Upside Down

Summary: Hermione Granger often dreamed of her wedding day, but now that the day was here…it wasn't anything close. Worst of all, as much as Hermione wished that she had been dragged forcibly to it against her will, she had consented to all of it.

Tags: Dramione Marriage Law-Esque (similar tropes but no official law), Rated M for language/some sexually explicit content, EWE, One-shot

o o o

When Hermione Granger thought of this day, it had always been in white. She imagined herself picturesque in a white lace dress, one that just barely traced the floor as she walked. A white dress that showed off just the top of her cleavage and hugged her curves. She imagined decorative lace motifs all around the dress, with small accents of gold and pink. When she closed her eyes, she could see her veil shimmering in the sunlight as she walked down the aisle. There was always a long aisle. She imagined her parents, her cousins, her friends, standing and watching her with misty eyes that matched hers. She envisioned herself clutching a beautiful bouquet of pink roses, whose scent filled her delicate nostrils as she walked slowly down the aisle. The aisle was always outside. The sun shining down on her in approval in a beautifully open field, usually on a grassy hill, with the birds chirping around her. Sometimes it was the ocean and she could hear the soft waves instead. She would look down the aisle to her groom and smile.

The groom changed over the years, depending on her current fancy, or depending on the fantasy. But the other details always stayed the same. And it had always belonged to Hermione Granger, ever since she was a little girl. Something that she thought about in those dark moments during the War, when all seemed bleak, when all seemed hopeless. It had been her fantasy. Her escape from everything around her. A quiet respite from any and all of her troubles.

Hermione always dreamed about her wedding day, but this…

Now that the day was here…

This wasn't anything close.

Instead of the white, the pink, the gold that she had envisioned, she stood in a dark burgundy dress. Instead of beautiful green grass or soft ocean waves, she stood on the steps of the Ministry of Magic. Instead of the beautiful sun shining down on her, there were flashes of cameras as the paparazzi snapped their photos.

It was all so wrong.

But none of that, none of the scenery would have mattered. Not one part of it would have bothered Hermione. Not the dress, the location, the rolling clouds, none of that would have mattered if she could look over to her husband and smile.

Her stomach lurched just thinking about it. How had she arrived here? How was this possible? Hermione Granger standing on the steps of the Ministry of Magic, her hand in hand with Draco Malfoy.

Her heart was pounding in her chest, her cheeks flushed, but not in love, not in romance, but in anger. How had this happened? How had it come this far?

She knew of course exactly how it had happened. As much as Hermione wished at this moment that she had been dragged forcibly against her will up the stairs, past her friends, past her coworkers, past the women fawning over her husband like dogs, she had consented to all of it.

It started after the War. The War had caused a great deal of magical death. Costly on the side of good, and the side of wrong. It had been unkind to all and left the magical world in disarray. Populations had been decimated, people scrounging to survive, to move on. The Ministry began to release 'pamphlets' as they called them. They wanted to encourage the mixing of purebloods and muggle-borns. The goal and effort to make the mixing so complete that status would be relegated to an ancient term. A law had been pitched, lobbying done heavily for and against its merits, but ultimately, the law did not pass.

Despite this failure, the perceptions changed. Muggle-borns and half-blooded witches and wizards were now the newest fashion in town. The newest symbol of embracing the new world, post-War. All the rage, and it all disgusted Hermione. What exactly had people like her accomplished, but become little pets for Purebloods to show off how 'changed' they were? Despicable, the lot of them. But never can it be said that with a little encouragement, and push in the right direction, that the social-climbing Slytherins, on the wrong side of a war, didn't know how to climb their way back into society's good graces.

Hermione hid her eye roll at the thought. But where did that leave Hermione? How did she end up standing on the steps of the Ministry today? Wearing this hideous dress, for the Ministry to remind the world of her heritage, her Gryffindor status, her role in the war? That had all started three weeks ago when she was at the New Year's Eve party held at the Potter household every year. Ginny had planned a spectacular affair with all the highest and best of society in attendance, including the aforementioned social-climbing Slytherins.

He had been in attendance that night. She had noticed it the moment he walked in; his pale blonde hair unmistakable in any crowd. Hermione had done her best to ignore him. She always did her best to ignore most of the purebloods, to be honest. She had been sitting with Harry and Ginny, Ron and Lavender. Lavender Brown who had become a close friend after the war. It had hardened everyone, and Lavender had grown in maturity from it. Hermione looked to her two boys, Harry and Ron. They would always be her boys, and she smiled at their happiness. Hermione and Ron had tried after the War. They had tried to make this connection between them work, but alas, they never quite seemed to click. Never quite seemed to make it feel right. And it had been during one of their breaks when they were trying to figure out what exactly it was that they had wanted, he had come to her in the middle of the night in tears and told her that he had found it.

She didn't hate him for it. In fact, when she saw them together, she appreciated the softness and naivety of Lavender, and how much she seemed to adore Ron and all his awkward bravado. The group had been laughing, and Hermione had smiled, when all of a sudden a hush had fallen over them. Hermione had turned to the source to find him standing there, watching her expectantly.

She hadn't quite heard anything if there had been words exchanged, and the only stupid reply she had been able to give was, "Me?"

He hadn't moved at her remark save for a raised eyebrow, and she'd stolen a look at him. His blonde hair still his most striking feature, save for his steel-colored eyes. He had formed well after the War; she had seen the defined muscles rolling beneath his dress robes. Not that she had needed to look, for she already knew how well he had matured. She couldn't avoid knowing everything about him, how well his family adapted after the War, contributing to rebuilding projects, helping the poor, lobbying for the small, all the while being the 'most eligible bachelor in Wizarding London'. At least, that was what Rita Skeeter and the Daily Prophet liked to remind everyone on a semi-weekly basis.

"Can I talk to you?" he had asked her slowly as if she was too stupid for the regular pace of normal conversation.

Hermione had turned to her friends and they all had looked to her in confusion. Save for Ginny who had smiled, giving her eyes to head to the balcony. She hadn't quite known how to refuse, and so in her confusion, she had said, "Yes."

He had offered her his arm then as she stood. Hermione remembered having stared at it as if it had grown abruptly from his person. But he had watched her with that look of his, that stupid look that she never could discern. The same look he'd given her ever since third year, that she had learned to associate with his disgust, his anger, his prejudice. She had felt all eyes on her, even ones from beyond her group, as the Draco Malfoy had stood waiting for her to take his offered arm. So, she had taken it and he had walked her to the balcony of the Potter flat.

Once there, he had closed the balcony door. Effectively silencing the music from the inside as he came to stand next to her at the railing. It had been a chilly night and a gust of wind had sent a shiver down her spine, followed by the unceremonious placement of his coat onto her shoulders.

She had stared at him like he had grown a second head, but he hadn't looked at her. He hadn't acknowledged the act, as he had instead placed his forearms on the balcony, leaning over it, looking over Wizarding London.

Hermione could still remember the smell, that scent of his, the dark spices and musk that she associated with him as she had pulled the coat closer to her despite herself. He had then begun to talk then about the War. He had talked about how the War had done damage to everyone. He had talked about how it had been a mistake for his family, and other families like his, to follow such a psychopathic excuse of a man into an unnecessary war. He had told her about his efforts to move onto the future. He had talked about how the rules had changed now; how pureblooded wizards and witches were being even encouraged to marry below half-blood status in order to gain notoriety in society. He had scoffed at the ridiculousness of it, but then he had turned to her and said it had some advantages.

Hermione had stood there the entire time, stood there, and wondered why he had been telling her all these things. It hadn't been as if they had ever been close during their years at Hogwarts. She hadn't remembered him ever talking to her kindly. In fact, when he had called her Granger, she thought it had sounded odd never having heard it from his mouth before. But then, it had happened. Her entire world changed and shifted because he had done something that she never in a million years even considered. He had asked her to marry him.

He had said it casually, like asking to go to the park on Sunday. No kneeling, no frivolity, no grand gesture, had just asked her to marry him. Hermione might have spat at him had he not looked so sincere. So instead, she had said she'd think about it. She still didn't know what had possessed her to do that. He had nodded in response; pursed his lips and turned thoughtful before turning from the balcony to head back inside. She had stood there dumbfounded before he had come back to her and had offered her his arm once again. And once again she'd taken it. He had walked her back to her friends, releasing her in the same place she had taken his arm. He had removed his coat from her shoulders, had kissed her hand, and had bid her good night.

When she had the wherewithal to look up to find him again, he had been gone. Ginny and Lavender had rushed to her side to ask her what happened. Hermione had sat there dumbfounded. It was only when their group had been ushered into a bedroom away from the party, door locked, silence charmed had Hermione heard all their questions.

"What did he want?"

"What did he say?"

"Hermione, tell us!"

"He must have said something!"

Hermione had swallowed as she turned and looked up to her four closest friends, "He asked me to marry him."

Two gasps turned screams, three confused looks had been exchanged as Ginny and Lavender had grabbed her hands in excitement. "What did you say?" They had asked in unison.

Hermione had swallowed, feeling a pit grow in her stomach, not understanding it. "I said I'd think about it," she had begun before her senses returned and she had realized who he was. He was Draco fucking Malfoy for Merlin's sake; she couldn't marry him!

"It makes sense." Harry had said thoughtfully. They all had turned to him. "The Ministry is encouraging the marriage of Purebloods to those of other blood statuses. It could be a symbol of the unity of the Wizarding World."

Hermione had stood in anger. "And who are you marrying to further this unity?" She'd demanded.

Harry had leaned down and brought Ginny to his side and had looked to Hermione. All of which had made her feel ridiculous for even asking. Half-blood Harry had Pureblood Ginny, and as she had continued to scan the room, Half-blood Lavender* had Pureblood Ron. She'd felt lightheaded as she'd sat down at the realization.

"You don't have to do it, of course," Ron had said kneeling down beside her. "You should refuse him."

"Refuse him!" Lavender had interjected. "Hermione, he is the most eligible bachelor in London. Your marriage would set precedence and announce to all of Pureblooded Britain the end of this Pureblooded hypocrisy."

"You want me to marry him, to set precedence?" Hermione had questioned.

Lavender had sighed sitting at Hermione's feet as she took her hand. "Not just for that, silly goose," she had said gently, "But if you like him, it isn't a bad match."

Things only worsened from there. The next day in the Ministry, the Minister of Magic himself had called her into his office to congratulate her on her union. Before she could even speak, Kingston Shacklebolt had rushed to tell her how happy he was that she made this decision. He had gone on about how far it would go to further the unity post-War. He had told her how much of a statement it made if a Pureblood, of Malfoy's reverence, was willing to put aside their differences in blood status for marriage. He had told her that Purebloods and Half-bloods had been dating, but no marriages, least of all one that could level this kind of change, had taken place. He had bubbled in excitement at the idea of a marriage between the muggle-born member of the Golden Trio and the heir to one of the highest regarded Pureblood clans. Hermione had almost fallen out of her seat, unable to deny any of it in front of him.

But secretly in her own flat, she had thought about it. She had really. She didn't want to admit to why she hadn't denied any of it, but she knew deep down she hadn't because of her sense of duty. She had made so many sacrifices during the war. She had done so many things to make sure the world kept turning that, with this, she had felt it was another sacrifice she needed to make. She had thought about how she would be contributing to so many history books. So much change in society could be accomplished with her union that she hadn't been able to rebut the story to Shacklebolt's face. Worst of all had been, knowing all this, she had realized that rejecting Malfoy would be difficult.

But she had decided to do it anyway, she had told herself. Fuck history and society, this was her life and her decision. She was going to live however she damn well pleased because she deserved it.

She had practiced how she would turn him down. She had practiced how she would say no. She would tell him that despite the match being what was good for politics, and good for the Ministry, she didn't want to marry for that. Her marriage meant something more to her than that.

But when she had met him at the newly opened Silver Claw restaurant, the premier place to be in high society, things fell apart. She had rattled off the whole thing to him; had told him all her reasons as politely as she could, from her own happiness to her future plans, to her hopes for love. And that despite her acknowledgment of how his place in society matched her standing well, that they were incompatible in regard to their individual dispositions. Which would only serve to make such a union impossible to maintain. She had lain it out for him gently, kindly. She had been about to hit him with the final sentence, the one that she had practiced in her head to tie off her arguments in a neat bow: And that is why, Malfoy, I can't marry you.

But before she could say it, before she had been able to utter the last sentence, he had hit her instead.

Hit her with that smirk. One that had reminded Hermione that she wasn't at his level and that she would never be. And at that moment, Hermione had realized that this had been some cruel joke of his. He had wanted to see how far he could push it, push her. He could never imagine himself with someone like the likes of her. It was a game. And something in her had snapped. Some deep anger in her had burst forward with the one goal of wiping that stupid, ferret of a smirk off his face. So, she had said, "Yes."

The effect had been immediate. The smirk had been wiped clean off his face and had been plastered to hers. A small smirk grew on her face as she had realized that she had bested him, had bested him in his cruel game of chicken he had wanted to play with her. He would never even fathom the idea of spending any of his days with her, and she had successfully called him out on his bullshit.

But that bastard…

That bastard had taken it to another damn level.

The moment she had said 'yes' he came down on one knee in front of her. A velvet box had come thrusting forward, with a beautiful diamond-encrusted ring seated within it. And he had asked her out loud, out loud to the audience that she hadn't even realized had been in attendance for the whole affair. Cameras had been flashing. There had been screams of delight all around her, as her world had buzzed. She hadn't even remembered responding before her shaky hand had been held still by his, and a ring had been pushed onto her fourth finger.

And here it was now, their game of chicken at the final level. She had reassured herself so many times that this would be the end of it. She told herself that he would have to turn her down now. The Minister of Magic was standing to officiate the wedding personally. It was the largest stage. The biggest news for the past three weeks around England: The Prince of the Purebloods and The Golden Girl marrying against all odds. The idea of which made her want to retch. She felt him take her hand as he walked her up the last few steps to the makeshift altar.

She watched him as he removed her veil and smiled at her. She could have sworn it had been a soft smile, one without malice or anger, but of…pride? And she watched incredulously as he turned back to the Minister. His hand taking hers quietly as they waited for the proceedings to continue.

This was it.

He had to break it off now. This was some cruel joke was all. He was waiting until the final second. Waiting until the final moment, when they would take their vows, he would leave her at the altar in front of everyone.

Hermione told herself that had to be it. That had to be his big plan, one cruel big joke. Her heart was pounding as the Minister began to read the vows. She cursed herself for not cutting it off sooner. She realized now that this plan of hers to try and win him at his cruel game wasn't worth it. It was cutting it too close. Much too close, her pride was not worth this torture, this possibility. Because this was it. This was the end of the line, the end of the game, he needed to back out now because if he didn't that meant –

"I do."

Hermione jumped at his words. She knew that she did. Shacklebolt and Malfoy turned to her in surprise as she stared at him, glared at him for his betrayal, for not ending the game. What the bloody fucking hell? He didn't turn away but looked at her, without a smirk this time, without a cruel line on his face.

"Hermione?" Shacklebolt called to her softly. She turned to him realizing what he had asked her. Her mind was swarming. Her mind confused and pounding in her temple, and she didn't understand it. She didn't understand anything. All she wanted was to run but she felt his grip on her; it felt like iron. Her feet felt as if they were melting into the ground.

"Say I do!" she heard a shout from behind her.

"I do!" It continued. It grew louder as others joined in, the crowd chanting behind her in encouragement.

And Hermione didn't know how, or why, or what was happening anymore in this world. She didn't understand him, or this situation, any of it. She realized that she had made a terrible calculation. She realized that perhaps he was doing it for the Ministry. This must be some ploy by Shacklebolt. Shacklebolt must be using them to further his politics. That had to be it. And the man next to her, just needed her to get into the good graces of society once again. The plan was for the pair of them to represent the new future. She, the sacrifice to secure that the new future. And Malfoy had tricked her into it. Her thoughts reeled in anger, before being drowned out. Drowned in noise, until all she heard was the roar of everyone around her. Breathlessly her mouth betrayed her. It betrayed her in every sense of the word, as her lips uttered softly, "I do."

The wedding had gone by without much remembrance. She had remembered his lips against hers a few times during the ceremony. They hadn't been unpleasant, but when one kisses for a crowd, they are anything but memorable. It was when they arrived at their honeymoon destination, someplace on the coast of France that his family had owned for centuries, that her anger and frustration really kicked in. Hermione watched as her luggage was carried in by house-elves. She watched as he directed them with kindness into their bedroom. She watched as he busied around to light the candles and draw the curtains. Checking the furnishings before approaching her, he took her hands gently and asked her, "Are you tired?"

Something in her snapped as he said it. Something that had been brewing in her throughout the farce that had been their wedding today. She didn't understand it, where it came from, but it came forward bursting from weeks of being quelled in her belly, "What the fuck do you think you're playing at?"

He stood back then, letting her hands fall into her lap. "Pardon?" he asked.

Hermione shoved him backward, not able to stand being close to him. He stumbled a few steps but didn't fly nearly as far as she would have liked. "I said," she repeated through gritted teeth, "What the fuck do you think you're playing at? I see through this circus you've put on for everybody. You might have everyone from the Ministry, to all of fucking Britain under your thumb, but I see through all your bullshit, Malfoy."

His gaze turned quizzical, then thoughtful, before he replied calmly, "You do?"

Hermione nodded, "Yes. I'm a trophy, aren't I?" His eyes narrowed, and she saw that as assent, so she pushed on, "I see exactly what I am to you." She began pacing. "What did you do? Make some deal with Shacklebolt for my hand? It took me a second. Took me longer than it should have really, to piece it all together, but now it all makes sense." Hermione said stopping on a dime and turning to him. "You think that marrying me will somehow erase everything you and your family did during the War. That securing the mudblooded," she shivered at the word, but pushed through, "bride will earn you favor in this world that Harry has built."

He chuckled at that. He actually had the audacity to laugh as he stood in front of her. She came forward to slap it off his face. But he snatched her arm in the air easily, holding her wrist tantalizingly close to his cheek. "Is that so?" he asked darkly. Hermione locked her eyes with him. She was not scared of him. "Saw through my entire charade, have you, Granger? Just needed you for my family name…" Hermione rolled her eyes. He was despicable. She tried to pull her arm free, but he held her fast, drawing her closer. "If you knew all along…then why did you say yes?" he asked raising a brow at her.

She pulled her arm free from his grasp, simultaneously shoving him further away from her. He rolled his eyes before straightening. "For the Ministry," she said firmly. She had told herself that throughout the entire ceremony because that was the only reason she could possibly wrap her head around accepting. He scoffed, and she spoke louder to drown out his noise, "The Ministry needed a marriage that was…forward-thinking for society."

He raised a brow. "And you took that burden upon yourself?" he asked in mock pity.

"Shut up, Malfoy. You wouldn't understand sacrifices. You wouldn't understand what people do for the betterment of others, for the betterment of society. All you are is some sniveling, pathetic, good-for-nothing sot who thinks he's better than everyone else but is really just hiding from the truth."

"And what truth is that?" he growled.

"That he's nothing but pitiful."

She saw the pain in his eyes as she said it. She smiled in triumph. She stood there, proud at having been able to break down through his façade, to see what he really was underneath it all. She straightened crossing her arms over her chest, ready for his inevitable comeback. His pain was quickly hidden, replaced by a silent, cold, stare. "Well, Granger. You married this pitiful, pathetic, sot. So, you best settle in for your fucking happily ever after."

Hermione gaped at his response ready to fire another one back at him. She knew exactly where he could shove his happily ever after. When suddenly, he turned on his heel. Leaving her in the sitting room, he slammed the bedroom door in place.

Good. She told herself. Nothing would repulse her more than to actually have to continue this farce further and consummate the marriage. She felt bile in her throat just thinking about that.

She sat down on the couch, arms crossed, knees pulled to her chest. Yes, she might have married the pathetic ferret but that didn't mean they had to pretend to like each other. She saw right straight through his pathetic act and she was going to make sure that this contract between them was nothing but that.

Hermione woke up the next morning in a bed. The bed was nice as she curled in on herself; the heavy blanket protecting her from the chill of the room. The soft downy pillow like a cloud for her to sleep on. She didn't remember when she had fallen asleep the night before, but she remembered doing it on the couch. She was not going to enter the bedroom and encourage any unwanted behavior from him, that was for sure.

Hermione sat up with a start. Realization racing through her: How did she end up in a bed? She looked around her, pulling the sheets over her in case Malfoy decided to take advantage of her. She scanned the room. She was in a large bed that was in the corner of the room. She saw two dressers, one with his bags in front of it, and one with hers. She followed the wall to see a large full-length mirror. It sat next to an open door that led to a tiled room, which announced it unmistakably as a bathroom. She scanned the last wall and saw a window that overlooked the ocean. The soft waves that had ushered her to sleep the night before, still present. Thankfully, he wasn't there. She listened but she didn't hear him, but did she smell…coffee?

She checked herself over. Thankfully, she saw the same clothes she had on before she had fallen asleep were still on her now. Save her shoes that were tucked in at the foot of the bed next to her. She checked her body over to gage if he had violated her in her sleep. She didn't feel any particular pain or bruising, or discomfort as she stood off the bed. She heard the shuffle of wood against the stone floor, and she rushed over to the bedroom door and locked it.

She turned back to the bedroom as she looked for her wand. She found it sitting on the bedside table. She rushed over and picked it up, her protection. She walked over to her dresser and pulled out the drawers to see her things had been neatly organized. She attributed that to the kindness of house-elves. She grabbed a pair of jeans and a blouse before heading to the bathroom to take care of morning necessities.

Once finished with her usual routine, she stood in front of the full-length mirror and examined herself. She looked…casual. She was sporting today a simple blouse, jeans, and sandals. She tied her hair back to rein it in the best she could. She did her usual makeup. She examined herself for imperfections. She couldn't give him something to insult her with. Hermione smiled into the mirror, satisfied with her appearance when she saw the light catch the ring on her finger. She looked at it with distaste. She put her hand by her side where she couldn't see the ring as she went to face him. She had heard him moving as she had gotten ready. Mostly footsteps and wood on stone, which she assumed was his chair scraping against the stone floor.

She took a deep breath. Praying for her Gryffindor strength, she unlocked the door and stepped out to face him. He was sitting at the dining table with the Daily Prophet between his fingertips. There was coffee at his side along with an empty plate. She could smell Scotch pancakes in the air.

Scotch pancakes were her favorite.

She pushed that aside for now. She had a goal today, one of the highest importance to establish with him, the rules. He folded his paper down at the sound of her, to get a good look at her. He looked her over once before bringing the paper back to cover his gaze from hers. "You look like a muggle," he mused when the paper was hiding him from her view.

Her eyes narrowed at the insult. "Better than looking like a pureblood from the dark ages."

He scoffed but didn't lower his paper. "The elves made breakfast. Didn't know what you wanted…but I heard you like Scotch pancakes," he said bored behind the paper. "And there's coffee if you'd like..."

Hermione ignored him, ignored all of him because she had a mission. "We need to talk, Malfoy." She stated in her most serious voice.

He lowered the paper at that before examining her again. She could have sworn his eyelid twitched. He gestured to the seat opposite him at the table, "Sit."

She walked over and pulled the chair out hearing the same sound of wood on stone. He was watching her every move; it made her skin crawl. She lifted her nose in the air to give herself some superiority. "We need to set the rules."

He watched her, and she saw him bring a hand to his chin as he appraised her. "Rules…what are we… children?"

Hermione balled her fists in her lap. "This is a marriage for show, so don't go thinking I'm going to let you take advantage of that situation."

"Advantage?" he questioned, raising a brow.

She ignored him, pushing on, "We need to set rules so that we can save face for the Ministry."

"The Ministry?" he questioned, with the same quizzical brow.

Was he just going to repeat everything she said back to her? He was annoying on end.

"I don't think it's necessary to draw up the rules in writing, but if that is something you would prefer, I can grab a quill."

Malfoy waved at her like he was waving his rights, "It's fine Granger, tell me your rules."

She sat up clearing her throat. She began to tell him the rules she had established in her head last night. "Rule one: we can't be seen dating or courting other people." She gave him a second to rebut but he didn't and so she explained, "For obvious reasons that would be…counterproductive to what we are attempting to accomplish."

"So, you're saying, we should sleep around with others…privately?"

Hermione bobbed her head once in assent, "If you wish."

"Is that what you wish?" he asked darkly.

Hermione narrowed her eyes. "That's none of your concern. Which brings me to rule number two: we won't ask about the other's private life."

"Why?" he spat. Despite Hermione giving him permission for him to be promiscuous, that didn't necessarily mean she wanted to know about it. She knew that sometimes ignorance was bliss.

"Because that could bring jealousy or other conflicts into the fray which would be-"

"Counterproductive to what we are attempting to accomplish," he finished for her.

Hermione nodded, "Precisely."

He sighed as he leaned back in his chair, still studying her. "Go on," he waved to her.

Hermione took a deep breath, feeling more comfortable now. "Rule three: we agree to accompany the other to any and all events as needed." He nodded in agreement without a word. She only had one more rule. It brought a blush to her cheeks when she said it, and it had come out rather rushed, "Finally, we should sleep in separate bedrooms."

He was quiet. Hermione lowered the gaze that she hadn't realized she wasn't giving him in her embarrassment. He studied her for a second, before the answer slipped coolly from his lips, "No."

He stood then, grabbing his empty coffee cup, he went to the kitchen. "No?" Hermione asked, feeling the anger rise in her chest.

She stomped after him, as he walked into the kitchen. Taking the coffee pot, he filled his cup before grabbing another. It barely grabbed her attention that he poured a second cup before putting the pot down. "Why would –"

"That's out of the question," he said looking at her. "Same bed," he hissed.

Hermione's eyes narrowed, "Why should we even-"

"I agreed to all your other insane rules, Granger. I think its fair use of my veto."

"Veto?" she questioned as she felt a cup of coffee unceremoniously shoved between her hands. She felt the warm fluid swish in the cup. He used the distraction to walk back to the dining table, sitting down again.

Hermione barely stopped herself from slamming the cup in her hands on the kitchen counter, before she stomped back off to him, "You don't have the right-"

"Same bed," he repeated, interrupting her, "Or if anyone finds out, that would ruin the precious goal you are trying to accomplish."

"No one would know!" she protested.

"House-elves would know, and who knows if one of them slips anything to the Prophet. Have you ever stopped to think, Granger, how the Prophet always seems to have so much news on the Pureblooded houses?"

Hermione paused, unsure. From what she knew about house-elves they were very loyal, but it was true there was always more gossip around the pureblood families. She had always assumed that had been due to public interest. She decided to give in, with a new condition, "Fine, same bed, but no touching."

"Scared I might pet you in your sleep?" he replied sardonically.

He was right. He wouldn't touch her. Touching her was filthy in his eyes. Touching her stood against everything he stood for. "Then it should be easy to agree to, nothing in the bed beyond sleep," she said through gritted teeth.

She watched him and she could have sworn she saw something in him, some battle raging in his mind about this. She knew she had won. He thought that he had the upper hand to force her into the same bed, that didn't mean that she had to agree to anything else. She smirked proud of herself, cornering him into it. His eyes darkened, "Done."

Today was the big day. It was the big party to celebrate the new Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, youngest witch in the history of the Ministry, Harry Potter.

Hermione felt jittery just thinking about, thinking about his accomplishments within the Ministry. He deserved it, every ounce of the praise and recognition. For so many years, he had been doubted, but now everyone was recognizing his greatness. Hermione was using her wand to pin up the last of her hair into place.

"Unless you are aiming to be fashionably late, Granger, the party begins in a quarter-hour," a voice drawled.

Hermione rolled her eyes at the sound of his voice, ignoring him. She couldn't believe she had been married to that oaf for over two months now. Where had the time gone? She finished and looked at her hair, checking it from different angles. She smiled at her work, heading out to find her shoes. She had them prepared, knowing she'd run late.

Annoyingly enough, being married to Draco Malfoy wasn't all bad. Sometimes, she forgot she was married to him at all. She still went by Granger. Encouraged by Shacklebolt to further emphasize her place in the War as a hero. She was glad to keep it in order to not remind herself of the ring on her finger. But overall, marrying him hadn't been the nightmare that she thought it would be. Most nights he spent out. She used that particular phrase because she didn't know where. As part of the rules, she wasn't privy to know where. She assumed that he was sleeping around with all the pureblood witches that practically salivated over him, but she really didn't care. As long as he left her alone. Which he did for the most part.

When he was conscious, he hadn't broken the rules that had been placed on their first day of marriage. But Merlin's beard did he annoy the shit out of her when he was sleeping. She could barely remember a day where she hadn't woken up to find his arm around her or spooning her, or she shivered, remembering…him holding her to his chest. She shrugged the feeling off like she would shove him off her every morning. He never made an excuse for it, and she knew better than to tell him to be unconscious better. But other than that, they'd go to work at the same time, and when she came home, she often had the place to herself. She was happy that they were in a flat in London and not at Malfoy Manor. She shuddered thinking about living there.

When events happened, as they often did between the two of them, it was usually discussed in the morning in as few words as possible. For example, for this event, she had caught him at the breakfast table and said simply, "Party at seven, at the Ministry, this Saturday, to celebrate Harry being the youngest ever Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement."

"Formal attire?" he had asked.

"Of course."

And that was all there was to it. It was a small advantage, Hermione had to admit, to not have to find a date for every get-together. She stepped out to see him waiting by the fireplace to floo. He looked her over and she did him. He was wearing black dress robes today, with a periwinkle tie that matched her periwinkle dress. Hermione marched herself over to him. He grabbed the floo powder pot off the mantle, offering it to her. She grabbed a handful before she stepped into the fireplace, "Ministry of Magic."

She waited for him to follow after her, and she took his arm when he did. Another benefit was that he knew how to put on a face for everyone. He was very good at pretending they were an adoring couple. He was so good at making sure to keep by her side, bring her drinks, laugh at her jokes, add into her stories, and be a good date throughout their evening parties. It made everything easier. But she never failed to notice all the pureblooded witches that tried to thrust between the two of them. The moment they entered the ballroom such an event occurred. Hermione was thrown back to find a brunette witch wearing a cream dress sidle up to him. "Draco, where have you been?" She hummed, "I've been waiting all night."

Hermione looked around; the ballroom didn't look half-filled. She looked up at the clock, they were five minutes early to the party. "Daphne," he greeted curtly as he pulled his arm out of her grasp to take Hermione's again.

"Draco!" She called as he escorted Hermione away from her, down the stairs.

Hermione caught herself on a chortle. "Something funny?" he muttered under his breath.

"Just that it must be so awkward for her to accept the fact that you have to save face and stand next to me when you're probably running under her sheets after work every day," Hermione bit out through a smile. She waved at a coworker that was at a distance.

They stopped as Neville Longbottom stepped in front of them. "Hermione!" he greeted, leaning in to kiss her cheek. "Malfoy," he said shaking Malfoy's hand. "Good to see you two! So excited for Harry," he said rubbing his hands together in delight. "Have you seen Seamus, been looking for him, need to tell him something about our research."

"No, sorry," Hermione said. Neville nodded before scampering off quickly.

"Oh, Granger," Malfoy said as he watched Neville's retreating form, "You could do so much better." Hermione thought she might have seen stars as she turned to rip his head off. "Now, now, my pet," he purred into her ear. Sensing her anger, "Don't want to lose control in front of all your ministry friends, and the paparazzi."

"Then I appreciate you not talking about my friends that way," Hermione seethed.

"You started it," he muttered.

Hermione turned to him, incredulous, "Are you four?" she demanded at his childishness.

He shrugged, before pulling Hermione in abruptly to kiss her cheek. She grabbed at his robes to shove him away when she saw a camera flash in her face. "Aren't you two such an adoring couple!" Rita Skeeter said as she came into view, snapping a second photo. Hermione pushed Malfoy away as subtly as possible, and she felt him grab her at the waist in retaliation. "Going to be front-page tomorrow!" she said in a sing-song voice before sauntering off to find more couples to annoy.

"What did I say about kissing?" Hermione hissed through a smile, fighting the urge to rub the back of her hand over her violated cheek.

"What can I say, Granger? Got to play it off to the cameras," he said looking her over with mock adoration.

She plastered a sarcastic smile on her face; he replied with an equally sardonic smirk.

The party was in full swing now. The ballroom was filled to the brim with people, and Hermione and Malfoy were being pulled into different circles for conversation. She was starting to get antsy. She needed to use the bathroom, but Gawain Robards was intent on telling the two of them every story he shared with Harry on the field. He just about started another one when Malfoy interjected, "You must excuse us. We're needed in the front of the ballroom."

Robards was none the wiser, turning to the nearest wizard to continue his stories. Hermione sighed, happy to have at least removed herself from his presence. She looked to the front of the ballroom. "Who needs us?" Hermione asked trying to peer over the top of her colleagues to see the front stage.

"No one," he replied ushering her toward the left side of the room.

"Then why?"

"Because I didn't think I could stand another blasted story about Harry Potter's greatness." Hermione opened her mouth to tell him off when he continued, "And you need to use the loo." Hermione paused unsure how he knew that. She hadn't told him. She turned to him incredulous, "Impressed?" he asked. Hermione rolled her eyes, knowing better than to feed his ego.

He ushered her to the corridor that led to the bathroom. "Be right here when you get back, love," he said in a sickly-sweet voice into the quiet corridor. She was almost surprised when he didn't blow her a kiss too. Hermione gave him a sneer, before turning on her heel to head toward the bathroom. With him gone, she let her guard down as she opened the door to the girl's room. Her mind filtered through the events of the evening. Harry's speech had gone well, and so had dinner. As per usual, Malfoy was being a perfect date for everyone to see, doting, and present. Everyone was complimenting how well they looked together. Hermione gritting a smile each time they said it.

She noticed tonight that a few more couples had indeed gotten married after their announcement. Marcus Flint had married Hannah Abbott; Michael Corner had married Pansy Parkinson. Perhaps their farce was actually doing some good in this world. At least that was what she told herself. Hermione looked over herself one last time in the mirror. Satisfied, she touched the bathroom door that opened into the corridor that led back to the ballroom. She heard her name, "…Granger. Can't believe he's still with her." She didn't know the voice, but it was male. She paused. Keeping the door open only a crack, she listened.

"Exactly what I was thinking. What's it been like over a month now?"

"Two months!" The other replied. "Thought that he would have given up the act by now."

"Maybe he was coerced, blackmailed."

Hermione opened the door to confront them. If anything, she had been the one that had been coerced! She saw they were walking toward the ballroom, disappearing around a bend in the corridor.

"Malfoy?" The first one continued, "Maybe, I mean, during this day and age I understand marrying a half-blood to save face, but a mudblood?"

Hermione felt an anger rise in her chest as she pulled out her wand when she heard the silky-smooth voice of Malfoy, "Well, pleasant seeing you two again, Avery, Gibbon."

Hermione paused, backing against the wall to hide from view, curious to what Malfoy would do. "How're things with the new missus?" Avery asked lightly. Gibbon chuckled.

"Were you really in such a bad spot with the Ministry after the War, Draco, that you had to stoop to marrying a mud-" Avery choked on his words.

"Say it," Draco said darkly, "I fucking dare you." Silence. She could hear Avery's gasps for air as Hermione brought her own hand up to cover her mouth.

"Come on Draco, no need to get so worked up over a…" he trailed off.

"I don't think I need to remind you, Gibbon, who is the better dueler here. And if either of you speaks of my wife again, I might just catch you in a dark alley one night. And a certain unforgivable curse might just accidentally find its way from my wand tip directly to you."

Silence for a few seconds.

Then a gasp of air. "Let's get out of here," Avery said. She heard the two of them scamper off.

Hermione stood there leaning against the wall for support. Had Malfoy…defended her? She didn't understand it. Why would he? What indication did she even have that he cared enough to do it? He had never called her that despicable word during their marriage, but she didn't think he'd be so vehemently against it. A piece of Hermione almost felt grateful at the gesture.

She heard a slam into the wall. She rushed out from the darkness, walking further down the winding corridor to find Malfoy facing the wall. She realized his fist had been clearly responsible for the slam when it had connected to stone. Hermione slowed as she approached him. He didn't say anything. "Malfoy?" she asked softly.

She saw him tense at her use of his name. She watched his chest heave a few times before he turned and looked at her, his cool mask back in place. "Finished?" he asked looking her over, appearing bored.

She knew it was an act though, her eyes narrowed slightly, "Why did you-"

"Because you are my wife, and I'm not going to let anyone talk about you in that way," he spat offering his hand to her, to return to the party.

Hermione withdrew her hand. "You didn't have to do that," she said softly trying to catch his gaze.

He kept it squarely on the floor between him. He scoffed and she knew that was all the reply she was going to receive. She placed her hand in his. She heard him mutter into her ear, as he pulled her back into the ballroom, "It doesn't change anything."

But it did. It changed something in Hermione. Having Malfoy defend her, defend her to other Purebloods was almost… sweet. And she knew he tried to hide it. Tried to say she was his wife and all that nonsense, but she didn't believe it. She really had felt the anger in his voice that night. It hadn't felt fake. In fact, it was the opposite, it had sounded genuine.

It was Wednesday night tonight. Hermione still trying to put that moment behind her and listen to his final words on the matter. But she kept running it through her mind in confusion. She just didn't understand him. She thought she had everything figured out. They put on this performance for the world to see, but that was all it was, a performance. Deep down it wasn't like they actually cared about each other.

He had stayed out late again. Hermione turned to the clock and saw it was almost 11. That wasn't unusual for him though, he often didn't come home until 11. Hermione knew she should probably go to sleep, but she kept telling herself that he would return home soon. For some strange reason, she had found herself waiting up for him the past few days since the party. The first two days, he came home and barely acknowledged her in the sitting room before heading to the bathroom for a shower. The third night she had given up waiting for him, but she ended up tossing in bed before she heard him step into the room. Today she was sitting on the couch watching the door again. She had a book in her lap, but over the past three hours, she had barely read two pages. She yawned; she should probably go to sleep. She was ready for bed, she just…she wanted to see him.

As if he had heard her thoughts himself, the door slammed open as she heard him saunter in. He kicked his shoes off by the door. He looked up at her, giving her eye contact, the only indication that he saw her, before turning toward the bedroom. "Where were you tonight?" Hermione called out.

He froze on the spot like she had petrified him to it. She closed her eyes. Thankful he wasn't looking at the blush on her face. She didn't know what had possessed her to ask. She knew she never asked, but…she had been curious. She knew that was why she was waiting for him. She just hated to admit it.

He turned on his heel to face her. She watched as he unbuttoned his cloak, bringing it over his forearm as he took a step closer to her. He was still at least ten feet away, but closer. "Come again, Granger?" He said gruffly. She felt like he was dissecting her with his gaze. She hoped the darkness of the room hid her burning cheeks from him.

But she couldn't back down. She couldn't rollover. Her Gryffindor pride plucked up and she puffed out her chest, lifted her nose in the air, "I asked, where were you tonight?"

He smirked as he drew closer, placing his hands on the back of the couch. The couch she was sitting on, but Hermione had her back against the armrest, on the opposite side from him. For all his attempts at intimidation, she knew better than to be afraid of the gesture, and she waited for his reply. "Want to hear about my tryst this evening?" he asked. "Or maybe I should say, triumph over all the lovely pureblooded-" Hermione stood snapping her book closed. She really didn't want to hear it. "Where are you going, I thought you were curious about what I was doing tonight."

Hermione didn't know what had possessed her to ask. She really didn't want to know. There was a reason she put that rule into place. She felt his hand on her turning her around slowly. "Curiosity killed the cat you know," he whispered into her ear.

Hermione looked down at the hand that held her sleeved wrist. She pushed him off her. "Don't touch me."

"Why?" he asked grabbing her again at the waist, pulling him into her so her hands landed on his chest as she tried to shove him off, "Afraid where my hands have been…" He asked stroking her cheek gently, "Who they've been-" she shoved him off her.

"I get it!" she demanded stomping her foot. "I shouldn't have asked. I don't care!" She turned around on her heel as she stomped into the bedroom. She climbed into the bed pulling the covers over her head.

She waited to see what he would do. They didn't fight often. In fact, if she remembered correctly, this might be the first fight they'd had since the rules were set. They bickered but this was different. They usually stayed out of each other's way for the most part.

She heard his footsteps approach. She still held the blankets over her head but turned onto her side facing the wall, away from him. She heard the sound of his dresser opening and closing before she heard the bathroom door close with a click. It wasn't long before she heard the sound of the shower starting up when she finally pulled the blankets down from over her head. She looked up at the ceiling. What in Merlin's name had possessed her to ask? She knew it was her fault. She shouldn't have asked. She knew better than to ask. What had she hoped he'd say? That he'd been at work? She was stupid to ask.

She felt the phantom tracings of his fingers over her cheek again. She rubbed at her cheek vigorously, trying to remove the tainted memory. Her blood curdled at the thought of him in another witch's bed, an idea that she had never let cross her mind before. One she blocked because she didn't want to know. She didn't understand how he got so many women to keep his secrets for him. He was very good about it, not a peep about him in the papers. She stopped mid-thought, what did it matter how he did it! She didn't care! She turned to the side facing the wall again, curling into a ball. Why was he invading her thoughts on her all of a sudden?

She heard the shower click off as she tensed. She heard the shower door slide open. She tried to drown out the noise with her thoughts when she heard the bathroom door open. She listened, freezing in position, as she heard a sigh behind her. Silence again, before the bed sunk deep next to her, and she felt the covers shift. If she had any more room in this bed to move over, she might have, but she knew she was so precariously off the edge that the slightest nudge might send her crashing to the floor. He didn't touch her though.

It was silent. Hermione heard the gentle sounds of the bustling city below their tenth floor flat.

"I was with Goyle and Zabini, it's cards night," he said into the silence.

Hermione froze, unsure if she had heard it right. She felt a shift in the bed, and she craned her neck to look at his back that he presented her. He hadn't been with some witch?

If Malfoy had known how much she had analyzed that sentence, he probably wouldn't have said anything. She was now keeping a mental list of what truths it told her.

One: He was with Goyle and Zabini that night.

Two: He hadn't been with some witch.

Three: He played cards.

Four: He played cards specifically on Wednesday nights.

Five: If number four was true, that meant cards night was a regular occurrence.

Six: Cards night entailed staying out until 11.

Seven: He had specifically said he was with Goyle and Zabini, indicating that there had been no one else there, no witches.

But that also left room for so many questions. Questions she didn't bother to keep track of. Why did he tell her this? Why did he bother to tell her where he was at? He hadn't been obligated, due to the rules she specifically put into place, so why did he tell her? Did he tell her so she would know he wasn't with a witch? Did he tell her so that he could confuse her into thinking he always played cards so that he could have his usual Thursday night romp under the sheets? And what about these cards…what kind of cards did he play? Was he any good at it? Did they bet money? Why Wednesday night, the middle of the week? Why not Friday night? Why finish at 11? Did they eat dinner first? He didn't eat dinner with her. He barely ever did, so did he eat dinner with them and play cards? Why hadn't he been with a witch? He must have his pick the way they fawned over him. So many more questions kept filling her mind during the next day that when Ginny invited her to a little get together for game night, Hermione jumped at the chance.

She didn't want to be always at home waiting for him. She could go out too. She could have her independence from him too.

That's what she thought anyway.

Apparently, when she arrived for game night, everyone was surprised that she hadn't brought him with her. Everyone was coupled up ready to play board games and they were all surprised she didn't bring him. There were Harry and Ginny, Ron and Lavender, Neville and Luna, and supposedly supposed to be her and Malfoy.

Hermione settled on gossiping with Lavender instead of distorting the team dynamic. Hermione had a glass of wine in her hand and Lavender was doing a poor job of playing. She mostly gossiped with Hermione, leaving Ron to his own devices. "Yes, there's a big ruckus at Hogwarts now because apparently Professor Sinistra was caught in a broom closet with…" she covered her mouth as she squeaked, "a student."

"What?!" Hermione asked in shock.

Lavender squeaked, "Uh-huh."

"You can't honestly believe that, do you?" Ron asked with a roll of his eyes.

Lavender turned to Ron giving him a gentle shove, "You are no fun, Ron."

"Let's actually talk about something interesting for once," Ginny said interrupting. Everyone turned to her expectantly. "Hermione…" Ginny said singling her out. "You have been mum's the word since your marriage to Malfoy. Come on, tell us, how is he?"

Hermione paled, not wanting to divulge any secrets about that, and what a sham it truly was. "Nope. I object to this topic," Ron said. Hermione sighed in relief.

"Oh, come on, Ron," Ginny protested, "she barely talks about him, you would hardly even notice that they're married save for the ring on her finger." Hermione tucked her hand under the pillow she was hugging.

"You never bring him around," Luna added in.

Hermione looked around at all of them. She really didn't want to go into the love – rather lack of love life – she was having with her husband. She was half surprised that they all believed that the two of them were actually married.

"I know I'm not an expert," Neville began blushing, "but when I saw you and Malfoy at the last Ministry get-together, you two looked quite close."

Hermione looked around and saw the others assenting as well. Hermione gave a silent thank you to Neville for taking the heat off of her. But she had spoken too soon. "That's what I'm saying," Ginny whined, "you two are all cuddly together, and always off on your own together, and the way he stares…" she sighed, "so romantic." Stares at her? What the bloody hell was she on about now? "But when you aren't with him you say nothing? I'm just saying it isn't usual," she finished.

Stares at her? "He doesn't stare," Hermione protested despite herself.

Ginny and Lavender gave each other knowing looks as if to say they had discussed this topic before. "He does stare, Hermione," Harry said matter-of-factly, interrupting the two girls' giggles. He was looking at the table analyzing the game. "Saw it myself. Ron, you can have your turn when you're ready," he muttered.

Ron stared intently at his cards before leaning over to look at Lavender's. He smiled, plucking a card from Lavender's hand, he placed it down on the board, smiling like he made the game-ending move. Harry smirked and she knew he had won the game. He announced it to the group to Ron's disbelief. Hermione took a pen marking another win for Harry and Ginny. They were tied with Ron and Lavender; Neville and Luna having only one win between them.

But Hermione was distracted now, thinking about what they told her. He stared at her?

Hermione didn't know if she should curse Ginny for mentioning it or Harry for confirming it. Because all she noticed now, was that he did stare. They were at an annual outdoor Spring Gala hosted by the Parkinson Family every year. She had worn a frilly peach dress that was strapless, hugging incredibly tight to her curves, and she felt gorgeous in it. Draco had an arm around her waist, pulling her into him, to her annoyance. He was talking to Theodore Nott about some business ventures. Hermione was deep in thought as she mindlessly pretended to listen, her fingers twirling around the rim of her glass.

He had finally stopped. She hadn't realized it before, but now that she knew, it was driving her mad. He always stared at her. She had noticed it from the corner of her eye first, especially when she was talking. She had tried to brush it off because she had been talking, and it was polite to look at your wife when she was talking. But as others in their group had begun to talk, he would still have his eyes on her. She had tried to ignore it for the first hour of the party but by the time the second hour had rolled around, she shot him a death glare to keep his bloody eyes to himself. He had grinned, taking his eyes off her. He had looked into his drink before glancing back up to the nice wizard talking to them. But then twenty seconds later his eyes had been on her again. It was like bloody clockwork.

She felt Draco's eyes on her as Nott began to talk, and Hermione glanced over at him. Draco smiled at her. He had the audacity to smile at her. Hermione resisted the urge to shove her hand into his cheek and force him to look away. She shot him her best death glare as he turned to face Nott. But Nott had noticed, "Am I interrupting something?" he asked.



Hermione turned to Malfoy to glare at him, maybe she should show him how it felt to have eyes roving over her. "Excuse us," Malfoy said not taking the hint. He ushered her away as Nott smiled after them. Malfoy walked casually, his arm locked with hers, but Hermione really wanted to confront him about it. She saw her chance when they approached a quiet hedgerow at the edge of the party. Hermione took advantage as she grabbed him by the front of his dress robes and shoved him behind it. "Granger, if you wanted some, you could have just asked nicely," he said removing himself from the hedge.

She felt bad for shoving him into the hedge itself, but there was no time for that. "What are you doing?" she demanded.

"What am I doing?" he repeated back to her. She hated it when he did that.

"Are you trying to get under my nerves?" she demanded, reaching for her hair to run her hands through it in agitation, before realizing she had spent an hour on it. She settled on smoothing her dress instead. She couldn't help but notice his eyes following her hands down her body. She stopped, grabbing him. "Stop it!"

He smirked as he looked down at her hands clutching his dress robes. He slowly pulled her hands off him. "If you would like me to stop, you should tell me what it is that is bothering you, my dear," he said in that sickly-sweet voice of his that he knew pissed her off.

She took a step back, crossing her hands over her chest. She saw his eyes wander to her breasts which she was no doubt accentuating. She dropped her hands immediately and his gaze snapped up to hers. "Stop staring at me."

He raised a brow. "Staring?" he questioned.

"Yes. You've been staring at me all day, and it's driving me bonkers. Stop it."

He chuckled under his breath and she bit her tongue to stop herself from screaming. "You're acting like a child, Granger," he said. "And here I thought you actually wanted to have fun behind the hedgerow."

She closed her eyes as she looked up. Why did she bother? Why did she even pretend to try and communicate with him? He'd probably bloody well do it more now that she said it bothered her. She turned around to stomp back to the party when she felt his hand on her wrist turning her around. She pulled her wrist free, but he was much closer to her now. She could feel his breath on her skin. "How am I supposed to stop staring, love? If I don't look at you during the party, people will think we're upset with each other." He raised a hand and she wondered if he would actually touch her. He hesitated before letting it fall to his side.

"I'm not saying you can't look at me," Hermione said irritated. Looking up to him, she continued, "Just don't stare."

"And how long before a look becomes a stare?" he asked clearly enjoying holding this over her.

"Forget it," Hermione said stepping away from him. She turned around, "Forget it. Just do what you want. I don't care." He chuckled behind her back. But she didn't look back, not wanting to give him any satisfaction. But when she reappeared in front of the hedgerow he was right there, arm around her waist.

But if Hermione thought she had been upset that day; she hadn't really known what it felt like to be truly upset. That honor went to today. The day she found out, on the day of, about the Malfoy Industries get-together being held in honor of his company's success. She had found out from Ginny, via owl, who invited her to come over in the afternoon with the girls to get ready. She was furious. What was the point? What was the point of their sham of a marriage if he didn't even bother to invite her to his own company's get-togethers? What, she was good enough to parade around at the Ministry, and his friend's houses, but his own company, that was off-limits? She looked at the clock. He didn't even have the audacity to show up and tell her on the day of. She counted the morning hours away. And as it dipped into the afternoon, she was livid. And when the clock struck two and he still hadn't arrived she was done. She went into his closet and saw there was a nice set of robes cleanly pressed. She knew that had to be for the event. He was coming back, and when he did, she would demand that he take her.

Hermione analyzed the outfit he had chosen and decided to wear something that he couldn't say no to her in. A dress she had been saving for a special occasion such as this. It was a silver backless dress, one with a low neckline that dipped in between her breasts. It had a mermaid silhouette, one that highlighted her figure. She did up her hair in ringlets that cascaded down her back. She found some matching silver stilettos and was putting in her diamond earrings when she heard him come into the flat. He walked into the bedroom. His eyes flicked over to see her coming out of the bathroom. He looked her over once before saying curtly, "You aren't going."

Hermione's jaw dropped. She wasn't going? She was about to start screaming at him, at the audacity of him, when he grabbed his dressing robes and flew into the bathroom, closing the door with a quick snap. Hermione stood outside it. She counted the seconds and tapped her foot and waited for him to come out. She wanted to do this face to face.

She probably waited twenty minutes before he came out again. His eyes roved over her once before he stepped around her without a word. He went into the closet and grabbed a nice pair of dress shoes as he sat down on an ottoman and put them on. Hermione was fuming. He wasn't even going to speak to her about it? He stood to exit the closet and she stopped him with an arm on the door frame, blocking him in. "I'm going," she said to make it easy for him to understand.

"You aren't invited, Granger," he said as he picked her up before depositing her on the opposite side of him. He stormed out toward the sitting room, to their floo.

"Where do you think you're going? I'm your wife!" Hermione shrieked.

"Can we just not do this right now?" She heard him stop as he turned around to face her. His face looked worn as if he'd been through a lot. Well bloody good, because she'd been through a lot today too. "I've had a rough day, and now I've got to go parade myself in front of all the bloody investors…can we just pause, please." He said before turning back around.

Hermione seethed, "No we can't just pause. How can you have a company get together and not invite me? I'm your wife!"

He smirked in response without stopping. She saw stars in her blind rage as she rushed forward blocking him from the floo powder. "Move, Granger."

"No." He rolled his eyes as he made to head toward the door, to apparate she supposed. She rushed after him. "What is the point?" Hermione called to him. "We do this song and dance practically every weekend. I've been with you in front of the Ministry, my friends, your friends, your other rich friends from France, but what, I'm still not good enough for you and your company, or your fucking investors?!" she screamed.

He stopped then. Stopped on a dime and she was glad. She wanted to sort this out with him. She wanted her bloody say in how stupid he was being. "In all this rage you've inevitably built over the course of the day since you somehow fucking found out about this thing, did you ever stop to wonder where exactly it was taking place?" His voice was dark and slow as he turned around to face her. She saw a boiling rage and frustration in him. She took a step back as she felt some shock replace her anger at the sight. He took a step forward and she took one back.

"What does that have to do with anything?" she forced out to maintain some control over the situation.

"The fucking party, Granger. Use your little brain," he said, anger rolling beneath his silky-smooth voice. He came forward tapping a finger to her temple. "Use that brain of yours and decipher where exactly this party is being held," he spat.

Hermione thought for a second, scrambling to think where this party could be being held, and then her body shook at the realization. He smirked when he saw it cross her face, his eyes darting down to the small scar on her neck, a reminder of her stay at that dreadful place. She covered her scar with her fingers as she stepped back. "I told Mother to burn that fucking room. Told her it needed to be done immediately, but she refused, going on about family heirlooms and other bullshit. I gave her an ultimatum, but she didn't listen. And now I have to crawl over there, tail between my legs anyway, but you, you are not going, not while I am your husband," he spat.

Hermione swallowed as she stepped back feeling her legs touch the back of their couch. She leaned onto it, her legs shaking as the memories of Bellatrix Lestrange settled over her. "Anything else to say?" he asked darkly.

Hermione shook her head as her gaze fell to the ground. She felt his eyes on her for a few more seconds before he disappeared into the floo.

Hermione's legs trembled as she sank to the floor behind the couch. She tossed her shoes aside as she wrapped her arms around herself and cried.

She didn't remember exactly how, but she found herself in front of a fire with a blanket wrapped around her. She knew her hair and dress were all ruined, but she hadn't been able to find a way to make it to the closet to change. She watched the fire as the heat lifted her tears away, leaving behind only her salt-stained cheeks. She swiped at her cheek with the back of her hand. When she lowered it, she saw black and silver streaks on it. Her makeup. She sniffled as she took her wand out and touched it to her face to remove herself from the dreadful stuff. She touched it to her hair as she felt it pool around her shoulders once again. She leaned against the coffee table as she kept close to the fire.

She felt so many things rushing through her mind. She was having a hard time keeping it all straight. She thought about the Manor. She thought about how she had screamed at him to bring her there. She thought about how in her rage and anger she hadn't used her brain to think once, to not even consider, the possibility that he was doing something to protect her. That he might have cared enough to do so. She didn't understand it. He had never shown any care for her before.

But as she thought back, she knew that wasn't true. She remembered the stares that Ginny had told her about, how maybe they hadn't been done merely to anger her. She thought about the day she put the rules in place and how he let her do whatever she wanted, his only condition to share the same bed. She thought about how he almost always held her in his sleep, caressed her, whispered her name a few times if she allowed herself to listen. She thought about the time he had eased her mind and told her he hadn't been with another woman. She thought about the time he had told two men that if they dared insult her again that he'd hex them in the street.

Hermione thought back. She tried to remember the beginning, tried to remember how she ended up here. It had been a lie, right? They had agreed to do this for the Ministry, right? But as she thought through her memories, she realized that hadn't been true. He hadn't mentioned the Ministry to her, or duty. He had simply said that times were different now and she had accepted him. She wondered then if he had intended for a real marriage if he had thought that she loved him in return. She felt an ache in her chest at the realization. She remembered his caresses, his attempts to care for her, giving her his jacket when she was cold, placing her in bed whenever she fell asleep outside it, and Hermione pulled at her hair not understanding any of it.

How did this happen?

Everything felt so wrong like she had wronged him so terribly and her tears flowed at the thought. She didn't want to believe it was possible, because then she had to ask herself why he never said anything. He never demanded anything. He never wanted anything.

She saw the fire shift to that familiar green, and she watched unmoving as she saw his familiar form step through. She didn't look up at him, only saw his legs and dress robes as he stood there, no doubt staring down at her. She drew her knees up to her chest as she lay her cheek down on them. Waiting for him to move, to go away, to let her think. She just wanted to think.

She heard him sigh above her. He knelt down then so he was in her plane of view. She pulled her blanket around herself. "Come on, Granger, let's get you to bed," he said grabbing her by the elbow to hoist her up. She yanked her elbow away from him as she readjusted her blanket. "You're going to bloody freeze down there on the tile," he said agitatedly.

Hermione felt the cold floor beneath her for the first time, but she didn't care. She turned her head away from him. "Fine, you want to freeze, let's bloody freeze together," he said plopping himself unceremoniously down beside her. He leaned against the coffee table as he stared into the fire. She didn't move her head, but she could still see his profile. He looked exhausted. She watched as he tossed his coat away, removing his tie as he pinched the bridge of his nose. She saw him for the first time then, not as an evil prick, but as a man. She saw his handsome blonde features, his muscular arms, that she could see through the fabric of his dress robes. She saw his muscled chest peaking through the top button of his robes. She just stared.

He turned to her then, confronting her stare with a raised brow. She turned her head back toward the fire. How did she get here? How did they get here? The fireplace the only sound as it crackled into their quiet flat.

"Why did you do it?" She had barely recognized her own voice as she said it. It croaked and sounded wounded and hurt from crying.

She heard him sigh, another one of his sighs. "I knew you'd be mad. But I thought that if I got through the day without you finding out, and you saw where the party was being held, that you would see why I couldn't bring you back there."

Hermione felt her heart flutter at his admission, but that hadn't been her question. She turned to him and he turned to her. He reached out then as she watched, watched his hand come up to caress her cheek. She wondered if he would actually do it, and at the last second his hand fell, retreating back to him. "I meant, why did you marry me?" she asked into the silence.

He smirked looking back into the fire. "Because I'm a good-for-nothing, social-climbing Slytherin, that knew if I landed a member of the Golden Trio as my wife, that my family name would be preserved."

She heard the lie in it now. She heard it, and she knew it was a ruse. "Liar," she said to him. She had wanted it to come out with venom, mixed with hatred and anger, but it had only come out as a gentle whisper.

He turned to her in surprise before he smiled down to the floor, "Lies, my dear, are all you have ever wanted from me."

Hermione felt her chest ache at that admission. She didn't want him to say that. She clutched her knees closer to her chest as she shook her head. She shook her head because it couldn't be true. "Stop lying to me," she demanded turning to him. She pushed off the blanket as she grabbed him by the front of his dress robes. "You never wanted this," she said fresh tears flowing down her cheeks. "You never wanted me. What could you want with a muggle-born like me? You hate me," she pleaded with him.

He nodded as his hand touched hers gently, she recoiled at his touch. "Yes, Granger. I hate you. I hate you more than anything in this world. I've hated you for so long, it makes my blood boil to think about you. You disgust me." The words, they were the ones she had wanted to hear, but they sounded so soft, so dead, so absent of life, that it was almost like he was confessing to her the opposite.

He stood up then. "I don't know why I'm bothering," he said to nothing at all. "I'll just wait until you fall asleep and move you to the bed," he announced to her before turning and walking into their bedroom.

So many lies. She was so angry. She was so hurt. She didn't know what this feeling in her chest was, but she just wanted it to go away. She didn't understand. She wanted so badly to understand. Things were so much easier when they were in neat little boxes when she knew exactly how she felt about him, and how to think about him. And now it was all ruined. She heard the sound of the shower starting and she tried to cover her ears from the noise. This was wrong, everything was wrong, everything was upside down.

She tensed when she heard him return. His footsteps stopping just to the left of her. She was still huddled in her blanket by the fireplace, hugging her knees to her chest. He came forward then as he knelt beside her. "Last chance to walk to bed yourself," he said lightheartedly, offering her a hand.

Hermione stared at it. Her eyes moving up from his hand to his night clothed wrist, up to his arm, to his collar, and his pale-skinned neck, and his square jawline, and up his face to settle on his eyes. She saw a worry in them that she had never seen before. He sighed again, as he retracted his hand before sitting down in front of her. She looked down and saw he had no socks on his feet. She realized she had never looked at his feet before. She saw movement and she looked up and saw his hand move to her face. She stilled as he got closer, as she watched to see what he would do. He tucked some hair behind her ear before letting his hand fall.

"Why did you ask me to marry you?" she asked him. She hoped now that he would give her a straight answer, the correct answer that she wanted to hear.

He lifted his hand again to her cheek, brushing the back of his fingertips ever so gently against her. "I already told you," he began, "I'm a good social climber-" she grabbed his hand then, taking it in hers. He stopped at once, looking at his hand between two of hers. She brought it down into her lap as she moved her knees away from her chest to do so, holding it, cradling it in her hands. His palm was half open and she ran her fingers from his palm to fingertips, stopping at the ring he wore, a silver band that matched the one on her finger.

"Tell me the truth." She said to his palm before looking up into his eyes, "Please."

His fingers gently wrapped and entwined themselves in hers and Hermione felt her tears begin to fall again. "Hermione," he said softly, and her heart fluttered as he said it. She looked up at him, her tear-stained cheeks greeting him. He sighed bringing his free hand up to wipe them away gently, "I-" he hesitated unable to speak, his free hand falling to his side.

Hermione shook her head. "You should have told me," she said sadly bringing his captured hand up, cupping it to her as she kissed it gently. "You should have told me."

She felt his free hand rest against her cheek, turning her face to him. "Would you have listened?" he asked.

Hermione shook her head. No, she knew she wouldn't have listened. His face fell as his eyes dropped at her admission. "Then why did you go through with it? Why did you…" Hermione trailed off. Why did he put up with this farce?

"Because I told myself all I wanted with you was a chance. One chance. I told myself that if you said yes, I'd take it. Go for it, because I knew I'd never get another."

The tears were flowing rapidly now as she felt him pull her closer to him. He held her gently in his arms as she cried into his chest, telling him how stupid he was, how much of an idiot he was. How he should have told her the truth. How he should have screamed it until she understood. How she should have seen more.

She took in his familiar scent, fresh from the shower, as he held her, caressing her back and hair as he held her to him silently. She leaned back then, leaned back, and looked up at him. He smiled gently down at her. His fingers entwined into her hair. She sniffled gently as he brought his fingers to her cheeks to wipe her tears away. She caught his hand against her cheek as he did it, turning her head into the palm of her hand as she kissed it, "I'm so sorry, Draco," she said. "I've been so blind."

He smiled at her softly as he caressed her cheek. She felt her heart pounding in her chest, as it had every time she had seen him for as long as she could remember. She realized for the first time it wasn't anger that was fueling it, and it hadn't been for a long time. She remembered all his touches, stolen moments between them. They all flashed through her head, this insane journey they'd been on together. And she realized that somewhere along the way, she had fallen in love with him. She reached up then to cradle his head in her hands as he leaned into her touch, her fingers spreading to touch as much of his face as possible. She leaned in and felt his breath hitch onto her skin. She took in his scent, the one she had long since associated with him. Holding his face in her hands, she leaned in and pressed her lips to his. She felt her heart squeeze at the touch, singing to her, screaming to her that this is what it had wanted this entire time. She felt his hands shift to pull her closer, into his lap, and she wrapped her arms around him as he deepened the kiss. She felt the last of her tears fall onto her cheek as her lips parted, and so did his as she kissed him properly for the first time.

When they separated his forehead pressed against hers as she felt his labored breathing over her skin. "Come to bed, my love." he whispered gently to her. Hermione nodded as he stood pulling her up by the elbow. He looked at her dress as she remembered how much of a mess she must look now.

"I'm a wreck." She said.

He smiled, "You're perfect."

He walked her slowly into their bedroom. Her heart thudding in her chest in anticipation. He stopped in front of it as he looked her over. Hermione swallowed to build her courage as she removed the straps of the dress and let it fall down to her ankles, leaving behind only her lacy underwear. He stared at her, she felt his silver eyes roaming over her body as it had done so many times before. She blushed, finally understanding its meaning. She watched as he began to undress, and in three quick movements, he stood in front of her to see. Hermione saw his erection as she came toward it. She had felt it a few times in the morning rubbing against her, but for the first time, she reached out and touched it. He sighed pulling her closer. She ran her fingers over him feeling moisture beading at the surface. He hummed at her touch. She swallowed in anticipation.

His hands came forward to remove hers, as he placed her gently down on the bed. She looked between them and saw the fading mark on his arm. Hermione reached out to it, her finger about to trace where the smooth pale skin turned to the faded black ink, but his fingers touched hers, stopping her. She looked up, his eyes diverting from hers as he pulled his arms from her grasp. Hermione got onto her knees on the bed, bringing herself up to his eye level, so that she could cradle his face in her hands. She whispered to him softly, "It's okay." His eyes found hers in confusion and disbelief. She smiled softly as she brought his lips to hers.

After a moment, he returned the kiss, wrapping his arms around her. He climbed onto the bed, lying them both onto it. His fingers passed between her thighs as she parted them willingly. He slipped between them and she purred at the contact. Hermione wrapped her legs around him as his tongue found a sensitive spot behind her jaw. She sighed into him as she heard him whisper into her ear, "I love you."

Hermione nodded as she ran her fingers through his hair, feeling every inch of her body against his, his tongue slowly moving down her neck as she arched into him. She breathed, "I love you, Draco."

Everything filtered across Hermione's mind before she felt herself being pulled back from her racing thoughts. She looked around to see the confused faces of all her friends. The only exception was Ginny, smiling at her in encouragement, gesturing to the balcony. She turned to see Draco Malfoy standing in front of her.

It was still New Years' Eve.

She looked down to her finger, absent of any ring. She glanced up at Draco as he stood there unmoving. "Can I talk to you?" he asked her slowly, nervously, as he offered her a hand.

Hermione felt her heart race in her chest. Anticipation ran from her head down to her toes. She looked at his awaiting hand, absent of ring. Her gaze tracked back up to his and saw those eyes, those beautiful silver eyes that made her heart sing at the sight. Her heart pounded in her chest as the corner of her mouth turned upward into something of a smile, "Yes."


o o o

*Notes: Please don't hurt me, I know that Lavender Brown is technically a Pureblood in canon.

Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

- Roo