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Yep, He Did It Again!

 

Prologue

Blaise Zabini found himself in a predicament.

Again.

His friends hadn’t made it easy for him lately. First, Pansy had surprised him by choosing to dote on Neville Long-freaking-bottom, and her mood swings and spontaneous late-night visits for long, soul-searching talks (which mostly consisted of swearing) had forced Blaise to spend almost a month, scheming how to bring those lovebirds together. It hadn’t been easy, since Longbottom had found it hard to believe in his sudden luck. Yet Blaise had done it, of course. Right on Pansy’s birthday, too!

Frankly, he could see Pansy's point. Neville had metamorphosed into an absolutely gorgeous bloke, and if Blaise hadn't had Dean warming his bed every night, perhaps he would have gone after Neville’s firm buttocks as well. Then again, probably not. As handsome as Neville was, he was too pure for him, and Blaise was never one for innocence – he had neither the time nor the patience for coaching. Pansy, however, had all the time in the world, and Blaise was sure that she had enjoyed the task of corrupting her scrumptious Gryffindor.

Blaise chuckled. The thought of that fine-looking couple still warmed his heart. Alas, he hadn't been able to rest on his laurels for long, because his best and oldest friend had decided to go down the same path and also fall in love with a Gryffindor, and not with just any Gryffindor, but with the one and only Hermione Granger. At this point, it wasn’t even funny. Actually, it was fucking impossible to comprehend. Was it something in the air? He couldn't say. In the end, it didn’t matter. The situation was dire, and he couldn’t stand seeing his best friend moping like an abandoned puppy. Plus, Draco’s birthday was in a month, and Blaise had a suspicion that a secret party in Paris with courtesans and a lot of bare flesh just wouldn’t do this year. It was apparent that he would have to play matchmaker again. Thank Merlin, he loved a little challenge every now and then.


Paris, June 5, 2005

The grey sky foretold a storm. Draco wasn’t surprised. Of course it would rain on his birthday. After all, grey, wet, and miserable matched his mood perfectly. To be fair, though, it usually rained on his birthday. Decades ago, Wrinkly, his elf, had explained to him that it had something to do with jasmine in bloom. He had been about five at the time and rain on his special day bothered him a lot. Somehow, Wrinkly’s theory had appeased him, perhaps because his mother’s silk robes had smelled of jasmine blossom as well. Since then, he loved everything jasmine, and its white flowers with their delicate fragrance had always given him a sense of serenity.

Until today... Today, he wandered along the old boulevards of Paris, not noticing the hint of jasmine in the air. As usual, the city was annoyingly crowded, and Draco cursed, to himself as he walked. He hated Paris at this time of the year. Actually, as of late, he hated Paris. Full stop. Why Blaise had insisted on their meeting here, in this mad city, was beyond him. He also couldn’t explain why he had gone along with Blaise’s idea. The last thing he wanted was to be here. He had no interest in a secret party with courtesans and cabaret, and that was exactly what he suspected Blaise was going to throw for him. As someone who had spent much of his childhood in Paris, Blaise had a strong belief that cancans, long legs, and bare breasts could soothe any heartache.

Well, frankly, just six months ago, Draco would have been inclined to agree with him. Not any more. Nowadays, he wasn’t interested in anything or anyone but a certain Gryffindor for whom he had been yearning for the last six months, and whose images had been plaguing his dreams every single night. Pathetic, he knew. But no matter how hard he tried; he couldn’t shake those stupid feelings off, and he bloody hated it. The most infuriating detail in all of it was the fact that he hadn't asked for it, didn’t need it, and certainly didn’t want it. He had had enough of her at Hogwarts, especially during their eighth year. Even then, her plump lips had managed to drive him bonkers, and he hadn't intended to come anywhere near her ever again, let alone work with her.

Alas, life (in the form of Kingsley Shacklebolt) had decided to test his self-control by catapulting the bloody witch, with her wild chocolate mane, caramel eyes, and pert nose into his path once more. She burst into his life like a meteorite that shot across the grey sky of London and shattered the fragile walls that he had built around himself. If he could have imagined that their short collaboration would end with his turning into a blubbering fool, he would have never agreed to it. Never! His Auror’s pride, Potter, Shacklebolt, and Dolohov be damned.

Ugh! Where was a Time-Turner when you needed one? Unfortunately, Draco knew only too well there weren’t any. Thus here he was, lovesick, in a shitty mood, hastening down the boulevards of Paris on his birthday, expecting it to be the worst one yet, especially since today was their anniversary. Exactly six months ago, he had kissed Granger in this Salazar-forsaken city.

A gust of wind filled his nostrils with a familiar scent, and he halted in front of a jasmine bush covered with white flowers. Granger’s hair, by some bizarre glitch of fate, had smelled like jasmine too, and now he honestly didn’t know if he loved or hated that fragrance. Breathing slowly and suddenly feeling weary, Draco sank onto the nearest bench, closed his eyes, tuned out the noise around him, and went back to that bloody day when everything had started.


Six Months Earlier

January 4, 2005, Kingsley Shacklebolt’s Office

“Why her?” He hissed, clenching his fists. “I work alone, and I'm perfectly capable of finishing a task myself. I've proved my proficiency more than once.” He couldn’t believe that they were doing this to him, after he had singlehandedly tracked down one of the most dangerous Death Eaters on the loose. It had taken him months to find a lead, and now, when he was so close to capturing the bastard, they had decided to assign him a helper who had nothing to do with Law Enforcement in the first place. He couldn’t even begin to understand how exactly Hermione-bloody-Granger could help him, no fucking clue whatsoever.

Draco shifted his gaze from Shacklebolt to Potter and narrowed his eyes. “Or is this about something else? I thought I'd earned your trust by now. Apparently, I was mistaken.”

Potter rolled his eyes and let out an exaggerated sigh of annoyance. “This is not about you, Malfoy. The Earth doesn’t rotate around you, you know. It’s not about your abilities or trustworthiness. And even though you’re still a selfish arse, everybody knows that you're a good Auror.”

Good? thought Draco. I’m bloody brilliant, you wanker!

“It’s logical. Think about it,” Potter went on. “We can’t have a backup there – you know how the French Aurors feel about the whole operation. Dolohov will be under the Glamour, and Hermione is the only person who can feel his presence. If anything, it ought to be a compliment that I trust you with my best friend.”

Not paying attention to Potter’s last words, Draco asked, “Feel him? What the hell are you talking about? I really don’t have time for all this drivel. I told you, I have a lead. I’ve been instructed how to recognise Dolohov under the Glamour Charm. If you want to send someone to look after me, at least give me someone useful. I’m not rescuing any unfortunate or mistreated creatures, so I can't see how Granger could be helpful. I don’t need a nanny, and I'd hate to waste her valuable time and keep her from babying her precious Weasley.”

“That’s enough.” Shacklebolt slammed his palm on the desk. Apparently having enough of their bickering, the Head Auror drew himself upright to his rather intimidating height and said in a tone that brooked no arguments, “I have only two options for you, Auror Malfoy. You can cut short this nonsensical quarrel, take Miss Granger to Paris, and conclude the operation with her help. Or you can walk out of this office and start filing papers, as you were doing not so long ago. The choice is yours.”

Draco swallowed, raked his fingers through his hair, and muttered, “How do I proceed?”

Shacklebolt drew a tired sigh. “Your Portkey to Paris will be activated in two hours. Miss Granger has been briefed and is waiting for you in the Transportation Department. I expect you to behave yourself, or your Auror’s privileges will be gone in a blink of an eye. Is that clear?”

“Crystal.” Draco nodded curtly and turned on his heel, ready to leave.

“And just so you know," Shacklebolt added, "we thought about transferring the final stage of this operation to Auror Potter. However, it was Miss Granger who suggested that that wouldn’t be fair to you.”

After the briefest pause, Draco gave his boss another curt nod, said, “Good to know,” and left the room. He refused to feel grateful to Granger.


Two hours later, after a lukewarm greeting, he and Granger were swirling towards his residence in Paris. Spinning didn’t bother him. With his constant bouncing between London and Paris, he was used to it by now. Having Granger around, however, wasn’t something he felt comfortable with at all. Even five minutes in the waiting room of the Department of Transportation were enough for him to realise that her lips and eyes still drove him crackers.

They landed in the living room, and it immediately became clear that Granger didn't care for that mode of transport. Draco had to steady her by grasping her shoulders when she lost her footing. Hugging her hadn't been in his plans, and he’d never done it before, so the fact that her curls smelled like jasmine caught him by surprise. Merlin, have mercy, he thought, breathing in the familiar scent and staring at her face. Her eyes were closed, and he could see that her dark brown eyelashes were long and curly. Also, there were five tiny freckles on her nose (not that he counted them or anything). It felt strange to have her near, to feel the warmth of her breath on his skin, to hold her … strange and brilliant and right.

Alas, the moment of observation was cut short when her eyelashes fluttered, and she opened her eyes. Draco hastily stepped back. “All right?” he said, trying to sound nonchalant.

“Yes, thank you.” She gave him a soft, appreciative smile.

Dimples on her cheeks made Draco inwardly groan, and he cursed under his breath. Then, adopting his most sceptical smirk, he drawled, “Well, well, apparently the rumours were greatly exaggerated, and Hermione Granger is not so very tough after all. That was just a simple Portkey. I hope you won’t faint tomorrow. It’s going to get rough, and I won’t be able to look after you. I have a Death Eater to catch.” He knew he was being an arse, but he did achieve his goal. The smile on Granger’s face disappeared. The dimples were gone, and he was safe again. Or not …

He saw her narrow her eyes at him, but once started, he couldn’t stop. “I hope you still know how to use your wand proper-” He didn’t finish the sentence, because the next second he was thrown against the wall. The collision was hard and unpleasant. “Did you just bloody hex me?” he yelled, swiftly scrabbling to his feet.

“I did,” she said calmly, and put her wand back in her pocket. “You were interested in my wandwork. I thought a little demonstration was in order. Is it proper enough for you, Malfoy?”

Draco chose not to answer, since he couldn’t decide if he should be furious or impressed. He knew he deserved that little lesson, though. He did play with fire. In the end, he just straightened his robes, tried to look as dignified as possible, and gestured toward the corridor. “You can put your things in the bedroom, and then I’ll brief you about tomorrow,” he said in a business-like tone.

Hermione nodded, picked up her handbag, and headed to the bedroom.

“Thank you for convincing Shacklebolt to keep me on the job, by the way,” he called after her. She stopped and turned to look at him in bewilderment. To be honest, he himself didn’t know why he'd chosen to say that now. Perhaps he had banged his head too hard.

“You’re welcome,” she eventually said, after watching him warily for a full minute, probably entertaining the same idea. “It’s only fair.”

“It is.”


Hermione returned to the living room right when Wrinkly appeared with Draco’s evening tea, and the expression of outrage on her face made Draco chuckle. “Relax, Granger, it’s not what you think,” he said, watching her with amusement.

“What do you mean?” she asked eyeing him and Wrinkly with suspicion.

Draco was about to explain, but Wrinkly beat him to it. With his arms akimbo, the elf declared in his squeaky voice, “Wrinkly is a free elf, missy. Wrinkly serves his young master because Wrinkly loves him, and missy better stay quiet. Wrinkly brings tea. Missy drinks tea and says nothing.” With that, he silently brought a second cup, finished serving for two, and then disappeared with a loud, defiant pop, leaving Granger dumbfounded.

Unable to hold back his laughter, Draco tried to cover it with coughing, but was unsuccessful. “I’m sorry,” he finally said, still laughing. “He's old and can be rather brash.”

Hermione blinked and chuckled. “I guess I deserved that,” she said, and sat down on the sofa.

“Well, you’re rather famous among the elves. Or perhaps I should say infamous, since, as you can see, not all of them want to be saved and freed. Most elves are set in their ways and not interested in any changes.” Draco smirked. “Sometimes it’s useful to ask those whom you’re going to rescue if they need or want to be rescued.”

“At least now they have a choice,” she said firmly.

“Perhaps.” He shrugged his shoulders. “And since we have other things to discuss, we had better postpone this extremely important conversation. Drink your tea, Granger, and I’ll fill you in on what's supposed to happen tomorrow.”

His readiness to drop the subject evidently surprised her. “All right,” she said, and took a biscuit from a plate. “Oh, this is delicious,” she breathed out, and the way she closed her eyes and licked her lips made Draco lose his train of thought.

He told himself not to stare at her. It wasn’t easy, and he had to remind himself about Dolohov, and why it was crucial to catch the bastard. He took a gulp of tea, cleared his throat, and began to recount the plan and everything that had led up to it. He told her how he had traced Dolohov around the world, how hard it had been to find a lead in Paris, and how it had been almost impossible to find the right connections in the Russian Wizarding community of France. “There will be a Russian Christmas Ball Masquerade in the Luxembourg Palace tomorrow, which we are going to attend. It was confirmed today that Dolohov will be there.”

“Why is it so important for you to catch him?” she said, taking him by surprise.

His throat went dry, and it took him a minute to gather his thoughts. “It was his curse that killed my mother. At least, I was told that it was. I need to know for sure. I want to look into that bastard’s eyes right before the Dementors’ kiss.” He clenched his fingers around his teacup. Unsurprisingly, the delicate china crumbled in his hand and cut it. “Bollocks,” he muttered, glaring at the blood.

“Merlin,” Hermione exclaimed, jumping into action. Quickly vanishing the shards of broken china, she took his hand in hers, and recited cleaning and healing spells. The warmth of her magic soothed the throbbing, and as her fingertips caressed his skin, he closed his eyes. It felt so good to be tended by her. Of course, everything she was doing he could do by himself. He was a trained Auror. But no power on Earth could make him admit it at that moment. He wanted her to care for him …

Soon, the wound was healed, and Hermione, holding his hand between her warm palms, whispered, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bring those memories back.”

Draco shook his head. “Don’t be. Especially since you mended me.” He gazed into her eyes and said, “So, I was wondering…” he grimaced not knowing how to word his question, “… Potter said that you could feel Dolohov.”

“Yes, I can,” Hermione confirmed. “From the time he used his favourite curse on me, I can feel when he’s near.”

“I see.” He didn’t like the sound of it. “Does it hurt?”

“It doesn’t. It’s just an odd sensation. It took me a while to understand what it was, but with Poppy’s help, I figured that the internal scarring left after he cursed me still reacts to his magic.” She put her hand on her stomach. “Sounds kind of creepy.”

It did sound creepy, and now it was Draco’s turn to take her hand in his. “Don’t fret, Granger,” he said, inwardly cringing at how inadequate he sounded. “Perhaps we’ll kill him tomorrow, and his magic won’t bother you ever again.”

She giggled. “You know we can’t.”

“Actually, we probably can. This whole operation is illegal. Everything was supposed to be done through the French authorities and in collaboration with their Aurors, but no one had enough patience for that. So… anything can happen.”

“All right, then.” She winked at him. “We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.”

He hadn't expected her to say that. “Merlin, Granger. You are one scary witch.”

“That I am, Malfoy, that I am.” She even managed to keep a straight face … for a millisecond, and then she snorted and began to laugh.

They ended up talking through much of the night. It was surprisingly easy to talk to her. She wasn’t as prissy as he thought, and Draco hoped that he didn’t seem like a selfish pain in the neck, as she probably expected him to be. All in all they had a pleasant evening together, and eventually, after drinking the apéritif that Wrinkly brought for them around midnight, they fell asleep at opposite ends of the sofa. At least, that was the last thing he remembered – Granger asleep, with her curls creating a halo around her face.


He woke up with a crick in his neck. Granger wasn’t on the sofa, and the sound of running water told him that she was in the shower. He stood up with a groan, massaged away the crick, and walked to the window. The sky was grey, and the drizzle in the air didn’t look inviting at all. That kind of damp chill could get to your bones no matter what you wore, and even a Warming Charm was useless against it. But never mind the weather, they had things to do. He had learned the night before, that Granger had neither dress nor shoes for the upcoming ball. He shook his head. It was so like Potter and Shacklebolt to send her on a mission without telling her about essentials. “Dimwits,” he muttered, and asked Wrinkly to serve them breakfast.

The time was tight, and the moment Granger appeared on the threshold, they sat down and ate quickly, leaving immediately after breakfast in search of something for her to wear.

They found it.

It took four hours of walking through the wet streets of Paris under Granger’s ridiculous red umbrella, but eventually they found a perfect dress and shoes, though Draco had to put up a stiff fight with Granger about the dress. First, she didn’t want to take his money, and he had to explain to her that their beloved Ministry was paying for everything. Then, for some unclear reason, she didn’t want to try on dresses that he deemed acceptable. Honestly, he couldn’t understand how she had managed to acquire all those insecurities. Every dress he recommended was either too tight or too open or too bright. In the end, he told her that there was an unspoken dress code at that kind of soirée, and those boring black dresses that she kept trying to buy just wouldn’t do. She looked at him suspiciously, but he winked to the shop-girl, and she confirmed his white lie. After that, Granger finally agreed to buy a lilac gown with open shoulders and intricate embroidery. They also bought her a mask, since it was a masquerade and having one eliminated the need for a Glamour Charm.

To be honest, Draco couldn’t decide what to make of the whole experience. He wasn’t opposed to shopping. He actually enjoyed it most of the time, and Granger’s defiance wasn’t that much of a problem either. The hardest part for him was to stay calm in the knowledge that an almost-naked Granger was right behind a flimsy curtain, having to hear the sound of a zipper being unfastened and visualise ... Oh, Merlin, his imagination had run wild a few times. He had even had to undo a few buttons of his shirt, and not because of the heat. In the end, though, that torture was worth undergoing, because Granger looked utterly delectable in her new dress, and for a second he had even forgotten that they were preparing for an Aurors' mission, and that they weren’t an actual couple.


By seven in the evening, he was clad in his fine cashmere robe, standing by the window and waiting for Granger to come out of the bedroom. Watching the crazy Parisians rush by, he thought that it was taking her a ludicrous amount of time to get ready. She had said, admittedly, that with this wet weather it would be almost impossible to tame her hair. Still, how long could it take? He even had begun to wonder if she needed his help, when the sound of footsteps announced her arrival. Turning away from the window, he saw her in the middle of the room.

For a while, he stared at her in silence, his blood thumping in his temples. She had put her hair up, and he couldn’t tear his eyes away from the graceful curve of her neck. All at once, he knew that he had made a huge mistake. He ought to have let her buy that boring black dress, because now he didn't know if he would be able to function with her near him, looking like that. Shit, fuck, bollocks... He was positively doomed, and this time it was his own fault!

“So, what do you think?” Granger’s question interrupted his self-loathing. “I actually like this dress. Thank you for insisting on it. It even has a secret pocket for a wand. Look.”

“Of course it has,” he said, emerging from his stupor. “It looks … decent on you.”

She narrowed her eyes. “Decent?” she repeated after him, and he could almost feel her readiness to hex him into tomorrow.

He quickly lifted his hands. “Relax, Granger, I’m just teasing you,” he said. “You look bloody gorgeous. You're welcome, by the way, and if you ever need someone to help you with your wardrobe, all you need to do is ask. It will be my pleasure to help a damsel in distress.”

She huffed. “I’m not, nor will I ever be, a damsel in distress, Malfoy. Thanks for the offer, though.”

“Yeah.” He chuckled. “I know. I learned that lesson.” He rubbed the back of his head, which was still a little tender after yesterday’s collision with a wall.

The old clock in the corner chimed eight times. He drew his breath and said, “All right. Put your mask on, Granger. We have a Death Eater to catch.” With that, he gallantly offered her his arm, and they stepped into the fireplace.


When they came out of the Floo and into a brightly-lit foyer, the ball was already in full swing. Pausing on the grand staircase, he steered Granger behind a marble column and asked, “Do you feel it? Anything?”

She leaned against the cold stone and closed her eyes. “No,” she said after a moment.

“Shite. It may be a bit more difficult, as I thought initially. I was told that Dolohov would be wearing a ghost costume, but there are hundreds of them out there.”

Moving closer to him, Granger observed the ballroom. He could feel her warm breath on his neck, and it didn’t help him to focus.

“I think we need to dance,” she said.

He gave her an incredulous stare. “You’re kidding, right?”

She shook her head. “I’m not. Listen, they’re playing a slow waltz. We can dance our way from one ghost to another without drawing attention or suspicion.”

Still not convinced, Draco followed her gaze. With the exception of a few wizards and witches, most people were dancing. Perhaps, Granger was right, and it was the easiest way to spot the bastard.

“Very well, but you have to tell me the moment you feel something.” She nodded, and Draco took a step back. Bowing, he offered her his hand once again. “Will you be so kind as to honour me with this dance, Hermione?” he said, locking his eyes on hers.

His invitation surprised her, and a slight blush coloured her cheeks. She recovered quickly, though, and took his hand, hissing, “Stop these theatrical effects, you dolt!”

He spun her around and put his other hand on her waist. Tilting his head towards her, he whispered into her ear, “It’s called asking permission, Granger. That's how it’s done, and there is nothing theatrical about it.” His lips touched her ear, and he could feel her quiver. The scent of jasmine filled his nostrils, and he had to stifle a groan. It wasn’t going to be easy, and his only hope was that his Auror’s reflexes would take over when he needed them. With that thought, he led her to the centre of the ballroom, and they began to waltz.


Three things! He hadn't anticipated three crucial things when he'd planned this bloody operation. First of all, he hadn't expected Granger to be such a brilliant dancing partner. Once again, he was reminded just how right it felt to have her in his arms, and while they glided over the parquet, it was almost impossible to stay focused on anything but her. Second, he hadn't foreseen that the other wizards would pay so much attention to her. They were practically drooling, and maybe it was foolish of him, but he didn’t take their interest kindly. In fact, he was furious. She was with him, in his arms, and he didn’t care that it was all pretence – at that moment she was his, and all those not-so-subtle glances drove him berserk.

Third and last, as if all of the above wasn’t enough, it turned out that he knew nothing about Russian ballroom dancing. So when a slow waltz turned into a polka, and they were forced to change partners, he was caught off guard. He tried not to panic, since he could still see her. Alas, the ballroom was enormous, and there were a lot of couples on the floor. Soon, she disappeared from his sight, and that’s when he began to panic. Ditching his new partner and muttering, “Shite, shite, shite,” he began darting about, looking for any sign of Granger.

When he didn’t find her after a few minutes, he had to stop and calm himself. Scanning the perimeter, he finally caught a glimpse of the lilac dress in the farthest part of the hall and sprinted toward it. Halfway across, he could already tell that something was wrong. Granger’s face seemed pale, and her eyes skimmed over the crowd. She was looking for him!

After a dozen more steps towards her, he stopped, feeling a cold prickle creeping down his spine. Granger was dancing with a tall wizard dressed as a ghost. He had no doubt that it was Dolohov. He could even swear that he himself felt a familiar dark magic washing over him. “Fuck,” he muttered, and prayed to Salazar that Dolohov wouldn’t see him. As soon as Granger noticed him, she gave him an almost imperceptible nod, confirming his suspicion.

Staring into Granger’s eyes, he mouthed, “One, two, three,” and then shouted, “Petrificus Totalus!” with Granger echoing him a millisecond later. It suddenly became very quiet in the room, and a muffled thud confirmed a direct hit. Draco walked to the immobilised wizard on the floor and removed his mask. Surprisingly, the bastard hadn't even troubled himself with a Glamour Charm. As their eyes met, Draco said, “Hello, Antonin. It’s nice to see you again,” and punched him in the face … then again, and again, only stopping when two small hands clasped his bloodied fist.

“That’s enough, Draco,” Granger whispered, pulling him away. “The Aurors are here. We have to go.”

Reluctantly nodding, he let her lead him away. “I hate him,” he said, when they turned the corner and entered a deserted corridor. “I bloody hate him. He deserves to die, and the sooner the better.” Alas, he knew that it would be a long time before Dolohov could be returned to England. As Shacklebolt warned him, it could take months to get him transferred.

Granger squeezed his hand, and said, “You’ve done everything you could. It’s now up to the Wizengamot to decide what to do with him.”

Her voice sounded tired, and Draco asked, “Are you all right?” as he gently pulled her towards him.

“Yes, yes, I’m all right. A bit exhausted, though,” she said, moving closer and leaning on him for support. “I just didn’t expect it to happen like that.” She shut her eyes, and rested her forehead on his shoulder. “His hands were on me,” she whispered into his robes, “and my insides … they were burning …”

“Shh.” Draco wrapped his arms around her. “It’s all over now. He’ll never bother you again. I promise.”

She muttered, “Yes.”

“Let’s get out of here,” he said and, pressing her to his chest, Apparated them to the flat.

Once there, he made a half-hearted attempt to draw back, but Granger whispered, “No, please, hold me a little longer,” and clasped his robes. Frankly, Draco didn’t mind. Kissing her hair, he plucked a hairpin from her chignon, setting one heavy strand free. She gasped and raised her head to face him.

“May I?” he said, and took out another pin.

Staring at him with wide eyes, she nodded.

Encouraged, he slowly removed all the pins, one by one, letting her chocolate curls cover her bare shoulder. Then he gently tilted her chin up and traced her lips with his thumb. “I want to kiss you, Granger. May I?”

She smiled, and her cheeks once again reddened. Yet she had enough impudence left to say, “Only if you ask properly,” and gave him a smirk worthy of a Slytherin.

Draco chuckled. “Very well,” he said and then, inclining his head so their lips were practically touching, whispered, “Will you be so kind as to honour me with a kiss, Hermione?”

She breathed out, “Yes,” and he kissed her.

Suppleness of her lips and softness of her curves, made him groan. Wanting more, he pushed her against the wall and hitched her up, settling between her legs. Grinding himself against her thigh, he muttered, “Granger, Granger, Granger, what are we doing?”

She raked her fingers trough his hair and roughly yanked him down to her lips. “I don’t know,” she whispered, “but for Merlin’s sake, don’t stop.”

An overwhelming need to have her gripped him by his throat, and he just knew that there was no going back. Impatient, he tried to yank down her dress, and when it didn’t budge he just tore it with a raspy, “Fuck it!” Stepping back, he dragged his gaze over her nude form. “You’re perfect, Granger!” he said and covered her full breasts with his palms. Pinching her erect nipples, he peppered with kisses her neck and shoulders, and her husky moans reverberated through the room.

“I need you inside! Now!” she soon demanded.

“Hold on,” he instructed, picked her up and manoeuvred them to the sofa. Toppling on top of her, he clasped her face between his palms and said, “Look at me, Granger. I’m going to fuck you now.”

She arched into him and moaned, “Yessss.”

Determined to make her writhe against him, to make cries spill out from her lips, to make her beg, Draco made sure that every crevice, every curve, every spot was licked, pinched, and prodded, and when he eventually buried his cock within her, she did plead him for more. Striving to give more, he fucked her hard and fast, until her movements became pained and jarred. Until her pussy began quivering around him, and the only sounds she could manage were whimpers. He brought her to the brink, and let her fall apart. She came with a long, feral wail of surrender, and he followed with a few last jerky movements and a growl of victory. Hermione Granger was his, at least at that moment. Satisfied, he collapsed on her, and for a while they lay in silence with him still buried inside her.

Later, she surprised him by turning them over and settling on top of him. A few twisted thrusts of her hips made his cock hard again, and she returned the favour, fucking him with the same determination he had earlier. Her moans and his groans filled the room again, and he watched her, enraptured by her untamed beauty. Extending his arms, he palmed one of her breasts, squeezing it lightly. His other hand reached her mouth, and she, being a wicked girl, sucked the tips of his fingers inside her hot mouth. “Ugh,” he moaned and twisted her nipple. She shuddered, and he once again felt her quim trembling around him. Grasping her hips, he thrust into her, and she wailed her orgasm after a few powerful upward plunges. Ripples of her climax triggered his own, and he erupted into her, giving her every last drop of semen he had.

Exhausted, they curled on the sofa, their limbs intertwined. Their breath returned to normal, and Draco, feeling that he was almost ready to pass out, kissed her shoulder, whispered, “I’m in love with you, Granger,” and fell asleep.

In the morning, he awoke alone, in a cold bed. The only reminder of their night together was the faint jasmine scent on the pillow.

He didn’t try to contact her, assuming that she hated him. He was, after all, a Malfoy. It had been foolish of him to hope for anything different in the first place.

Paris, June 5, 2005 (again)

A raindrop landed on Draco’s face, interrupting his musings. He stood up and wiped the wet spot, muttering, “Bollocks.” Taking out a card from his chest pocket, he checked the address again. His destination was just around the corner. Perhaps, he thought, as he walked down the street, Blaise would be able to make his miserable mood go away. Then again, perhaps not.

Rounding the corner, he collided with someone. He had already begun to apologise when a familiar red umbrella on the ground caught his eye. He picked it up and slowly raised his head, knowing whom he would see in front of him. Their eyes met, and he had to stifle a groan. The witch that plagued his dreams for the last six months, just stood there, staring at him and chewing her lower lip. Her hair frizzed wildly around her face, and she looked beautiful, if paler and thinner.

“Granger,” he said, his voice raspy. “What are you doing here?”

She frowned. “I … I’m actually not sure. Blaise asked me to come. He said it was extremely important for me to be here today. So, I … well … ”

“I see.” Draco didn’t let her finish. Shaking his head at his friend’s antics, he said, “Sorry, Granger. I'll kill him on your behalf, I promise.” Handing her the umbrella, he added, “You can go home now,” stepped around her, and continued on his way, wondering about the best way to kill Blaise. Alas, he didn’t have time to come up with anything awful enough.

“Draco, wait,” he heard Granger calling him.

“Shite,” he cursed and turned around. “What?” he snapped, watching her as she tried to catch her breath. It was odd that she had decided to run after him.

“I think we need to talk,” she eventually said.

He rolled his eyes. “About what, Granger? Enlighten me, please, because I don't know any topics I would want to discuss with you. Also, I don’t understand your sudden desire to communicate. After all, we haven’t talked for six months. Why start now?” He folded his arms and glared at her, because no matter how hard he tried to stay aloof, he couldn’t.

Granger sighed. For a moment, it seemed as though she was about to leave, but she began talking again. “I’m sorry … Blaise said … I didn’t know. I mean I knew, but I didn’t realise -”

Draco shook his head. “Granger, stop rambling! You make no bloody sense.”

“I know. I’m sorry.” She closed her eyes and massaged her temples before continuing. “I just want you to know that I don’t hate you. Quite the opposite, actually. That morning… I just wasn’t sure you really wanted me. I thought it was just a stress relief, one-time kind of thing, you know.” Her cheeks reddened, and she suddenly became very interested in her umbrella.

Draco raked his fingers through his hair in a futile attempt to calm himself. “I confessed to being in love with you, Granger. What one-time thing are you talking about?” He couldn’t believe all the nonsense the witch was saying.

Granger abruptly looked up, her eyes wide. “You did what? Shaking her head, she muttered, “I didn’t hear any of it. I didn’t know. I thought…” She groaned. “ … what a mess.”

This time, it was Draco’s turn to feel dumbfounded. “What do you mean, you didn’t hear any of it? You were right there, in my arms!” he shouted.

“I fell asleep, you dolt,” she shouted back at him, and then added softly, “Merlin, we're both so unforgivably stupid.”

Draco stepped closer to her, lifted her chin with his thumb, and said, “So, let me get this straight. You didn’t hear anything?”

She said, “No.”

He could swear his heart tried to jump out of his chest. “And you don’t hate me?”

She shook her head.

“Thank Merlin.” He drew her to him and, breathing in the jasmine scent, muttered in her curls, “It’s my birthday today, you know.”

“I know. I went to Hogwarts with you, remember?” Her arms wrapped themselves around his waist, and she let out a sigh of contentment.

“So … do you have a present for me?”

“Nope.” She shrugged. “You can have my umbrella, though. It’s almost new.”

He shuddered. “No, thanks. I'd rather have you than your ludicrous umbrella.”

“Well … that can be arranged as well.”

“Can it? Really?”

“Yes.”

“Brilliant,” he whispered, and covered her lips with his.

Epilogue

“Finally,” Blaise said to himself, watching the kissing couple. “Took them long enough.”

Smiling, he opened his dark green umbrella and sauntered down the street, whistling something cheerful. He was a genius, that much was obvious. Where his fellow Slytherins would have been without his helping hand was beyond him – probably in a gutter, lonely and miserable. Speaking of lonely … it was time to look for that wild redhead, especially since Theo’s birthday was three months away. There was just enough time …

 

FIN