eyes as he kissed her deeply and passionately, stealing the breath from her lungs and the thoughts from her head. "Je t'adore. Je ne veux pas vivre sans toi," he whispered against her skin, the unfamiliar words swirling around her head.

"Speak English, please," Hermione whispered back. Draco moved away from her suddenly, a sigh escaping his lips, and she frowned at him.

"Come on," he said simply, and Hermione hid a smile as he adjusted his pants. "Let's get that wine, get through the rest of this godforsaken lunch and get the hell out of here. Your darling estranged hubby is driving me nuts. If I hear one more word about quidditch I think I'll stick my wand through his scrawny chest."

"Why did she invite him?" Hermione asked, smoothing down her clothes and hair and following Draco back to the bar. In the distance, she could see Ron and Pansy sitting waiting for them. Pansy seemed to be doing most of the talking, with Ron nodding every now and again.

"Oh, my dear wife is playing matchmaker again. She thinks she owes it to you to try and fix your marriage," Draco replied, signalling the barman to bring him a bottle of the same wine he had before. "It would be nice if she paid that much attention to her own," he added in a low voice, but Hermione heard him. She stared at him, her mouth falling open at his words; he chuckled at her reaction, paying for the wine.

"I didn't think you cared," Hermione said softly, her eyes falling to the silver wedding band on Draco's finger. He shrugged, picking up the bottle of wine and examining the label.

"I don't care about her, not really, but I do care about my kids," he answered simply. Hermione blinked, the blood draining from her head.

"Kids?" she squeaked, holding the edge of the bar for support. Draco frowned at her, reaching out a long-fingered hand to steady her.

"Two kids, a boy and a girl. Hermione, I thought you knew that," he said, his voice a little shaky. Hermione shook her head, feeling her eyes fill with quick tears. She dropped her eyes, and Draco sighed, giving her hand a little squeeze. "We'll talk about it later, okay. Let's get back. This should be interesting. I think Weasley wants to ask you for a reconciliation," Draco added in a whisper, releasing her hand. Hermione followed him back through the tables, her head spinning. Her eyes fell to Pansy as they approached their table. Her friend had said nothing about her children. Hermione mentally slapped herself as she sat back down. If she had have known about the children, the first night with Draco would have been the last night. She was not a home wrecker. Her eyes met Draco's across the table and he smiled at her, pouring them all a glass of wine, Hermione feeling like she was floating outside her body.

Please remember, if you read, review! It's only nice xD

Chapter 3: Memories through the Mess
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Memories Through the Mess.

The following Monday, Draco sat behind his desk reading through reports from the Wizengamot Administration Services, smiling smugly as the faces of two criminals he and his team had apprehended last month snarled at him from the page. The men had been hard to bring down, leading Draco and his team on a wild foot chase through Muggle London. They had cornered the men, disarming both of them before they had a chance to draw their wands. From then on, it had been an arrest the Muggle way, and the louts had not gone quietly. Two of his men had suffered broken bones, and Draco himself had received a rather nasty slash on the arm from a short-bladed knife. He was rather pleased both criminals had been sentenced to Azkaban. Draco picked up the next report, his heart skipping a beat. The report was from Hermione. The Improper Use of Magic Office had been having some trouble with an elderly wizard living in a Muggle village who did not realise it was not recommended for Muggles to see his garden hose watering the lawn by itself. This was not usually the type of case Draco dealt with, but Hermione had asked him to speak with the wizard, hoping that if a reminder about the importance of secrecy came from a Hitwizard, he may take more notice.

Draco put down the report with a sigh, taking out a piece of parchment and a quill, writing Hermione a short note, telling her he would send one of his men around to deal with her problem wizard. He paused before folding the parchment, his quill poised above the page, quickly adding: I'm sorry about the other night. He sent the memo off, sitting back in his chair and linking his hands behind his head. He had gone to see Hermione after Pansy had retired to bed and he had said goodnight to the children. He found her in bed, sleeping, her face pressed against the pillow, a small frown between her eyes. Draco had sat on the end of the bed and watched her sleep, never having noticed how beautiful she looked when she was sleeping. For some reason, the sight of her lying there buried beneath the bedspread left a tight feeling in his chest. He had wanted to talk to her about lunch, so he gently shook her awake, holding her wrists so she could not reach for the wand he knew rested beneath her pillow and hex him.

"What are you doing here?" she whispered, shaking her hands free and sitting up. Her long chestnut hair was tangled wildly around her shoulder, spilling over her chest and reaching almost to her waist. Hermione rubbed at her sleepy face, pulling her knees up to her chest and wrapping her arms around her legs, stared at him. Draco smiled, moving so he was sitting in front of her. He reached out and stroked the bare skin on her arm, watching as goose-bumps jumped to life under his fingers.

"I wanted to see you," he replied softly, continuing to stroke her arm gently. The heat from her skin was intoxicating, making his brain numb, all thoughts flying from his head save one – how much he wanted to hold her. Hermione shook back her hair and sat up straight, moving her arm out of his reach.

"We can't do this anymore, Draco," she said softly but firmly. "I honestly did not know about your children. I can't continue to do this. This is not only about just you and me and Pansy anymore. I don't want to play a part in destroying your marriage when you have kids to think about."

Draco looked at her sadly, watching as tears glistened in her eyes. He pulled his body closer to hers, reaching for her hands. "Granger, this marriage was already destroyed long before we started this, and to tell you the truth, I don't want to fix it. I don't love her anymore and I'm certain she does not love me. We don't talk, we haven't slept together in over a year, and we have nothing left anymore. The only thing that keeps us together in that house is the kids. I swear she is waiting until they are old enough to understand what divorce means before she serves me with the papers," he added scornfully.

"How do you know that's what she wants?" Hermione asked, and he shrugged.

"I don't, not for sure, but it's pretty obvious she hates me," Draco replied with a laugh. Hermione pulled her hands out of his grip, folding her arms over her chest.

"And you have had nothing to do with that, Draco?"

"What are you on about, Granger?" he snapped, sitting back from her and watching her face through narrowed eyes. She gave him a detestable glare that made Pansy look like a kitten in comparison.

"She's miserable, Draco, and I am pretty sure it's your fault. When was the last time you paid her any attention? Paid her a compliment? Said something that you knew would make her happy even if you didn't want to say it? Did you ever really care about her at all?" Hermione replied, her voice dropping to a whisper. Her words sparked a flame of annoyance and bitterness in Draco's chest, and he stood up and crossed the room, sitting down at the small stool in front of her dresser.

"Don't transfer your own relationship problems with Weasley onto me, Granger," he snapped, picking up a bottle of perfume and toying with it, turning the delicate glass around in his long fingers. He knew he had made a mistake when her face contorted with rage. Within seconds, her wand was in her hand and she was on her feet. Draco had a moment to appreciate how stunning her legs looked before she stuck her wand into his chest, her eyes flashing with malice.

"Get out," she hissed in a low, hard voice. He reached up and attempted to grasp her wand hand, but she stepped away from him swiftly, her wand raised and pointed at his face.


"Out!" she screeched, her hand trembling slightly. "This ends tonight, Draco. No more. Now get out before I solve all of Pansy's and my own problems and exterminate you like the snake you are!"

Draco sighed and closed his eyes, taking a deep breath and disapparated away from her.

Draco sat back, lifting his legs and crossing his feet over his ankles, resting them on the edge of his desk. His polished black boots caught shards of light filtering through the enchanted window, the beams dancing across the surface of his foot. Draco snorted in amusement, wondering if someone from Magical Maintenance had gotten laid on the weekend. All day the sun had been shining exceptionally brightly through his window, and he had been seriously considering closing the curtains. Draco sat and tapped one foot against the other rhythmically, his fingers drumming the back of his head in time to his own beat. His thoughts drifted back to Hermione, and the first night that had spent together. Ever since he had seen her at that charity ball for St Mungo's, almost five months ago, he had been unable to get her out of his head. She had looked spectacular, the deep red gown hugging her waist and hips, flowing to the floor in elegant waves around her legs. Her hair had been long and straight around her body, a shining chestnut curtain that glimmered when she moved her head. He had never seen her hair like that before, and it had immediately caught his attention, reminding him of his wife and the days when she used to wear her dark hair long and straight around her face.

Draco had been only too glad to run away to the bar, his head swimming with the way Hermione looked, a smile on his lips as he recalled the faint blush that danced over her cheeks when he said she looked incredible. It was a few days after the ball that she ended up sitting in a heap on the floor of his office, crying her eyes out over that idiot Weasley. Draco had heard on the grapevine that the 'match made in heaven' had started to fray, but whenever he saw Hermione in the halls at work, her face was always calm and focused, her distress hidden behind her busy façade. It was not until she was blubbering into his shirt that Draco realised she was hurting. As he sat and held her, all he could think about was how stunning she'd looked in the red dress, and how much of a blundering fool Weasley must have been. He knew Granger could put up with a lot, so whatever Weasley had done to earn him a bed in the motel down the street must have been something miraculous.

Two weeks later, Draco was walking past Hermione's office on his way to the lifts, when he heard her screaming her head off. He had paused outside the door, wondering if he should go in. He had no idea who has in there with her, and while he knew she could take care of herself, the Granger who had gone to tears in his office had shown him a vulnerability he did not think she possessed. With his hand on the doorknob and his fist clenched by his side, Draco had taken a deep breath. Without warning, the door had flown open, almost knocking him in the nose. Hermione stormed out, her hair flying behind her, her feet carrying her in angry strides down the hall. Draco glanced inside the room, laughing when he saw Ron sitting with his head in his hands on the large mahogany couch that lined the wall. Ron had tossed him a look that would freeze hell, and Draco had shrugged and walked away, following Hermione down the hall. He watched as she took the visitors exit into the street outside, and followed, making sure to stay out of sight. He did not want to be on the receiving end of her temper. Outside, Draco leant against the wall, his eyes trailing Hermione as she crossed the street, practically falling through the front doors of the Muggle pub that Draco had visited himself at times. Looking at his watch, Draco decided to give her fifteen minutes, before crossing the street to join her, not quite knowing why he was doing it.

"One for me, and one for the lady here," Draco said to the barman as he slid his body onto a barstool. Hermione sat beside him staring into the distance, a half-empty glass of amber liquid held loosely in her hand. Draco raised his eyebrows at the assortment of empty glasses at her elbow. His eyes swung back to the Muggle bartender, watching the young man as he mixed their drinks. Hermione looked like she'd had enough already and Draco frowned, remembering reading something about what Muggles called 'responsible service of alcohol'. This pub obviously does not adhere to that doctrine, he thought with a smile, watching a drunk slide comically off his seat at the far end of the bar, falling in a heap on the floor. The barman brought their drinks, and Draco realised too late he did not have any Muggle money. As he fumbled in his pockets, Hermione reached into her coat and pulled out a roll of notes, sliding it across to the barman.

"Thanks, but I had it covered, Granger," Draco said in a low voice, affronted that she paid for him. She giggled into her drink, turning glassy eyes on his face.

"As if you carry Muggle money, Malfoy," she smiled, slurring her words slightly. Draco found himself smiling back, the sight of Hermione Granger drunk at his elbow striking a chord of amusement inside him. He raised his glass to her, tipping his head back and swallowing his drink in one gulp, signalling for another.

"Then I guess I owe you," he said and she snorted, dumping a handful of strange coins and notes by his hand.

"Pay me later," she said, sounding bored, her eyes returning to her glass. Draco frowned, watching as her depression took hold again. He lifted a hand and placed it awkwardly on her arm, bringing her startled eyes to his face.

"If you need to bad-mouth Weasley to someone, then I'm here," he offered, and she laughed sadly, patting his hand. Her fingers lingered on his, her skin soft and warmed by the drink, and Draco felt a stirring in his blood as he looked at her face, at her sad eyes and flushed cheeks, and her wild and tangled mane of hair. His eyes fell to her lips, plump and swollen, rushed with blood, and he felt an uncontrollable desire to kiss her. He pushed the thought away as soon as it came, shaking himself and removing his hand from her arm and her touch. Draco ordered another drink to cover up his discomfort, tugging on his hair in irritation. He knew he should leave and just go home and face his wife and her numbing chatter, but he did not want to.

They sat in companionable silence a while, the sounds of the bar littering their ears, until Hermione turned to face him. She moved so quickly she almost fell from her stool, and Draco automatically reached out and steadied her, one hand dropping to her waist and the other wrapping around her upper arm. She smiled at him appreciatively.

"I think Ron was having an affair," she said softly, and Draco felt his eyes widen. His grip on her waist tightened unintentionally, but she did not seem to notice.

"How do you know?" he asked her, equally as softly, staring into her eyes.

"I don't, for sure, but all the signs were there. He was moody and not willing to talk to me anymore. I barely saw him at home, and when he wasn't working he was off at quidditch matches or around with Harry and the kids. Ron wanted to have kids, you know? But I didn't. Not yet, anyway. There is plenty of time for that, but I think he resented me for it. He would always come home from Harry's happy and laughing, but the minute he saw me, he'd turn all surly and bitter. You know, we hadn't slept together in months? I haven't had sex for six months," she whispered in a shocked voice, leaning forward so that their faces were only a foot apart. Draco struggled to keep a hold on her body, his hands shaking at the look in her eyes.

"Are you propositioning me, Granger?" he asked bluntly, his eyebrows raised and his voice quivering with the idea of sleeping with her. She grinned at him, cocking her head to one side and studying his face.

"Why? Do you want me too?" she asked in a flirty voice that almost had him tearing her clothes off then and there. Before he had a chance to respond, she sighed and pulled away, turning back to the bar. "As if you would anyway, Malfoy," she added, signalling for another drink.

Draco ran a hand through his hair again, expelling a breath of air from his lungs. His other hand was still resting on her waist and he slowly let it drop to her hip, his fingers digging into her skin, causing her to look at him. "Are you kidding me, Granger? You're not the only one who hasn't been having any sex," he stated, reaching across and stealing her drink, knocking it back before she had the chance to protest. She blinked at him drunkenly.

"Bullshit," she replied at last, looking into his eyes. He stared back at her until her eyelids drooped and she lowered her head. Swallowing nervously and wondering what the hell he was doing, Draco cupped her chin, lifting her face, bringing his mouth close to hers slowly. She stared up at him, a small trace of fear in her brown eyes, mixed with desire and anticipation.

"I'm not lying to you," Draco whispered. "I can guarantee you, Granger, that I wouldn't last more than five minutes at the moment," he added, watching her eyes widen and a smirk play on her face, quickly replaced with doubt.

"You're drunk," she said with a nervous giggle, slapping him on the arm.

"So are you," he retorted, although he did not feel the slightest bit drunk.

"I'm still married," she whispered and he shrugged, running his thumb gently over her lips, feeling a tremor pass through her body.

"So am I. Does it matter, Hermione? Right now? Does it matter?" he asked, watching her debate internally with herself for a moment. Her answer came with her lips as she leant forwards and closed the gap between them, her arms sliding around his neck. Draco stood up, pulling her from her stool and as close to his body as he could get her. He kissed her slowly at first, the pace changing quickly from gentle and testing to eager and hungry. With one hand, Draco held her against him, kissing her passionately, not caring they were in a public bar. With the other hand, he scooped her small pile of Muggle money into his pocket, returning his hand to her hip. They broke apart, staring at one another, shock, desire and guilt mingled over their faces. Draco brought his lips to hers again, loving the feel and taste of her, his hands rising to bunch in her hair. Hermione's hands slipped under his shirt and he groaned into her mouth as her nails traced his skin.

"Hey, you two!"

Draco and Hermione broke apart again, finding the barmen standing looking at them, his arms folded over his broad chest. "Take it somewhere else," he snapped, pointing towards the door. Hermione giggled as Draco gave the snarling man a mock salute, grabbing her hand and leading her towards the door. Night had fallen in the street outside, the city bathed in shadow and neon light. Draco turned to Hermione, his heart thundering in his ears.

"There is still time to walk away from this, Granger," he said softly, offering her a way out. She blinked at him, taking a step closer to his body.

"Is that what you want?" she asked, her voice slurred and husky. He shook his head truthfully, reaching out to steady her as she stumbled slightly in her heeled shoes. Draco sighed, pulling her against him.

"You need to sleep, Hermione. Come on, I'll take you home," he offered, lifting her coat and pulling it tighter around her body, realising how chilly it was outside in the night air. She pulled back from him, shaking her head.

"I'm not going home. I don't want to be there at the moment. It's too painful. Too many memories, too much ... please, Draco. Just take me somewhere. I don't want to be at home alone," she whispered, her eyes filling with tears. Her bottom lip trembled and he moved forward and took her in his arms again.

"What do you want, Hermione?" he asked her when her crying had subsided. She tilted her head back and looked at him, her face blotchy and her make-up smudged around her eyes.

"I want to feel loved," she whispered, her words sinking with quick and painful clarity into his chest, settling around his heart. Draco growled deep in his throat, kissing her swiftly, feeling her respond instantly.

"So do I," he murmured against her mouth.

Draco jumped, startled out of his reminiscence as his office door flew open. Hermione strode in, her face set and determined, her lips pursed in anger. Draco unlinked his hands and removed his feet from the desk, sitting forward, a smile on his lips.

"Well, if it isn't the girl of my dreams," he chuckled as she glared at him, spinning around to slam the door shut.

"Shut up," Hermione snapped, stalking across the room. She stopped on the other side of his desk, leaning her hands either side of her body, supporting herself as she lowered her face towards him. "You apologised in a memo?"

"Well, its not as if I could burst into your office shouting now could I? How would that look? Sorry, Granger, I did come over for a shag the other night but I put my foot so far down my throat I got teeth marks on my knee, can you please forgive me?" Draco replied sarcastically, standing up also and leaning towards her. Hermione closed her eyes and took a deep breath, swallowing, before opening her eyes and fixing him with a hard stare.

"You said a really mean thing to me, Draco," she said quietly and he nodded, reaching over and touching her face, smiling when she lent her cheek into his hand.

"I know, and I am sorry," he said truthfully, stroking her cheek with his thumb.

"We need to talk about some things, don't we?" Hermione asked softly and Draco nodded again, his fingers moving into her hair. She leant forward until he could tell she was on the tips of her toes, reaching towards him, her mouth turned up for his kiss. Draco felt his blood begin to burn. He wanted her badly. The memory of their first night together had only intensified his desire for her. He swept his hand across his desk, pushing books, quills, the lamp, the portrait of him and Pansy and a mountain of parchment to the floor.

"This damn desk is in the way, Granger," he growled, leaning over and grasping her around the ribs. She squealed in shock as he lifted her up and onto the desk, laying her down on her back gently, watching a familiar tide of desire roll into her eyes as he climbed up and over her, one knee resting beside her hip, the other between her knees. "Did you lock the door?" he asked breathlessly, her fingers working madly at his belt. Draco cursed when Hermione shook her head; he reached into her pocket and pulled out the wand he knew she always carried on her body. They smiled at one another as the audible click of the lock filled the room, Hermione opening her arms, giggling as he fell into them.

Chapter 4: Coming Unstuck
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Coming Unstuck

Hermione laid back, his lips at her throat, his skilled hands under her shirt. She was pressed on her back on her couch, Draco lying on top of her. She tipped her head back further, exposing her neck to his mouth, her nails running gently down his back. His shirt was lying on the floor somewhere with her jacket and their shoes. Two cups of coffee sat forgotten on the small polished timber table, going cold. After their session in Draco's office, Hermione had been rather surprised when he said he'd come home with her after work. She really did want to talk to him about their relationship, but the conversation had never gotten started. Hermione groaned as his teeth nipped at her flesh, one of his hands sliding underneath her, lifting her hips off the couch a fraction, bringing their bodies closer. Suddenly annoyed that they had not talked yet, Hermione shifted beneath him, her hands moving to his chest and pushing slightly. Draco lifted his head, looking at her.

"You okay?"

"Fine, just, get off me a moment, please," she replied, pushing harder. Draco moved away, kneeling between her knees, his hair ruffled and his cheeks flushed. Hermione slid out and away from him, pulling her legs around and letting her feet touch the floor. "I don't want to do this right now," she said to his confused face. "I'm not in the mood."

Draco groaned dramatically, falling backwards on the couch, his knees in the air. "Granger, what are you doing? You can't leave me like this."

Hermione glanced at him. Draco had his hands over his face, and she could see the tiny drops of perspiration flecking his neck and chest. "I want to talk to you, Draco," she said softly, rubbing his thigh affectionately. He looked up at her, a rather pained expression on his face.

"Can we shag now and talk later?" he inquired hopefully, sighing when she huffed and folded her arms. He sat up as Hermione straightened her shirt and flicked back her hair, running her fingers through the long, curly strands, tidying it. She took a deep breath, calming her nerves before speaking, unsure of what his reaction would be.

"I'm tired of all this hiding and sneaking around. I'm tired of being ... whatever I am to you. I'm tired of this affair," she stated simply.

"Are you breaking up with me, Granger? Had your fun now its time to get out?" Draco replied snappishly, taking her off guard with his tone. She stared at him, surprised at the remorseful anger that rested on his face.

"It's not like that, Draco. Please. You have a family. You should be with them right now instead of with me," she answered quietly.

"I see my kids plenty, Hermione. They are the reason I go home at night."

"Why don't you leave her if you are so unhappy? If the both of you are so unhappy?" Hermione asked in a small voice, watching his face carefully. In the months since their affair had begun, she had never asked him that. Draco scoffed, sitting back in the couch, turning burning eyes on her face.

"And then what? Move in here and start a life with you? Not that the idea doesn't interest me, Granger, because it does, but she would never let me see my kids again."

Hermione chewed her lip, focusing on the second part of his comment, not allowing her mind to linger of the first. "She would, Draco…"

"She'd take those children and disappear with them," he said angrily.

"No, she wouldn't. Pansy is not like that..."

"You've had a few cups of coffee with my wife and you think you know her? Hermione, I've known that woman my entire life. I've been married to her for nearly twelve years. Trust me when I say she would do whatever she could to make my life a misery. She would take my house and clean out my Gringotts account, not that I really care about those things, but I don't want her to run off with my children," Draco replied, standing up and crossing the room to play with the pictures on the mantle, sweeping his shirt from the floor on the way. Hermione watched as he pulled the crisp white fabric over his arms and shoulders, leaving his chest exposed. "And anyway, how would your friends take it, Hermione? Your husband? I'd be lucky to survive a week in this place with Potter and his tempestuous little wife living next door."

"You've misunderstood me," Hermione admonished gently, watching him as he picked up a picture of Harry and Ginny on their wedding day. "I'm not asking you to leave Pansy for me. That has to be your choice."

"Yeah, I know," Draco replied with a sigh, replacing the picture and rejoining her on the couch. He lifted his arm and she slid against him after a moment of hesitation, the gesture far too intimate and not what they were used to. "I guess I was inflicting some of my own longing into the conversation. I'm comfortable with you, Granger. You're not afraid to tell me what you think of me, and that's refreshing after years of simpering obedience and false smiles. Plus," he added, tickling her ribs, "the sex is awesome."

Hermione rolled her eyes and slapped at his arm, her heart beating double time in her chest. She had dreamed about it, fantasised about being with Draco for real, but had never let him know, afraid that he would laugh at her for it. Now, hearing him speak so plainly was almost painful, knowing that if things were different they could easily be together, and that he wanted to be with her. Hermione swallowed the lump in her throat, pushing the dream away, knowing that dwelling on something that would never happen would only cause her grief. After nearly five months of their affair, he had shown no signs of leaving his wife for her, yet she continued to hope, knowing in her heart that she was only setting herself up her anguish. Hermione sat up, smiling when she felt Draco's fingers trail through her hair, his hand dropping to her thigh.

"What are you going to tell Weasley?" Draco asked gently, his eyes on her face. Hermione shrugged.

"He didn't actually ask me anything, Draco," she replied, thinking back to lunch two days before. Draco squeezed her leg tightly.

"But you know what he wanted to ask you, so what are you going to say? I have a feeling he is not going to give this up, Granger, and, well, the thing is, I'm not sure I want to have to give you up," Draco said tenderly, his hand loosening, his fingers trailing delicately between her knee and her hip. Hermione felt her heart twist as she looked at him. He met her gaze, giving her a small smile. "But, the choice is yours, after all. If you want to give your marriage another shot, then do so."

Hermione chewed her lip, her eyes filling with quick tears. "I don't know what I want," she answered eventually, blinking rapidly.

"Do you love him?" Draco asked her, his hand pausing on her knee. Hermione swallowed.

"Part of me will always love him, Draco, but no, not like you mean, not anymore. It's been too long," she replied quietly. Hermione watched her lover's face closely, feeling her heart begin to race when he dropped his gaze. She saw the corners of his lips twitch, and knew he was trying not to grin. His sudden display of possessiveness left a warmth in her stomach, a twisted sense of happiness spreading through her, settling around her heart. Draco looked up, his eyes catching the clock on the wall and he sighed.

"I should get home soon," he said, his eyes coming back to Hermione's face.

"What are their names? Your children," she asked him softly, taking his hand, his fingers automatically spreading so she could slide hers between them. Draco gave her a strange look, before reaching into his pocket, withdrawing his wallet. He flipped it open, handing it to her. Hermione felt herself smiling at the portrait before her eyes. A younger Draco sat with a little girl, about three years old, on his knee, his arm wrapped securely around her tiny body. She had her father's silver eyes, framed with long black lashes, and Hermione could see a touch of blue in them, from her mother. Her dark hair hung in two plaits, reaching her shoulders, and her tiny hands were gripped around her father's larger one, her face covered with a wide grin. To Draco's left stood a blue-eyed, blonde haired boy, possibly about six. His hand rested on his father's knee and Draco's other arm snaked around the boys shoulder as he pulled him close to him. The boy had his father's pale skin and slightly pointed chin, reminding Hermione strongly of how Draco first looked when she first met him when they were eleven. His little face was curled into the customary Malfoy smirk, which brought a smile to Hermione's face.

"That picture is a few years old now. Briana is five, and reminds me of my mother so much it's rather scary. They spend a lot of time together, which is probably why. Dorian is eight, and reminds me of me. He's a right royal pain in my backside at times, but he's a good kid," Draco said, his voice low and husky with emotion. Hermione took one last look at the picture, before closing the wallet and handing it back to him. Their eyes met and she froze at the raw intimacy in his silver gaze. His eyes traced her face so intensely her mouth went dry. He had never looked at her like that, with such longing, pain and love combined, and her heart increased its rhythm, pounding painfully in her chest.

"God I wish it was you," Draco whispered tightly, reaching out and touching her face gently. Hermione swallowed, blinking away a flow of hot tears as his fingers stroked her cheek. "Hermione, I need to say something. Please hear me out before you ..."

"Hermione? Are you here?"

"Who the bloody hell is that?" Draco asked sharply, his fingers stilling on her face. Hermione put her hand to her mouth, her heart sinking, looking at him fearfully.

"It's Harry! Shit, Draco ... your shirt," Hermione hissed, motioned to Draco's chest. The blonde glanced down quickly, flashing her a cheeky grin.

"I thought you liked me half-naked," he whispered suggestively, tickling her cheek with the tips of his fingers. Hermione rolled her eyes, reaching over and doing the buttons up for him, glaring at him. A door slammed in the background, and Draco dropped his hand from her face swiftly, shifting along a little on the couch, putting as much distance between their bodies as he could. "Doesn't Potter knock?"

Hermione's cheek burnt where his fingers had been and she swallowed quickly, trying to force some moisture into her parched mouth. Her brain had gone completely numb. She couldn't even think of a valid excuse for Draco being in her house. Her lover was sitting back casually, his legs folded and a calm expression on his face, but Hermione could sense the tension in his body. She opened her mouth to tell him to go, but at that moment Harry raced into the room, her name on his lips. He stopped when he noticed Draco, his face immediately creasing into a frown.

"What are you doing here, Malfoy?" Harry asked incredulously, his eyes sliding to Hermione's face in confusion. She held her breath, having no idea what to say.

"Work, Potter," Draco lied smoothly. "Granger has a case I'm interested in."

"Right," Harry said faintly, looking from one to the other, Hermione preying silently for him to accept the lie and forget about it. He sank into the armchair opposite them, sighing and rubbing at his hair. Hermione frowned, noticing for the first time how pale he was, and the small beads of sweat that littered his forehead. His eyes were dark and filled with shadows, grief and concern etched all over his face.

"Are you okay?" she asked softly, fearing his answer when he shook his head, his emerald eyes touching her face.

"Ginny is missing," he said simply and emotionlessly, blinking repeatedly. "She did not come home last night and no one has seen her since she left work."

"What do you mean, 'missing'?" Hermione asked in a whisper, her hand rising to rub at her temples. She snuck a look at Draco, noticing a small frown on his face.

"Just that," Harry sighed. "Missing. Gone. Vanished. Disappeared."

"Harry..." Hermione whispered tearfully, her knees beginning to shake. She wanted to get up from the couch and go and wrap her arms around her friend, but her legs would not work. Her mind was imagining a dozen different scenarios but coming up with no conclusions.

"Have you called the Ministry?" Draco asked Harry, who looked at him in surprise.

"Are you saying you care, Malfoy?" Harry snorted and Draco scowled.

"Not really, Potter. She's probably gotten sick of you and run off with her boyfriend or something. I know I would," he snapped. Harry snarled at him and rose to his feet, his fists clenched. Hermione found her legs, moving swiftly to stand in front of her friend, placing her hands on his chest and forcing him back into his seat. She turned and threw Draco a warning look over her shoulder and the blonde shrugged, sighing. "The thing is, Potter, I might be able to help."

"You're not an Auror," Harry spat, glaring hatefully at Draco.

"No, but unless Dark wizards are involved, the Auror's aren't going to touch this, not yet, not even for the great Harry Potter. Finding people is part of my job, so do you want my help or not?"

Harry muttered something under his breath, folding his arms. His eyes moved to Hermione, who nodded at him.

"He might be a pain in the arse, Harry, but he is good at his job," she said firmly, ignoring Draco's indignant remark. "Tell him what you know."

Harry sighed and nodded. Hermione squeezed his hand and returned to her seat next to Draco, looking at him swiftly, warning him with her eyes to keep his comments and opinions to himself. The two men still did not get along, but they tolerated each other when they met in the halls at the Ministry, or at work functions. "Alright, but lets get one thing clear, Malfoy. My wife has not run off. She would never leave her children like that. She wouldn't leave me like that. We have a solid and happy marriage," Harry said firmly, his voice rising and hitching a little at the end. Draco held up his hand, turning to ask Hermione if she had a quill and parchment lying around. She nodded, rising to fetch some from the bookcase drawer, dropping them in Draco's lap as she sat back down.

"Okay, Potter. When was the last time you saw her?" Draco asked. Hermione listened as Harry related he'd seen Ginny before she left for work yesterday afternoon, and that she was fine, she wasn't acting strangely and nothing was out of the ordinary. Halfway through the conversation, Draco sighed in frustration.

"Granger, can you do this please? I can't scribe and talk at the same time. I keep losing track of my questions," he moaned, motioning to the parchment in his lap. Hermione nodded, and he flashed her a heart-melting smile, passing her the quill and paper. Their fingers brushed and Hermione jumped and sucked in a breath at the raw electricity flowing between their skin, mentally kicking herself and hoping Harry did not notice anything. Draco held her gaze a moment, his eyes firing questions at her, reminding her they had a conversation to finish, before he turned back to Harry.

An hour and a half later, Hermione had three pages filled with notes, having written down every word Harry had uttered. She watched sadly as Harry peeled his body off the chair slowly, saying he needed to pick up his kids from Fred and Angelina's, asking Hermione in a broken voice if she could possibly call Molly and Arthur.

"I can't do it, Hermione. What do I say to them? She's their daughter," he whispered, his green eyes filling with tears he refused to shed. Hermione took his hand gently, restraining her own tears.

"It's okay. I'll call them. Go and get the kids sweetie, and bring them back here to me. You need to eat and you need to rest," she replied, ushering Harry towards the front door. He sighed and nodded, turning to take her in his arms, his body trembling against hers.

"I'll let you know if I come up with anything," Draco said from behind them. Hermione turned to look at him. He was leaning against the lounge room doorway, his icy blonde fringe hanging messily in his eyes. Draco held Hermione's notes in his hand, his eyes scanning the pages quickly. He glanced up, meeting her gaze, before shifting his eyes to Harry. "She's only been gone a day, Potter. Don't get too worried yet."

Harry sighed, pulling his hand through his already messy hair. "If that's your way of offering comfort, Malfoy, you suck at it," he said simply, and Draco shrugged in response, turning and wandering down the hall to the kitchen, asking Hermione did she want a coffee. She called back a grateful yes, feeling Harry watching her.

"He's rather ... comfortable in your house, Hermione," Harry commented softly. In the background, they could hear Draco opening cupboards and muttering to himself. Hermione felt her face heat up and she shrugged to cover up her spreading guilt.

"A kitchen is a kitchen, Harry. People seem to keep things in the same places no matter who they are," she replied lightly, squeezing his arm. He smiled at her, promising to bring the kids over in an hour or so. Hermione saw a cloud of grief cross his face, and she knew he was thinking about what he would tell them concerning their mother's absence. Hermione watched Harry as he trudged down her front path, a tightness in her chest. She was incredibly worried for both Harry and Ginny, the whole event mystifying her. Hurrying into the kitchen, she found Draco sitting at the table, her notes and fresh parchment spread out in front of him, a quill balanced between his fingers. A steaming cup of coffee sat at his elbow, and another at the other end of the table, waiting for her. Hermione stood in the doorway, watching him as he poured over his work, his face shifting from a frown to thoughtfulness and back to a frown. He ran a hand through his blonde hair, sighing.

"I could get used to you being here, like this," Hermione remarked softly, coming into the room and seating herself beside him. He flashed her a tired smile.

"This is weird, Hermione. Potter told me so much about his wife I feel like I've been married to her for years. Her life is so bloody ordered ... there's nothing here. Nothing that tells me anything. No changes in her routine, no ... nothing," he sighed, dropping the quill and rubbing at his face. "What do you think happened to her?"

"I have no idea," Hermione answered softly, sipping her coffee. "Thank you for doing this," she added and he shrugged. They sat in silence a while; the only sound the ticking of the clock on the wall and the hum of the refrigerator. Draco reached over and took Hermione's hand gently, his thumb rubbing small circles on her palm.

"I've got to go," he said regretfully. "It's Briana's bedtime and I have to be there to read her a story. She gets rather mad if I miss it. I can come back later, if you want," he added, but she shook her head. Discovering he was a father had left her rather shaken, but it was clear he loved his children, if not his wife.

"Harry's dropping the kids off in an hour, so I'll be busy with them," Hermione replied and Draco nodded, letting go of her hand and standing up. He hesitated a moment, before leaning over and planting a gentle kiss on Hermione's forehead, the gesture causing her heart to clench.

"Try not to worry about Ginny, okay? I'll talk to you tomorrow at work, about all this," he said softly, gesturing to the papers spread over the table. He smiled at her, turning and walking back towards the lounge room to collect his shoes.

"Draco," Hermione called suddenly, her throat constricted. He looked back at her over his shoulder. She desperately wanted to ask what he was going to tell her before Harry arrived, but she stopped her tongue, choosing another question instead, one that had been bugging her for days. "What did you say to me at lunch? In the restaurant?"

"The French? Je t'adore. Je ne veux pas vivre sans toi?" he asked, and she nodded. Draco gave her that intense look again, causing her stomach to flop over and her mouth to dry up. He shook his head gently, a sad smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "I adore you. I don't want to live without you."

He left her sitting open-mouthed at the kitchen table, shocked tears falling from her eyes as she heard him disapparate back to his wife and kids.

Please review!!

Chapter 5: Of the Heart
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A/N: So sorry about the long wait for this chapter. Thank you to everyone who has reviewed so far. I'm glad you're enjoying this fic!!

Of the Heart

"Okay, Potter, let's go over this one more time," Draco asked wearily, rubbing at his temples. "Is there anything you have not told me, about you, your wife and your life together?"

"Nothing, Malfoy. You now know more than I ever wanted you to know about my life."

Draco looked up, sighing. Harry paced the floor in front of his desk, wringing his hands and glancing at the clock every couple of minutes. His dark hair was sticking up at the back of his head. A frown rested between his brows and his skin was pale. Dark shadows ringed his eyes, and Draco thought he had his shirt on inside out.

"Potter, can you please stop that? You're making me dizzy," Draco muttered. Harry gave him a baleful glare, continuing to pace and Draco sighed again, sitting back in his chair and watching Harry closely. "You really look terrible. Did Hermione feed you last night? Did you get any sleep?"

"A little, yes," Harry replied quietly, letting his body fall into a chair. "It's so hard, Malfoy. They keep asking where their mother is. What do you say to them? How do you tell them she's missing?"


"I mean, what would you do if your wife went missing?"

"Probably throw a party," Draco answered. "Stupid bloody woman ... What?"

Harry was looking at him with a mixture of disbelief and curiosity on his pale face. He shook his head under Draco's glare. "Nothing. What would you tell your kids, you do have kids don't you, Malfoy?" Harry began, continuing when Draco nodded. "What would you tell them if their mother went missing? How would you explain it to them?"

Draco stared at him, watching a shadow of pain and grief eclipse his face. He shook his head. "I honestly don't know."

The two men looked at each other, the silence lengthening around them. Draco sat trying to think what he would do if he were in Harry's position. If Pansy vanished off the face of the earth, he knew he would not care that much, but his children would miss their mother. As much as he despised the woman, she was a great mother. She gave everything she had to Briana and Dorian, and he was grateful to her for that. He let his head drop slightly, chewing his lip, his mind drifting, as it often did, to Hermione. He knew she was putting the brakes on since she found out about his children, and part of him wondered how long it was going to be before she called it off altogether. Draco repressed a sigh, remembering what he had said to her the previous evening. Although it was the truth, he cursed himself again for saying it.

"There is something, Malfoy," Harry said softly, and snapping out of his thoughts, Draco lifted his head, looking at Harry expectantly. The brunette fidgeted with his hands, twisting his fingers around each other nervously. Draco sat patiently, waiting, a sinking feeling in his stomach. "If I tell you this, please, promise me you will not repeat it. No one knows, not Ron, and definitely not Hermione," he paused, giving Draco a hard, long look. "Promise me, Malfoy."

"Do you think this is important to the case?" Draco asked. "Because if its not, you don't need to tell me," he added, nodding at Harry's imploring look. "Okay, Potter. Whatever it is, I promise I will not repeat it."

"Ever cheated on your wife?" Harry asked smoothly, so calmly Draco felt his heart cease its steady rhythm. He swallowed, his mouth dry, forcing himself to remain still. He said nothing, just looked at Harry, hoping the other man would take his silence as a representation of offence and not an admission of sin. Harry took a deep breath, and Draco felt his eyes widen.

"You?" he whispered, unable to control his tongue, shaking his head in disbelief when Harry nodded miserably. "Wow. I would never have thought that."

"I fucked up, Malfoy, I know that, so please don't rub it in. It was years ago, when we were having some problems. Ron took me out, let me get extremely drunk, passed out somewhere and left me in alone in the bar. I woke up the next morning with a screaming hang-over and some girl that I had never seen before," Harry explained in a small voice. "I didn't tell Ginny, or anyone."

"So why tell me, of all people, now?" Draco asked, feeling confused.

"She found out, when Ron and Hermione were splitting up. I ended up defending Ron over ... something, and Ginny blew up about it, and the truth came out then and, well..."

"What had Weasley done?" Draco interrupted, feeling a smirk begin to creep onto his face. He pushed it away with difficulty. Harry blushed, averting his eyes.

"Nothing, Malfoy. Nothing you need to know about anyway," he replied quickly. Draco grinned, snickering.

"Granger knows already, Potter, or at least, she suspects, so I'm not going to blab," he said simply. "Now, back to your case."

Harry gave Draco a strange look, before continuing his story. "So Ginny found out, and she seemed to be okay about it. She didn't scream at me, she didn't curse me, and I still have all my body parts. She did leave for a week, took the kids to her parents and stayed there, but she came back and we got on with our lives. Everything was fine, until now."

"So what, you think she's run off out of spite, after so long?" Draco asked, fingering his chin thoughtfully.

"I don't know. I don't think so. That's not like her. But it is a possibility I guess," Harry replied grimly, sitting forward and letting his head drop into his hands. His elbows rested on his knees and his fingers wove through his hair, tugging at the dark strands. He lifted his head, staring into Draco's eyes. "I want her back, Malfoy. Find her for me, please."

"I'll do my best, Potter, but this is a real mystery. She has no enemies. I don't even think you have any enemies anymore, so that avenue gets us nowhere. She hasn't contacted anyone, and she left the kids with you," Draco said, frowning, reaching for a stack of papers on his desk. He shuffled them, tossing some aside, until he found Hermione's notes from the previous night. Her neat little handwriting made him smile to himself, noticing the way she curled her 'Y's' and crossed her 'T's'. Harry was silent, and Draco looked up. "You said when she left last time she took the kids. I'll be honest with you, Potter. The fact that she did not take them this time suggests she has not disappeared willingly. I'm sorry," he added awkwardly as Harry's face fell. The other man nodded, swallowing and climbing to his feet.

"Thanks, Malfoy," he said in a tight voice, walking towards the door.

"I'll contact you if anything comes up," Draco called as Harry opened the door. "In the meantime, Potter, don't do anything stupid. No heroic gestures and no trying to find her yourself. If this does have something to do with you, if someone has a gripe with you we don't know about, you could put her in danger. Understand?"

Harry nodded quickly, flashing Draco a look that suggested he had been intending to do his own investigating, before disappearing into the hall, the door closing with a gentle click. Draco sighed, sitting back in his chair, his feet rising to rest on the surface of his desk. He had left Hermione's last night with a terrible ache in his heart, wanting nothing more than to curl up in her arms and fall asleep with her next to him. The whole afternoon had been strange, and he had gradually come to the realisation that their affair had gone beyond casual shagging and fallen into something much deeper. Draco rubbed at his face, taking a deep breath, his body heated and tense. He could not get her out of his head, no matter how hard he tried. Her smile, her eyes, the way she held her head when she walked, and the way she said his name when he made love to her.

"Damn it, Draco," he snapped at himself. "What the hell are you doing? Call it off, now, before this gets any harder."

He sighed, letting his feet drop back to the floor, leaning forward and resting his elbows on the desk, his head falling into his palms. His fingers worked his temples, his brain and blood on fire. It was becoming more and more difficult to leave her, to return home and face Pansy and her questions about his day. Last night, he had found himself, for the first time in what seemed like years, telling her what had happened that afternoon, leaving out a few major details. He figured it would not hurt to let her know that Ginny was missing. Pansy knew everyone imaginable, between her work at Madam Malkins and the various charities she was involved in. It was possible that she knew someone who could give any information about Ginny's whereabouts. But that had been another dead-end, although Pansy promised him she would keep her eyes and ears open. The small piece of conversation Draco had elicited seemed to open a floodgate in Pansy, and she had launched into every topic conceivable, filling his ears with things he had no interest in. Her words eventually turned to Hermione, the sound of his lover's name on his wife's lips sending a shiver down Draco's spine, guilt flooding his brain.

Pansy had shown him a newspaper clipping, pushing it across the table at him. Draco's eyes had widened to see his wife standing in a photograph, Ron Weasley beside her. The caption underneath had mentioned something about Pansy donating some money to something to do with quidditch, but Draco had ignored the words, his eyes drawn to the photograph. Pansy was smiling and happy, and Weasley had his hand resting in the small of her back, his eyes drifting from the camera to Pansy, as if he couldn't control it. Draco had looked up at his wife sharply, his mind racing.

"You two look cosy," he had said eventually, causing Pansy to look at him curiously. He was not jealous, not at all, but there was something about it that struck too close to home. Pansy blushed and shrugged, dropping her eyes, confessing she had been spending time with Weasley since they had met for lunch. She was insistent Hermione needed to sort out things with Ron.

"The poor man is going out of his mind," she had said, causing Draco to raise his eyebrows, Pansy sighing at his reaction. "Honestly, Draco, why can't you be more helpful?"

"Because," he had snarled, pushing his plate away. "It's a lost cause. Granger is not a charity case, and she's not interested, trust me. Just let it go."

"I don't understand why you are so opposed to my helping them, Draco," his wife had muttered, stabbing at her steak with her fork.

"You spend time with Weasley; I spend time with Granger. He may want to reconcile, but she doesn't."

Pansy had narrowed her blue eyes at him across the table, making him squirm and causing him to realise he had practically given himself away with his words and his tone. He had retired to bed after checking in on the children, crawling under the covers and pretending to be asleep when Pansy came in. She hadn't kissed him gently on the cheek like she usually did, and Draco could sense her sitting in the darkness staring at him, before she eventually rolled away to the other side of the bed.

Draco sighed and ran a hand across his eyes, feeling weary and strung out. If possible, things at home had gotten worse. Pansy had not said one word to him that morning, not even a sly insult, and he felt like he was walking on eggshells around her, waiting for her to explode. She could last days, weeks even, without speaking to him directly, always keeping up the happy families façade when Dorian or Briana were around. It hadn't always been like that, their marriage. Draco could recall a time when he did love her, and she him. A time when they were happy. He could not even remember what happened to cause it all to change. One minute they were a loving family, the next, he and his wife were barely speaking to one another, except when the children were around or they were discussing the children. He was busy with his job, and Pansy was busy with her charity work and looking after Briana and Dorian. Since their marriage had crumbled, Draco had been unfaithful to Pansy several times, seeing a few girls on the side every now and then, but nothing like what he had with Hermione. That was a full-blown affair, and again he had no idea how it really got started. That first night should have been the last, but he could not stay away from her, needing her as much as she seemed to need him in the early days. Now, it was common practice, the sneaking and the lying, and she was such a huge part of his life he wasn't sure he could cope if she was suddenly absent from it.

Draco's eyes fell to the portrait of him and Pansy, taken last year. He could remember the day well. It was just after things turned sour between them, and although they were barely speaking, Pansy insisted they go and have their photograph taken, just as they did every year. Draco snorted. There had been no more portraits of the two of them alone since – all pictures taken over the last year contained Briana and Dorian as well, or Draco's mother. Sighing, Draco sat back in his chair, twisting a strand of hair around the tip of his finger. He had changed over the years, just as Pansy had, and perhaps that was what had happened to them. They no longer had anything in common. Draco blinked, wondering if they ever did, other than the fact they were both nasty, malicious self-serving individuals. The War had changed all that, forcing them both to see themselves for what they were, and when they came out the end of it, Draco had re-evaluated himself, Pansy too, and they had decided to settle down, get married and have a family.

Draco's office door opened suddenly and he jumped, shifting in his seat, startled by the intrusion. A very red head of hair preceded a tall, gangly body through the door. Draco raised his eyebrows.

"What do I owe the pleasure, Weasley? Since when did you drop around to chat?"

"I'm not here to 'chat', Malfoy. I want to know what you are doing to find my sister," Ron snapped, inviting himself inside, wandering towards the desk and sitting down in the same seat Harry had vacated earlier. "Well?" he inquired, raising his eyebrows.

"I'll tell you the same thing I told Potter," Draco sighed, finding it hard to look at Ron all of a sudden. Hermione's face rose in his thoughts along with a strange feeling of guilt, and he swallowed nervously, feeling his hands start to shake. He thrust them under the desk and into his lap, twisting his fingers around one another. "I'm waiting. There is not much we can do until I get more information, so if you know anything, now is the time to speak."

Ron ignored his request, settling back in the chair and glancing at Draco curiously. "What I'm wondering, is why Harry asked you for help in the first place?"

"I was at Herm ... Granger's place when she found out. It was all her idea, so if you want to blame someone, blame your wife," Draco snapped, annoyed. Ron's eyes narrowed in instant suspicion.

"What were you doing at my house?"

"Your house? Sorry, Weasley, but the last time I checked, you didn't live there anymore," Draco replied nastily, enjoying pointing out the fact Ron had stuffed things up. "And by the way, while we're on the subject of spouses, what are you doing with my wife?"

To Draco's surprise, Ron reddened. He shifted uncomfortably in his chair, fidgeting. "She's ... been helping me with some things."

"Really?" Draco replied, enjoying himself, leaning forward over the desk, a smirk on his lips. His hands had stopped shaking and the guilt that flooded his stomach had vanished. "Nice picture of you two," he added nonchalantly, watching Ron out of the corner of his eye. Ron scowled, sitting up straight. He cleared his throat before speaking again.

"Anyway, just, let me know if you find anything on Ginny," he replied, changing the subject. Draco forced away a snicker at the deepening blush creeping over the other man's face, wondering again just how much time the redhead was spending with his wife. Ron stood up, leaving quickly without waiting for a reply. As the door closed, Draco sat back in his chair, tapping his fingers thoughtfully on the side of his jaw. Was Weasley screwing his wife? Did he honestly care? Draco sighed, pulling at his hair. If Pansy was having an affair, so be it. It was not as if he could protest, but the possibility of her sleeping with Weasley was unsettling on many different levels. It was the man he could not, no matter how hard he tried, ever come to see as more than a bumbling idiot, Potter's side-kick, a dirt-poor, annoying git. And, Draco thought with a twist of his insides, it was his mistress' estranged husband. He shivered, standing up and pulling his robes tight around his body.

He needed to talk to his wife.

As Draco hurried out of work, he resisted the urge to stop in and see Hermione. Part of him wanted to tell her what he suspected Ron and Pansy of doing, but another part warned him to be silent. She did not need to know, not until he was certain. Once at home, Draco found Pansy in the lounge-room, curled up with the latest copy of Witch Robe, one of her many ordering catalogues for the shop. She looked up, surprised, immediately turning back to her glossy pages, ignoring him completely. Annoyed, Draco strode across the carpet, ripping the catalogue from her dainty little fingers, tossing it on the floor behind him. Pansy jumped, sitting up straight and gave him the darkest glare she could.

"We need to talk about a few things, Pansy," Draco stated as she climbed to her feet, heading towards the door. He reached out and grabbed her arm, pulling her back into his body.

"What do you want?" she snapped, pushing him off her and stalking away to the other side of the room. Draco watched as she picked up a family portrait, one taken recently, fixing her eyes on it as if it was the most important thing in the world. Draco sighed, shedding his robes and dropping them onto the plush green velvet lounge. Pansy glanced at him, her face impassive, her eyes bored.

"Are you shagging Ron Weasley, Pansy?" he asked bluntly, hoping to shock her. Pansy's red lips dropped open and she closed her eyes momentarily. Her hands started to shake and with difficulty, she placed the portrait back on the shelf at her elbow. "Well?" Draco pressed, watching as she opened her eyes, taking a deep breath.

"I can't believe you asked me that, Draco," she whispered faintly. "You cannot be serious. Where on earth did you get an idea like that?"

Draco said nothing, just watched her, reminding himself that for all her words and shocked actions, she was a brilliant actress. Pansy shook her head at him sadly.

"Do you think this marriage means nothing to me at all?" she asked softly, her tone gentle and caressing. Draco narrowed his eyes, confusion batting at his head. Why wasn't she screeching at him? Why hadn't she thrown anything? Her calmness was unsettling and he swallowed.

"Sometimes," he answered, looking her in the eye. "Anything to do with me, you don't seem to have any interest. You're there for the children, and I'm grateful for that, but Pansy, you cannot ..." Draco faltered, lifting his hand to rub at his eyes. He took a deep breath. "Do you still love me?"

"What?" Pansy stammered, staring at him.

"I need to know," Draco replied firmly. "Because if you don't, if you preferred I wasn't here, then ..."

"Then what, Draco?" Pansy fumed suddenly, her voice rising. She stamped her foot in anger. "What? You'll move out? You'll divorce me? What? It's not as if you're here for me anyway, so what does it matter? You haven't been there for me in years! You don't care! You don't give a toss if I'm shagging someone else. You just want a way out! You're asking me if I still love you? Perhaps I should be the one asking that question, Draco. I've not heard you say you love me in ... Merlin, I've forgotten how long it's been. You don't talk to me, you don't communicate with me. You treat me like I'm not even here!"

Pansy took a deep breath, her eyes filling with angry tears. Draco stood numb and mute as she crossed the room, coming to stand in front of him. He felt terrible. Every word she had said was true. Everything she accused him of he had done. He knew it. He closed his eyes, not wanting to look at his wife's stricken face. Pansy grabbed his arm, shaking him until his eyes snapped open. Tears were leaking down her cheeks, smearing her make-up, but her eyes held a depth of anger and hurt he had never seen before. He opened his mouth, and she drew back her hand and slapped him across the cheek. She turned her fists on his body, pummeling his chest in her anguish, sobbing and mumbling incoherent words.

"I'm sorry," Draco whispered, reaching out and folding her in his arms, pinning her against him. "I'm sorry, Pansy. I really am."

"I hate you," she muttered against his chest, her body shaking with the effort of breathing. Her hands were balled into fists and clenched around Draco's shirt. Slowly, he released his hold on her, feeling her body relax. Her arms lifted and he cringed, waiting for another slap. His cheek stung and he was certain it was crimson and glowing. Pansy surprised him by sliding her arms around his neck, her head resting against his chest. She sighed, turning her face to look up at him with tear stained eyes.

"I do still love you, Draco," she whispered, her pupils huge and dark. "I never stopped. What happened to us?"

Draco stared at her, unsure of what to say. He did not know how to begin explaining things to her. There was so much he had not said over the years, so much he had kept hidden and although he was certain Pansy had her secrets too, he suspected his were worse. She looked up at him, unblinking, before sighing and making to pull out of his arms, her bottom lip trembling and her face coated in misery. Without thinking too much about what he was doing, Draco pulled her back, bending his head and catching her lips gently with his.

Please remember to leave a review!

Chapter 6: Tangled up in Reason
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Tangled Up in Reason

Two weeks flew past without pause, and Hermione found herself stretched between comforting Harry, avoiding Ron, something that was becoming increasingly difficult, and trying to spend time with Draco. Since Ginny's disappearance, he was working around the clock and would often stumble into her house in the middle of the night, falling asleep until the early hours of the morning, when he would return home to greet his kids as they woke up. Hermione had noticed he was oddly distracted, something she put down to the stress of his job. She knew Harry, and Ron, were both continually in Draco's office, pressing him for answers. He had his team focused on finding Ginny, but after a month and no leads, they were starting to run out of ideas.

Draco was also suffering the wrath of the rest of the Weasley's, who seemed to think the fact their daughter and sister had not yet been returned to them was Draco's fault. He told Hermione one night when she flew into a rage about it, that he was accustomed to annoyed families, and not to worry, it was just part of the job.

One Monday afternoon found Draco in Hermione's office, his head in her lap. They were sitting on the large comfortable couch along the wall, Hermione's fingers in his hair, massaging his scalp. Draco's eyes were closed, his breathing deep, his body relaxed. Hermione's spare hand was resting on his chest, held firmly between his warm, soft fingers, his thumb stroking her palm gently and rhythmically.

"I'm sorry," Draco whispered suddenly, his eyes opening to rest on her face. Hermione frowned, her fingers stilling in his hair.

"About what?"

He sighed deeply, releasing her hand and lifting his fingers to tickle her cheek lightly. "About not finding your friend. Hermione, I have no idea what to do now. Every lead, every single trail we have followed has turned up nothing. It is as if she vanished into thin air, which I'm certain she didn't. There has been no ransom note or anything like that at all, which makes it obvious she either left of her own free will, or..." he paused, swallowing, his hand sliding slowly down Hermione's chest to the hand that rested on his head. He slid his fingers between hers, squeezing. "Or it means she's dead."

"I know," Hermione answered softly after a pause. "I know. It's the only explanation."

"You know the Aurors have found nothing either? Maybe, and I know I'm the last person who would ever suggest this, but maybe we should contact the Muggle police? I've worked with them before and although the whole secrecy thing is hard to maintain at times, it's been a handy collaboration," Draco said thoughtfully, his eyes dropping from her face. Hermione nodded.

"It's good idea, Draco," she replied gently, smiling. "I don't think anyone would object, especially after so much time. You've seen how upset Harry is, how upset the rest of her family are. And those poor kids ... they are so little, Draco. They don't understand where their mother has gone, and I have no idea what to say to them. They ask me all the time where she is and ..."

Hermione stopped, sniffing back tears. She had tried hard not to think too much about Ginny's whereabouts. There was no answer to the questions that plagued her in the middle of the night, or the nightmares that woke her, sweating and trembling, her body shaking with visions of her friend's body, lying broken in a pool of blood. Hermione could not see Ginny leaving Harry willingly for anything.

She had always admired her friends marriage, the way Harry and Ginny still loved each other so deeply after so long together, and the way they had created a life for themselves. She had used Harry and Ginny as an example of what a marriage should be, and when her own relationship with Ron tumbled to the ground she thought it was her fault, that she had missed something vital. Ginny had been there to console her, holding her hand and stroking her hair when she bawled her eyes out on Ginny's slender shoulder.

Hermione's eyes filled with tears and before she knew it, she was crying softly. Draco sat up, wrapping his arms around her, her head tucked against his neck, his skin drenched in her emotion. His hands moved gently along her spine, caressing and tender. Hermione hiccupped, feeling him kiss her hair, his palm rising to cup the back of her head gently.

"I miss her," Hermione whispered, wiping her eyes on Draco's shirt. He pulled her closer, his chin resting on the top of her head.

"I know, sweetie," he whispered back, rocking her gently against his body. "You've been so strong, Hermione. Caring for everyone else through this. I've seen you hold back your own grief so you can offer comfort to Potter and Ginny's family. You've put everyone else before yourself, even though Ginny is just as important to you."

"I had too," Hermione objected. "Harry is falling apart."

"I know he is," Draco replied. "But tonight, no Harry, no Weasley's; nothing but you and me and dinner, okay?"

Hermione nodded, lifting her head and giving him a grateful, watery smile. Draco smiled back, kissing her gently on the lips, his fingers moving into her hair, massaging her scalp. Hermione sighed, closing her eyes blissfully, leaning forward to press her lips on his. A knock on the door startled them, Draco's fingers digging into her scalp painfully, before dropping quickly, his hand resting between her shoulder blades. Without waiting for a response, the door opened quickly.

"Hermione! It's Ginny! She's ... What the fuck?"

Ron stood in the doorway, his eyes widening as he noticed Hermione and Draco cuddled together on the lounge. Hermione swallowed nervously, watching as her husbands knuckles slowly turned white. His hand was still wrapped around the doorknob, and he was squeezing it so hard she thought it would shatter. Pulling herself quickly out of Draco's arms, Hermione crossed the room, wiping away the last traces of her tears. Ron glared at her suspiciously, his eyes floating from her face to Draco's, as if searching for evidence. Hermione took a deep breath, approaching him. Draco stood up behind her, heading for the door also.

"I'll talk to you later," he said as he passed, and she nodded indifferently, her well-rehearsed role falling into place in Ron's presence.

"Wait, Malfoy, you need to hear this too," Ron said, closing the door and preventing Draco's escape. Ron stared hard at the blonde, his eyes narrowed as he traced Draco's features carefully. Draco snorted, folding his arms.

"What, Weasley? Have I got lipstick on my collar or something?" he quipped sarcastically, turning and walking away, settling himself with grace back on the lounge. Hermione gave him a warning glare, which he pointedly ignored. She sighed, turning back to a scowling Ron.

"I was upset, Ron. Draco was comforting me, that's all," she explained quickly in a soft voice. "Now what's happened? You said something about Ginny?"

Ron nodded slowly, his eyes finding Hermione's and she felt her heart clench and her stomach twist. Her hands lifted to her mouth.

"Oh god," she whispered, seeing again her nightmare visions. Ron smiled and shook his head, reaching out and grabbing her hands, pulling them away from her face.

"She's back, Hermione. Just like that. She's back," he laughed, hugging her tightly. Hermione struggled out of his arms, staring at him in amazement.

"What? Ron, where has she been? What happened? Tell me," she practically shouted, shaking him furiously. She was crying, in both grief and happiness, relief that her friend was alive engulfing her, and the pain she had been through sitting beneath the surface, marring the news. Hermione wrapped her fingers around Ron's arms and shook him with all her might, feeling hysteria building inside her as the bubble of pain cracked and bled. "Where the fuck has she been? How can she just turn up again? Why didn't she call me and tell me she was all right? Why didn't she call Harry? Or her children? Ron? Answer me!"

Ron just stared at her in shock as she shook him and cried. Hermione felt a pair of strong arms move around her body, and she turned gratefully into Draco's chest, sobbing once more. He held her against him, whispering soothing words in her ears, words she could not hear, but that were comforting nonetheless. His hand stroked her back, and she wrapped both arms around his waist, burying her face in his shirt.

"Thanks for letting us know, Weasley," Draco said quietly. "I'll make sure she's okay. Go and see your sister."

Hermione sniffed, tightening her hold on her lover as she heard Ron mutter something inaudible. She heard the door open slowly, felt his eyes on her back, before he left, closing the door firmly. She blinked rapidly, clearing the salt from her lashes.

"She's not dead," she whispered, feeling Draco nod in response. Hermione frowned, pulling out of his arms and looking at his face. He was frowning also, his brows pulled together thoughtfully. "Then where has she been?"

"That's a good question," Draco replied gently, bending his head to kiss her softly on the lips. "I need to go home first, and then I'll come over and we'll have dinner, okay? You can go and see Ginny in the meantime."

Hermione nodded, lifting her arms around his neck, pulling his head down so she could kiss him again. He melted against her body; his arms wrapping around her so tightly he almost pushed the breath from her lungs. She felt him tremble as he pulled away, brushing a strand of hair from her cheek. Draco gave her a weak smile, and left.

Hermione rushed home, dumping her bag on the kitchen table. With a quick flick of her wand, she changed her clothes and tidied her hair, before taking a deep breath and tearing out the back door. She jumped the low fence that separated hers and the Potter's backyards, racing up the back steps to Harry and Ginny's kitchen, her friends name on her lips. As she tore through the room, Hermione took a moment to notice the kitchen was an absolute mess, the sink full of dishes and the milk out of the fridge. She shook her head, heading for the lounge room.

Ginny was sitting on the lounge, her children curled into her lap. She looked up as Hermione entered, tears pouring from her eyes, her face twisted in guilt and anguish.

"I'm so sorry," she whispered, her hands continuing to stroke her children's hair. Harry was sitting across from her, looking at her without blinking, as though he did not truly believe she was there. Ginny gently shifted the little heads from her legs, standing up and flying across the room to fall into Hermione's arms.

"I'm sorry," she cried and Hermione shook her head, wrapping her arms around her friend, hugging her tightly. Ginny's body shook and she pulled a deep, raspy breath into her lungs. "I'll explain everything to you, I promise," she whispered against Hermione's neck.

"When you're ready sweetie," Hermione replied tearfully, pushing aside her own questions and the burning need to know what had happened to the back of her mind. "I'm just so happy you're okay, Ginny. I was so worried."

Ginny stepped away, taking Hermione's hand in hers, her eyes drifting back to her children. The little boys were sleeping, their faces smiling and bright, even in their dreams. Ginny sniffed and wiped her eyes. Hermione saw her look at Harry, and frowned at the tense silence that existed between them. She bit her tongue, desperate to ask what was wrong, shaking herself slightly. Ginny turned back to her and she forced a smile.

"I'll leave you to your kids, Gin," Hermione said softly, squeezing her friend's hand. "I'll be at home if you need me."

Ginny nodded, and as hard as it was, Hermione turned away, heading back through the kitchen and outside. She took a deep breath, calming her nerves, before crossing the lawn and stepping over the fence, her head spinning. Ginny was pale and thinner than the last time she saw her, her eyes filled with pain and sorrow.

Draco was waiting in the kitchen when she came back inside, sitting at the table with a bottle of wine and two glasses. His hand was wrapped loosely around the neck of the bottle and his eyes were glazed. He did not look up as Hermione entered, his face closed and blank. She shivered, crossing to his side and resting her hand gently on his shoulder, jumping when he jumped, his eyes swinging to her face.

"Sorry," he muttered, attempting a smile. Hermione suddenly felt sick and she swallowed, pushing the feeling away. Her hand moved to Draco's hair, her fingers weaving between the long blonde locks, her nails scraping his scalp gently. He sighed, turning and drawing her into his arms, his head resting against her stomach.

"What's wrong?" she asked, fearing the answer. "You seem upset. Are your kids okay?"

Draco sighed explosively. "Pansy thinks she might be pregnant," he said in a small voice, the sound muffled by her shirt. Hermione felt like someone had sucked the bottom out of her stomach.

"What?" she whispered, nausea rising instantly to engulf her, swimming around her head. Her hand dropped from his head, falling to rest limply beside her body.

Draco sighed again, standing up and pulling at his shirt irritably. "Pregnant, Hermione."

"But ... how? I thought you weren't..." she stammered.

"Yeah, well, that woman can get pregnant at the drop of a hat," he replied humorlessly. "It was a couple of weeks or so ago. I'm not even sure why I did it, to be honest. She ... She was upset and we'd had a fight and ... I don't know, okay? It just happened. She is my wife," he added in a pleading undertone.

Hermione shook her head, expelling a breath of air from her lungs, forcing herself to stay calm. "I know. I'm just surprised, that's all. I thought ... I thought I was the only one you were..."

"You were - you are," Draco corrected firmly. They stared at one another sadly. "So what now, huh?" he asked eventually, taking her limp hand in his and rubbing his thumb over her knuckles. The touch of his skin was like a burn, and Hermione jerked her hand away suddenly, walking across the room to lean against the kitchen bench.

"I guess, then, that you won't be divorcing her," she stated in a tight voice, not looking at him. "I know we never really talked about it, Draco, but I assumed that..."

Draco said nothing and she bit her lip, trying hard not to cry with frustration.

"Hermione, I do want to be with you, I do, but..." he began gently.

"What's the point, Draco? Tell me, because I can't see a future in this for us at all," Hermione whispered. She crossed her arms over her chest, her blood sizzling with pain and loss. "After so many months, after so much time. After all the lies and the deceit and the guilt ... I've waited for so long."

"It's not that simple. Things have changed. I just told you," Draco answered weakly, coming to stand in front of her. He reached out to touch her, but she stepped away, lengthening the distance between them. Draco blinked at her, his face transforming into a scowl.

"I thought you, of all people, would be willing to fight for this," he said evenly. "I pictured you as someone who would go to battle for the things they want. Are you that sort of person, or not, because right now, I'm confused."

"I am that person, but I'm not going to tear myself to pieces for something that is going nowhere," Hermione snapped back.

"Nowhere? Hermione, I've already said I want to be with you, but I can't just drop my life and pick up a new one, especially not now. I haven't even told Pansy about any of this. She ... She's so happy at the moment ... I haven't even mentioned divorce to her. You have to give me more time, please," Draco said, running his hand through his hair, his face a mask of twisted pain and confusion.

"I don't know if I can," Hermione answered after a moments pause. She felt her anger dissolving slowly as she looked at him. "I can't deal with this right now."

"So this is it then?" he said quietly, stepping closer to her. His eyes held a degree of pain she had never seen before, and Hermione blinked, forcing herself not to cry. She nodded instead, a mechanised motion, one that hurt more than she ever believed possible.

Draco stopped a foot from her and she saw his hands twitch, as if he wanted to hold her and for a moment, she almost let herself step forward and into his arms, one last time. "Are you certain?"

Hermione took a deep breath, shaking and nodding her head at the same time. "No," she croaked, watching a spark light in his eyes. "But I can't, we can't, go on like this, Draco. Go home to your family."

A spasm of anger and remorse crossed his face, and he dropped his eyes, his bottom lip sliding between his teeth. A tremble passed through his shoulders and in the deafening silence of the room she heard him swallow. "Okay," he said simply, lifting his eyes to look at her. "Okay. If that's what you truly want, Hermione, I'll leave you alone."

She nodded, dropping her eyes, pulling her arms closer around her body. Her eyelids slid closed and her whole body shook with the effort of not crying as she heard his receding footsteps, followed by the loud snap of apparition. Hermione shivered, her breathing forced and erratic, her heart pounding in her ears. Slowly, she let her body slide to the floor, her mind numb. She blinked, feeling tears drip from her eyes, but she made no effort to brush them away. Hermione closed her eyes, the world falling into blackness around her.

Ginny found her hours later, sitting on the kitchen floor with her knees curled up to her chest. Her friend gave a cry of shock, before dropping to the ground, pulling Hermione gently into her arms, rocking her slowly. Ginny brushed away the tears Hermione did not know she had still been crying, pulling the weeping woman to her feet and leading her to her bedroom. Hermione bit her lip, feeling fresh tears blur her eyes. The sight of her bed, with the covers still pulled back and in a wild tangle made her eyes burn and a lump lodge in her throat. To her, it was not the bed she had shared with Ron anymore; it was the bed she had shared with Draco, and the realisation that she would never wake up to see his face in the morning light was like a blade in her side.

Hermione let Ginny lead her to the bed and lay her down, conjuring a wet cloth so she could wipe Hermione's face clean. Ginny sat and held her hand, asking no questions, and when the tears had dried up, she brushed the hair off Hermione's forehead, smiling at her.

"I didn't think you missed me that much," she joked and Hermione smiled.

"I missed you, Gin. So much. I tried not to think about it, about where you were and what had happened. I let Draco and the other's try and find you. I looked after Harry and the kids for you, and..." she stopped, sitting up, frowning. "Where were you?" she blurted, wiping her face.

"Just ... away. Thinking," Ginny answered after a pause. "About my marriage."

Hermione felt her frown deepen. "What do you mean? What's wrong with your marriage? You have the perfect relationship, Gin. Harry loves you."

Ginny snorted, climbing to her feet and beginning to pace the room. "It looks that way from the outside, doesn't it? But it's not perfect, Hermione. Nothing is perfect. Look at you and Ron. I thought you two had the perfect relationship, and ... the thing is, Harry and I..." She stopped pacing, stamping her foot, her eyes filled with fire. "He cheated on me, Hermione!"

"But ... he would never ... holy shit," Hermione whispered, her hand jumping to her mouth. She sat up straight, pulling her legs beneath her, her head spinning. "When? Why?"

Ginny threw her hands in the air. "Does he need a reason? Really? Remember that huge fight we had, years ago? And then Ron took him out for a drink, and he never came home?" Ginny asked, and Hermione nodded blankly, unable to believe what she was hearing. "My dear brother got my husband so drunk he ended up going home with some ... some ... little slut and then lied to me about it!"

"Where was Ron during all this?" Hermione asked weakly, her knees shaking. She remembered the night well. Ginny had raced into her house the next morning with the kids in tow, asking had Harry ended up there, because her husband had not come home. Ginny laughed nastily.

"Passed out on the floor of the club, apparently. He says he woke up and Harry was gone and he just assumed he'd gone home," Ginny answered, sinking down on the end of the bed, her head falling to rest between her hands. "So many years of marriage, two kids, and he just throws it away ... the thing is, Hermione, I can forgive him for the infidelity, I can, but I cannot forgive him the lie. Is that wrong of me?"

Hermione sniffed, feeling tears in her eyes again. She crawled to the end of the bed, putting her arms around her friend. Ginny shuddered, falling against her, crying softly. "No, sweetie. It's not wrong. Not at all," Hermione replied in a choked voice, her own guilt swirling intensely around her body. She could taste it, smell it and hear it whispering to her and she swallowed, pushing it away and taking a deep breath.

"What are you going to do?" she asked as Ginny pulled out of her arms, wiping her eyes dry with her sleeve. She shrugged.

"I don't honestly know," she replied, reaching out and taking Hermione's hand. "On another matter, why were really crying on your kitchen floor? As flattering as it is, I know it was not only about me."

"Oh, Ginny," Hermione began, covering her eyes with her hands. "I've made a terrible mistake."

Remember to leave a review!! On another note, I know it may seem too fast, Ginny being back and all, but remember that several weeks have passed since she disappeared. I just jumped ahead of time :)

Chapter 7: Let it all crash
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Let it all crash…

Draco managed to avoid Hermione for the next two days. He was angry with her, he was hurt and he desperately wanted to hold her. He'd gone home from her house numbed and completely drained of all emotion. When he'd walked through the door, it had been straight into Pansy's waiting arms, and although he had not felt like it at all, he had made love to his wife, letting himself drown in guilt. Since she found out she might be pregnant, Pansy had been the happiest he had seen her in years. He could not bring himself to mention the word 'divorce', as much as he wanted too. Hermione had made it clear it was over, so what would leaving Pansy now do?

Draco sighed, his head slumping on his desk. He had never felt so miserable in his entire life. He shook himself ruthlessly, clearing his head as best he could, reaching for a stack of papers at his elbow. Ginny Potter's file. Draco frowned. He had not yet spoken to her, and sighing again, he scribbled a note, folding it and sending it off to be owled to the Potter residence. Although he told himself he did not really care where she had been, the case needed closing, for the records.

Draco went about his usual routine, taking solace in the normalcy that existed around his work. Crimes committed, criminals needing apprehending. It was all common place, and the monotony of writing reports and filing them gave him a small satisfaction, although he felt he was operating on autopilot, going through the motions numbly, not having to think or feel or consider anything but what his hands were doing. Time ticked by slowly, so slowly Draco could practically hear every second of the morning passing, the silence surrounding his office deafening. By this time, Hermione would at least have seen him by now, poking her head in the room to blow him a kiss or a sneaky wink, leaving him aroused and annoyed it was only morning. Draco closed his eyes, letting his head fall back until the muscles in his neck stretched dangerously tight.

Hermione's face floated behind his eyelids, her perfume was in his nostrils and her breath in his mouth. Scowling, Draco stood up, pacing the small space behind his desk. The knowledge that he could be a father again thrilled him as much as it teased him. Pansy being pregnant meant he would not be walking out on her, not now. It also meant he could not be with Hermione again. She was right. They could not keep doing what they had been doing.

Draco stopped pacing, staring blankly ahead, blinking rapidly. He could not loose her. He needed her. He needed her touch, her voice, her body and her comfort as surely as he needed air. She completed him, and he felt more comfortable and relaxed with her than he ever had with anyone else, except his children. He took a deep breath, focusing his thoughts on his kids. They needed him. They were still babies, too young to understand what went on behind the closed doors of relationships. He had promised himself he would never be an absent father, that he would give his children everything they needed, and he knew, without having to be told, one of the most important things they needed was him. The thought of not seeing them everyday was enough to break his heart and cause tears to jump to his eyes.

His thoughts turned again to Hermione, and he found himself smiling at the idea of seeing her with his kids. He'd seen her with Harry and Ginny's boys, and he knew just by watching her she was a natural with children. Draco wondered, not for the first time, what it would be like to come home to a woman he actually wanted to be with.

"Fuck it," he swore, sinking back into his chair with an angry growl. "It's over. Get used to it," he snapped to himself, taking a deep breath. "It's not like I..."

He paused, his heart pounding rapidly in his ears. Draco sucked a ragged breath into his lungs, the air filling his blood, making his head race. His palms grew sweaty and he wiped them on his pants, shaking. "It's not like I..." he repeated, closing his eyes. He forced himself to breathe steady and strong, but the unsaid words swirling around his mind made him dizzy with regret. He blinked, sitting back and pulling at his hair.

"I love her," he whispered, his body trembling. "I actually love her. I really do, and there's not a thing I can do about it."

By lunchtime, Draco could not handle being in the same building as Hermione anymore. The knowledge that the woman he truly loved was just down the hall and out of his reach was too painful, so he left, returning home with a pounding headache and a terrible throbbing in his heart. Pansy was out, and he wandered numbly to his bedroom, intending to sleep. He lay down, groaning and covering his eyes with a pillow. His wife's expensive perfume filled his nostrils and his stomach lurched, his body rebelling against the scent. It was not right. It was not the scent he had on his skin for the last five months. Nauseous and shaking, Draco stumbled into the bathroom, falling over the toilet bowl and emptying his insides. He vomited through his pain until he had nothing left to give, his eyes and throat burning and numbed at the same time.

In the end, he knew he could not blame Hermione. It had been his choice to continue the affair. His choice to continue to maintain the façade that was his marriage. His choice to let down his guard, and his choice to let himself fall in love with her, just as it had been her choice to end it. Wiping his eyes on his sleeve, Draco wandered back to his bedroom, sitting down on the edge of the bed. He caught his reflection in the mirror opposite him and he blinked, staring back at himself angrily. His face was blotchy and red, his eyes swollen and his cheeks sunken. He realised he had not eaten for almost two days, his stomach being too twisted to hold any food. Draco scowled at himself, pushing his hair back from his forehead in frustration. Not wanting to look at himself anymore, Draco let his body fall backwards, the softness of the bed rising to meet him and within seconds, he was asleep.

Draco woke several hours later, the room bathed in darkness. He blinked, pushing himself upright, running his palm over his face. A blanket lay across his body and he pushed it aside, thinking Pansy must be home. She had obviously found him sleeping, and had not only thrown a blanket over him, but had taken his shoes off as well. Draco dragged himself to the bathroom, splashing his face with icy water, scowling at his blood-shot eyes and pale skin. He smoothed his hair down at the back, wetting it, before wandering back into the bedroom, slipping out of his work clothes and into a t-shirt and jeans. Leaving his feet bare, Draco headed downstairs, the sounds of chatter rising to meet him.

Pansy was in the kitchen, cooking, an apron around her middle and her hair pulled back from her face. Several pots sat on the stove, bubbling away, wooden spoon handles sticking out of them, moving slowly on their own. Draco stood in the doorway, watching his family. Briana was sitting on the kitchen bench, near the sink, handing Pansy various kitchen tools and vegetables, her little voice chattering non-stop about what she did that day. Dorian was sitting at the small table, a large book Draco recognised as a spell book open in front of him. He chuckled.

"You're not going for another couple of years, mate," he said, coming into the kitchen. He ruffled his sons' blonde hair. "You'll have all the standard books read before you even get there."

"I know," the boy replied earnestly. "But Dad, they are just so interesting. Did you know that, with the right spell, I could change into someone else?"

Draco smiled. "I did, yes. It's called Polyjuice Potion, and it's not for fun."

"Daddy, guess what I did today," Briana had jumped off the bench and was now wrapped around Draco's legs, her little face bright and smiling up at him. He bent down and picked her up, shifting her weight to his hip, giving her a kiss on her plump little cheek.

"What did you do today?" he asked, smiling at her.

"You have to guess," Briana pouted.

"Hmm, I don't know," Draco mused playfully, ticking her ribs so that she squirmed against him. "You learnt to fly?"

Briana sighed and rolled her eyes. "Don't be silly, Daddy. People can't fly, not without a broom," she said in exasperation. "I made a picture with grandma. Come and see it. Mum stuck it on the fridge."

Draco walked across the kitchen, briefly meeting Pansy's eyes on the way. She had not spoken to him yet and he had the niggling feeling something was not right. Briana pointed, reaching out and tapping a moving drawing of a girl riding a unicorn. The girl had bright purple hair, and the unicorn was blue, with a green horn and yellow hooves.

"That's beautiful sweetie," Draco said warmly, nuzzling her cheek. "Did you do that all by yourself?"

"I drew the picture, and grandma made it move. I wanted to draw a forest for her to ride through, but I didn't have time," the little girl explained, struggling to be put down. Draco let her go, watching as she skipped off to annoy her brother, jumping up and down beside him, trying to see what he was reading. The boy scowled, closing the book and pushing it away from her. Pansy sighed, intervening before the children could get into an argument.

"Both of you go and wash your hands. Dorian, set the table and Briana, make sure the salt and pepper are on the table," she said with a smile, both children obeying and leaving the room. Pansy turned to Draco, her smile immediately fading. "I need to talk to you, Draco."

"Okay," he breathed, leaning back against the counter, folding his arms over his chest. He raised an eyebrow. "Pansy? What about?"

"Not now," she snapped, moving away from him to check on their meal. "After dinner. The children don't need to hear this."

Draco sighed in irritation, taking out his wand and casting a silencing charm around the kitchen. Pansy glared at him, putting her hands on her hips in annoyance. "Tell me," Draco said simply. They stared at one another, the silence between them bristling and prickly. Draco experienced a stab of guilt, wondering if she had found out about Hermione, but he quickly smothered it, making sure none of that emotion showed on his face. Pansy sighed, throwing her hands in the air.

"I'm not pregnant and I want you out of this house," she said softly, dropping her eyes. Draco gaped at her, swallowing in shock. Not pregnant?

"What? Pansy..."

"You offered to go. Remember? So now I'm telling you to go. By the morning," she replied, her eyes rising to settle on his face. Her lips were painted a dark red and her skin was pale, her blue eyes wide and glistening. Draco took a step towards her, reaching for her, but she moved away.

"I don't understand," he whispered, shaking his head. "There's no baby?"

Pansy laughed, shaking her head at him sadly. "I'm not that upset, actually Draco. It's a blessing, really, not being pregnant. As much as I'd love to have another baby, I'd rather it not be with you. You don't want to be here, and now there is nothing keeping you here. You don't love me, I know it. So just leave."

Draco stood in silent shock, staring at her. He could not believe her words. Part of him was cheering, because he had finally gotten his wish, but at what price? Hermione had left him, and now Pansy was telling him she didn't want him either. Draco shook his head, thinking of his children.

"No," he said stubbornly. "I thought things were better between us. I thought we were working it out. Pansy, don't do this."

"Draco, please," Pansy began, turning to him. Tears glittered in her eyes and she sniffed, blinking them away. "It's for the best."

"What about the kids? I'm not giving them up, Pansy. They're my children too," he snapped, suddenly angry and scared his worst fears were being realised.

"I don't expect you too," she snapped back, flicking her wand. Four plates zoomed from the cupboard, settling themselves on the bench near the stove. Another flick of her wand had dinner serving itself. "Once you get yourself a place and get settled, then we can come to an arrangement."

"You've got this all planned out, haven't you?" Draco growled at her. He pushed past her to the fridge, reaching inside for a bottle of chilled champagne. He opened it swiftly, the cork flying off and hitting the wall behind Pansy's head. She did not flinch, just stared at him coldly as he fetched two glasses from the cupboard, pouring them both a drink. He shoved a glass at Pansy. "Here."

"I was saving that for a special occasion," she hissed, taking the glass and sitting in on the bench beside her. Draco laughed.

"What's more special than a divorce, Pansy? Cheers," he tipped his head back and drained his glass, dropping it on the bench, where it shattered noisily. He strode past her, flicking his wand and releasing the silencing charm, heading for the lounge room and the stairs. Pansy followed him out, dinner forgotten.

"Where are you going?"

"To pack," Draco snarled, taking the stairs two at a time.

"What about dinner, Draco?" Pansy yelled, following him into the bedroom. Draco spun around, facing her and laughed.

"I'm not staying here to sit through dinner with you and your false smiles, Pansy. You want me gone, so I'll go. Right now," Draco shouted back, flinging open the wardrobe and grabbing a few shirts from the hangers.

Pansy watched as he stormed around the room, tossing various articles of clothing onto the bed, before he hauled a small leather-bound trunk from the bottom of the wardrobe. With a flick of his wand, his clothes folded themselves and tucked themselves neatly in the trunk. Draco closed the lid with a final snap, the sound echoing around the room, mingling with his angry breathing.

"Draco, I'm sorry," Pansy whispered as he headed towards the door. He paused, turning back to look at her. He shook his head.

"Maybe, but I'm not," he replied nastily. "I've been looking for a way out of this sham of a marriage for years, Pansy."

She closed her eyes briefly, clenching her fists at her sides, before she laughed mockingly. "You think I don't know that? You think I honestly don't know what you have been up to all these years? Running around with stupid little tarts in short skirts while I have been at home raising your children! Do you think I am that naïve, Draco?"

"If you knew, why didn't you say something, Pansy? Why didn't you talk to me?" he shouted, dropping the trunk and striding across the room, coming to stand before her. "Why didn't you try and stop it?"

"To what end?" Pansy asked him softly, shaking her head. "You would never have listened anyway. You never listened to anything I had to say. I could handle you neglecting me, but as long as you did not neglect Bria and Dori then it was okay. Besides," she said, moving away to sit on the end of the bed, smiling. "You are not the only one to have stepped outside the marital bed."

Draco stared at her, shocked. He blinked and she laughed again, her dainty little hand moving to run lightly over the bedspread.

"Draco, don't look so surprised. Did you really think I was going to play the dutiful little wife forever? That I would sit and home and wait for you, put dinner on the table, listen to you moan and complain about your day, watch you neglect me and do nothing about it? Yes, I can see that you did," she added, her smile deepening. She sighed, standing up and heading towards the door.

"Do you have a lover, Pansy? Now? Is that why you want me out, so you can be with him?" Draco asked with a calmness he did not feel. It was as if his world, however false it was, was caving in around him. Down the hall, he could hear the hushed whispers of his children. Briana was crying softly and he felt a pang of guilt. Him and Pansy had never screamed at one another in front of the kids, and he could only imagine how scared the little girl was. Pansy frowned at him.

"I am seeing someone, actually," she replied smugly, shrugging her shoulders. "It's going well. He's a good man."

"Pansy," Draco began warningly, moving towards her. "I don't want any strangers near my kids."

"He's not a stranger, Draco, at least, not to me," she replied sweetly. She looked him up and down, a smirk on her lips. "Let's leave the goodbye's here shall we? I'll tell the kids you had to go back to work, or something. You can come over tomorrow and see them."

Without another word, Pansy left. Draco heard her walk briskly down the hall to Briana's bedroom, rushing in to comfort the little girl. He clenched his fists, staring at the trunk that rested by the open door. Slowly, he looked around the room, taking in every detail of the space he had shared with his wife for nearly twelve years. There were happy memories, along with anguish and hurt, resting between the walls and he scowled, pulling a pair of shoes onto his feet and crossing the room, grabbing the trunk.

As he walked slowly down the hallway, he could hear Pansy's voice, soothing and gentle, as she spoke to the children. Draco had no idea what she was telling them, but he trusted her not to upset them. He paused at the top of the stairs, wondering if he should go and talk with his son and daughter himself before he left. He stared at Briana's bedroom doorway until his eyes hurt and with a sigh, he turned away. Draco was not two steps down when a tiny hand grabbed hold of his. He took a deep breath, turning slowly and dropping down on one knee, letting the trunk go. He wrapped his daughter in a hug, holding her against his chest. She sniffed and whimpered, clinging to him when he tried to release her.

"It's alright Briana," Draco whispered tenderly, stroking the little girls' hair. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Mummy said you have to go to work," she whispered back tearfully and he nodded. "You're always at work. Why do you have a bag? What's in it? Can I see?"

Draco swallowed, instantly feeling sick. He lifted his eyes, looking at Pansy murderously. His wife stood leaning against the wall, her face closed. At Draco's look, she moved forward, leaning down and taking Briana from his arms.

"Daddy has to take lots of things to work," she explained softly, pulling the little girl to her. "He needs the trunk because he cannot carry them all by himself."

"Then I'll help," Briana announced, moving towards Draco again. "Dorian will help too, won't he Mummy?"

"It's alright, sweetie," Draco choked, rubbing his hand across his eyes. "I can manage, but thank you. You go and have dinner and then go up to bed. Mummy will have to read you a story tonight, okay?"

Briana nodded glumly, pouting. "You'll read one tomorrow night, won't you?" she asked in a small voice. Draco looked at Pansy again, hating her more than he had ever hated anyone before. He forced himself to smile, turning back to his daughter.

"We'll see," he said simply, reaching out to touch her smooth cheek. He stood up, the trunk grasped again in his hand. Dorian had not come out of the bedroom, and Draco knew he was not going to be as easily convinced as Briana. He was a perceptive child, deeply intelligent, and Draco suspected Dorian knew he was not just going to work. Pansy took Briana back to her room to finish getting ready for dinner and with a sigh, Draco dragged his trunk down the stairs. He did not stop to look at anything in his house as he trudged along the hallway towards the front door. Outside, the moon was high in the sky, bathing the yard and the neat beds of roses with milky golden light. Draco walked stiffly until he felt he apparation wards close behind him. He took a deep breath, focusing on the only person he could think of turning to.

"Damn it," Draco cursed as he fell, trunk in hand, on his backside in Hermione's back yard. "She's put wards up." He sighed, climbing to his feet and rubbing his backside. He took out his wand and levitated his trunk, sick of holding it, walking quickly across the grass and up the back stairs. Swallowing the butterflies in his stomach, he knocked on the door, preying she would not turn him away. He had nowhere else to go and frankly, did not want to be anywhere else. He loved her, and he needed to tell her. Draco waited, jumping as he was suddenly smothered in bright light. Blinking rapidly, he turned towards the door, trying to force a smile onto his lips as it opened.

"What are you doing here?" Hermione asked tightly, narrowing her eyes at him. After days of not seeing her, all Draco wanted to do was grab her and kiss her, but he took a deep breath, trying to find the right words. He did not know what to say first – that he loved her, or that Pansy had kicked him out. Hermione's eyes traveled down his body, sweeping over the trunk, jumping quickly back to his face. "What's going on?"

"Pansy kicked me out," Draco said simply, shrugging as if it didn't matter. He sighed as Hermione folded her arms over her chest, leaning against the doorway. Her face was pale and her eyes rid-rimmed and Draco suspected she'd been crying. "She's not pregnant and she told me to leave. So, here I am, Granger."

Hermione shook her head, a small laugh escaping her lips. "So you are. And I suppose I'm just meant to let you back into my life, just like that?" she asked. Draco frowned, taking a step towards her. He reached for her hand, but she pulled it out of his reach, stepping further back into the house.

"Hermione, this is what we wanted, isn't it?" he asked faintly, confused by her reaction. He had not expected her to just fall into his arms, but he had assumed she would be more welcoming. "I'm free. I'm here, and I love you."

"What?" she whispered, her hand rising to cover her mouth. Her eyes were wide in shock and Draco watched as she struggled to get her breathing under control. Her eyes closed and she took a deep breath as she shook her head again, slowly and mechanically. "Draco ... Don't play games with me."

"I'm not," he replied softly, reaching out and drawing her into his arms. She went, her body melting into him and he sighed, closing his eyes and holding her tightly. "Hermione..."

"Is everything okay? Hermione? Where are you?"

Draco froze as a deep male voice floated through the house, Hermione stiffening instantly in his arms. He released her and stepped back, looking at her pointedly. "Who's that?" he asked, already knowing the answer. She sighed and flashed him a guilty look, running her fingers through her mane of hair.


Draco folded his arms over his chest. "What's he doing here?" he asked coldly, looking over her head and trying to see inside. Hermione sighed.

"It's his house too, Draco," she snapped. "He has every right to be here."

They stared at one another, Draco's head spinning. One minute he had told her he loved her and had her wrapped in his arms, and the next, they were snarling at each other over Ron Weasley. Draco took a deep breath, forcing his anger away. He wanted to race inside and grab Weasley by the scruff of the neck and throw him outside into the cold. Instead, he turned, picking up his trunk and began walking away.

"I'll get out of your hair then, Granger," he said softly, not looking back at her. He sensed her hesitate, before hearing her quick footsteps following him. Hermione reached out and grabbed his arm, pulling him back. Her eyes were filled with anger and her cheeks were slowly growing red.

"You can't leave. You can't just show up, tell me you love me, and leave, Draco. I'll get Ron to go. Just wait a minute, okay. We need to talk," she said, her voice hard and firm. Draco shrugged, not looking at her.

"What's he doing here?" he persisted, his eyes drifting to the open back door.

Hermione sighed. "He came to ask me if I'd take him back," she answered in a small voice. Draco's eyes flew to her face and he scanned her features, feeling sick with worry. Had he lost her, after everything they had been through?

"What did you say?" he asked weakly, watching her face closely. Hermione shook her head.

"I haven't answered yet," she replied, stepping forward and taking his hand. The scent of her perfume rose around Draco's head, making him feel dizzy and faint. He reached out and pulled her closer, itching to kiss her. "I'll tell him to leave," she whispered, staring at him. "Don't go anywhere."

Hermione pulled out of his arms and raced back across the yard, leaping up the stairs and disappearing inside. Draco sat down on his trunk, waiting for her to come back. He sighed and pulled his hand through his hair in nervousness. He had not thought past this moment, past arriving on her doorstep, and declaring he loved her. He realised he had no idea what she wanted to do now. Did she want him to stay here with her? Would it be better if he went and found a motel? Did this mean they could be open about their relationship now? What about his kids? Once Pansy found out he was with Hermione, what would she do?

Draco rubbed at his face harshly, pressing the heel of his palms against his eyes so forcefully he felt he would push them back into his skull. Eventually, after sitting for what he felt like hours in the dark, he heard the back door open slowly. He looked up, climbing to his feet as Hermione made her way over to him, the light from the back of the house behind her, casting her face in shadow. As she came closer, Draco noticed she was frowning, an annoyed twist to her lips.

"Ron won't go home until I give him my answer," she complained, wringing her hands. "I can't get him to leave. He wants to know who is out here."

"You didn't tell him," Draco answered sharply and Hermione shook her head, scowling.

"I'm not stupid," she snapped and then sighed. "Perhaps it would be best if you went to a motel or something tonight."

Draco shook his head. "No. I want to talk to you, Hermione. Tonight."

"Well unless you have a brilliant idea to get rid of Ron for the moment, we won't be talking tonight," Hermione sighed, laying a hand on his chest. Draco smirked.

"I have many brilliant ideas about what to do with your husband, my love, but I don't think you'd appreciate any of them," he replied. Hermione rolled her eyes at him in annoyance, before she paused, a smile slowly spreading over her face.

"Actually, if you are here, he will probably leave," she said softly, grabbing Draco's arm and dragging him towards the house. He left his trunk on the lawn, pulling against her arm.

"Are you mad?" he hissed as they neared the back door. "What are we going to tell him? The truth?"

"Part of it," Hermione answered, pulling him up the back stairs. Draco sighed, letting her lead him through the back door. The house was dark except for the living room, and when they entered Ron jumped up from the couch, words dying on his lips. His eyes widened as he noticed Draco, his hand wrapped firmly around Hermione's, before they narrowed in suspicion and anger.

"Malfoy, what the bloody hell are you doing here?" he seethed, taking a deep breath. "Hermione? Please explain!"

Draco waited, holding his breath. He was not in the mood to fight anyone, and Weasley looked like he was very willing to throw himself across the room at Draco, fists flying. Hermione released his hand suddenly, crossing the room to stand before Ron. The redhead kept his eyes on Draco, a scowl on his lips. Hermione reached up and touched his cheek, bringing his eyes to her, and Draco clenched his fists, thinking maybe he was in the mood for a fight after all. Weasley's eyes softened as he looked at his wife, and a pang of jealousy shot through Draco as he watched them, feeling incredibly angry and uncomfortable.

"Ron, can you go, please? Draco ... he needs someone to talk to at the moment. He's just had a massive fight with Pansy. You understand," Hermione was saying, her voice soft and gentle and Draco resisted the urge to smirk at her sly lies, blended with the truth. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other, restraining himself from punching Weasley in the face after the other man gave him a look of smug triumph.

"I can't say I'm surprised, Malfoy. You're a right royal git to that woman," Ron said simply. Draco opened his mouth to reply, but closed it again, his head spinning. Was there more than one reason Weasley looked happy about his fall-out with Pansy? Draco still suspected his wife and the redhead had had a fling, and as that thought sunk into his head, he slowly began to smile, dropping his face quickly so it would not be noticed. Ron was talking again and Draco turned his ears to the conversation, snickering as he heard Ron practically pleading with Hermione to give him another chance. She sighed, patting his arm and told him she'd talk to him tomorrow. With a final nasty look at Draco, Ron left, slamming the front door on the way out.

Hermione turned to look at him, a smile dancing on her lips and without a word, Draco crossed the room, sweeping her into his arms and pressing a long kiss on her mouth

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Chapter 8: The Co-existence of Shame and Bliss
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The Co-Existence of Shame and Bliss

Hermione lay awake, the sun streaming through the window bathing her bedroom in golden rays. She lay on her side, her head propped up by her elbow, a small smile on her lips. That smile grew as she traced her lovers face with her eyes, delicately covering every detail of his countenance with her memory. It was surreal. In the whole time they had been seeing one another, he had never, except for the very first time, spent the whole night in her bed without her waiting for the moment he would spring up, throw on his clothes, growl at her for not waking him, and leave. Hermione smiled so hard she thought her face would split.

Draco slept peacefully beside her, his face relaxed, his eyes gently closed. His chest rose and fell slowly with the rhythm of his breathing, and his pale hair spread over the pillow behind his head. He smiled in his sleep, his eyelids fluttering, but not opening. Hermione lifted her hand, risking waking him by trailing her fingertips lightly up his chest, over his jaw and cheek and into his hair. Draco groaned, rolling towards her slightly, one arm lifting to wrap around her waist. Hermione closed her eyes, loving the weight of his arm on her body, opening them instantly to stare at him again, afraid he would disappear if she did not look at him every second of the morning.

"It's rude to stare," Draco mumbled and she jumped. His eyes opened slowly, stormy in the morning light. Hermione watched as the colour morphed from dark grey to silver. Draco raised his eyebrows at her and she giggled, but did not stop staring at him.

"I'm sorry," she said eventually, kissing his forehead. "This is just..."

"Excellent," he finished, rolling fully onto his side so he could look at her face. "Hermione, I meant what I said last night, about loving you."

"I know," she replied, trailing her fingers down the side of his face. "And I love you, too. But Draco, what do we do now? I mean, you can't really stay here..."

Draco sighed, rolling onto his back and staring up at the ceiling. "I know."

Hermione smiled sadly, sliding close to him and draped her arm over his chest. "It is nice to have you here, though, like this. Not in rush to go home. I like it," she whispered, kissing his chest lightly.

"Me too," he replied, kissing the top of her head. "I guess we should get up. I don't even remember what day it is, but I think we need to go to work."

"I don't want to," Hermione mumbled, pulling him close and rubbing her face against his neck. "I don't want to leave this room. Can we just stay here? Please? I need a day off. I need a day with you," she said, lifting her head to look at his face. "Everything has changed, Draco."

Draco was silent, his fingers tracing her cheek slowly, his eyes floating around her face, before he nodded just once, sliding his arms around her and lifting her onto his body. He kissed her, deeply and passionately, his hands holding her close, their bodies pressed together. Hermione sighed against his mouth, loving him so intently that she felt faint and giddy. Draco rolled them over, breaking their kiss to press his lips on her neck, his teeth grazing her skin, making her jump. Hermione giggled and wrapped her arms around his neck, her fingers tangling in his hair as he bit her collarbone sharply. Her back rose off the bed and Draco slipped his arms underneath her, one hand splaying between her shoulder blades, the other in her lower back. He sat up swiftly, bringing her with him, her legs falling either side of his hips.

They made love slowly, much slower than ever before, taking all the time in the world to enjoy one another, neither having to rush off and be somewhere else. Afterwards, Hermione lay in his arms, her body coated in sweat, her skin burning and tingling. She sighed blissfully, her head resting against his chest, hearing his heart pounding in her ears. Draco kissed her, his lips lingering over hers, his touch stirring the fire in her belly, until he groaned, slipped out of her arms and pulled himself out of bed. Hermione watched him lazily, lying on her stomach, as he wandered naked from the bedroom to the bathroom. She heard the shower start and felt her eyes widen as the sound of whistling floated from the bathroom. She giggled, feeling light and carefree, grabbing a pillow and squeezing it against her chest. A quick glance at the bedside clock showed it was after eight and with a regretful sigh, Hermione crawled out of bed, throwing her dressing gown around her shoulders. She had never been able to sleep in, no matter how little sleep she had had the night before.

Once in the kitchen, she scribbled a quick note to the Ministry, pausing at the end and wondered if she should mention Draco's absence. She shook her head, folding the note and walked to the back door. Her owl, a beautiful golden brown female, landed lightly on the perch at the base of the stairs at Hermione's call. She had been a gift from Ron on their two-year anniversary. Hermione stroked her soft feathers, holding out the note. The owl gave a gentle hoot, taking to the sky in a gush of wings. Hermione watched until she was out of sight before turning back to the house.

Draco was still in the shower and Hermione stuck her head in the door, immediately engulfed in a cloud of steam.

"Don't use all my hot water," she warned playfully, tilting her head and admiring the long length of his pale form through the glass shower cubicle. "I still need to have a shower too."

Draco laughed. "Well, if you came and joined me we would save water," he suggested, flicking a stream of water at her over the top of the cubicle. Hermione giggled, opening the door fully. She strolled in and leant against the edge of the sink.

"I've never seen you this … whimsical, Draco," she commented. The shower door slid open and he stuck his head out, dripping water all over the floor.

"Well, I’m happy," he replied. "Come here and give me a kiss if you won't get in."

Hermione shook her head, not trusting the wicked glimmer in his eyes. "Nope. I'm going to make coffee. You want one?" Draco nodded and she left the room, closing the door gently behind her. Humming happily, Hermione went back to the kitchen, filling up the kettle and putting it on to boil. She stood and stared out the window, smiling.

The sound of a door opening and closing echoed through the house and she turned, expecting to see Draco in the hall, perhaps wrapped in a towel, perhaps in nothing at all. In the background, the shower was still running and with a lump in her throat, Hermione stepped cautiously into the hallway, looking left and right. No one was there and swallowing, she moved slowly into the lounge room, realising with a sinking of her heart she did not have her wand. It was still sitting on the dresser in the bedroom.

Hermione squealed as something attached itself to her legs. Looking down, her heart flipped over in shock and fright. Reuben, Harry and Ginny's six-year-old boy, had his little arms wrapped tightly around her legs, his face buried against the cloth of her dressing gown. He was crying quietly, rubbing his teary eyes on her legs. Hermione took a deep breath, calming her beating heart, reaching down and untangling the child from her body. She dropped to her knees, cupped the boy's chin and lifted his blotchy face, figuring he must have gotten in through the back door.

"Hunny, what's wrong? Where's your mum and dad?" she asked gently, rubbing his face dry with her sleeve. Reuben's bottom lip trembled and he threw himself into her arms, sobbing loudly on her shoulder. Bewildered, Hermione put her arms around him, holding him close. Her head was spinning, and she was feeling sick from the growing tension in her stomach, all the happiness of the morning dissolved into fear and apprehension. "Reuben, tell me what happened?"

The little boy pulled away, rubbing at his eyes, his face turned towards the carpet. "Mummy says we're leaving. She packed bags for us, but I don't want to go, so I came here. Can I hide here, please Aunty Hermione? Can I?"

Without giving her a chance to respond, Reuben tore away from her, running down the hall. Hermione leapt up and followed him, calling his name. She caught up to him, grabbing his arm as he pushed the bathroom door open. The child stopped dead, staring up at Draco in surprise. The blonde was standing in front of the mirror, a comb in his hand. Draco met Hermione's eyes, frowning and Hermione sighed, happy to see he was at least wearing a towel. She pulled on Reuben's arm, but the little boy slipped out of her grip, stepping into the room. He folded his arms over his chest.

"You're not my Uncle," he stated, staring at Draco. Draco blinked, startled.

"Erm ... No, I'm not," he said softly. Reuben turned around, a confused look on his face.

"Who is he? And where is Uncle Ron?"

"He's ... a friend, from my work. He's just staying with me for the moment. Uncle Ron does not live here anymore, remember, sweetie?" she said gently, taking the little boy's hand and pulling him away. She mouthed a 'sorry' to Draco, who shrugged, but still looked startled and a little put out. With Reuben's hand firmly in hers, Hermione lead him back to the lounge room, sitting him down on the couch. She knelt before him, looking at him seriously.

"Where's mummy and daddy now?" she asked, the knots in her stomach tightening. She had meant to go and see Ginny last night, but Draco's arrival had put that plan on hold.

Reuben shrugged his little shoulders. "I don't know. At home? Mummy was crying, and she yelled at dad. Lots. She woke me up with her yelling. Then she came and said we had to leave, but I don't want to," he wailed, beginning to cry again. Hermione brushed his messy ginger hair off his head, planting a kiss on his forehead. She looked up to find Draco, now dressed, leaning in the doorway, a frown on his face. Hermione blinked away quick tears, standing up.

"I've got to go and see Ginny. Something's not right," she said, her voice wavering. "Can you watch him, please? Just make sure he doesn't run off."

Draco nodded. "Of course," he replied gently, coming into the room. Hermione gave him a grateful smile, racing towards the front door. Just as she reached for the handle, the door flew open. Ginny rushed inside, faltering when she saw Hermione. Her face was stained with tears and her eyes swollen and bloodshot. Her hair was tied into a messy bun and she had a suitcase and her wand in one hand and her four-year-old son, Caden, in the other. The little boy still looked half-asleep.

"Is he here?" Ginny breathed, tears building in her eyes and Hermione nodded quickly. Ginny turned to Caden, telling the little boy to go and find his brother. The dark haired child did as he was told, nodding solemnly to his mother. He wandered off down the hall, trailing his favourite teddy behind him.

"Ginny, what's going on?" Hermione asked, drawing her friend into the house and shutting the door. She felt Ginny tremble and looked at her in concern. "Tell me. Reuben said you were leaving?"

"I can't ... I just can't ... I don't trust my husband, Hermione," she whispered tearfully, wrapping her fingers around Hermione's arm. "I can't stay married to him if I can't trust him."

"You're going to divorce him? Ginny," Hermione began, but the redhead sighed, rubbing at her temples irritably.

"I don't know," she replied. "I honestly don't know. I need more time to think. I thought that when I came back things would be different. That we would talk and sort this out, but ... I don't know what to say to him, and he's not talking to me either and this is such a mess!" she finished, stamping her foot, her eyes blazing with anger and tears. Hermione swallowed.

"Where will you go?"

"Mum and dads. They're expecting us. I just came to get Reuben and tell you what's going on," Ginny said softly, heading towards the lounge room. Hermione nodded, following numbly. She could not believe what was happening. She glanced back at the front door. She would have to go and see Harry later, or contact Ron and get him to make sure Harry was all right. Ginny stopped suddenly, Hermione running into her friends back. She sucked in a breath, quickly remembering Draco was in her lounge room.

Ginny turned confused eyes on her face and Hermione swallowed, recalling the conversation she had had with Ginny, the night she had come back. Ginny's raised her eyebrows and Hermione sighed, shaking her head, not knowing what to say. She had told Ginny she had been seeing someone since she split up with Ron, but had not told her who. Ginny, of course, had swiftly put two and two together.

"Well," she breathed, and Draco raised his head. He was sitting on the lounge, Reuben beside him looking glum and shy. Caden, however, did not seem to care who's lap he curled up on to sleep, and the little boy was lying with his head on Draco's knee, his teddy clutched tightly against his chest. Draco looked at Ginny, shifting his eyes to Hermione, a faint blush spreading over his cheeks. Ginny threw her hands in the air, grabbing Hermione's arm and pulling her towards the kitchen.

"Watch the boys, Malfoy," she called over her shoulder.

"What does it look like I'm doing?" the blonde called back, irritated. Ginny scowled, practically tossing Hermione into the kitchen, shutting the door behind them.

"He's lost none of his charm, then," she snapped, rolling her eyes back towards the lounge room.


"Please, tell me the truth. Is that," Ginny lifted a shaking finger, pointing at the closed door. "Who you've been seeing since Ron left?"

Hermione dropped her eyes, fidgeting with her sleeve. She felt like a naughty girl, caught out by her mother doing something she shouldn't have been. "Yes," she mumbled, not raising her head.

"He's married," Ginny said faintly. "Hermione, he's bloody married! You're bloody married! What the hell are you doing? Are you mad?" Ginny's voice had risen in both pitch and volume, and Hermione shook her head miserably, looking at her friend, her eyes pleading.

"I know this looks bad, but I can explain," she stammered. Ginny frowned, folding her arms over her chest.

"Then please do," she shouted, making Hermione jump. Ginny was red in the face and looking as angry as Hermione had ever seen her. "Please explain how it's suddenly okay for everyone to be unfaithful to their partners! He's married, Hermione. He's got kids. You're friends with his wife! How on earth did you ever think this was okay?"

"Ginny, I know this is hard for you, especially at the moment, but it's not like that. I'm serious about him, I really am. We want to be together. It's just complicated at the moment, but I'm not trying to deliberately hurt anyone. I never wanted it to go this far, honestly, but..." she faltered, running her fingers through her hair nervously. "It doesn't even feel like an affair anymore, Ginny. It feels like I have been with him forever."

"And what about my brother? He has no idea about this I take it? No, of course not. He'd go completely mental," Ginny sighed, shaking her head. "How long, Hermione? How long have you been sleeping with him?"

"Since Ron," Hermione answered in a small voice. "Not long after the charity ball for St Mungo's. It was all an accident, to begin with. I was lonely and angry and afraid, and ..."

"He took advantage of that? Sounds very Malfoy to me," Ginny snapped. Hermione shook her head, feeling her own anger building.

"It wasn't like that, Ginny," she said firmly, staring her friend in the eye. "Look, I don't expect anyone to understand this, and sometimes I don't even understand it myself, but it happened, I don't regret it and now that I know the outcome is having that man out there in my life, I'd do it all again."

Ginny said nothing, just stood and stared at her, her arms folded and her body tense. She closed her eyes, thinking, opening them swiftly and looking at Hermione sadly. "Are you going to tell Ron, Hermione, or are you going to let him find out by accident, like I did? He wants you back, you know."

"I know," Hermione replied. "But I'm not going back, Ginny. Not because of Draco, but because my relationship with Ron ended for a reason. I don't love him anymore," she added gently.

"Do you love him? Draco? Do you love him?" Ginny asked evenly, and Hermione saw her swallow.

"Yes," she said.

"And he's left his wife?"

Hermione nodded and Ginny narrowed her eyes.

"Are you sure?" she asked suspiciously. "Because, Hermione, I don't want to see you get hurt. No one should have to go through what I have just been through with Harry. I'm not happy about this, not at all, but I don't want Ron to get hurt either. Merlin, I don't want Pansy to get hurt. She might be ... well, I don't know the woman at all, but I'm sure she doesn't deserve this."

At the mention of Pansy, Hermione felt guilt stab her sharply in the side. She looked at Ginny, swallowing any doubt she still had in her mind about Draco, and nodded.

"Their marriage is over," she replied. Ginny stared at her, before turning abruptly back to the lounge room to collect her children from Draco.

Hermione woke suddenly in the middle of the night, the sound of knocking on the front door rousing her. She sat up, sliding her hand under her pillow and withdrawing her wand. She felt Draco shift beside her, his arm lifting to stretch across her lap.

"What is it?" he whispered. "You alright? What the hell is that noise?"

"The front door," Hermione answered, lifting his arm and sliding out of bed. "Go back to sleep. I'll be back in a moment." She grabbed her robe from the floor, wrapping it around her naked body. Draco gave her a weak smile, turning his face back to the pillow.

"If you're not back in five minutes, I'm coming to get you," he murmured sleepily.

Hermione wandered down the hall, switching on the light in the lounge room. She crept towards the front door, her wand held securely in her hand, her heart racing. She glanced at the clock on the wall, noticing it was three a.m. The knocking continued and she winced as the sound tore through the house. Cautiously, she opened the door a crack, peering out, before throwing the door wide in surprise.

"Harry?" she asked, blinking. Her friend was standing on the front veranda, one arm braced against the wall of the house, a stupid grin on his face. Hermione's eyes dropped to his hand and she sighed softly, noticing the bottle dangling from his fingers. "Oh Harry," she whispered, watching him sway slightly.

"Hermione," he slurred, waving the bottle at her. "Wanna' drink?"

She shook her head quickly, ushering him inside and leading him to the couch. He stumbled against her, almost knocking her over as she helped him sit down. "Harry, look at you. You're a mess," she admonished gently, taking the bottle from his hand and setting it on the coffee table.

"She's gone, Hermione. She took my kids and she's gone," he whispered, falling back into the couch with a defeated sigh. "My life is over. Finished. Gone."

"No, it's not," Hermione said gently, sitting beside him and taking his hand. "You made a mistake. Give her time to calm down and then you can sort this out. You just need to talk to her."

He shook his head, turning to look at her through bleary eyes. "Nope. I know my wife. She ain't coming back."

Hermione sighed, giving Harry's hand a squeeze and climbed to her feet. She scooped up the bottle of whiskey, taking it to the kitchen and stashing it in the cupboard out of sight. Filling a glass with water, she carried it back to the lounge, pushing it into Harry's hands, forcing him to drink it.

"I love her so much," Harry whispered, his eyes filling with tears. Hermione bit her lip, putting her arms around him and pulling him to her, his head falling to rest against her shoulder. She let him cry, feeling tears in her own eyes as his body shook against hers, her hand rubbing his back, offering the only comfort she could give him. Harry pulled away, sniffing and rubbing his face, giving her a weak smile of thanks.

"Granger, what the heck are you doing? I'm lonely in there," Draco's voice floated down the hall, annoyed and sleepy and Hermione twisted sharply on the couch, her heart sinking to see him leaning against the wall, nothing but a towel wrapped around his slender waist. Harry turned, following her gaze, and Hermione heard him suck in a breath in shock.


"Hey, Potter," Draco drawled, wandering into the room. Hermione stared at him, blinking, her eyes following his lean body as he disappeared into the kitchen, coming back with a glass of water. He stood, drinking, before setting the glass down on the coffee table. A strange sound escaped Harry's mouth, and Hermione turned to look at him, feeling sick.


"Oh my god. Hermione, please tell me I'm imagining things," he said faintly, his eyes moving between Draco and Hermione. He shook his head and closed his eyes, opening them again quickly, looking at Draco.

"Nope, still here," the blonde quipped. Hermione glared at him toxically, and he shrugged, giving her a look that said it was too late, they were busted again, so what could they do about it. She groaned, knowing he was right.

"Harry ..." she began again, but he shook his head, looking at her sadly.

"Does Ron know? Does his wife?" he asked softly, his eyes flickering back to Draco. Hermione shook her head and Harry sighed, rubbing at his temples.

"Shit," he said simply, his head falling back on the couch. "What the hell are you two doing?"

"Well, we would have been shagging if you hadn't have knocked on the door," Draco said sarcastically and Harry closed his eyes, groaning.

"Please, Malfoy, don't. I don't want to know. I don't want to think about it. I don't want to believe it. I'm too drunk to deal with this," he mumbled, closing his eyes.

"Then don't think about it, Potter. It's simple. I kept your secret; you keep ours," Draco answered, and Hermione turned to look at him, frowning. He shook his head, his eyes on Harry. His face and tone had grown serious and Hermione swallowed, her own eyes finding Harry's face.

"Please, Harry. Just forget what you know. Please," she begged, shaking him until he opened his eyes and looked at her. "Please. We are going to tell everyone, but just not yet. No one would understand."

Harry looked from one the other, shaking his head slightly. Hermione felt Draco's arm slide around her waist as he sat down beside her, pulling her back against him. Harry's eyes rose over her head, locking on Draco's face. Whatever he saw there caused his expression to soften a little.

"Do you love her, Malfoy?" he asked quietly, his voice hitching a little at the end, reminding Hermione of how much pain he was going through. Hermione's breath caught as Draco's arm tightened around her and she blinked, waiting and wondering what he would say, if he would admit it to Harry.

"Yes," Draco answered in a low voice. Hermione's eyes filled with tears as he pressed a kiss on the top of her head. "I do."

Harry sat and watched them carefully, blinking. He stood up suddenly, stumbling slightly. "I'm going home," he announced with a sigh. Without another word or a backwards glance, he walked quickly to the front door, Hermione jumping as the door slammed, echoing through the house. She turned into Draco's body, her arms winding around his neck, her heart constricted and a lump buried in her throat.

"It'll be fine. He won't say anything. He won't even remember; he's too drunk," Draco whispered, attempting to comfort her. Hermione shook her head, crying softly. "Come on, darling. Come back to bed. We'll deal with this tomorrow," he said softly, rising to his feet, bringing her with him. Hermione nodded against his chest, her knees trembling. Without another word, Draco scooped her up in his arms, carrying her like a baby back down the hall. He laid her down gently, sliding in beside her and pulling the covers over them both. Hermione rolled into him, tucking her head against his neck, breathing in his scent. They lay silent for a while, the only sound being that of their breathing and the night outside the window. Draco's fingers stroked her hair, soothing and relaxing.

"You knew about Harry, didn't you?" Hermione asked him in a quiet voice.

"Yeah. He told me, when Ginny first disappeared, and made me promise not to say anything," Draco replied softly. "Are you mad I didn't tell you?"

Hermione shook her head. "No. Impressed, actually. I thought you'd have taken the opportunity to make his life a misery."

Draco chuckled. "Yeah, well, he's miserable enough as it is, especially now. There was no point. Besides, it's not as if I could take the moral high ground on this, Hermione. It'd be a bit too hypocritical, even for me."

"What are we going to do, Draco?" she asked him, her throat tight. "I don't mean about Harry knowing about us either. I mean..."

"I know," he replied, his fingers ceasing their gentle manipulation of her scalp. He was silent, and Hermione could feel the tension in his body and his breathing. She lifted her head, looking at him. He was staring off into the darkness, so she touched his lips with the tip of her finger, bringing his eyes to her face. Draco leant over and kissed her suddenly, pulling her up and over his body, her legs dropping either side of his hips.

"What do you want?" he asked her, the intensity in his shadowed eyes making her heart jump. She swallowed, licking her lips and letting her eyes close briefly. Her stomach flopped over as his hands slid along her back, the heat from his skin setting a fire in her body. She knew his question referred to much more than the here and now. She knew it had nothing to do with sex or lust. She opened her eyes, looking straight into his.

"You, Draco. I want you. I want you here in the morning. I want to be able to wake up with you next to me. I want you here in the evening. I want to fall asleep with you near me. I want to know that you belong to me and me only. I want you, totally and completely."

Hermione held her breath as his eyes closed. A tremble passed through his body, his fingers pressing into her ribs. She saw his eyelids flutter, and his breathing had become shallow and forced. She swallowed nervously, waiting and wondering if she had said too much. She knew he loved her, but beyond that, she was not sure what he wanted. His eyes opened and he lunged for her, kissing her tenderly, rolling them over gently until his weight rested on top of her. He pulled away, his hand rising to push the hair back from her face, his fingers tracing her cheeks, her nose, her lips and her jaw.

"Then you've got me, Granger. I promise," he whispered, bending his head to kiss her again, his hand sliding gently down her body, dipping along the graceful curve of her hip and finally underneath her, splaying in her lower back. Hermione ached her back as he kissed his way down her neck, his lips warm and filled with assurance against her skin. "We'll find a way to make this work."

Chapter 9: Discussions and Revelations
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Discussions and Revelations

Draco woke to an empty bed. He flung his hand out, finding Hermione’s side cold, and figured she must have been up for a while. The house was silent as he lay there, wrapped in the warmth of the blankets and the softness of the mattress, and Draco listened carefully for any signs of movement in the house. Frowning, he pulled himself upright, throwing on some clothes he found on the floor beside the bed. After a quick splash of water in the bathroom, Draco wandered into the kitchen, tired but alert. After Hermione had fallen asleep last night, he had laid awake, staring into the darkness, his thoughts swimming. Ginny knew about them, and now, so did her husband.
He trusted Potter to keep his mouth shut, knowing the other man owed him the favour, but somehow, he did not trust Ginny. The woman was hurt and angry, and a Weasley, and Draco was quietly terrified she would let something slip to a member of her family. It had been a few days, and no Weasley’s had come to murder him, but Draco could not relax. Coffee in hand, he stood in the kitchen, leaning back against the bench, frowning slightly, the warmth from the cup in his fingers sinking into his skin.

He knew he needed to go and see Pansy, and he had not seen his children since she had kicked him out. Lying awake in the dark, Hermione sleeping beside him, Draco had had to bite his tongue to stop from screaming out his frustration at the whole situation. He was now free to be with the woman he loved, but was not entirely sure he had paid the correct price. Knowing Pansy, he was certain that, once she discovered his relationship with Hermione, any hope he had of an amicable separation and a polite and mature arrangement concerning the children would cease to exist.

Sighing, Draco put down his empty cup, not remembering drinking the coffee, but he could taste it on his lips and tongue, the warmth from the drink still lingering in his throat. Irritated, he pulled a hand through his messy hair, heading back towards the lounge room. He had no idea where Hermione was and was not sure what to do with himself. Standing in the middle of the lounge room, Draco let his eyes move around the room, once more taking in the pictures on the mantle, the books in the shelf and all the remnants of Hermione’s life with her husband. There were still things in the house that told Draco a man had lived there once, and he was not sure how he felt about seeing them. The occasional shirt in the laundry, or a sock, a book (not that he imagined Weasley ever read much), or just a memory he could sense seeping through the walls. All things that did not belong to him.

The more he thought about it, the more Draco realised he could not stay there in Hermione’s house, not yet. It was too soon, and there was still Pansy to deal with. Rubbing at his face, Draco sighed again, feeling suddenly old and tired and as if he had not slept in weeks. The scent of smoke drifted through the open lounge room window and curious, Draco crossed the room and peered out. He could see nothing but the side of Potter’s house, and the large oak tree in Hermione’s yard. Twisting his head painfully to one side, his face pressed against the screen, Draco could make out a faint column of smoke rising from somewhere close to Potter’s house. Sighing, he pulled back from the window, wandering to the bedroom in search of his shoes. If Potter was about to burn to death, he supposed he should go and investigate.

Shoes on, Draco snuck a quick glance at himself in the bathroom mirror, smoothed down his hair as best he could, realised he needed a shave but did not care, and, with a shrug at his reflection, he headed for the back door. The sun was shining brightly and Draco squinted, shielding his eyes from the light. The smell of smoke was stronger now and he turned in the direction of Potter’s place. Draco’s eyebrows rose of their own accord. Harry was standing in his backyard, a roaring, smouldering pyre in front of him. The wind changed direction as Draco watched, enfolding the other man in a cloud of smoke. Draco heard a cough and with a roll of his eyes and an annoyed sigh, he jumped the small flight of stairs and crossed the crisp green lawn towards Potter.

As he came close, Draco could see an open box sitting at Harry’s feet. He watched as the tall brunette reached down, pulling something from the box. He stared at it a while, and then tossed it on the fire. Draco leant casually against the fence, waiting for Harry to notice him. When he didn’t, the man so absorbed in his blatant destruction of his possessions, Draco snorted in annoyance, stepping gracefully over the short fence and crossing the lawn to Harry’s side, muttering about Potter and his pyromaniac tendencies.

The heat from the fire was more intense than he had imagined it to be and Draco snuck a look at Harry, wondering how he could stand to be so close to the flames. The other man’s eyes were dim and unfocused, and when Draco touched him on the arm, Harry jumped, drawing his wand and pointing it against Draco’s chest. Hands in the air, Draco backed away a step and Harry lowered his wand, an apologetic expression on his pale face.

“Sorry, Malfoy,” he muttered, sliding the wand back into his pocket. Draco shrugged, his eyes drawn to the flames. He watched in silence as a photograph, on top of the pile, caught fire, the edges browning and curling as the flames licked along it, the faces in the portrait slowly dissolving into ash. Draco raised his eyebrows, sneaking a sideways glance at Harry, was who busy fishing around in the wooden box, a frown on his face.

“This is all rather dramatic, don’t you think, Potter?” Draco commented softly, his voice barely audible over the snap and crackle of the fire. Harry shrugged, tossing another picture onto the smouldering heap.

“Maybe, but what else can I do?”

“You could go and talk to your wife,” Draco said simply in response, folding his arms over his chest.

Harry laughed scornfully, turning to face Draco. “Right, that’ll help. Thanks for your brilliant marital advice.”

“Think what you like about me, Potter, I don’t really care for your judgement, but if you leave it too late, all you will have left is a pile of burnt memories, and nothing more,” Draco replied snappishly. Harry paused, another picture in his hands, the box lying open at his feet.

“She hates me.”

“She doesn’t.”

“How would you know? What are you doing to save your marriage? Nothing,” Harry stated bitterly, his eyes jumping to Draco’s face. They stared at one another angrily, neither wanting to talk about it, but both realising they had no one else to talk to. Draco studied Harry, noticing the dark shadows beneath his green eyes, his messy hair and his wrinkled clothes. Like him, Harry needed a shave, his chin littered with dark stubble. Draco sighed, reaching over and taking the photograph gently from Harry, dropping it back in the box. He bent down and closed the lid, picking up the small box and holding it firmly in his hands. Harry did not protest.

“But I don’t want to save my marriage, that’s the difference, isn’t it?” Draco said softly. “You don’t need to totally destroy yours.”

“What are you doing, Malfoy? Why Hermione?” Harry asked wearily, rubbing at his drawn face. Draco shrugged. “Did you tell me the truth, last night? Do you love her?”

“Yes,” Draco answered with a sigh. “I really do. I never thought I would, you know. It was never meant to end up like this. I didn’t set out to fall for her, but now that I have, I wouldn’t change it. Don’t judge me until you know how it happened.”

Silence fell between them, the air filled with the gentle rush of flames and the scent of smoke. Harry sighed, taking out his wand, extinguishing the fire. Both men watched as the flames gave out with a defeated hiss and a puff of thick smoke. Coughing, Draco stepped away, his lungs burning, Harry following him, rubbing at his face. Draco still had Harry’s box in his hands, and with an encouraging smile, he pushed it back into Harry’s arms, the other man closing his eyes, his fingers curling around the edges of the box.

“Do you want a drink, or something, Malfoy?” Harry asked quietly, opening his eyes and looking at Draco, who nodded. Harry hesitated a moment, as if regretting his invitation, before sighing and leading the way across the lawn and up the stairs into his house. Draco frowned at the state of Harry’s kitchen. It wasn’t as if it was messy; it was as if no one lived there. There was not a dish, a cup or a piece of cutlery in sight. As Harry opened the fridge, Draco peered around his shoulder, his frown deepening. Harry’s fridge was practically empty, nothing sitting on the shelves besides a carton of milk, a banana and half a loaf of bread. He straightened up as Harry turned around, two bottles of beer dangling from his hand.

“A bit early, don’t you think?” Draco mused, taking the beer that Harry thrust at him. The glass was icy cold, chilling him to the bone. “Have you eaten anything since Ginny left, or have you just been drinking yourself to sleep every night?”

“Don’t lecture me,” Harry snapped, knocking the top off his beer and wandering away. Draco shrugged and followed him, flipping the top off his own beer on the way, stashing the bottle cap on a lamp table. Harry was seated in a comfortable looking chair in the lounge room, staring ahead at nothing in particular. Draco sighed, taking a seat opposite him, the coffee table separating them.

“You’re making me depressed, you know, Potter,” Draco stated, swigging on his beer. Harry made an angry face.

“If you don’t like my company, Malfoy, you can get out.”

“Look, its simple,” Draco began, leaning forward and putting his beer down on the table. “Talk to your wife, sort this out, and get the hell over yourself. You fucked up, yes, but right now you should be on your knees begging that woman to take you back instead of sitting here drinking beer at nine thirty in the morning with someone you don’t even like.”

“You’re right about one thing, Malfoy,” Harry replied slowly, blinking.

“What?” Draco asked.

“I don’t like you,” Harry said simply. “I don’t like what is going on between you and Hermione, and I just don’t like you.”

“Will you cut the crap? I get it okay? I’m the devil,” Draco snapped. The two men stared at one another, a life time of animosity sizzling in the air between them, until Draco sighed, pulling his hand through his messy hair. “Look, Potter, you’re going to have to get used to it, okay? Hermione and me…this is what we want.”

“And what about what Ron wants? Have you stopped to consider him in all this, Malfoy?” Harry asked bitterly.

“I have yes,” Draco replied softly, Harry’s eyebrows rising at the gentle and sympathetic tone in his voice. “I gave Hermione the option of going back. She chose not too. She doesn’t love him, and he will have to get over that some day.”

“So what, you’ve done him a favour? Malfoy, that’s selfish and you know it,” Harry answered. An uncomfortable silence dropped into the air, Draco not knowing how to respond to the accusation.

“Are you going to tell him?” Draco asked eventually. “He is your best friend.”

Harry sighed dejectedly. “No, I’m not. I’ve already thought about that, and it needs to come from Hermione. It’s not my place to interfere with their relationship.”

“They don’t have a relationship, Potter,” Draco snapped.

“Listen to yourself, will you? You’re still married. You can hardly call what you and Hermione have a relationship. What about Pansy?” Harry replied calmly, although his eyes shot daggers across the room, piercing into Draco’s skull.

“Pansy and I are married in name only. She kicked me out, she’s got a boyfriend…it’s irrelevant now. All I’m waiting for is the divorce papers, and we’re done.”

The two men glared at one another, the atmosphere sizzling with anger, grief and confusion. Eventually, Harry sighed, drawing Draco’s attention back to his face. The blonde had been staring out the window, watching as clouds slowly gathered on the horizon, dark and purpled with rain.

“Tell me how it began,” Harry said softly. “You and Hermione. I need to know. I need to know what would make her do something like this.”

“Ask her,” Draco replied, feeling angry again.

“I’m asking you, Malfoy,” Harry stated, leaning forward in his chair and fixing Draco with a stern glare. “You told me not to judge until I knew what happened, so I’m asking. And tell me the truth,” he added, resting his now-empty bottle on the coffee table.

Draco stared hard at the amber coloured glass, searching his mind for the right answer, for words, phrases, that would explain everything. Harry sat waiting, patient and still, his demeanour reminding Draco of that strange calm Harry had in his office, the day after Ginny had disappeared. Sighing and pulling his hand through his hair, Draco lifted his gaze to meet Harry’s.

“We were lonely,” he said simply, his voice low and soft. Harry raised an eyebrow, as if indicating he wanted more. Irritated, Draco sat back in his chair, folding his arms. “What more do you want? We were two lonely people who spent a night together, even though we knew it was wrong, and then…I dunno, Potter, all right? There was something about her that kept me wanting to be near her, wanting to hold her and be with her. Can you tell me honestly that that is wrong? That I wasn’t supposed to feel like that about her? I’m not an idiot. I knew what I was doing was not right, continuing to see her, and I think she knew it too, which is why I tried so hard…” Draco let his voice trail off, his eyes dropping to his hands, resting in his lap. He twisted his fingers around one another.

“Tried so hard…” Harry prompted. Draco sighed again, standing up suddenly.

“Not to fall in love with her,” he replied rather harshly. Harry said nothing, dropping his eyes, and without another word, Draco turned and left the house, slamming the back door in anger.

Draco sighed, his face caught halfway between a scowl and a look of pain. “Pansy, look, we need to talk about this…”

“No, we don’t,” Pansy replied simply, stalking across the room to collect her purse. Draco watched her, his eyes narrowing in suspicion. She was wearing the red dress, the ridiculously expensive, fitted knee-length dress that she had purchased only recently. The dress has a slit in the side, and as she moved, the fabric spread apart, showing inches of creamy flesh. Pansy’s hair was immaculate, her face radiant and her eyes sparkling. She was wearing the faintest traces of make-up, and her feet were bare as she pushed past him into the hall, flashing him an annoyed look as she went.

“Have you seen my shoes? The black ones?” she asked nonchalantly, walking quickly down the hall, her feet creating soft padded echoes against the black and white tiles. Draco stared at her as she paused in front of the hall mirror, checking her reflection.

“No I haven’t seen your blasted shoes, Pansy,” he snapped, pulling at the end of his shirt in irritation. He had apparated straight from Harry’s backyard, and half of his thoughts remained in Potter’s lounge room. He felt dizzy and extremely tired. “I don’t live here anymore, remember? And I don’t care about your shoes. We need to talk.”

Pansy sighed, turning from the mirror and throwing him an exasperated look. “I can’t right now. I’m going out for lunch,” she stated. “You can come over later. You look terrible by the way.”

Draco scowled at her, shaking his head, and folding his arms. “Now, Pansy. Let your boyfriend wait for a few minutes. I’m sure he’ll survive. If this lasts more than a few seconds, he’ll soon be begging for time alone,” he added nastily, smirking at the incredibly murderous look Pansy sent him. She pulled her face into a tight scowl, stalking away from him towards the kitchen. Rolling his eyes, Draco followed, pushing open the doors to find her rifling through a stack of papers on the table.

“Pansy,” he growled warningly, striding across the room, coming to rest on the other side of the polished table, opposite her. She glanced up at him quickly, her expression glacial, before thrusting a pile of paper at him. “What’s this?”

“Just sign the damn things, Draco. It’s what you came here for, isn’t it?”

“Divorce papers?” Draco asked sharply, his eyes dropping to the crisp white parchment in her hand. Pansy shook them for emphasis, the rustle of the paper her answer and Draco snatched them from her, quickly skimming the first page, turning it over and beginning to read the second.

Pansy sighed. “Just sign.”

“I want to know what you are taking first,” Draco murmured, his eyes dancing down the page. “You want half my earning? For the time we have been married?” he asked in disbelief. “Half?”

“It’s what I’m entitled too,” Pansy answered calmly, slinging her bag over her shoulder. Her hands rose to touch her hair lightly, smoothing down a few strands that had become loose. “Contest it if you wish, but I thought you didn’t want to have to take this to the courts,” she added smugly, Draco sighing in response. He rubbed at his face, dropping the papers to the table.

“Fine, whatever, Pansy. I don’t care,” he snapped wearily, thinking of Hermione and the promise he had made her. “I just want this over and done with.”

“So sign them and get lost then,” she said sweetly, and Draco glowered at her, shaking his head.

“Not until I read them properly and have my own man look over them,” he replied. Pansy threw her hands in the air in frustration, opening her mouth to yell at him, but Draco cut her off quickly. “I want to make sure everything to do with the children is in order. You’re not going to stop me seeing my kids.”

Pansy rolled her eyes, stamping her foot in annoyance. “I already said I wouldn’t, Draco. Now can you just sign them and let me go to lunch please? I’m late already.”

“Forgive me if I don’t trust you,” Draco replied, folding the papers and stashing them in his jacket pocket. Pansy narrowed her eyes at him, taking a deep breath.

“Trust?” she screeched, her voice echoing around the room. Draco winced. “You fucking arsehole, Draco Malfoy. Don’t you dare speak to me about trust. Who is she this time, huh? I know you’re seeing someone. I know you’re not at any motel. I checked. Are you shacked up with her already? I’d ask your friends who she is, only you don’t have any, do you? You’re pathetic. Just sign the bloody papers and get the hell away from me.”

Pansy’s voice had dropped to an almost whisper, her tone filled with pain and regret. She stared at him, her expression miserable. Her face was red and blotchy, her chest rising and falling quickly with her erratic breathing. Draco took a step towards her, not sure what to say or do. As he opened his mouth, he heard the soft chiming of the doorbell. The sound tore through the silence of the house, and Draco watched as Pansy’s face slowly drained of colour.

A smirk sliding across his lips, Draco turned and raced towards the front door, hearing her curse in the background, before her tiny feet followed him. Draco reached the door first, turning to glance at Pansy over his shoulder, his hand closing on the handle. She stopped dead, staring at him, shaking her head.

“Don’t,” she whispered. “Just go. Please don’t, Draco.”

Draco’s smirk increased and he twisted the doorknob, throwing the wooden door wide, opening the hall to the day outside. He turned from Pansy’s stricken face, the smirk dropping from his lips, his mouth falling open. Pansy sighed behind him, and Draco started to grin, the pieces all falling together in a nice little pile.

“Why hello,” he drawled casually, leaning against the door frame, folding his arms across his chest. “Looking for someone in particular?”

sorry for the long wait loves. I hope you enjoyed it and pleased remember to leave a review *hugs*

Chapter 10: Doubt has Claws...
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Doubt has Claws

Hermione woke early, rolling over with a sigh. Her arm connected with a warm body and she smiled, reminding herself once again that this was real, that Draco was there with her and she was not waking up cold and alone. She snuggled against him for a while, his arm moving in his sleep to slide around her body, holding her closely against him. Regretfully, Hermione rolled away from him, pulling herself out of bed. A soft hoot greeted her and she looked up, startled. An owl was perched on the windowsill, a letter held in its sharp beak. Frowning, Hermione opened the window wide, letting in the crisp morning breeze. She took the letter gently, the owl taking to the sky immediately. Hermione turned the envelope over in her hands. The writing was familiar, but at that moment she could not place it. Sitting on the edge of the bed, she tore open the letter, reading quickly, sucking in a breath.

“Who’s it from?” a sleepy voice asked at her back and Hermione jumped. She folded the letter with shaky fingers, turning to Draco, unable to hide her reaction. “Hermione? What is it?” he asked, sitting up quickly and scooting over to her side of the bed. She swallowed, feeling sick.

“Pansy,” she whispered, staring at Draco. “She wants to see me.”

“Did she say why?” he asked sharply and Hermione shook her head.

“She said she just wants to catch up,” she replied in a small voice. “Shit, Draco, do you think she …”

Draco shook his head emphatically, rubbing at his face with his hands. “I don’t think so. She’d be after my blood, not yours, if she knew. Trust me. What are you going to do? Are you going to see her?”

“I don’t know,” Hermione whispered. “If I don’t, she’ll want to know why, and if she’s suspicious at all then my not seeing her will only make her more suspicious. I don’t know,” she repeated, pulling her hand through her hair and sighing. “I guess I have to.”

Draco nodded, reaching over and squeezing her hand. He stayed silent, looking at her until she felt uncomfortable and looked away, pulling her hand out of his grip. She felt his eyes on her as she moved around the room, pulling clothes from her wardrobe. Draco had told her the previous night he had gone to see Pansy, to talk about the children and the divorce. Hermione had squeezed his hand, knowing he was missing his kids like crazy. When she had suggested he bring them over to spend a little time with them, he had shaken his head with a sigh, telling her it wasn’t the right time yet. He wanted to tell Pansy about them first, as well as getting the legal side of things sorted out.

“Where does she want to meet?” Draco asked quietly from the bed.

“Diagon Alley. She wants to have coffee,” Hermione explained, not turning around. She busied herself selecting an outfit, trying not to let her guilt swallow her. She dressed quickly, throwing on a pair of jeans and a plain black fitted t-shirt. She gave Draco a weak smile, wandering into the bathroom to wash her face and tidy her hair. Draco followed, the bed sheet draped around his body. He leant in the doorway, watching her get ready.

“You’re going now? This early? Can we have breakfast first?” he asked, smothering a yawn. Hermione sighed, shaking her head.

“I couldn’t eat if I wanted to, Draco. I feel sick,” she muttered, turning back to her reflection. She was as white as the sheet around Draco’s body, her head aching and her stomach twisted. She pinched her cheeks, forcing a rush of colour to her skin. Draco came up behind her, sliding his arms around her middle, his head resting between her shoulder blades. He said nothing, just held her securely against him, his body warm and comforting. Hermione sighed, giving his arms a gentle tug away. She turned, her arms rising to wrap around his neck, her cheek falling against his chest. They embraced gently. Hermione could feel the tension in his body.

“What do I say if she asks where you are? If I’ve seen you? She won’t ask me about you, will she?” she whispered to his skin.

“Just say you don’t know,” Draco replied, cupping her chin and lifting her face. “She’s more likely wanting to moan about me, not interrogate you, so don’t worry. Just play it cool like we always do and it’ll be fine,” he murmured, kissing her forehead.

“I don’t think I can do this,” Hermione said weakly, shaking her head. Draco sighed, his hands falling on her cheeks, lifting her mouth to his. He kissed her gently, pulling back to look into her eyes.

“You can,” he replied firmly. “You have to. You show up all nervous and anxious and she’ll know something is up. Just play it cool, Hermione.”

He kissed her again, his lips lingering on her mouth until she nodded, swallowing and pushing the nausea aside. Draco released her, and taking a deep breath, Hermione forced a smile onto her face. She fetched her bag and slipped her shoes onto her feet. She was almost at the back door, when Draco’s hand closed over her arm. He pulled her back to him, kissing her quickly, smoothing her hair away from her forehead.

“I need to tell you something, before you go,” he said seriously. Hermione pulled away, looking at him curiously, wondering at the indecision and hesitation that crossed his face.

“What is it? Draco?” she asked, the nausea returning. They stared at one another until Hermione took a deep breath and smiled. “Can it wait? Can you tell me later? I really need to get going.”

Draco opened his mouth, closing it again quickly, nodding. Hermione leant up and kissed him, turning and leaving the house through the back door. Feeling the apparition wards behind her, she closed her eyes, focusing on Diagon Alley. Pansy was waiting for her at the coffee shop, as pristine and stunning as usual, looking elegant and refined in a basic black dress cut to fit. Hermione once again felt sick, her hands quickly skimming her body, running over her casual attire self-consciously. Pansy greeted her warmly, standing and kissing Hermione’s cheek, drawing Hermione down beside her into a chair. A waitress came and took their order, both women ordering coffee and nothing to eat.

“You look good, Hermione,” Pansy smiled, giving Hermione’s hand a friendly squeeze. “It’s been so long since we talked. So much has happened. Have you heard about Draco?”

Hermione forced her knees to stop shaking, nodding her head gently. “I have, yes. Someone mentioned it at work,” she mumbled, mentally telling herself to calm down, to do as Draco suggested and play it cool. She looked Pansy in the eye. “I’m so sorry. Are you okay?”

Pansy waved a hand dismissively, smiling broadly. “I’m fine. Its better this way, you know. Draco is a terrific father but he was a terrible husband. If I can speak with total honesty, Hermione, that man…” she paused, shaking her dark hair sadly. “I never really trusted him, you know? He never knew how to keep his hands to himself. I guess he was not the marrying kind, as they say.”

Hermione nodded, sugaring her coffee with a trembling hand. Pansy was watching her closely, and Hermione forced herself to pay attention to the conversation. “Are you going to divorce him?”

“Of course,” Pansy replied, tapping her spoon against the rim of her cup and laying it down on the white saucer. “I’ve already had papers drawn up. I went for half of everything, you know,” she added conspiratorially. “It’s what I deserve for putting up with him.”

Hermione raised her eyebrows, her heart beginning to race. “What did Draco say about that?” she asked, her mind skimming over the conversation she had had with Draco the previous evening when they were curled on the lounge together. He had not mentioned anything about divorce papers. Pansy laughed, and Hermione’s heart dropped into her stomach.

“Oh he spat the dummy, of course. What man wouldn’t? He’ll sulk about it for a while, but then he will give me what I want, because… oh look I really shouldn’t gossip, but… well, I know he is seeing someone,” Pansy replied, leaning across the table, her lips curled into a nasty smile. Hermione gulped, keeping her expression one of interest and shock, hoping to Merlin that her guilt was not written in her eyes.

“How?” she asked in a whisper. Pansy’s smile deepened, and she shrugged.

“Little things, you know. He’s had so many affairs I know how to read the signs as clear as day now. It’s funny, in the beginning, I used to cry myself to sleep over it, but then I got to the stage where I just had to accept that that was the person he is, and that it wasn’t my fault he was cheating on me. I had done nothing wrong. All the blame lay with him. The thing that I’m not sure about, is whether this woman he is with now, and I know he is with someone, is a new girl, or one he was been seeing for a while, or has seen before. Neither scenario would surprise me really,” Pansy added with a sad shake of her head. “The funny thing is, I gave him the papers yesterday, and he refused to sign them. I have no idea why.”

Hermione almost choked on her coffee. The liquid scalded her throat, sliding down to sit in her stomach and mix with her guilt and shock. She swallowed, taking a deep breath, remaining as outwardly calm as she could. Inside her head, a whirlwind raged. “He wouldn’t sign?” she managed to force the words past her lips, her knees beginning to shake so violently she shifted them away from the table leg, afraid Pansy would notice.

Pansy sighed. “It’s weird, isn’t it? I mean, he was the one asking for a divorce, and when I offer it to him… I don’t know what to make of it. Perhaps he doesn’t really want to get divorced at all. Perhaps this whole thing is a game to him. I don’t know. All I know is I hope that woman, whoever she is, isn’t silly enough to fall in love with him. She’s only going to get hurt. People like Draco never change.”

Hermione was silent, not knowing what to say without incriminating herself. She was aware of a strong feeling of sickness sitting in her stomach and she swallowed again, trying hard not to scream with frustration.

“Of course,” Pansy continued. “You’d know what this is like, going through a divorce.”

“No,” Hermione said quickly, shaking her head. “I wouldn’t.”

Pansy blinked. “But haven’t you divorced Ron? I thought that was what you were intending.”

Hermione nodded slowly. “It was, I mean, it still is. I just haven’t spoken to him about it.”

Pansy patted her hand sympathetically. “It must be hard. It’s different for me. Draco doesn’t love me, so it’s not like I have to worry about hurting him. I guess you know Ron still loves you.”

Hermione felt a small frown cross her face. She could have sworn Pansy’s voice wavered towards the end of her last statement. Hermione shook her head slightly, thinking she was letting the whole situation get to her. As they sat and drank their coffee, Pansy chatted away as if nothing was wrong with the world, her cheeriness and her calm acceptance at the end of her marriage leaving Hermione rattled. Her thoughts unwillingly flew to Ron, and she was reminded again that she had not divorced him, and that they had not even spoken of it. Before she fell in love with Draco, Hermione had not known what she wanted. She did know that Ron still loved her, and that he wanted to work things out, and for a while she thought that was what she wanted as well. Hermione sighed, taking a deep breath.

“Pansy,” she began, and her friend immediately fixed her with a warm smile. “What do you think I should do? About Ron I mean. I do think, no, I know, that I want a divorce, but I have no idea how to bring it up. I really don’t want to hurt him.”

Pansy sipped her coffee, her eyes thoughtful. “Well, there is no clear answer to this, Hermione. Sometimes, in order for everyone to be happy, someone has to get hurt. He will get over it, in time.”

Hermione nodded, pushing her empty cup away. “I know. Thanks for the coffee, Pansy. I really need to get home. I want to see how Harry is doing, and then I want to go and see Ginny.”

“Oh that’s so terrible, what happened to them,” Pansy said sadly, shaking her head. “I would never have thought that they would end up in this situation. Imagine. Poor Ginny. I always thought Harry was a decent man.”

“He is,” Hermione replied quickly, frowning. “I’m not condoning his behaviour, but it was a mistake…”

“Hermione, my dear,” Pansy giggled, putting down her coffee. “You are so naïve sometimes. I used to think Draco had just made ‘mistakes’, until I came to realise that some mistakes can easily be avoided. It all comes down to choice. Harry chose, as did Draco, to be unfaithful.”

“That isn’t true,” Hermione argued, leaning forward in her chair. “Harry is not like…” She stopped, aware she was about to say Draco. Her lovers name lingered on the tip of her tongue, and Hermione swallowed, forcing the word away. Her thoughts swirled back to Pansy’s earlier words about Draco and she felt her knees begin to shake again. He not signed the papers; refused to, as Pansy said. Hermione stood up suddenly, her stomach in knots. Pansy watched her curiously, a small frown resting between her blue eyes.

“I’m sorry,” Hermione stammered, picking up her purse. “I really do have to go. It was nice to see you, Pansy.”

Draco was sitting at the kitchen table, a mug of coffee at his elbow, when Hermione arrived home. His blonde hair hung in his eyes and she stood in the doorway and watched as he pushed it away. Spread out on the table in front of him was a stack of papers. Hermione’s heart flipped over and she wondered if they were the divorce papers. She cleared her throat, announcing her presence, and Draco jumped, his hand flipping the loose cream sheets over, hiding them from her eyes.

“Hey,” he said softly, giving her a smile. “How was my ex-wife? As charming as usual, no doubt?”

“Your wife, don’t you mean,” Hermione answered without thought. Draco frowned, his forehead creasing quickly, before his face slowly drained of colour.


“Is that them? The divorce papers?” Hermione asked stiffly, coming into the kitchen to stand on the opposite side of the table. “Are you going to sign them?”

“Of course I am,” Draco replied quickly. “I just wanted to look at them first.”


“What do you mean why? She’s trying to screw me over, like I knew she would,” he responded angrily. “Did she tell you I wouldn’t sign them? I fucking knew she’d do that.”

“Sign them, Draco,” Hermione said wearily, motioning at the stack of papers lying between them on the table. “Just sign them. Please.”

“I will,” he ground out. Hermione stared at him, sensing his annoyance and his frustration. She knew she was being ridiculous, but Pansy’s words about Draco’s infidelities were bothering her just as much as the fact he hadn’t signed the papers. “What else did she say about me? You have this look on your face, Hermione, this look that says you’re not happy, and I know it is not just about the papers. What else did she say?”

“How long after you were married did you first cheat on her?” Hermione asked quietly. Draco’s eyes widened in shock and he reached out and grasped her hand, bringing her eyes to his face. They stared at one another, Draco’s face sad and tired.

“I will not hurt you, Hermione. I promise. I’m not going to repeat my past behaviour,” he whispered. Hermione said nothing, trying desperately to push Pansy’s words from her ears, but they sat there and taunted her, playing on her guilt at the affair and her past suspicions about Ron. She shook her head, feeling pathetically vulnerable. Draco sighed, releasing her hand abruptly and standing up. He swept the papers up in his arms, pulling them against his chest. “You can trust me.”

“Can I?” Hermione answered in a small voice. “Can I really? I thought I could trust Ron…”

“About him,” Draco cut in. “There is something I need to say…”

“I’m going to divorce him, Draco, don’t worry,” Hermione sighed. Draco frowned.

“That’s not… hang on,” he said slowly. “You haven’t… that’s right, you haven’t. You’re still married to the git.”

“I know,” Hermione said angrily, staring at him. “I know. I’m a hypocrite. I’ve been hassling you about Pansy and I haven’t even had divorce papers drawn up for Ron!”

“And will you?” Draco asked coolly, his arms folded across his chest, the divorce papers held tight against his body. Hermione frowned.

“Yes, of course,” she answered shakily.


Hermione shook her head, passing her hand across her forehead weakly. She felt her fingers tremble slightly as they brushed her skin. “Soon. I promise. I just… I will, Draco.”

“I never asked you to divorce him, Hermione. I gave you a choice, remember? I just assumed, after you said you wanted to be with me, that you had started proceedings. I guess I was wrong,” Draco said softly. Hermione blinked at him.

“Draco, I’m going to do it,” she replied, her voice hard. Her lover stared at her, a sad and confused expression on his face. Eventually, he sighed, pulling at his hair.

“Okay. I’ve got to go out for a bit. I need to go see my kids,” he said in a low voice. “I don’t know how long I’ll be. I might see if Pansy will let me take them out to lunch.”

Hermione nodded quickly. She felt cold all over, and pulled her arms around her body tightly. Draco crossed the room, coming to stand before her. Hermione bit her lip, dropping her gaze. She wasn’t sure why she was so worried all of a sudden. Pansy had rattled her. “We need to tell her about us, Draco,” Hermione whispered as her lover slid his arm around her body, pulling her close to him.

“I know,” he replied, kissing the top of her head. “But not yet, okay?”

“Why not? She knows you’re seeing someone, and it’s only a matter of time until more people find out about us, and then Pansy will know…” Hermione muttered into his chest, feeling close to tears. Her body was tingling with frustration, fear and vulnerability. She shivered as Draco’s lips touched her forehead.

“Not yet, Hermione,” he said firmly, pulling away from her. He cupped her chin with his fingers, tilting her face so he could look into her eyes. “Just be patient.”

Sudden annoyance and anger sped through Hermione’s body. She pulled out of Draco’s grasp, sighing and crossing the kitchen. Putting her back to him, she looked absently out the window, her arms pulled around her body again. In the background, she heard him growl in frustration.

“You’re being ridiculous,” he snapped roughly.

“Ridiculous?” Hermione replied incredulously, spinning around to face him. “I’ve been so bloody patient with you, Draco…”

“So what? We get to this stage and now you can’t wait a little longer to tell the world about your extramarital affair? Hermione, what the hell is going on? Everything was fine this morning,” Draco replied.

“I don’t want to ‘tell the world’,” Hermione snarled angrily. “I just want to stop having to hide it!”

“Oh right, okay,” Draco snapped, dropping his divorce papers back onto the table. “Maybe the first thing you can do to help out then is divorce your bloody husband!”

“I will! Just don’t pressure me about it!” Hermione screeched suddenly, pushing herself off the bench. Furious, she strode past Draco, rushing through the lounge room and into the bathroom. She shut the door swiftly behind her, locking it. She felt sick, her stomach twisted so tightly it felt like a worn rubber band, ready to snap. Staring at herself in the mirror, with her frizzy hair and creased forehead, Hermione took a deep breath, forcing a wave of calm over her body.

“You’re being childish,” Draco’s voice floated through the closed door, laced with annoyance, and Hermione scowled, the creases in her forehead deepening.

“Go away,” she yelled, sitting down on the edge of the bathtub. Draco did not respond, but she could hear him breathing and huffing on the other side of the door. He banged his fist against the timber, demanding she open the door. Hermione shook her head, not caring that he could not see her reaction. She heard him swear, and heard him sigh, before his voice floated to her ears, low and angry, the words forced through clenched teeth.

“Fine, Granger, if that’s what you want. Let’s just forget the whole thing ever happened then. Go back to your husband, if he’s willing to come back. He’ll have to dump his girlfriend first.”

Hermione held her breath, her hand jumping to her mouth as her eyes filled with tears as Draco’s words sank into her blood. She flew to her feet, ripping the door open so hard it slipped from her grip and smashed into the bathroom wall. The hallway was empty, and the house silent. All that remained was tension floating through the air to torment and mock her for being a fool. Slowly, Hermione checked every room in the house. Draco’s divorce papers were gone, and so was he. Choking back a sob, Hermione slid to her knees on the kitchen floor. The last words he said to her swam through her head and she felt her body shaking.

Ron had a girlfriend, and Draco knew who it was.

Chapter 11: Anguish and Antagonism
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WOW!! look at this! she updates, lol.
seriously tho, I hope you enjoy this. It's been written for ages but I just didn't get off my backside and post it ^_^
I will get reviews answered - promise- but im heaps busy with other stuff, mainly work, life, TFO and my own writing
just a note - BANNER REQUESTS ARE CLOSED! so please please do not ask me for one in a review!
thanks guys and enjoy!

Anguish and Antagonism

Draco spent the rest of the afternoon with his children. Pansy was bright and cheery and, much to Draco’s supreme annoyance, insisted on accompanying them to the park. Stressed, Draco sat stiffly on a bench as he watched Pansy play with Briana on the swings, his wife laughing and smiling. Dorian was sullen; he would barely talk and Draco had to resist the urge to yell at him. Shocked at himself, Draco cut the afternoon short, leaving with a curt farewell. He had never raised his voice at his children, and his head hurt at the thought of doing so. He suffered Briana’s teary goodbye, the little girl clinging to him and sobbing in his ear. His son turned his back, running to hide behind his mother. No amount of coaxing from Pansy would make the little boy face his father.

Anxious about Hermione and terribly worried about his relationship with his son, Draco went to into the office, wanting to loose himself in something practical. The whole place reminded him of Hermione; he thought he could still smell her perfume on the sofa in his office and he blinked.

“I’m losing it,” he whispered to himself, tugging at his hair. In the pocket of his robes, his divorce papers sat, the cloth weighed down by the sheer volume of Pansy’s demands. Draco pulled them out with a sigh. He read them half-heartedly, thinking he should just sign and give the insufferable woman every darn thing she wanted. She had kept her word on issues concerning the children, but some strange degree of pride made Draco reluctant to give up all the other material things he had worked so hard for. Their house had been paid for with his money; even the clothes on Pansy’s back had been paid for with his money.

Scowling, he set the papers aside, reaching for a quill and parchment, drafting a quick note to his own lawyer. He did want to avoid court; Pansy was right about that, but he also did not want to go down without a fight.

“I just wish Hermione would understand that,” he muttered angrily, thinking sadly of his lover. He knew he should go and apologise, but his stubbornness kept him from leaping from his chair and floo-ing back to her house.

As the sun began to sink, Draco tumbled out of Hermione’s fireplace, scowling and brushing soot from his clothes. The house was silent, and a deep fear crept through his body as he remembered the last thing he said to her that morning. Slowly, Draco made his way through the house. The kitchen was empty, the kettle cold, and no lights were on anywhere. Taking out his wand and lighting his path, Draco moved down the hall towards the bedroom.

He found Hermione curled on the bed, still clothed, her shoes on her feet. He felt a sharp stab of guilt and slowly sat down on the bed, touching her gently on the shoulder. She opened her eyes, saw him and scowled, promptly turning away. Draco sighed, biting back angry words.

“Hermione, love, I’m sorry,” he said softly, reaching out to stroke her hair. She moved her head away from him, rolling and sitting up, her knees tucked into her chest. They stared at one another, Hermione’s eyes sad and angry, her face tight with pain and emotion.

Draco stood up. “I’ll go.”

“I thought you already had,” she shot back. “I packed your stuff for you.” She motioned with her hand; a trunk sat near the door and Draco gulped.

“You want me to leave?”

Hermione looked at him, her eyes huge in the near darkness, her pupils dilated, smothering the white of her eyes. “Isn’t that what you want?”

Draco bit his lip. He wanted to grab her and shake her and kiss her and scream that he loved her and no, it was not what he wanted. He wanted her. “No,” he said calmly. “But, Hermione, we need to seriously talk about what is going on. We need to get things sorted out.”

She sighed, pulling at her hair. “I’m going to talk to Ron. Tonight. He’s coming over. But,” she paused, holding up her hand and forestalling the comments Draco wanted to make. “I think… it would be best if the two of us… had a little bit of space, just until we get all this worked out.”

“Right,” Draco replied blankly, the air escaping his lungs. There felt like a weight was crushing his chest; he could not breathe and he blinked, forcing away the sudden onset of emotion. Hermione sat and watched him, her face miserable and he sighed, forcing a smile. “I meant to get a motel anyway.”

She nodded, closing her eyes.

“Okay, then, I guess I’ll just get going,” Draco said indifferently, his voice calm and miles away from the storm that raged under his skin. He did not want Weasley anywhere near her; he did not want to leave and he certainly didn’t think they needed ‘space’. He turned and walked towards the door, bending to collect his trunk. Sighing, he straightened, and suddenly found his arms full of a weeping Hermione.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” she sobbed, burying her face in his shirt. Draco wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close, bending his head and hiding his face in her hair. He did not breathe and hoped the tremors racing through his body went unnoticed. Hermione pulled back, lifting her face, her cheeks streaked with the salt of tears. Draco smiled sadly, cupping her face and rubbing his thumb across her skin, wiping away the moisture that lingered there.

“I love you,” he whispered, catching her face and kissing her fiercely. He could taste her tears and her sorrow on her lips. He set her away from him, sighing regretfully. He picked up his trunk and was gone.

Draco spent the night in a motel, his bed cold and empty, the cool satin of the sheets like ice on his skin. He did not sleep, finding himself lying staring at the ceiling, floating in a space not quite in the realm of dreams. The sun rose, peeking through the curtains, slicing across the room and touching his bare chest. Sighing, Draco crawled into the shower, leaving the water cold, shivering with the merciless temperature but stepping out refreshed and awake.

His thoughts rested with one person only and a night without her had been torture. Closing his eyes, Draco chewed his lip. He did not like this ‘space’ business for one second, but vowed to do as Hermione wished. She was right. They needed to sort out their respective lives if they were to have any chance of one together. Draco dressed, throwing on clothes without really looking at what he was grabbing. He munched a quick breakfast left outside the room by the motel staff, before retreating to the window, staring moodily out at the world.

By nine am, Draco was pacing the room, biting his fingernails and cursing to himself.

“This is bloody ridiculous,” he declared to the lush surroundings. Snatching up his wand, he stalked out of the room, apparating seconds later in Hermione’s backyard, telling himself he was only going to go in there, make sure she was alright, find out what Weasley had to say, and tell her where he was staying.

Draco stood leaning against the back veranda railing, his arms folded, staring intently at the back door until his eyes hurt. Hermione’s owl was perched in her usual position, and the great golden bird watched him with unblinking eyes. Draco scowled at it, feeling judged and it hooted softly in indignation and kept on staring. Draco put one foot on the back stair, took a deep breath, and lost his nerve.

Muttering angrily to himself, he strode back across the lawn, his eyes swinging to the house next door. He paused briefly, and changed direction before he could change his mind, stepping lithely over the small fence.

“Better see is Potter is still alive,” Draco murmured, heading for the front of the house. Harry’s veranda was littered with dead leaves and Draco sighed, kicking aside an old copy of The Daily Prophet. He took a deep breath, running his hand through his hair and wondering what the hell he was doing.

Draco pushed the doorbell angrily, listening as the high-pitched chime echoed through the house. He waited, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, sneaking a glance at Hermione’s house. He frowned, pressing the doorbell again, and then again. At last, he heard heavy, irritated footsteps behind the closed door. Wiping his hands on his pants, Draco fixed a nonchalant expression on his face as Harry opened the door, looking harassed. His eyes widened and his mouth dropped open.

“Malfoy? What the hell?” he stuttered.

“Are you going to let me in, Potter, or do we have to stand out here all day,” Draco snapped, wanting to be inside and not standing in the open on the front veranda. His eyes slid sideways to the house next door, and he sighed, turning back to Harry, annoyed. The other man shrugged, opening the door wide, walking off down the hall. Draco swallowed, stepping in and closing the door gently behind him, following Harry. He walked slowly, his eyes taking in the contents of the house. Neat furniture, walls covered in family portraits. A whole cluster of Weasley’s stared at him accusingly as he passed and he gave them his best Malfoy scowl.

“In here, Malfoy,” Harry called and Draco followed the sound of his voice, finding Harry in the lounge room. His eyes immediately caught on a framed picture of Hermione and Ron on their wedding day and he frowned at it, turning away and letting his body fall onto a comfortable lounge. Harry sat opposite him, his eyebrows raised expectantly.

“Well?” he asked, sitting back, watching Draco. “Why are you here?”

Draco shrugged, unsure of what to say. That he’d lost his nerve and suddenly found himself on Harry’s doorstep instead of Hermione’s. He sighed and pulled his hand through his hair, letting his hand drop to rub at his face wearily.

“This is about Hermione, right?” Harry asked softly and Draco nodded, lifting his head.

“She told you about our fight?”

Harry laughed gently. “Malfoy, I think the whole street knows about your fight. I could hear you two screaming like you were in the next room.”

“Fantastic,” Draco muttered. “I fucked this up again, Potter. I can’t get it right. I couldn’t keep my marriage together and now… I’m an idiot,” he finished.

“Look,” Harry began, leaning forward. “If you’re waiting for me to tell you not to worry, then you’re wasting your time. I don’t approve of what the two of you have done, not at all, and frankly, it’s probably for the best, Malfoy.”

Draco narrowed his eyes. “What do you mean, for the best? Potter, what’s going on? What do you know?” he asked, suddenly incredible suspicious. Draco stood up suddenly, the urge to talk to Hermione, to hold her in his arms, strong in his stomach. “I’m going to…”

“Malfoy, don’t,” Harry warned, standing up also.

“Why the hell not? I love her, Potter, and I’m not about to…”

Harry sighed. “She’s not alone,” he cut in gently. Draco blinked, his head spinning. Slowly, he let himself fall back onto the lounge, staring at Harry with a sinking feeling in his stomach. “Ron came over last night, and he hasn’t left yet, not that I know anyway. He’d come and see me on his way out,” Harry explained, sitting down warily, his body poised and ready to spring up again if needed.

Draco felt like the air had been pushed from his lungs. He sat back, feeling sick and dizzy. Harry said nothing further, just looked at him, his expression one of sadness, smugness and pity mingled into one. Draco blinked rapidly, his body on fire. “Right,” he said simply, looking at the floor. “Right.” He wanted to get up from the lounge and slink away somewhere, but he could not move. His body felt like it weighed a tonne and he sat, feeling like he was drowning.

“I can’t get it right,” he whispered wearily. “Pansy and me… it used to be roses, Potter, once upon a time. It was perfect. We didn’t always hate one another. I have no idea how it all fell apart. I don’t know who stopped talking to whom first, who stepped away first. I have no idea what went wrong, really, and now it’s happening again and this time, I can’t help thinking it’s absolutely my fault,” he continued sadly, shaking his head. He looked at Harry, who gave a short bark of sarcastic laughter.

“You’re asking the wrong man here, Malfoy,” he replied with a shake of his head. “I’m in the same boat as you. Although,” he added, “I didn’t intentionally have an affair with another man’s wife.”

“Yeah, I know, I’m the bad guy here. It couldn’t possibly be Weasley’s fault as well,” Draco snapped moodily. “I didn’t intentionally set out to ruin her marriage. It was already ruined, from what I understand, and that had nothing at all to do with me. That was all your mates fault.”

“That may be true,” Harry replied after a pause. “Ron made some mistakes, but you being involved with Hermione has not helped her.”

“I beg to differ,” Draco growled. “She’s been happy.”

“You cannot possibly tell me that Hermione was happy to be having an affair?” Harry asked incredulously and Draco sighed.

“All right, no, not about that, but she was happy in the end,” he said softly. “And so was I.”

“Malfoy, I can’t take your side in this,” Harry stated bluntly. “She’s my best mate, Ron’s my best mate. I want to see them back together. I want to see them happy again.”

“And what about Weasley’s girlfriend? Has your mate told you about that?” Draco snapped. Harry frowned.

“He may have mentioned something, but look, it doesn’t matter. He’s hurt and he’s lonely. He loves Hermione. They were meant to be.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know. I read it in the papers. The darling couple, the match made in heaven blah, blah. That’s what they said about you and your wife, and look how that turned out,” Draco said nastily.

“Don’t make this about me, Malfoy,” Harry replied angrily. “It’s not my marriage we’re talking about here.”

Draco sighed, pulling at his hair in frustration. He wanted to scream. He wanted the whole world to know how he felt. He wanted to incinerate Weasley with his rage alone. “I’m sorry,” he muttered. “That was uncalled for. Tell me, Potter, while we are on the subject, what are you doing to fix things?”

Harry blinked at him. “What do you mean?”

“With your wife. Trust me on this, you leave it too long, you’re going to loose her. You’ll end up like me. Alone,” Draco replied with a growl. The front door clicked open, Harry’s eyes widening as a cheery voice echoed down the hall.

“Harry, mate, you home?”

“Get out, Malfoy. Now,” Harry hissed, leaping to his feet. “Back door.”

Draco did not move. A sense of calm had taken over the rage and he slowly withdrew his wand from his pocket, his head screaming, and dozens of painful spells running through his mind. He smirked.

“Don’t you bloody dare you idiot!” Harry snapped, his green eyes flashing dangerously. His wand was in his hand also, the skin around his knuckles white. “Malfoy, for Merlin’s sake…”

“Alright, I’m gone. Keep him occupied before I seriously damage him,” Draco snapped through his teeth, climbing to his feet. Harry’s face relaxed, and he turned promptly, disappearing into the hall. Scowling, Draco crossed the room, flipped the wedding portrait of Hermione and Ron face down on the mantle, and stalked to the back of the house and out the back door. Draco only took a moment to recover his breath, before racing across Harry’s yard and vaulting over the fence onto Hermione’s lawn. He did not break stride, running as his feet hit the ground, tearing up the back steps and throwing the door open violently.


His lover’s shocked face appeared in the hall and Draco stopped, his feet cemented to the carpet. They stared at one another; Hermione was still in her nightgown, her hair tangled and her skin pale. Draco watched as she pulled a great gulp of air into her lungs, a strangled sob escaping her lips, before she turned and walked away from him, her shoulders slumped.

Icy cold premonition sank into his skin, his stomach flopping over, nausea flooding his body. Gulping, Draco forced himself to follow her. His eyes flickered into the bedroom as he passed the door; the bed was unmade, the sheets a wild jumble. His fear increased and his feet began to move quicker.

Hermione was in the kitchen, sitting at the table with a mug of coffee between her hands. She did not look up as he entered and Draco slowly sat down opposite her.

“What are you doing here?” she asked softly, her voice strained.

“Have a good time with Weasley?” Draco asked bluntly, pushing her question aside. Hermione sighed, lifting a hand to rub at her face. “Did you discuss the divorce?”

“Please, Draco, don’t,” she whispered shakily. Draco drummed his fingers on the tabletop, his skin twitching.

“Well,” he said with forced calm. “No matter.”

Hermione looked at him sharply; there were bags under her eyes and her skin was sallow.

“Bad nights sleep?” Draco inquired innocently. She flinched; he watched her closely, his eyes never leaving her face. She stared back at him, the air between them saturated with pain and anger. Her face broke and she pushed her cup away, standing swiftly.

“I … I have things to do. You’d better leave,” she whispered, pulling at her hair. Draco frowned, claws digging in tightly to his chest. He stood slowly, taking his time to tuck his chair in, breathing deeply and steadily. His fingers clenched around the back of the chair until his knuckles turned white.

He bit his lip, drawing blood, keeping his head lowered.

“Draco…” Hermione whispered painfully. “Please…”

“You are going to divorce him, right?” Draco asked, lifting his head to look into her eyes. The colour drained from her face. “You don’t want to drag this out, Hermione.”

Hermione’s lip trembled and she let her head drop, catching it in her hands. “I tried to talk to him about it, but…”

Her voice was muffled and tight, but Draco heard every word. Every nerve in his body was screaming, every sense on high alert. He chuckled low in his throat.

“You’re not going to do it, are you?”

Her head snapped up, anger in her eyes. “I am! I just… he thought I’d changed my mind about him. He was so hopeful I didn’t want to hurt him and…” Hermione’s voice dropped away. Her eyes were swimming with regret and misery. Draco took a deep breath, and squeezed.

The back of the chair snapped away between his fingers. Hermione gasped, darting across the room and grabbing at his hands. Blood pearled along the middle of his palm, and Draco pulled his hands away roughly.

Hermione stared at him, her mouth opening but he shook his head, lunging for her and forcing himself to ask the question that had been burning its way slowly and surely into his head.

“Did you sleep with him, Hermione?” Draco whispered, grabbing her upper arms and pulling her into his body. She said nothing and his heart stalled. “Did you?” She bit her lip and he gave her a little shake, fury dancing across her face. She shoved him away, her fists clenched.


Draco stared at her, searching her face for some hint that he had misheard her, but all he could see was cold, hard truth staring back at him. He lifted a hand weakly in her direction, as if wanting to grab her, before letting it drop to his side, beginning to laugh wildly.

“Why?” he choked through his laughter. “Why would you go and do something like that?”

Hermione gaped at him and he laughed harder at her shocked expression. “Why the hell are you laughing?” she screeched, flying across the room and hitting him in the chest with her fists. “Draco! Why are you laughing?”

“Because I find this whole thing incredibly hilarious!” Draco bellowed, furious all of a sudden, the laughter gone from his voice and his eyes. “You asked me for space; I was giving it to you, and the moment I am gone you go and screw Weasley!”

“It just happened alright!” Hermione screamed back, wiping her eyes. Her cheeks were glowing, her hair wild around her shoulders. “He was upset and…”

“I never took you for a mercy-shag sort of person, Hermione,” Draco interjected shrewdly. “Is Weasley truly that pathetic? Did he beg and plead and cry? Is that all it takes? Should I get on my knees?”

Hermione took a deep breath, her eyes flashing daggers. She drew back her hand and slapped Draco across the cheek, her palm slamming into his face, the sound echoing sharply through the room.

“Fuck, Hermione!” he shouted, lifting a hand and rubbing at his stinging skin.

“Get out,” she hissed dangerously, her eyes shining with rage and tears. “Stay the hell away from me, Draco Malfoy! Go back to your wife!

“With pleasure,” he snarled furiously. “At least with Pansy I know where I stand.” They stared at one another a moment longer, both breathing heavily. Draco clenched his fists, his body on fire and his chest made of stone. With an angry scream, he snatched her mug up from the table and threw it as hard as he could against the wall. It exploded, showering the kitchen with shards of ceramic. Hermione gasped, turning her face away as she began to sob, her body collapsing onto the floor as Draco turned the table over violently, slamming it into the kitchen cupboards. It trembled, and splintered.

Draco stood, chest heaving, a cold sweat racing over his body. He looked at the woman he loved, hunched over on her knees. His face twisted and he took a step towards her, his hand outstretched, his rage dying away, leaving a nasty blistering wound deep inside.

“Hermione,” he whispered, pain and regret engulfing him. This was his penance. This was the price of his deceit, of Pansy’s pain, of his affair.

“Just go away,” she choked out through her sobs. Draco sighed, feeling the burn of tears in his eyes. His ears were filled with her cries and slowly, he knelt beside her, gathering her to him. She struggled, fighting him, but he held her tightly, smoothing the long wild hair back from her face, forcing her to look at him.

She met his eyes, her lips wavering, her face streaked with tears. Draco swallowed his grief and kissed her gently on the mouth, letting the familiar taste of her sink into his skin, before letting her go and standing up.

He left her there, sitting amongst the broken kitchen, and returned to the motel.

Chapter 12: Sins and Sinners
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Sorry once again about the wait everyone. RL, TFO and work have kept me busy. This chapter is not betaed, so please excuse any mistakes ^_^
I hope you enjoy it and I hope to get this fic finished soon.
Thanks for sticking around *hugs*

Sins and Sinners

Hermione accepted a drink from Ron, sighing inwardly at the look in his eyes. She had managed to fob him off for as long as she could, but she could tell he was running out of patience. She had no idea where to begin explaining things to her husband. She felt that, after all that happened between them, after all the years they were together, he deserved more than a simple, “no.” Ron led her outside onto the veranda, the evening sky darkening around them.

Harry’s house was filled with people. It was Hermione’s birthday, and although she did not feel like celebrating, wanting instead to curl up in her bed and cry until she was empty, Ron had convinced her that she needed a party. Harry had offered his house, and now the place was decked out in sparkling lights, music floating gently through the night outside. The moon was shining brightly, a perfect crescent, and the sky was clear of clouds, littered in stars. It reminded Hermione strongly of the night Ron proposed to her and she swallowed, turning to face him.

“Ron, we really need to talk,” she said gently, sitting her drink down on the railing. He nodded, moving a little closer to her.

“I know.”

“It’s not the right time tonight. I know I keep saying that, but I need to tell you …” Hermione paused, taking a deep breath and looking into his eyes. “I need to explain a few things, and right now, we don’t have time.”

“Oh,” Ron replied simply, turning away from her. “I take it you’re going to say no.”

Hermione bit her lip. The knowledge that Draco was inside the house ate away at her. He had not stopped staring at her for most of the night, his eyes sending messages she did not know how to answer. They had not spoken in over a week, and when she saw him walk through the front door with Pansy, all she had wanted was to fly across the room and fall into his arms, despite the horrible things they had said to one another; despite what she had done to him. Seeing him with his wife, his arm around her back and a cold expression on his face had torn at her heart. She could not believe for a moment Draco and Pansy had reconciled, and she assumed that they were merely putting on a show of pretence for the crowd. Their separation was not yet common knowledge, although Hermione was surprised to see them together, she knew Pansy in particular would want everything to look happy and pleasant from the outside.

Hermione knew she had made a mistake with Ron. The night he had come to see her had found the two of them arguing and then sitting together on the sofa, caught up in a world of reminiscence. He had kissed her, his face sad and his eyes shining, and riding a spur of nostalgia, Hermione had kissed him back. She had never wanted her marriage to end, and although she knew she did not love Ron or want to be with him anymore, there was some part of her that wished to hold onto the security and the love they had once shared. She had been feeling so hurt and confused from her fallout with Draco, and tumbling into bed with Ron made her feel loved and important, but only for a second. Her horror at her actions afterwards had made her sick for days, and she had not returned any of his owls.

Hermione turned back to Ron. He smiled sadly at her in response, his face closed.

“Please, Ron,” she pleaded, taking his hand. “It’s more complicated than a simple ‘no’. I need you to understand … there are things you don’t know and … oh my god! Ginny!” Hermione tore away from her husband, racing down the front steps, almost tripping over in her heeled shoes. Ginny was standing just outside the apparition wards, tears streaming down her face. Hermione folded her in her arms, asking no questions, letting the other woman cry on her shoulder. Ron was beside them in a second, words flying from his mouth. He wrapped his arms around both of them, kissing his sister on the head as she sniffed and pulled away, wiping her eyes dry.

“Where are the kids?” Ron asked, looking around in the growing darkness.

“With mum,” Ginny answered, turning to Hermione. “That’s why she’s not here tonight. I’m sorry. I asked her to watch the boys while I came to talk to Harry.”

Hermione nodded, taking her friends hand. She was so caught up in her own dramas that she had actually failed to notice Molly and Arthur were missing. “It’s fine. Really.”

Ginny took a deep breath, looking from Hermione to Ron, swallowing nervously. “Where is he?”

“Inside,” Ron answered. “Do you want me to …”

“No,” Ginny shook her head, wiping at her face, a look of determination creeping into her eyes. “I need to do this.”

Hermione and Ron walked either side of her, leading her up the front path and into the house. They passed Draco and Pansy, standing glaring at one another in the hall. Pansy immediately turned away from her husband, rushing forward to ask was everything all right. Draco caught Hermione’s eye and she shook her head at him, focusing her attention on Ginny. Her stomach was in knots. The last time she had spoken to her friend, Ginny had told her she was going to ask Harry for a divorce, and she was afraid the redhead was here to do just that. Ron went first into the lounge room, where most of the guests were gathered. Pansy and Hermione followed him through, Pansy moving across the room to Ron’s side. Hermione saw them exchange a strange little smile and while it puzzled her, she shook it off, turning and watching as Ginny walked slowly into the room, a pained expression on her face.

Harry was sitting on the lounge, talking with Neville, and did not notice his wife’s appearance. Gradually, the room fell into silence, all eyes either on Harry, or Ginny, who was now standing directly in front of him. Neville looked up, paling, and slapped Harry on the arm urgently. With a frown, Harry glanced up, his mouth dropping open, his body rising from the couch instantly. They stared at one another, the air between them dripping with sadness and unsaid words, before Ginny collapsed into his arms, crying softly against his shirt.

“I’m so sorry,” she muttered, her voice muffled. “I don’t want a divorce. I don’t want to leave you. I don’t want our children to not have their father. I just wanted to teach you a lesson.”

Harry said nothing, just hugged her harder, his face wet with tears. He reached down and cupped her chin, lifting her tear-stained face up to his, kissing her tenderly on the mouth as the room erupted into applause. Hermione looked around, smiling so hard she thought her face would break, her eyes moving over the embracing figures of Harry and Ginny, touching briefly on Ron’s face. Her ex-husband was standing across the room with Pansy, a huge smile on his lips as he watched his sister and his best friend. He looked up, meeting Hermione’s gaze, his face shining. Hermione swallowed, trying to push the nausea that flooded her stomach away. She felt dreadfully guilty about Ron. The night they spent together a week ago had only increased her husbands’ hopes and Hermione cursed herself continually for her moment of sheer weakness.

Her eyes moved away from Ron as he smiled at her, settling on Draco’s face. He gave her a look of such intense longing that she felt her breath hitch and her blood begin to boil. She had found a copy of his divorce papers, signed and dated, on her doorstep, a note scribbled with the words ‘sorry I wasted your time’ attached to the papers. Draco’s silver eyes flickered to Harry and Ginny, and back to her face, filled with questions and intentions. Slowly, while Pansy was talking to Ron, Draco slipped away, stepping out into the hall, turning back to look at Hermione briefly. Her heart pounding in her chest, she looked back to Ron, noticing he was deep in discussion with Pansy. Hermione bit her lip, knowing Draco was waiting for her in the hall. Every ounce of common sense she had told her to stay where she was, but seeing Harry and Ginny back together only made things clearer in her head. While no one was paying her any attention, Hermione crossed the room, sliding out into the brightly lit hall.

Draco was nowhere to be seen, and Hermione took a deep breath, hissing his name in an undertone. When there was no reply, she went searching for him, sticking her head into the kitchen. Finding it empty, she jumped when a voice whispered her name. Turning, she saw Draco leaning in the doorway, looking casually elegant in his black suit pants and silk shirt, a sad smile on his lips. Their eyes met, and Hermione tore across the room, falling against him, pushing him back into the hall until his body hit the wall. His arms went around her, and Hermione sighed as his lips found her neck, his teeth grazing her skin gently, his hands roaming over her body, pulling her close to him.

“Do you have any idea how much I want you right now? Having to sit through this night and not be allowed to touch you has been driving me mad. I’m so sorry, Hermione. So terribly sorry. I should never have said those things to you. I should never have left. I should never have stayed away,” Draco whispered against her skin, sending a shiver of desire skipping through her blood. Hermione sighed, reaching up to grasp his face between her hands, pulling his head back so she could look at him.

“I love you,” she whispered softly, feeling a tremble pass beneath his skin. His eyes closed briefly and he smiled, letting his head drop until his forehead was pressed against hers. She traced the line of his cheek with the tip of her finger. “And I am sorry too, Draco. About everything, Ron, the divorce; everything. It just took tonight, and a week without you, to make me realise how important you are to me.”

“I know,” he whispered back. “And I love you, too. You’re forgiven; Merlin knows it would be a little too much of me to hold it against you. Granger, can we get out of here now? Please?”

Hermione shook her head regrettably. “It’s my birthday party. We can’t just disappear, Draco. Not with everyone still out there.”

“Bugger them,” Draco growled, kissing her roughly and desperately, her knees turning to water as she melted against his body. He picked her up off the ground, walking them awkwardly to the nearest door. Hermione giggled as he flung open the door, kicking it closed as he pushed them into the room. He carried her across the small space, lifting her a higher up his body, before dropping her gently, her backside connecting with something hard.

She blinked at him, confused, sadness suddenly rushing over her. “But, how can you want … I slept with Ron.”

Draco frowned and a spasm of anger crossed his face. Slowly, he shook his head, his forehead smoothing. “I don’t care. I really don’t care. All I care about is you, and,” he added with a smirk and a wink, “making sure I am the only person you will be sleeping with from now on.”

Hermione smiled, choking back a sob, and threw her arms around him, pressing her lips to his. Draco pulled away, sliding his hand down her body, reaching for the edge of her shirt. Hermione looked around the room, her eyes coming back to Draco. She raised an eyebrow, sniffing and giggling as he tugged on her clothing.

“It’s a laundry, Draco.”

“Who cares?” he replied, swiftly unbuttoning his shirt and sliding it from his shoulders. He tossed it on the floor, smiling playfully. “We’re alone, and that’s all that matters at the moment. Ever shagged in a laundry before, Granger?”

“Not that I can recall,” she answered, smirking at the wickedness in his eyes as he came closer to her. She reached down between them, her fingers moving to his belt, unbuckling it quickly. She jumped in delight as his hands found their way under her skirt, his fingers kneading the flesh on her thighs as his hands walked higher up her legs. Hermione let her head drop, her lips finding the warm skin of his throat, her teeth nipping at his flesh roughly. Draco groaned, falling against her and she wrapped her arms around his neck. “We really shouldn’t do this now, not here.”

“I want to be with you, Hermione. Once the divorce is finalised ... both divorces … I want something done properly, for once in my life,” he whispered hurriedly, his hands sliding up her spine.

Hermione raised her head, catching his lips with hers, kissing him sweetly and passionately, before pulling away, breathless and flushed. “And I’ll tell Ron I want a divorce. It’s going to break his heart, but I’ll tell him. All I want is to be with you.”

The door opened suddenly, flooding the room with the light from the hall and Hermione lifted her head in fright, staring into her husbands’ shocked face. She dug her nails into Draco’s neck, causing him to hiss at her, raising his head from her neck. Hermione felt him look at her, but she could not take her eyes from Ron’s. Her heart was pounding so hard in her chest she thought she would have a fit, her lungs not seeming to work and her mouth slightly open, twisted between shock and desire.

Draco slowly pulled away from her, turning around gracefully, leaning back between her knees, his fingers wrapped around her ankles. No one spoke as Ron looked from Draco back to Hermione, taking in the state of their clothing; Hermione’s shirt was pushed up around her ribs, her skirt hitched up, and Draco’s chest was bare, his belt undone and swinging freely from his pants, his hair a mess.

Ron’s skin gradually morphed from cream to crimson, switching quickly back to milky white. Hermione saw him swallow and close his eyes, taking a small step backwards.

“Ron …” Hermione began weakly, pushing Draco’s back until he moved. She dropped onto shaky legs, hastily pulling her clothing down her body. She took a step towards her husband, Draco grabbing at her arm. Hermione shook him off, throwing him a heated glare. Her lover sighed softly, buckling his belt as Hermione turned to face her husband. “Ron, please, listen …”

“I don’t want to hear anything you have to say, Hermione. I can’t believe what I’m seeing. I can’t believe it,” he repeated, staggering a little. Hermione hung her head, pulling her lip between her teeth and biting down. Draco shifted beside her, his hand drifting to her back, soothing and comforting.

“Get your slimy hands off my wife, Malfoy,” Ron snapped in a low voice. Hermione looked up to find him with his fists clenched and a look of pure and uncensored loathing on his face. He took a step towards them, his eyes fixed on Draco, who sighed but did not remove his hand from Hermione’s body.

“She’s divorcing you, Weasley. As in, she’s not going to be your wife any more,” Draco replied. Ron scowled, his fists curling even tighter beside his body.

“And what about your wife, Malfoy? Does she know about this … this … god… Hermione, divorce?” he stammered, his face paling further.

Hermione gave Draco a dirty look and he shrugged. “I’m sorry, Ron.”

Ron swallowed, taking a deep breath. “Does Pansy know about this?” he repeated, looking at them warily.

“No, and you are not going to tell her, Weasley,” Draco cut in firmly, but Ron shook his head. Draco sighed, reaching for his wand, lying on the floor with his shirt. He pointed it at the door; it swung closed as Draco muttered a Silencing charm. Hermione and Ron both looked at him, the latter with slight fear in his eyes. “Do you want the rest of them knowing?” he said calmly, before his eyes hardened. “Don’t say a word to Pansy.”

“Ron, please,” Hermione pleaded, tears in her eyes. “Please don’t tell her. Please.”

“She has a right to know,” the redhead snarled, looking at Hermione in repulsion. She swallowed, nodding.

“You’re right, she does, but please, Ron. Not like this. Not here. Not tonight. Don’t,” she begged. Ron shook his head.

“I thought you still loved me, Hermione?” he whispered in broken tones. “How long have you been lying to me? Did you ever really want to be with me again?”

“I did love you, Ron, once. But you changed. I changed. And Draco … I don’t know how to explain it, I really don’t, but this happened, and … he makes me happy, Ron, he really does,” Hermione whispered, unable to stop the tears leaking from her eyes at the look of anguish and disbelief on Ron’s face. She swallowed, taking a step closer to him. “I should have told you the truth. I should never have let you believe I still loved you. We should never have … I’m so sorry,” she said, hating herself intensely. “I insulted your integrity in the worst possible way, and I don’t expect you to ever forgive me.”

Ron gave a short bark of angry laughter. “I suspected this, you know. I really did. I’m not as dumb as you think, Hermione. I know you. And I knew something was not right. Just tell me, did this start when we were still properly married?”

“No, Ron, no. I would never …” Hermione began, pausing when she realised how pathetic her words were.

Ron did not respond and Hermione bit her lip as a fresh flow of tears spread over her cheeks. His head dropped towards the floor and she saw his shoulders shake. Draco moved to her side, his hand coming to rest in the small of her back. She turned to look at him sadly, shaking her head, before turning her attention back to her husband. Ron lifted his head, looking her in the eye, his face twisted with rage and grief.

“Do you enjoy this, Hermione? Are you happy being his whore?” Ron asked in an amazingly calm voice, shaking his head at her. Hermione blanched at his words, the breath catching in her throat. She shook her head, knowing she deserved it. “Does he pay you well, or are you just shagging him out of the goodness of your heart? Did you get into this willingly? Explain to me how the fuck this happened, because I’m having a hard time understanding what on earth you see in him!”

Hermione felt Draco tense at her side, and suddenly he was across the room, holding Ron by the collar of his shirt, pressing the redhead against the wall. They struggled briefly, until Draco slammed Ron hard against the wall, ceasing his resistance.

“I have never, ever, treated her like a hooker, and I never forced her into this. She’s with me because she wants to be, Weasley, because you fucked things up with her. You were the one who treated her badly, not me. I have done nothing but care for her,” Draco hissed. Ron shook his head, a scornful laugh escaping his lips.

“Right, now I find that hard to believe, Malfoy. You’re too bloody selfish to care about anyone but yourself. You obviously don’t care about Pansy.”

“I don’t love Pansy,” Draco answered simply.

“Oh and I suppose you’re going to tell me you love Hermione?” Ron mocked, pushing the blonde off him, glaring at him hatefully. Draco sighed, turning back to look at Hermione. He gave her a small smile, which she hesitantly returned, realising it was time for the full truth. Ron watched their interchange, his face paling, his feet drawing him back towards the door. “You have got to be kidding…”

“I do love her,” Draco said softly, turning back to Ron. “And once I divorce Pansy, I’m going to be with her for real.”

Ron stood and stared at them, his eyes flickering from one to the other. Hermione watched as his face crumbled and she could almost hear his heart as it shattered around them. Gulping back tears, she turned away from him, not wanting to watch the full effect of what she had done.

“Oh, and Weasley,” Draco called as Ron backed towards the door. “This is all rather hypocritical of you, don’t you think? Considering what you’ve done in the past, and dare I say it, what you’re doing in the present?”

Hermione lifted her head, looking from Ron to Draco, utterly confused. Draco laughed at the angry look on Ron’s face.

“Are you surprised I know?” he asked, shaking his head. “Hermione suspected you were cheating on her, and well, a little conversation I had with Potter a while ago confirmed it.”

“Shut up, Malfoy,” Ron snarled warningly, turning around to scowl at Draco. His fists were clenched tightly by his sides. He looked at Hermione briefly, who was standing staring at him, shock slowly building into rage. She took a step forward, shaking.

“It was true! I knew it! I never asked you, Ron, because I never wanted to believe that you would do that to me. How many times?” she screeched, pointing at him.

“Just once, alright!” Ron shouted back. “It was a mistake, and I have regretted it ever since! I thought you didn’t love me.”

Hermione paled, the blood draining from her head. “What are you talking about? When did I ever give you cause to think I didn’t love you?”

“You didn’t want to have children with me, Hermione,” Ron replied, his voice softer and filled with pain. “I thought … I thought it was because you didn’t really love me, because why else would you keep saying no? Why else would you continually deny me the one thing I really wanted?”

Hermione stood still, trembling with hurt and anger. Her ears sang and her eyes burnt, and there was a bitter taste sitting in her mouth. She swallowed and closed her eyes, shaking her head, trying desperately to be calm, but every nasty look Ron had ever given her, every sly insult he had thrown at her rose to the surface of her mind, clouding her thoughts in rage.

“You insensitive fucking prat!” Hermione screamed suddenly, moving towards her husband. Draco grabbed her around the waist, preventing her from flying across the small room and pushing Ron’s head through the wall. “You kept pressuring me and pressuring me, Ron, without ever asking me what I wanted! I wanted my career first. I wanted us to have a few years together to enjoy one another before we had children. I wanted us to travel and have a life. I just wanted to be happy and with you and you … you … you just kept pressuring me! How do you think that made me feel? How do you think I felt whenever you came back from your sisters’ place smiling and happy because you had been with your nephews? Huh, Ron? Did you ever stop to consider me in all your plans?”

“You never said anything, Hermione,” Ron yelled back. “You never told me any of that! I’m not a bloody mind-reader!”

“That’s obvious,” Hermione snapped bitterly. “You never understood a thing about me!”

“Oh and I suppose he does?” Ron growled, looking at Draco, who still had his arms wrapped tightly around Hermione’s body. The blonde said nothing, just held her against him and Hermione took a deep breath, glaring at Ron.

“He does. Much more than you ever thought you did,” she replied nastily, enjoying the flush of anger that splashed over Ron’s cheeks.

“And what now?” her husband asked savagely, folding his arms across his chest. “You do know he’s got kids, don’t you? For someone who didn’t want them, now you have a ready-made family. How does that sit, Hermione, or was it just me you weren’t willing to give up your career for? Was it just me you didn’t love enough to make that sacrifice?”

Hermione felt her mouth drop open at his words, shocked that he could be so hurtful. Draco tensed against her, his arms tightening almost painfully.

“That’s enough, Weasley,” he snapped dangerously. “Leave my children out of this and just get out.”

“Shut up,” Ron hissed venomously. “You’re not part of this.”

Draco laughed scornfully. “Oh I think I am, considering you’ve been shagging my wife.”

Hermione twisted her head to look at her lover in shock. His eyes were dark and stormy, and fixed on Ron, watching him carefully. Swallowing, Hermione turned back to her husband, waiting for him to deny it. When he didn’t, when he flushed a darker shade of crimson, she started giggling hysterically, laughing until she was crying.

“I can’t believe you … you … are judging me,” she snickered, wiping her eyes on the back of her hand. “You can’t have it both ways, Ron. You can’t stand there and lecture me about fidelity when you’ve been sleeping with Draco’s wife! Talk about twisted.”

“He’s lying, Hermione,” Ron said, his voice rising again. “Can’t you see that? He just wants me to look bad.”

Hermione turned and looked at Draco, studying his face. He looked into her eyes seriously, and she turned back to Ron, shaking her head. “No, I don’t think he is. He knows more about what you’ve been up to than I do, Ron. What does that tell us? When did we stop communicating?”

Ron sighed, nodding his head in both defeat and admission. He looked at Draco. “How did you know? Did she tell you?”

Draco shook his head, his arm sliding up to drape around Hermione’s shoulders, pulling her close to him. “You gave yourself away, that day, in my office, Weasley. You’re a terrible liar.”

“I’m not as practised as some,” Ron snapped, pulling his hand through his hair. He looked at Hermione wearily. “Pansy … it just happened. We were both hurt and angry and lonely and … it’s over now,” he whispered pleadingly, and she shook her head firmly.

“You’ll get the papers in the post,” Hermione said coldly. Draco squeezed her shoulder. Ron gave them both a long look, before turning and walking from the room, closing the door softly behind him.

Chapter 13: It's time for the Truth
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A/N: Okay guys. Second last chapter. I'm expecting mixed reactions from you after you read this, but remember, the story is not over. There is still something major waiting to occur...

I hope you enjoy this and I apologise for the crapulentness. I have written this rather quickly, it hasn't been to my beta, and I have a feeling it's not very good. But, I could be wrong. In any case, I hope you enjoy it.

It's Time for the Truth

Hermione was woken by Draco gently shaking her. Sunlight streamed through the window of the bedroom and she blinked, rolling over to rest her cheek against Draco’s warm chest. He kissed her head, sliding his hands down her arms and onto her waist, pulling her close.

“I have to go and see Pansy,” he said softly.

Hermione groaned. “I’ll have to try and talk to Ron. He won’t return my owls and he hasn’t signed the papers yet.” It had been two weeks since Hermione’s birthday party at Harry and Ginny’s, and in that time, Draco had been living in her house. Harry and Ginny were aware of what was going on, and both of them had urged Hermione and Draco to hurry up and make it totally official before any one else got hurt.

Ron, on the other hand, was not speaking to any body. Not even Harry, who had tried to contact him. No one even knew where he was. Draco suspected he was with Pansy, but could not be sure. Ron was never at the house when he went around to collect the children.

“Do you suppose Ron has told her about us?” Hermione asked, lying back and watching Draco dress. The blonde shrugged, pulling a shirt over his head.

“I’d say not. She’d have torn this place apart if she knew. Not because she loves me or anything, but because she’s Pansy and because she could. She’ll play the wronged wife card for all it’s worth, Hermione,” Draco replied, sinking down onto the end of the bed. Hermione frowned.

“She’s entitled too,” she said softly, sitting up and scooting to the end of the bed. She lay her head in Draco’s lap, his fingers sliding automatically into the tangled mane of her hair. “We need to tell her.”


“It would be better, don’t you think, if we do it together?” Hermione whispered, catching one of Draco’s hands and kissing the tips of his fingers.

“As far as we know, she doesn’t know I’m with you,” Draco said. “She knows I’m with someone, though. Honestly, Hermione, I don’t see why she’s going to care. She’s been shagging Weasley. She’s stabbed you in the back as much as you’ve ...”

“Stabbed her in the back,” Hermione finished with a sigh. “I don’t want to dwell on all that stuff, Draco. I just want the truth out there. Harry and Ginny are right. If we let this go on, more people will get hurt.”

“You’re referring to Pansy?”

Hermione shook her head, sitting up and reaching out to run her fingers down her lover’s face. “I’m talking about your children.”

“Oh,” Draco whispered, taking a deep breath. “Hermione ...”

“I know we’ve not talked about it but I’ve thought about it and, well, basically, we’ll need a bigger house. This place is not suitable for children, not really,” she murmured. Draco slid a finger under her chin, tilting her head up so he could look into her eyes.

“Thank you,” he said softly, kissing her tenderly on the mouth. “I have to go. We’ll talk more about that tonight. And, I’ll arrange a time for us to both speak to Pansy, okay?”

Hermione nodded. After Draco had gone, Hermione showered and had a quick breakfast of coffee and toast. She was part way through penning another message to Ron when a loud and indignant hoot echoed down the hallway. Rushing outside, Hermione saw a large grey owl perched on the back veranda railing, a letter in its beak. She took it with a trembling hand, paid the owl, and went back inside.

I’m coming over. If the slimy git is there, get rid of him.

“Charming, Ron,” Hermione snapped, tearing the letter up and tossing it in the bin. Seconds later, the loud crack of her estranged husband’s apparition tore through the house and a scowling Ron was leaning against the doorway of the kitchen.

“He here?”

Hermione sighed. “No, Ron. And I can see you’re going to be totally mature about this. Just give me the divorce papers and go away.”

Ron shook his head. “I’m not signing them. Hermione, look. I’m willing to forgive you if you’re willing to forgive me. I love you. I always have. That woman was a mistake, Pansy was a mistake. Treating you badly was a mistake. I admit all that. I can change and you can change and we can be together and be happy again,” he said softly, coming into the room. “Can’t we?”

Hermione felt her face crumble at the pleading in his voice and in his eyes. “I’m sorry, Ron. It’s too late for all of that. It really is. It’s better for everyone involved if we just ... I’m sorry.”

Ron took a deep breath, and slowly, he nodded. Relief flooded through Hermione, hot and strong, and she watched as her husband reached into his jacket pocket, withdrawing a bundle of papers, followed by his wand.

“I’ll get you a pen,” Hermione said, turning to hunt around on the kitchen bench. When she turned back around, Ron’s wand was pointed at her face. Her stomach dropped at the expression painted across his face. She had never seen him look more determined.

“I’m sorry, Hermione, but we’re not getting divorced today. We’re not getting divorced any day.”

“Have you lost your mind?” Hermione hissed, fighting to keep her voice strong despite the growing sense of fear she could feel creeping through her body. A sudden thought struck her and she gasped. “Pansy knows, doesn’t she?”

Ron nodded. “I don’t think Malfoy got a very nice reception when he went home.”

She swallowed her fear. Draco was not a fool. He was perfectly capable of defending himself. “This was all a set-up?”

Ron laughed. “You don’t think you and Malfoy are the only one’s capable of deceit, do you?”

Hermione sniffed. “Apparently not. Fine, Ron. What now? Are you going to kill me? Curse me? Make me forget I don’t love you anymore? It would have to be an incredibly strong spell.”

Ron was silent, and Hermione shook her head to see a blush slowly spreading across his face.

“Pansy’s pulling the strings,” Hermione said softly. “I understand. Alright. Shall we go?”

“Weasley, still the puppet I see.” Draco’s drawl floated across the room and Hermione sighed in relief to see he was unhurt. Ron had taken her to Pansy’s house, and now the four of them were closed up in what used to be Draco’s study. Bookshelves lined the walls, and the room was dark, the curtains drawn and, Hermione guessed, recently spelled to stay that way. The window too, she assumed, would not be opening today.

Ron guided her into the room, his hand on her lower back, and Hermione shrugged away from his touch, wanting to make it extremely clear she did not welcome it. The redhead smiled indifferently, pushing her gently into a seat on the opposite side of the room from Draco. Hermione glanced across at her lover, and he winked and gave her a smile, mouthing to her he was okay.

Pansy was sitting behind the grand mahogany desk that was the centrepiece of the room. She lifted her wand and Hermione cringed automatically, not missing the smirk on Pansy’s lips at her reaction. The door swung shut, the lock clicking into place.

“Ron, be a dear,” Pansy said, motioning with her wand. Hermione folded her arms as her husband patted his hands down the sides of her body, eventually pulling her wand from her pocket. She assumed Draco had already been disarmed, her thought proven correct when she noticed a second wand lying at Pansy’s right elbow. Her wand soon joined it.

“What are you doing, Pansy?” Draco sighed. “This is all rather dramatic. I’m sure the four of us could sit and discuss this calmly and rationally.”

“No, I don’t think so,” Pansy replied after a pause. “You tend to enjoy drama, Draco. I’m just giving you an appropriate ending to your little show.”

Draco folded his arms, scowling deeply at his ex-wife. “Has she bothered to give you a script, Weasley, or are you just expected to wing it?”

“Shut up, Malfoy,” Ron snapped, his voice coming from behind them. Hermione heard his footsteps come closer, and she closed her eyes, until they passed her and moved towards Pansy. When she looked, Ron was standing behind the other woman, his wand drawn and his expression stony.

“Now,” Pansy began, twirling her wand around between her slim fingers. Her lips, Hermione noticed, were painted her characteristic blood red, her fingernails too, and her hair was as perfect as always, piled glamorously on top of her head. She was wearing an expensive looking black blouse and as usual, Hermione found herself feeling drab. She snickered at herself. It was an absurd thing to be thinking in their present situation.

“Is something amusing you, Hermione?” Pansy asked, syrup dripping from every syllable. She sounded no different to the last time Hermione had spoken to her. Her eyes, however, were deadly.

“What do you see in Ron?” Hermione blurted, unable to stop herself. Pansy was so polished and sophisticated and Ron was ... Ron. She couldn’t picture it, the two of them, having dinner, being together as a couple. It didn’t seem right.

“I’ve wondered the same thing,” Draco muttered from across the room. Ron scowled dangerously.

“Something you obviously never saw,” he snapped at Hermione, who sighed and looked away.

“Yes, obviously,” she said softly. “I never knew you could be so cruel.”

“Cruel?” Ron shouted, making her jump. “Let’s talk about that, shall we?”

“Calm down,” Pansy cooed, reaching around to grasp Ron’s hand in hers. She squeezed gently, watching Ron until he’d taken a deep breath. Draco gagged in the background, and Pansy turned on him venomously. “No one asked you to comment, Draco. I really don’t care if you’re unimpressed with Ron and myself; you have no right to be. Tell me, how long exactly have you and Hermione been seeing each other behind our backs?”

“None of your darn business,” Draco growled. Pansy’s face hardened.

“Eight months,” Hermione said softly, not looking at anyone.

“I never expected this of you, Hermione,” Pansy replied equally as softly. “My ex-husband, yes, because it’s not the first time, as you are aware. There have been others before you, dozens, I don’t know exactly.”

Hermione bit her lip. “Pansy, I am so sorry.”

“No, you’re not. Once is a mistake, twice could maybe be called stupid, but eight months, Hermione? You are well and truly past the sorry stage. Now, what was I saying? Oh yes. You,” she continued, standing up and walking around the room slowly, her eyes floating between Hermione and Draco. Ron leant against the desk, his arms folded over his chest. Hermione met his gaze, shuddering under the look of intense revulsion he gave her.

“You who are always so right and so moral and so smart,” Pansy said, stopping in front of Hermione to look into her face. “This could possibly have been the stupidest thing you’ve ever done.”

Hermione took a deep breath, forcing herself to look into the other woman’s eyes. “What about you and Ron? How long has that been going on?”

“Not long,” Pansy replied indifferently, turning to look at Ron over her shoulder. “A few months, would you say? Since I tossed my good-for-nothing husband out in the cold ... oh wait. My mistake. He went straight to your bed, didn’t he? He’s always needed someone to keep him warm.”

Draco muttered something indecipherable from his chair, but Hermione kept her attention on Pansy. “So you’ve been with Ron and yet, you’ve been trying to get me and him back together. Why?”

Pansy laughed and Hermione snuck a look at Ron. He was frowning. “Because if you were back with your husband you’d leave mine alone.”

“I’m confused,” Hermione admitted after a moment. “You don’t love him.”

Pansy stared at her for a long moment. Silence dropped through the room, deep and deadly, until Pansy shook her head, her expression sad. “He’s the father of my children, Hermione. I will always love him, in a way, and even if I didn’t, do you think I’d want him to leave me? To leave his children?” Her eyes left Hermione’s face and travelled to Draco’s.

“I was talking about Ron,” Hermione whispered, but no one seemed to hear her.

“I’d never leave them, Pansy,” Draco said softly. “You’ve made it darn hard for me to see them at times.”

“I was trying to teach you a lesson,” Pansy snapped harshly. Ron moved from behind the desk and to Pansy’s side.

Draco rolled his eyes. “Right. Well, whatever. I’ve had enough of this. Are we done?” He headed towards the door, motioning to Hermione as he passed her. Ron stepped in front of him, expression deadly. His wand was in his hand and Hermione gasped, reaching for the back of Draco’s shirt. Her fingers closed around the material as Ron lifted his wand.

“Step back, Malfoy,” he said in a low voice. Draco laughed.

“Are you seriously going to make me, Weasley?”

Ron’s face hardened. “Try me. I dare you, Malfoy. Just try me. You’ve ruined my life. I won’t hesitate.”

“Shut up, Ron,” Hermione snapped, tugging on Draco’s shirt. The blonde did not budge. He took a step closer to Ron, until the redhead’s wand was pointed directly at his heart. Hermione stumbled, falling against Draco’s broad back. One of his arms automatically slid behind his body to steady her.

“I’ve ruined nothing of yours,” Draco taunted Ron. “You did a fine job of that yourself.”

Ron swore harshly under his breath and Hermione saw his knuckles turn white. She let her hand drop to her pocket, feeling the empty space where her wand should be.

“I don’t want to hurt you, Hermione,” Pansy said softly, and Hermione twisted her neck to see the other woman standing to her left, her wand pointed at Hermione’s back. She nodded.

“Ron, please,” Hermione said gently, turning to her husband. “Please, lower your wand.”

“I’ve waited weeks for this, Hermione,” Ron said savagely. “Since I saw him with his hands ... You hold no sway over me anymore, you realise that. Nothing. You don’t own me, you can’t convince me, and you can’t cajole me into doing what you want. I don’t belong to you anymore. I can safely say I stuck a wand in Draco Malfoy’s face by my own choice. I acted for myself,” he added in a hiss.

Draco chuckled. “You’re so dense, Weasley. What a nice moment to choose to celebrate your freedom.”

“Fitting, don’t you agree?” Ron said pleasantly. Hermione scowled, pushing Draco aside and moving to stand before Ron. She ignored his wand, noticing his hand tremble a little as she moved closer.

“Lower the wand, Ron,” she said firmly. He shook his head, the faintest trace of a smirk playing on his lips. “Don’t be an idiot.”

“Right,” he snarled, “an idiot. Because I couldn’t possibly be anything else.”

“In this moment, no,” Hermione replied swiftly. She could hear Pansy telling Draco not to move in the background, and knew the other woman still had her wand out and ready. “I don’t know what you hope to achieve,” she said, loud enough for Pansy to hear as well. “This is utterly ridiculous. Draco’s right. We should be able to talk about this.”

“I don’t bargain with whores,” Ron hissed, his eyes narrowing. Hermione sucked in a breath in shock, her hand snaking out before she realised what she was doing. Ron’s head swung sideways as she slapped him across the cheek; his wand hand dropped. Hermione’s other hand reached out and snapped the wand from his fingers. She took a step back as Ron’s eyes turned to her face. His cheek was crimson and his expression murderous.

In the background, Draco was laughing. Pansy shouted at him to shut up, and Hermione felt a thrill of fear. Pansy still had a wand. Hermione raised Ron’s wand, pointing it first at him, and then swinging it around to Pansy. The brunette looked at her, blinked once, and began laughing, before moving away from Draco towards the door. Without pause, Hermione pointed the wand at the door, satisfied when she heard the hiss and click that indicated the spell holding the lock in place had broken.

Draco chuckled. “I’m glad security around this house was left in my hands.”

“Shut up,” his ex-wife hissed, flicking her wand. The door relocked and Hermione sighed. She looked at Ron quickly. He had not moved. She held his gaze and he sighed, lowering his eyes in defeat. Hermione turned her attention back to Pansy.

“Pansy, we can do this all day, or ...”

“Just say whatever you have to say, Pansy, and get out of my way,” Draco interrupted with a snarl, stepping closer to her. She lifted her wand, digging the tip into his cheek and Hermione felt her heart jump. Draco raised his hands, backing away. He came back to Hermione’s side, his hand sliding down her arm, his fingers slipping through hers. He squeezed her hand, but she did not squeeze back. All her attention was on Pansy. She was terribly afraid was what Pansy was going to do. There was a desperation in the other woman’s eyes that had Hermione on full alert.

“This is what I was afraid of,” Pansy said softly. “Hermione, you’re nothing like the others. Vapid little witches who wouldn’t know one end of a wand from another. You’re smart. You’re beautiful. You’re charming, strong and independent. You had the power to do what none of the others could manage, however much they may have wanted it. You made him fall in love with you, and now, you’ve made him leave me,” Pansy said sadly, shaking her head.

“For Merlin’s sake woman, Hermione did not make me do anything. I left you because I don’t love you anymore, and you don’t love me. What sort of life is that, Pansy? I’ve stayed with you for the last five years because of the children. I don’t really see why you care, to tell you the truth. You hate me and you kicked me out,” Draco said evenly, staring at his wife. “So what is this really about?”

“It’s about right and wrong, Draco. It’s about honesty, truth and consequence,” Pansy hissed viperously, pointing her wand, her body leaning forward with all the precision of a striking snake. Her chest rose and fell steadily, a slight blush creeping up her porcelain cheeks. She took a deep shuddering breath. “It’s about power and greed. You have always wanted more than you were entitled too, Draco. I knew that when I married you, but I thought, like so many other silly weak women, that I could change you from the man you were to the man I wanted you to be.”

She laughed shrilly, tapping her wand on the surface of the door. “That was my mistake,” Pansy said matter-of-factly. “In the end, it did not matter, because you always came home. You always came back to me. This time, though …”

“Pansy, you are the one who served me with divorce papers!” Draco reminded her sharply. The brunette’s face fell abruptly.

“I never expected you to sign them,” she whispered. “I never ...”

“You’re joking, right,” Draco interjected, his voice low and wavering. “How could you think I’d do otherwise? You didn’t want me here.”

“I thought,” Pansy began, her wand arm dropping as she moved away from the door. “I thought you’d choose your children over her. I didn’t know who she was then,” she added with a bitter, defeated laugh. “Had I had known ... perhaps I’d have not been surprised.”

“Pansy...” Hermione whispered.

“Just get out, the both of you,” she whispered back. She flicked her wand and the door to the study swung free, light spilling in from the hall beyond.

Hermione nodded, taking a deep, shaky breath, moving towards the door, Ron’s wand still in her hand. She flicked it once, and hers and Draco's wands flew to her spare hand. She gently laid Ron's wand on the ground. "Draco."

Draco did not move. He was looking at Pansy.

“My children,” he said pointedly. She sighed, her shoulders dropping. Ron was standing with his back to the room, looking at the curtains covering the window.

“You can pick them up from your mother’s,” Pansy said, turning away and moving towards Ron. “Take them for the night. Bring them back tomorrow. We’ll work something out.”

Draco nodded. “Thank you.”

“Hermione,” Pansy called, and Hermione watched as the other woman began to smile sadly. “You win.”

“It was never a competition,” Hermione whispered, feeling terribly close to tears. Pansy nodded, and the door swung shut once more.

Chapter 14: Deadly Sins
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Deadly Sins

“But who is she exactly?”

“Why don’t you ask her?”

“You ask. I’m scared.”

The voices were low and whispered, but loud enough to wake Draco. He rolled over, groaning, and pressed his face into the pillow, his arm flinging out to the side. He was alone in bed, and experienced the wild thought that something terrible had happened to Hermione. He shook his head. Everything was fine. They were together, they were happy and she had agreed to marry him, but not, and he was willing to compromise, for at least a year. Draco pulled his concentration back to the voices that interrupted his slumber.

It was the fourth morning his children, Dorian and Briana, had been in Hermione’s house. It was the second time they had visited in two weeks. During the first visit, Dorian had locked himself in a room and refused to speak to anyone, yelling at his father and teasing his sister until the little girl cried. Briana, on the other hand, has clung to her father and no amount of smiles from Hermione had made the girl warm to her. The children had only relaxed when Ginny, after a desperate call from Hermione, had brought her boys over to play.

The children were arguing still, and Draco guessed they were in the hall outside the door. He could hear the shower running faintly in the background, and assumed the kids were waiting for him to get up and find them some breakfast. They’d been ordered not to go barging into any rooms of the house.

“She’s our new mother,” Dorian said, his voice exasperated. “At least, I think so.”

“But,” Briana whined, “We have a mother! Why do we need a new one? What’s wrong with our mother?”

The boy sighed. “I don’t know, stupid. Nothing. She’s dad’s girlfriend, or something.”

“Dad doesn’t have a girlfriend. And don’t call me stupid, stupid!” The little girl wailed. Draco heard the sound of a slap, and made to get out of bed, not knowing which child had hit the other.

“Then why are we here? Why does dad sleep in her room? Why does he kiss her then, Brianna? You really are dumb sometimes.”

Draco frowned, throwing back the covers and reaching for his pants. He could hear Briana begin to cry again and he pulled a hand through his hair. The children were upset, stressed and confused, and he did not know what to tell them. They had questions that needed answering, but he was not sure how to go about it. He did not know what Pansy had told them, or what he should tell them. He’d tried to get Pansy to help him, to talk to the children with him, but his ex-wife had simply refused, telling him it was his mess and he could clean it up.

This was harder than he ever imagined. Hermione had spent the evening after the children had left the first time crying on his shoulder, saying the whole thing was too hard. She was terribly afraid they hated her.

Draco flung open the bedroom door just as Hermione emerged from the bathroom. Dorian and Briana were fighting, the little girl beginning to scream, her fists clenched around her brother’s shirt, her legs lashing out towards him. Dorian was yelling at her, taunting, dodging out of the way, seemingly amused by her anger. So caught up in their fight, the children did not notice the appearance of the two adults, and Draco bent and grabbed the boy around the middle, lifting him off the ground. Briana immediately released her hold on her brother’s shirt and stamped her foot, the screams replaced by loud, uncontrollable sobs.

Hermione knelt and gathered the little girl in her arms. Briana was stiff for a moment, before relaxing, continuing to sob against Hermione’s shoulder. Draco had subdued his son, and Dorian was now back on the ground, a sullen expression on his face.

“Apologise to your sister,” Draco said sternly. Dorian shook his head, folding his arms and turning his back, facing away from everyone.

“I want to go home,” he muttered mutinously to the wall. “Why do we have to be here? Why?”

Draco sighed. “Dorian, please, I told you ...”

“No,” the little boy yelled, turning and glaring at his father. “You told me nothing. I’m not stupid, dad. Tell the truth.”

Draco looked at Hermione quickly; she nodded. “Alright. What do you want to know?”

“She’s your girlfriend?” Dorian asked, motioning to Hermione. Draco grit his teeth. His son’s insolence was infuriating at times and he flashed Hermione an apologetic glance. She shook her head and mouthed that it did not matter.

“Yes,” Draco told his son. Briana had stopped sniffing and pulling back to study Hermione. The little girl took a deep breath.

“Do you love my daddy?” she asked loudly. Hermione’s mouth fell open in the face of the child’s bluntness and Draco hid a smile. He’d taught his kids to get straight to the point.

“Yes, I do, very much,” Hermione managed to say. Briana looked at Draco, and back to Hermione, her little face puzzled.


Hermione burst out laughing, and Draco could not help but be mildly insulted.

“I don’t know,” she answered with a smile. “I just do. He makes me happy.”

Briana contemplated that, before adding in a whisper, “but he snores!”

Draco cleared his throat. “Right. Thank you, sweetie. Any other questions?”

“What about mother?” Briana and Dorian both asked, their eyes flickering between Draco and Hermione.

“Your mother is still your mother,” Draco said softly, shifting until he was sitting with his back against the wall and his legs stretched out. “That will never change. But, your mother and I do not love each other any more and we decided it would be better if we ...”

“Got divorced,” Dorian finished bitterly. Draco sighed, and nodded.

“Sometimes, that’s just what happens,” he said sadly. When he’d started the whole affair with Hermione, he never, for one, believed he would fall in love with her. She was Hermione Granger. The know-it-all Gryffindor, the Boy Wonder’s sidekick. He just wanted some fun. He could never have predicted he’d be sitting in her hallway almost a year later explaining to his children why he was with her and why he didn’t love their mother anymore.

“Mother said you had an affair,” Dorian continued, almost smugly, his face showing he knew exactly what an affair was. Draco scowled.

“Did she now. Well your mother ...”

“Draco,” Hermione cut in sharply, shaking her head in warning. He sighed again and nodded. “Who wants breakfast?” Hermione continued, and Briana nodded.

“Will those boys from next door be back today?” the little girl asked as Hermione led her to the kitchen. Dorian laughed spitefully and Draco resisted the urge to pull at his own hair in sheer frustration.

“Just because you have a crush on one of them!” Dorian sniped at his sister, dashing past her into the kitchen.

“What’s a crush?” Draco heard Briana ask.

After breakfast, Reuben appeared on the back doorstep, asking shyly and with much foot shuffling, did Dorian and Briana want to come and play at his house. Both children agreed, and Hermione told Reuben to tell his mother that she would come over soon to see her. Left alone, Draco crossed the kitchen and wrapped Hermione in his arms.

“I’m sorry about them,” he whispered, and felt her shake her head against his chest.

“Don’t be. It’s not their fault. They’re confused and hurting. I’m fine,” she whispered, kissing the line of his jaw, from ear to chin. Draco ran his hands over her arms, onto her waist and down her hips, moving them up her back and pulling her closer to him. Her hair brushed against his knuckles, tickling the skin on the back of his hand, and he shivered. Hermione was still wearing her dressing gown, a thin, silky thing she’d thrown on after her shower. Draco’s hands moved to the tie and he tugged sharply before she could stop him.

Hermione gasped as the cool morning air hit her naked skin. She immediately attempted to cover herself, glaring when Draco grabbed her wrists. “What are you doing? The children ...”

“Are busy,” Draco interrupted firmly, releasing her and slipping his hands inside her robe. He kissed her deeply, his fingers exploring the shapes and curves he would know even in his sleep. Hermione groaned against his mouth, her hands coming to life as she pulled at the drawstring of his pants urgently.

“If we get caught, you’re the one explaining things,” she muttered against his lips. Draco chuckled.

“Better be quick then,” he replied, sweeping Hermione into his arms and laying her gently on the nearest surface. He laughed loudly at her outraged face.

“We are not shagging on my kitchen table!”

“Why not? We have before,” Draco argued, bending to kiss her. “If we break it, I promise I’ll fix it.”

“That was before ... before ... oh stuff it,” she said, pulling him down to meet her kiss, before pushing him away again. “I hope the back door is locked. I better check.”

“Granger,” Draco said firmly, pinning her to the table. She glared at him and he groaned at the sight of her flushed cheeks, half-exposed naked body and her hair tumbling over her shoulders. “Shut up and kiss me.”

There was no easy way to transport two children magically across town. Pansy had always used a Wizard driving service. Hermione offered to drive them – Draco had been rather surprised to see a Muggle car in her garage. He didn’t know much about cars, only that he liked the one he saw. It was red and flashy and looked like it went fast. He’d never seen her drive one and she’d never mentioned it. He made up his mind to ask Hermione to teach him how to drive, listening as she explained to the children how you drove without magic. Dorian was all for the idea of the car, but Saturday afternoon traffic and wanting to get the children home to Pansy on time made Draco decide on simple side-along apparition. In the end, Dorian went with his father and Briana with Hermione.

Once the four of them landed on Pansy’s front lawn, Draco had to prise Briana off Hermione. The little girl had never liked apparition and she was sniffing back tears, clinging to Hermione’s neck. Both children took off at a run, calling for their mother. Draco grabbed Hermione’s hand when she lingered.

“It’s okay,” he said softly when she sighed and shook her head.

“It would be better if I didn’t see her, not yet,” she replied, before frowning. “The front door is open.”

A chill ran up Draco’s spine and he was calling out for the children to stop, his legs moving instantly. Pansy never left the door open. Hermione was not far behind him; he could hear her breathing. Dorian paused on the front door step, looking back in puzzlement, before running inside. Draco cursed loudly, withdrawing his wand from his pocket and stepping inside. Dorian was in the kitchen.

“Where is mum?” he asked as Draco entered the room. Draco didn’t answer; his eyes swept the room, noticing two empty coffee mugs on the table. The fridge was open and Pansy’s wand was lying on the bench. Dorian started towards it, but Draco grabbed him and pulled him back. Looking over his shoulder he saw Hermione had Briana in her arms.

“Why don’t we go for a walk around the yard?” Hermione suggested, glancing at Draco. He nodded. Dorian sighed, rolled his eyes and stalked away. Briana struggled free of Hermione’s arms and raced after him, yelling at him to wait.

“Draco, what ...”

“I don’t know,” Draco replied in a low voice. “Pansy never leaves the door open like that. I don’t know.” He wandered out into the darkened hall, frowning. “Can you watch them? I’ll come get you when ... you’ve got your wand?”

“Of course,” Hermione replied, her voice tight. Draco could see the worry on her face and he leant over and placed a kiss on her cheek. “I’m sure everything is fine.”

Hermione followed the children outside, looking back at Draco. He forced a quick smile, feeling his lips tremble, and turned towards the stair case. There was no sound in the house. It was unnaturally still. Above the pounding of his heart, he could hear his children shouting and laughing outside. He took a deep breath, gripped his wand, and placed one foot on the stairs.


Draco lifted his wand, his eyes flying to the top of the stairs. Dark shadows coated the walls and Draco’s heart began to race as someone stepped into the light, coming slowly down the stairs towards him. He cast a quick ‘lumos’.

“Weasley, what the hell?” Draco almost yelled. The other man was deathly pale, his hair a brilliant red against the pallor of his skin. “Where’s Pansy?” Draco’s eyes narrowed as he noticed the wand hanging limply from Ron’s hand. “Give me a reason not to stun you, Weasley.”

Ron stared at Draco for a long moment, before sighing and pushing past him, heading for the kitchen. After a moment of contemplation, Draco followed, twisting his head to glance over his shoulder at the dark staircase as he went. A lump had formed in his throat and he swallowed it with difficulty, feeling it rest in his stomach.

Ron was sitting at the table with his head in his hands. His wand was lying beside him as though deliberately discarded. Slowly, Draco picked it up, sliding it into his pocket. Nausea jumped to life in his stomach as Ron lifted his head, looking at him with lifeless eyes.


Draco licked his lips, his heart pounding. He wanted desperately to send a message to Hermione. “Stay here. Don’t move.” He did not wait to see if Ron was going to do as he asked. He turned and raced from the room, taking the stairs two at a time. A quiet sobbing met his ears, and Draco realised slowly that it came from the portraits on the wall. The picture of his mother had her hands over her face, and her shoulders shook.

“What happened?” Draco asked her in a soft voice, but Narcissa shook her head, her sobs increasing in volume. She lifted a shaky hand and pointed. The door to the room he had shared with Pansy for so many years was wide open. From the hall, Draco could see the end of the bed, the bedclothes pushed down and spilling onto the floor. He gulped in a breath of stale air when he noticed a foot, and his own feet began moving before he could think.

Pansy was lying as though sleeping, with her eyes closed and her body sprawled across the bed. Her hair lay across her pale cheek and her lips were red. She was dressed for the day in the blood red dress Draco knew she loved. Slowly, Draco approached the bed, reaching out to touch Pansy’s ankle as he went. Her skin was like ice.

It took Draco a moment to notice her chest was still.

He stared, shocked, before stumbling his way to the bathroom and vomiting. His eyes were glassy and wide, his skin pale. The face that appeared in the mirror registered horror as the truth slowly dawned on him. With a final glance at Pansy’s body, Draco tore from the room and raced back down stairs, the sound of crying lingering in his ears.

Ron was still in the kitchen. Draco’s hand was steady as he lifted his wand, a rushing sound tearing through his ears. His breath was coming in painful, short gasps. The situation was surreal. As Draco stared at Ron, he wanted to believe it was not true, that this was a mistake, that his own feelings about the man sitting before him had clouded his judgement.

“Do it,” Ron whispered before Draco had a chance to speak. “I don’t care.”

“Why?” Draco asked, his throat tight. “Explain it to me before I call them to come and get you.”

Ron sighed, lifting his head and leaning back in the chair. He looked at Draco with bloodshot eyes. “You’ve never been the pawn, have you, Malfoy?”

Draco frowned. “The pawn? What the bloody hell are you talking about?” His fingers tightened their grip on his wand.

“Of course you haven’t; you’re Draco-sodding-Malfoy,” Ron laughed humourlessly. “No one can ever take you for a ride. You’d never let yourself be that gullible.” Ron sighed deeply, tugging at strands of his hair. “I’ve spent my whole life being gullible.”

“Weasley,” Draco sighed, leaning against the kitchen bench. His body was tight, every nerve ending and muscle straining under his skin. “I’m not a fucking counsellor. Tell me you’re not responsible for ...” Draco paused and gulped.

Ron laughed, a wild, humourless bark. “I don’t know. Am I? Because the way I see it, I was played, Malfoy. You, Hermione, Pansy ... you all played me.” His voice trailed off into a shaky sob and he let his head fall again into his hands. “I was in the middle. I was nothing but a pawn.”

Draco said nothing. He waited. He wanted Ron to continue; he felt he needed to understand. So many times he’d wished Pansy was gone, that she was out of his life, but he had never wished such an end on her. Shock gave way to anger. Before he realised what he was doing, Draco was across the kitchen hauling Ron to his feet, both hands wrapped tight around the other man’s neck, his wand discarded on the floor at his feet. Ron simply stared at him.

“You’ve destroyed my children,” Draco hissed in a whisper, his face close to Ron’s. “Did you stop to think about that while you were bemoaning your existence?”

Ron shook his head. “No,” he whispered back, his voice rough with anger. “No. I didn’t. For once in my life, I feel like I thought for myself only. Nothing I did could make her happy,” he added sadly, casting his eyes away. Draco held him a moment longer, before pushing him away. He did not know if ‘her’ referred to Pansy, or Hermione. He had a feeling it was both. Slowly, he bent and collected his wand, crossing to the other side of the kitchen. From the window, he saw Dorian race across the yard, Brianna on his heels, and another spurt of anger grabbed him as he thought about having to tell his children what had happened.

“We’re all sinners, Malfoy,” Ron said from across the room. “You, me, Hermione, Pansy ... all of us. You more than most.”

“I’m not the one who murdered a woman in cold blood,” Draco snapped back.

“Would you kill me to make it up to her?” Ron asked after a moment’s pause. His eyes were serious, his face sad. “Would you do one last thing for her.”

Draco frowned. “Do you want that? Do you want me to have to live with your blood on my hands, Weasley?”

Ron laughed. “You’ve already got blood on your hands.”

“I didn’t kill her,” Draco snarled.

“But you did,” Ron said sadly. “That’s your sin, Malfoy. You wanted more than you could have. You know what she said to me, before it happened?” Ron asked, continuing before Draco could tell him to stop. “She said, ‘why did he leave me?’ See, even in the end, she didn’t want me. I’m just a pawn.”

Ron put his head in his hands, and sobbed. Draco stared at him, slowly lowering his wand. He walked out of the kitchen, passed down the hall and went outside into the sun. Hermione and the children were across the lawn; Hermione was doing simple magic, entertaining them. She glanced up, smiling, and waved at him. Draco just watched them, Ron’s words lingering in his head, floating and swirling and sinking into his thoughts.

We’re all sinners.

Perhaps we are, Draco thought, watching Hermione as she turned back to the children. He could see a small frown on her face. Her hair glinted golden in the light, and Brianna’s childish laugh floated across the lawn. Draco turned and flicked his wand, sealing the house. He doubted Ron would try and escape. He was ready to pay for his sins.

“Am I ready to pay for mine?” Draco mused sadly, his eyes still on his family. Another flick of his wand sent a message to the Aurors, and he wondered fleetingly if it would be Potter who came to arrest his best friend. Once, that thought would have entertained Draco for hours, but all he felt was a deep sadness as he imagined the look of horror on Harry’s face.

They were sinners, every one of them, Draco realised as he slowly crossed the grass towards Hermione and his children. She looked up as he approached, her face collapsing into a deeper frown.

“Are you alright?” she asked him softly. Draco paused. Was he? He didn’t know. A series of soft pops reverberated through the air and Hermione’s expression turned to one of confusion. She rose to her feet, telling Dorian and Brianna to go play without her. Draco grabbed her in his arms, kissed her neck and ran his fingers through her hair, watching as his children darted away across the yard, totally oblivious.

Slowly, Draco turned to face the Ministry, Hermione by his side as Harry crossed the lawn to meet them. The other’s disappeared inside the house. Draco closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. He took a deep breath, feeling two sets of eyes on his face.

It was time for the truth.

A/N: And there it is - the final chapter. I know the ending may seem a little abrupt, but I didn't want to wrap it all up in a nice little bow. What happens next is entirely left to your imagination ^_^

I want to say a huge thanks to all those people who had reviewed, especially those who stuck with the fic until the very end. I apologise for the long long waits between chapters at times, but I'm glad I got this completed.

So I hope you enjoyed it! Remember, I loves reviews so be sure to tell me what you think and keep an eye out for my new fics ^_^

Maji xx