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.
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