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I was in the middle before I knew I had begun.

Jane Austen

Chapter One: February


Hermione Granger didn't believe in fate. Not really. Sure, it's easy for her thoughts to get away from her, and she'll briefly ponder a plane of higher existence, or that there is a such thing as soulmates. Of course she'd step back and tell herself that it's only a trope used in fiction to lure readers in.

Love at first sight and soulmates are a bunch of garbage.

The Three Broomsticks is quiet on the first of February. There are heart shaped sugar cookies on the counter and Luna has already decorated for the upcoming holiday. Hermione takes the pumpkin pastry the blonde slides to her and makes her way to the back of the room.

Settling into her normal seat, she pulled her blue notebook from her bag. Hermione patted her pockets for her pen, but it was nowhere to be found. "Bollocks." she muttered. She'd just bought that one! Really, why did she bother buying nice pens when she always lost them?

"Have you lost something?" a voice came from behind her.

Hermione didn't glance back, but she could hear the humor hidden in his tone. "My pen," she replied, digging through her messenger. "I'm always losing them. Bloody ridiculous."

A low chuckle sounded just from above her head. "Does it happen to be blue?"

She nodded. "Favorite colour. Wait, have you seen it?" Before Hermione could get a glimpse of his face, there was a subtle tug on her hair. Had he just…?

"You tucked it into your hair." he said, his pale fingers sliding against hers as he passed her.

He wore a black jogger paired with jeans, and his hood was pulled over his head. She'd never even gotten a peek at him.

"Thank you!" she called after him as the bells above his head sound.

No, Hermione Granger doesn't believe in fate one bit, but in hindsight, she could have believed in something.


Last year at this time she'd been hoping her boyfriend was planning a romantic date for Valentine's Day. And this year..she was sitting in an isolated corner of the Three Broomsticks with her laptop flipped open in front of her. Sitting on the screen was a piece penned by Rita Skeeter.

Skeeter, whose popularity was surprisingly high despite her intelligence being quite the opposite, was her rival from another magazine.

"Maybe you should go home, and sleep," Neville told her, placing her usual order down in front of her. One that she hadn't even ordered. The entire shop staff knew that once she was going, she wouldn't take a break.

Even if it was a much-needed one for caffeine.

Hermione glanced up, brushing a mess of curls out of her face. Most of them sat atop her head in a loose bun, but a few always escaped to plague her. "It would be for the best, I'm sure," she readily agreed with a shrug, guiding her cursor to minimize the tab. "I think I'll stay if that's okay."

Neville chuckled, leaning against the table with his hip propped against the edge. He wore a black apron that had a logo of three brown broomsticks. "Do you really have to ask? You know, Hermione, most adults have a tab in the pubs they frequent, not coffee shops."

Her lips curved as she broke off a bit of the scone. "I would say my addiction is a tad more healthy, wouldn't you?"

His biceps strained against his shirt as he folded his arms over his broad chest. "I might say that if you had any form of a regular sleep schedule."

"I slept yesterday," Hermione defended quietly, not that it really counted when it had only been three hours before she dragged herself out of bed. "I have insomnia, Neville. It's rather rude to critique a customer's life, isn't it?" Even she could not hold a straight face as she said it.

Her barista-turned-friend laughed again before moving away from her. "I'd better get back before Luna creates a new menu."

Hermione laughed as he moved back behind the counter, and she put her earbuds in her ears once more. Tapping her foot against the lower rung of the tall stool, she read through Skeeter's article once more.

She was the most vapid woman Hermione had ever met, with an obnoxious voice that seemed to grow more shrill each time they ran into another. The blonde - it had to be a fake blonde, and Hermione was too smart not to realize this article had come shortly after Hermione pointed out her roots - had an annoying habit of calling her darling. Except it sounded like 'dahhling,' and hearing it from her was similar to nails on a chalkboard.

She hadn't given Rita much of a chance from the moment she met her. Nor had Rita given her one; with her tendency to point out errors like the know-it-all she was, the journalist instantly loathed her. As it turns out, the woman did her own editing and was quite proud of it. She certainly didn't need 'a still-wet-behind-the-ears-kid' to tell her how to edit her articles.

Hermione had been hired by Xenophilius Lovegood as an assistant just as she was still finishing her degree. Nowadays, Luna's father liked to flit around the offices at the Quibbler, but Hermione handled the editing. She was more hands-on than she truly needed to be. Instead of delegating tasks, she enjoyed marking up articles herself.

When she was still attending university, Hermione hadn't had a single doubt that she would graduate with full honours, but it had been naive to believe she'd instantly find a job. She'd been living on Harry's couch until the Quibbler took her in five years ago, and she couldn't see herself ever leaving the career she'd made.

Mr Lovegood took a chance with her, one that she appreciated immensely as she started from the bottom and worked her way up. He'd given her a well-earned promotion when he stepped back from the magazine, and she was all too happy to do everything she could to assure he would not regret hiring her. Hermione was grateful to the man, more than she could accurately describe, as she knew he'd originally wanted someone with experience.

Breaking off another piece of the pumpkin scone, Hermione relished the taste of it as she scrolled. As per normal, the article was riddled with errors, grievous typos. Once upon a time Hermione had actually seen the word 'cunt' printed. She assumed Rita had done some work on her mobile for her typing to autocorrect from 'lint' as she'd claimed.

Feeling vindictive at 2:38 A.M, Hermione copied the article into her word processor, editing it to completion by fifteen after, and then sent it to Rita Skeeter's email address. Of course, she was well aware that what she was doing was just shovelling wood into an already-burning fire. Yet it was hard to feel guilty. Skeeter singled her out each chance she got, only because Hermione already earned more than her.

I noticed you missed a few things, Rita. I'm sure it was a simple mistake, so I thought I'd lend a helping hand!

Leaning back in her chair with a sense of victory and a mischievous smirk on her face, Hermione sipped the pumpkin spice frappuccino. Let Skeeter comment on what she described as the bland, clinical editing of the Quibbler again. She wasn't typically so rude, but it had been twenty-four hours since she'd last slept, and she would have to get at least four hours before starting her day at seven o'clock.

Stumbling out of bed-rolling was more like it-Hermione slammed her palm down on the top of her alarm clock. The screaming sound that Fred had put on it just wouldn't stop no matter what she did or what buttons she pressed.

"Mother-" Hermione broke off, finally tearing it out of the wall.

It didn't stop.

Dragging her fingers through her hair, and then getting them tangled in the stubborn mass of curls that she was putting off brushing, Hermione finally just stomped on her alarm clock. It wasn't the first to be destroyed, and it wouldn't be the last.

It was just that six was too early when she'd only fallen asleep at three, and her sleep had been restless.

Going for a two kilometre run each morning was Ginny's idea. Hermione wasn't sure why she'd gone along with Ginny's New Year's resolution, given that she hardly saw her anymore, but she couldn't bring herself to quit. Somewhere, her sometimes-friend was also dragging herself out of bed to exercise after her husband left for work.

Hermione pulled a jumper over her head, putting her phone in the front pocket and slipping her earbuds into her ears. Her mother had warned her over and over again about the dangers of running when the sun hadn't risen yet while loud rock music blared in her ears.

How will you hear if someone sneaks up behind you? her mother always said worriedly.

It was those memories that made Hermione turn around and grab her pepper spray from the table in the hallway of her flat, though she rolled her eyes while she did it.

On January first, just the jog down the stairs had left her winded. Considering her diet was mainly scones, sugary drinks, and microwaveable foods, it wasn't a shock. They had started out with walking one kilometre, gradually working toward two, and then Ginny stopped meeting her in the mornings.

It didn't upset her. Not having to play nice with her ex-boyfriend's sister was a load off her shoulders.

Plus, she could walk when she needed to take a breath. Ginny has been all for pushing her to the limit and not stopping.

It was worth mentioning that on January first, she had not been able to run for more than twenty seconds. She could make it through the entire first kilometre now, which made the initial burning in her muscles worth it.

Going on a run though, it woke her up well. There was something nice about seeing her little neighbourhood in London coming to life in the early morning hours. She waved to the elderly couple that owned a brick two-level every single morning. And there was a man that was usually walking with his dog, an extremely large breed. Hermione was not ashamed to admit that there were two treats in a sealed bag in her pocket, just in case she came across Fluffy and his owner, Hagrid.

She made her way down to the park, the song switching as she hopped over the ledge and onto the beaten path, narrowly avoiding a patch of ice. The pond in the middle of the park was frozen over, though with spring approaching, it would likely thaw soon.

Hermione rounded the corner, her trainers meeting the concrete. She saw Hagrid waving wildly to her, Fluffy's leash slipping from his grip as a large St. Bernard rushed toward her.

"Oh! Should not have done that, should not have done that," Hagrid muttered sheepishly as she was taken down by a blur that weighed at least ninety kilos.

She'd busted her arse more than once just running, so she certainly didn't stand a chance at staying on her feet with Fluffy launching himself at her.


Draco removed his bloodstained gloves, tossing them into the bin for biohazard waste. Rubbing his wrists, he glanced to the middle of the room. An eighty-six year old man had died on his table. He knew it happened sometimes, that it was a statistical improbability for every patient to survive, but it still bothered him every time and at that age, it hadn't been good odds going in.

A sheet covered his body, and within minutes he would be taken to the lower levels of the hospital.

Outside of the room, Draco knew the man's family was waiting for any kind of news. They would say how they wanted to know the details, whether it was good or bad, but that was what they always said.

Draco picked up the clipboard that sat in a black container screwed into the wall.

"Ollivander," he mumbled to himself, waving off the surgery resident behind him as she attempted to urge him to get on with telling the family that their oldest member had coded, and that they hadn't been able to revive him. His mouth set in a grim line before he snapped without turning to face her, "Ms Bell, I understand if you need to step out of the room."

He could remember the first time he'd lost someone in surgery, their life quite literally slipping from his hands. Sure, the bint - Katie, he reminded himself; human resources would have his arse if he let that slip. As a resident, she'd been in several surgeries, working just as hard as anyone else to keep someone alive. Somehow, he was certain she hadn't been through many where the patient didn't make it.

Dropping the clipboard into the plastic basket with a clatter, Draco slipped the white jacket over his shoulders. He looked over to Katie again - her face had drained of colour as she looked over the sheet covering Mr Ollivander. She definitely hadn't lost many, that was for sure.

"The good news is that we'll know if you can stay in surgery by tomorrow morning." he told her, his voice flat.

She glanced up. The doctor expected for her eyes to be brimming with tears, but all he was met with was her clenched jaw.

"What is that supposed to mean?" Katie hissed, ripping the crimson stained gloves from her hands. "Fuck." She'd missed the waste bin. "I'm not a new girl," she continued, retrieving the gloves and depositing them properly. "I just – I just cared is all. I met his family in the corridor hours ago when he was still smiling and making plans for the weekend."

He understood, really he did, but she needed to put her bleeding heart away.

"Put them in biohazard," he reminded her as he brushed past. Pushing the two double doors open, he could see the family jumping to their feet through the square window.

It happened much like it always did - in silence. The signs were there, the quiet regret etched into his face, his own remorse, and his silence. "We did everything we could," he said solemnly.

A young woman choked on a sob as she looked him over, and she turned into the chest of a man who wrapped his arms around her. A large diamond on her left hand reflected beneath the fluorescent lights. Her husband rubbed circles in her back in an attempt to calm the loud sobs that wracked her body.

"What happened?" the man asked, his tone hard and accusing.

Of course it was. And being the straight-to-the-point kind of man he was, Draco replied calmly, "His heart couldn't withstand the operation."

The petite brunette continued to clutched his shoulder, shaking her head as the man stepped forward. "Stop." Her voice was shaky at best. "My grandfather was weak, and we knew it." The woman tried to say more, but her husband wouldn't have it.

"Isn't it your job to save patients?" he yelled, his chest knocking against Malfoy's as he stepped forward swiftly. His eyebrows drew together in confusion when the doctor didn't stumble backward.

Sliding his hands into his pockets, Draco narrowed his eyes. "I'm sorry for your loss," he told the woman pointedly, his voice clipped. She nodded her head.

"What the fu-"

She grabbed Draco's forearm, giving it a squeeze. "Did he suffer? Could you tell me that at the very least, Dr -" she glanced down at the hospital issued badge, "Malfoy?"

He fell silent. In the moment, lying always seemed like the easiest way out. Except that he would get slammed with a lawsuit and potentially lose his license. Soothing fears was not part of his career description.

"I'm sorry," Draco repeated, taking in stride the glare that the husband shot his way while the woman folded in on herself.

She didn't ask him anything else, and for that, he was selfish and grateful.

Because truly, he couldn't imagine telling her that her grandfather had been revived, and then he'd died on the table. There had been recognition in his eyes, eyes that had seen decades, and then he was gone.

No one ever needed to know the ugliest sides of an operating room.


Her desk wasn't decorated like the majority of coworkers. At one point there'd been a photograph of her with Ron, but she'd dumped it in the trash when she found the messages between him and Lavender.

Her office was plain, with glass windows and a glass door in the front. She kept it meticulously clean, and the semi-annual bring-your-child-to-work day was the bane of her existence.

The small pitter patter of their feet and their widened eyes at the offices at the Quibbler were impossible not to be taken with. Their fingerprints on everything though? Hermione could live without it.

The only personal touches in her office were a dozen mugs in the bottom left drawer, most of them Halloween themed, and an insulated tumbler. Also, there was a bottle of Moscato in the mini refrigerator behind her desk.

At the moment, she considered yanking it from the freezer cubby and filling her tumbler to the brim with wine.

It was February, obviously, and Valentine's Day was only a handful of days away at this point. She'd already preread an article written by Seamus detailing exactly how to Get Your Man, a piece that was accompanied by a short explanation on the best gay pubs in London.

Seamus had also written a funny little line for only her to see, where he'd told her that she should visit The Shrieking Shack to get herself a good shag.

"Treat yourself, he says," Hermione muttered under her breath, the corners of her vision growing blurry.

The rest of the article was good to go after she removed his advice on her abysmal dating life. At least his work only ever contained one or two errors.

Dean's was decidedly more...racy.

It was hard not to think about the sodding holiday when romance articles kept falling across her desk.

"Ten Tips to the Perfect Blowjob." She had a habit of reading things out to herself - they always made more sense that way, even if this wasn't a topic she regularly heard in her own voice. . "Tie up your hair, and slob on his knob," she read out loud, gasping for air as she began to laugh.

So that piece would definitely be scrapped, even though it'd made her burst into laughter. Undoubtedly, that was the sole point since Dean Thomas knew that she'd never put that in the magazine.

Marking the thousand-word article up - did it really take so many words to detail the best way to slob on a knob? - made her feel less gloomy about being alone on Valentine's Day, and possibly happy she didn't have to worry about dating etiquette.

Giggling to herself, Hermione slid her pen back into her bun and reached across her desk for her mug. The coffee in the company break room wasn't as good the Three Broomsticks, but Neville had ushered her off to work with not one, but two pumpkin scones. Biting into one, she dropped Dean's article into the completed basket and reached for the next.

The second she saw Parvati Patil's name, she groaned out loud. It was only half-past ten o'clock, but if she edited all of this in one sitting, she had no doubt she'd be there until midnight.

Not that she had any plans beyond going to the coffee shop a block from her flat, and taking advantage of their high-speed internet.

Still...she'd rather work on her own manuscript than fix Patil's shoddy writing.

The edge of her desk was cool as she braced her hands against it, pushing herself away and making her way to the bathroom with her jumper slung over her shoulder. Her contacts case was in her hand, and her regular glasses were sitting on top of her head.

It was far too late for anyone who wasn't a workaholic to be in the office, she hoped. Warily, she eyed the light that had been left on in her boss's office.

She still checked under the stalls for a pair of feet, just in case, before facing the mirror. Leaning over the counter, she held each eye open as she removed her contacts, placing them back in their container.

Blinking, she brushed her hair out of the way before donning her practical, thick black framed glasses.

Her curls were frizzy, the humidity and rain of that afternoon causing her hair to be even larger than normal. Reaching for the hair tie that should have been on her right wrist, she groaned as she was only met with bare skin. Right, because she'd actually snapped it across the coffee shop that morning when she'd had this exact thought and attempted to wrap it around her mass of hair.

Hermione pulled her jumper over her head, letting it slip to her mid-thigh. It was a size larger than she needed, but she found comfort in the baggy fabric and the way it made it easy for her to curl up on the sofa in her office. Pulling her hair out from the collar, and then detangling it from the delicate chain of her necklace, Hermione gripped the rail of her office door. She kicked her trainers off before clutching Patil's work to her chest and collapsing onto the sofa to sink her fingers into editing.

Hermione should have just drunk the fucking wine. An estimated hour and a half to edit was far too hopeful considering she hadn't even finished. The bloody snippet could have stayed under a thousand words, considering it was only about the most eligible bachelor.

Clearly, that kind of conciseness was too much to expect.

She had read only two hundred words of what read as bad erotica, complete with stars twinkling in his eyes and every woman in London debating his sexual prowess.

Hermione tried not to be too harsh as she made notes on why the word loins would be scrapped from all occurrences.


There was a text waiting for her from Ron when she rolled out of bed. With a timestamp of two a.m.

Hermione deleted it without reading it. No doubt it was because he was drunk, and he was blabbering about their break up. It was the last thing she wanted to deal with.

She didn't bother with her morning run, which was likely a mistake as it was easier to give up entirely if she skipped even one day. Still, it was freezing and she had ideas to get down in writing, she told herself.

She had the day off, so bunding her laptop, mouse, and charger together - it was fully charged, but just in case - Hermione slid it all into her black messenger bag.

Hair still slightly damp from her shower, she pulled the hood of her jogger up and slid her mobile into the front pocket. "Laptop, notebook, red pen," Hermione ticked off each item on her mental checklist, looking around the apartment to see if she'd forgotten anything. Her manuscript was already in the bag, but she couldn't shake the niggling feeling that -

"Earbuds," she muttered in her silent flat. She turned quickly and banged her toe against the corner of the end table beside her couch, letting out a low hiss. They weren't even there and she hobbled around the room trying to find them.

Finally grabbing her earbuds from the bathroom - God knows why she would have left them there - she hurried out the front door.

It was as a harsh, biting gust of wind hit her, and as her feet met the cold concrete, that she realized she'd forgotten her shoes. "Of all the things I could forget," she mumbled under her breath, unlocking her front door.

"Mornin'!" her neighbour called.

Grimacing to herself, Hermione waved to Michael. He was polite enough, but she wouldn't describe him as pleasant to talk to. "Good morning, Michael," she replied, hurrying out of the freezing cold. She hobbled on one leg, leaning against the wall as she slipped her trainers on, her index finger hooked in the heel of the battered shoes.

On the way out, she snatched her extra coat from the rack, a heavy wool one. Wrapping the belt around her, and tying it in the front, Hermione hurried down the staircase before her neighbour could call out to her again.

One of the best things about her local coffee shop was that while the rest of the world was submerged in hues of reds, and pinks, and absolutely drowning in a sea of hearts, within those hallowed walls, it was still Halloween. Ron used to give her shit about it, about how girls should like the most romantic day of the year.

Well, clearly she was a bit different from other women. Being accomplished in her field and working toward even bigger goals looked perfectly fine on her.

Raindrops fell, and the sky was overcast with deep grey clouds rolling in. It brought on an ominous feeling, like a cloak wrapped around her shoulders.

The coffee shop was a five-minute walk from her flat, and come spring, large lush trees would be hanging over the sidewalk. She could clearly imagine the beautiful flowers that would burst to life from the fronts of the iron-gated homes she passed.

Luna called out to her as soon as she stepped inside, "Hermione!" The blonde motioned to a package on the countertop. "Just pulled it out a few minutes ago."

Hermione grinned, snatching the scone for herself. "Thanks, Luna. Any plans for the upcoming holiday?" she asked, taking a small bite as she slid her debit card against the counter. At this point, with her coming to this coffee shop for so long, the baristas kept her rewards card under the counter, just swiping it whenever she came in. It was easier with how forgetful she was.

She'd probably signed up for several different individual cards before the owner, Rosmerta, told her to forget about it with a wink.

Luna charged her card, flippantly tossing it back to Hermione instead of sliding it across the counter. "Neville and I are volunteering at an animal shelter later today." She shrugged, grabbing the largest cup from under the counter.

A smile graced the brunette's lips. "Isn't that what you do every Wednesday though?" she asked. 

There was a wispy way that the woman carried herself, each movement flowing fluidly into the next. And more than once, she'd caught Luna dancing from behind the counter, or even when she was sweeping - and one particularly disastrous time while she was mopping. "Yes, but I think he's surprising me with something."

"An animal?" Hermione asked, bracing her elbows and leaning over the counter.

She shook her head, drizzling caramel over the whipped cream in the drink she handed to Hermione. Gripping the edge of her side of the counter, Luna grinned ear to ear. "Not quite, but maybe. Neville's asking me if I'd like to move in with him."

"How do you know?" Hermione said excitedly.

Luna gave a shrug of her shoulders again. "I just do, Hermione. Plus -" she looked behind her to make sure no one was listening to them, "I overheard Neville going through a mental checklist this morning. 'Puppy picked out, check. Collar, check. Key to our new flat to put on said collar, check.'"

Hermione burst into giggles. "Are you excited?"

The blonde nodded. "Be quiet about it though. He'll be here soon, and he would be so upset to learn the surprise was ruined."

"Of course, Luna." She smiled. "I'll be over in my usual spot."

A gentle wave of Luna's hand as she shooed her off. "See you in an hour when you need another drink."

Weaving between the tables, she made her way to the ones that sat above the rest. The window seat in the corner was her favourite spot in the shop, subtly nicknamed Hermione's Nook because she could sit with her back to the wall, and no one could see what she was typing so madly.

While she'd grown confident in her creative prowess, or at least enough to possibly consider handing it over to a publishing house, that wasn't to say that she needed anyone to see this. She'd already decided the story was weak. The heroine wasn't the brilliant hero she'd started out with, and she recognized that once she'd met the love interest, Hermione had accidentally written her character as a woman who read as if she'd lost her brain.

Using the advice Mr Lovegood had passed to her - to just write it even if she knew it wouldn't work because otherwise she would always be thinking about it - she penned the awful side plot. What was meant to be an arc fell flat, and the climax turning from a battle to a love triangle.

She groaned under her breath.

It wasn't what she set out to do.

Pressing the button at the top of her red pen, she got to work. While she enjoyed editing, that was a far cry from editing one's own work. The wheels were already turning in her head as she noted the scenes that needed to go before she could easily make the mistake of saying oh, no, I meant it this way.

It was the exact excuse the employees of the Quibbler used, and she'd be a hypocrite to not treat herself the same way.

The hero was the best in every way, a perfect alpha male, and it would make the targeted readers swoon. Yet that wasn't really what she wanted. Reading it sounded cheesy, and she wanted to throw the whole thing into the nearest trash can. But then someone would find it, and her name was on it because at one point she'd been confident enough in it to include her name, number, and address if it were ever lost.

She could tear out that page and chuck it into the Thames.

Biting down on her bottom lip, Hermione set her pen down. She brought her cup to her lips, the chilled taste of pumpkin meeting her taste buds, and she relaxed, just a bit. She'd been considering it for some time, that maybe fantasy writing wasn't meant to be her niche. Although it was her favourite to read, perhaps it would not be her best writing.

Now she had only to convince herself there was nothing wrong with that.

The door chimed, and naturally, she glanced over, expecting to see Neville arriving for his shift. No one else would be here so early. Realizing it must speak volumes of how much she was here to know their busiest times and the times they were dead slow, Hermione went back to minding her own business.

Until it wasn't Neville. Not even close.

He had to be new, judging from the wide-eyed look Luna shot her from behind the counter. While she couldn't hear the exchange from so far away, it was all in the body language. Dragging his long fingers -long and elegant, they resembled a pianist's - through white blond hair, he scanned the overhead menu. The man would glance down at his arm only to realize there wasn't a watch there. He must have forgotten it at home or lost it.

Hermione gripped her pen, opening a fresh page as she wrote down a small blurb about him. It was a simple thing really, just the perfect observation of a stoic stranger.

Ron used to tell her how it was weird that she picked up on the smallest details of strangers, but they made for good ideas.

Had he lost his watch on the way here? Perhaps it had been stolen, though with the way she could see his back muscles contort through his jumper, Hermione would have pitied whoever jumped out of an alley at him.


His flat was mostly in boxes. On the sides, Astoria had written what each contained. Walking in after a sixteen hour shift that had turned into twenty hours, he tossed his keys on the coffee table. Grumbling expletives under his breath - breath that should not have been visible, but decidedly was - he grabbed the pamphlet on the table.

Bugger, the office wouldn't open for another two hours, and he didn't feel like calling the twenty-four hour maintenance line for them to fix his central heat and air. Gritting his teeth and rubbing his palms together, he searched for the box labelled winter.

"Fuck off, Tori," Draco growled under his breath upon realizing the bitch had kept his space heater. Considering she would never need it, nor would she even turn it on herself, it could only be for the reason of inconveniencing him. Maybe she hoped he'd freeze to death.

He grabbed his keys and walked out the door. At least his fucking car would have heat.

He'd visited the Three Broomstick once, just before his last shift, grabbing a hot tea to go before he made his way to St Mungo's.

It was a quiet establishment, tucked away from the busy street as citizens rushed past. There was an interesting air to it - from the staff behind the counter, to the quietness of it.

Settling into his car, Draco shifted it into gear without waiting for it to warm up. All he wanted to do was sleep. There was a busy weekend ahead of him, his schedule being inconveniently shifted up now that he would need to have maintenance in his flat to fix his heat. He would be lucky if he managed six hours of sleep before meeting Astoria at noon.

Divorced for nearly a year and he would never be able to get the awful wretch out of his life.

He parked in front of the coffee shop. Early morning at the Three Broomsticks wasn't busy. Still empty, the windows lightly frosted, there was only one woman sitting at a back table.

As Draco tiredly opened his door, his foot landed in a puddle and icy water slid down into his leather shoes, soaking his sock. "Bugger," he grumbled, before sighing in resignation. Shoving the door open further, he double-checked that his wallet was in the front pocket of his trousers, and not about to tumble into the same puddle - because that's how his day was going.

The bell jingled above his head, and the brunette woman in the corner looked up, her eyes widening seemingly in recognition. Draco made his way to the counter and leaned against the railing that would guide the line had there been one.

The blonde girl he remembered from his last visit bustled to the counter, beaming at him.

"You were just here yesterday!"

He blinked. Was it really only just yesterday? His shifts at the hospital were blurring together. "Yes, I guess I was."

She tapped on the screen of the register. "You look exhausted." She said it so cheerfully. Too bloody cheerful when it was five in the morning. "Same thing as last time?"

Draco stared at her. "You remember my order?"

"Like it's hard?" The blonde laughed. "Earl Grey. You like it blended stronger than normal is what you said, correct?"

Dumbfounded, he only nodded and watched her move away. Well, perhaps he'd like this coffee shop more than he'd thought. Luna, he took the time to actually peek at her name at the top of his receipt, had a sharp memory. If she always remembered his order and if his talking to her wasn't always necessary, he would definitely be back.

She returned with his tea in a to-go cup, already sealed with his name written across the styrofoam. The young woman was a bit cheeky since she'd forgone his given name by scribbling Dragon below the lid. He could have made small talk by saying by revealing it was his nickname from his mother, but he was thirty four and didn't need to cute background stories.

"Here," she said, sliding him a muffin. "You look like you need it." Luna grinned and thanked him when he slid a bill toward her as a tip. "You don't have to –"

He shook his head, lifting his cup to his mouth. "It's fine," Draco insisted.

"Luna, do you have a pen? Preferably red. I've left mine at home."

Draco turned to leave, but instead found himself running directly into the brunette that had been sitting in the corner. The lid popped off and he winced when hot liquid splashed over her. "Fuck," he muttered, slamming the muffin down on the table and quickly moved toward her. Fuck, she surely had burns, and the hospital was only a few minutes away.

She flinched away. "I'm fine," she gasped, setting her paperwork on the counter. She checked her clothes quickly. . "My, um, paperwork took the brunt of it. Thanks for that."

Draco ignored the not so subtle accusation. "Are you okay?"

Her lips were set in a scowl. "Ugh, it's all over my paperwork!" He momentarily thought her eyes were the colour of whiskey, a sight he was familiar with as he stared down his glass.

"Did it hit you? Are you hurt anywhere?" Draco continued, but he didn't reach for her again. God, did she even hear herself?

"Shit, I'm going to have to redo it all."

"But are you-" he cut in.

"Yes, I'm fine!" she snapped.

He exhaled harshly through his nose. "Glad to hear it!" Draco rarely raised his voice, not unless he was arguing with Astoria, but for fuck's sake this woman had gotten right under his skin.

"I can't believe this."

He probably would have been pleasant, had she not glared at him. "Glad to hear it then." Draco snapped. "Are you going to replace my drink, or what?"

"What?" She scoffed. "You should have watched where you were going. It's not as if I snuck up on you."


Beside her initial note blurb, she'd made a chart. On the positive side, if she were using him for character inspiration, he was attractive. That was the only thing so far to make it into the left side. On the right side, labelled Cons/Flaws, there was a list: prat, rude, bad attitude, chip on his shoulder.

Really, he had the makings of a flawless young adult genre male if she were into that. Which she wasn't.

But after he dumped his tea on her, Hermione was cross with herself. She'd overreacted.

Fucking surprise.

Two weeks later and he always visited the Three Broomsticks now. He probably believed she was stalking him since she was always sitting in her corner, laptop flipped open, and her hair tied into a knot that sat atop her head.

On Valentine's Day, she was greeted by Luna telling her today was the day Neville would ask her to move in. "That's lovely. Does he realize you'll be redecorating his flat once you officially live there?"

Her friend laughed, sliding a familiar drink across the counter. "The angry blond came by this morning. He asked me if I knew your order, which I do, and he paid for it. Also, he asked me to give you this."

Hermione took the check from her extended hand, reading over it curiously. "He came by already?"

Luna nodded. "He mentioned how holidays always made for the longest shifts." She shrugged. "But he wanted to be sure you got that. I told him you never missed a day of coming in."

Somehow, she was pretty sure the tall stranger already knew that. "Draco Malfoy," Hermione read aloud. She squinted at the scratchy handwriting at the top of the slip. Tilting her head to the side, she made out, "I'm sorry for ruining your paperwork. I hope this is enough to cover the damage to it or your clothes."

Sure, there was a stain that would no longer come out of her jumper, but printing off her manuscript was easily done at work. He didn't know that though. Luna winked at her before Hermione made her way to her table.

Opening the notebook, she sighed and penned in the positive column: possibly thoughtful?


The move to London and his transfer from the St Mungo's in Wiltshire had not been spur of the moment. Neither was his divorce from Astoria. The latter had come following the realization that while once upon a time he was sure he couldn't live without her, he just couldn't live with her anymore.

His parents were disappointed when they didn't attend counselling; Mother harped about the importance of their child having both parents. In a nasty argument over tea, Draco let loose the irritation that he'd let fester for too long. Scorpius still had his parents, both of them, and it was far better to split than to expose him to what a relationship shouldn't look like.

Astoria and Draco didn't agree on much. They fought constantly behind closed doors, but in the end, they both recognized that the wellbeing of their son was their top priority. Unfortunately, he was not old enough to choose - not that Draco wanted to thrust on him the option of which parent he would like more - and without legal interference, Draco told her it would be best for her to keep him the majority of the time. With the long shifts that came with being a surgeon in the trauma unit and the few hours he had to himself each day, it wouldn't make sense to fight for taking him. He would pay for childcare easily, but someone else would be raising his child instead of the mother.

Draco collapsed on a bench at the nurse's station, sliding to the end of the wall where he would be out of the way. Already three minutes late, he hurried to pull his mobile from his white coat and flick to Astoria's name. She answered on the third ring, her features coming into focus.

"You're late." Astoria's voice was clipped, and she knelt down to the floor, smoothing her dress in the same moment. "Daddy's calling. Would you like to talk to him?"

It still grated on Draco's nerves - the way she assumed Scorpius didn't want a thing to do with him. His stomach lurched each time he wondered if she was filling his head with falsities. "Hi." Draco grinned as a high-pitched squeal of his son pierced the air and tiny fingers covered the lens before the hand was snatched away by Astoria.

"Daddy!" Scorpius yelled, and several heads waiting to speak to a nurse turned towards the sound.

Draco turned the volume down. He really couldn't forget such an easy thing as headphones again. "What are you doing?" He rested his cheek against his palm, elbow resting against the countertop.

"Colouring." Scorpius wasn't so used to mobiles that he could flip the camera himself, but he did prop it up against something so he could hold up the drawing. It was a stick figure, and there were pops of colour across the paper. "Ms McGonagall said to draw your hero."

A nurse stood by Draco, shuffling through paperwork, and sliding him the chart of a patient. "It can wait," she murmured. "He sounds adorable."

Well, he was. Draco tilted the screen so she could see Scorpius. "And who is your hero, Scorp?" Draco asked.

There was a light huff in the background. "You. Duh." The four year old snorted and rolled his eyes. "Can't you see it? Here," he pointed to the drawing, "here is your doctor coat, and your...steffo - scope."

Draco clapped a hand over his mouth, chuckling as Scorpius attempted the word again. Try as he might, he still could not form the word, but it certainly didn't keep him from trying. "Stethoscope," Draco said.

"It's not nice to laugh." Scorpius pouted, giving his best glare.

"I would never laugh at you," Draco murmured. "Are you having a good day?"

His head bobbed, thin blond hair falling into his face. "Mummy let me have a pastry before dinner." Scorpius whispered, eyes darting to the side.

Draco snorted. "Was it good?"

Another nod. "She said I could have it if I promised to eat my veggies." Draco already had an inkling where this was going. "But I crossed my fingers behind my back."

Draco flipped the chart over, seeing the surgery that was scheduled in an hour. Returning back to the call, he was smirking. "Crossing your fingers won't work with your mum."

Grey eyes shot open. "What?"

Draco sniggered. "It's true," he said with a shrug. "Your grandma told me the same thing. It's magic."

"So..." Scorpius trailed off, bringing the phone close to his face. "Mummy is a witch then?"

An agreement was on the tip of his tongue. "Hang on, Scorpius," he murmured, laying the phone down. His profile was still in view, and then Katie's, as she came to the counter. "What is it? Surgery isn't scheduled for another hour." An hour which he had planned for a short lunch break and seeing his son.

His surgical resident glanced down at his phone, biting her lip at the sight of the wide eyed little boy. "It's been moved for later. We have a patient being taken to OR 1." She paused. "I'm sorry, Dr Malfoy, it can't wait."

The apology was a knee jerk reaction, a bad habit he'd yet to break her of no matter how many times he said she needn't apologize. Draco nodded, running a hand through his hair. "Time for me to go, Scorp." Not wanting to hang up until the last possible moment, Draco kept his mobile up while he followed Katie. "I'll see you this weekend."

"Is someone hurt?" The question made Katie freeze mid-step as Draco hurried past her. "Will they be okay?"

Draco said, "Yes." His son was four. While he didn't feel optimistic about the injuries that led to surgery from Katie's face, he could fake contagious positivity. "This weekend, Scorp," he promised, finger hovering above the red button. "Love you."

"I love you too."

Draco hung up, his smile wiped from his face as he removed his coat. "Forgive me for the delay, I won't be able to talk to him again until my next two shifts are completed. What is it?"

She gave a curt nod. "It's a thirty year old man; he was the victim of a stabbing," she said, watching him as he undid the fastening of his watch.

Dr Malfoy cleared his throat, his eyes narrowing. "Dr Bell, he is the victim of a stabbing. Unless he's already dead, in which case there's no need for surgery." At her silent fuming, he continued, "Continue."

Beside him, Katie removed her necklace, her wedding ring, and her own watch, setting it in the bin. "No allergies. Medical history only includes a prior surgery to remove his appendix."

Dr Malfoy pressed the timer, the countdown beginning from two minutes and they started scrubbing their hands. Taking extra care to scrub the sides of his fingers, and the fronts and back of his hands, he asked, "Is he coherent?"

She smirked, probably would've snorted if she weren't preoccupied. "He's complaining of shortness of breath. Other than that, he's scared, but he won't admit it." That little bit of humanity sneaking into her voice had her falling silent. "Paramedics told us he made jokes on the way to the hospital."

He nodded, moving to scrub his arms as he kept his hands lifted. "He'll be fine. What's his name?" Draco didn't always like hearing the name. Yet London wasn't Wiltshire, and he knew close to no one here.

"Fred Weasley."


She was on her way to the Three Broomsticks when Ron called her, out of breath and yelling into the phone while Molly's shrieks could be heard in the background. "Ron, I can't understand you." Hermione said, stepping farther away from the street as a car sped through and nearly covered her with water.

She probably should have just taken her car, but the coffee shop wasn't far from her flat, and she did enjoy the walk. She could see Neville just inside the glass as he wiped down tables.

"Fred was taken to St. Mungo's. Mum is still - well you hear her, don't you?" Ron asked, his tone sharp and clipped.

His mother sounded on the edge of hysteria.

"What happened?" Hermione tucked a piece of hair behind her ear as the wind ripped through the street. A car door shut near her as the headlights flashed in time with the lock.

It was the blond man whose name she couldn't recall as there was so much screaming in her ear. He looked to her, eyebrows raised before he tightened his jumper around him and made his way into the shop.

She should go thank him, and give him the check that was still folded up in her handbag.

"The shop was robbed; Fred was stabbed."

Hermione turned on her heel and sprinted back to her flat.

She met Ron and Harry in the hospital lobby, throwing her arms around Ron's neck. "Is he okay?" Hermione breathed, squeezing his arms. "I know you didn't know much yet when you called."

Ron nodded. The rims of his eyes were red, and his hair was pointing in different directions. "He's going to be okay." He mumbled, pulling her in for another hug. "His surgeon told us he was still making jokes as they gave him an anesthetic."

Hermione smiled. "It sounds like he was still himself then. Have they caught who robbed the joke shop?"

"Not yet," Harry interrupted. "That's where I'm heading now. Hermione, stay with Ron?"

Hermione hugged Harry, nodding. "Of course. I'll be here as long as you are." She nudged Ron in the ribs. "Let's visit the gift shop. Fred would appreciate it, don't you think?"

He mumbled in agreement as he followed her, stuffing his hands in his pockets. "What if he's not okay, Mione? What if he –"

She shook her head. "What did the surgeon tell you? Didn't he talk to the family?"

"Doctor said he'd be fine..that he may need physical therapy," he uttered brokenly.

They weren't in a relationship anymore, but Hermione slid her hand into his for comfort. "You're understandably worried, but Fred will make a full recovery. Worrying means you suffer twice. For right now, just help me find something he would like."

Chapter Text


Chapter Two: March - Everything in Between


Fred was on the mend, and he was still making jokes whenever and wherever he got the chance. The first thing out of his mouth when it came to Sunday dinner at the Burrow, the affectionate nickname for the Weasley home, was how Molly could tell him and George apart now.

Molly flew out of the kitchen as the timer over the oven blared, exclaiming she needed to get the blasted pie out of the oven. Arthur let his head fall into his hands from his spot at the head of the table, while Ginny's lip curled up in disgust.

Hermione's mouth fell open; a loud clatter echoing in the room as her fork fell to her plate. "Fred," she hissed, "you can't just make a joke about your missing ear to your mother."

Fred blinked, the picture of ignorant innocence. "I'm alive, aren't I?"

If she'd been seated on the other side of the table, Hermione would have smacked him.

Ginny, however, was within range of delivering a sound wallop to the back of her brother's head, glaring as he protested. "Absolutely ridiculous." Ginny grumbled, snatching the bowl of roasted potatoes from the middle of the table. "Mum was catatonic in the hospital; the least you could do is drop the jokes."

Hermione grimaced at the story Ron and Harry had recounted; involving Molly Weasley and the poor surgeon that had only been doing his job when he delivered the good news. She wouldn't be surprised if every employee in St. Mungo's hadn't heard Molly's shriek as she supposedly launched herself at the surgeon.

Ginny chose to tell her how the surgeon in question was fit, rather strong - probably from lifting patients - and how he had awkwardly patted Molly Weasley on the back.

In the two weeks since Fred had been allowed to return home to his shared flat with George, Molly had sent no less than four appreciative baskets of home cooked treats to the surgeon. It was Hermione's opinion that the entire surgical team should have received similar tokens, but she decided inserting such thoughts when not asked would not be in her best interest. , Dinners with the Weasleys were still more awkward than not, and some days she wasn't sure why she subjected herself to them.

Perhaps it was because they had been family before she'd been with the youngest son, and maybe it was also for the bouts of free entertainment. Still, she didn't sit beside Ron if she could help it. One failed relationship, and dissolved engagement down, it was too risky for Molly to think they were getting back together if they gave the image of coziness.

And Hermione did not want the Weasley matriarch to think she was getting any grandchildren out of her.

Molly swept back into the cramped dining room once more, her mascara smudged from tears she seemed to be unable to control. She set the pie in the middle of the table that she swore was an antique from a noteworthy Prewitt relative. "Alright then," Molly cleared her throat as she settled into her chair, smoothing a napkin across her lap. "How has everyone's week been?"

In true Weasley fashion, loud conversation exploded across the table. Hermione leaned back in her chair, quietly chewing her chicken, waiting for Molly to reign control back in over the table. This chaotic event had become part of an unchanging routine; it was partly why she continued returning.

"We'll start with Ginny!" Molly yelled, seizing control at last. "How was your week, dear? Did anything exciting happen?"

Her daughter stared at her from over the edge of her cup. "Not particularly. I had practice on Wednesday and visited St Mungo's. Harry and I have come to a decision you might like though."

Harry shot Hermione a pleading look. "Stop her," he mouthed.

Hermione glared back at him before giving in and shoving her spoon into her mouth, making a show of choking on her food. "Can't—breathe —" she gasped, laying her hand against her chest.

"Ron!" Molly shrieked, snapping him with a hand towel. "Do something, would you!"

Well familiar with this hoax of an emergency, Ron played his part well; that is, until his shoddy attempt at a Heimlich truly made her choke. Hermione thrashed in his arms to get the message across. "Blimey," he muttered, smoothing her hair after she fell into her chair. "Maybe not shovel it into your mouth so much? Mum might think you're not feeding yourself." Ron added.

Her face was still red when Molly focused on her with narrowed eyes. "Hermione?"

"I'm feeding myself, Molly."

The woman didn't look convinced. "How has your week been?"

"Oh," Hermione waved her hand, "just busy with work. Valentine's Day was a bit of a nightmare, really, with all of the ridiculous articles we printed."

"I saw that article about how to slob on a knob," Ginny chimed, a wicked grin twisting her lips, "Harry appreciated the tips especially." At the remark, the tips of Harry's ears flushed red and Molly turned away from that.

"Did you meet anyone for Valentine's Day?" Molly asked with a smile. A bit forced, Hermione noticed, but the woman was still holding onto the smallest shred of hope to have her as an official daughter-in-law.

Hermione was briefly reminded of the prick with grey eyes from the Three Broomsticks. Technically, she had actually met him before the holiday, at least that was when she'd first spoken to him, and that had gone so well. As for the loveliest day of the year was only a coincidence that he'd done something nice for her.

All too late, Hermione realised she had been staring off into space for several long moments. The entire table was staring at her, some open mouthed, some with quiet joy written across their faces, and one with a muted jealousy laced through the weak smile he gave.

Molly squealed, throwing her hands in the air. "You did meet someone!"

She immediately shook her head furiously, her face heating up even though she didn't have a reason to, and she waved her hands as if she could swat away the ridiculous notion. "I didn't! Not really, he was just some prick at the coffee shop." she reasoned.

Molly laid her chin against her palm as she grinned. "A coffee shop romance? That sounds darling, love. Tell us more about it, would you?"

Ron looked as if he was going to be sick, but he nudged her foot under the table. Her ex nodded to her, and while she knew this wasn't a true romance, it did say something about his trying to be happy for her.

Seeing as there was no way out of this situation, Hermione sighed as she caved. "Fine, but it's really nothing. This isn't some grand love affair. He's truly just some prick I met at the Three Broomsticks." Not a total prick, she reminded herself. "Fine, he's not a total prick."

"Adversaries to lovers is certainly passionate." Molly said with a dreamy expression.

Hermione balked, though, not at the word itself. She'd written far worse in her own stories, after all, but there was something about hearing it from Molly's mouth... "Earlier in the month," she blurted out. "I saw him then; I think he may be new to the area since I've never seen him before."

George had propped his head up from his plate for the tale as well. "Just because you've never seen him before doesn't mean he hadn't been there before." he pointed out.

"True, but ever since I saw him the first time," and took notes about him for character building, you little creep, "he's visited almost every day. He's there just as much as I am, and his schedule seems just as scattered, if not more so."

"What does he look like?" Ginny asked.

"Tall, blond," Hermione replied, "and seems to have a sour look on his face most of the time." Except for that time he thought he'd harmed her, and she'd caught a hint of concern flittering across his face. "He dumped his tea all over me by mistake once; completely ruined my manuscript ."

For which she had still not apologised for, she added to herself, despite seeing him enter the shop every day since.

She dismissed the thought and continued, "I shouldn't have gotten so angry with him, but I did. He was a prick in return."

Harry arched an eyebrow. "What did you expect?"

"Well, then he paid for my order after asking Luna what I liked. He also left a check with a note to cover any damages to my clothes, or what was in my hands. Now that I think about it, I'm a bit ashamed I haven't quite apologised myself, or thanked him for that matter."

Molly looked scandalised. "If he's there as much as you say, why haven't you spoken to him?"

"It's been two weeks." Hermione replied. "Too much time has passed since it happened, and if I do it now, it only looks like I was looking for an opportunity to talk to him."

"Don't you want to talk to him?" the older woman asked.

Hermione shook her head. "Not particularly. Like I said earlier, it was an accident that I even met him in the first place. I have no desire to get to know him. This isn't a love story in the making, Molly."

"Well, you should meet someone - I have an idea!" Whatever her idea was, it couldn't possibly good with the look on her face and gleam in her eye. "I have another basket to be delivered today."

Hermione blanched as the pieces came together. "Are you trying to fix me up with a surgeon?" she blurted.

Molly had the good sense to look embarrassed. "He's quite brilliant, dear. I would assume you would be attracted to his intelligence, wouldn't you?"

"I do not need you to play matchmaker." Hermione groaned, sliding her hands down her face. "No, thank you, Molly. I'm due in the office to review some last minute deadlines."

"But…" Molly trailed off, looking to Ginny, "like she said, he's rather fit. Surely you're due for some sort of check up sometime soon?"

"He's a surgeon," Hermione said dryly. "Even if I was due for a check up, it would not be a surgeon to give me an exam." She thought she ought to shut the conversation down then, but it was too entertaining even if her mind was made up.

Molly waved a hand, ignoring her husband's attempt to quiet her. "You could say you took a wrong turn,"

"Mhmm," Hermione hummed, "I somehow doubt saying I got lost will lead to snogging in a closet."

Ron coughed. "Mum, can't you let this go? Hermione doesn't want to deliver your basket, and she doesn't want to be set up on a date with that surgeon - Malloy was his name?"

Harry shook his head. "Maltoy, right?"

Molly huffed. "What would you know about what Hermione wants, Ronald? I don't think she'll be telling you when she does plan to date again."

Hermione almost snorted. She and Ron had mutually promised to remain friends, which meant being open with all parts of their lives; even if it was utterly awkward when Ron had told her he was taking Lavender on a date.

Ron looked to her. "Do you want to meet the bloody surgeon?"

His mother waited with a smile and bated breath.

Hermione rolled her eyes. "I'm not interested, but thank you for trying, Molly." She laughed. "I'm not interested in dating anyone at the moment."

"I can try harder," Molly Weasley murmured. "Oh! Charlie will be visiting this weekend. Maybe you could show him around?"

Ron's face turned as red as his hair. "Mum, my brothers are off limits."

Hermione gave him a look. "You realise I have no intentions of dating a Weasley ever again, don't you?"

"Ouch," Fred said, "she wounds us so, doesn't she, Forge?"

George nodded, wiping away false tears. "She does, Gred. 'Mione, if you were to date another Weasley, which one of us would it be?"

"Not Percy, that's for sure. He's more uptight than even you." Fred whispered to his brother.

Hermione sniggered while she watched the twins.

"Not Bill either. He's married to Fleur already, and so in love with her it makes me want to vomit." George said. "Ickle Ronniekins is out. He already made a mess of that."

"That would leave the two of us and Charlie then. Won't you tell us?"

Hermione shook with laughter. "At this point, if I were to date another one of you lot, it would be Ginny."

The aforementioned Weasley smirked as she leaned into Harry. "Better watch out, Potter. She could read me poetry. Fuck, she could even write me poetry."

"Shall I start with your eyes, or your curves?" Hermione commented, moving for a paper and pen from her handbag.

Molly let her head fall to the table.


The drive back from Wiltshire was always pleasant as long as his son was buckled up in the backseat. Scorpius bounced in the car seat, gazing out of the window as trees raced by. Draco could hear him quietly counting the lines of the paved road as well, grumbling when he couldn't count any higher.

"How was your week?" Draco asked. A head of messy blond hair snapped up to look at him in the rearview mirror, and he could see the child's face was covered in chocolate. "Did you nick treats from Mummy's stash before we left?"

"Maaaaybe," Scorpius drawled, popping another sweet into his mouth. "Want one?" He strained to lean forward as Draco stretched his arm back. "Sharing is caring, Miss McGonagall says."

Draco grinned from ear to ear while he steered with his knee as he unwrapped the candy. "Smart lady. How as your week?" he asked again.

His son gave a small sigh. "Mummy was a jerk."

"How so?" Draco was more than aware of his ex-wife's tendency to write off their son's concerns, lumping them in as nothing because he was a child. The surprise on his face told him that it had happened again this week.

"In class, Miss McGonagall asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up."

"And what is that?" Draco asked while he drove along the curved road.

"A surgeon," he replied without hesitation and Draco smiled to himself. "But Mummy complained about it to one of her friends."

"I'm sorry you heard what she had to say." It went without saying that Scorpius wouldn't have overheard anything good, but Draco wasn't going to ask his four-year-old to give an exact recounting. It sowed the seeds of doubt if he needed to report the workings of his parents to one another.

"Mummy said I shouldn't want to be like you," Scorpius said regardless. "She was talking to Pansy and she said that you left your family." Draco's fingers tightened on the wheel. "I don't think you left me, Daddy."

Overwhelmed, Draco wasn't sure how to respond.. "I don't want you to ever feel that way," he managed to answer.

He caught Scorpius slump in his seat. "Do you love Mummy?"

If there were ever a question to make him freeze in place, this was surely it. Still, he never wanted to lie to his son, and there were some hard truths to swallow when it came to divorce. Slowly, Draco shook his head. "I love your mother very much, Scorpius. You are half of her. I'm not in love with her."

His son blinked. "What does that mean?"

Draco sighed. Fuck his need for honesty. "You can love someone without wanting to be with them anymore."

"So you love her because…"

"She gave me you."

Scorpius nodded, his bottom lip trapped between his teeth. "But you don't want to be with her?"

His grip on the steering wheel hadn't let up. "That would be correct."

Scorpius relaxed. "Okay." he paused. "Do you want to be with anyone else then?"

Draco choked on his own saliva. "What?" he asked, his voice much louder than it needed to be. "No, there's no one I want to be with. You're my priority, Scorpius. I have no interest in dating at all."

Humming to himself and unwrapping another chocolate, Scorpius didn't notice the awkwardness one bit. "Okay. If you ever do, can I meet her?"

There was no doubt Astoria would be furious if any of this conversation ever got back to her. As jealous as she was even after the divorce, Draco hadn't been worried about having this conversation for a long time yet. He sighed. "Of course you would meet her. You have to like her too, you know." Draco said.



Loud rock music streamed through her headphones as she sat in the corner of the coffee shop, one leg tucked beneath her bum. It was a quarter past three in the morning, and Hermione had not yet slept. Despite knowing that she would be dragging herself out of bed for a morning run in just a handful of hours, and trudging through the door into her office, she turned up the music and settled into her work.

Ron had invited her to go out the night before, to visit a new club that had opened in central London. Even though she'd told him it wasn't a new club at all, it hadn't mattered one bit. Frequent visits to the Shrieking Shack to get pissed had been a thing of her youth, and she had no desire to discover how well she handled hangovers now.

Her pen was laying in front of her, mocking her from its diagonal placement. The sheet beneath it was fully marked up, several sections marked through with red, and she was no closer to ending her writer's block than she had been the night before.

"Fuck," she muttered as she crumpled up the paper. It wasn't going to do her any good anyway. There was no point of still looking at it. A shadow fell over her table suddenly, and she glanced up, hands already moving to cover her outline. "Luna, you scared the shite out of me."

The blonde slid into the seat across from her, being sure to have a decent view of the shop. "Sorry. What's wrong?"

"Nothing," Hermione replied quickly, flipping her notebook shut. "How long are you working nights?"

Luna clicked her tongue, ignoring Hermione's attempt to change the subject. She slid her hand sliding over the notebook, pulling it to her. "Come on, Hermione. You've known me for a long time; you can trust me to have a look." Her eyes flickered, "But, only if you feel comfortable, of course."

Hermione nibbled her bottom lip. "Well," she trailed off, still not loosening her grip. "You'd have to promise not to laugh."

Her friend snorted, which wasn't a promising reaction in the least. "You're an editor; you're paid to look over the work of others and critique it. I somehow doubt anything you write will make me laugh unless it's meant to be humorous."

Hermione sucked in a breath, averting her eyes. Luna was right. Given her career, she should have been more comfortable with others seeing her work. How else was she ever going to publish? Still… "I'm not sure. It's just awkward."

Luna waved her hand. "Well, let me just…" She trailed off, scribbling something on the side of Hermione's cup. "That was my pen name for when I wrote atrocious self insert fanfiction when I was fourteen. Feel free to have a look and a laugh."

Hermione's loud laughter echoed in the shop, and she let go of the folder and her notebook. "That's fair. There's honestly not much to look at yet; I've been stuck since the beginning."

She nodded. "What has you stuck then?"

Everything, but Hermione wasn't likely to say that. "I can't write romance." She settled with that answer. "It's bloody impossible. I haven't had much experience and everything I've scraped together sounds like a prepubescent adolescent is writing it."

The week before, she'd set aside her plans for a high fantasy novel when it was beginning to suck the life out of her. She might revisit it, one day... Or she might not...

"I can see why you feel that way." Nice as she was, Luna had a streak of brutal honesty, and she wasn't likely to hold back an opinion when asked. Nor would she sugarcoat it either. "But I think you have a good start. I like these character sheets. God, you're so organised, but I should have never expected anything less."

Hermione smiled a bit. "Well, I have to admit they're only due to observation. A coffee shop setting is a good way to imagine characters."

Luna snapped the paper into place in front of her, ice blue eyes flicking to Hermione's as they scanned the sheet in front of her. "I see," Luna cleared her throat, the corner of her mouth twitching. "And this male lead, was he inspired by any customer in particular?"

Realising she'd been caught, heat flooded to her cheeks. "Not really." Hermione's voice cracked, giving her away immediately. "It's more a collective observation, you see."

Luna giggled as she placed the paper back on the table. "Did you know that almost any time you tack on 'you see', your voice shoots up that high pitch range? You're lying."

Bugger. Hermione swallowed. "It might have been from one person. He made an impression is all."

Bobbing her head, Luna nodded toward a customer as the overhead bell rang out. "Tell me about this guy then. Don't worry, Neville can take his order."

She rolled her eyes, but obliged any way. Hermione rested her chin on her knuckles, shifting in her seat and crossing her ankles. "For starters, he's just left a gym." The man was drenched in sweat through his shirt. "He might just live close by, or he decided not to change so everyone would know he's just finished an intense workout.

"He usually wears a wedding ring." Hermione whispered, pointing to the tan lines that revealed he was missing his ring. "So, it's likely that he doesn't wear it to work out because who would? He might lose it, or it's even possible that he's recently lost it if you want to think of all of the possibilities."

"Hmm, what else does that make you think?"

She drummed her fingers against her nose before sighing. "I don't think he's the type to have an affair. Obviously he wears the ring often, and if you look at him instead of me," Hermione swatted Luna's arm, "he's buying two coffees. The large one isn't for him. He's also buying a pastry, probably to take home to his wife. Maybe she works the early shift somewhere and he's going to surprise her."

"Huh," Luna commented. "So you sit here and just create an entire life for someone while you brainstorm?"

It was the first time she'd talked about her writing process with anyone, and as she did so, Hermione thought it could be construed as weird. "Typically. I think it helps to have a face to keep in mind while I plot. Does that make sense?"

Luna readily agreed. "Okay, I'll do this one." she smirked.

Hermione's stomach dropped as she saw the familiar head of blond hair through the glass. "You bitch," she hissed under her breath.

Giggling to herself, she waved to the man before settling into her seat. Luna patted the seat beside her. "Come on, come sit beside me so you get the full show."

Begrudgingly, Hermione complied.

"Since you've mentioned rings so far, this one definitely isn't married. No line, no ring, and he doesn't give the impression that he plays well with others."

Hermione snorted but added nothing.

Luna continued, dismissing she'd ever been cut off. "He's attractive though, maybe a girlfriend? A friend with benefits? It seems I'm not as good at this as you are. What do you think he does for a living?"

Hermione hesitated. There weren't any hints at all, but there was something… curious. It could have been a habit, but still altogether noticeable. "I'm not sure," she remarked quietly, "but I would hazard the guess that it's something with his hands. Do you see how he constantly looks down at them? It's a bit unusual, and —" Hermione broke off.

The man, Malfoy was his name, she remembered, pulled his wool gloves from his hands carefully. He placed one in the palm of his still gloved hand, rolling it off the hand, and wrapping one inside the other before tucking it into his pocket.

"He must work in the medical field, but don't you dare ask me to narrow it down anymore than that." Hermione said, keeping her voice down and eyes on the table lest the man turn around and catch her staring. "Is he walking over here?" she murmured.

"Yes," Luna replied quietly, flipping the notebook closed. "Hello, how are you?"

Hermione met his eyes, and she was certain that her cheeks were tinged with an awkward crimson colour. He would likely get the impression his looks had something to do with it, but she also realised that his learning of their… discussion would be even worse. "Hello," she managed.

"Good morning." His voice was raspy and he slid his fingers through his damp hair. "I haven't had the chance to ask, but were you able to replace your clothing and whatever it was that you were holding?" Still holding the styrofoam cup in his hand, steam escaping the hole at the top, he motioned toward her.

She nodded, aware of Luna's knee knocking against hers beneath the table when she didn't reply soon enough. "Yes, I did, but I work as an editor, so you didn't need to replace the paperwork." Hermione wasn't sure why she didn't just say manuscript as she always did. "Of course you didn't know that, but I'd love to pay you back for that. I kept the check."

A slow, heart-stopping smirk curved his lips. "I'm aware. It never cleared my account. I checked."

Had she sounded ungrateful? "And my shirt was cleaned in the second wash," she quickly added, "so I thought you would like your money back. I saw you here the day after, but I, unfortunately, had a family emergency, and needed to rush to St Mungo's. I meant to thank you that day."

She'd meant to thank him every time she'd seen him after that too, but as more time passed… Well, it was just awkward at that point, wasn't it? Hermione dug through her bag, producing the check and handing it to him.

He shook his head. "Even if your belongings are fine, please keep it as an apology for my horrid behavior that day. As anyone could understand, it was a shitty day, and I took it out on the first person I saw."

Her mouth dried. "This is too much for an apology!" Hermione insisted.

Luna appeared to have relaxed in her seat, looking entirely too entertained by the scene playing out to interrupt.

He gave a dismissive wave. "I've budgeted. It's nothing to me. Just take it and buy something nice for yourself."

Hermione gaped at him, waving the check in his face at a reasonable distance as she shot out of her seat. "This is absurd. My shirt was worth seven pounds because I pulled it off a clearance rack in a second hand shop. And as I've said, I printed my paperwork free of charge. Fifty pounds is simply too much. Just buy me a coffee for being a prick!"

He chuckled as he sipped his drink. "Are you always like this?"

Hermione blinked. "Like what?" she asked.

"Ridiculously self-righteous. I assume you must always be this way as it usually isn't a randomly occurring trait."

"You know," Hermione placed her hands on her hips, "I was going to mention that I was a scathing bitch to you that day..."

"And now you aren't? Pity," he murmured over the edge of his cup. "Here I was so looking forward to it."

She tripped over her own voice. "Just buy me a coffee."

He arched a pale brow. "Are you typically so forward when it comes to dating?" He was teasing her and she was at a loss on what to say.

If he wasn't mostly a stranger, Hermione might have entertained the idea of striking him. Yet he was, and that would be problematic no matter the situation. "I meant instead of giving me fifty pounds."

He shrugged. "Sure. Why not?" Malfoy snatched the check from her hand. He pulled a leather wallet from his pocket, pulling a few bills from it and pressing the crisp bills into Luna's hand. "Use that for her coffee addiction, will you?"

Luna grinned ear to ear. "Absolutely."

It was decidedly not what Hermione had meant at all.


The days had the tendency to blur together following the trip back to Wiltshire. He'd made the drive back, carried his sleeping son into the house that his wife had fought tooth and nail for in the midst of their divorce. Astoria glared at him, as was the usual, over the edge of her tea cup, while Draco took a moment to put Scorpius to bed.

And then, as was also the usual even though he wished it weren't, they argued. It was hushed on the lower floor while their only shared link slept fitfully up the stairs and to the right on the corridor. He told her that she needed to keep her opinions to herself, or at least to be sure that Scorpius couldn't hear her.

She'd volleyed back with the weak jab that Scorpius should know, and she certainly wasn't going to hide Draco's closet of skeletons.

Draco had walked out the door at that, knowing it was a lost cause. He would never call his ex-wife crazy only because their vows, and marriage, and talks of forever turned out to be a whimsical hope. At the root of all of their problems, Astoria had a temper that she often lost control of, and she was unwilling to admit her own faults. It could never be her fault. The blame was constantly placed on his shoulders.

Until he'd grown tired of it and filed for divorce.

He'd stopped by Malfoy Manor, and sat for tea with his mother since he would only get a phone call riddled with tears if he didn't. Narcissa still spoke highly of Astoria, despite knowing just what sort of woman she was.

"Draco," she said. His mother unfolded a napkin, spreading it across her lap. She wiped the crumbs from her mouth before speaking again. "How is Astoria? Have the two of you made any progress in regards to your marriage?"

He wanted to snap at her, but she was his mother, still very dear to him, and it wouldn't do. Draco sighed, dabbing his mouth with the embroidered napkin she handed him. "Mother, there is no marriage to discuss. We're divorced."

Her shoulders slumped, but she wasn't deterred. "Such an ugly word don't you think? Divorce."

"I disagree. I find it liberating."

A fork clattered to the floor and she cursed quietly under her breath. "Draco," she chastised.

He shook his head. "I know you wanted us to patch up our problems, likely more than I did, but there is nothing to discuss. Astoria is unwilling to change, and she's happy to poison my son against me."

"She would never—"

"—I have already spoken with Scorpius. Yes, she would, Mother." Draco pushed his plate away, crossing one ankle over the other. "Enough about this. Tell me how your week has gone. Have you found a new event to plan yet?"

Brow furrowed still, Narcissa studied her son a moment more.. "No," she answered, allowing the subject change after all. "Lucius has been meeting with shareholders this week and it is apparently imperative I entertain the airheaded twits. How are you settling in at the London location?"

He gave a slight shrug of his shoulders. "It's going well. I'm either there or my flat. I've picked up visiting a coffee shop near my flat."

His mother latched onto the smallest detail about his new life. "A caffeine addiction isn't good for you. Have you made any friends since you've arrived?"


Draco scoffed. "Mother, I'm thirty-five,"

Swiftly cutting him off, Narcissa waved a napkin in his face. "You're never too old to make friends. Come now, you must have talked to at least one person you don't work with."

There was the one he'd spilled steaming tea over and yelled at, but he didn't think she counted all things considered it. "The barista is nice. Her name is Luna, I believe."

"And are you friends with this Luna?"

"I've just told you—" he cut himself off, pinching the bridge of his nose. "No, she's not a friend. She's just someone I happen to see everyday."

Narcissa scrunched her nose in disdain. "You can brew your own tea at home, Draco. You shouldn't spend so much money in a coffee shop. It's a waste."

Oh, yes, because his mother was an expert when it came to staying frugal. "I like how they make it," he offered.

"Well," she grumbled, "as long as this woman keeps her hands to herself—"

"Mother," he warned, clenching his jaw. "I'll tell you just as I told my son, I am not interested in dating. Not in the slightest. My divorce was only just finalised six months ago." But both he and Astoria had been checked out of the marriage mentally long before that. He might not have mentioned it, but being married to Astoria fucking Greengrass for six years was enough to make him swear off relationships for good.

She flashed him a million watt smile. "I'm only looking out for you, darling. You're a young, and successful surgeon. Someone who is undoubtedly making so little would latch onto you in a heartbeat."

He stood from the table, throwing his napkin down as he donned his jacket. "Clearly, this conversation is always going to circle back to my private life."

Narcissa jumped out of her seat, her sensible heels clacking against the linoleum as she followed him. "I just think that you should move back here. Must you put so much distance between your son and yourself?"

He whirled on her, his expression not entirely unkind. "I want nothing more than to tuck my son into bed every night, but I will not see that witch every day either."

The sound of someone clearing their throat came from behind his back. "Hello. I didn't know you would be by today, son."

Rolling his eyes, despite finding the move so utterly juvenile, Draco turned to face his father. "It was spur of the moment. I've just dropped Scorpius off with Astoria in the last hour and I thought I would come by before driving back to London."

The mention of his newfound home garnered a visible reaction from Lucius. His nostrils flared. "How is Tori?" Lucius asked as his slid his hands into the pockets of his tailored suit.

Draco tucked his hands into his pockets, mirroring his father's movements. "Same as she always is, I'm afraid."

"Oh?" Lucius arched an eyebrow. "We've just had her for supper—when was it Narcissa?"

"I'm thrilled to hear that you still see my ex-wife." Draco interrupted, his patience running thin. It was never a day to engage in a verbal spat with either parent, but especially his father, when it came down to the topic of his divorce. "Considering she is the mother of my son, and will always be in my life, it's always good to hear she was a support system."

He didn't voice that the support system was half of his financials as they had stood during the time of the divorce. Or the sneaking suspicion that Astoria was now sleeping with her solicitor.

It didn't matter.

"Are you leaving so soon?" Lucius asked as Draco passed him.

Draco looked back to see his mother's eyes wide and nearly brimming with tears as she stared at him. "It's a long drive back."

"You could stay the night." Narcissa rushed to say, slipping her arms around Draco's middle.

Draco patted her hair, kissing the top of her head. "I'm afraid I need to be at the hospital bright and early. I should get back." It was a lie. He would be off the next day, but he knew the likelihood of finding his ex-wife in his room if he stayed the night.

Narcissa nodded sadly. "You'll think about what I said, won't you?"

He wouldn't. "Mother, we've separated. I think you should learn to let this go." Draco said smoothly, wrapping his mother in a tight hug.

Lucius fixed him with a hard look. "We only want what's best for you."


On a Thursday, the rain and wind bordered on torrential. Her day had started fine, with the normal run, and frappuccino from the Three Broomsticks. She'd driven to work and hurried into her office just a minute before she was due to be there.

On a typical day, Hermione would arrive twenty minutes early, spending five of that searching for a parking spot on the bottom floor of the parking garage. Then she would take ten minutes to herself to jot ideas, blurbs, and the like in a notebook she kept in her centre console — due to her best ideas coming to her while driving.

That day, she'd instead taken a short nap in her car that was not meant to happen. She'd jerked awake as the radio station blared to say, "Good morning, London!" which only happened at exactly eight o'clock in the morning.

Being the sort of person she was, Hermione had set the digital clock to be a few minutes behind the company time, which gave her three minutes to get to the lift and barrel into her office.

The lift had been broken.

Still, she'd made her way to her office with minor inconveniences, such as dropping her sugary drink, and her scone that Neville had freshly made just for her after making the joke that she still had thirty pounds to spend.

The rest of the day truly was uneventful until around six. Maintenance was performing regularly scheduled fixes that day, and there was a man in her ceiling. More than once, he'd made the joke that she might have to rush him to a hospital if he fell through the roof. Hermione offered a grimace and the information that a supervisor would need to take him.

And then he really did fall through the ceiling and the waterline broke, drenching her and her entire office.

Xenophilius would replace her laptop, he assured her, but he truly hoped her files were saved. In a stroke of luck, she'd left her personal laptop at home, and it was only the one issued by the Quibbler to be so utterly fried.

The office had closed early for the day, pending repairs, and possibly more damages as another line broke over Seamus' office.

After making her way home for a change of clothes—a pair of gray joggers, and a black sweater—Hermione went to the Three Broomsticks. Her hair was still frizzy, but tying it up hid the flyaway strands somewhat.

Luna grinned at her from behind the counter. "I'll get your order ready!"

As she turned to make her way to the usual spot by the window, she groaned to herself. Malfoy had taken up residence in her seat. She could wait him out, but her laptop was nearly dead, only two percent left, and due to poor planning by Rosmerta, the only viable plug in was directly beside him.

The other option was going home, and she wasn't going to let a little thing such as someone sitting where she normally did deter her.

Hermione walked to the table, clutched her laptop in her hand as he looked up at her, crumbs falling from his face. "Hello," she said.

"Um, hello," he answered, eyes widened in surprise. "Can I help you?"

"I'm sorry to bother you, but the only outlet is beside you. Would you mind if I sat here, just until my laptop is charged?"

He shifted his seat. "No, that's alright. I can move if you prefer?"

Hermione shook her head. "No, it's fine. I wouldn't want to run you off." She didn't like to sit right beside him, but there was no doubt Luna or Neville would attempt to read over her shoulder when delivering her order if she sat with her back to the shop. Hermione would just tilt her screen partway so Malfoy couldn't see anything.

Besides, he was immersed in a book so she doubted he'd care to peek unless she made it obvious she was hiding something.

Hermione plugged her charger into the strip, quickly tucking a leg beneath her as she leaned back in her chair.

The first thing waiting for her was an email from Padma, detailing that she needed assistance with a follow up article on London's most eligible bachelors. Hermione closed her tab for her personal document with a sigh, and plucked her glasses case from her purse.

As she worked her way down the list via internet search engine, Hermione opened two windows beside one another. Typing idly while reading, she would just run it through a basic spell check later.

Luna sat her drink in front of her with a smile as she passed a cup of water to the man to her left. "Anything else?"

Hermione shook her head. "Not for me."

Luna flounced away, dancing as she did so.

She wasn't sure how much time had passed before he said anything to her, or if he had said anything to her, and she perhaps just hadn't noticed. He tapped her shoulder and Hermione looked up. "Yes?" she asked harshly.

He arched a pale brow.

She blanched. "Oh, fuck, I didn't mean for it to sound like that." Hermione apologised, slapping a hand over her mouth. "Yes, what did you need?"

"I'm starting to realise you're naturally abrasive, so no need to apologise for it. I wasn't watching you type, but I happened to notice a typo. If you're planning to send this to an employer," he trailed off, chuckling. He leaned over with a sense of familiarity, as if he knew her from more than a few chance encounters.

Malfoy took her mouse in hand, his shoulder—his broad shoulder, her mind unfortunately chimed—brushing her own. He scrolled up, tapping away before he moved the mouse to hover over a word.

"Oh, my," Hermione laughed loudly. "I planned to run it through basic spell check once I'd finished, but it didn't highlight it."

He smirked. "Yes, it typically does that when you've added it to your dictionary."

Oh no.

Oh no.

Oh fuck no.

Hermione's cheeks filled with heat, a blush taking over her face. "I'm a writer." she explained lamely. "This is terribly awkward."

He laughed loudly then, drawing attention from the front of the shop and all of its patrons as he leaned away from her. "It's just a word."

"I meant to write 'count'," she muttered under her breath.

"Yet you wrote 'cunt', and you typed it rather confidently, might I add."

She elbowed him sharply. "Keep your voice down, would you?"

They settled into a comfortable, inhabitable silence as Hermione kept her laptop turned away from him from then on. It was bad enough that he must think her to be some deviant now, but she wasn't sure she could stand another awkward, albeit hilarious, correction.

Hermione glanced up again when she heard him gagging, and realised he was holding her drink rather than his own. "Did you try my drink? Gross, you could have asked."

He glared at her. "Do you actually drink this? It's bloody disgusting!" he exclaimed, attempting to wipe the taste from his tongue with a napkin. "What is that?"

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Pumpkin."

Malfoy shook his head, gagging again. "Disgusting and no doubt loaded down with calories as well."

"I go for runs in the morning, thank you." she said.

He blinked several times before he shook his head and put his hands up. "I didn't mean it that way."

"I didn't say you did."

"I just meant it must be terrible unhealthy."

Her nose crinkled as it sounded oddly like he was telling her what to do. Which might make sense if her prediction of his career was correct. "I'm sure."

A beat of silence passed as he looked around the shop. It had mostly cleared out, and he braced his elbow on the table and looked at her again. "You seriously drink that?"

She gave a light laugh. "Sometimes I get caramel as well."

"Tea." he said dryly. "Drink tea."

Hermione shook her head. "Who are you to tell me what to do?"

He stepped into what she couldn't call a trap per se, but he did confirm exactly what she was curious to know. "Dr Malfoy, nice to meet you. Stop drinking this shite before you clog your arteries." Dr Malfoy left her with that, rising from his seat, and grabbing his book. "I'm off now. You were more pleasant today. You should keep up with that."

It almost didn't sound like an insult with the playfulness lingering behind it. "Off to save other patients from sugary drinks, Doctor?"

He waved her off, and Hermione was left by herself, the hour having passed more quickly more than it ever had before.

She pulled her notebook and added to the character page that was quickly becoming more and more real to her: sense of humor, teasing, nice smile.

Luna caught her staring as the doorbell rang out, announcing the man's departure, and she ducked her head down, cheeks flaming.


Chapter Text



Sundays were for Weasley family dinners, which Hermione did enjoy, but the following Mondays were meant to be for her. Only the Fates were not so kind to her. Molly had rung her early in the morning, just before she was about to leave for her morning run, with the news that Charlie was home and could do with some company.

Nevermind that he had a multitude of siblings, nieces, and nephews that he could visit.

"Molly..." Hermione spoke through gritted teeth as she pulled her trainer on. She hobbled, holding her phone up by her shoulder as she tied her shoe before she fell over. "I have plans today," she hissed. "Surely Charlie would enjoy spending time with someone, anyone, else?"

"Oh, tosh, Charlie would love to see you!"

Hermione blew her bangs out of her face, "Charlie barely even knows me," she deadpanned.

Molly huffed, and Hermione knew she was seconds from a scolding she really didn't deserve. "Well, what do you think today is for?"

There was a knock at the door, one that was only growing more and more persistent as seconds ticked by. It was probably Michael, she realised, though what could he possibly want so early? "Molly, I've already dated one of your sons. I don't want to—"

"Open the bloody door, Granger!" The voice may have been muffled, but it was abundantly clear just who had landed themselves on her stoop at seven in the morning. "It's raining, you know!"

She grimaced, sending a glare through the phone. "Did you give him my address?"

But, Molly hung up, a brief dial tone sounded against Hermione's ear.

She stormed across her living room, sliding her mobile into the pocket sewn into the inside seam of her leggings. She ripped the door open, letting it swing wide open as she put her hands on her hips.

Charlie stood there, his bright hair dampened by the rain, and grinning ear to ear. "Mornin'." Charlie's voice was as booming and chipper as she remembered. He stepped inside when she motioned for him to.

Hermione sighed, taking the styrofoam cup from his outstretched hand. It was her regular order, Molly's work, no doubt, and she was struck by the wayward thought of Dr Malfoy's orders. Smiling absently at the memory, she took a long drink, the sweetness hitting her taste buds. "What are you doing here? Did your mother force you into it?"

He shrugged lifting his own steaming cup to his mouth, shifting his weight from one foot to the other as he took in her flat. His gaze lingered on the mantle where there were several photographs. Some were of herself, some were of Harry, Ron, and herself. "Honestly, I'm just bored. I didn't want to sit at home while she told me I needed to get a haircut and settle down, so here I am."

Her lips parted. "Just like that? She's going to think we're dating, or something equally ridiculous."

He rolled his eyes. "I suppose we'll just tell them that it was never going to work out, but we'll need a good reason for that. I'm the best looking brother after all."

An undeniable fact that Hermione refused to comment on. "I have plans."

"I'll tag along." He sipped his drink again. "I heard from Ginny that you go for runs in the morning. Mind if I join you?"

She looked him up and down. "You're hardly dressed for it."

And he wasn't. Charlie wore a pair of dark denim jeans, and they were far too tight. They would rip the second he stretched his legs. "I brought a change of clothes." Charlie unbuttoned his jeans, grinning when she shrieked.

"For God's sake, use the loo!" She ushered him into the room that was just off the living room and leaned against the wall once the lock had clicked into place. Hermione made her way back into the living room, collapsing onto her sofa, and resting her feet on top of the coffee table.

Less than a minute later, Hermione was climbing to her feet once more. Charlie sat in her floor, casting a long look her way. "What? Do you not normally stretch? That's bad form. You'll pull something."

She clicked her tongue. "I already stretched, Dr Weasley." Hermione fired back. She leaned against the arm of the sofa, watching him lean forward. The muscles of his back rippled through the thin jacket he wore, and she shook her head, turning away before Charlie caught her ogling him. He would laugh at her, just chuckle, and probably ruffle her hair. Clearly, he knew that he was fit, and she was a grown woman, but checking out Ron's older brother wouldn't do her any favours.

And it would be terrible if it made its way back to Molly.

"Ready to go?" Hermione asked, spinning her flat keys around her index finger as he stood. "Do you normally exercise?"

He nodded. Charlie followed her out of the door, pausing on the mat as she bumped into him. "Your neighbour is glaring at me." He leaned down, whispering into her ear.

"Yes," she mumbled, "he's asked me out a few times."

"Not interested, I take it?" He remained close enough she felt his voice rumble.

She shook her head, maneuvering until she finally managed to lock her door. "Not in the least."

A strong arm slid around her waist, fingers splaying across her belly. "Do we really need to go for a run, love? I can think of a few other things we could do..." Charlie's voice was a low rasp in her ear, one that sent chills down her spine. Even though they weren't romantically involved, and logically, Hermione knew that, his words pulled a visceral reaction from her. Surely her face was growing red. Her breath had caught in her throat, and she was hyper aware of the way Charlie's thumb was rubbing slow circles in her hip as if he was about to slip his hand under her jumper.

Michael must have realised it appeared they were about to shag against the door, considering how loudly his door slammed shut.

Charlie's laugh boomed behind her, rivalling the clap of thunder that cracked through the sky overhead. "You should have seen his face. I don't think he'll be bothering you for a while."

She grinned, tucking her keys away into her pocket and zipping it up. "Thanks for that. He hasn't taken no for an answer yet; seems to think I'm playing hard to get."

He grimaced. "Sounds like a ponce. Lead the way." He threw his arm out in a sweeping arch and Hermine hurried down the steps ahead of him.

Careful not to slip on the metal steps, Hermione had a spring in her step when they started down her normal path. "Sure you won't get tired?" Hermione asked cheekily.

His eyes narrowed. "Oh, you're on, Granger."

Charlie had run circles around her, actual circles as they ran. He was keen on mocking her playfully, asking her why she wasn't running faster as he put on a show by also running backwards ahead of her.

Karma struck, swiftly and perfectly timed, just as they were nearing The Three Broomsticks. Still running backwards, Charlie slipped off the curb and into a puddle. Hermione burst into loud laughter, doubling over and clutching her stomach. Charlie spluttered, still on his back in the puddle that had completely drenched him.

"Aren't you going to help me up?" Charlie asked.

She shook her head. "Absolutely not! You've been making fun of me all morning! Why should I help you now?"

Charlie rolled his eyes. "Because you have a bleeding heart."

Groaning, Hermione took mercy on him, reaching out to him. "It's not as if I'm going to be able to pull you up my—" She screamed as Charlie gripped her hand, flashing her a wicked grin before yanking her into the puddle. "Charlie Weasley, you are the absolute worst!" She smacked his chest. As she brushed hair from her eyes, Hermione noticed the outstretched hand in front of her.

Malfoy was staring down at her, the corner of his mouth twitching as if fighting a smile. "You walked right into that one," he said.

She gripped his hand, which was warm beneath hers, and let him pull her to her feet. "You saw all of it?"

He nodded. "It was rather comical. It was a good start to my morning, at least."

Charlie looked between the two of them after he stood from the puddle. "Charlie Weasley," he introduced, extending a hand.

Malfoy tucked a folded piece of paper beneath his arm and shook Charlie's hand. "Draco Malfoy, pleased to meet you."

Charlie cocked his head to the side. "Your name sounds familiar..."

Hermione shivered, her teeth chattering. "I'm going back to my flat," she cut-in. "If I don't get out of these clothes, I'll catch a cold." With that, she turned on her heel and left the two men to their own conversation.

Only, she wasn't walking alone for long, as Charlie quickly caught up with her. "He said that your sugary drink habit won't help you if you get sick."

Her lips curved into a smile as she threw a look over her shoulder. Hermione cupped her hands around her mouth, shouting, "Thanks, Dr Malfoy!"

The blond man raised a hand, his cup still in hand, but he did not look back. She wondered if his lips had twitched again, possibly forming a genuine smile this time.

Charlie was staring at her. "Dr Malfoy, Dr Weasley…" he mused.

"He's actually a doctor!"


Luna slid him his cup, bursting into laughter as she nodded her head toward the front of the shop. He peeked over his shoulder, eyes widening as he caught the familiar sight of the woman he saw more often than his own family now, more often than his own child.

Granger's lips were curved into a bright smile, and she was holding her stomach as she knelt over. She was mouthing something, waving her hands wildly as she pointed to the redheaded man that was now sprawled in the deep puddle a few spaces down from Draco's vehicle.

Draco arched an eyebrow, taking a step forward before he even thought about it. Mildly curious, he found that her laughter was just as loud as he imagined. He stepped onto the sidewalk, lifting his cup to his lips. He'd made it outside just in time to see the man tug the young woman into the water beside him.

Surely Granger had hit her head on the concrete with an impact like that. Sniggering behind his cup, he flinched as a screech pierced the air. "Charlie Weasley, you are the absolute worst!"

He recognised the surname instantaneously, his mind flickering to the young man who had found himself in the operating room weeks earlier. Weasley didn't sound like a common name. Surely the two were related.

Later, after he arrived at the hospital, and after Katie told him that he needed to lose his bad mood, he received a call from Astoria.

"Hello?" He answered quickly, pressing his phone to his ear in the middle of the cafeteria. "Tori?"

She cleared her throat. "Draco? I won't be able to bring Scorpius down this weekend."

He'd expected something to go wrong from the moment she'd easily agreed to make the drive rather than having him drive to Oxford. Of course, he thought bitterly. "What happened?"

One of the many problems with Astoria was that she was still angry over being a divorce and a single question made her defensive. "Some of us still have lives to live, Draco."

His jaw clenched and his grip on the phone tightened. If he wasn't in the middle of the hospital, his reaction wouldn't have been as tame. "I can make the drive—"

"I won't be here at all. I've talked to your mother—"

"You spoke to my mother before calling me? Tori, I'm the father here. Custody arrangements do not need to be run through my fucking mother." It was an effort to keep his voice down, and the cashier in front of him gave him a sympathetic look.

His ex-wife huffed. "Anyways, I'm busy and Narcissa said she wouldn't mind bringing him down early Friday morning. She wanted you to call her." Astoria hung up without another word.

It took the elevator climbing four floors before he calmed down. It was all bloody ridiculous, and as if being separated from his son wasn't bad enough, there was Astoria constantly angry about whatever she could think of.

His mother answered on the fifth ring; Draco didn't give her time to say a greeting. "Why does Astoria think she needs to discuss our custody arrangements with you before ever letting me know they've changed?"

There was a deep breath before his mother spoke. "I knew you would be angry. I told her that it would be best if she didn't involve me." In the background, water was running. "Regardless, you always make the drive. I'm happy to bring Scorpius down. We could have breakfast after if you're available. He's been wondering if you would give him a tour of the hospital."

He ran a hand down his face, a nervous tick that he was well aware of. "If it's no trouble. I don't care if you bring him, Mother. It's irritating that I'm somehow never included in these conversations as the father. You would think I was a teenager."

"Well, she's been trouble recently so I'm not surprised."

He stopped. "What do you mean?" Astoria had never given his mother push back before. Seemingly, his ex-wife had won his family over, making them side with her rather than him. The other side of the line remained silent and he prodded, "Mother?"

"It's nothing important." She sighed. "I think she's spiteful as it's sinking in now, how you're not going to come back to her."

"The divorce papers we signed should have made that abundantly clear."

"She was hopeful, I believe. Regardless, it's nothing for you to worry about. I'll see you this weeked. I'm having the Parkinsons over for lunch, and I should get back to them."


She rolled onto her side, groaning as she reached for her mobile that was sitting on the bedside table. Hermione didn't bother to check the time when she saw Ron's name, knowing that she would be answering regardless. "Hello?" She asked. Her voice was thick with sleep as she propped herself up. Sinking her fingers into her matted curls, she waited sleepily for a response.


She snorted, falling back into bed with a loud laugh. "You're pissed." Hermione said, unsure if he even realised what she'd said. "Why are you calling me?"

There was the sound of a sharp intake of breath, followed by what suspiciously sounded like chugging. "Can you come pick me up? Harry and Ginny aren't answering." His speech was slurred, and there was booming music in the background.

Hermione swung her legs over the side of the bed, sinking her toes into the plush carpet. She rubbed her left eye, yawning before answering. "Where are you?"

"Shrieking Shack," Ron replied. "I'll be at the bar."

"Perhaps you should stay away from the bar," Hermione warned, but the line had already disconnected.

Hermione quickly grabbed the bra that was slung over the chair in the corner, clasping it behind her back before tugging a jumper over her head. She grabbed the first pair of leggings she saw, stepping into them and pulling them to her waist. Normally, Hermione didn't wear leggings in public. They tended to cling, and the world didn't to see all of her curves, or lack thereof, but desperate times and all that.

She ran a brush through her hair, but only barely before she gave up and tied her hair into a low bun. Stray hairs shot out in several directions, and she shook her head in resignation. It wasn't important. She'd be back home within the hour anyway, and it wasn't like she needed to impress Ron anymore. Taking one last glance in the mirror, noting that her Quibbler jumper had a stain on it, Hermione snatched her keys and wallet on the way out of the door.

Her hands trembled from the sudden cold that enveloped her as she stepped outside of her flat. Locking the door to her flat, she made her way down the steps and hurried into the parking lot.

She stepped off the sidewalk into a puddle, soaking her foot through her trainer. Hermione groaned as she sprinted to her car through the heavy rainfall, unlocking it so she could rip the door open and duck inside. Hermione waited just long enough for her windshield to clear, to not be quite so foggy before pulling out of the parking lot.

The Shrieking Shack was a fifteen minute drive away, but it took her twenty-five as she drove slower through the rain. Gripping the wheel tightly, Hermione was on the receiving end of other drivers honking. "There are other lanes, you arseholes," she muttered to herself. She would have liked to send them off with the same obscene gesture she'd been given, but she held back.

She came to a stop at the curb, pulling her mobile from her pocket and sending Ron a quick message. He slid into the passenger side not even a minute later. Water slipped from the ends of his hair, splashing onto his hand. He reeked of liquor, as if it had been dumped over his head.

It wouldn't have been the first time it had happened.

"Where would you like me to take you?"

His head fell to the side as his gaze fell on her. His eyes were a bright blue, taking her in, as his chest rose with a deep breath. "Home," he murmured. Ron's hand slid down the console, his fingers sliding through the gaps of her own.

Warning bells clanged in her head. "What are you doing?"

He raised her hand, his lips nearing her knuckles before she ripped away from him. "'Mione,"

She shook her head, her heart beating wildly in her chest. They were past this. They had broken up so long ago, and if she'd known his current state would have caused this sort of reaction, she would have called any of his brothers to pick him up. "You're drunk. Don't do anything you're likely to regret in the morning."

He sucked in a breath. "It's the only time I'll be honest."

Hermione freed her hand from his grip as he reached for her once more. She turned the steering wheel, pulling away from the curb and crossing the street. "Don't be ridiculous." She clicked her tongue. "You only think you have something to tell me. You're pissed, and lonely. You only think that you want me."

He shook his head, strands of fierce red hair blocking the view of his eyes. "You don't understand." And just like that, the topic had semi-sobered him up.

Her knuckles were white as she gripped the steering wheel, slowing down as she made her way through the deep puddles that were in the streets. "We've been here before." It was a harsh reminder given in an equally cold voice, but Hermione didn't hold back. "We've already done this before. You've been drunk, and I've been lonely, and we already know that we don't work. You think I'm bossy, and you can't stand a long term relationship with me."

He dragged his hands down his face. "Maybe I just called it quits too early."

"No offence, but I can't stand a long-term relationship with you either."

He was struck silent, his face falling. It felt like a sharp object was being twisted in her chest as Ron glanced away from her. "What could I do to be good enough for you?"

Her shoulders drooped. She bit down on her lip hard, a strangled sound welling up in her chest. "Don't say that."

"It's true, isn't it?" The loud baritone of his voice was too much inside the small interior of her car, and she shrunk back. "Fuck,"

Her voice was weak, barely above the sound of the pelting rain against her windshield. "I don't want you to change."

"I would, for you," he muttered.

It would have been easiest if they had worked out; if their lifelong friendship had flourished under the light of something more. Only it hadn't, and the weight of it all lay heavy on her chest still. "You need to be with someone who doesn't need you to change."

Ron scowled, perhaps not at her, but he folded his arms over his chest. "The truth of it is that I think of you all the time."

"Don't," she whispered.

"All the bloody time. I can't get you out of my head."

Her words died on her tongue as she looked at him. Hermione knew—the realisation had already settled in the pit of her stomach—that it would only result in an awkward conversation in the morning. They would agree that they were still right, that friends was better, but in the moment, Hermione let herself hear the things he'd never said to her before.

It would be a mistake, she knew very well, but she didn't protest again.

"It's like—" he broke off, looking around the car while drawing a rough breath "—it's like all of this rain. You see how it's coming down, and it's surrounding everything, and then there's a bridge. Everything is quiet. Everything is silent, and there's just enough time to untangle my thoughts and—"

Her vision was blurry with the tears that threatened to spill over. "You got that from the internet."

His laugh was strained, rough, and forced, but he managed it anyway.

He always managed to laugh.

Maybe he'd picked it up from Fred and George.

"Yeah," he uttered, "I did. It doesn't make it any less true."

She knew how it ended. "Don't finish it."

Ron cleared his throat. "You're the bridge."

There was a shuddering breath, and the sound of her voice cracking when she attempted words. "I told you—"

"You told me not to do anything I would regret. I miss you, and I know in the morning you'll feel awkward. I don't expect to earn you with a quote."

Hermione considered asking why he'd said it at all, but he seemingly knew her thoughts without her saying a word.

"And I don't care if you know it. In fact, you deserve to know because you're special. Not because you're pretty, or because you're brilliant, but because you're Hermione, and—"

She should have been paying attention. She'd always hated driving in the rain, especially as heavy as it was then, and this was why.

As she slowed around the bend in the road, the one that she was accustomed to—she'd driven it for a long time—another car swerved out of their lane. Bright headlights shined into her car.

Ron yelled her name, leaning across the car and gripping the wheel.

She'd frozen up, not moving beyond tightening her grip around the wheel. There was a scream that Hermione only vaguely recognised as her own. It didn't sound like her voice. It was raw from fear, and choked from the tears she'd already been crying.

Ron had managed to to prevent them from colliding head on with another car.

It wasn't enough.

They had hit a tree.

More accurately, Hermione had basically wrapped her car around the tree. Taking shallow breaths, she unbuckled her seatbelt with trembling hands, taking in the windshield that was now shattered glass.

Deep breaths.



Ron was unconscious beside her, slumped forward. It was as if cold water had been dumped over her head as she saw that he wasn't wearing a seatbelt.

"Ron!" Her voice rattled the previously broken glass, the fragments sliding into the floorboard. "Oh my God." She breathed.

There were bright lights reflecting in the rear view mirror, and her door was wrenched open as she reached for Ron. She shouldn't move him from where he was, but she placed her fingers against his neck. "Check him first!" Her broken demand was met swiftly with another man pulling the door open. "He wasn't wearing a seatbelt. It's my fault. It's—"

A steady hand gripped her shoulder. She looked up to find a stocky man smiling down at her. There was white streaked through his hair, but she wasn't looking at what he looked like. Not really. "Miss, do you know your name?"

He was gentle, but steady with his movements as he helped her from the car. He'd asked her if she could stand. She'd snapped that of course she could bloody stand.

He took it in stride. "They're getting him into the ambulance right now, you see?" He pointed and she looked over her shoulder.

Ron was already on the gurney. There was too much, so much, red.

She swallowed. "Is he going to make it?"

He'd been wearing a white shirt drenched by the rain when she saw him exit the pub. And now scarlet was twisting across it, and it was rolling off his fingers as his hand slipped over the side of the gurney. Bile rose in her throat when the man beside her didn't answer.

She vomited right there, her knees buckling.

The manHe caught her, a strong arm locked securely around her middle. He held her up as she emptied her stomach, still gasping for breath. "Now, if you want to leave with them—"

"I do. I'm fine. Barely a bumped my head. The blood is his." Her jumper had still fresh blood stained across it, but it was nothing to what covered Ron's shirt. Droplets had landed on her.

If she looked at her car, she would see blood mixed with glass, and she wasn't sure she could stomach it.

The man walked her up the incline, a hand at the small of her back to ground her. Another paramedic, this one a blonde woman with a bright smile despite the scene they had rolled up on, extended a hand. "Up you go now, love," the man behind her said, taking her by the hips and helping her up.

She was handed a blanket that she didn't want.

Someone wrapped it around her shoulder, claiming that she was in shock. She knew it, but she didn't really know it. It hadn't quite sunken in yet that she could have been grievously injured, that her body was reacting appropriately to protect her from harm.

All she could look at was Ron.

Ron who had just bared every inch of his heart to her. Ron who she had told that it wouldn't work. A voice rattled around in the back of her head. It still wouldn't work, but fuck, she'd allowed herself to take the sweet words for herself.

If she hadn't, she would have been paying attention.

Ron, her best friend. Harry's best friend. Ginny's brother. Molly's son.

"What have I done?" She wheezed, and spiralled.

She heard several things. "—severe panic attack—"

"—don't let her reach for him—"

"—we're en route to St Mungo's—

"—need you to breathe—"

Wide eyed, Hermione pressed herself against the wall, feeling the coolness of it through her shirt as she brought her knees to her chest. "Please don't die, Ron."

There was that hand again, reassuring on her shoulder, and she wondered if everyone in the back of an ambulance was always so kind. The thought was gone as quickly as it had come.

"I'll stay out of your way." Hermione promised.


He had been in the middle of a phone call with his father, an irritating one at so early in the morning, when the call had come in.

There had been a car wreck near the hospital.

"Internal bleeding, and a collapsed lung," Katie read. She stared at him from over the counter. "I don't know why you like to hear the names, but Ron Weasley. Wasn't there another—"

Draco's eyes narrowed dangerously. "Yes. I assume it was his brother. How bad was the car wreck?"

Katie swallowed. "They say the vehicle veered off the road to avoid hitting another car at high speeds and crashed into a tree. There was a woman as well, but she's relatively uninjured."

His response was swift. "What's the woman's name?"

She shook her head. "No idea. Someone you know?"

He hoped not.

He really fucking hoped not.


From the moment her feet hit the ground, Hermione was followed the paramedics as they rushed Ron inside. The lights of the hospital were bright overhead, and she caught a glimpse of herself in the glass.

She was a wreck. Her clothes were matted. There was something catching the light in her hair, and she was pretty sure it was glass from her windshield. There was a cut that had already clotted just above her eyebrow. Her shirt was still stained, but now she noticed her leggings were stained as well.

Hermione avoided the paramedics before they could attempt to look over her, an irresponsible decision, but she wanted to be available for whenever there was any news regarding Ron. Entering through the emergency entrance, she was overwhelmed by the rough voice barking orders.

She knew that voice, but she'd never heard it quite so forceful.

Freezing in place, Hermione seemed to take things in as if everything were suspended in slow motion. Of course everything was moving faster than she could swallow.

He wore a white coat, with scrubs peeking out from underneath it. He'd said he was a doctor. On Malfoy's face was a tense expression, his lips pressed into a thin line as he grabbed the side of the gurney, guiding it into the service elevator.

He never saw her.

She made the necessary phone calls.

"Hermione?" Molly's voice was groggy, and she was probably brushing the hair from her face as she set up in her bed. "Dear, is everything alright?"

She needed to stop choking on her own tears or she would never get the words out. "Ron and I—" Hermione gasped. "Ron and I were in a car accident."

For a long moment, a moment that seemed to stretch and stretch until it shattered, there were no words. There was a rustling, probably blankets, a thud that must have been Molly's feet landing on the floor beside her bed. "How bad was it?" There was resignation in her sigh. "Where are you?"

"It was really bad, Molly," Hermione sobbed as she sank into the chair in the waiting room. She'd been guided there by the nice paramedic who had pulled her from her car, and he'd asked her again if she'd like to be looked over. "We're at St Mungos. Ron is in the operating theatre right now."

There was a sharp catch of breath, and then the line went silent. Only Molly hadn't hung up. Hermione imagined she'd muted the call to scream. Maybe to wake Arthur, or maybe it was to just let all of the emotions break at once. Then there was a clearing of her throat. "Have they told you anything?"

Molly's voice was on the edge of hysteria.

My fault, my fault, my fault.

Hermione was shaking her head, not remembering that Molly couldn't see her. "They haven't told me anything. They took him in fifteen minutes ago. I called as soon—Molly, I'm so sorry."

"It's not your fault, Hermione."

The repeating voice in the back of her skull was a loud echo, and Hermione's rebuttal was nearly on the tip of her tongue.

"I mean it." Molly said before Hermione could even open her mouth. "I don't care who was driving. It was an accident. It's not your fault."

"Okay," Hermione felt small, smaller than she'd ever felt. "Who else would you like me to call?"

Molly exhaled. "I'll call the twins, and Ginny. Harry will still be with Ginny, so if you could call Charlie, that would be best. Bill and Percy are hours away. I'll call them while Arthur drives. We'll see you soon."

"I'm waiting in the same waiting room we were in when Fred was in being operated on."

Molly told her goodbye.

Hermione quickly called Charlie, her fingers sliding along the broken glass of her phone screen. Luckily, it had still been in her pocket when they wrecked, but then it had flown out and shattered when it made impact with the windshield.

It was lucky she grabbed it before coming to the hospital.

The phone rang three times, and a raspy voice answered. "Hermione? What's wrong?" Because there's no other reason for her to be calling him so early in the morning. And then she bursted into tears, an invisible weight slamming down on her chest.

"You need to come to St Mungo's as soon as possible. Ron and I were in a bad car accident; he's in the operating theatre right now." She blurted it all at once.


"I think he'll be okay."

Charlie's acknowledgment was gruff. "What about you? You were in the car too, are you hurt?"

"I'm fine. I walked away from it. Ron wasn't… He wasn't wearing his seatbelt, and I didn't think about it when I picked him up." Hermione pulled at loose strings on her jumper, staring at the red stain.

She was going to throw up again.

"Not your fault. I've gotta get dressed. I'll see you in ten minutes, alright?"

She nodded again. "Okay."

Hermione stared at the wall, counting the imperfections in the coat of white paint. Alone with her thoughts, she stared ahead, not really seeing anything at all. Hospital staff passed the room, some looking her way, but she saw straight through them.

Charlie arrived first, and he looked every bit of how she felt. "I saw your car," were the first words out of his mouth, and then he was crossing the room in long strides. Charlie pulled her up, wrapping his arms around her while his chin rested on the top of her head. "Jesus Christ, I don't know how either of you are alive."

She hiccuped. "I should have noticed he wasn't wearing a seatbelt. I was distracted because we were talking, and it was raining and—"

Charlie ended her vent before she could go any further. "Not your fault."

Taking her seat once more, she focused on how his knee bumped hers when he took the seat beside her, just to ground herself. "It feels like my fault."

"Why were the two of you out so early?"

"He was drunk, and Harry didn't answer. I picked him up from The Shrieking Shack." Though she wasn't sure at all how intoxicated Ron had been given the heavy conversation that had followed. "I was just taking him home like I have before."

"Take a deep breath,"

She did. "There was another car that swerved out of their lane while I was driving around the curve. I froze, Charlie. I didn't do anything. Ron is the only reason we didn't hit that car, but then—then we hit the tree."

It came in flashes, like a movie set to play in her mind but it was only short bits. Hermione didn't really remember her car accelerating down the decline, but she remembered vividly every bump and shift of her car as it did. She didn't remember realising they were going to crash, but she knew she must have since there was a dark image of a weeping willow right in front of her car seconds before fissures spread across her windshield.

"I don't know who called for help." She said, taking a deep breath as she suddenly thought of it. "Maybe the driver of the other car?"

"I have no idea."

Molly ran into the waiting room while still wearing her ratty slippers, and a shawl wrapped tightly around her shoulders. "Thank God you're okay!" Her gaze dropped to Hermione's shirt.

Hermione covered the blood stain with her hands, which as she looked down, were stained as well.

"You need to clean up, dear," Molly coaxed.

She shook her head. "I want to be here when—"

Molly gave her a hard look. "It's going to be a long while before he's out; go wash your hands at the least."

Hermione stared at her shoes before nodding and making her way to the loo. She scrubbed her fingers almost violently, attempting to cleanse the blood from the lines in her hands and between her fingers.

As she sat in the room, her phone rang, this call from the insurance company which held the policy on her car. It was a short call, explaining that Hermione would need to visit their office for paperwork, and sign off on the photographs taken at the scene.

She didn't care that her car was beyond repair. It didn't matter when Ron was laying on a table in an operating theatre that he shouldn't have been in.

Molly rubbed circles in her back over the course of an hour.

It was the longest ninety minutes of her life. Ginny and Harry arrived in the middle of it, Ginny's face slick with tears, and Harry was utterly silent.

Hermione didn't know if her voice would crack if she explained everything again, and she said nothing. The twins were just behind Harry, but they said nothing also.

Time dragged on as Hermione stared at the door, willing it to open, for someone to tell them if Ron was okay. Her mind kept drifting to what if he wasn't okay, what if he died and—

Her head snapped up when the door finally opened, and she was the first one out of their seat. Malfoy stood just in front of the door, his eyes widening a fraction as he took in the sight of her. "You're the family, I presume?"

Molly was right behind her.

"Is he okay?" Hermione asked quickly. "Draco, is he—"

Realistically, only a second had passed before she asked again. He nodded. "Mr Weasley will make a full recovery. He should wake in a few hours, but he's been moved." He extended his hand, offering Hermione a piece of paper that she then pressed into Molly's hand. "There were no complications throughout the operation, and I expect he'll be on the mend in due time."

Hermione stared at him, her heartbeat slowing as she absorbed what he had said. "He's really fine?" She echoed.

"Completely. They won't let all of you in to see him at once given the small room, but I'll see if they can move him to a larger room." He spoke directly to Molly and Arthur then. "I know last time there were some problems with taking turns, and expecting a large family to take turns is cruel."

"Thank you very much, Dr Malfoy." Molly's eyes watered as she looked between Hermione and the surgeon who'd just saved her son. "How do the two of you know each other?"

Draco cleared his throat.

"The Three Broomsticks," Hermione explained. She regretted it as a memory of a previous Sunday dinner that centered around matchmaking surfaced. The surgeon.

He'd said there were complications when Fred had been hospitalised.

The surgeon that Molly wanted to set her up with was the same man that Hermione had begrudgingly told them about.

"I mistakenly dumped my tea all over her." Malfoy explained, sliding his hands into the pockets of his scrubs.

"Oh, we heard about that." Molly smiled a watery smile. "Come, everyone." She led them out of the waiting room.

Malfoy caught her by the wrist. "Are you alright?"

Hermione glanced up. Well, no. She was weak on her feet, the ground swaying beneath her; she desperately needed to eat something, and her head was splitting open. "I'm fine. I didn't have any injuries."

He raised a hand, his thumb hovering over the gash above her eyebrow. "I'm not convinced of that. This looks like it should have stitches."

She shook her head. "I told them I didn't want to be seen."

He arched an eyebrow. "That's idiotic."

"I'm fine, no pain to speak of whatsoever."

He scowled, the corners of his lips being dragged down by the expression. "That's something we call shock, Granger. You're going to come out of it soon, or even worse, when you're at home. You're already here."

She turned away from him with a shrug of her shoulders. "I just need to eat. If I notice anything, I'll be sure to be seen."

He dragged a hand down his face. "If there's no convincing you—"

"There's not."

Malfoy rolled his eyes.

She left without another word. Hermione caught the looks that Molly gave her, a small humorous part of an otherwise sombre night.

And Ginny elbowed her with brightening eyes.


It was nearly six in the morning, toward the end of his shift when he made his way into the cafeteria. Just opened for the morning, they were preparing for the day. Sliding his card at the register, his breakfast was a cup of coffee that was not as high quality as The Three Broomsticks.

Granger was standing behind him, her back facing him as she stood at an opposite register. He only caught the end of the conversation, Granger's voice saying softly, "I'm sorry. I forgot—"

She bumped right into his chest when he stepped up behind her, handing his card to the cashier. She'd turned around to leave, her cheeks pink and stumbled directly into him instead. "Excuse me,"

Draco pushed the bottle of water into her hands. "You need to eat something." He told her.

She raised her head, her eyes narrowing. "Are you a nutritionist now as well?"

The jab rolled right off of him as she fell into step beside him. Draco picked up his hospital badge, dangling it in front of her face. Smirking, he shook his head. "No, still a surgeon it seems. Though I learned more than just how to perform an incision in medical school."

Granger snorted. She pushed her hair back behind her ears, holding the bottle of water under her arms. "Ah, right. I forgot, that's where you learned that frappuccinos are terrible, isn't it?"

"Correct. Good thing I received such a high education so I could pass knowledge onto uniformed women in coffee shops. You should even feel special. You're the only one I've ever told to watch their sugar intake."

She blinked, her lips parting in an adorable way, and then she laughed softly. "How are you since I last saw you?"

He raised his cup to his lips, blowing on it. "Nothing interesting. Has your friend woken?"

Granger's face fell as she shook her head. "Not yet."

"He'll be up before eight, surely. He needs rest."

"I know."

They reached the end of the corridor, and she seemed to be waiting for him to turn away from her, and go separate ways.

He wasn't particularly sure why he didn't. "What happened?"

Draco regretted attempting conversation when she drew a shuddering breath and she flinched. "He called me and I picked him up from a pub. It was raining and there was another car that nearly collided with mine. I froze up. Ron grabbed the wheel and prevented us from a collision, but then we hit the tree." She swallowed. "He wasn't wearing a seatbelt. Mine is probably the only thing that prevented me from ending up in the operating theatre too. Or worse..."

From the moment, the exact second he'd heard the name, and the fact that there was a woman as well, his stomach had dropped. He barely knew her. Still, it was a sensation riddled with worry blooming in his stomach when he thought she was terribly injured. Even though Katie had said she wasn't.

"I'm glad you were wearing it."

"It's my fault," she said then, staring at her feet. Her jumper slid down her shoulder, and there was already a bruise forming where her seatbelt had held her back. "I wasn't paying attention because Ron was talking, and it was a heavy conversation."

He wasn't absolutely sure she wanted to explain any more than that. "What was it?"

She sighed. "I don't know why I'm telling you any of this. For all intents and purposes, you're more or less a stranger. Ron and I broke up a long time ago, but this isn't the first time he's told me he still loves me while drunk."

His grip loosened on his coffee as he stared at her. "Fuck, I can see how it would be distracting."

"I should have been paying attention."

"From what you've told me just now, I don't think it would have made a difference. You froze at the wheel, and that happens. It's why it's called an accident. Him preventing a crash with another vehicle is the best thing he could have done."

"I thought he was going to die." Granger clutched her head, squeezing her eyes shut. "I thought he was going to die, and that it would be my fault. So when I saw you in the corridor with him, it was all I could think that I needed you to be a brilliant surgeon."

He hadn't noticed her. "Are you okay?" Draco raised a hand, brushing her hair out of the way. No cuts to be causing the pain. "Have you been seen?"

"I told you I was fine. I just have a minor headache."

"It could be a concussion." Draco argued.

Granger snatched his coffee from his hand. "Do you mind?"

He chuckled. "Do I mind? What's the point of asking when you've already stolen it? No, I don't mind. I haven't even drank it yet."

Her nose crinkled as she took a sip. "This tastes like garbage."

"Not everything can have pumpkin in it, you know," he drawled. "About your head—"


Draco's head whipped toward his son's voice. Shite. His mother had told him she would be there before his shift ended. If he had time for it, he was going to show Scorpius around the hospital. His mother stood beside his son, still holding Scorpius' hand as she looked between him and Granger.

Granger was grinning. "Is he yours? He's adorable," she gushed.

"He's my son." Draco said. "I really think you should—"

She collapsed before he even got the words out. Her legs gave way beneath him, and Draco caught her easily before she could smack her head against the hard tile. His coffee landed against the tile, breaking open and spilling beneath his feet. "Granger," he said loudly, one arm still around her back.

She didn't respond.

"Son of a bitch!" He growled under his breath. He slid an arm behind her knees, picking her up and making his way past his mother. "I'll be back."

"Is she going to be okay?" Scorpius asked, his eyes widened with fear. "Is she dead?"

"Scorpius!" his mother gasped.

"She'll be fine." Draco reassured them both, and kicked open the door to the emergency room. "I told you that you had a concussion." He muttered to the woman in his arms.

She didn't respond.


Bright lights shined overhead as her eyes slowly opened, and there was the distinct smell of antiseptic all around her. Her limbs ached. For a moment, she wasn't sure where she was until reality rolled in.

Car accident. Ron. Then she remembered fainting in front of Malfoy.

She sat up in the bed, bracing her hands against the uncomfortable bed. A nurse noticed her, bustling over to give her a once over. "How are you feeling?" she asked.

"It feels like my head is splitting open."

"That will pass. Dr Malfoy oversaw the medicine you were given already. I'd give it thirty minutes."

Hermione tilted her head to the side. "I thought Dr Malfoy was only a surgeon? I didn't know he could oversee medicine in an emergency room."

"Well, technically," the nurse muttered, already gossiping, "he's not supposed to. Technically he only hounded Dr Boot until he was allowed to see your care. He was adamant about knowing what you were given. He just left actually."

Her throat was dry as she swallowed. "Did he say why he wanted to oversee my care?"

The nurse waved her hand. "No, he didn't. I assumed you were his girlfriend given the way he stormed in here with you in his arms. He's been here for three months now, and none of us have ever seen him so angry."

"Probably because I refused to be seen."

"Oh, well, you didn't sign the appropriate paperwork, so I believe he's off to argue with the paramedics who brought you in. He grumbled that you should have been treated. Back to the question, are you his girlfriend?"

The question had never been asked was what Hermione wanted to say. "No, just a friend."

He had a son. He must be married, but wouldn't his colleagues know that?

The nurse's words caught up with her. "He's yelling at the paramedics? That's ridiculous. I refused treatment!"

The woman shrugged, signing the bottom of the chart. "You can take it up with Dr Malfoy if you like. He just left through that door."

Hermione scrambled, walking as quickly as possible despite aching from head to toe. The corridor was empty, save for a woman slowly making her way down the corridor. As she rounded the corner, she heard—

"—do you mean you didn't treat her? There was no paperwork signed, and she fainted in the middle of the hospital!" His voice was raising higher and higher, crescendoing into a roar.

She nearly froze midstep.

Maybe she didn't want to find him.

"Dr Malfoy, you're not my direct—"

"I don't give a—"

Hermione burst through the door, standing just outside the emergency entrance. "Stop!" She pointed at Malfoy. "Stop yelling at him right now. I don't know who you think you are, but he's the one who calmed me down in the ambulance, and you should be ashamed you would act like such a prick."

Malfoy's mouth snapped shut. "You shouldn't be up."

She put her hands on her hips. "You know, I'm getting really tired of you telling me what to do."

"If you would only listen for once," he sneered. Malfoy followed her back inside, his hands hidden in his pockets, and she suspected that they were curled into fists. "Your health is not the only reason I confronted him. While watching you faint was hardly enjoyable, lack of paperwork can open the hospital to a lawsuit."

As the made their way down the corridor, Hermione chanced a look at him. "I wouldn't do that," she said.

He laughed, a low, mocking sound. "Maybe you wouldn't, but someone else would. The next time paperwork is conveniently forgotten, it could be the one time it happens."

Rubbing her arms through her jumper, she asked, "Have you ever been sued by a patient?"

"No," he replied. "Being a surgeon though, it's inevitable that I'm threatened the families of patients. Whenever you lose someone in an operation, it's not often the family understands."

"Like tonight? It was just a sudden thing. None of us would have expected Ron to pass away so suddenly, but…"

He nodded. "Yes. I've been threatened with a lawsuit before. Everything we do within that theatre is well documented, so I don't worry."

How interesting. "I'm still cross with you for that scene outside, in case that wasn't clear," she mumbled. Hermione made her way toward the second Ron had been moved to. Like Malfoy had said, it was a much bigger room. He followed her into the elevator, not quite leaving her yet.

"How much pain are you in?"

"Enough to know I should call my boss soon and let him know I won't be in today. I should also let my insurance know I won't be by today either."

Hermione found the door to Ron's room open, but what was inside wasn't what she expected: Malfoy's son was sitting in the middle of the floor, his legs crossed while he talked to Molly.

"Mother?" Malfoy asked. "What are you doing here?"

The woman looked up. She was holding a styrofoam cup in her hand. "I was just wondering where you were. After your friend fainted, I ran into Molly in the cafeteria. I overheard her say how a member of their group was missing. We put the pieces together."

His brows drew together. "But why are you here?"

His mother laughed. "Your son has the uncanny ability to make friends with anyone, so here we are."

Hermione muffled her laugh behind her hand. There was a subtle tug on her leggings, and she glanced down to see the young boy standing in front of her. She crouched down, smiling still. "What is it?"

"You're my Daddy's friend?"

She glanced up at Malfoy before responding. "Yes, I would say so. What is your name?"

"Scorpius." He was clutching a folded piece of white paper in his hand. "What's yours?"


He stared at her for a moment before saying, "What kind of name is that?"

His father clapped a hand over his mouth as he laughed.

She fought off a smile. "What kind of name is Scorpius?" she fired back.

Scorpius puffed his chest out a bit. "It's a con—const—ugh!"

"Constellation?" Hermione smiled.

"That!" He yelled, pointing at her so quickly his finger brushed her nose.

"I'm noticing a trend here." Hermione said, looking up at Draco as she sat on her knees. "Nice to meet you."

Scorpius attempted to say her name, but it proved to be a little too long for him.

Charlie sniggered. "Her friends call her 'Mione, but she doesn't like the nickname. If you call her that, she might get mad at you."

Before the child could look back at her, she glared at Charlie. What a prick. This little boy could call her anything he wanted and she would probably be fine with it.

"Will you be mad at me?"

"No," she rushed, shaking her head. "Of course not."

"'Mione." Scorpius tested, much to the amusement of everyone in the room. "You can call me Scorp."

"Scorp," Hermione repeated with a wide grin. "Sounds good to me." She held her hand out for a high five. "What's that?" She pointed to his hand.

His eyes lit up. "It's for you!" He pushed the crumpled paper into her hands. "Grandmum helped me write your name. It's too long. You should change it."

Everyone laughed.

Hermione unfolded the card, holding it where Malfoy could see it over her shoulder. Her head tipped back as she laughed. It was a drawing of what was the only time Scorpius has ever seen her, which happened to be when his father caught her from smacking her face on the floor. The stick figure drawing was, if she said so herself, incredibly cute.

In the corner was a small note, written in a shaky hand. Hermione assumed that his grandmother had helped him with it too by guiding his hand. Get well soon, Hermione. "Thank you very much. This is perfect. You're such a good artist!"

"Really?" Scorpius asked, sliding closer to Hermione and looking at the card again. "I guess I am."

"Modest, Scorp," Malfoy chuckled.

"It's absolutely amazing." Hermione said, winking at the little boy. "It belongs in a magazine, but I think I have a better place for it."

He cocked his head to the side. "Where?"

"I'll put it on my fridge as soon as I get home and then I'll see it every time I go past it." Hermione ruffled his hair, unable to resist doing it. "This makes me feel loads better already." She climbed to her feet, carefully folding the car. "Well, I'm going to head home so I can sleep. You'll call when Ron wakes up?"

She didn't want to go home, but she was certain she would fall asleep rather soon, and Molly had already told her to go home once.

"Of course. You shouldn't walk though." Molly said, her lips thinning. "At least let Charlie take you home. It won't take but a minute."

"Oh, it's just a short walk. And I don't want to get into another car right now." Hermione said.

"You won't be able to walk out of the hospital, much less home with how much pain you're in." Malfoy commented. He'd picked Scorpius up, giving him a tight hug.

"Daddy can take 'Mione home." Scorpius said loudly, his eyes darting from his father to her.

Malfoy scoffed. "Daddy can do what?"

His mother agreed. "You should take her home, Draco. She's your friend after all, and this family is waiting for Ronald to wake. It's hardly fair to pull them away now, don't you think?"

He might not have seen it, or maybe he had, but Hermione caught the look exchanged between his mother and Molly.

He sighed. "It's really no trouble, and you shouldn't walk any long distances." Malfoy set his son back on the ground, and kissed his mother's cheek. "Would you like to meet for breakfast still?"

"Oh, no," she replied, standing. "I'm too tired now, I think. It was lovely to meet you, Hermione." She extended a hand.

One that Hermione shook, but she was at a loss. "The same to you, Mrs Malfoy."

She smiled brightly. "Narcissa is fine."

Hermione escaped the room the first moment she could, and Scorpius stood beside her as they waited for his father. "How old are you?" Hermione asked.

He slid his much smaller hand into hers, and her heart melted. "Four. How old are you?"

"That's a rude question to ask a lady." Hermione laughed.

As his father exited the room with Narcissa, softly shutting the door, Hermione watched as Narcissa walked in the opposite direction.

"Do you know how old 'Mione is?" Scorpius asked.

"Twenty-seven," came Malfoy's quick reply.

"How do you even know that?"

"Hospital chart."

Scorpius was asleep within minutes of her telling Malfoy where to drive. Her complex was a welcome sight, and she sighed as she unbuckled herself. "Thank you for bringing me home. I appreciate it."

"How will you get to work?" He asked, his hand on the gear shift. "Don't tell me you're going to walk."

She nodded. "My car is totalled, and I'll be without one for a while. It's not a far walk."

He glared at her. "You said that this wasn't a far walk."

"It's not."

"It absolutely is." He reached for a spare piece of paper, pulling his pen from his pocket. "Take this. Call me when you're ready to leave for work. I don't mind."

She couldn't fight the smile that curved her lips. "Let me guess, doctor's orders?"

Hermione was rewarded with a genuine smile. "If that's what it takes, then yes."

Her hand brushed his as she took the scrap of paper. "Fine. Thank you for being so kind." She glanced over the back of her seat, seeing Scorpius fast asleep in his car seat. "He's really cute."

"Thank you." He smiled. Malfoy looked in the rearview mirror at his son.

"Your wife won't mind that you're taking me to work though?" Hermione asked. "Or girlfriend?"

If she wasn't mistaken, there was a tiny bit of blush that coated the top of his cheeks. "Single parent," he murmured, and offered nothing else.

She didn't ask for anything else. "Oh! I'm sorry I mentioned it."

"It's fine. Get some sleep." He told her.

Hermione exited the car without another word, and though she tried to not be obvious about it, she couldn't help but watch his car leave the parking lot.

Her pounding heartbeat could only mean trouble.


Chapter Text



From Draco, 7:12 A.M.: When would you like to leave for work?

Hermione felt her mobile vibrate from where it was tucked into the seam of her leggings. Glancing at her watch, she already knew who it was. For the last seven days—Not that she was counter, she wasn't—Malfoy had taken her to work. It was an easy habit to fall into, but she was distracted by the fact that she barely knew anything about him at all.

What she knew was little. He had a son, who was four and a half. He was a surgeon. Malfoy was a single parent, but she wasn't likely to ask anything pertaining to that. Though he probably only knew a handful about her, it was unnerving that he knew more.

For instance, in just a week, Malfoy knew how she took her coffee without asking Luna. He knew that she'd only want one of the pumpkin croissants if they were freshly made, and that work on Thursdays required espresso. He was also aware of her tendency to work late on Thursday nights to meet the deadline for Fridays, even though he'd only seen her for one Thursday, and Hermione was certain there would be another extra large coffee sitting for her in the cup holder of his car.

She climbed the steps of her complex, resting her hand along the iron railing.

To Draco, 7:50 A.M.: Just got home from my run. I'll jump in the shower, and get ready. 8:30?

A recurring worry of hers was that she was hindering his daily routine. He'd already told her that he was working nights for the next two weeks. By all rights, she was pretty sure that she already was causing him to shift his life around. Her protests for a ride fell on deaf ears each time, and he told her that she didn't need to walk home in the dark.

Well, she didn't need to, but she could. She'd done it before, Hermione had told him from over the rim of her sweet drink. He put the car into gear and rolled his eyes before ignoring her completely.

From Draco, 7:51 A.M.: Cutting it close, aren't you?

She snorted, tossing her mobile onto the bed before stripping. Leaving her clothes in a sweaty pile in the middle of her bedroom, she took a quick shower. Stepping into the stream of water before it could cool down at all, she exited the glass door in six minutes.

Hermione towel dried her body before eyeing the hair dryer with disdain. No matter, since she'd woken up late. Drying her the best she could in the time she had, Hermione settled for tying it up when it wasn't fully dry. Finishing the morning routine, applying the smallest amount of makeup she could to hide her blemishes, she swiped mascara across her lashes before dressing.

Another new, slightly confusing development was that her appearance had improved. She'd never been lazy by any means, but she loved jeans, loved her sweaters that slipped off the edge of her shoulder. The sudden change to the skirts that had been hanging in the back of her closet for some time hadn't gone unnoticed; Molly and Ginny had been quick to point it out at Sunday dinner this past week.

Despite telling herself that she wasn't looking to impress anyone, Hermione knew it had everything to do with the surgeon that was starting to act more like a friend rather than an acquaintance. Even if that was how it started, it certainly wasn't why it continued. Compliments were nice, but she'd noticed the extra confidence in her step.

It seemed like a small thing, her confidence getting a boost, and it felt silly that a change of clothes had caused it. Hermione stepped into a pair of simple flats while pulling small strands of hair from her bun to frame her face.

She grabbed her handbag on the way out the door, locking the door behind her before hurrying down the steps. His car idled at the curb as usual, the passenger side door already unlocked for her to slip inside. Setting her handbag on the floor, she pulled the belt across her chest.

"Here," Draco said, nodding to the cup sitting between them. "As a medical professional, I feel duty-bound to inform you that your coffee intake is going to be the death of you."

Her nose crinkled when she gave a quiet laugh. "Don't be ridiculous. I only drink this much on Thursdays. It's hardly going to kill me."

Before pulling away from the curb, he gave her a terse look. "Maybe you're unaware, but you're not supposed to consume an entire week's worth of espresso in one sitting. Your heart is going to beat out of your chest."

Gently blowing on her coffee, she arched an eyebrow. "Isn't that a medical improbability, Dr Malfoy?"

"Oi, fuck off," he grumbled, but the edge of his lips twitched. "How was the run?"

Small talk, she grimaced. Hermione had never been good with idle chatter designed to fill the silence. "It was fine. I only made it halfway through before visiting with a neighbour. He walks his dog in the mornings, and Fluffy tends to take me down on sight."

He choked on a laugh. "How big is Fluffy?"

A smirk curled her lips as she considered his reaction. "Fluffy is a ninety-kilo Mastiff. Hagrid rescued him from a shelter last year. Poor thing was skin and bone then."

"Jesus Christ. And he just lunges at you?"

"Might be the dog treats I carry in my pocket for him." Hermione shrugged.

"You like dogs then?"

That was a mild way of putting it. "I do. I've never had a dog since my mother had a small allergy, but sometimes I visit the shelter with Hagrid. He likes to volunteer."

"What do you do when you volunteer?" He slowed to a stop, tapping his fingers on the wheel.

Hermione took a good, subtle look when he was staring at the stalled traffic in front of them. He was dressed casually in a pair of jeans that looked too good on him, and a dark blue button up. He'd rolled the sleeves up halfway to his elbows, and there was a watch on his left wrist.

Draco cleared his throat.

Right, he'd asked her a question. "Whatever they need. Sometimes I walk dogs, or other times I'll give them a bath. On occasion, they need to be taken to the vet for appointments, but they try to keep that to the employees only."

"Why haven't you adopted one yet if you like them so much?"

"My lease doesn't allow pets. Maybe when I no longer live in a flat, I'll adopt one finally." Hermione stopped herself from rambling of how she wasn't sure how she'd ever pick one to take home. "Do you have any pets?"

He shook his head. "Tori, uh," he coughed, "didn't like cats or dogs particularly. She didn't want any hair from shedding in the house, but Scorpius loves animals."

She could imagine his son wanted to pet any animal he happened across. "Cute," Hermione smiled. The blunder with his ex's name was smoothed over. It wasn't as if she would ask him about it anyway. "How is Scorpius?"

Draco's smile broadened. "Great, thank you. He asks about you now every time he calls."

Her heart clenched as her eyes widened. That was a surprise. "He does?" She asked as he pulled into the parking lot of the Quibbler. "But I only met him the once."

He parked in front of the door, letting his car idle in the circle drive. "Yes, I know, but you left a lasting impression." His chest rumbled with a laugh. "He asked this morning how you were feeling. I told him you were feeling much better."

Her chest warmed, but her stomach knotted. "He's so sweet."

"Not sure where he got that from," Draco muttered. "He asked how your friend was doing. More specifically he asked, 'Is Mione's friend awake now?'"

Ron was making a good recovery, having been released from the hospital two days earlier. He was walking upright, even though it was with a limp, and he complained about the mandated physical therapy, but he was alive. And that was all she cared about. "Be sure to tell him it's all thanks to you."

She'd thanked him several times already, so she didn't say it again.

"He asked if you hung his drawing on the fridge. Which," Draco swallowed. "I don't expect you to. He's not—anyway, I'm going to tell him you did."

She shouldn't have been offended that he thought she hadn't hung it up. "No, I said I would. I hung it up as soon as I got home. Sent my mum a picture of it actually," Hermione pulled her mobile from her handbag, scrolling for the picture. She held it out, showing him.

"This is immediately after I took you home." He seemed surprised.

Hermione nodded. "I meant what I said."

He stared at it, tilting his head to the side.

"I don't look the best, all things considered." She tried for the casual approach; the picture was simple, just of her standing in front of her fridge, pointing to the drawing with a wide smile on her face.

"All things considered, you look great." He tapped the screen, and she watched as he sent himself the picture. "I hope you don't mind, but it'll make his day."

"It's fine." Hermione grabbed her purse from the floor and her phone from his outstretched hand. "Thank you for bringing me to work again. I know you'll be at the hospital tonight by the time I leave, and—"

He held up a hand. "As long as nothing happens, I should be able to take a break whenever you're ready to go home. It's no problem."

"Luna can pick me up. It's no problem, really."

He waved her off. "It's fine. Have a good day, Granger."

From Draco, 11:01 P.M.: Do you think Luna could take you home? A patient was just brought to the ER and they're prepping him for surgery now.

To Draco, 11:02 P.M.: Of course. Have you eaten?

To Draco, 11:02 P.M.: I know that's not what you're thinking about right now, but just answer the question.

From Draco, 11:03 P.M.: Are you about to offer to bring me dinner?

To Draco, 11:03 P.M.: Do you want it?

From Draco, 11:04 P.M.: I would kill someone for an omelette right now. Don't feel obligated, but if you do, bring me one from that diner down the street from the Three Broomsticks. It's the first one on the menu.

To Draco, 11:05 P.M.: Earl Grey?

From Draco, 11:05 P.M.: Just water, thank you. I won't be replying after this. If you don't stop by, at least let me know you got home.

Hermione stared at her screen, wondering not for the first time what the fuck had she gotten herself into?


"Some girl brought you food. It's at the nurse's station." Katie poked her head into the room. "She told me to tell you she was taking a cab home, so she'd be fine. Girlfriend?"

"I don't have a girlfriend."

"That's not what Wanda from NeoNatal said."

He rolled his eyes, turning the faucet off. "Wanda from NeoNatal is nosy, and has no idea what she's talking about."

Katie shrugged. "Whatever. She was pretty though. You could do a lot worse. Anyway, food," she reminded him.

"Is she still here?"

"Just left, probably hasn't even made it to the exit yet if you want to catch her." Katie flattened herself against the wall as he briskly walked out of the room. "Alright then."

He hurried down the corridor, making his way through the emergency room. Draco caught sight of her just as she turned down the next corridor. "Granger!"

Appearing around the corner once more, Granger had taken steps backwards. She raised an eyebrow. "Surgery already over?"

He nodded, coming to stand in front of her. "Yes. I didn't think you would really bring me food."

She frowned. "Didn't I offer to? I don't normally say I'll do things and then not do them."

"I didn't mean—Thank you, truly."

"The woman who took my order knew who you were. She asked me if I wanted any sauce, and I said to just throw it in the end since I had no idea what you wanted. Mentioned it was for a friend working a long shift at the hospital, and she knew."

"Oh," he blinked. "Yes, I've been eating there nearly every day at this point. I like the Three Broomsticks, but they don't serve much for dinner."

Granger leaned against the wall, folding her arms over her chest. "You eat there every day?"

Draco raised his hand, rubbing the back of his neck. "I never go to the grocery. I work so much that I don't make time, and it's easier to pick something up."

"You're kidding." She sniggered. "Draco, do you have any idea how much money you would save if you bought the ingredients and made your omelettes yourself. And yeah, she mentioned that it's the only thing you buy."

He could feel the tips of his ears burning. "Admittedly, I'm not very good at cooking."

"I find that hard to believe," Hermione said quietly. "I'll teach you if you like."


"You've gotta learn how. Plus, omelettes are really easy. Think of it as me repaying you for chauffeuring me around all this time."

"Speaking of—"

She shook her head. "Go eat your food, and I will take a taxi home. Please. Should you be leaving the hospital anyway?"

Well, no. Draco swallowed, realising he'd been acting foolishly by thinking he could just leave. "Alright, you're right."

"Usually am." She turned away from him. Looking back over her shoulder, she said, "The waitress put extra toast in there for you. I'll see you in the morning. Have a good night." She disappeared around the corner with little else.


Three days later, Hermione still didn't have a car. There was a delay, something about her car had smashed against a tree at a certain angle. Though there probably wasn't any angle her car could have hit and it be fine, Hermione sighed and signed the invoice that presented her with for an entirely new plan of repairs.

She'd begun to wish her car had just been utterly totalled, and then she could have signed another five year note. As it was, the repairs would almost cost more than what she owed. It was a cluster fuck, as Ron put it.

Sunday found her at the Three Broomsticks, balancing her phone on her leg while she arranged her computer just how she wanted. The flowery file was set to the right of her computer, precariously close to the sugary drink that was also too close to the edge. Sighing, she moved the cup before it could make a mess and she settled into her chair.

She had at least an hour before Charlie would fetch her for Sunday dinner.

That was another thing. Between Molly wondering if Hermione liked her surgeon friend, and hoping to still get to Hermione as part of the family, legally, she found herself in the middle of a lot. Following the wreck, Charlie announced at the last family dinner that he'd interviewed for a job in London.

He was still waiting to hear back, but they had requested he remain local if he could until a decision. Charlie being, well, himself, proclaimed that he had nothing better to do since he'd already quit his job for the new one; which he hadn't officially gotten, but he said he had a feeling and everyone should go along with it.

Placing her headphones snugly in her ears, she returned to her project. It was nothing for the moment, but she flipped through the pages of ideas. There were only so many ways to take a story, and—

Her headphones were ripped out of her ears. Hermione's head snapped up, her eyes narrowing as she met Draco's eyes. "What do you think you're doing?" She growled. "You scared the fuck out of me!"

He held up his hand. "I understand that, and I promise that I will leave you alone if you'll do me a favour."

Hermione groaned and closed the lip of her laptop, flipping her folder shut before he could see a list of characteristics that would be too familiar. "What could you possibly want?"

"If it sways you any, it's for Scorpius..."

"You son?" She blinked. "Is he with you?"


She tilted her head to the side, catching sight of Luna pinching Neville's arse behind the counter. "I don't understand."

Draco took the seat next to her, holding his phone out. "Will you please video chat with my son because he has not stopped asking about you since he met you. He also told me this morning it's not very nice of me to not share friends."

She slapped a hand over her mouth as she let out a loud laugh. "Oh my God."

He shook his head, running his fingers through his gelled hair. "My own son, my four-year-old, told me sharing is caring. And then he told me that I was a jerk."

"Sounds like you are a jerk, withholding his friends, and everything." Her shoe knocked against his shin beneath the table. "You're sure he wants me to call?"

He blew out a sharp breath. "Yes, look!" Draco pointed to his phone where his mother's photo appeared on the screen. "I guarantee that's him already calling."

Hermione crossed her legs beneath the table. "Check before you hand me the phone. No offence, but I don't particularly want to chat with your mum randomly."

He swiped a finger across the screen, holding his mobile up as the rustling in the background on the other side of the line became clear. "Scorp—"

"Jerk." Came a small voice, followed by a grumpy "Hmmph."

Draco shot her a desperate look.

She laughed, taking the phone and propping it up against the napkin dispenser in front of them. "Heard you wanted to talk to me." Hermione smiled. "How are you?"

Scorpius' face lit up, his lips parting in surprise as he clapped his hands. "I'm great! How are you?"

"I'm well. What do you have there?" Hermione pointed toward the bottom of the screen where he clutched something in his hands.

He held up an illustrated book, opening it and showing her the first page. "Dad bought this for me last time I was there."

"Yes," Draco nudged her, whispering. "And we read it fifteen times a day for an entire weekend."

Hermione sipped her drink as Scorpius told her all about his new favourite book. It was about a hero and a dragon, but in the end, they became friends.

As Scorpius exited the screen, presumably to grab something else to show them, she looked at his father. "You bought him a book about dragons? Conceited, maybe?"

"Oh, yes." He snorted, jabbing her in the ribs lightly with his elbow. "Is Hermione for the daughter of Menelaus and Helen, or is it for Shakespeare?"

She lifted her chin. "Shakespeare if you'd really like to know."

"Pretentious, no?"

Hermione jabbed him right back in his ribs, her hit much harder, and left him wheezing as Scorpius reappeared. "Oh, what's that?"

He lifted up one drawing, which Hermione recognised as his father and Scorpius. "This is Daddy and me."

"It's marvellous." Hermione gushed, resting her chin on her knuckles. "Do you like to draw?"

He bobbed his head up and down. "Mumma doesn't like it though."

She looked to Draco, her brows knitting together. It wasn't her business, but Draco's expression revealed that he was just as stunned as her. "What do you mean?" Draco asked. He scooted closer to her, pressing himself into the frame. "She doesn't like that you draw?"

Scorpius' lower lip trembled, but it was gone just as quickly as it had appeared. "I make a mess," he stated. "I leave out papers, and my crayons leave marks on the furniture. I'm not supposed to have them on the couches."

Hermione thought that part sounded reasonable, but didn't like the sound of this woman so far. Not that she knew much about her anyway. Watching as Draco contained his anger was uncomfortable. It was a parent to child moment, and she didn't belong in the middle of it. Hermione moved to stand, to give Draco a moment, but his hand settled on her thigh beneath the table.

"It's fine." He murmured. "Scorpius, I'll talk to her about it. If you make a mess, that's perfectly okay. Messes can be cleaned, but it's important to learn how to clean them yourself as well."

His son nodded with a smile. "Can I show 'Mione my room at Grandmumma's?"

Hermione rested her arms on the table. "I would love to see it."

Scorpius sprinted through the house, carrying the mobile with him as he went. He took time to point out paintings—which he called old and dusty—but didn't give enough time for her to see them. She didn't mind.

So, Hermione spent the hour of free time she'd had for writing on a digital tour of Scorpius' room. He showed her all of his books, his favourite was about a family of dragons. They went through his closet as he showed her all of the cool shirts he had, more of his drawings, and all of his toys.

She didn't have any complaints about how she spent the hour. Really, she was a little sad when Charlie walked into the coffee shop to pick her up. "Scorpius?" Hermione said. "I have to go now, but we'll talk again soon if you want."

He stared at her like he was sizing her up. "You won't mind?"

"Mind? Definitely not, I'd love to talk to you again." She lifted a finger as Charlie neared them, and he gave a nod, standing in place. "Bye for now!"

"Bye, 'Mione! Wait, wait!"

She looked at the screen. "Yes?"

"How is your friend?"

If her heart hadn't melted over the duration of the call itself, the question would have done it. Charlie heard it as he tucked his hands into his pockets. "Ron is much better. Thank you, Scorpius."

He waved goodbye before hanging up. Draco slid his fingers through his hair. "I'm so sorry to have taken all your time. I thought he would talk for ten minutes at the most."

"Never a bother." Hermione stood and slid her chair beneath the table. Packing her laptop and folders into her bag, she shouldered it. "Really, he's wonderful. I'm thankful that you let me talk to him even though I'm a stranger."

He smirked. "Not quite as much as a stranger as you used to be. You've already met my child and mother."

Her head fell back as she laughed. "I'll see you tomorrow?"

Draco nodded, and she trailed after Charlie to his car.


He tried cooking an omelette himself after buying all of the ingredients from a local grocery. He threw it in the rubbish bin when it hadn't turned out as well as the one from the restaurant. Grabbing his keys, Draco opted for picking up breakfast instead.

His phone rang as soon as he closed the door. Answering through the car's Bluetooth, his mother's voice came through the speakers. "Good morning, darling."


There was a clinking sound on the other side of the line, likely his mother stirring her morning tea. "How are you?"

"I'm well. I'm working the night shift this week so I'm picking up breakfast."

She probably rolled her eyes, given the huff that sounded through the speakers. "You should cook for yourself."

Draco deadpanned, "I tried and it was shite. Hermione told me it was easy to make an omelette, which she was right, but she neglected to tell me how it wasn't easy to make them taste good."

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Narcissa latched onto them. "Hermione? How did that conversation come about?"

"She brought me food to the hospital; it came up." Following the silence that carried on for a few seconds too long, Draco added, "Don't read into that. We're friends."

There was a swallow. "Of course. She's lovely, and your son is besotted with her. She's all he would talk about yesterday night. Lucius nodded politely, but he may call you to ask who Hermione is."

"She's not my girlfriend if that's what he's going to ask me." Draco came to a stop in traffic, passing The Quibbler as he drove. "Do you know anything about Tori scolding Scorpius when he colours?"

"She mentioned that he left a stain on one of the new sofas, but I hadn't heard anything else. Why?"

He gripped the steering wheel with one hand, switching lanes of traffic as he looked over his shoulder. "He told Hermione and I that Tori didn't like when he drew. I understand making a mess and how it can be frustrating to stain a new couch, but he's four. I haven't talked to her about it, but he seemed upset."

"No doubt. Do let me know how that conversation goes?"

He nodded despite her not being able to see it. "I think you'll hear about it before I have the chance to."

There was an awkward silence as he knew she was about to change the subject, and she was deciding which way to go about it. "How is Hermione after the wreck?" Blunt was best apparently.

"She recovered well, not that she had many injuries to begin with. She was sore for the first couple of days, but now all she says is she'll be better once her car is fixed."

"Oh no!" Narcissa exclaimed. "It must be such a chore to take a cab every day."

Draco snorted loudly. "I'm the cab."

"You take her to work?" Narcissa asked. "And home? How do you manage that around your own schedule? Especially when you work nights since she works a day job as an editor."

His eyes narrowed. "How do you know that she's an editor? I never told you that."

She swallowed. "I know how to use the internet, Draco. Her photo online for The Quibbler is just gorgeous. Have you seen it?"

"I have not."

"I'll send it to you. Do you only take her to work and home, or do you help with any errands she has. Really, you should—"

He cut her off. "We're going grocery shopping the moment she's off today actually. She said she's gone through everything in her pantry now."

"How lovely of you to help her."

"Yes, I have to twist her arm for her to let me because she wants to walk everywhere," Draco muttered. "Any other questions you've been trying to work in?"

His mother laughed. "Only one. How is Ron? He was injured so badly when I met his mother, I was worried he wouldn't make it."

"He's made an excellent recovery, but Hermione tells me he's not happy about physical therapy." He parked in front of the restaurant. "How is your day?"

"Quiet. Your father is away so I can enjoy my morning without hearing about stocks and business deals. Eloise and I are going out for lunch later. Oh! Your birthday is in a couple of weeks, what day can you come to visit?"

"Mother, you don't need to host a party for me."

"Nonsense, you're my son, and I want to celebrate. If you'd like to bring someone, of course, feel free."

"I have said Hermione isn't my girlfriend, haven't I?"

The waitress behind the glass of the restaurant recognised him, waving politely. "I understand that. Even if you'd like to bring just a friend is welcome. As I said, Eloise and I—"

"No," he grumbled. "Tell me she's not trying to match me up with her daughter."

"I wouldn't want to lie."

"Yes, I'll bring someone than," Draco muttered. "I need to go, but I'll call you tomorrow if you like?"

"Sounds lovely. I love you, have a good day."

He murmured the same before pocketing his phone and hurrying inside. He'd just made it to the counter when his phone rang again in his pocket. "I'm sorry, excuse me," Draco stepped out of the way for the next patron, answering it with a grim look on his face as he saw his ex-wife's name. "Hello?"

There were no pleasant, but fake, greetings. "Who the fuck is 'Mione?"

He went rigid, pulling the phone away from his ear dumbfounded. "What?" He asked when he finally did reply. "Hermione is a friend of mine."

There was a crash, followed by a "Goddammit. Friend?" she snarled. "I somehow doubt that, Draco. What, did you just have a young girlfriend while we were going through a divorce and that's why you moved to London."

Draco waved to the waitress waiting for him to order as he stepped back and exited the restaurant. Walking quickly to his car as he told Astoria to hang on while he got himself alone, he slammed his door. "Are you fucking serious? You want to accuse me of infidelity when we both know you were fucking Theo behind my back? In our bed, Tori! In my house!"

"Don't turn this—"

"First of all," He snapped. "Even if Hermione was my girlfriend, it wouldn't be any of your business. We are divorced, which means we're free to pursue whoever we like. I've never, and would never, question you about your choices."

"I don't want some strange fucking woman around my son!" she screamed. "All he'll talk about is this b—woman, and I've never even met her."

"Then meet her if you want!" Draco growled. "I'm not going to apologise for having friends. I didn't choose to introduce Hermione to Scorpius. My mother brought him to the hospital two weeks ago, and Hermione was in a nearly fatal car the same night. She fainted in front Scorpius, that's why he knows her. He fucking drew her a get well card because she was my friend."

Ever the judgemental one, Astoria spat, "I don't want to meet your trashy girlfriend."

"Then I suggest you get used to the fact that Scorpius may see her. She's a close friend, Tori, and he likes her."

"He's four! He doesn't know who he likes!"

He was glad they weren't face to face, though it would have been the easiest way to sort things out. Draco wasn't sure he could stand the sight of her. "If I ask Scorpius how many men have been in our home, what will he tell me?"

She fell silent. "I'm his mother, I get to decide—"

"And I am his father. We have an agreement that was settled in court, Tori."

"I'll take you back if—"

"And I will fucking bury you," Draco replied smoothly. "If you want to meet her for yourself, you can. She's not a terrible person."

All he got in return was a dial tone.

Draco pinched the bridge of his nose. Lifting his phone, he made a decision as he looked at the clock. She'd be taking a break soon anyway, wouldn't she?

To Hermione, 11:54 A.M.: Lunch?


She'd stared at the text, her eyes widening, for two seconds before replying in agreement. She told him that he bring her whatever he chose and that someone from the front desk would direct him to her office, though she could meet him in the lobby if he preferred.

Leaning back in her chair, she looked at the ceiling. The small file containing her handwritten notes for her own story looked back at her from the top of her desk, and she inhaled a sharp breath. While she'd been debating on how to write a love story, researching prompts and the like, it felt like she'd found herself in one. It wasn't going to go that way, she knew, but this was the sort of situation one didn't just find themselves in.

Twenty minutes later, Draco was let into her office by Lisa. The secretary mouthed, "Damn," as she closed the door behind her.

Hermione smoothed her skirt down as she stood, hurrying to take the two drinks he was balancing precariously. "Thank you." As they sat down, she noticed how his jaw was clenched. "What's wrong? She cleared her desk, making enough room for them to eat lunch.

"I'm not sure what you mean." He handed her utensils wrapped in plastic. "I'm fine."

She shook her head. "No, you're really not. Your jaw is clenched, your eyes are narrowed, and you keep glancing around the room as if you're expecting someone to jump out. I don't mind if you don't want to talk about it, but it would just be nice if you told me the truth."

He knee bumped against the underside of her desk. "You're sure?"

Hermione smiled. "I'm a good listener."

"I was married."

Her gaze diverted to his left hand. "I thought it might have been something like that. You're divorcing then?"

He shook his head. "No, we've been divorced since," Draco had to stop to think of it. "last August? The months have blurred together since I'm still dealing with her."

Hermione popped a chip into her mouth, nodding. "Since she's Scorpius' mother?"

"Correct. She's the mother of my child; she'll always be a part of my life now. I don't hate that. Tori wasn't always this way."

"Did something happen?"

He sighed. "Scorpius hasn't stopped talking about you, and he talked to Tori about you."

The blood drained from Hermione's face as she dropped her chip. "Oh, no, I'm so sorry if I've caused you this—"

He held a hand out, pausing her. "It's not at all your fault. She called me this morning and accused me of having a girlfriend while we divorcing, meaning you, and that you're the reason I've moved to London. It's preposterous, but once she starts I can't get her to stop."

Hermione swallowed, letting that information sink in. "I'm guessing she didn't believe you when you told her that wasn't true?"

"Even if she did, she'd find something else to say. The main thing and this is what may affect you, is that she's angry I've brought someone around our son. She's never met you."

"I can understand, as much as one can when they don't have children, why she wouldn't be happy. If it's only going to cause problems, I don't have to talk to Scorpius anymore. I don't want to be the reason the two of you are fighting."

"Noble, but no. I told her that I have just as much right as she does and that my friends will be around my son. But the other thing is that while she was screaming that she had never met you, I told her she could meet you."

Hermione slumped in her chair, her lips parting. She wasn't sure what to say to that. "Well, fuck."

"You're angry."

"No," she said slowly. "It makes sense. It's fair to her that she meets who is around her son. I can honour that. It's just that she sounds like a massive pain in the arse, and I'm not looking forward to meeting her."

He chuckled. "I thought you were going to be furious."

"Oh, I am." Hermione drawled. "Not for myself, for you. I don't know who she thinks she is, but it's not her choice who her ex-husband socialises with. I understand that I'm currently only hearing the bad things about her, and there may be good things, but… I have nothing nice to say about her."

He cut into his omelette, steadily ignoring her laugh as she noticed his food.

"Can I ask why you divorced?"

He laid his fork down, looking straight at her. "Our marriage had been circling the drain for a while, and I thought it was me to blame. I wanted to fix it, but then I learned she'd been having an affair since Scorpius turned two. It was my best friend. I went to visit Theo—it was the anniversary of his mother's death—I didn't notice he was hiding anything. But then I looked down and on the table was Tori's wedding set. I knew right then that she was in the house. All of her disappearances and her attitude made sense then. I filed for divorce the next morning."

Her hand raised to her mouth in horror. "Draco, oh my God." Hermione leaned forward, grabbing his hand without thinking. "I'm so sorry."

His thumb swiped across her knuckles. "I've made my peace with it."

"I don't know what I'm supposed to say, but you must know it was her loss."

Draco's smile was melancholy at best. "I'm not heartbroken to have lost her at all. Not seeing my son every day, however, is devastating."

Hermione glanced down at the calendar stretching across her desk. "Is she a good mum to him at least?"

He nodded. "For all her faults, no matter how many there are, she's a wonderful mother to Scorpius."

At least there was that then. "It's admirable that you try to maintain a relationship with her. It can't be easy."

He chewed, seemingly debating what he would say next. "What's the story with you and Charlie? The one who picked you up?"

Blinking, Hermione grabbed a chip. "There's nothing to tell. He's like an older brother."

"You aren't together?"

She choked on her food. "No!"

Draco snorted, covering his mouth as he chewed. "Forgive me, I assumed."

"I dated Ron for a long time, thought we would be married by now with a kid or two." She shrugged. "Didn't work out so their mom is trying to pair me off with Charlie so I'm legally a Weasley."

He glanced around the room, from her walls and the various awards placed on the highest shelf. "How's that going for her?"

"Charlie lets her think it might happen so she'll leave him alone about settling down." She glanced up to where he was staring. "Find something interesting?"

"What are they from?"

Rolling her shoulders, and lifting another chip her mouth, she replied, "Creative writing while I was in university mostly." Hermione pulled the drawer to her right open and withdrew a framed check. Sliding it across the desk, she watched as Draco picked it up. "First and only time I ever sold a story."

"This is six years ago," he commented. "Have you never submitted another?"

She shook her head. "No, I haven't finished a story worth a damn since that one. I keep it close so I remember the feeling I had when I succeeded."

Hermione knew what he would ask before he opened his mouth. "Can I read it?"

"If you can find it. It's under a pseudonym." Kicking her heels off below the desk, she grinned. "Good luck with that one."

The clock sounded with each passing second in the corner of her office. "You now know how my marriage ended. Can I ask why your relationship with Ron ended?"

"Mostly because we're incompatible. We argue a lot, and not the sort of arguments forgotten. We've always been better off as friends."

"Is he in love with you?"

She froze. So he has remembered what she'd told him after the wreck. The events of that night were still fuzzy around the edges in places. "No. He doesn't want to be alone and he thinks I can be a safety net."

The impeccably dressed man across from her frowned. "You're much more than a safety net."

She lifted her head. "Thank you," Hermione murmured. "And thank you for lunch as well. How much was mine?"

"Zero cost to you."

"How much cost to you then?"

"It doesn't matter." Draco insisted.

Hermione rolled her eyes, grabbing the bag and pulling the receipt out. He shot out of his chair, snatching it right out of her hand.

Only it ripped. Hermione was left with the side that said how much he'd paid for his food. "For fuck's sake, you're spending too much money on omelettes!" she sniggered.

"In my defence, I did make one this morning. It tasted terrible."

Relaxing in her chair, she only shook her head.

"I'll leave you to get back to work." Draco gathered his trash, boxing up what was left of his food. "Thank you for having lunch with me."

"The door is always open. I enjoyed it. See you in a few hours?"

"Mushrooms, right?" Hermione held up the package, looking across the trolley at Draco.

Currently, he was holding two boxes of cereal, deciding which he wanted through a series of quietly murmured questions such as taste, how much the box contained, and other things. She found it endearing really. At the clearing of her throat, Draco lifted his head. "What did you say?" His eyes darted to the package she held high in her hand. "Yes, please."

She crossed it from the list she'd scribbled. "Alright, milk is close by. I'll go grab that; do you think you can decide on a box of cereal before I get back?"

In a move that wasn't like him, he stuck out his tongue while he rolled his eyes. "I'm sure I'll manage."

Hermione did just as she said, grabbing the milk before marking off several items on the list. Carefully bundling milk, a bag of roasted potatoes, and two bags of bagels, she made her back to Draco. He wasn't in the same spot she left him. Looking up and down the aisle, Hermione winced as her arms grew weak while searching through the store. She was about to yell his name when she heard hers.

Pivoting on her heel, she saw that he was leaning on the trolley with a smirk on his face. "Did you get lost?" He straightened as she neared him, taking the potatoes and milk from her hands.

Hermione grinned. The cart was filled now, both with his items and hers. "Did you grab my tea? I get a certain kind."

Draco leaned forward, grabbing a box and tossing it to her. "That one?"

She nodded.

"Not like it was difficult; you wrote down the kind you wanted."

Hermione knew that. More than once, she'd grabbed the wrong one by reaching toward the shelf blindly so she left herself a reminder. Still, Ron had never actually read her lists, choosing to just see 'tea' and operate on that alone. "I didn't know if you read it."

He arched an eyebrow. "Why wouldn't I? You wrote it down for a reason, didn't you?"

"Yeah," Hermione replied.

They went through the checkout line together, but she placed the divider between their purchases. The clerk eyed Draco, her cheeks heating up each time she did. The girl couldn't have been more than sixteen, and Hermione hid her smile behind her sleeve.

There was certainly something alluring about Draco. Whether it was his eyes, which were a unique shade of grey that she still didn't believe was real, or his build. Tall, and muscular, Draco stood a head and a half taller than her. As always, he was dressed impeccably well, from the leather shoes he wore to the casual pair of jeans that fit him perhaps too well, and the jumper he wore.

He almost always rolled up his sleeves, exposing his forearms, and the veins standing out from them.

"Hermione," he said. "You can pay now."

Recovering with a cough, Hermione pretended she hadn't been drinking in the sight of him just like the teenage girl behind the counter.

She helped load the bags into the trunk of his car before sliding into the passenger seat. Given the last two weeks, he probably knew the way to her home as well as he knew his own. The drive was quiet, save for the music spilling from the radio. As he parked in front of her complex, she moved to get out but found him following suit.

"What are you doing?"

He opened his trunk, gathering all of her groceries in one hand. "Carrying these in for you? If you don't mind me being in your flat, that is."

Water rippled as she stepped in a puddle, her eyes widening. "Of course I don't mind, but I could carry it. It's not much."

He shook his head, motioning with his free hand. "Lead the way."

Hurrying up her steps, Hermione waved to Michael who was just leaving his own flat. "Hello," she greeted politely.

He opened his mouth, seconds from saying anything, and it snapped shut as he saw Draco standing behind her. "Hello," Michael replied and disappeared down the steps.

She unlocked her door quickly, pushing it open, and immediately locking it behind Draco. "You can just put everything on the kitchen counter. I'll put it all away." Suddenly, her living room felt much smaller as Draco emerged from her kitchen. She could make small talk while he took her to work, or brought her home, but in her flat?

His laughter rumbled in his chest. "You look like you're going to be sick."

Not her best impression, she supposed. "I'm not great with small talk. You're standing there, and I realised I had nothing to say."

Draco made a sound that she thought was a snort. "Right. Well, I think I have something that might fill to space then." He stepped toward her bookcase, his long fingers trailing across the spines of various notebooks.

He pulled out a small one that had been bound by a shop not far from her flat for one of her birthdays. "This is the one that won the award?"

Her mouth fell open. "Are you stalking me? There's no way you walk into my flat for the first time, and just pick it off the shelf."

His smirk was irritating at best as he thumbed the pages. "You're right. The only reason I've been taking you to work isn't to be a dependable friend, but to stalk you. I break in every night."

Hermione choked. "It's absolutely terrifying how you can say that with a straight face. How do I know you haven't been breaking in?"

His shoulders shook. "Because I could never sneak into anything. I may be skilled with my hands, but I swear to you that if I attempt climbing through that window right now, I'll knock everything off the shelf."

She folded her arms across her chest. "Let's see it then."

"You're shitting me."

She cocked her head to the side. "If you do it, I'll let you take that home and read it." Hermione grinned ear to ear as he slapped the small book into her hand. "You're doing it?"

He shot an obscene gesture her way. "At least unlock the window since I also can't pick a lock."

Hermione giggled. "Some stalker you are."

"Yes, well," he pulled the door open. "I can't be good at everything."

After unlocking the door, Hermione settled on her sofa, and a thought crossed her mind. She really, really, hoped none of her neighbours saw the scene and called the police. He managed to get one foot inside before realising he was never going to fit through that way. Grumbling that he was glad he went to medical school and ignoring her outburst of laughter, Draco finally climbed through...

...And knocked every single last thing off of her shelf before his shoe caused a vase to break against the floor. Draco crawled into the floor, lying on his back while glaring at her. "I've never done anything so ridiculous in my life."

She grinned and handed the short story over. "Come see me when you're done."


He dropped the book on her table while she sipped her drink. "You finished, I take it?"

He glared at her, his jaw clenched as he pushed the offensive story toward her. "She died." He hissed, ripping a seat out and sinking into it. "And yes, I finished. It wasn't very long, which didn't matter considering how much you packed into it."

A smile curved her lips. "Thank you."

Shaking a finger at her, he continued. "I'm not complimenting you, not yet anyway. You killed her, Granger! Absolutely killed her!"

Luna was watching them from behind the counter.

Closing her laptop, Hermione nodded. "I'm aware. I wrote it actually. I wrote that scene first on the back of a napkin in the middle of a coffee shop in France."

"You wrote her dying first?"

Hermione nodded again. Crossing her legs in her chair, she laid her hands in her lap. "I was inspired by something that happened while I was in the coffee shop. Obviously, I didn't plan it, but it just stuck."

Draco tabled his anger that the main character was dead for the time being. "You were inspired by a true event? What was it?"

Blinking, she swallowed. It wasn't something that normally happened. Her friends knew she wrote, of course, but they didn't take an interest in the process of it. "Um, there was a car wreck outside of the coffee shop. Patrons ran out of the shop in an attempt to help, but the husband was killed. I've never felt that sort of devastation before. I was one of the ones outside, and I tried to help the wife. I never got her name."

"You spoke to her?"

"I sat with her while emergency responders arrived. She cried into my shoulder, and told me that when the other vehicle cut them off, her husband was in the middle of laughing, and telling her he loved her." A chill ran down her spine. "She told me it was like hearing every goodbye she'd ever heard at once."

"Oh, God." Draco blanched. "I can't imagine—"

"It's terrifying, isn't it? To love someone even though anything could happen? I try not to think about it, and I wrote that scene only because there were all of these knots in the pit of my stomach."

His knee bumped against hers. He said nothing. Maybe he didn't know what to say.

"I used the feelings I had, and then I didn't find it until it fell out of my bag some months later. From there, I was just noticing things in other couples. Ron and I were on the downslope of our own relationship, so I was more observant when it came to others."

He leaned forward, resting his cheek against his hand as his elbow sat against the table. "How did you come up with the idea? Do you remember?"

Tucking a curl behind her ear, she remembered exactly how it had come about. "Yes. I was laying in bed, almost asleep, and it just happened. Like I said, I'd been observant. The scene kept sounding in my head, playing like a movie over and over again, so I built a story around it. Everything has an end, you know? It has to, so I worked backwards from that. It's the first time I've ever done it."

"It bloody well worked. This is the only time you've been published?"

"Besides my own articles and editorials, yes. I haven't been able to write anything worthwhile for a long time. I create projects, but none of them is what I want."

"Writer's block?" Draco guessed, fumbling.

She smiled. "Something like that. I worked on a fantasy novel, or the plot of one, for a few weeks in January for my New Years resolution, but fantasy is not my niche. Not one bit."

He looked at her curiously. "To be completely clear, I don't know anything about writing a book, but from what I read you've already found your niche."

"What do you mean?"

"I just mean that when I do read, it's typically not a romance novel, but I'll tell you I didn't set this down from the time I started it after leaving your flat. It lingered all throughout my shift at the hospital as well. As I said, all I can offer is my opinion, but it's not knowledgeable."

Hermione shifted in her seat. "You read it. I'd love to hear what you thought."

"The descriptions were visceral without being too descriptive, I thought. In the beginning, I was expecting a short love story since it starts while they're young, childhood friends who grow into adulthood with the other. You managed to capture snapshots of memories without lingering, which I enjoyed, and then it twisted."

He cleared his throat. "When she visited her physician and they told her the results, that there was nothing they could do, I felt like I'd been punched in the gut."

She tapped her pen against the table. "I'm always surprised to hear something I've written was enjoyed. Was there anything you would have changed? Or anything you noticed as the reader?"

He took a moment. "I think the first complaint I'd have is that I wanted it to be longer, but only because I'm not joking: I couldn't put it down. You're talented. You should be published right now, and reaping the royalties."

Hermione's cheeks burned. "Let's not get hasty here. You've read one thing."

"If the rest are as good as this, or even better, I stand by what I said. I can't offer anything for constructive criticism as I have no complaints. What I meant by you've found your niche, I think it's romance."

She grimaced. "At the risk of sounding like I am not a grown woman, I don't even know how to write about love. I drank so much wine drinking that, and it's a miracle it was—"

"You're putting yourself down. Don't. You hit something here, Hermione. I don't know what you want to write, but I think you could do it again. Maybe with less heartbreak, or maybe just the same."

She glanced at him, then flipped her notes open and scribbled on her stray characterization page: Encouraging. Reassuring.


Chapter Text



Hermione leaned back on the balls of her feet, glancing from the door before her back to her car that sat in the parking lot. She chewed her bottom lip, fingernails digging into her palm as she debated whether or not she was going to really follow through with this. Yes, she'd told him that she would teach him to make an omelette, but it wasn't hard. He could type it into any internet search engine, and find himself with the answer.

Their friendship had been built on the fact that she didn't have a car, and he insisted on taking her everywhere. Now her car had been recently returned to her—with a knocking under the hood that surely meant trouble—so she wasn't sure if she was intruding at that point. Huffing to herself, she spun on her heel. Hermione would think of something, anything to tell Draco for why she couldn't make it.

There was an emergency at the Quibbler. That would do it. Padma was incompetent and had deleted all of her files. Hermione had—no, really—fixed it before, so naturally Padma called her first.

She was on the second step down when the door swung open. Looking over her shoulder with a slight grimace, Hermione found Draco leaned against the doorframe. "Hello."

He smirked, folding his arms over his chest. She'd never given it much thought before, but it was clear from how the shirt fit him that he must visit a gym a few times a week. As Hermione's mouth dried, Draco filled the silence. "I don't know if you're aware, but you're meant to ring the doorbell. Doors normally don't magically open if you stare at them."

She swallowed. How long had he known she was there? Hermione didn't know what to say. "Will you laugh at me if I tell you I was nervous?" Apparently, honesty was her natural default, then...

"Depends on the reason, I suppose." He grinned.

Hermione trudged back up the stairs, stepping inside his flat when he motioned for her to enter. "I worried that I was intruding. You work so much, and I'm sure you have better things to do with your spare time."

He took her jacket, a light knit one that she favoured above all her others, and hung it on the rack beside the front door. "I don't."

"What?" She tilted her head to the side.

"I mean, yes, I do work several hours, but no, I don't have anything I'd rather be doing today. If you would rather—"

Hermione laughed. "I'm not normally this awkward."

"You aren't?" Draco arched an eyebrow. "That's a surprise. You've always been awkward, and abrasive around me."

Rolling her eyes, she looked around his flat. "Maybe you're the awkward one."

"Definitely not." He led her into his kitchen, but she lingered in the sitting room.

On the mantle, there were several photographs that grabbed her attention. Without thinking of her previous worry that she was barging into his life, she went one step further by invading his personal space. Hermione picked up the frame on the far right. Draco stood between Narcissa, and another man who she could assume was his father.

They looked so much alike. Hermione couldn't guess how old his father was from the picture, but if Draco took after his father…

"Those are my parents, but I'm sure you knew that," Draco spoke from beside her. "In the interest of being transparent, that was taken the morning of my wedding. You can't tell, but I'm absolutely hungover."

She sniggered. "How hungover?"

"Enough that my mother ripped my sunglasses off my face when I met them for the photographer. Despite already having a stag night, Theo threw another party the night before." Draco chuckled to himself. "Mother shovelled mints down my throat. If I'd actually made it to the altar, Tori would have beat me with her atrociously large bouquet."

Hermione knew that Theo was the one who had put the final nail in Draco's marriage, but he talked about the man as if he'd never done him wrong. Draco still smiled at the memory, and he discussed his wedding so easily that she wondered how one could move on from something like a divorce.

"Did you ever speak to Theo after…"

Draco shook his head, and she was relieved to see that he wasn't angry with her for asking such a personal question. "He tried to apologise, but I didn't want to hear it."

"He can't blame you for that. It's inexcusable what he did."

He set the photo back on the mantle. "It is. While I held them both at fault, I was more angry with Astoria than Theo."

It made sense. "Scorpius doesn't know why you've split, I assume," Hermione said slowly, not sure why she was curious at all. It wasn't her business.

Luckily for her, he caught her question and answered. He was completely open with her, a small fact that she found refreshing. "No. It was never an option for him to know. Being so young, if I were to say how she cheated on me, or if I was angry about it, it would only poison him against her."

She leaned against the arm of the leather recliner to her right. "You're a better person than I think I could have been," Hermione admitted quietly.

He cracked a smile. "Oh, don't say that. I wasn't so kind when I learned everything."

Hermione looked to him curiously. "What does that mean?"

Pulling his gaze away from her, Draco raked his fingers through his hair. "I'm not proud of it, but Theo was sporting several nasty bruises in the following weeks."

"You hit him?" In the heat of the moment, Hermione thought that reaction was knee jerk at best, but the man in front of her always seemed to have such a good handle on his emotions that she couldn't imagine it.

Draco grimaced. "More than once. He didn't hit back."

That was something, but she wasn't sure what. Hermione looked at the pictures again, finding one that surprised her, but she knew who it was. "Is this Astoria?" Hermione asked, pointing to the photo. She held a newborn in her arms, her lips gently curved into a smile as she swaddled Scorpius. "She's really pretty."

Draco swallowed behind her. "I used to think so. Infidelity ruined that for me, that's for certain."

Not that she was going to say anything, but it brightened her mood. Just a bit. It wasn't as if it mattered to her whether he still found his ex-wife attractive or not.

"Scorpius likes the picture. That's the only reason I keep it up."

Well, she hadn't asked, but that only made her heart clench a little more. "Does his miss his mum when he visits?"

"Not normally. It wasn't easy at first, but he's adjusted."

Hermione turned away from the mantle, taking a quick onceover of the room and the furniture that was arranged throughout it. "Sorry, I probably shouldn't have asked so many questions."

His hand skimmed her shoulder, giving a slight squeeze. "I don't mind. Ask any questions you want."

In hindsight, Draco had no idea how many questions she could think of.


She opened the fridge, humming to herself as she crouched down. "Eggs," Hermione muttered to herself as she handed the carton to him. "You said you made an omelette before, didn't you?"

Draco set the carton on the counter. "It wasn't very good."

She brushed her hands off on her leggings. While perhaps he enjoyed her wearing them a little too much—and he wasn't likely to admit that he stole glimpses at her arse—he found himself wishing she hadn't worn them when she knelt down in front of him again.

Hopefully she didn't see him rolling his eyes at himself. "I took one bite and threw it away. In theory, I understand how to make this, but I'm pants at making it taste edible."

Her hair fell from her bun as she tipped her head back, laughing. "Alright, that's fair." She rifled through his cupboards, grabbing a measuring cup, salt, and pepper. "Would you grab the butter? I forgot it."

He nearly dropped the carton of eggs when Hermione crawled on top of the counter to grab the pepper that was barely out of reach. "I could have gotten it down for you." He chuckled.

The strands that had freed themselves whipped around her as she turned her head. Heat rose to her cheeks as she looked down at herself kneeling on his counter. "I'm not very tall, so I'm used to this. Although, climbing on your counters probably isn't a good impression."

Draco pulled the butter from the fridge, setting it on the counter beside the stovetop. "It's a bit late for first impressions."

"Right," Hermione drawled. She ran the faucet, filling the measuring cup some. "We both know how that went. You threw coffee on me, and then I acted like my mother never taught me any manners."

He blinked as he leaned against the counter. "That's not the first time I met you." He said slowly, not sure he wanted to elaborate on it at all if she didn't remember.

Her brows drew together. "You did? When?"

"The first day I moved here. I visited the Three Broomsticks on the recommendation of a colleague. You were sitting in the same spot you always do, and you were looking for something. I asked if you lost something." His eyes searched hers for any bit of recognition. "I asked what you were looking for, and you told me it was a pen you'd just bought, your favorite is what you told me."

Her eyes widened, and her grip on the salt tightened. "You asked me if it was blue. You pulled it out of my hair. I never even saw who you were." Hermione was thinking of something, of whether she wanted to say it or not. In the end, she said nothing.

"So," Draco cleared his throat. "You didn't ruin any first impression at all."

"You remembered everything about that moment down to the details." Hermione had the uncanny habit of blurting her thoughts out before clapping a hand over her mouth. "It's just interesting is all."

Were his cheeks growing hot? He hoped not. "You were interesting." Draco flipped the carton of eggs open, pulling two out. He cracked them both at the same time, discarding the shells in the trash.

She let the conversation go, handing him the salt and pepper before hopping up onto the counter.

He caught her wince. "What is it?"


"I'm not going to cart you off to the nearest hospital if you're hurt." Draco sniggered, taking the fork she held out. "But I'll get the proper documentation that you're refusing treatment first."

"Keep that in the bedroom?" She joked.

He let his smirk linger before turning his head away. "What's wrong?"

Hermione huffed. "You could have at least laughed at my joke."

He lifted a hand to his chest, feigning surprise. "I wasn't aware that you told one."

She gritted her teeth. "I fell this morning during my run. I'm on the mend after putting an ice pack on it, but I'll probably skip running until the swelling goes down."

Draco pressed the bowl into her chest. "Mix that. Can you kick off your shoes?"

She spluttered. "Draco, I don't need you to look at it. Really, I'm fine." She had to know he didn't believe her. "Alright, fine. I hope my feet smell."

He rolled his eyes as she kicked her shoe off, and he found that her ankle was still swollen, more so than what would be typical. "Did you fall down a well?"

There was silence before she shook from laughing. "It's a ridiculous story so why don't you just give me the prognosis and we'll call it good."

Draco gently raised her foot, sliding the hem of her leggings up. "You should definitely skip the runs, but this needs to stay elevated. It looks like a bad sprain." While he didn't look up, he heard her breath catch in her throat as his fingers moved over her skin. "What happened?"

Just like always, which he was quickly beginning to learn, she caved when he asked for the second time. "I spotted Hagrid and Fluffy as I was making my way down the stairs near the park. Instead of jogging down them, I decided to jump down the last six steps."

"Six is a pretty specific number."

Hermione snorted. "I had a good chance to count them while I was laying on the ground while I tried to catch my breath. Think I'll live, doc?"

"Go sit on the couch and prop your foot up." He told her, and he expected it when she argued. "Talk me through cooking. Obviously, you don't take care of yourself unless someone forces you to do so."

She scoffed. "You sound like my mother."

He shooed her off, taking the bowl from her hands. "Watch the telly if you like. I'm sure I can handle the cooking."

She collapsed on his sofa, propping a pillow beneath her foot while shooting looks at him.

"You can use the decorative pillows. Honestly, I don't care for them all that much."


It was a true crime documentary the played while Draco cooked, and she only pulled her attention away from it long enough to remind him of small things. She had her suspicions that he just hadn't added enough salt, or something just as simple the first time he'd cooked.

Not long after he banished her to the couch, he joined her. He held out a plate, and she eagerly sat up. A short bout of silence stretched between them as she took the first bite, and subsequent several after. "This is great." Hermione told him after swallowing.

He had a sour look on his face.

"Did yours not turn out very well?"

"No, it's fine." He replied. "I need to ask you for a favour, and I don't think you'll like it very much."

It was a ringing endorsement. "What is it?"

"My mother is throwing a birthday party for me this weekend, and if I attend without a date, one of her friends is going to attempt to play matchmaker with myself and her daughter."

Hermione covered her cough as well as she could. "You need me to be your date?"

"Yes." He said flatly. "Don't feel obligated."

"Is Astoria going to be there?" Hermione asked.

He chewed another bite before replying. "I can make certain that she's not, but no, she won't be invited."

Hermione drummed her finger against her chin. "Where does Narcissa and your father live?"


She shrugged. "Sounds like fun. Sure, I'll be there. This means you'll owe me a favour though."

His lips split into a wide smile. "As many favours as you want, Granger."

On Draco's birthday, at 12:01 in the morning, Hermione was drunk. It was due to Harry and Ron inviting her to celebrate with the twins for a fantastic sales month. It's also the only reason that she couldn't think clearly.

The phone rang twice. "Hello?" His voice was clear, and she assumed that he was at work.

"Are you working?" Hermione only partially slurred her words. "A more apt question is whether or not you're busy."

There was a muffled laugh amidst the background noise of what she could assume was the cafeteria. "No, I'm not busy."

"Happy Birthday!" Hermione said it loudly, hurrying away from the bass that flooded the pub. "I'm sorry about the music. We're celebrating with Fred and George."

"Are you drunk?"

Stumbling outside the pub, she sat on the sidewalk. "Little bit."

"Sounds like more than a little bit." Draco laughed. "Thank you, you're the first one to tell me. Scorpius will be furious you got to me first."

She gasped, her hand comedically flying to her mouth. "Don't tell him then!"

"You don't him to be cross with you?" Draco asked. "You should know that he holds grudges, possibly until my next birthday."

Her stomach was flooded by the warmest sensation. She might not remember feeling it at all once she slept off her hangover, but the way he said his next birthday, as if they would still be speaking at all in a year caused her mouth to snap shut.

Hermione hasn't quite realised just how much she enjoyed his company, or the random texts that infinitely seemed to pass between them. They had gone to breakfast, they had gone to dinner, and they were on the cusp of something.

And she couldn't stand the thought of what might happen if she got her hopes up.


She swallowed at his voice, the confusion of it. "I'm here. Sorry, but distracting outside this time of night. What are you doing for your birthday?"

There was the sound of what sounded like his cup meeting the table. "Nothing. I'm free to spend my day how I please since the party is this weekend. What are you doing today?"

"After I sleep, I'm going to volunteer at the animal shelter for the afternoon."

He made a "Hmm," sound. "Do you mind if I come?"

Her head popped up. "You want to? Shouldn't you do something you would like for your birthday?"

There was a long pause. "At the risk, and hope that you will forget this by the time you wake up, I think I'd like to spend my birthday with you if that's alright."

Her heart threatened to burst out of her chest. Hermione found herself nodding, even if he couldn't see it. "I'd like that. Do you…" She trailer off. Did she really need to ask? "Do you not want me to remember what you said? Even if I did, I could pretend—"

"If you remember, let's have this conversation when you're sober."

"Did you know that drunk words are sober thoughts?"

Draco was probably tapping his fingers across the table, the same smirk he always had curling his lips. The imaginary image sent her heart into a flurry. "And do you have any drunk words to share, Hermione?"

Her name rolling off his tongue were like a caress.

This is flirting. They had been dancing around the other since he came to her office with lunch, or maybe it had been since the night in the hospital where she was crumbling. She didn't know anymore, couldn't clearly see where it had really begun.

"Just that I'd like to spend the day with you as well." Hermione breathed.

"Is that all?" He was teasing her, and she was furious that she was unable to see his face when he did so. Was he smiling? Was he on the verge of laughter?

"It's all for now." Hermione laugh was easy, just as easy as it had been for her to fall into a stranger's lap. "I'm leaving at noon. I'll pick you up?"

He agreed, and she found herself sitting on the sidewalk for the better part of the break he had, listening to a story about his hospital shift.


Being how he was, Draco was able to separate his thoughts when a forty-two year old step-father was rushed into the emergency room, bleeding profusely from a gunshot wound to his lower abdomen. Being who he was, his thoughts didn't stray to Hermione while he scrubbed in for surgery that he wasn't sure the man would survive.

And it was a thought that as sobering as it ever was. His life had been moving along, on it's own path, and going rather well he might add, but then someone else's had hit a wall.

The police were at the hospital, impatiently waiting for answers as they always were, but Katie took up the mantle of speaking to them. The man hadn't survived, and Draco removed his surgical gloves, discarding them in the biohazard waste. He could only catch muffled bits of the conversation through the double doors that stood between them.

"...died due to a gunshot injury." Katie said.

Draco swept out of the hospital before he could hear the rest of it.

She said noon. He knew that, but he couldn't help himself when his fingers hovered over the keyboard at 9:22 in the morning. Chewing his lower lip, and feeling several years younger, Draco hit send before he could debate it any longer.

To Hermione, 9:22 A.M.: Are you awake?

He laid his phone down on the counter. Not expecting a reply, he made breakfast. Ten minutes later found his mobile phone buzzing against the granite tabletop. The only one who video called him was typically his son, but it was Hermione's name that flashed across his screen instead. Draco leaned over the counter, swiping a finger across the screen.

Her room—he assumed—was dark, only her face showing from the light of her phone. "Hello?" She yawned, stretching an arm over her head. "What's up?"

Her nonchalance was refreshing. "Are you hungover?"

Her eyebrows rose. "No. I woke up an hour ago and took ibuprofen before going back to sleep. My stomach could be better, and I haven't turned on any lights yet."

He almost laughed, but instead the corner of his mouth twitched. "Do you have a pair of sunglasses?"

Hermione rolled onto her side, wrapping her blanket around her. "Honestly, what person doesn't own a pair of sunglasses? I think they're in my car."

"Grab them. Get dressed."

Her eyes flew open, and he thought for a second that she didn't remember the long conversation from the night before. Surely not however since a wide smile spread across her face. "What time is it?"

"Half past nine."

"That's a long time before we leave for the shelter. What do you want to do?"

"I don't care. Anything," Draco replied. "It's not a great day."

Her lips were tugged down by a sharp frown. "I'll be ready in fifteen minutes. I know what we can do."

She hung up before he could learn exactly what that was.

The drive to her flat wasn't a long one, and he let his car idle at the curb after sending a text to tell her he was waiting.

Draco didn't mean to jump when someone tapped on his window. Hermione stood just there with a wide smile on her face. She pulled his door open. "Get in the passenger seat."


She crooked her finger, beckoning him out of the car. "Out of the car, Malfoy. I'm the only one who knows where we're going."

He stepped out of his car even as he argued with her. "You could just tell me where to go."

Hermione shook her head, dropping into his seat and pulling the seatbelt across her chest. "I could do that, but it would take all of the fun out of it." There was a muttered, "I wanted to drive your car also."

He huffed, shutting her door for her and striding around the car. As he fell into the passenger seat, one he didn't normally sit in, he looked to her. "You look nice."

Her cheeks grew pink, and she curled a finger in her hair, pulling her bangs down so she could hide behind them. "Thank you." Hermione swallowed. "If I wipe my makeup off, I'll look like a troll."

"A very nice troll." Draco laughed, elbowing her side as she pulled away from the curb. "Where are we going?"

She grinned, and he didn't think it was a good sign at all. "No idea." Hermione reached down, rummaging around in his console. "Alright, see this coin? Pick a number."

"Ninety seven."

Hermione choked on her laugh. "You should be glad you have a full tank of fuel, but you should probably plan on re-fuelling before the day is done. So for one side of this coin, we'll turn left, and for the other, we'll turn right. We will do this ninety-seven times."

"And then?"

"We can figure out what to do when we get there. In the meantime, flip the coin."

It was heads. Hermione took the turn, eventually making her way to a long stretch of road in thirteen flips. She pressed the gas pedal to the floor, and played music louder than he ever had, but he couldn't stop staring at her.

Draco hoped that the next turn wouldn't come too quickly, not when he couldn't take his eyes off of her. He mentioned that they might not make it back by noon, but she waved him off, claiming that she drove fast.

She certainly wasn't wrong.

Hermione eventually pulled over in the middle of the countryside long before they reached ninety-seven, but he didn't mind. She grabbed her bag that she'd thrown into the backseat, and headed up the grassy hill. "Coming?"

He followed, glad he'd worn joggers and trainers. Hermione settled at the top of the hill, unzipping her backpack. She pulled a blanket from it, spreading it across the grass. Plopping down on it, she pulled several reusable bags from it. "Hungry? I'm starving?"

Draco was in disbelief as he sat down. She'd packed lunch supplies in the fifteen minutes it had taken to reach her. "Yeah, I haven't eaten."

"Since I haven't told you while I'm sober, happy birthday." Hermione pulled bread from one bag, balancing two slices on her knee. "How is your birthday so far? Feel any older?"

He was torn between asking her if she remembered what she'd said while drunk, or letting the truth spill out. It was unsurprising to him which he chose. "It's not been a great start."

She prepared her sandwich while barely pulling her gaze away from him. Hermione waited patiently for whether he wanted to discuss it or not.

Astoria would have asked already, would have asked him why the patient had died. She would have spotted the decline in his mood from far away, and she would have asked if it was his fault. When he it wasn't, Tori would have said that he would get past it, but didn't offer any support towards the end of their marriage.

It wasn't fair to compare the two women, but he found himself doing it more and more as of late.

"I lost a patient in surgery this morning."

Her lips parted, and he wished he wasn't so focused on the pretty bow of them rather than the way her face crumbled. "I'm so sorry."

"It wasn't my fault." Draco murmured.

Hermione rested her hand on his, swiping her thumb across his knuckles. Like he'd done with her in her office. "I know it's not your fault. I'm sure that you did everything you could to save him, but I can only imagine how you feel."

"I still feel guilty." He admitted. "Rationally, I know that I've done everything I could, and there was nothing to be done." Draco took a sandwich from her. "We don't have to talk about this, but it's why I asked if you were awake." There. Honesty. "You've got an uncanny ability to make others feel better."

Her lips curved from behind her sandwich. "Still, I'm so sorry. I'm even more sorry I've dragged you into the middle of the countryside while you probably just wanted to have breakfast and a chat."

He laid on his side, propping up his head with one hand. "This is breakfast and a chat. Even if we are an hour away from home."

She laughed, and he strived to be able to hear it over and over again.


The memory of the night before was dizzying, even more so after she had spent an entire morning with him. In the middle of their drive back to London, Scorpius called to wish his father a happy birthday. While Draco didn't tell her to be quiet, she saw Astoria's name flash across his screen, and she quickly decided that she wasn't looking to bring about another fight between the pair.

She drove in silence, rolling up the windows, and turning the music off.

"Happy Birthday, Daddy!" There were kissy noises as Scorpius was most likely pressing his face to the screen.

She muffled her laugh behind her hand, and she felt Draco sneak a glance at her.

Shortly after the brief conversation with Scorpius, another voice cut in, and Hermione's stomach sunk. "Happy Birthday, Draco." Her voice was nothing like Hermione expected, even though she didn't know what she'd been expecting.

"Thank you." Draco replied easily. "How are you?"

Astoria didn't return his pleasantries. "What theme is your party tomorrow?"

Hermione's fingers tightened on the wheel, and she didn't contain the look she shot toward Draco. She'd go either way. The idea of acting as Draco's date, false or not, was too enticing to give up. Even if Astoria did attend.

"Have you not spoken with my mother?" Draco drawled. "She typically gets to talk to you before I do. I'd appreciate it if you didn't attend the party."

The tense silence that followed was uncomfortably even for Hermione as she shifted in her seat.

"Tori," Draco began. "We've been divorced for several months now. You wouldn't invite me to your birthday party, would you?"

"You're bringing her, the woman that Scorpius talks about all the time."

Hermione's nails dug into the leather of the steering wheel.

"I am." Draco said. "I understand if you would like to meet her beforehand, and I assure you, she understands as well."

Seconds ticked by. "Put her on the phone, a voice call will suffice."

Hermione didn't stop to ponder how Astoria had known she was there.

He looked to her, and Hermione nodded. Placing it on speaker, knowing Draco would want to listen, Hermione considered herself lucky when her voice didn't crack. "Hello?"

"Hello, this is Scorpius' mother, Astoria. And you are...?"

"Hermione." Trees blurred together as she passed them, and her stomach twisted. "My last name is Granger."

"What do you do?" Her tone was clipped.

"I work as Editor in Chief for the Quibbler magazine. My photograph is on their website if you need to see what I look like."

"Oh," she laughed, but it was clearly cruel. "Scorpius has already told me all about you. Mousy brown hair, and unruly curls, yes?"

Somehow, Hermione doubted that Scorpius had said much of her appearance at all. "Are we going to resort to insults already? I thought it would take a while before we got to that." Hermione's voice was hard, and she wanted nothing more than to place herself in front of this woman.

Draco's hand rested on her upper thigh, firm and reassuring. Also terribly distracting.

"Have you been around children much?"

"I don't have any myself, but yes."

"Have you ever been married?"

Hermione glared at the phone. "I'm not sure how that's any of your business at all." Hermione said. "Your son is a very sweet little boy, and I don't want to cause problems between his parents."

There was only breathing for a moment. "Would you take a bit of advice?" Astoria didn't leave any time for her to reply. "Draco is a romantic man at first, but he's cynical. His career dominates his life, and his time spent with family. If you're smart—"

"I'm not sure you were ever married to the man beside me at all, but of course his career dominates his life. He's a surgeon, one that has been on call since I met him. If you chose to only see his dedication to his job as a lack of dedication to you, or to Scorpius, that's your fault. I'd appreciate you not give me any sort of advice on my relationship with him, whether platonic, or romantic, since you clearly have never cared about his emotions at all."

Draco's mouth fell open.

"Who do you think—"

"I know that you're a woman who lost a wonderful husband so you could sleep with his best friend. I think I've talked to you enough, but if you'd ever like to have a civil conversation, feel free to arrange a call with my office." Hermione hung up on Astoria while she was mid-sentence. She let the phone fall into her lap. "I think I'm going to be sick."

He was still staring at her in awe. "I could snog you senseless right now."

Her toes curled in her shoes. "I could pull over," Hermione joked.

She was absolutely serious until someone laid on their horn behind her. "Later." Draco rumbled.

Hermione thought about asking if it was a promise.

Rather than butterflies, it felt as if hornets had been set loose in the pit of her stomach. Hermione caught herself stealing glances at Draco more often than not, committing his jaw line to memory, wondering how his barely there stubble would feel beneath her fingertips. And sometimes, she caught him staring at her too. It was too much, a sensory overload that she couldn't escape from, but wasn't sure if she truly wanted to.

By the time they were back in London, Scorpius had typed a message to Draco to say hello to Hermione. She was surprised that Astoria had let him do so, if she even knew at all. While mildly upset he didn't get the chance to say hello, Draco promised his son that he would be seeing her the very next day.

The subtle reminder of his party triggered her next question as she drove to the animal shelter. "Is there a theme to your birthday party that I should be aware of?"

He ran his hand down his face, eyes falling on her. "The dress you wore for your photograph on the Quibbler's website, do you still have it?"

She did, but that wasn't the part of the sentence she latched onto. "You've looked up my photo?"

Hermione was treated to a rare, and adorable sight of pink rising to his cheeks. "My mother sent it to me a few weeks ago. I think it was an attempt to push me to…"

He didn't need to finish the sentence as a fresh nest of hornets broke loose within her stomach. "Right. Well, I have a better dress than that. I'm just worried I'll be overdressed."

Draco shook his head. "You won't be, but send me a picture of it if that will make you feel better."

Hermione turned his car off, handing him the keys. "It's really loud inside." She stepped out of the car, making her way up the sidewalk before letting herself in through the front entrance. "Hagrid?"

The man appeared just around the corner, a wide smile across his face. "Hermione!" He wrapped her up into a big hug, lifting her off her feet. "Oh, you've brought someone!" He bustled forward to shake Draco's hand. "Name's Hagrid."

"Draco," he replied. "Are you Fluffy's owner, or is that a different Hagrid?"

She heard the tap tap of nails against the tile before a familiar squishy face slid around the corner. "That's Fluffy." Hermione laughed. She crouched down, holding her arms out. Fluffy flew at her, knocking her down before licking a long stripe up the side of her face. She scratched behind his ears as she pulled herself out from under the dog. "He's not fully grown yet as you can tell, but he's already getting big."

Draco knelt down, holding a hand out toward Fluffy. Surprise covered his face when Fluffy immediately took a liking to him. "He's beautiful."

"Thank ya!" Hagrid boomed. "We've got a lot of dogs to walk today, Hermione. Which do you think would be the best fit for Draco?"

Hermione tapped a finger against her chin. "Cerberus."

While Hermione held the leash to a gentle Great Dane named Achilles—she had named him—Draco was still holding the Cerberus' leash taught. The St Bernard refused to move. "You know you're supposed to walk the dogs when we go for walks?" Hermione called.

Draco shot her an exasperated look. "I don't think he wants to walk."

"He needs the exercise. You just have to convince him."

He was running low of the small carton of treats that Hagrid has tossed him. Coaxing Cerberus clearly wasn't working. "Does he normally walk with you?"

"He likes Hagrid best, but he'll come to me."

"I don't believe you."

She sniggered, an idea already forming in her mind. "You don't? Well, I suppose I can show you. Achilles, let's go." Hermione took off at a sprint, glancing over her shoulder before yelling, "Cerberus!"

The dog took off, and Draco was forced into a run to keep up. "You did this on purpose!" He skidded to a stop in front of Hermione as Cerberus stood on his hind legs.

Paws landed on her shoulders. "Give me his leash. I'll walk him, and you can walk Achilles."


Seven hours was all that separated him from seeing Hermione, and driving to Wiltshire. He knew down to the minute because he'd had time while laying in bed to count. To his surprise, Astoria hadn't called him again after her argument with Hermione.

The argument. He replayed it in his mind over and over again. Draco wasn't sure that anyone had ever defended him so fiercely.

His phone vibrated against the small table beside his bed. Lazily reaching up, he held it over his head. Hermione, it read. Perhaps she had come to her senses, and this was a message to tell him she wouldn't be meeting im in the morning after all.

It was anything but that. He opened the message to find a picture waiting for him. She posed in front of a long mirror, presumably in her bedroom, with a slender arm tossed in the air. Wearing a wide grin, and kicking a leg out, Hermione wore a strapless navy blue dress. Draco's gaze raked up her figure several times before he noticed the black pumps she wore.

From Hermione, 12:09 A.M.: Should I wear this, or the one from my headshot?

To Hermione, 12:10 A.M.: You look stunning.

To Hermione, 12:11 A.M.: Wear that one.

She was cheeky enough to send him an emoji that had it's tongue out.

Draco knew she wouldn't sleep for another hour. He glanced at the picture again, remembering how he'd said he'd snog her senseless earlier in the day.

He considered knocking on her front door to do exactly that, but ruled against it. Tomorrow, he thought.


Finishing her makeup with a swipe of mascara, and stepping into her heels, Hermione hurried out of her flat. Her stomach was in knots. While she'd flippantly said that the trip sounded like fun, now that the day was here, she was on edge.

Draco was leaned against his car as it idled, hands slipping into the pockets of his suit trousers.

Breath catching in her throat, Hermione let out a strangled, "Good morning."

He smirked as he cocked his head to the side. "It's not too late to back out."

She put her hands on her hips, and shook her head. "No, I said I was going so I'm going. I've only met Narcissa and your son is all. I'm a little… worried."

He opened the door for her, and she noticed that his eyes lingered on the open back of her dress for longer than necessary. "You'll meet Pansy, and you probably won't like her. She's not particularly pleasant, but at the risk of overestimating my own importance, she's been trying to secure a date with me since shortly after my divorce."

Her mouth fell open. "I know you said her mother was playing matchmaker, but I thought you were mostly kidding. And right after your divorce? That's terrible."

Draco closed her door while laughing. Taking large strides, he walked around the car before sliding into his own seat. "It's ridiculous is what it is. I've never shown any interest in dating since Astoria and I split, but Pansy isn't the type to take no for an answer."

Hermione cringed. "So, I ought to play it up that I'm madly in love with you then?" She feigned a laugh, a rather awkward one, but her anxiety lessened at his smile.

"I certainly won't complain if you do."

Given the unsteady beat of her heart, Hermione wasn't all that certain she would make it through the day without just asking what they were doing.

Halfway through the drive, inspiration struck Hermione right in the head. With a muffled gasp, she unbuckled herself and rummaged through his backseat.

"What are you doing?" His amusement was barely contained, but she wasn't pressed to care.

"I'm looking for a piece of paper. I have an idea, but I'll forget it if I don't write it down." Hermione muttered. Her position was made even worse as he hit a bump in the road, causing her to nearly fall on her face, but also caused her arse to be higher in the air. How fucking mortifying.

"There's a briefcase in the backseat. There's a portfolio inside of it that you can use. Plenty of paper for you to write a whole novel if you'd like."

She grabbed it, flicking the tabs at the top open. Nestled inside was the leather portfolio, and she quickly grabbed it before settling back into her seat. "Shite, I need a pen."

Draco held one out to her, clearly already prepared. "Can I make a request?"

Hermione lifted her head. "What is it?"

"Don't kill this one, yeah?" His smile was wide, and her gaze lifted to his eyes. They were full of mirth.

Hermione swallowed, clicking the top of the pen. "I don't think I will this time."

"What's the idea?"

"I can't tell you that." Trees passed them by as she flipped to a blank page. "It's just a love story." Hermione admitted.

From the side of her eye, she saw his fingers tighten on the wheel. "It's not just anything." Draco said clearly.

It struck her with how he said it, like it was something she should have believed all along. She tapped her fingers against the page. "Okay." Hermione whispered.

And for the rest of the trip, the only sound was the scratching of her pen across the page.


With how small her writing was, it was impossible to sneak peeks of what she was writing. He shouldn't have been looking anyway. Hermione would show him if she liked, but it didn't stop Draco from craning his head to the side as she wrote at an angle.

She closed the portfolio as he turned onto the drive that led to his former home. Trees lined up either side, all of them in full bloom.

Hermione began fidgeting in her seat almost immediately. "If you wanted to leave, I'd turn around right now." Draco said.

Stubborn as she always was, she shook her head. "No, it's just bigger than I expected."

His answering chuckle was one of equal parts humour and admiration.

"Right, so, avoid Pansy. Anyone else I should know about?"

Draco was about to tell her that his father wasn't the kindest, and he was still hoping Draco would come back to Astoria, but he didn't get the chance. Oxygen left his lungs. He wasn't angry, or maybe he was, but it was only anger that spread through him, not jealousy. "Stay in the car."

Hermione's head snapped up as he yanked the gear shift into park in the middle of the large circle drive. "Draco?"

"Theo's here." He deadpanned. "I have no idea why, but he's pulling Scorpius out of his car right now." Draco watched her rather than Theo, and saw when her eyes fell on his former friend.

Her eyebrows drew together. "Fuck that, you stay in the car. You shouldn't have to deal with him. Clearly, Astoria sent him to drop Scorpius off in an attempt to cut you a little deeper." Hermione stepped out of the car before he could say a word.

Draco ripped his keys from the ignition and followed her across the drive.

When Scorpius saw Hermione, he wiggled in Theo's arms, and yelled, "'Mione!" In the same moment he was set on his feet, he sprinted to Hermione, allowing her to pick him up and balance him on her hip.

Draco was not long behind her, and Theo flinched as he glared at him.

"I think we should go find your grandmum." Hermione whispered to Scorp, before looking back to Draco. "Is that alright?"

"Quite," he said through clenched teeth. "She'll be waiting just inside the entryway." Draco waited for the crunch of gravel below her feet before meeting Theo's eye. "Why are you here?"

"Tori left for the weekend."

Before he could finish the sentence, Draco hissed, "Shouldn't you be joining her then?"

Theo ran a hand down his face. "I deserve that, but we don't have—we're not involved."

"Did the fun wear off once you were caught? There's no reason for you to be with my son, not one." Draco took a menacing, barely noticeable step forward.

Theo didn't move away. "She left for the weekend, and called me. Astoria said that Narcissa couldn't make it, so I did it as a favour."

"Do a lot of favours for my ex-wife, Theo?" Draco snarled. "Tell me, does that sound anything like my mother? Once again, you're just a pawn for Tori to use however she pleases."

Theo's eyes narrowed. "Are you not doing the same thing with the bird you brought?"

If Draco didn't make his way inside soon, he was almost certain that Hermione would find her back to him. "No, Hermione is a friend."

"Not your type either." Theo kicked a rock to the side.

Draco scoffed. "You'll find that I'm thrilled to enjoy someone who isn't your type."

There it was, all of it, and he knew Theo was likely to say something that left a bad taste in his mouth.

"Your mother is looking for you. I bought as much time as I could, but she's on her way." Hermione stepped between the two of them, her back to Theo. "Also, you were right. Pansy isn't pleasant at all."

Theo tapped her shoulder, and she turned to look at him. "Yes?" Hermione asked, her voice hard.

Without thinking, Draco traced her spine, fingers sliding along her bare skin. "Hermione, this is Theo. Theo, this is Hermione."

He extended a hand, and she didn't take it. "How did the two of you meet?"

She shivered under Draco's touch. "Surely you're not going to stand here while you pretend you care. I know exactly who you are." Hermione turned away from Theo, lacing her fingers through Draco's, urging him away. "Come on, then. During the five minutes I was inside, I was trapped in two conversations about stocks that I know absolutely zero about."

"Was one of those conversations with my father?"

She paused, almost tripping over nothing. "I think so, actually. I may have cut him off to make a quick escape to rescue you."

They passed a portrait of his great-grandfather. "You rescued me?"

Hermione shrugged. "What would you do without me? Seemed like you needed it."

Draco leaned down, in clear view of Pansy who stood across the hall, and whispered into Hermione's ear. "My hero."

She sniggered into her palm. "As a thank you, you can be sure to not leave me alone with anyone else, yes?"

His fingers tightened around hers. "I'll do my best."


She didn't mind that Pansy Parkinson stared at her across the room as if she wanted to disembowel her. It was unsettling, but Hermione could look past it.

Draco stayed at her side, ever the doting date—pretend or not—that he was. Scorpius stayed close to them, unless there was the chance to get cake, which was often.

Still, Hermione could feel someone staring at her the second Draco broke away from her to grab drinks. His son stood at her side, small fingers hooked through hers.

"'Mione, can we dance?"

She peeled down at Scorpius, unable to say no. Hermione knelt down, holding her arms out. "Would you like me to pick you up?"

For a moment, she thought that he would insist that he wanted to lead. He held his arms up, grinning as she swung him up. Settling him on her hip, Hermione took one of his hands and let the other rest on her shoulder.

"Do you like it here?" Scorpius asked.

She slowly danced around the floor, in a circle that belonged to her. "I do. I've had a lot of fun. What about you?"

"The cake is my favourite part."

She sniggered. "Yeah? It's good cake. Why don't you tell me about your week?"

Scorpius was babbling before she even finished the sentence. "Miss McGonagall put me in a time-out earlier this week butit wasn't my fault that Lucy bit me."

She quirked an eyebrow. "What did you do to Lucy?"

He looked away, his cheeks growing pink. "I—uh—bit her back."

Hermione shouldn't have laughed, but she did. "That's not very nice," she somehow managed. "What else?"

"Mummy let me spend five pounds in the candy aisle."

Her dentist parents would have been horrified, but Hermione liked to think of a much more pleasant Astoria. One who took her son for candy. "Have you eaten it all?"

Scorpius opened his suit jacket—which suffice to say, the fact that he was wearing a tiny tailored suit threatened to make her heart burst—and pulled a small, wrapped sweet from the inner pocket. "I nicked some."

She took the candy, popping it into her mouth while dancing toward the nearest rubbish bin. Scorpius wiggled against her, throwing his hands in the air while mouthing the words, the wrong words, to the song that played.

Someone tapped on her shoulder, and there was a clearing of their throat. She knew it wasn't Draco. He would have slipped his arm around her waist, or ruffled Scorpius' hair. While they had only been at the party for an hour, he'd fallen into an easy pattern with her—that being that he could hardly keep his hands off of her, even with the most innocent of touches.

Hermione turned, coming face to face with Lucius Malfoy.

The man was intimidating, from his expensive leather shoes to the well tailored suit that he wore. Not only that, but Hermione knew within minutes of meeting that he didn't seem to like her. "Miss Granger," Lucius greeted. He looked at her as if there was a bad smell just below his nose.

Hermione smiled, shifting Scorpius. At least the man couldn't be too foul while she was holding his grandson. "Hello, Mr Malfoy."

Lucius leaned forward, brushing the long strands of hair from Scorpius' hair from his eyes. "Scorpius, would you go tell your father it's rude to keep his date waiting? He's just over there."

Her eyes followed his finger. Draco stood beside a table, holding two champagne flutes as he chatted with another man. And in the corner of the room, Pansy wasn't conspicuous with her staring. Hermione lowered Scorpius to the ground, watching as he rushed for his father.

"Would you care to dance?"

If it were possible for her blood to run cold, it would have. Anxiety coiled quickly in her stomach. No, she didn't care to dance at all. "Yes." Hermione lied through her teeth and allowed him to lead her onto the floor alongside other couples. "You have a beautiful home."

His smile was false, nothing like his son's. "Thank you. Cissa takes pride in our home, and appearances." Was he insulting her? His tone led her to believe so.

Ask him if his wife has to dress him too. Hermione pushed her snarkiness aside. "She's done an incredible job." Next she would be asking him what he thought of the weather, or maybe it would take an even worse turn since it was so obvious he disliked her.

"Cissa tells me that you're an editor?"

She nodded. "Editor in Chief for Quibbler magazine."

"Isn't that a gossip rag?" Lucius sneered.

Hermione rolled her eyes before she could stop herself. "There are several different columns the magazine covers, but yes, gossip is one of them. I don't care much for it." Over Lucius' shoulder, Hermione caught Draco's eye.

She couldn't mouth anything to Draco as she was spun away. "If you don't care for it, why do you waste your time with it?"

Hermione untangled herself from him, dropping her hands to her sides long before the song ended. Cutting the dance short herself, Hermione lifted her chin. Lucius glared at her, but she didn't shrink away beneath the hard stare. "I don't think I have to explain anything to you."

Excusing herself, she made her way from the room, and out of a set of double glass doors that led into a courtyard. Hermione counted the lantern style lights as she walked down the path, balling her hands into fists in front of her, where no one could see.

"Hermione!" Draco caught up to her, his fingers slowly catching her at the elbow. "I'm sorry. What did he say to you?"

She swallowed. "Nothing terrible. I doubt we'll never be friends, but it's fine."

He shook his head, hands sliding up her arms. "No, it's not fine. I'd march back in there myself—"

"I'm a big girl. I can take up for myself." Hermione grinned, her hands raising to rest on his forearms. "He lured me into a conversation about my position with The Quibbler before asking me why I would waste my time with a gossip rag."

Draco's breath caught in his throat. "He's a bastard. I'm sorry."

"Don't be."

"He asked me why I would waste my time as a surgeon." Draco murmured. He'd stepped closer to her, reaching up and allowing his knuckles to skim her cheekbone. "He's impossible to please, but he had no right."

Hermione glared at the neatly trimmed hedges beside them before asking what she felt like asking. "Was he this critical of Astoria? Or is this because I'm not her?"

She didn't expect for his face to crumble. Draco appeared to be absolutely crestfallen. "Hermione, I'm so sorry," he murmured. "I won't lie to you. While my mother has let go of the foolish hope that I'll return to Astoria, he hasn't. Her family is of old money, and he cares about appearances."

She stared at her heels. "He mentioned something about appearances. It seemed to me that I don't fit that mold. Which—" Hermione broke off, ready to let loose a string of profanities when her eyes stung. "I don't know why I'm so upset anyway. After all, I'm only your fake date to avoid a vapid woman who looks like she wants to shag you on the dance floor and—"

Draco knelt down, leaning his forehead against hers. "Come on, Hermione, you know that none of this is fake."

Her gasp was quiet, surely barely there, but still he caught it. "You know, I wouldn't want to assume."

He chuckled. "Assume all you like." Draco twisted a tamed curl around his finger. "I knew when I asked you for this that it wasn't so you could be my fake date. Just like I knew when I called you on the morning of my birthday that it wasn't because I only wanted to be friends."

Heart rattling in her rib cage, she nodded. "I think we've been dancing around this for a while." Her fingers knotted in the fabric of his suit. "Normally I wouldn't believe in this sort of thing, meeting in a coffee shop, and…"

"And what?"

She shrugged. "I don't know. I think that's what comes next. How do you feel about finding that part out?"

"You're so ridiculous," Draco snorted. "It's endearing how awkward you can be, but then you're so forward. For the record, I didn't believe in dating at all after my divorce."

It was a worry that passed her mind more frequently as of late. "If this is moving too fast, I'd understand. It wouldn't upset me."

He shook his head. "I don't want to slow down."

He's romantic. Hermione remembered Astoria's words, and as the seconds slowly crept past them, she couldn't imagine how the woman had sabotaged her own marriage. "I like how it is with you, like everything's just falling into place. It's almost comical."

He arched a pale brow. "Care to elaborate?"

She peeked over his shoulder. "Not particularly, but you might like to know that Pansy is spying on us. Maybe she's waiting for us to drop the facade." Hermione's voice was more bitter than she meant for it to be.

Draco's eyes dropped to her lips, and then his fingers were in her hair. Her lips were pliant beneath his as he slowly kissed her.

Hermione gathered his suit jacket into her fists, tugging him closer as his tongue traced the seam of her lips. "She's gone." Hermione gasped.

"Not the only reason I kissed you." He growled. "I can't keep my fucking hands off of you." His large hands skimmed her waist as she took a step backward.

"Wait!" Hermione shrieked as she lost her balance. She groaned as he landed beside her, laughing as their legs were tangled together. "I'm sorry."

His arm hooked around her waist once more. "Don't be. You look ravishing with twigs in your hair."

Hermione laughed into his shoulder. "God, if someone looks out here, all they'll see is our legs, and they'll think…"

Draco kissed her again, draping her across his chest behind a bush in the middle of a courtyard before she could think about anything else.


Chapter Text



Adjusting to their relationship didn't feel awkward, not like Hermione had expected. It was always the same with new relationships, wasn't it? Sometimes, it surprised her how often Draco crossed her mind. Whether it was in the middle of the day while she marked up an article, crossing and uncrossing her legs under her desk, while she continually looked to the clock. Counting down the minutes until she'd see him again felt like a childish thing to do.

Yet, she knew he thought of her in the exact same way. It was evident in the short text messages she received throughout the day, and it terrified her how easy it had been to trip over her own two feet and land head over heels.

She stepped out of the shower, bunding her hair up in a bun after drying it. Dressing in a comfortable pair of leggings that matched the ones she'd just peeled off after her morning run, Hermione pulled a loose t-shirt over her head. Padding from her bedroom to the living room, she heard her phone ringing, the tell tale vibrate sounded against her countertop as a knock came at the door.

Hurrying for the door, she let it swing open without checking to see who stood on the other side. Instantly, concern crossed her features as she stepped to the side. "Draco, are you alright?"

He dragged a hand down his face, and his hair was dishevelled. "Fine, just a long shift is all. Do you have any idea how many bloody car wrecks there are?"

Well, after her own, she could imagine. "Rough night?" Hermione locked the door behind him, catching him by the wrist and leading him to the sofa. "Draco, you need to sleep. What on earth are you doing here?"

Heaving a sigh, he collapsed against her sofa. "I told you we would go for breakfast."

Hermione blinked several times before laughing softly. "You know you can see me anytime, right?" She brushed a strand of hair from his forehead, finding his head to be quite warm. "You're overworked. You need to sleep."

He groaned. "I'm fine, honestly. I'm fine to go to breakfast." He wasn't even close to that. Draco could barely keep his eyes open as he looked over at her. "Granger?"

"You don't even look like you can drive." Hermione insisted. "Look at you, your shirt isn't even buttoned correctly."

True to her word, Draco glanced down to find that three of his buttons were askew. "You're probably right."

"I usually am."

Draco rolled his eyes. "Are you really going to tell me 'I told you so'?"

She pressed a kiss to his cheek, unable to help herself, and his hand gripped her thigh. "I'm serious. I don't want you to drive like this. I'll drive you home, or you can make use of the spare."

He rested his arm around her shoulders, braced against the back of the sofa, and Draco ducked down to kiss her. His other hand coming up to cup her cheek, lazily tracing her cheekbone, she was breathless in his embrace before anything had begun. "You're sure you won't mind?"

Hermione shook her head, sliding her hands up his chest as she kissed him eagerly. "Not at all, but I do think you should pick one before we get carried away."

"I'll sleep in the spare if it truly doesn't bother you. We could get lunch afterward?"

She nodded. "Good choice. If you let me drive your car, I might not give it back."

His laugh was muffled against her hair. Draco fished his keys from his pocket, and dropped them into her lap. "Feel free to drive it if you like. Yours is still knocking under the hood, isn't it?"

Her brows drew together. "You remember that?" She stood, offering her hand as she led him down the corridor. "If you'll give me a second, I think I may have some pajamas that will fit you. Jeans wouldn't be comfortable." She left him in the spare bedroom, hurrying into her own and digging through the chest of drawers.

Hermione found him sitting at the foot of the bed, tugging his shirt over his head. Her mouth dried, and she knew that her eyes had widened embarrassingly so. "I'm not sure these are your size." Well, Ron was a bit smaller than Draco, in both height, and the size of his chest, and he'd left them some years earlier. "Come find me when you wake up."

"Come here." Draco said, his voice thick with sleep already.

Hermione took two short steps toward him, coming to stand between his legs. Draco stood, a full head taller than her, and he knelt down to kiss her once more.

"Thank you for calling me out." He murmured, his chest burning through the thin shirt that separated them. His hands slid up her arms, ultimately sliding around her back, one cupping her neck. "I probably shouldn't sleep here, but I'm too selfish to leave."

Her heart was pounding her chest, and she thought she might just push him onto the bed and follow suit. Hermione pulled away with a soft smile. "Don't worry about it. I'll see you in a few hours." After flicking the light switch, and closing the door quietly behind her, she slumped against it while attempting to catch her breath.

Taking advantage of Draco's generosity, she used his car while running errands that morning. She only had a bit of grocery shopping to do, easily carried up the stairs in one trip, and she wondered if he would laugh when she told him she'd parked in the back of the parking lot for fear someone would hit his car.

She has absolutely intended to prepare lunch herself, for two just in case Draco woke, but he hadn't stirred by one o'clock. An ill timed knock on her door dashed that thought however when she opened the door to see Molly. "Hermione!" The woman would have wrapped her in a tight hug, but she clutched a pan in her hands. "May I come in? I'm sorry I didn't call."

Hermione ushered her inside, shooting a look toward the room where Draco slept. With any luck, he won't come out. Molly Weasley had never heard of minding her own business, and if Draco appeared, she wasn't likely to start.

"Don't tell me you were just in the neighborhood." Hermione laughed. Both women took a seat on the same side of the bar.

Molly pulled the tin foil from the pan, handing Hermione a still warm biscuit. "Oh, no. I was hoping you might be able to tell me a few things about Charlie."

"Charlie?" She bit into the biscuit, crossing one leg over the other. "What about Charlie?"

Molly swatted her leg. "Don't talk with your mouth full. Now, is he seeing anyone that you know of?"

Hermione shook her head. Perhaps she would continually chew this biscuit so she couldn't say a word.

"I wish he'd settle down." Molly sighed, plucking a biscuit from the pan. "The two of you have become such good friends over the last few months, I thought he might have told you something."

"No," Hermione said slowly. "Charlie doesn't tell me about his personal life. He critiques how I run in the morning, but I haven't seen him for a few weeks." It was strange, she thought, how easy it was to become friends with Ron's older brother. "I'm sure he'll find someone eventually, Molly."

The older woman nodded, the corners of her lips dragging down. "You've missed two Sunday dinners."

Hermione stuffed her mouth to childishly avoid a response. It didn't matter since the woman beside her patiently waited. "I'm sorry. I was busy both weekends."

Molly noticed how she didn't give any information, and asked anyway. "Have you met someone?"

Heat flooded her cheeks, and Hermione leaned her cheek into her palm. "I have," she admitted softly. On the first Sunday dinner she had missed, Draco had taken her for dinner, and a movie, and then they had spent the remainder of the day together. The second dinner she missed, the two of them sat in the Three Broomsticks while he read a book, and she typed madly away at her laptop.

She clapped her hands. "Oh, sweetheart, that's wonderful!"

Smiling wide, Hermione lifted her cup. "It has been."

"Tell me all about him! Have I ever met him?" It was an odd question, considering it wasn't likely Molly would have met anyone Hermione would date unless they were an old schoolmate, but she had met Draco. Twice, actually. "You should—"

A door creaked open. Footsteps padded down the hall, and Hermione almost called out, but Draco rounded the corner with a sleepy tilt to his lips. "Hello." He blinked, glancing down at his bare chest. "Forgive me."

After he disappeared, Molly poked Hermione in the sternum. "Is that the surgeon?" She gasped.

Hermione laughed, her lungs deflating. "Yes."

Molly whispered, "Not that it's my business, but—oh, is he sleeping over already?"

Fighting the urge to roll her eyes at Molly's idea of a scandal, Hermione replied, "No. We met for breakfast this morning after his shift, and I thought he was going to pass out. He borrowedborrrowed the spare. And no, it's not your business." She winked.

Draco re-entered the room, this time appearing more presentable than he had.

Disappointment bubbled up as Hermione saw that hesaw he was wearing a shirt. Still, his hair was tousledtouseled as he'd tossed and turned, or maybe he had just run his fingers through it. The pajama bottoms were a touch too short for him, ending above his ankles. "What are you laughing at?" Draco rumbled. "May I?" He pointed toward the pan.

"Oh, certainly!" Molly gushed, and shot a look to her female counterpart, mouthing, "His manners!"

Hermione almost snorted. "Draco, this is Molly. Molly, this is Draco." The two shook hands before Draco leaned against the counter behind Hermione, idly fidgeting with the edge of her blouse, and tracing the bare skin there.

If Molly noticed, she didn't say anything. "How did the two of you meet?"

"I dumped my tea all over her." Draco said, the corner of his mouth twitching. "I might have called her insufferable."

Hermione laughed, unable to hold in the giggle. "Molly knows about that already. It came up." But it wasn't the first time they had met. "We barely spoke until the car wreck, but he took me to work for a few weeks after that. You could say we've grown close."

His touch was warm against her hip, unable to keep his hands to himself while he continued the story. "She taught me how to make an omelette. I'm terrible at cooking them."

Molly choked. "That's adorable!"

"I asked her to be my date to a party my mother held for my birthday last month. I'd say we made it official then." Draco smiled, chuckling under his breath as she shivered.

She wondered just how long their relationship had been unofficial. Since shortly after the car wreck, she supposed.

Molly stood, brushing crumbs from her skirt as she flattened it. "I didn't know you had company, or I wouldn't have invited myself in." She wrapped Hermione in a one armed hug. "Ginny wasn't kidding. He's fit." She whispered.

Hermione spluttered, and Molly hit her on the back.

"Now, now, dear. I know the biscuits are a tad dry, but don't exaggerate." Molly turned to Draco. "It was lovely to meet you, Draco. I hope I'll be seeing you soon, perhaps at Sunday dinner?" She looked at Hermione.

"We'll discuss it." Hermione hoped he didn't mind Molly's forwardness. The front door swung shut moments later, and she sighed in relief. "I hope you didn't mind her questions. Really, you didn't have to tell her how we met."

Draco arched an eyebrow, and she noticed that the shirt was also too small for him. It rode up, revealing a small freckle on his hip that she definitely wasn't staring at. "You're making the mistake of believing that I mind when someone asks." Taking a step closer, Draco grabbed her hips and easily lifted her onto the counter.

"You just seem like you're a private person, and I don't want you to feel obligated to answer Molly's questions. Especially if you do come to a Sunday dinner—and no pressure—since there will be a hundred questions." His palms slid up her calves, and then her thighs, stopping far sooner than she wanted them to. Focus. "Stop doing that."

His lips lifted into a lopsided smile that made her heart beat out of rhythm. "Is it distracting?" he murmured.

It was. God, it was distracting in every single way, and she felt like a teenager. "Yes."

Draco laughed quietly, and hooked his fingers around the backs of her knees, pulling her to the edge of the counter. "I don't mind."

She met his gaze, her hands tightly gripping the edge of the counter. "Why's that?"

"Because lately," Draco dipped his head down, his nose brushing hers, "you're the best damn thing that's happened to me."

All of the oxygen rushed out of her lungs. Hermione cupped his face, hauling him forward, and kissed him. She wrapped her legs around his waist, not caring how fast they were moving at the moment, and locked her ankles.

He towered over her, a full foot taller, and pulled her against his chest. His short groan shot through her, and she tangled her fingers in his hair.

She whispered his name.

"I meant it," he murmured. "I understand it's a lot to say so—"

Hermione laughed breathlessly. "If you say too soon, I'll hit you with a ladle."

He glanced over her shoulder, eyes glazed. "It's across the kitchen. You'll never make it."

Eyes flashing, Hermione slid her palms down his chest, and let her legs fall away from his waist before shoving him away. Scrambling over the counter, and touching down to the floor on the other side, she snatched the ladle.

His laugh echoed in her flat as he came to stand just in front of her. His shirt was askew from her roaming hands, his lips bruised, and she could only imagine that she looked the same. "Did you really just cut a perfectly good snog short so you could prove me wrong?"

Her cheeks reddened. "What if I did?" Hermione chewed the inside of her cheek.

He took a step forward. "I think I'd like you even more."

Draco had a penchant for grabbing her, she thought as he knocked the utensil from her hand, and pinned her to the counter.

Hermione didn't mind.


She nibbled her lower lip when she opened the door. Dressed casually in a pair of shorts, and a tank top, Hermione stepped to the side for him to come in. "I'm really sorry. You don't have to do this." She rushed, nervously tucking her hair behind her ears. "Honestly, I don't mind us continuing with our plans—and I'm sorry I didn't know you'd made them. Harry and Ron can help me."

He cut her off by swooping down and capturing her lips. She fell silent with a squeak before sliding her arms around his neck. Within the last handful of weeks, she'd lost her shyness. "I don't mind." Draco reminded her, smirking as he took in her red cheeks. "So, where is everything then?"

Hermione ran her fingers through her hair before cupping the back of her neck and taking three steps backward. "So, they assembled it, but then they left it." She held an arm out, pointing to the corridor that led to her bedroom, the spare, and the loo. "I'm not sure how they thought I was going to move all of this. I'm sing—I live alone."

Snorting at her slip up, he poked his head around the corner. Just like she'd told him over the phone, she'd ordered a new furniture set, and the delivery hadn't gone as she expected. "For fucks sake, why did you pay for delivery?"

"The assembly was part of the delivery charge." Hermione murmured. "Most of it's too heavy for me to move. I tried moving it even just an inch, but it won't budge."

He nodded. "It's real wood, so I'm not surprised. Did you ask for them to stay?"

Hermione tried moving the desk for good measure, but it didn't move. "Yes, I asked them if they could arrange it how I wanted, and they told me they had another delivery to make. Only one of them talked to me, and he asked me if I had another man to help me."

His nostrils flared. "Isn't that why you paid extra?"

"I know it's not the best way to spend the day, and…" She was like a broken record. "You really don't mind, do you?"

He pinched the bridge of his nose. "I don't. It needs to be done, but while I do this, you need to call that shop and request a refund for the delivery fee."

She blanched. "Oh, no, it's okay. I don't want to get them in trouble."

Draco let it go, silently deciding that he would take care of it himself. "Alright, that dresser at the back," he pointed, "where do you want it?"

"My bedroom. It's that room on the right." Hermione wedged herself in between the desk and wardrobe, making her way to the last room. "I've already cleared a spot. Well, Charlie and Ron did since Charlie took my old set."

He couldn't squeeze past the furniture, and he ignored her tiny giggle, as endearing as it was. Draco climbed on top of the desk, bracing his palms against the wood as he slid across it.

"What are you doing?" She shrieked. "Get off of that! You're going to break it!"

"Are you calling me fat?"

She spluttered. "I'm calling you dense!"

He paused. "Dense? That's a new one. What does that even mean?" Draco's feet touched the carpet, and he wiped the dust from his hands. "Did they just pull it out of a warehouse?"

"I mean that you're," She broke off as he was pressed to her in the small space, her eyes flew open as he was content not to move. "Muscle is more dense than fat, Dr Malfoy." Hermione muttered.

He sniggered uncontrollably, his chest shaking. "Astute observation." Draco happened to like how her gaze often lingered on his chest, or his biceps, just like she did then. "It's not going to break if it's worth the money you spent."

She crossed arms. "Well, I'm glad you weren't here when my furniture was the same set as I had as a broke uni student."

"Broke?" he asked.

"Oh, yes," Hermione waved her hand. "I slept on Harry's couch for months after Ron and I split. It was terrible, and I never want to live with Harry again." She turned, stepping into the room, and pointed toward a spot where the carpet was lighter than the rest, just by a smidge. "Okay, so this one is easy. I'd like it to go where the old one did."

That was the only easy one.

Several hours later, Draco is drenched in sweat. The pieces are far from light, and if she wasn't watching his every move so closely, he would have admitted that it was too heavy, and it was unwise to move with only one person.

But she was watching him, and he liked it, so he put up with the monumental strain.

His mother would call him a fool.

"Um," she whispered, tension evident in her voice. "A little to the left."

He hung his head, blond strands falling into his face. "Are you kidding me? I just moved it from the left." Draco heaved a sigh, and inched it back toward the left. "Here?"

When he glanced over his shoulder, he found her shaking her head. "It's alright. Just leave it there. That will do."

"No, where do you want it because I am bloody well putting it there."

She drew her bottom lip between her teeth. It was incredibly distracting and all he wanted to do was sit her on her new desk and snog her until she forgot about placements. "Well, I think I'd rather like it to be in front of the window."

That didn't make any sense, the window in her room was hidden behind the headboard of her bed, which he would like to add, was also heavy. "You want it in a different room?" He deadpanned. "Alright, which one?"

Hermione wanted to debate him, or ask him why he was being so tolerant of her indecisiveness, he could tell. "The, um, living room."

Right, the room where he'd just hauled this from.

Of course.

That was just his luck.

Draco dragged it from the bedroom, and into the corridor. Muttering under his breath as he pulled it into place, that if she said to the left one more bloody time…

She came to his side, nudging him in the ribs before handing him a large glass of water. "That's perfect. Thank you."

He took a long drink, eventually guzzling the entire glass. She was staring at him, shifting her weight from one foot to the other. "What is it?"

"I know you said you didn't mind, but I'm sure this isn't how you wanted to spend your day off." She stood on her tiptoes, pressing a kiss to his cheek, but she pulled away before he could turn his head. "I promise I'll make it up to you."

Draco arched a pale brow. "How do you plan to that?"

Hermione's face was always easy to read, and for a split moment, a hungry look entered her eyes before it fell away completely. Her eyes fluttered shut, and she feigned coy.

Her hand knocked the empty glass from the desk as he set her atop of it. He never tired of cradling her face, or the way she melted into him as he did, and it was impossible to tire of her small hands fisting in his shirt. Draco nipped her lower lip, his hands dropping, and sliding up her sides. "See?" he murmured against her lips. "Sturdy?" Draco attempted to rock it back and forth, only for it to not move.

Her hands slipped under his shirt, her fingers trailing across his abdomen. "How sturdy?" She breathed.

His thoughts halted. The implication was clear, and he wanted her to be serious, to want it, but Draco held himself back. They agreed they were moving quickly, but that was—

She pinched his nipple, and giggled.

"Why, you…" He trailed off, tearing his lips from hers and tickling her sides. A grin spread across his face as she wiggled under him, the desk still unmoving, and as her laughter echoed throughout her flat.

"Quit! Quit!" She gasped, smacking his chest. "I give!"

"That's not an option." Draco muttered darkly. "How were you going to make it up to me again?"

She spoke between gasps, unable to get out of his grip. "I'll make dinner? We could spend the evening together where you definitely don't tickle me again."

He let her go. "Fine."

Hermione slumped on the desk before standing on shaky legs. "I'll go ahead and start that. Is there anything you want in particular?"

"No." Draco shook his head. "I'm going home to take a shower. I'm filthy."

She nodded, telling him to just let himself back in when he returned, and she didn't even notice as he swiped the business card off of the coffee table.


Her front door quickly opened and shut with a click while she sat on the counter, legs crossed, and her heels bumped the cupboard. Engrossed in a notebook that she'd recently purchased—despite not having filled her last—Hermione didn't look up as she said, "You take long showers."

Draco chuckled. "I don't, actually."

"You were gone for two hours." Hermione replied. She jotted down another quick note before turning to check the roast she'd left on simmer.

He dropped several bills in front of her, and she laid her pen down. "What are you working on?" He asked nonchalantly. "Are you enjoying it?" Draco also set her favorite drink in front of her, pumpkin and all, while holding his own.

Having already snatched her pen back up, Hermione poked the hundred pounds sitting on her counter. "What is this?"

"The man who suggested you find another man apologises, by the way. He tried to apologise to me, but I told him that wouldn't do." Draco slid another piece of paper toward her.

A handwritten apology that spanned half of the page. While it sounded genuine, it also sounded as if it had been written under duress. "You forced him to write me an apology?" She gaped.

Draco shrugged. "I didn't force him, but I strongly suggested him to do so."

"And you convinced them to issue a refund? They have a no refund policy!"

"Yes, I'm aware." Draco rolled his shoulders. "Unfortunately for them, I have a no bullshite policy, and their behavior today was complete shit."

A smile curved her lips. "Thank you, no one has ever done anything like this before."

He rounded the counter, shedding his jacket and hanging it over the chair. "It started pouring earlier." Draco told her quietly.

"It's still raining." Hermione tilted her head toward the windows where her new desk sat. "What of it?"

"Are you busy with writing?"

"I could be pulled away."

He squeezed her hip. "Only if you're done writing what's important, which I suppose would be all of it, but would you like to just watch the rain?"

"I really would." Hermione grinned. She flipped her notebook shut and followed him outside. Raindrops landed against her bare feet as she sat on the concrete landing, her knee bumping his. "How was work last night?"

He'd been dead on his feet that morning. Draco held his styrofoam cup in his hands, sipping his tea. "A forty-two year old woman had a heart attack last night, and crashed into another vehicle. The other driver walked away with minimal injuries thanks to their seatbelt, but she was rushed into surgery at two in the morning."

She had to have just spoken to him moments before that. "Is she alright?"

He nodded. "Expected to make a full recovery, I'm pleased to say. There was a mugging, and a teenager was shot. I suspect he's under sedation still, but will also make a full recovery." He swallowed another drink. "It was touch and go for a long while."

Hermione covered his hand with her own. "You're brilliant."

His shoulder brushed the black bars leading down from the railing, the water rolling down his sleeve. "How was work yesterday?"

Tiring, but she spared him the long story. Taking a long drink of her frappuccino that went straight to her head, she shrugged. "Just like any other day. Padma struggled with an article so we spent an hour in my office figuring it out."

"What was it about?"

"She heads the gossip column, and thought her work wasn't up to par with her normal."

"Was it worse than normal?"

Hermione shook her head. "I personally think most of that column is overplayed , but she's fucking good at it. Just a little self doubt, I think. Anyway, it was as an article on romancing your man." She finished with air quotes. "She found that I wasn't much help."

Draco sniggered behind his palm. "I met Padma when I came to your office for the first time."

She remembered. Moments after his departure, Padma bounced into her office before throwing herself into the chair he'd recently vacated. "Yes," Hermione said slowly as she sipped her drink. "She asked about you."


"Yes. It's not often I get visitors that aren't Harry or Ron."

He cleared his throat, and she looked up. "What is it?"

Draco leaned against the slab of brick behind him, resting his forearm on his knee. "I wanted to ask about Ron." His tone was cautious at best, and her stomach flipped. "I've been open about Astoria, granted the situation was a bit different. I know you've told me things about him, but he's still a close friend of yours so I'd like to know more, if that's alright with you?"

"Does it make you uncomfortable that Ron and I are still friends?"

His eyes narrowed. "What? Of course not, Hermione. You're an adult. Contrary to what others may think, you can be friends with your ex's, best friends even. Did you expect me to care?"

Hermione shook her head. "Well, not particularly. Ron and I should have never been more than friends, but between everyone pushing us together, and a childhood crush, we got off track." She explained, a weight lifting from her chest. "There were some issues with a previous partner, and I broke it off since he was jealous of Ron."

He seemed to understand as he took a long drink. "Naturally. The two of you are incredibly close. I saw you when they brought him into the hospital, but even with just a glimpse, it was obvious."

"He's one of my best friends, in spite of everything else."

Draco's mouth curved into a smile. "I'm not the jealous type, Hermione. Not when it comes to men who either don't stand a chance, or have already lost theirs. I'm also not the sort of man who would expect you to pick a new relationship with me over a lifelong friendship."

Fuck, he was continually turning into the best man she'd ever met at each turn. Hermione grinned, her heart thumping wildly in her chest. "I should check on dinner."

Draco climbed to his feet before she could, and he held his hand out, pulling her to her feet. Tucking his hands into his jacket, he followed her inside. He hung his damp jacket on the rack while she hurried into the kitchen.

She didn't hear him step behind her. Hermione squeaked as his arms slipped around her waist. "What are you doing?"

"I think it's called cuddling." He murmured into her neck, nuzzling the skin there. "Do you have any idea how easily distracted you are?"

That's the thing, Hermione wasn't easily distracted. She'd gone through university with Harry and Ron. She'd studied for exams while Harry and Ron shot balls of paper at the other. She'd lived with Harry for a long while, working on a manuscript while he and Ginny always yelled across the flat rather than walking.

She wasn't easily distracted at all, unless it was the attractive blond standing behind her.

Bollocks, she hadn't answered him, and almost a full minute had passed. "I'm not." Her voice was strangled. "Honestly, I could ignore you if I wanted to."

His laugh was low, just beneath her ear, and she couldn't curb her shiver. "I don't believe you." Draco kissed the shell of her ear. "Care to make a friendly wager?"

Hermione couldn't focus. Fuck! "Sure," she muttered. "What do you want?"

"If you can ignore me for the next five minutes, I'll do any favor you want." Draco said quietly, his fingers sliding down her sides. He didn't let his hands wander, and she wasn't sure if she was relieved. "Or, I'll let you take my car for the week. I'll drive yours."

She perked up at that. Did he already see through her so well? "And if I lose?"

He kissed down her neck, and she gripped the edge of the counter. She would never make it through five minutes, not when— "I want you submit another story to a publishing house."

The fork fell from her hands, clattering against the tile. Hermione spun to face him, her eyes wide. "What did you just say?"

His wore a lopsided grin that could cause heart failure. "You heard me."

She had. It was echoing in her head, over and over again. She swallowed three times, several seconds passing between them. "I don't have anything to submit." Hermione whispered. It was a tremendous lie, but Draco had no way of knowing that. "Don't look at me like that, I—"

"Your nose twitches when you lie." He tapped the tip of her nose, the apparently traitorous part of her.

"Okay." Hermione knew she was going to lose as she whispered in agreement. "But only if you tell me why you care."

He arched an eyebrow. "It's important to you, and I think you need a push."

She hated that he was right. "It's terrifying, you realise? It's a part of me, no matter how much I liked it, and handing it over is…"

"The first step?" He asked. "Someone said that's the hardest step you take."

Hermione snorted. "That's oddly whimsical coming from you." Her hands slid up his biceps, her fingers fidgeting with his sleeve where it was rolled up. "I'll pull something out."

His nose brushed hers. "I knew you had something." He grabbed her hips, and turned her. "You should be checking dinner."

The countdown started, and she was ruined within the first thirty seconds.

Draco leaned over her shoulder, stealing a bite of food as she checked it. When she started to scold him, he took her by surprise when he massaged her shoulders. "When was the last time you had a massage? These knots are brutal." He murmured, his thumbs dipping into her skin.

A weak moan escaped her, and she nearly melted into the floor. "I don't think I've ever had a massage." Hermione's answer was weak, flimsy at best, and she couldn't think straight.

Draco kissed the nape of her neck, a sweet spot that he'd found quickly. He cupped her neck there whenever he kissed her, and she'd mentioned it once by mistake.

"Dinner's done,"

Draco's hands fell from her shoulders. "You lost."

"I'm not that upset about it, I've realised." Hermione leaned against the counter, watching him pull his mobile from his pocket. "What are you doing?"

He didn't answer her before laying his mobile beside her. "Come here," Draco's hand found hers as he tugged her close and slid an arm around her waist. Music played in her kitchen while he swayed with her. "Seriously," he muttered. "Book a massage."

Her head fell back as she giggled. "I'll look into it."

Draco raised his arm, twirling her, and bringing her into his chest again. "Hermione?"

Content to lay her head on her chest, she only mumbled, "Hmm?"

A silence followed. "Nothing," he said quietly. When she tensed in his arms, Draco sighed. "They're mental if they don't accept your submission."

Water stung her eyes, and she kept her head down. "Thank you." The two of them swayed for several more minutes. "Our food will get cold."

His lips touched the top of her head. "It can be reheated."

After that night, Hermione didn't see Draco for a couple days. It was jarring, surprisingly so, to go from seeing him at some point each day—whether it was at The Three Broomsticks, where Luna watched them from behind the counter, or because they'd made plans of their own—to not at all.

They sent text messages when they could. Draco worked nights for the week, and each morning he was running ragged. It was all he could do to get into bed, and she'd had conflicting plans by the time he woke up. She had dinner with her parents, who were interested in knowing about the new man in her life. Hermione offered them no real answers. There was the pub night where Ron and Harry took her out with Ginny and Susan Bones—Ron's new something.

Being the fifth wheel was irritating in ways she didn't expect, but it had been a fun night.

Hermione exited the dog kennels while pulling her ringing mobile from her pocket. Draco's name flashed across it, and the picture she'd taken during a spontaneous breakfast date at four in the morning. "Hello?" She answered.

"Hey," Draco murmured sleepily. "Are you busy?"

The barking that bled through the walls answered for her. "Give me just a second to get into the lobby. Hagrid was the only one here today, and he's out on a call, so I volunteered today."

"Did you have a good time?"

She grinned as she fell into the plastic chair in the waiting room. "I did, actually. I gave Cerberus a bath since he's been adopted and his new family will be here to pick him up soon."

"Oh, love," Draco laughed as her tone dropped. "That's a good thing!"

"I know." She muttered. "I'm happy. I'll just miss him."

"There are plenty of more dogs to save." Draco said gently. "Since you're not busy, at least for now, I have two questions, but the first is contingent on your answer to the first."

Hermione didn't say a word, unsure of what that meant.

"That sounded ominous, didn't it?"

"A bit," she replied hesitantly.

"Well—bugger, it's three questions. First, are you busy on Friday?" She didn't. "It's my weekend with Scorpius, so I'll be leaving early in the afternoon, but he would like to see you. All we're going to do is watch movies, and eat takeaway. Don't feel obligated."

She knew what the other question was, but Hermione asked anyway. "That sounds lovely, but what is the third question?"

He sucked in a breath. "Astoria wants to meet you, in person this time. I know it's a lot to ask considering you don't particularly like her—"

Hermione combed her fingers through her tangled curls. "It's fine, Draco. Astoria is his mother. She has every right; I don't mind."

"—but I would love to spend time with both of you and I promise—did you just agree?" Draco asked breathlessly.

She laughed, the sharp sound echoing against the metal walls. "Some time ago, but thanks for asking."

Draco's chuckle sounded close against her ear. "Thank you."

"There's nothing to thank me for. I should be thanking you for inviting me." Hermione held her phone to her ear with her shoulder. "Oh, I think someone's about to come in. I'll talk to you later."

"How long will you be at the shelter today?"

She paused. "A few more hours, I'm sure. Why?"

"I'll get dressed, and join you. See you in a half hour?"

Hermione's mouth dried. "What? I thought you only got home a few hours ago."

"I'm not tired. Besides, I should come say goodbye to Cerberus, shouldn't I? He grew on me after he dragged me around for so long."

"Okay," Hermione twisted a piece of hair around her finger. "I'll see you then."


With one hand tightly gripping the wheel, and the other resting on her thigh, Draco stole glances at Hermione while she scribbled ideas inside her notebook. He noticed that she was nearly to the end of it, with only twenty pages more left to use, and at the rate she was going, he didn't think it would last the trip back from Oxford.

He was still surprised how easily she'd agreed to meet Astoria. The initial shock had passed fairly quickly, it was Hermione after all—Hermione who had so easily bonded with his son while making him giggle.

The corner of his mouth lifted while he thought about her dancing with Scorpius a month earlier. She never shied away from speaking with the miniature version of himself over video chats, and she never cut his stories short.

"Why is it that my best ideas always come while I'm the passenger?" She mused under her breath, flipping the page. "Maybe I should ride the subway and see if it gives the same effect. Then again, it's so hot in summer."

He stowed the information away for later.

Draco catches the bottom of a page when she flipped to the front of the book, and there's a small box with what he can assume are character traits. Sense of humor, teasing.

When she flipped back to where she was, he spotted a curious thing. Rough around the edges, devoted, career driven.


As much as she tried to hide it, shock flitted across her features as his former home came into view. Designed by one of his mother's friends, and to Astoria's last wish, it was a far cry from his London flat. Hermione glared down at her clothes, a fitted pair of dark jeans, and she bit her lip.

"You look great." Draco lifted her hand, pressing his lips to her knuckles.

Hermione smiled, and stepped out of the car before he could make his way around. She kept her hands to herself, and didn't bump her hip against his like she always did.

He hated to admit it, which was why he hadn't discussed it with her, but it was for the best. A conversation with Scorpius still hadn't taken place so he could explain their relationship, and he didn't want his son to grow confused. Even though Draco suspected Astoria had already said several nasty things, and they were likely within earshot.

Astoria answered the door before he knocked, and her eyes skipped from him to Hermione. "Come inside," Astoria stepped aside, planting a fake smile on her face. "Scorpius is still in his playroom. I thought it would be good to give us the chance to talk."

"Of course," Hermione replied, smoothing her blouse while looking around the sitting room they were led into. "Your home is beautiful."

Draco wanted to groan.

"Thank you." Astoria sniffed. "Draco was so lovely to pay for it, you see, and then leave it to me as well."

It wasn't like he'd had a choice if he wanted her to just sign the fucking papers his solicitors drew up.

Hermione smiled, a subtly vicious curve of her lips. "Yes, I know. It's such a shame that you won't get another out of him, isn't it?"

Astoria's eyes narrowed. "Draco, you should let Scorpius know that you're here while Hermione and I have the chance to chat."

As he shook his head, Hermione agreed with his ex-wife. "We're both adults, Draco. I don't need you to act as a mediator for me. Go see your son." With that, she took the seat across from Astoria, crossing one leg over the other.

He made sure the woman across from her saw how he ran his fingers along Hermione's neck, and the shiver that followed.


As she was left alone with Astoria, she prepared for the worst. It had been childish to immediately insult her, and the excuse that she hadn't been able to control herself wasn't a good one.

Tucking blonde hair behind her ears, Astoria clasped her hands together on her lap. "Is it alright if I call you 'Hermione'?"

"As long as you don't mind me calling you 'Astoria'." Hermione replied.

Her nails were freshly done, a long manicure that bordered the line between practical, and classy. "I have several questions, mostly about Scorpius, but I..." Astoria glanced across the room, her eyes falling on the doorway as she cleared her throat. "I have a question about Draco."

The sudden quietness of her tone unnerved Hermione. "I can't promise that I'll answer any of those."

"Were the two of you together before we—before we divorced?" Astoria's voice had broken in the middle, and she lifted a hand to wipe her eyes.

You've got to be joking. She can't be serious. Hermione's jaw clenched. "No, we weren't. I can't see Draco ever being unfaithful to anyone."

Astoria bristled. "Don't try to talk about events you don't understand."

Hermione sighed. She wanted to leave as soon as possible. "I don't want to discuss them with you. There are two sides to every story, and while I don't think yours is different from the one he's told me, I've already picked my side. If you want to know, Draco and I met in February, and we've recently started dating since his birthday. Now, I want to tell you about our relationship as much as you want to hear about it."

Astoria glared at her. "You're right. I don't want to hear about it, but it's irritating to be traded in for a younger model."

Her mouth fell open. Shaking her head, Hermione said, "I think we should lay some ground rules. I don't want to insult you, but you make it quite easy for me. I don't want you to insult me either, but Draco didn't trade you in. You had an affair, and he divorced you. You seem to think that you'll always have a claim on him. You haven't for some time."

"And you do?" She hissed.

Hermione rolled her eyes. "I don't want to sound like he's something I own, but yes, he's currently mine. I don't hate you. The reason I came here because you don't feel comfortable with me being around your son. If that's not what we're going to discuss, I'll let myself out."

Astoria stood, still glaring at her before tilting her head. "Fine. Come with me then." She led Hermione into the kitchen where she thrust a list into Hermione's hands. "I'm not sure how much—or for how long—you'll be around, but I'll cover everything. I've written it down since it's a lot to take in."

It was a list of likes, dislikes, and allergies. "Um," Hermione began. "You realise that I'm not going—"

"To be his mother?" Astoria snapped. "Yes, I'm aware, but if you make dinner, and mistakenly send my son to the emergency room because I didn't tell you he's allergic to shellfish, I will blame myself. Now, Scorpius' allergy to shellfish is his worst allergy. He's also allergic to certain types of medicine, which is why there's a list of over the counter medications he can take. Since he's been born, he has a weak immune system."

She hadn't known what this visit had implied. Hermione expected to be questioned about how much she'd been around children before, but Astoria left no stone unturned. "I understand. I'm certain Draco would always be the one to take care of him if he's sick, but thank you for this."

Her nod was clipped. "He likes pancakes in the morning. Don't let him tell you he can eat more than two, he absolutely cannot. He loves onions, and Draco hates them. We told Scorpius that Draco likes them because if we didn't, he would insist on not eating them because he wants to be like his father. Don't let that slip because I happen to like them."

Hermione laughed, and she was surprised to see a genuine smile curve Astoria's lips. "I won't."

"He has a favourite bedtime story, and it will be in his bag. He'll ask for the green one, but pick the red one. Just in case you're the one who—" Astoria's eyes began to water.

She panicked. Hermione didn't move any closer, but her eyes widened. "Are you alright? Is there anything I can do?"

Astoria leaned against the counter, wiping her eyes. "Scorpius loves you. I don't know what it is, but he has talked about you all this week since he's getting to watch movies with you. Yes," she added when Hermione looked surprised. "Draco told me."

While she couldn't relate to how Astoria felt, she understood to an extent. "I'm just his father's friend. He likes me because he doesn't see me very often, and the times he has were rather large events. First in a hospital and then again at Draco's birthday. You're his mother. If it makes you upset that he likes me—"

"You'll what? Are you going to make him not like you?"

"Of course not! I just mean… I don't want to be in the middle of anything. I never have, and since it affects you this much, I wouldn't—"

Astoria shook her head. "No, he's excited. Please don't take that from him, even if I don't particularly like you." Had the world turned on its head? This woman was constantly back and forth. "I would appreciate it if you didn't mention any of this to him."

"Draco would understand." Hermione said softly. "Of course, I won't tell him. I know my place in all of this, Astoria. I have no desire to pretend to be Scorpius' mum."

"Maybe not right now," she shot back scathingly.

Hermione couldn't reply as footsteps sounded from down the corridor, and she'd barely turned when Scorpius attached himself to her leg. "Hey," she laughed, running her fingers through his hair before she could stop herself. "Have you gotten bigger since the last time I saw you?"

He beamed up at her, and she caught Draco grinning as he leaned against the door trim, his arms folded over his chest. "No," Scorpius drawled, sounding so much like his father. "You're just really short."

"He isn't wrong." Draco chuckled.

She'd barely looked up when Astoria passed her, but Hermione's stomach twisted violently when Astoria laid a hand on his forearm. Astoria asked, "Do you mind if we speak privately before you leave?"

With Scorpius still staring up at Hermione, Draco shoved Astoria's hands away. "I think not." He muttered. "Everything is in his bag then?"

Hermione took the little boy's hand, retreating from the kitchen. "Can you share me where your bag is?"

He bobbed his head. "By the door!"

She snatched it up and led him to the car. Glancing down at his small hand clasped in hers, she cleared her throat. "You don't have to hold my hand if you don't want to."

Scorpius grinned. "No, I want to!" He let her buckle him into his car seat, and he reached up to touch her hair. "It's soft. It doesn't look like it."

She snorted. "There you go. Now we just have to wait for your dad." Gravel crunched below her feet.


"What is it?"

"Will you sit beside me?"

Her heart melted when she stared up at her, holding the sleeve of her shirt tightly. "Sure."

It gave Draco a good laugh when he returned to find Hermione seated in the back with his son. "What are you two doing?"

Scorpius shushed him. "'Mione can say the alphabet backwards!"

"O...N...M...L…" She lost her place when Draco laughed, breaking her concentration. "You ruined it." Hermione accused.

Her pint sized friend chimed in agreement while they pulled out of the driveway. "'Mione is sitting with me because she's my best friend." Scorpius boasted.

Draco looked at them in the rearview mirror. "Yeah?"


Hermione played games with Scorpius while they rode back to London. "This is the one my mum and dad played with me on car rides. You have to spell out the alphabet using signs. Or license plates."

He said that made sense, and she complimented him on well he knew the alphabet. Scorpius leveled a look at her. "Miss McGonagall beat it into us."

Draco snorted. "She did not beat it into you."

"That's what Lucy says, and she's a know it all."

That sounded familiar, and Draco's eyes met hers in the mirror. "Let's play then." They finished the first game quickly, even with a delay in finding a Q. Scorpius insisted on playing another game, and fell asleep halfway through.

"Car rides make him sleepy." Draco whispered. "He always says he'll stay awake the entire time, but he lasted quite a bit longer this time."

She heard the implication and a gentle smile spread across her face. "He's cute."

"Would you like to sit up here now?"

Hermione nodded, crawling over the center console as quietly as she could so Scorpius wouldn't wake. "Not much longer, is it?" She reached over, taking his free hand in hers. "I know you want to ask."

He looked over her shoulder first. "Did she insult you?"

She sighed, fidgeting with the ring on his middle finger. It appeared to be a family ring. "It was mutual. It's fine."

"No," Draco said. "It's not. She may not like you, but she needs to respect you all of the same." His finger slid across her knuckles.

"Well," Hermione muttered. "I'm not sure that's fair since I was rather disrespectful myself. It wasn't my place to dredge things up, and start an argument, which don't tell me I didn't. It's exactly what I did."

He exhaled. "Yes, it was a bad idea. Is that what you want to hear?"

"I want you to be honest, and not spare my feelings just because it's me." Hermione muttered. "I've made the decision to be better. No matter why your marriage ended, I don't want to be the kind of woman who hates your ex. She's a part of your life for the rest of your life." She turned to the window, laying her head back.

It irritated her more than anything how petty she'd acted, how quickly she lashed out at a woman she hadn't fully met.

Even if she didn't like her, that was certainly no excuse when she was a grown woman.

Draco pulled into the parking lot, bringing his finger to his lips. "Will you sit in the car with him? He's going to pick the same movie as always, so I'd rather not wake him."

She nodded.

"Why are you sitting in the front seat?" Scorpius' voice was groggy and she turned to see him rubbing his eyes. "I fell asleep again! Bollocks."

"Scorpius!" Draco admonished. "Where did you hear that?"

He bit his little lip, shaking his head. "No where."

Draco's expression revealed he didn't believe Scorpius even a little bit. "Hermione decided to sit next to me after you fell asleep. You have to share, you know."

Scorpius crossed his arms, kicking his legs up. "But she's my friend."

Hermione sniggered into her hand, sinking into her seat.

The man beside her smirked, and squeezed her knee with a wink. "Yes, but she was my friend first, and I'm older, so there."

"That's not fair! You're ancient, Dad!"

Hermione burst into laughter.

"Thirty-five is hardly old," Draco growled playfully.

Hermione cleared her throat. "Thirty-six. You had a birthday last month, or did you forget in your old age?" She bit her lip as he looked like he wanted to throttle or snog her, and he couldn't decide. "You have to be nice to your dad. His memory gets worse the older he gets."

His eyes widened comically. "I'm not old." Draco pinched the bridge of his nose.

She leaned forward, stretching up to whisper quietly beside his ear. "I like older men. It's alright."

Draco still glared at her as he left them in the car, but she knew he was barely holding his glare in place.

Scorpius could eat his weight, which was very little but still, in popcorn. He sat between her and Draco, having wedged himself there while animated dragons raced the other in the movie. "This is the best part!" He yelled, popcorn falling from his mouth. "Did you see that?" Scorpius looked up at Hermione.

She grinned, and it was only partially because Draco had been massaging her shoulder for several minutes by that point. "I did!" She gushed, tickling his sides. "Best part yet, I agree."

Draco snuck a glance over Scorpius' head, his thumb skimming the column of her neck.

"Dad?" Scorpius held the bucket of popcorn in his lap, which had been saved from a previous trip to the cinema from what he told her. "Can 'Mione stay the night? I want to have breakfast together."

She choked on her saliva, and it didn't go unnoticed.

Luckily, Draco recovered from the question much quicker than she would have. "No, Scorp, I don't think so. But we can still eat breakfast together if you like. You're about to faceplant in your bucket though."

"Am not." Scorpius retorted. I'm wide awake. I could stay up all night."

"Bet you can't," Draco tapped his nose. "Let's finish the movie, and then I'll put you to bed."

He muttered he could totally stay up for the entire night. As the next twenty minutes passed, Scorpius slumped and let out a small snore while he slept on her arm.

"God forbid he's ever able to stay up the entire night." Draco chuckled. "Give me ten minutes?" He scooped Scorpius up, and made his way from the living room to the bedroom.

Hermione crossed her legs for a moment before thinking better of it. She quickly gathered the trash that littered the coffee table, and managed to carry the dishes from dinner into the kitchen. She loaded the dishwasher, and hand washed the popcorn bucket before storing it in the cupboard Scorpius had pulled it from.

She righted the cushions on the sofa before resuming her seat.

Draco looked at the table and back to her once he re-appeared. "You cleaned?"

"You were putting him to bed, and I didn't want you to have to stay up to do it." Hermione laid her arm on the back of the sofa, and her cheek rested against her palm. "Did he wake up?"

He snorted. "Absolutely not. He sleeps like the dead, which is a blessing because for the first two years he didn't sleep through a single night."

It sounded terrible.

Draco reached over, pulling her jumper up from where it had fallen. "I wanted to tell you, I wouldn't mind if you stayed the night, not that I expect anything. I just don't want to confuse him and I haven't explained this to him yet." He waved his hand between them.

In hindsight, Hermione didn't know why she was surprised. "You're going to tell him we're dating?"

He nodded. "Of course. Funnily enough, he asked me about dating months ago, and I promised him I would always be honest. I also wanted him to like whoever I chose," Draco pulled her into his lap, smirking as she squeaked. "Scorpius adores you, so I'm not expecting it to be a hard conversation."

"I just assumed you would keep telling him that I was your friend is all." Hermione said. "I didn't expect you to tell him that I was your girlfriend." She straddled his waist, and chewed her lower lip.

Draco leaned up, capturing his lips while holding her hips. "Fuck, I've been dying to do that all day." He murmured, nipping her lower lip.

She looped her arms around his neck, pressing herself closer to him while toying with the hair above the nape of his neck. Hermione's lips parted, and she gasped when his hands down her thighs, his hands heavy through the thin joggers she'd changed into earlier in the night. "Draco," she whispered.

"I know." He rasped.

Hermione rolled her hips against him, hoping he would take the hint. Her hands slipped under his shirt, her fingers splaying across his abdomen.

When his fingers reached the apex of her thighs, the thin material separating them, Hermione whimpered weakly. Draco groaned her name, and heat coiled in her belly. He shifted, his hand sliding lower, and she didn't want to stop, but—

She pulled away from him, delighted by the way his cheeks were flushed. "I want to do this," Hermione whispered, rolling her hips once more to get her point across. "But I don't want to do this when Scorpius could technically walk out at any second."

His head fell back to the sofa. "I understand."

She pecked his lips. "I wouldn't be against repeating this after the weekend thought."

"Thank fuck for that."

She laughed, standing from his lap. "I probably should get home then. What time do you want me to come over for breakfast?"

Draco handed her the handbag that rested on the hook beside the door while she slipped her trainers on. "He won't wake up before nine if that works for you?"

"Yes, I'll be over—"

He pinned her to the door with his body, tilting her chin up and kissed her until she was breathless. Draco's hand slid between them, and his fingertips barely pressed against her through her clothes, but it was almost enough to ask him if he thought they could get away with sneaking into his bedroom.

She must have said it out loud.

"No," He answered what was meant to be an unspoken question. "We could get away with it, but then I wouldn't get to make you moan properly loud, and I would feel robbed of that." Draco grinned. "Thank you for coming over."

She wanted to drag him back to her, even though he'd barely taken a step away from her. "I'm glad I did. I had a wonderful time."

He still hadn't let her go. "Breakfast at nine?"

Hermione nodded.

He kissed her again, tangling his fingers in her hair.

"You have to stop, or I'll never be able to leave." Hermione's words were ragged as her nails bit into his biceps. "You're trying to convince me not to leave, aren't you?"

"I'm selfish." His words are muffled against her throat, and she's certain she won't be able to walk away. "I don't care what I just said."

Hermione laughed, and tugged his head up lightly by his hair. "After this weekend." She promised, slowly kissing him one last time before reaching for the doorknob. "I'll see you in the morning."

Draco looked dazed, his eyes glassy, and his lips swollen. "I'll look forward to it. I would walk you to your car, but…"

She shook her head. "No, I'll be fine. This complex is nicer than mine." Hermione told him. "I'll let you know when I get home if you like?"

His lips brushed hers as she opened the door. "I'd like that."

Hermione stepped onto the landing outside his flat. "In the morning." She said quietly.

Draco lunged, twisting them to where her back was against the wall of the complex, and kissed her frantically again.

She didn't bother to count in the moment , but she knew the number of times one of them had reached for the other—she was equally as guilty—before she made it down the steps was quite high.


Chapter Text



In the week after Scorpius returned to Oxford, both of their lives imploded. Draco managed calls, and texts when he could—during a break, which were usually interrupted by Katie saying that they have a patient en route, and he promised that this would die down, and they would make time for the other again—and Hermione sat in her chair while staring at the walls of her office. She didn't like the feeling welling up in the pit of her stomach, twisting on itself over and over again.

She missed him, perhaps too much for something that was technically new, but Charlie had pointed out how they'd been dancing around each other since Valentine's Day. It wasn't new at all, he claimed, and he also said that she ought to just surprise him at his flat with breakfast while he worked overnight shifts.

Tapping her pen against the legal pad in front of her, Hermione drew her lip between her teeth. The weekend had already passed them by, turning into a bitter Monday wrought with rain and cloudy, grey skies that hung outside the window.

There was a rap on the door, and she nearly let her head fall to the desk. "Padma, if it's your article again, we'll need to look at it tomorrow. I'm swamped—"

The door swung open slowly, and Draco stepped inside, holding a coffee and a small bag from the Three Broomsticks. "Uh, Padma told me that you would say you were swamped, but she also told me to ignore you. But if you're really busy, we could see each other tonight."

Hermione sprung out of her seat, hurrying around her desk. "No, no, I can make time. It's no problem at all. I thought you worked tonight though?" She stepped aside as he passed her, setting her drink, and the bag on her desk. "It's only," she glanced down at her watch, "four o'clock."

He tilted her head up with his finger, smirking. "I can lose an hour of sleep, especially if it means seeing you. We've barely had a minute to ourselves this week."

A gentle smile curved her lips. "Thank you." Hermione sipped her drink, eager to have something in her hands before she snogged his where anyone could walk in. "I missed you."

The corner of his mouth lifted. "I'm surprised. I barely gave you time to miss me with how often I call you."

He was exaggerating. "I'll have you know that I enjoyed every single call, and I could have done with a few more if you'd had the time."

Draco plucked the drink from her hands, abandoning it on her desk before cupping her face. He kissed her softly, threading his fingers into her hair while backing her to the edge of her desk.

As his tongue swept across her bottom lip, Hermione was intimately aware of his hand skimming her side, coming to rest on her hip, and the tightening in her belly. "Unless you want us to end up on the couch, I think we shouldn't get too carried away." Hermione whispered, but a low keening noise left her when his fingers dug into her hips, and he nipped her lips.

"You do have the blinds drawn," Draco rasped.

"Padma has been in here no less than six times today. She walks by to see if I'm busy, and if I'm not, she'll storm in. So far, the deterrent has worked."

He laughed. "Do you have time for an early dinner?"

She swallowed. On one hand, yes, she absolutely wanted to soak up as much time with him as she could. On the other, she knew that he was sacrificing sleep. As a grown man, it was his choice, but she couldn't help but feel a little guilty for it. "Are you sure?"

"I slept once I got home this morning," Draco murmured, his lips skimming her jaw. "Not a full eight hours since my mother called at noon, but I can catch up after you leave."

Hermione nodded then, smiling. "Of course. I'll just leave early for today, but would you mind picking me up at my flat? I really don't want to go to dinner wearing this."

At her words, Draco stared at her joggers, and the alumni shirt she wore. "I hadn't noticed what you were wearing, honestly."

Her laugh bubbled up. "I've been here since five this morning. I have not left my office once."

She was certain he was about to ask her why she'd been in the office so early, but her door swung open. "Do you have a second?" Padma asked as she looked from Hermione to Draco. "I've finished, but I'd love a second opinion if you have the time."

"Can you email it to me? I'm actually leaving for the day, but I can read it tonight."

"That'll be perfect," Padma replied, and closed the door with a soft click behind her.

Hermione packed her belongings away in her bag before sliding the strap over her shoulder. As they exited her office, his hand easily found hers, and he threaded their fingers together. "Where would you like to go?" She asked.

As they stepped inside the lift, someone called for them to hold the door. Draco smirked when he didn't oblige.

Her mouth fell open. "You—"

The lift shuddered as it began its descent, and only a few seconds passed before Draco pressed her to the wall, and slammed his hand onto the emergency stop. He silenced her with a kiss that was rougher than the one in her office. Curling his fingers in her hair, his nails scraping her scalp, she slumped between him and the wall.

She whispered his name, letting it fall away as his knee slid between her legs. "We can't take too long. Someone will get suspicious."

The low chuckle that left him sent a chill unfurling down her spine.

Her peers surely already assumed they were snogging in the lift. So did it really matter if she gave into it for a moment? Gasping, Hermione slid her hands up his chest, and fisted his shirt in her hands.

His lips slanted against hers, stealing the breath from her lungs until a buzzer went off above their heads. "We should—" Hermione breathed. "We should probably stop."

Draco pushed her hair away from her face. "Probably."

She forced herself to look up even though she was certain it would only make her was to drag him back to her. "After dinner…?" Hermione mused, pulling his hand away from the button and the lift began to move. "I mean, it's not the weekend."

He righted her shirt, smoothing out the wrinkles as she fixed her hair. "We'll call it an extended weekend."

Hermione laughed. "That's not how it works."

He took her bag from her, and Hermione ignored the curious looks cast by the receptionist as they left the building. He'd parked close to her, swiping an empty spot from Seamus. "Do you want to go to a restaurant, or would you rather I cook?"

Clicking the button of her key fob, she replied, "I think a quiet dinner at yours sounds nice. You don't mind?"

Draco shook her head, opening the passenger door, and setting her bag in the seat. "Not in the least. While you go home, I'll pick up a few things from Sainsbury's."

Caught between her car, and his chest, Hermione peered up at him. There was a slow smile creeping across his face, and she fidgeted with the hem of his thin shirt. "What is it?"

"Your co-workers are staring at us." He laughed, ducking his head down, and pressing his lips to hers. "I'll see you soon?"

Hermione resisted the urge to run her fingers over her lips. "I'll just come to yours after I change? Just let me know whenever you're home." Watching as he opened her door for her, Hermione pecked his cheek. "Also, if you're up to it, Harry and Ron would like to meet you this weekend. We're going out to a pub, so if you have the time…" She trailed off.

Honestly, what had she been thinking? Dropping the request on him out of the blue wasn't going to make it any more likely for him to say yes. Still, he surprised her anyway. "Which day?"

"Friday." She was hyper-aware of his finger trailing the inside of her wrist, tracing the veins of her arm. "You really don't have to come. I don't want you to obligated." Great. Babbling would certainly help.

Seconds passed before his shoulders relaxed. "I'll see what I can do." He told her quietly, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. "I'll see you soon."

There was a text message waiting from Ginny when she parked in front of her complex, a simple message that asked her when she would have time to meet over coffee. Hermione thought it odd, but didn't question it. She quickly replied that she would be free later in the week, and they could go whenever worked best for Ginny.

Her keys jingled as she rushed up the steps, careful not to trip over the hem of her joggers, or even worse, completely miss a step. Swiping through her notifications—all forms of social media, her personal email, and the few text messages from a group chat she shared with Harry and Ron—she didn't notice that anything was out of order.

Not until she reached up to unlock her door without looking, and the door creaked open on it's own. She swallowed, her heart lodging in her throat as her eyes snapped up. Right in front of her, her door was already cracked. Through the space, she could see her coffee table overturned.

She sprinted down the steps, pressing the phone to her ear in the same movement.

Draco answered smoothly, within just a moment, which she always appreciated, but she liked it even more at the moment. "I already asked you what you wanted to eat, so if you're calling to change your mind—"

"I think my flat was broken into." Hermione spat out, not angrily, as she attempted to catch her breath. "The door is open, and my furniture is overturned. I was going to look inside myself, but—"

"No," Draco replied, all his playfulness gone from his voice. "That's not safe for you to do."

She nodded, even though he couldn't see it. "No, of course not. I'm on my way to speak with my landlord right now so I can call the police. But I wanted to say that I probably won't make dinner."

On the other end of the line, he spluttered. She could envision him clearly in the middle of the aisle at the grocery, his features contorted in confusion. "That's perfectly fine. Just give me ten minutes, and I'll be right there."

Her eyebrows shot up. "If you want to," Hermione murmured. She quickly ended the phone call, and made her way into the office.

The police responded within ten minutes, and somehow, Draco had still beaten them when it ought to have taken him fifteen minutes. She supposed that said something, but didn't take time to ponder it as she sat on the asphalt. An hour passed with him at her side, and he was silent as she wrote across her portfolio, her pen on the verge of snapping as she pressed too hard.

He'd brought her a sugary drink that he had likely only seen her drink once, and handed it out to her from where he stood. "What did your landlord say?" Draco sat beside her, stretching his legs in front of him. "Hermione?"

She sighed heavily, glancing up at him. "There were other units burglarized today. I was the first to report it, but as more tenants arrived home…" Hermione dragged a hand down her face. "My neighbor—the elderly woman, Mrs Norris, you've met her."

"Unfortunately." He chuckled, no doubt recalling the day he'd mistakenly woken the woman.

Hermione didn't laugh. "She was home today when her flat was broken into. They beat her, rather viciously from what I've heard so far, which isn't much. Her husband discovered her and they're taking her to St Mungos."

Colour drained from his face. She knew what was going through his head without hearing a word. Just next door to her flat. If she'd been unlucky, if she'd come home sooner. "Fuck."

She nodded to that. "Harry and Ginny offered for me to stay with them for a few nights. They're not going to let me into my flat tonight, and I wouldn't want to sleep there anyway."

Rubbing circles in her back, Draco pulled her to him. "You could do that, but if you'd like, my spare is open."

She tensed, turning into him and burying her face in her shoulder. "I'd like that." Hermione admitted, finding his free hand. "I promise not to be a bother."

He laughed quietly, swiping his thumb across her knuckles.

Having been to Draco's flat before, more than once at that, she shouldn't have felt so out of place. But as she sat on the sofa with her legs tucked neatly below her, she felt increasingly out of place. Hermione had only visited before, and granted while the last visit had nearly led to her staying the night, she hadn't expected to actually stay the night. At least not under the current circumstances.

Harry and Ron were worried, rightfully so, and had threatened in no uncertain terms that if anyone tried to break into her flat again, they would sorely regret it. It was true, especially if Hermione had anything to say about it. She'd run through all sorts of scenarios in her head in the hours since Draco had left.

What would she have done had she been home?

If it had been her and not poor Mrs Norris?

She was certain Draco had pondered the exact question, but he had the good nature not to mention it.

If she'd been in the sitting room, the lamp that always set to her right would have made a nice weapon in the moment. It was more than the cane that had been found lying beside her neighbor, If she were in the kitchen, there was a trove of household items she could have used—a knife from the block on the counter, a handled pan if she panicked, which she would have. There was nothing in her bedroom she could have used. The bat Ron had gifted her as a tentative 'present' was buried in the back of her closet.

The telly flickered as a commercial spans the screen, and her mobile vibrated against the table, jarring her from the morbid re-enactment her mind had conjured. She snatched it up, and answered the call, placing it on speaker. "Shouldn't you be saving lives?"

Static crackled as he laughed. "Not at the moment. I'll update you as the situation changes."

"Ah," Hermione replied, picking at her socks while shifting. "Have you run out of emergency personnel to yell at as well?"

"You can't see it, but there's a definite chance that I just rolled my eyes. I thought you should know." Draco said. "No, no one to yell at, which I don't make a habit of anyway."

Her programme resumed, but she was quick to mute it. "How is your shift?"

"It's a quiet night. No—" She assumed he had covered his phone as he spoke to someone else, "you'll find that room on the next floor. Take the lift to level six, and take a right. Sorry, are you busy?"

She looked around the sitting room. There's a half eaten sandwich, and her laptop that is still staring back at her, mocking her to work on the beginning of a project. "Oh, I'm just swamped." Hermione smiled. "No, I'm picking at a project, but I just can't sleep."

There was the sound of him swallowing. "Because of your flat?"

"Partially. I don't sleep well to begin with. Why else would I be in the Three Broomsticks at three in the morning?" Hermione laid her head on the back of the sofa, her shoulders relaxing.

Draco cleared his throat. "There was something I wanted to discuss with you." He let a second pass, and she didn't say a word. "I don't want you to return to your flat until police have arrested the perpetrator."

Hermione paused, staring at the phone. "And you would like me to stay here?" She asked, clearing her throat.

"If you like, the offer is open for as long as you need to. Or if you don't feel comfortable with that, I would understand, but I truly don't think you should—"

"I'll stay." Hermione replied. "Also, I've already started eating your food."

If there was going to be an awkward silence, she'd destroyed it.

Draco burst into laughter. "I have to go." He told her, cutting their conversation short. "Is there a chance you'll tell me what you're working on later?"

She glanced at what she had, which was the characterization of a possible male lead. "I don't think so." Hermione murmured quietly, hoping it would mask her nervousness.

An hour later, Hermione took a picture of herself in the middle of his kitchen, standing in front of his fridge. It was half past four, and every thump inside the flat made her jump.

To Draco, 4:26 A.M.: Eating your food.

Hermione crawled into bed—in the spare bedroom—minutes later. The pillow was soft under her head, and she closed her eyes, only to sit back up as her phone vibrated again.

To Hermione, 4:31 A.M.: Saved it. You're adorable.

A warm feeling coiled in her stomach as she gave a sleepy smile. Another message shortly followed, and a picture popped up across her screen. Draco sat in what she recognised as the cafeteria, smirking into the camera as he lifted his water bottle.

If he said anything about the long string of heart eye emoticons she sent, Hermione would blame it on lack of sleep.

And she saved the photo as well.


As a result of their custody agreement, he was obligated to inform Astoria of any changes to his living arrangement. Surprisingly, she had taken the news without spewing venom through the phone.

"Someone broke into her flat?" Tori echoed. "God's sake, what side of London is she living in?" She sounded concerned, and Draco would have never associated a warm quality with his ex-wife where Hermione was concerned.

He swallowed his tea as he made his commute home. "Not a bad part of the city, but terrible things can occur anywhere. Her neighbor was found beaten."

"It's lucky that Hermione wasn't there then." She agreed. "That's just terrible. I hope they found the culprit soon. As for Scorpius, it's fine."

Maybe it was the shock that caused him to offer involuntary information. "She's staying in the spare room."

Astoria sighed. "Draco, I don't care, and for future reference, please don't feel like you should tell me when she's sleeping with you."

His grip on the steering wheel tightened.

She continued. "I'm trying to be supportive."

That was—

"And I will likely never like Hermione, given you are my ex-husband, and she is your girlfriend. However, our son adores her. I do think it might be for the best if you have that conversation with him soon, just so he understands."

What in the fuck was going on?

"Are you going to say something, or are you staring into space while you realise that I'm not a witch?"

Astoria hadn't made him laugh in a long time. "I'm shocked is all."

She sighed again. "Don't get used to it." That was more like her. "Scorpius will be over the moon that he can have a sleepover with her. He was put out when he came home last month after you'd told him no."

"I just—"

Astoria cut him off, probably waving him off too. "I know. Before you go, I'd like to tell you that Theo has been helping me. I didn't send him to your party to start another feud. I was ill that morning, and I didn't feel up to presenting myself. I'm sure he made an arse out of himself anyway, but I didn't use him to hurt you."

"Not this time." It slipped out before he thought it through. Draco pinched the bridge of his nose. "This is ridiculous. I don't care if you spend time with him. What's done is done, and we should move forward from it. I've done a poor job of it. What were you ill with?"

"Nothing," she replied quickly. "Just a mild cold. A bit of medicine fixed me right up. Sending Theo was tactless, and I should have called you, but I was petty. I apologise."

The morning only grew stranger and stranger. "It's alright. Hermione… She knows about Theo. Suffice to say, the meeting didn't go very well for them."

"Did he deserve it?" She asked, and he could remember the way she used to smile mischievously.

"He did." Draco didn't go into any more details. The truce would be temporary, even though he hoped for the best. "I'll see you next week." Pocketing his mobile, he let himself into his flat.

He found Hermione sitting on the kitchen island, her legs crossed at the ankles. She was dressed for work, a black pencil skirt, and a pretty blouse that he wanted to peel off her as soon as he saw her.

"Good morning," she greeted him cheerfully. There were dark circles under her eyes that made him wonder just how much her insomnia affected her. "I was about to leave, but I thought I'd like to see you before."

Hermione had a tell when she was nervous, and it was often. She nibbled her lower lip, and it only endeared her to him. Gripping the edge of the counter, she tilted her head to the side.

He set his cup down roughly, squeezing it too tightly, and dark liquid escaped from the slot at the top. Draco closed the distance between them, the corner of his mouth lifting, and she reached for him.

As her fingers curled in the material of his shirt, Hermione yanked him forward and pressed her lips to his. Where she had styled her hair, his fingers tangled in it, his touch smoothing a path along the nape of her neck.

She whimpered, slumping into the curve of him, and he had the irresponsible thought of whether it was possible to keep her for the entire day.

Images of fantasies that he'd already had flickered across the front of his mind, his thoughts already taking off quickly to stray.

Her hair would be spread across his sheets, her curls crushed as he pressed into her—

Draco's hands fell from her hair, and skimmed down her sides, brushing against her breasts. Taken by surprise when he noticed that her pupils were dilated, he wanted to pull her from the counter, and wrap her legs around his waist.

"I have to go." Hermione whispered, hooking her leg around the back of his knee. "But I don't want to."

He kissed her neck, and then the hollow of her throat, noting how she mewled when his teeth grazed her skin. "We could have lunch together." Draco suggested.

She panted, her nails biting into his shoulders. "Are we going to actually eat?"

He pondered it for a moment. "I doubt it, unless you really want to spend your lunch that way."

"Oh," Hermione rolled her eyes. "God forbid I eat instead of spending my break snogging you." Her sarcasm never went amiss. Lowering her gaze, she quietly admitted, "I'd like to have lunch."

"Is that a euphemism for—"

"Shut up!"


They did eat lunch that afternoon, but she'd also conveniently drawn the blinds in her office hours before his arrival. And spent the better part of an hour snogging him while jumping at every wayward sound outside of her office. The week passed quickly as they settled into a pattern while she stayed with him. Hermione still worried she was a bother, and he was quick to reassure her, but it struck her in silent moments while Draco was asleep down the corridor.

That was the other thing.

They were dancing around a ridiculous amount of sexual tension—she knew it wasn't just her who wanted to tear his clothes off—and something had to give. In his effort to always be a gentleman, Hermione thought she would have to make the first move soon. Not that it bothered her either.

"How is it? Staying with him, I mean," Ginny asked over the phone. "Charlie started a pool about when the two of you will shag."

Hermione balanced her mobile between her ear and her shoulder. "Oh, you're joking. Who bet on it?"

Ginny's laugh was breezy. "Everyone in the family, but Bill and Percy so far. Even Mum and Dad decided to test their luck."

She winced as she reached for her water bottle. "I didn't need to know that Molly and Arthur are betting on my sex life."

"I know, it's a little horrifying. But honestly, the last Sunday dinner was a riot. There's a whole 'will they, won't they' conversation going on. Of course, I said you definitely would."

Draco stepped into the kitchen, his pajama bottoms slung low on his waist, and her mouth dried.

"You would say that." Hermione replied, brushing her bangs from her sweaty forehead. "Well, I'm sure you'll be the third person to know when that happens."

"If you could," there was a crash in the background, "possibly fall into one another's arms sometime between the fifteenth and the seventeenth…"

Draco stepped behind her, settling his hands on her hips while pushing her shirt up. His fingers skimmed the bare skin there, and her voice caught in her throat. Hermione swallowed hard. "I actually think today would be better. Possibly right now?"

The elastic of her leggings snapped against her skin as he tugged on it. Draco pressed open mouthed kissed down her neck, and shoulder, and she could feel the smirk curving his lips. "Important conversation?" He rasped.

Ginny screeched, "Hermione, no! You can hold on, it's three hundred pounds. If you were my friend—"

She laughed breathlessly. "Three hundred?'

"I'll even split it with you." Ginny said in a hurry. "You can't let Harry win. He'll never let me forget it."

While that was true, Draco's fingers dancing along her waistband wasn't helping her conviction. "I'll let you know." Hermione murmured, hanging up, and cutting Ginny off mid-sentence as her voice shot up several octaves. "You're home early." It sounded so domestic, she almost wished she hadn't said it.

It sounded bold, as if she thought this was home, and that was ridiculous. Obviously. She had only thought too much into it. Given their close proximity, sharing the bathroom attached to the master bedroom because she couldn't deny that it was so much nicer than the one in the corridor, it should have been expected.

"Drove like mad to beat the traffic," Draco said, pressing his fingers into her hips and dragging his lips down her throat. "You always leave early, and I wanted to see you."

Her heartbeat was erratic. "It's Saturday." Hermione giggled, reaching up to sink her fingers into his hair. "I don't go into work on the weekends."

He paused. "Oh."

"I think you need to sleep. You have no idea what day of the week it is." Hermione turned to face him, cupping his cheeks and pulling him closer.

The edge of the counter dug into her back, sharp and solid, reminding her just where she was. His arms circled her middle tightly, lifting her onto the counter as he often did, and all thoughts of teasing him left her.

A low groan tumbled from him lips as she wrapped her legs around his waist, her heels pressing into his back and urging him closer.

Hermione reached for the hem of his shirt, bundling it in her grip as she tugged it. "Off. Now," she panted. Holding onto the counter, she watched as he tugged it over his head, discarding it in the kitchen floor. There was a long scar stretching across his chest, from one pectoral all the way down to the other side just over his ribcage.

It was something she could ask about later.

He lifted her shirt over her head, tearing his mouth from hers, and she whimpered at the loss. Draco paused, his gaze raking over her, and he picked her up from the counter.

Hermione squeaked, clinging to him as he carried her down the corridor. "What are you doing?"

"Is it not obvious?" Draco kicked open the door leading into his bedroom, her back brushing the wood as he stepped inside.

Her voice caught in her throat, and Hermione swallowed as he set her at the foot of the bed.

Draco dropped to his knees in front of her. "You're beautiful." He kissed the inside of her wrists, and pulled her forward by her hips.

Her breathing was ragged as he peppered kisses across her collarbone, his tongue darting out to slide against the sensitive skin. She focused on the way his hands slid up her sides, his thumbs brushing against the fabric beneath her breasts. If she'd thought—expected—this would happen so suddenly, a sports bra wouldn't have been her first choice.

But he didn't seem to mind it.

"I can—" Hermione began as he reached to pull it over her head. "It's kind of a pain to get off." She admitted with a laugh.

Draco's eyes darkened as he looked over her, his thumbs hooking in the waistband of her leggings. "Yes, you should do that immediately." And then the shrill ringtone of his mobile pierced the air, and her hands fell away from her chest. "Wait, just hold that thought." Draco said. "It's my mother; I'll call her later."

Hermione shook her head. "The moment is already… Go ahead and answer it. What if it's important?"

He sighed.

It turned out that it had been important, and it had actually been Scorpius on the other end of the phone, and not Narcissa. Hermione leaned against the washer, now wearing a pair of shorts and a tank top while her hair was piled loosely on top of her hair as it dried, listening as Draco reassured his son that it had only been a bad dream.

Draco hunched over the island, staring at his phone where it was propped up against a pile of books he'd left there the night before. From where Hermione stood, she could see the patch of bare skin where his shirt rode up.

"Is 'Mione there?"

Draco glanced at her, nodding for her to come over. "She is. Would you like to say hello?"

Hermione crossed the space between them, climbing into the stool beside Draco. "Morning, Scorpius." She grinned, reaching over to turn the mobile toward her. "I heard you had a bad dream. Are you okay?"

His lower lip wobbled, and he blinked rapidly. "Daddy says it was just a dream." Scorpius said, taking the mobile in his hands and running down the corridor.

There was a distant, "Scorpius, no running in the corridors!" that Hermione assumed was Lucius. It was of little matter considering Scorpius ignored him and carried on.

Draco sniggered, dragging his hand down his face.

Scorpius lifted his hand from the camera, and she recognised his bedroom that he'd shown her before. "Why are you at Daddy's?"

She froze. Hermione hadn't considered that question, and she certainly had no idea how she could answer it.

The man at her side recovered instantly. "Hermione's home was broken into. It's not safe for her to stay there, so she's staying with me for a while."

His son nodded. "Are you scared?"

Hermione's lips twitched. "I'm alright."

"Cause if you get scared, there's a stuffed dragon in my room you can sleep with." Scorpius fidgeted with the bedspread, and there was a large dragon plush to the right of him. "You can borrow him."

"That's very kind of you." Hermione rested her cheek on her knuckles, bracing her elbow against the counter. "Tell me about your week."

Scorpius told her about Ms McGonagall, a classmate named Lucy that he didn't like very much, and how he wanted to read through naptime, and he hadn't been allowed to. There was a movie he wanted to watch at the cinema, but Astoria hadn't felt well, so they hadn't gone.

"Could the three of us go?" Scorpius asked, picking under his nails.

Draco looked at her, seeking an answer, and she nodded. "That sounds fun." Hermione easily agreed.


After Scorpius' morning phone call, they hadn't gotten that moment back. Hermione met each of his looks with a smug smile—as if she knew just what he was thinking, imagining even—over the course of the morning.

She'd reminded him that they were meeting her friends at a pub. He hadn't forgotten, but Draco found himself pondering ways to possibly reschedule it so he could have her to himself.

It didn't go that way at all.

Settled into the soda with one arm slung around her shoulders, Draco couldn't focus on the documentary she'd picked. She consistently asked if he minded watching it, spouting some nonsense that no one ever liked to watch them with her, and he cocked his head to the side.

"Hermione, I could watch you do anything all day long." His fingers brushed the nape of her neck, and he didn't miss the small shiver that ran through her. "Your previous partners didn't care to watch them then?"

She shook her head.

He thought that was a shame. Each time a new piece of information was introduced—this particular programme was about whales in captivity, and she was furious—her eyes lit up.

He dragged his finger down her throat before running it down her collarbone. Wondering what the divuts of her spine would feel like while she were under him—

"You're distracting." Hermione chewed her lower lip, her eyes wide, but she still had the presence of mind to pause the telly.

The corner of his mouth twitched as she caught his hand, her small fingers wrapping around his. "I like to be distracting."

Her eyebrows lifted. "Oh?" Hermione laughed. "I couldn't tell." Her sarcasm wasn't lost on him.

"You like when I'm distracting." Draco pointed out, his voice a low rumble from his chest. "Don't you, Hermione?"

Her breath caught, and then she was in his lap, confidently crawling into his lap while her thighs hugged the outside of his. "Maybe." Her tongue darted out, sliding along the seam of her lips.


"Just maybe?" Draco lifted his head as her hands slid over his shoulders, her palms warm through the thin material while her nails cut into his skin. He found her hips, inching her oversized shirt up, circling the soft skin there.

"Perhaps not just a maybe." She breathed. Her mouth was on his, her thighs tightening around him while she straddled him. "We'll be late if we start this."

He didn't comment that they had an hour before they had to be there. There was the fact that she would change, or do her makeup, and the drive was only ten minutes. A snogging session, or more, didn't have any place—she was fucking talking, and he wasn't listening.

Hermione pressed a kiss to the corner of his mouth as she drew away. "They'll absolutely know what we were doing, or they'll assume they know."

Swallowing, he held her hair tightly, drawing her back to him. "You could make yourself presentable on the way."

Her laugh bubbled up, and Hermione twisted them, tugging him down on top of her. "Come here."

His shirt went first, and she rolled him onto his side to scoot down the sofa. Kissing the scar she'd been eyeing earlier in the day, Draco's eyes squeezed shut. "Fuck!"

Hermione cupped him through his trousers, stroking him through the fabric. She let him pin her to the cushions, her chest rising and falling with shallow breaths as he moved over her.

Draco pushed her shirt up her stomach, and watched her throw it over the armrest. He didn't notice that she'd changed out of her previous bra until she mentioned she'd hoped something like this would happen, and he swallowed roughly. "Bloody fucking hell." Pulling the cups of her bra down, her breasts spilled from the fabric, and his lips closed around her nipple.

Wiggling under him, gasping what he presumed was his name broken into more syllables than it was worth. Tugging strands of his hair, and pushing her hips against his, Hermione's back arched. "Oh, that's—"

His teeth grazed the pert tip, and her voice broke.

She kicked her leggings off, heavily breathing while meeting his eyes. "What?" She grinned. "I know what I want."

To prevent himself from embarrassing himself, Draco focused on rendering her unable to speak. Her stomach was flat below his lips, toned from the regimen she took seriously every morning when he heard her door creak open.

Like he expected—she second guessed most things, and he was going to be sure to do what he could to change that, another time—Hermione tensed and attempted to close her thighs as his tongue slid against the seam of her knickers.

Pretty. Lace.


Of course, he wouldn't do that, but Draco considered it.

"Trust me?" He asked quietly, peering up at her. "Do you not like it?"

"No! I mean, I don't dislike it. I just—" Hermione broke off, and shook her head. "It's nothing."

He didn't particularly believe that at all. It was something, and it seemed to bother her, but it could be discussed later. Draco grinned when she parted her legs, and allowed him to hook his fingers into either side of her knickers to tug them down. They landed under the coffee table, and he pressed her leg against the cushions beside her, kneeling before her.

Her eyes were dark as she watched him, and she shuddered as his fingers inched up her inner thighs. "Please." She groaned, wetting her lips. "Draco, please,"

Leaning forward, Draco flattened his tongue against the small bundle of nerves, slowly sliding one finger inside her tight folds.

She rocked above him, her knees closing as her back arched. "That's... oh—" Hermione gripped his hair tightly, pressing herself closer.

Two fingers, slowly thrusting into her, and curling in tempo with her moans. The pace quickened as she moaned breathily, "More, Draco, I—"

Watching her, hearing her, fall apart just below his mouth was one of the most gorgeous things he'd ever experienced.


Climbing off the couch, mostly nude, Hermione had dashed into the spare room to change. The pub was one she and her friends frequented—the same pub she had picked Ron up in April when everything suddenly fell apart, and fell back together in a different way—so she dressed casually. A fitted pair of jeans that hugged her arse, and she delighted in the way Draco's eyes lingered, and darkened a fraction.

Her shirt wasn't anything to write home about, just a nicer blouse that she didn't wear to work since it showed her cleavage a smidge more than she needed Dean to see.

But, Draco seemed to like it as he eyed her appreciatively. "You look beautiful." Dipping his head down, he kissed her slowly, letting his fingers twine in her hair. "I should stop or we won't get out the door."

"I like these jeans." Hermione pinched his bum and hurried out the door with a laugh. Looking behind her, she saw him step over a puddle while grumbling.

Hermione had told him it would Harry and Ron. She'd mentioned that Charlie might tag along, since he'd become a close friend since moving back to London. But when they pulled into the parking lot, the sun steadily setting, Hermione recognised the vehicles of an entire slew of Weasleys, plus Harry.

Burying her face in her hands, she muttered, "We don't have to go in. They're honestly overwhelming. Don't look at me that way."

He wasn't laughing, but the amusement reached his eyes. "They're your friends, love. I would have met them anyway."

"I know that."

"Then what's the problem?"

Thing was, Hermione didn't know. There was no reason to be so nervous with someone who she knew as well as she did, who had seen her bare in more ways than one, but the moment they stepped into the pub, Hermione understood they were under scrutiny. Even though her makeshift family meant well while her own parents were normally absent, meeting them together made everything real.

A step she was completely, absolutely—pick any synonym, she thought—ready for.

But she didn't want the little things.

Charlie: enter older brother type, who was burly and terrifying, but was an actual teddy bear.

Ron: ex, which was nothing, but he tried to grill her dates, and his worst flaw was to be overbearing.

Harry: would actually give the "If you hurt her…" speech despite her not needing it one bit.

Ginny: fuck, Ginny—

"Your nose twitches when you panic," Draco mused, his grip loose on the steering wheel. "Do you want to talk about why you're more nervous than I would normally expect?"

Hermione wasn't surprised by the observation, but she answered with, "My nose twitches?"

"Incredibly endearing too. You look like a mouse."

Any of the mice she'd seen were anything she wanted to look like. "A mouse?" Hermione repeated.

Draco seemed to catch where her mind went. "A very cute mouse." He stretched an arm across the centre console. "Can I ask you something? If you don't answer, I won't be upset, but I think it's about to come up anyway."

She bit her bottom lip. "Shoot."

"In your previous relationships, did you second guess yourself much?" He rubbed her knuckles as she clammed up. "I've noticed it, more so lately rather than when we kept bumping into one another, but I'd like to say that I'm not going to brush off any concerns you have."

Swallowing, Hermione peered out of the car, her eyes darting to the sunset and then to the door that swung open and there was a flash of Weasley brand red. "Sometimes, but it's always over the most ridiculous things."

He shook his head. "It's not. If it worries you, then it worries me." Draco shifted in his seat. "What worries me is that you might be afraid to be honest with me."

Tension concentrated the air, and her stomach churned. "I'd rather not air the worst parts about myself, but I've never had a relationship go very well. So, I suppose," Hermione breathed. "I'm a little worried that once you meet everyone, this goes wrong. It's a juvenile fear, and I'll be twenty-eight next month, but…"

His smile wasn't forced, and her shoulders relaxed. "Say no more. I understand."

"You do?"

He nodded. "Did you know that I was worried you wouldn't be interested once you learned I had a son?"

"But I met Scorpius before we ever,"

"Well, yes. It's more apt to say I was worried that the novelty of my cute son would wear off, and once you realised he was non-negotiable, that a divorced parent of one wouldn't be your speed."

"There's a joke to be said about whether you're my speed, but I'll let that go. It wasn't that funny anyway. Scorpius isn't a novelty. I would never think that about you or him."

He smiled, and it was the same one from the day the two of them went grocery shopping, and she'd been starstruck. "Watching you give my son attention, and being so thrilled to do so is more than I could have hoped for. You met my ex-wife without batting an eye, and you were quick to my defence. I think that you're wonderful, and I can't reassure you that this will never end when we don't know what the future will hold."

"I'm not asking you to promise—"

Draco looked like he wanted to kiss her. "But I have a good feeling about it. Call it instinct."

Her mouth dried.

"And I expect that your friends will realise exactly that because I am utterly besotted with you."

It did not matter that they were in his car, with albeit heavily tinted windows, while there was still daylight. What did it matter if anyone saw them?

Hermione lunged across the console, kissing him wildly as he held her in his lap. "I think they're outside." He murmured against her lips.

"Are they staring?"

"Yes." He chuckled.

"Should we give them something to stare at?"

While being sure to not break any actual laws beyond the ones of societal norms, Draco had done exactly that. Warmth had coiled in the pit of her stomach, and she didn't pull her hand from his as they sat in a large booth with everyone.

As her own insecurity, and it didn't come up often, Hermione didn't discuss her anxiety. It had reared its ugly head, and Draco had reassured her unlike anyone else ever had, and she was left to contemplate his words—turning them around and upside down—while he fetched drinks with Charlie.

"So, did I win the bet?" Harry asked, tipping his beer to his lips while smirking. "Looks like I won it while you in the parking lot."

Draco's hands had strayed, but nowhere indecent. His fingers skimmed the sides of her breasts, and he'd dragged his thumbs across her stiff nipples through her shirt, but they hadn't shagged in public like degenerates.

Hermione sighed. "You did not, but how dare you bet on my sex life."

Ron spit up at her side, choking on a laugh that had literally bubbled up while taking a long drink.

"But," she continued. "That depends on the constraints of the bet. Does it have to be actual intercourse? There are plenty of other things one can do."

Plugging his ear while apologising, Ron shut out the conversation.

Harry's eyes narrowed while Ginny threw her fist into the air. "Actual sex, 'Mione."

She clicked her tongue. "Then, no. You didn't win at all." Hermione ended the conversation before Draco could return. As open as he was, she didn't want to introduce the entirety of her friends' antics before he'd known them for an hour. But I did, Hermione thought with a quiet laugh.

Draco slid into the booth at her side, laying an arm on the booth around her shoulders. He was still laughing with Charlie, and Charlie's face was bright red to match his hair.

"I like him." Charlie declared simply.

It was easy, not like falling, but like wading as she smiled at the man beside her. "What did you say to him?" Hermione asked.

"I'll tell you later." Draco replied, reaching for his drink.

Over the course of the first hour, the things that Hermione could catalogue in the 'boring' category were put away. Professions first: Fred and George owned a joke shop. Charlie was working with an animal preserve, and opted to not discuss it or he would never stop. Harry was a policeman, and Ron admitted he'd done the same before deciding it wasn't for him. Ginny worked with coaching sports for a secondary school.

And Draco said from behind his glass that he was a trauma surgeon.

"Yeah, you know me and Ron really bloody well." Fred said with a laugh.

At some point, each of them were engrossed by the gross medical stories Draco could tell.

But Hermione paid more attention to the way he rubbed her thigh beneath the table.

Contrary to what Hermione might have hoped for, Draco didn't lead her into the bedroom after that night out. Only after she had gotten blissfully pissed, so much that he gave her a piggyback ride to his car, and up the stairs to his flat, had Draco undressed her.

She'd tried to guide his hand between her legs, drunkenly professing to 'take her', which was mortifying the next morning.

He'd dressed her in pajamas, and left water with aspirin on the bedside table for her.

Three days later, there was another break-in at her complex, and she started looking for a new flat. She couldn't stay with Draco forever, afterall, as nice as it was. She was an adult, and they weren't living together. There was a promising one that she'd schedule a tour with, but only after asking what the crime was like in the area.

In the interest of being completely transparent, Hermione was wary of living alone because of all the ways things could have been different. If she'd been home, and it had been her flat rather than Mrs Norris'.

Two days later, and still several days before she could tour the prospect flat, Draco's washer and dryer broke. Hermione was certain it was her fault, considering the knob had come off, but she managed to put it back on.

Draco explained that was the least of their problems, but the real problem lay behind the washer, where a tube was no longer connected. Water flooded the room. Connecting the tube as it had been didn't fix the problem, which didn't make any sense to her. But considering she wasn't the one lying on the floor, with their shirt soaked all the way through—and the sleeves rolled up halfway—she didn't have much to say. Though she did enjoy watching as Draco flailed to look like he knew what to do.

He didn't.

He muttered about fucking arteries and fucking collapsed lungs until Hermione slowly backed away to ring maintenance.

There was a laundry mat not far from his flat, and after joking that she'd waited as long as humanly possible to do laundry—approximately nine o'clock at night—Draco went with her.

He held up a pair of lace knickers, smirking, before tossing them in with the rest of her clothes. "There's so much." Draco groaned. He slumped in one of the plastic chairs, folding his hands in his lap. "We're going to be here for a while."

So said four loads of laundry that needed to dry cycles.

"I brought snacks." Hermione said, taking the seat next to him. She opened her purse and tilted it toward him. "And I nicked two bottles of water from your fridge."

Grinning, he took one of the granola bars. "So," he swallowed the first bite. "How was your day?"

Work had been boring, that much was true, except for the end of the day, she explained. "But," Hermione popped a fruit gummy into her mouth. "I got a really interesting email at the end of the day as I was walking to the car park."

"Oh? All I got was the most irritating, and vapid intern I've ever met."

She snorted. "Does she shadow you, or…?"

He shook his head. "She was lost. Lost. She's meandering around in an empty OR while making a cell phone call to her friend who is also apparently lost?" Draco muttered. "I still have no idea where she was meant to be. I dropped her off at the front desk where they give directions and left her."

Hermione made a mock sound of sympathy. "Oh, don't be too hard on her. I'm sure she's nervous."

He gave her a look of disbelief.

"I admit that I would still be worried." Hermione giggled, offering him a gum in her open palm. "Anything else interesting?"

"Nothing. Tell me more about the email?"

Behind them, headlights of passing cars flashing against the window, momentarily blinding Hermione when she looked for a second too long. Fishing her mobile from her pocket, she said quietly, "Equilibrium is a magazine that caters toward writers, and was made by authors, some best selling."

He stared at her in silence, the sort that said more than words, while his hand was halfway to his mouth. Draco's hand curled into a fist. "I've heard of it. Go on?"

"I submitted a story last month." She breathed, and his face split in two with a wide smile that she'd never seen before. "They were getting back to me."

The gummy fell to the floor. "And?" Draco asked eagerly. "Did they accept it?"

Her chest threatened to burst. "Accepted with eagerness, I'd say."

He snatched her out of her chair before she could blink, springing to his feet and pulling her with him. Draco swung her around, wrapping her in a tight embrace. "That's amazing. I'm so proud of you."

Wiping her eyes with the sleeves of her jumper, she nodded. "I'm proud of me too."

They sat together, her legs swung over his lap while he read the story she'd submitted on the small screen of his phone that he swore he would upgrade. He just wasn't fond of change, Draco told her with a laugh.

After using one of the laundry carts to change from the washer to the dryer, she'd absently commented that she'd always wanted to ride in one.

There was little doubt the owners would see them. There were various signs around the twenty-four hour laundry mat reminding them that they were on camera.

But while Draco pulled her around the room, spinning her faster than she could stomach, she felt they were much younger than they truly were.

He kissed her while her head was still spinning, sinking to his knees in front of the cart while cradling her face.


It was both fortunate and unfortunate that Hermione found a new flat. At least there wouldn't be any extra explanation to Scorpius that his girlfriend was staying with him temporarily, but they weren't living together.

It also meant that she wasn't just down the corridor. It meant that he couldn't sit her on the kitchen island, and make her thighs shake before she went to work. Those were selfish reasons, but he realised her mind likely strayed to the same thoughts.

Hermione missed their coffee date toward the end of the month, and it was unlike her. She'd texted him an hour previously, eager at the news that Scorpius would now be joining them since his mother had arrived early.

And then she hadn't shown up. Scorpius sat glumly in his car seat while looking at his toes as they drove toward Hermione's flat. "Do you think she's okay?" Scorpius asked.

"I'm sure she's fine, buddy." Truthfully, Draco was sure of that, but he couldn't help the swirling in the pit of his stomach. The new flat she'd moved into had a very low crime rate, and it was incredibly unlikely that anything had happened.

But it was so unlike her to not call if she wasn't going to make it.

Scorpius held his hand while they climbed the steps, and Draco knelt down to pull the spare key from under the mat.

"That's where everyone looks." Scorpius said.

Draco laughed. "You should tell her that. Wait right here, okay? Don't touch anything." While his son waited by the front door, rocking backward on his heels, Draco made his way through her flat.

Her bedroom door was cracked, and Draco almost snorted.

Hermione laid across her bed, her arm flung out, and her hair was a mess. On the table beside her was a box of cold medicine, and a half empty glass of water. "Hermione," he nudged her.

She stirred. "Hello?" As she cracked one eye open barely, both of them immediately flew open. "Oh, my God. I fell asleep." She covered her mouth with both hands.

"You did." He chuckled. "How long have you been sick?"

"I don't know. I didn't feel well yesterday, but I just felt like death this morning. I thought if I took some medicine, I would be fine to meet you, but I was clearly wrong." She wrapped herself in her blanket.

"Are you cold?"

"Freezing," she muttered.

He grimaced. "Well, it's boiling in here, sweetheart. You need to see a doctor."

She shook her head. "I turned up the thermostat, but I think it's busted."

"No, it's definitely not." He tugged at his collar. "Come on, I'll take you to the doctor."

Hermione rolled away from him, telling him no. "I haven't been to a doctor in years." She shrieked, but was unable to swat him away since she'd wrapped herself up. "Draco, put me down!"

"Absolutely not. I'm taking you to the hospital and that's that." As he entered her living room, he found Scorpius turning a snow globe from the shelf upside down. "I thought I told you not to touch anything."

Scorpius' eyes widened. "What's wrong with 'Mione?"

"She's sick and she doesn't want to go to the doctor." He stepped out of the door as his son opened it. "So, we're going to take her while she can't get away.

"Draco Malfoy, I swear to God—"

Scorpius reached up to rub Hermione's arm through the blanket. "You're pasty."

She snorted. "Thanks."

"Was that rude?" Scorpius looked at Draco. "I'm sorry. Are you afraid of the doctor?"

"No, but this will pass in a few days." Hermione insisted, more to Draco than Scorpius. "Considering I have no choice in the matter, I'll go, but can you please unwrap me?"

"Like a present." Draco winked.

Hermione laid her cheek against the cool glass for the duration of the ride to the hospital, wincing in pain when she thought he wasn't looking. While Scorpius waited patiently in the staff room, entertained by Katie, Draco ran the tests himself.

"Are you supposed to be doing this?" Hermione asked. "You're a surgeon, and I don't need a surgeon."

He arched a pale brow. "You wound me." Snapping his glove against his wrist, he said, "Technically, no. But this is an ER, and Dr Boot isn't going to force me out. I'm capable of running the tests so we'll know what you've come down with." Placing the stethoscope to her chest, he murmured, "Breathe in."

She did.

"Slightly irregular heartbeat."

Hermione's face flushed, and she hissed, "Shut up! It is not."

She was right. It hadn't been, but as he moved instructed her to breathe in once more, it was much faster.

"Thank you." She whispered when they left.

Draco and Scorpius brought her soup, and stopped in at least three times a day. She wasn't contagious by the time Scorpius forced his way onto her bed to read a book to her until she fell asleep, but it was still a worry that crossed her mind.

Hermione laid her head in the crook of Draco's neck while his arm was wrapped around her."Goodnight, Hermione." Draco's lips were cool against her forehead.

"Once upon a time, there lived a dragon with blue scales named Draco…" Scorpius began, embellishing the story while his small voice lulled her to sleep.


Chapter Text



"You do this every morning?" Draco wheezed, coming to what was the sixth stop—she'd counted—and braced his hands against his knees. "No wonder you're so fucking fit." He wiped his forehead, and she steadied him by laying her hand on his shoulder.

Hermione grinned. "You don't have to do my entire run, you know. It's probably not the best idea anyway, considering you don't normally go for runs. You ought to work your way up, or you'll pull something."

He waved her off. "I know when I'm about to pull something. I'll be fine."

She rolled her eyes. "Fine, but if you pull something, you'll be benched from any strenuous activity." Hermione nibbled her bottom lip, fighting off a smile as he looked up at her, his eyes narrowing. "I just don't think you would want that to happen." Hermione swallowed.

He snorted. "Yes, because we've had so much time for that."

It was true. In what had been a comical twist at the beginning, but now threated to cause to take a day off, it seemed the universe was against them fucking. And that was crass, but true.

Hermione glanced down at her watch. "You're right. We wouldn't have enough time before I leave for work, but as it stands, we may not have enough time to finish the run before either."

Grumbling under his breath, Draco glared at her. "What do you suggest? Turning back now?"

She folded her arms over her chest. "Did you stretch this morning?"


"Are you serious? You're a doctor! You must know the strain that running puts on your body, and you didn't bother to stretch?" Hermione couldn't stop laughing. "I thought you stretched while we were in my flat? I know that I—you were staring at my arse, weren't you?"

He gave a smug smile. "Maybe a little."

Fighting off the smile that tugged at both sides of her mouth, Hermione shook her head. "Let's head back. There's a shortcut through the park, and we can stop into the Three Broomsticks. Do you mind?"

Threading his fingers through hers, Draco followed her lead.

Halfway through the day, Hermione knew she wouldn't be leaving on time. Honestly, she'd be lucky if she left before the janitor finished cleaning the offices, which would be after eleven o'clock. It was another day that she had to unfortunately reschedule a date with Draco.

"It's just a wonder that you're not sick of this yet." She mumbled, holding the phone between her shoulder and ear. "I mean, I know I would be."

There's a rustle of papers in the background. "I'm tired of rescheduling, yes, but that's not to say I'm tired of you. Besides, there are going to be days that I may not even get the chance to call you if I need to cancel. Anything could happen when I'm in the middle of a shift, so don't worry about it."

She clicked her pen repeatedly, imagining what it would be like to be sitting in a restaurant waiting for him, only for him to be in surgery that had been so sudden he couldn't call her. The thought made her stomach roll, but it made sense. It did, and they were adults, fully capable of handling what came with it.

"I'll call you when I get home if you like? Though I'm sure it will be late."

Seamus entered her office with another article, giving her a sheepish smile as he laid it on her desk. "Tell the hot doctor I said hi."

Draco coughed. "Who was that?"

"Seamus," Hermione replied, rubbing her temple. "He knows your name, but he insists on referring to you as the hot doctor in case anyone forgets that you are, in fact, a hot doctor."

He sniggered. "Right then. What has you so busy today?"

"Deadlines," she deadpanned. "Usually, it's fine, but one small mistake sets everyone out of sorts for the rest of the month. It's not so bad when the misstep comes in the last week, but…" Hermione sighed, leaning back in her chair. "Padma mistakenly sent an email to an interviewee that was meant to be next month, but we've had to move it to this month since now they've informed us it's either this month, or not at all."

"Sounds like an arse , if you ask me."

She agreed. "I've said much worse."

"Could you not move anything to next month to even it out?" Draco asked. "No, ma'am, that would be on the next floor. Take the lift at the end, and go to level four."

Shaking her head even though no one could see her—false, everyone outside her office could if they looked, considering her blinds weren't drawn—Hermione could only sigh. "No, we couldn't. Hopefully staying late tonight to put extra work in will help, but I'm not looking forward to the rest of the month."

A door opened and closed. "I'm sorry, love."

Outside of her office, Padma was frantically waving at her. "I have to go. Padma needs my help. Are we still good for dinner tomorrow?"

"Of course. I'll see you at seven."

Hermione was early, and she sat at their usual table, stirring her coffee. The bell dinged as he stepped inside, and Luna pointed him toward the back. "She's got your order already!" Luna sang, and flounced into the back, still singing to herself.

Draco's smile slipped from his face as he neared her. "What are you drinking?"

"Coffee." She answered, blowing on it before tilting the styrofoam cup to her lips. "I ordered your tea for you, and Luna told me you liked the croissants the best."

He shrugged out of his coat, draping it over the back of the chair. "What's wrong?"

She supposed there was no hiding it. Her sour look was still on her face surely, and Draco, as annoyingly observant as he was, knew she gravitated toward what he called real coffee when she was upset. "I didn't sleep very well."

"Still sick?"

She shook her head. Fishing her mobile from her pocket, she slid it across the table, swiping to the e-mail she'd received early that morning. "Got that around six, and I couldn't go back to sleep."

His eyes narrowed as he read the message, his mouth falling open. "They're rejecting it after accepting it? How are they able to do that?"

Hermione's shoulders fell. "I called for a further explanation, and the only one in the office so early was an intern. Luckily, she reviewed the notes, and was able to answer my questions, but..." She sucked a sharp breath. "They received another piece at the last minute, and chose to feature it above mine. The author is already published, so I'm sure it's much better—"

Draco grabbed her hand, running his thumb over her knuckles. "I truly doubt that."

"They're still sending me the wages that were promised, but it feels more like a slap in the face than anything. I was just..." Hermione dragged her fingers through her hair. "I was so happy because it felt like I was getting somewhere."

He tilted his head to the side. "I'm so sorry."

"It's okay." She murmured. "Really, it's upsetting, but it's okay. There's always the next one, right?" As optimistic as her words were, her tone didn't match it.

Draco must have noticed, but he only smiled weakly and held her hand. "Would you like to talk more about it?"

Not really. But she ought to. Otherwise, she'd bottle the disappointment until it overflowed as she received another rejection. "I should be better with handling rejection when it's a part of my own career. Only I'm the one doing the rejecting, and not the way being rejected." She muttered. "It's not as if they outright shot my entry down. They were pleased with my work, but it just…"

"It's understandable to be upset, Hermione. It didn't work out this time, but that doesn't mean it will happen every time." Thunder cracked outside, lightning streaking across the sky. "Maybe you could take a step back for a week?"

No. Hermione squeezed his hand. "On the contrary, I think I'll just try harder. I've always been stubborn, and maybe if I can set aside my negativity, I can use creativity as an outlet." She laughed as a wide grin spread across his face. "It would be nice if it was easier, but if it was, I suppose everyone would do it."


Katie downed her water in one swallow, and tossed it into the rubbish bin. "Can you make it in?"

He scoffed. "What do you take me for?"

She smiled and motioned for him to go. "Take your shot then, Malfoy. Whoever wins has to buy dinner all next week."

"This seems like a silly bet for such a large payoff."

She drummed her fingers against the table. "Scared, Malfoy?" Egged on by her, Draco drained the bottle of water, and leaned to the side, lining up his shot. "Hermione is calling. Should I answer for you?"

He missed.

"OH!" Katie sniggered. "That was a tremendous, stupendous failure, Dr Malfoy. Seems to me you were distracted by your girlfriend calling, which is just the cutest thing I've ever seen."

Draco snatched his mobile from her extended hand. "You knew I would miss if you said she was calling."

She waved him off. "What do you take me for?" Katie mimicked. "The two of you are good together. It's nice to see you so happy."

He let the words sink in, observing what she didn't say, which was that he'd been a dick after transferring hospitals. Hermione had certainly changed nearly every part of his life. "Thank you. She means a great deal to me."

Katie climbed to her feet, and the legs of her chair screeched as she pushed it under the table. "I'm sorry there was nothing to be done for the last patient, but it's not your fault." She settled a hand on his shoulder. "And, not that it will make it any better, but he couldn't have survived the surgery either."

Draco nodded, patting her hand. "It's alright." He replied easily. "Not your fault either."

She left him with that, and the room to himself. Surely it would fill with staff soon, but he took a moment to call Hermione back.

"Hello?" She answered breathlessly. "Sorry, give me a second—Max, no, don't you dare. Get off that counter!" Barks echoed in the background, and Draco stifled his laugh in his sleeve. "Uh, sorry. Hagrid called me, and asked if I could stop by to wrangle the dogs. They all got out of their kennels because of a new volunteer."

"Sounds like you're having quite the night then." It was only ten o'clock, and Hermione was chasing down dogs in the dark. Of course she was. "Did you call me by mistake then?"

"No," she caught her breath. "I was wondering if you'd like to have dinner. I'll cook?" There was a crash in the background, followed by a long groan.

"Is Max causing trouble?"

"Max is always causing trouble." She growled, the sound distorting through the phone. "I'll see you after the end of your shift then? Meet you there?"

Draco agreed.


He didn't make it to dinner.

She wasn't upset, not with him at least, and she realised it was just a hazard of his career. Draco had called her with a rushed apology, explaining himself when he didn't need to, but she let him tell her everything. A teenager had been stabbed, and not only was it all he could tell her even if he knew more, it was all he knew.

His calmness struck her, though she supposed he must be used to it all by now. She wouldn't refer to him as desensitsed. She murmured that they could meet another day, and it would be no problem. Saturday, they agreed. Which was perfect considering she wanted to see him before Weasley Sunday dinner so she could prepare him.

Not everyone could handle the entire family, especially when it was a first meeting. Even she couldn't handle all of them at times, but at least Draco was only meeting Molly and Arthur for the first time. Not that it was any better, Molly had enough energy for everyone.

In other aspects of her life, Hermione had nailed down a schedule. As much as she enjoyed writing in the Three Broomsticks, and she loved the atmosphere, she wasn't getting anything done. She'd been jotting down character traits for months with nothing to show for it. And honestly, she ought to have something to show for it.

Starting at the beginning was rough, and discouraging. At the end of the night, after work, after seeing Draco if she had the chance—though their lives didn't revolve around the other—she sat down for an hour. It had started as thirty minutes, but she had quickly increased it. Sometimes she stared at the screen as if it would make her thoughts come together.

And when they did come together, Hermione was interrupted.

Grumbling under her breath, she flipped her phone over. "I should have turned the blasted ringer off." The message stretched across her screen, and whatever thought she'd previously had was gone.

From Draco, 9:57 P.M.: Are you busy?

It wasn't the contents of the message that made her panic, but the fact that Draco had texted her at all. He insisted that he didn't want to make her lose her train of thought. Hermione pressed call without a second thought, and pressed her mobile to her ear. As it connected, she spoke in a rush. "Draco?"

"I'm fine." He answered, but the tone was clipped and she wasn't sure what to make of it. "Nothing happened at the hospital."

But something had happened. That much was obvious from the iciness in his tone.

Draco sighed, and she could imagine him running his fingers through his hair as he usually did. "It's incredibly embarrassing, but my father called me to stage a fight about my life choices, and I just want to see you."

Her chest warmed. Hermione sat in her chair with her legs drawn to her chest, braced against the edge of her desk. "Of course. I could bring something to you as well, if you like?"

Seconds passed, and there was murmuring in the background, followed by the ding of the elevator. "Whatever you want." He replied. "I just need a moment of peace and quiet."

She laughed. "You're coming to the wrong place then. I'm hardly peaceful."

The corner of his mouth probably twitched. "You're certainly wrong there."

Hermione shut her laptop, all her previous thoughts already gone, but she didn't mind. "Thirty minutes?"

Draco slid into the passenger seat of her car after she'd found the only available parking spot. He scratched the back of his neck as he took the cup she held out. "I'm sorry. You were—"

She shook her head. "Don't worry about that. I'm happy to see you, even if it's not for the best reasons. Do you want to tell me about it?"

He swiped a chip from her basket that was precariously balanced on the edge of her dash. "Lucius is a right prick."

Choking, Hermione did her best to not laugh. Under a different set of circumstances, if Draco wasn't so irritated, it would have been humourous. "He's not the warm sort from what I gathered on your birthday."

He scoffed. "He's too judgemental is what it is. I'm long past wanting to impress him, but I'm not sure where he gets off thinking he can question my decisions." Draco grumbled. "I didn't want to tell you this because I worry it will upset you, but I think you'd be more angry by that than anything else."

"You'd be right." She nodded. "He doesn't like me, I know that. I'm not your ex-wife." She shrugged.

"Thank God for that." Draco sucked in a breath. "It's pressing to mention that he doesn't call just to chat. Lucius called to ask me if I'd come to my senses about Astoria, and those were his exact words. I suppose he didn't see fit to use subtlety this time."

Her chest twisted, and Hermione nodded. It hurt more than she wanted to admit. What should it matter if Draco's father disliked her so much? "I see."

He dragged a hand tiredly down his face. "Hermione,"

"It's fine."

"My father doesn't know anything about you; his opinion is irrelevant to me. His priorities are wildly out of order, and they're centered about appearances."

It rubbed her the wrong way, and she didn't mean for her voice to come out as harshly as it did. "So I'm bad for appearances then?" Hermione snapped. "I understand, Draco. I don't need you to explain it to me."

He flinched slightly. "He has no right."

She didn't care about Lucius Malfoy and his skewed opinions—though it did cause a twinge in her chest that stubbornly wouldn't go away—but there was one thing that bothered her. "What did you tell him when he brought this up?"

Draco lifted his eyes, and didn't pull away from her. "I told him that I'm quite happy with you, and nothing he could say would change my mind."

She nodded. "That's enough for me. I'm not dating your father. I'm dating you. I'm terribly sorry that he has no sense of boundaries, and I hope that in the future, he'll come to realise your choices are your own. After all, you're only an adult." Hermione grinned, swiping a chip right out of his grasp.

He lunged at her, and their food went flying. Chuckling as she squealed, Draco closed his mouth around the chip, stealing it. "It's impolite to steal food," he murmured, half leaning across the console.

Flabbergasted, Hermione stared at him. "It's impolite to throw food everywhere!"

His fingers grazed her sides, eliciting a giggle.

"Don't," she warned.

Draco's lips twitched. "Are you ticklish?"

In her most obstinate voice, she insisted, "Absolutely not."

He arched an eyebrow. "Oh?" His fingers curled against her sides. "Are you sure?"

Hermione scrambled for the door handle, unwilling to be tickled, but Draco hauled her across the car and deposited her into his lap. "If anyone sees us, we'll look like a pair of randy teenagers."

"Then I suppose we'll have to be sure that no one sees us." Draco whispered, locking an arm around her waist as he reached down with the other. The seat gave way, and Hermione fell on top of him as the seat reclined. "Besides, no one is going to be out here this late. Shifts don't end until midnight." He nuzzled her neck, his lips warm against the soft skin there.

"Then," Hermione gasped when his fingers dug into her hips, and he bit down. "Shouldn't you be inside the hospital? Not—" a whimper escaped her as his hands slipped under her shirt. They didn't stray, not in the slightest, but he held her tightly against him. "Not fondling your girlfriend?"

He sniggered, twisting a curl around his finger. "But I'm so fond of fondling my girlfriend."

"You're going to start something you can't finish." Hermione said simply, lifting her head up. "And then it will be terribly awkward when you have to go back to work when you're hard." She pressed slow kisses to his throat. "I don't think those scrubs are going to hide anything, do you?"

Draco groaned, letting his head fall back.

She peered up at him, accidentally rolling her hips against his, but only once. "Draco?"

"Stay with me tonight." His voice was soft, so quiet that she could pretend she hadn't heard it if she wasn't interested, and Draco wouldn't have said anything. "I leave in just over an hour. Unless you…"

She leaned forward, pressing her lips to his while awkwardly leaning on him. "I don't want to make it hard to breathe." She muttered, and it was ridiculous, but the words had already left her.

"Hermione, I'll find a way to breathe."

Hermione didn't have to think about her answer. They'd been trying to find time for over a month since everything began on his sofa, and she thought about it more than she would ever admit to him. "I'll stay." She breathed. "I'd love to."

He crushed his lips to hers while his nails scraped her scalp.

She leaned against his door already when he reached the top of the stairs. Smirking, Hermione tilted her head to the side. "You know, it took you long enough. I thought about leaving."

Draco closed the distance in two short strides, coming to tower over her. "You wouldn't have left," he murmured as he pressed her to the door. "Not when you want this just as badly as I do." Draco's breath rolled across her ear as her fingers wound in his shirt. "Isn't that right, Hermione?"

She shivered as his chest met hers, and her back was solidly fixed against his front door. "I'm not sure what you're talking about." Wearing a wide grin, Hermione fisted her hands in his shirt. "Are you going to invite me in?"

He looked both ways, and there was a tick in his jaw when he looked back to her. "I think not." His words hadn't registered before he hoisted her up, his hands settling on her arse as her back met the door—harder this time—and his lips slanted against her.

It was well into the early morning hours, she reasoned with herself. No one was likely to see them, but being out in the open, even in the darkness—

Hermione's fingers sunk into his hair, and she wrapped her legs around his waist, digging a space in the bottom of his back. Whispering his name, and gasping as his lips skimmed her jaw, and then down her throat, her head tilted back.

She was certain there would be marks left from her scratching his back, even through his clothes. "Unless you're planning to, oh—" A whimper escaped her, high and needy, and incredibly mortifying if he had any nosy neighbors. "—continue this outside, we should probably—"

"Yeah." Draco nodded, pulling away from her. His lips were flushed, and he set her down easily. Fumbling with his keys while Hermione pressed her lips against his collarbone through his shirt, and slid her hands across his chest, neither of them were surprised when he dropped them. "God, it's like I'm a teenager again." He groaned.

Hermione bent down to pick them up, holding them up with a cheeky grin. "Yeah, are your parents home?"

He had her against the door again before she could form a follow up remark.

Finding the key while resting her arms over his shoulder was no easy task, especially when his hands slipped under her shirt, already eager to explore every inch of her skin. But she managed to slide it into the lock and twist it.

The door gave way, and so did her weight that had been resting against it. "Fuck!" Draco growled. His fingers dug into her hips, and she stared up at him, her mouth drying. "Clearly I wasn't as distracting as I thought."

She swallowed. "You were plenty distracting."

He arched an eyebrow. "Oh?"

"I'm very good at multitasking." Hermione answered, stepping backward away from him while clasping her hands behind her back. "In all areas, really." As she recognised the look that flashed across his face, Hermione turned on her heel.

They crashed into his bedroom, his hands all over her as he'd elected to not let her walk on her own, and his shirt had been left somewhere in the living room.

Perhaps it was tossed over the sofa, or maybe it was near her own top.

Or her bra.

Draco traced her skin, pressing his lips to her throat while dragging them between her breasts. Murmuring how pretty she was, how he'd waited so long to have her just like this, Draco deposited her onto his bed.

Hermione crawled to the middle of it, resting on her elbows as she peered up at him. Her leggings quickly followed, as did his trousers.

He hovered over her, kissing her until she was dizzy, and his knee wedged between her thighs. "Hermione," Draco whispered roughly, tilting her head up.

She swallowed greedy mouthfuls of air as she reached up, wrapping her arms around his neck, and pulled him down. "Oh—" Hermione buried her face in his neck with a choked moan.

His hand slid between them, his fingers dipping against her folds, and she clung to him as he traced her clit gently.


Not enough.



Hermione raked her nails down his back and her hips bucked against his fingers. "More," she pleaded.

He dropped a kiss to her forehead before the pressure began to mount. "That's it, let me see you." Two fingers slid into her, curling as his thumb brushed her clit. "Hermione," Draco rasped, and lowered his mouth to her.

Her legs parted further, her heels digging into the bed as she pushed herself closer to him. Moans fell away from her as her fingernails cut into his shoulders. "I want—" Her voice broke with a loud moan that caused her to collapse against the bed. "Draco, enough."

He paused, staring at her with a dark look over his face, and she pulled him closer, curling her fingers around his hip.

She thought he was going to call her impatient, that he might tease her, but Draco only released a harsh breath before crushing his lips to hers. Resting between her open thighs, and positioning himself, Draco slid into her with one thrust.

He selfishly took her bottled scream for himself, kissing her roughly before setting a pace that left her whimpering and part way to the edge of something that she already desperately wanted.

Draco stayed on his knees, lifting her legs over his shoulders, and swiping his thumbs across her nipples as she writhed under him.

His name continually left her, an eager plea that kept escaping her with each hard thrust.

"Draco," she whispered, tracing a path over his chest. "You feel so good."

Her curls—messy as they were, always were—were crushed against the pillows. Draco's fingers found her hips as he picked her up, her legs still over his shoulders.

She cried out, the position heightening every moment as his cock slid into her, deeper than it had before.

Digging her nails into his forearms, leaving what was sure to be lines over his arms the next morning, Hermione gasped, "Please," without knowing what she was begging for. "Draco, I'm—"

He nodded, a thin layer of sweat forming across his brow. "I love you like this." His tongue laved against the space between her breasts, painting each syllable into her flesh. "Flush, and pretty—"

"Draco!" Hermione's climax crested with little more than a few words, and his fingers working her as his pace slowed.

She held onto him as he seemed to toppled over just after her.

Falling to the bed side by side, Hermione took in the uneven rise and fall of his chest as she slid closer. "Worth the wait?"

He slung his arm over his eyes, and nodded. "You'll still stay the night?"

Hermione threw her leg over his waist. "After that?" She smirked, pressing her lips to his jaw.


Two mornings later, Draco was warm behind her, his arm slung around her middle while his leg was wedged between hers. His body heat engulfed her, and while cuddling was nice, it was a bit stifling. Hermione wiggled free, pushing her hair from her face, and tying it back while she slung her legs over the side of the bed.

Their clothes were littered across the floor, and there were buttons scattered that had popped off her blouse. Drinks and dinner, they had said last night. But they had foregone dinner at her coy suggestion, and ended up in his bed.

Multiple times.

God, her thighs were deliciously sore.

Hermione stripped in his bathroom, which was only her thin tank top, and stopped under the warm stream of water. It hit the tile behind her, and she huddled to the wall as it warmed up. The glass door slid open, and Draco slipped in behind her.

Chuckling, he asked, "Couldn't wait for the water to warm up?"

Hermione nudged him toward the wall, stepping under the water. "I just wanted to take a quick shower so my hair would have time to dry."

"I do own a blow dryer."

She looked at him in horror. "No." Hermione shook her head. "No blow dryer. That's a travesty."

He snorted. "Well, I'll just stay right here and not bother you at all." That was a lie, she already knew. Draco didn't have the best record of keeping his hands to himself normally—that wasn't to say she didn't like it—and this moment was no difference.

As water ran down her body, she arched an eyebrow while he stared back at her. "What was that about keeping your hands to yourself?" Hermione grinned. She cupped her breasts, and rolled her nipples between her fingers. "Are you certain you'll be able to keep that up?"

He glared at her as his eyes darkened, and his tongue slid against the seam of his lips. "You're playing dirty, Granger."

She nodded. "Think so?" She pinched her nipple, her lips parting as a low sound left her, before sliding her palm down her belly. Dipping her finger between her legs, barely brushing her folds, Hermione dared him.

There was a tick in his jaw. "You're a menace." She was close to pushing him that last bit that would get him over the edge. In fact, all it took was a breathy moan and he slammed her to the wall.

Cool against her back, Hermione whimpered as her back met the tile. She tried to dig her fingers into his hair, tried to press her lips to his in hopes the kiss would be just as rough as his movement were, but Draco stopped her. Holding both of her wrists in one hand, Draco pinned them to the wall over her head. "Is this what you wanted?" he murmured, nipping the shell of her ear. "You're fucking insatiable, aren't you?"

Without preamble, two fingers slid into her cunt, curling at the same moment her hips bucked forward. She nodded mindlessly, pressing herself closer to him. "Yes." Hermione's sounds were muffled as she hid her face in his chest. "Oh, God—"

His thumb glided over her clit, barely touching her at all, and she was already on the edge, teetering precariously as she was about to fall apart.

"That's it," he told her. He dropped her hands, and tilted her face up, slanting his lips against hers. "Let me see you, Hermione." His lips pressed to her temple, "Just like this," down her jaw, "over my fingers," her throat. "You're so much better than I ever imagined."

Her breathing was broken and ragged, but Hermione gasped, "Imagine this a lot?"

His fingers pumped inside of her, the pressure mounting, and he hissed, "Of bloody course I did. Can't get my mind off of you even if I tried."

That was all it took.

Her nails cut into his shoulders as she clung to him, throwing her head back as she rode out her orgasm. Her legs shaking, Hermione slumped against the wall, whimpering as his fingers slid out of her. She was certain her face was red, and her eyes wide open.

"We should skip dinner." Hermione blurted.

His shoulders shook as he laughed. "As much as I'd like to spend the entire day with you in my bed," Draco began, "I think we'll just have to settle for half of the day spent in my bed."

God, she was insatiable. She never had been before, and truly Hermione absolutely blamed him for it, but she kept that information to herself.

Hermione didn't know how they ever made it out of his flat. Even as they dressed, she wanted to peel his clothes off, and she had the suspicion that it was very much the same for him. The bed was a mess, sheets tangled and twisted every which way. The pillows had been pushed off the bed the night before from her grabbing onto them while—

"We need to leave right now," Hermione said, shouldering her handbag. "Like right fucking now."

He rolled his sleeves up, looking at her curiously. "Pardon?" While Draco feigned innocence, he knew exactly what she was talking about if the smirk curving his mouth was anything to go by. "Good God, we left a dent in the wall."

Hermione peeked around him and saw an imperfection left in the wall by the bedpost. "Are you normally like this?"

He snorted. "No, are you?"

She swallowed. "Not at all." It was the truth and there was nothing wrong with being honest, was there? Still, she imagined it would be like exposing a large part of herself if she were to say that meeting him had cracked something wide open. Something—she hesitated to call it passion—that had been asleep inside her chest and he was the reason it had come alive.

But that was whimsical, nonsensical nonsense.

It was best to save that for romance novels.

"There's a love bite on your neck." He said then, reaching up to carefully pull the elastic from her hair. "Shite, this seemed like such a good idea before I tried."

She swatted his hands away, rolling her eyes. "Make sure you don't let your shirt slip. There's a bruise right here." Hermione ran her fingers across the already purpling skin. "At least I had the courtesy not to leave in on your neck."

"You weren't complaining then." He sniggered. "Just... don't move your hair out of the way, and it will be fine."

Nudging her ruined blouse with her shoe, she sighed. "I really liked this blouse, you know. Now I'll have to order another." Before he could offer to buy another, Hermione seized his hand and dragged him out the front door.

His neighbor gave them a dirty look, and while she felt smug about her own night, Hermione did feel a little guilty for the semi dark circles under his eyes.

The Burrow was nestled just outside of the city, and everyone else had already arrived by the time they did. Draco parked behind Charlie. "So," Hermione hedged nervously. "They're a lot to take in. I know you've met everyone else, but Molly and Arthur are even more tiring than their children."

He smiled. "Of course, their children had to get it from somewhere, didn't they?"

Tucking her hair behind her ears, she groaned as she tugged the strands back into place to cover her neck. "They're really excited to meet you, and I don't want it to be overwhelming is all."

"It's fine." Draco squeezed her hand. "We shouldn't keep them waiting."

Ginny stood on the porch, rocking back on her heels as she looked from Hermione to Draco. Her eyes narrowed as she folded her arms across her chest. "The two of you had sex, didn't you?"

Draco choked, and Hermione patted him on the back. "You're not joking around about this bet, are you?" Hermione accused. "They bet on when we would sleep together—all of them." She muttered to Draco.

His eyes widened. "All of them…?"

Hermione nodded.

"Yes," Ginny muttered. "Including Mum and Dad. Welcome to the Burrow, I'm sure you'll both know who won the pot by the end of dinner. If we even get that far." She stepped aside, motioning for them to enter. "Mum's gone a little overboard this time. Don't let her bother you."

For the first time, Draco's confident demeanor slipped from his face as he settled his hand at the bottom of Hermione's back.

Charlie swept her into a bone crushing hug as soon as they entered the dining room, and he didn't hesitate to pick her up off the ground. "That's a wicked love bite you've got there, love."

She slapped her hand to her throat, her cheeks heating. "You'll shut up if you know what's good for you, Charlie." Hermione smoothed her blouse, taking a look around the room. "Where's Molly?"

"Kitchen, still. I'm sure she'll be out soon. Don't you worry about that." He tapped her nose with a smug grin. "I've been waiting all week for this. It'll make for a nice practice run before I tell Mum I've met someone."

She felt Draco behind her, his hand idly fidgeting with the bottom of her blouse.

"You have?" Hermione whispered excitedly. "That's so exciting, I'm so happy for you, Charlie. Tell me about her?"

"Wel, he is a professional rugby player." He grinned as her mouth dropped open. "Oh, don't feel bad, it's not like I ever mentioned it to you. Before your overactive brain takes off, Mum is well aware of my sexuality."

Hermione was struck silent.

"Which is to rapidly swing in both directions."

She roared with laughter, and wiped her eyes. "Professional rugby player then? What's his name?"

Charlie made a motion of zipping his lips shut and throwing away the key.

"Come one, you know I can keep a secret. Tell me before Ron comes over here." Hermione poked him in the arm.

Charlie sighed dramatically, and leaned toward her and Draco. "Oliver Wood."

Air rushed from Draco's lungs hard enough for her to hear it. "You're fucking joking."

Charlie shook his head. "Nope," he replied, his lips making an obscene sounding pop.

"Ron is going to lose his mind." Hermione whispered. "Good for you, Charlie." Their small conversation was interrupted when Molly entered the room, gripping a casserole dish tightly with both hands. "If she asks me anything embarrassing, I'm putting the spotlight on you."

"You're cruel," Charlie laughed.

Of course, they both knew she would never do that.

"Hermione!" Molly cried, throwing her arms around Hermione. "It's been so long since I've seen you, dear. Sunday dinners aren't the same without you." She released Hermione, smiling to Draco. "It's nice to see you again, Dr Malfoy, and under much better circumstances as well."

When Molly hugged Draco, it was more of an awkward shuffle, but Draco gave her a tight, one-armed hug. "Call me Draco," he insisted. "You have a lovely home, Mrs Weasley."

"Molly will do. Thank you, it's much easier to keep clean now that I don't have so many children running around and causing a ruckus."

Draco sat beside Hermione, his knee bumping hers while she leaned back in her chair. Ginny hadn't been exaggerating when she mentioned Molly had gone overboard. While she always cooked more than enough food for dinner, and for everyone to take an extra plate home if they wanted, this was extreme even for Molly.

Dinner started as it normally did with everyone sharing what their week had been like, starting with Fred. "The shop is doing well." He started with a mouth full of food. "We interviewed for extra help for the holiday season, but they were all strange, career driven—"

Hermione gaped. "That is weird. I'm not sure why anyone career driven would want to work in a joke shop."

George's hand flew to his chest and he gave a comical little squeak. "Hermione, you wound us!"

"Why don't you tell us about your week, Hermione?" Fred smirked. "Or the last several since you've not graced us with your presence." If he wasn't so far away, she'd have kicked him.

Hermione cleared her throat. "Well, I think most of you already know how my life has been." Ron, Harry, Charlie, and possibly Ginny by extension, she supposed knew more than anyone else however. "Draco and I have been dating since June, and we're doing well."

That wasn't enough for Molly. "Now, I know how the two of you met in the coffee shop, and again during that terrible accident." Her sympathetic gaze shifted toward her youngest son. "But how did this fully come about?"

Draco's palm was warm on her knee beneath the table. "Hermione was my date for a party my mother hosted for my birthday. Originally, I didn't think she was going to say yes." He gave a small laugh.

"You never told me that." Hermione murmured.

"Could you not tell how bloody nervous I was?" Draco tore his eyes away from her and continued. "I suspect my mother was meddling all along to make it happen, considering she told me she was planning to play matchmaker with the daughter of one of her friends."

Molly laughed. "Is that so? How cute is it that your mother knew what you needed before you did."

Draco's hand slid up Hermione's thigh, and she clamped them shut before he could elicit an awkward sound from her. "I wouldn't say that she knew anything before I did; I just hadn't made a move yet."

Hermione tried to fight off her smile as everyone looked at her, but failed miserably. "That's sweet."

Molly wasn't done, however, and no one else attempted to share how their week had gone. "If you don't mind me asking, how is your son?"

He chuckled. "Scorpius is well. He frequently complains about a little girl in his class that he butts heads with. We speak on the phone every night, but I suspect he's only calling in hopes that Hermione is with me since he always asks if she's there."

If anything, Molly's eyes widened even further, and Hermione didn't want to even consider what thought the woman had now. "Is that so?"

"He's obsessed with Hermione." Draco smirked.

She'd given it thought of how it was at least the tiniest bit surprising that a child liked her so much. Having never been good with children—Victoire being a prime example of that—the fact that Scorpius liked her so much would come as a shock to her friends and family.

"We went to the movies together, and he insisted he sat between the two of us," Draco carried on.

Ron kicked her under the table, just hard enough to get her attention. There was a full-fledged grin plastered across his face.

"Oh, that's adorable!" Molly gave a little clap of her hands. "Just precious. Does Scorpius' mum mind?"

It was the question Hermione had been expecting, and dreading. She cleared her throat, opening her mouth before Draco had the chance. "Astoria and I got off on the wrong foot. I don't think either of us liked the other, and I'm sure that didn't help her accept the fact that Scorpius sees me often. I think we've patched things up nicely now."

Draco nodded. "I'll spare you the details, but our divorce wasn't an amicable one."

"I'm really sorry to hear that." Ginny said softly. "Really, I don't mean to draw attention to it, but it's wonderful that the two of you are putting your son first."

"Thank you." Draco replied.

The memory of Astoria's odd behavior during the last time she'd seen her still bothered Hermione, and as she looked at Draco, she wondered if he knew anything about it. Though Astoria had asked her not to say anything…

Over the course of an hour, they discussed their careers, their daily lives, and it went over much better than Hermione could have hoped. It wasn't that she thought the Weasleys would scare Draco, but on some level—no matter how miniscule it was—she realised that the Weasleys were much different from the Malfoys.

She'd had a niggling worry in the back of her mind that perhaps Draco just wouldn't like them, but now Hermione realised she'd been acting as if he were just like his father. Harsh and judgemental when Draco was wholly the opposite.

"Do the two of you have any plans for your birthday, 'Mione?" Harry asked around a mouthful of food.

Draco dropped his fork. "Your birthday is soon?"

Put on the spot, she couldn't think of anything to say. All she could think was: how have I never mentioned my birthday?

Harry swallowed audibly. "It's next Saturday. She didn't tell you?"

"I've been busy!" Hermione defended herself. "Look, even I forgot my birthday was next weekend."

"So you can sleep with someone, but not bother to tell him when your birthday is?" Ginny asked with a smug smirk. "Oh, shite—"

"When?" The question burst from everyone at the table.

"First of all," Hermione snapped, "it's none of your business. Second, Ginny, you fucking traitor!"

Ginny shook her head and pursed her lips. "You're the traitor. I told you when the right time was, and I would have split the winnings with you. You chose this." She sipped her water with a solid "Hmph!"

"Hermione," Ron prompted. "It's really important whether it was last night or the night before."

"Who says it was one of those nights?" Hermione ground out.

"The love bite on your—" Fred started.

"Are you seriously analyzing my love bite?" Hermione asked.

Fred bobbed his head. "I'm rather good with them, you see. Just like I can tell a woman's breast size just by touching them—"

"Does that really work?" Ron asked, astonished. "Like they let you—"

"Frederick Weasley!" Molly interjected.

Draco was giggling at her side, his cheeks pink as he leaned over the table. "This is much better than any dinner I've ever had with my family."

"Last night, or the night before?" Ron pressed eagerly, holding up both hands with his fingers crossed.

"None of you—" Hermione began.

"Both." Draco answered smugly.

She glared at him.

Ron sighed heavily. "That's bollocks. You couldn't have waited until last night?'

She was going to throttle him.

"Well," Molly mused, standing from her chair. "A mother always knows things, dears. I must call Narcissa at once to let her know we were right."

Draco's mouth fell open. "My mother—"

Molly grinned. "We exchanged mobile numbers at the hospital. It wasn't only your mother's meddling involved during your birthday." She left the room with an ecstatic laugh.

They stared at each other in disbelief. "So, they've been friends for months then." Hermione giggled. "That's nice, isn't it?"

Ron stood, pushing away from the table. "Drinks?"

"The Leaky?" Harry asked.

Everyone collectively agreed.

Hermione's birthday started with flowers, and not the sort that came from a rushed, last minute, shite-I-fucking-forgot trip to a cheap flower shop. From the second she'd cracked one eye open, there was an email on her phone from Padma stating that there was a crisis with the most recent article she'd submitted.

So, technically, Hermione's birthday started with her rushing out of her flat, and racing to the office. There was no crisis, but there was a large cake with her name spelled correctly for once, and all of her co-workers singing to her.

But she liked to mark the second where the flower shop boy walked through the doors with a large bouquet of roses as the start of her birthday. WIth a bouquet so large that his face wasn't visible, only his disheveled hair, Hermione took them eagerly, and held them in one arm while she signed for the delivery. Inside the small envelope, there was a card that Hermione would have recognised anywhere. In neat, looping script, she read:

I'll be picking you up at noon.



He'd done this several times over his life, and dates weren't the sort of thing to make him quite so nervous anymore.

However, everything about Hermione Granger made him feel wildly off kilter.

Climbing the stairs to her flat, Draco tugged at the edge of his collar so many times he lost count as he stood at her door.

It swung open, no creak audible in the hinges unlike her old flat, and she was grinning ear to ear. "You know, you're supposed to knock on the door," Hermuone murmured, stepping out onto her stoop, still barefoot, and threw her arms around his neck. "You're early. I thought I had more time to get ready." Her lips skimmed the skin where his collar rested, and she adjusted it when she noticed it was askew.

"Take as long as you like," Draco's hand rested at the bottom of her back as they stepped inside. "I'm just early. Though... If you wouldn't mind, Scorpius would like to tell you happy birthday before we leave."

Hermione nodded, curls dropping into her face even as she pushed them back. "Of course. Just give me ten minutes. I was almost finished anyway."

He waited on the sofa, his knee bumping against the coffee table. Her flat was in its constant state of mild disarray. Everything had a place, she told him, and for the most part, it was tidy. Except when it came to books, loose papers with ideas scribbled across them, and anything that involves writing at all.

As if to prove a point, Draco's eyes fell on a pen that was sticking halfway out from under the end table.

Hermione only took five minutes, and appeared with a small handbag in her hand. "Ready?" She asked. Pushing a piece of hair from her face, he took a long moment to run his eyes up and down her body, twice. "Shall I turn around for you to stare at my arse too?" Hermione teased, taking another step toward him.

The corner of his mouth lifted. "It surely wouldn't go amiss."

Rolling her eyes as she adjusted her blouse, Hermione did just that, and glanced over her shoulder at him. "Well?"

Draco rose from his seat, and stepped just behind her where his breath rolled down her neck. Delighted in the way she shivered, the way she leaned back into him, her hands searching for purchase as she reached back for him, he pressed his lips to her throat. Pushing her hair to the side, and gripping her hips, he nuzzled the soft skin there. "You look as enticing as ever."

"Enticing?" Her breathing was ragged, and she leaned against him. "Pretty words."

His hands slid up her sides, fingers grazing the sides of her breasts. "We're likely to be late," Draco mused, pressing another kiss to her throat. His hands slid back down teasingly, tracing a path between the hem of her blouse and the waist of her jeans. "We should go."

Hermione shook her head, and he knew without looking that her lower lip was trapped prettily between her teeth. "Or," she hedged.

A shrill ring that came from his mobile suddenly had her springing away from him, and her cheeks were flushed a deep red. Draco fumbled as he pulled it from his pocket, and it was hard to frown as he recognised the incoming call. "It's Scorpius. If we don't answer, he'll call over and over again."

She stifled a laugh, and stretched her hand out, plucking his mobile from his hands. "It'd be impolite to make him wait." Hermione sat on the edge of the couch, smoothing her hair down.

"I'm not," Draco began as he sat beside her, massaging her shoulder before tracing the divuts of her spine, "polite." He swallowed. "At least not when it comes to the times I can—"

Scorpius' face filled the screen as she held a finger up, effectively shushing him. "'Mione!" Scorpius cried, and they watched him tilt the camera toward him as he propped it against something. He scooted down onto his belly and rested his face in his hands. "Happy birthday!"

Grinning, Hermione thanked him. "What are you doing today?"

He reached out, sliding out of the frame, and the crinkling of paper filled the air as he shuffled. "I made you this." Scorpius said, holding a piece of paper to the camera. "Can you see it?"

Hermione's grin stretched across her face, and her fingers tapped absently against her knee. "Can you pull back a bit? You're too close." Crossing her arms across her lap, Hermione leaned close in order to read the messy handwriting. "Happy birthday, Hermione." She read. "Thank you."

Draco fidgeted with the fabric at her waist.

"Your handwriting is so good." Hermione praised, and his son ripped the card down, revealing his smile. "Did you do that all on your own?"

"Mummy helped me." He replied cheekily. "Dad said I couldn't see you today."

Hermione's head whipped toward him, an accusation no doubt already forming on her lips. "Oh? Well, I think we have plans, but I'm sure I'll see you very soon."

Scorpius bobbed his head, but his smile slipped from his face as the camera was pulled off of him. "Muuum!"

"It'll be just a moment." Astoria's voice was soft as the camera focused on her, and there was not a single strand of hair out of place. That was what Hermione would have expected when it came to Astoria, Draco thought, but the deep circles beneath her eyes weren't.

Did Hermione notice?

And her collarbones were sunken in, though she did her best to hide it as she pulled a shawl tightly around her. "Hermione," she greeted. It wasn't a stiff greeting, but it couldn't be considered a warm greeting either. "Happy birthday. I trust it's off to a good start?"

"So far," Hermione nodded. "Thank you."

Astoria smiled, thought it was little more than her lips pressed together as if she were trapping an insult behind her teeth. "Draco? I apologise to bring it up today. I'm sure you're both busy, but if it's alright with you, might I drop Scorpius off this weekend? I'll be in London for a doctor's appointment—just routine checks, and my doctor has retired—and it would be no trouble."

"Which day? I'll be working all day through the weekend…" He trailed off. Fuck, he'd switched shifts with another surgeon in order to have today with Hermione.

Warmth seeped through his trousers as Hermione laid her hand on his knee. "I could meet with you, if that's alright? I don't mean to intrude, but if I can be helpful in anyway."

Astoria nodded. "I would be so appreciative if you could."

Something had shifted, Draco thought. Before he could voice the thought, he spoke, "You should take my car so you won't need to worry about the carseat," he murmured.

"That's settled then." Astoria said with false cheeriness. "I'll let you get back to Scorpius now."

Later, when Hermione chased her food around a plate in a restaurant, Draco thought to ask. "You and Astoria are getting along nicely."

She paused before nodding. "Do you think so?"

"Well," he began, "she didn't give you a backhanded insult about your age while wishing you a happy birthday."

She dabbed her mouth while looking over his shoulder. "Astoria was rather polite to me during the—"

He held up a hand. "I know, you told me. What I mean to ask," Draco paused with a wince. It hadn't been his intention so sound so accusing, but it had crept into his tone anyway. "Is there any reason for it?"

Hermione folded her hands in her lap, and his stomach twisted. Clearly, he hadn't been imagining anything. "She asked me not to mention it, but I have my own suspicions for the reasons. Originally, I believed it was because she was worried she might seem...unstable?" She shifted in her seat. "That's not the right word, but it doesn't matter."

Draco stared at her, his eyes sharpening as she made eye contact.

"While you were in the other room with Scorpius, Astoria told me all of the books he liked for bedtime. She told me about how he would never eat onions if he learned you didn't like them, and I don't know—" She shook her head and sighed. "It came off as odd to me since we had only recently begun dating, and I didn't fancy myself as a permanent fixture of your life, or your son's by extension."

Dread coiled in his stomach. "Hermione?"

"Theo's helping her." Hermione said flatly. "I'm not convinced that it's because they had an affair, Draco. That's none of my business, but you told me that she said that. She looked frail on the call earlier, weaker than I think she'd want anyone to see her that way."

Hermione wasn't wrong. He could recall several mornings of morning sickness with Scorpius while everyone they knew had asked how Astoria made pregnancy look so easy.

"She says she has an appointment this weekend." Hermione's shoulders fell. "London is a long drive, Draco. I seriously doubt she's driving here because her former physician has retired."

He nodded, his knuckles turning white as he gripped the edge of the table. "You're right. I assumed as much myself. While you were in the loo, I might have called her doctor."

Her lips parted.

"Before you tell me it's a violation of privacy, I don't care about that. I'm worried."

Hermione was sympathetic toward that. "What did you learn?"

"It's your birthday—"

She rolled her eyes. "Tell me what he said, or you'll be wearing curry as a hat."

He snorted. "He's not retired, so I called my mother, and learned she's been referred to another physician in London. There's no reason for her to ever learn that you broke her confidence."

"I'm so sorry. It wasn't my intention to lie, but up until I saw her tonight, I thought it was her general dislike of me being around her son."

Draco swallowed hard, electing to omit a bit of the truth. He had an inclination of what exactly was the problem. Given a family history of medical problems that he was more than aware of, Astoria's sudden secrecy threatened that a darker time was on the cusp. "I'm sure it's nothing." He lied easily, too easily. It pained him to sit across from her, as important as she was to him, and lie through his teeth.

What was he to say, that Astoria could very well not get better at all? That she had been attempting to groom Hermione to be Scorpius' mother if she was gone?

He couldn't tell her that. It was simply unfair to put that sort of pressure on a woman he'd known less than a year.

Yet here he was, certain he was sitting with the love of his life.


Chapter Text



Rolling over, the sheets bunched around her waist, Hermione reached across the bed. Her fingers brushed against Draco's warm skin, and she smirked as she lightly skimmed his sides. He flipped over with a quiet, but adorable, squeak and glared at her. "You shouldn't poke a sleeping dragon."

Hermione burst into laughter. "Am I supposed to ride one?"

His eyes darkened, narrowing as he slipped an arm behind her back and draped her over his chest. "That mouth of yours is going to get you into trouble one of these days," Draco murmured. He brushed her hair to the side, leaning up to press his lips a deep purpling love bite on her shoulder.

A weak sound escaped her, and she ground down on him. "I thought tickling you was going to get me into trouble?"

Draco snorted. "No, but that might get you knocked off the bed." His arms locked around her middle, and his lips skimmed her collarbone.

Digging her nails into his shoulders, Hermione let the sheets fall away from her body and wrapped her legs around his waist. "Do you need to leave soon?" she whispered, dragging her fingers through his already messy hair. "Or can we take our time?"

He groaned. "I'm not leaving this bed until you're thoroughly satiated." Draco's hand slipped between them, brushing against her stomach before his fingers parted her folds. "You're still wet for me."

She gasped, burying her face in his shoulder as a finger pumped into her, followed quickly by a second. "We did wake up in the middle of the night, don't you remember?"

Hermione knew he was smirking without seeing it. "Oh? I don't remember. Perhaps you should remind me."

Pushing down against his hand, and whimpering as his fingers curled inside her, Hermione quickly thought of the perfect way to take him by surprise. Her breath fanning across his neck, she murmured next to his ear, "Don't you remember me waking you up?"

"No," Draco said breathlessly.

"You don't?" Hermione pouted even if he couldn't see it, enjoying herself too much to think that she probably looked ridiculous. "Let me remind you then. I rolled over and woke you. I snuck my hand under the blanket, wrapping my fingers around your cock, and then you tried to kiss me, but I didn't let you."

"Fuck, why wouldn't you let me?" He groaned.

Hermione giggled. "Because I slipped under the blanket and wrapped my lips around you. I took your cock into my mouth and—"

"Fucking hell," Draco growled, hauling her up and pinning her to the bed. His knee wedged between her thighs. "You're going to kill me," he muttered, his breathing ragged as he lowered his head, and took one nipple into his mouth.

Hermione wiggled under him, wrapping her legs around him once more, and arching her back as he pinched the other. "Then you'd better learn to keep up."

He glowered at her. "I can keep up with you, Granger." The dark look in his eyes combined with the way her surname rolled off his tongue roughly had her back arching. "Would you like me to prove it?" Draco teased, lips skimming her stomach as he sat on his knees.

"Yes." Hermione nodded fervently, parting her legs farther. "You have that look on your face that means you're up to no good."

"Oh," Draco spoke roughly. "I assure you that you'll find it quite good."

While there was little doubt about that, Hermione whined when he didn't lean between her thighs to work over into climaxing on his tongue. "What are you—?"

Draco sat with his back flush against the bedpost and crooked a finger at her. "Will you sit right here for me, love?" He motioned between his legs.

Sighing, Hermione moved and sat with her back to his chest, his legs bracketing hers. "You know, I quite liked what you were about to do."

He sniggered quietly behind her, moving to carefully tie her hair up. "I know you do, love. If you had it your way, you'd probably have my mouth between your pretty thighs every chance we got."

She gulped, the words making her stomach twist as he reached down to part her legs. "I don't think you'd complain about that."

"Oh, certainly not." Draco rasped. "Just like that. Spread your legs for me, sweetheart."

Hermione loathed pet names. She always had, no matter who they came from, but when it was Draco she couldn't help herself. Each one made her want to curl into him, happy to let him do anything he liked to her. "Draco?"

He circled her clit slowly, barely touching her even as she pushed her hips forward. "Will you let me tease you?"

Hermione whimpered. "I'm impatient."

"I know you are," Draco whispered, kissing a path down her neck, causing her to shiver. "And you don't have to allow me this either. I'm happy to satisfy you in all the ways you want."

Her hands were trembling from barely there touches, but Hermione swallowed. The thought of him touching her, but never reaching her own release, wasn't something Hermione would have considered on her own. However, as she thought about it—despite it being only a few seconds that passed—she found herself growing more curious. "Yes."

"Thank you," Draco whispered. He raised his free hand, smoothing over her stomach before cupping her breast, thumb sliding over the centre.

Rocking back against him, and against his fingers, Hermione's lips parted. "Oh." She moaned, squirming against him. His fingers moved slowly against her, and then his pace quickened, "Draco, I'm—" Close, so close to tipping over the edge and coming apart under his touch.

Even though it was only minutes that passed as she writhed under him, it felt like much longer as she tilted her head and stretched up to kiss him. His tongue met hers, and she moaned weakly into his mouth. "Draco—" There was a question on the tip of her tongue, but she couldn't force the words out as two fingers pumped into her, his thumb still dedicated to the sensitive bundle of nerves.

Lips brushing against the hollow of her throat, Draco rasped, "Come for me, love."

There weren't words for how air rushed from her lungs, and she collapsed against him, her nails biting into his thighs as she rode out waves of pleasure. Hermione whimpered, turning into his chest.

"I'm so fucking lucky." He groaned as she palmed his erection, fingers wrapping around it.

Hermione peeked up at him through her lashes. "Do you remember what came next this morning?" she breathed coyly.

His brows shot toward his hairline. "I think I can figure it out," Draco muttered while depositing her into his lap.


While he stood in the kitchen, a cup of tea in his hand, Draco reconsidered his choice not to join Hermione in the shower. While it was true he needed to get home in order to prepare for his night shift at the hospital, she was a minx, and surely he could have still made time for both. In the middle of pondering stripping and joining her anyway—and pressing her to the wall while the steady stream of water did nothing to silence the delectable sounds she made—his mobile vibrated against the counter.

Holding it to his ear, he laid his cup down. "Hello, Mother."

Narcissa didn't linger on pleasantries. "How long have you known Astoria was sick?" she snapped, and when silence followed, she spoke with a chilly edge to her voice. "Draco, I just received a call from her mother, and she's catatonic."

He dragged a hand down his face, casting a look toward the doorway that Hermione could walk through any moment. "Give me a second. I'm at Hermione's and she doesn't know yet. I don't want to put her in a panic."

"You're at Hermione's?" Narcissa echoed. "Did you stay the night?"

Penning a semi-decent note, Draco told Hermione that he'd been called to the hospital and hadn't been able to wait for her. I'm terribly sorry. I'll text you the first chance I get. "You know," Draco started as he shut the door to her flat behind him. "I don't think I want to have a conversation with you about my sleeping habits."

"That's assuming you actually get any sleep." Narcissa snarked. "But, back to the matter at hand, how long have you known Astoria was sick?"

He jogged down the steps, holding his phone to his ear with his shoulder as he fished his keys from his pocket. "She hasn't told me herself, and I'd prefer you didn't let her find out that I know," Draco replied, pressing the button to unlock his car and the headlights flickered. "What did her mother tell you?"

"Astoria is creating a last will and testament. She's meeting with a lawyer later this week."

It felt like the air had been knocked out of him as he slumped in his seat. "Tori has always been well-prepared, Mother. We don't know what the prognosis will be—"

Narcissa swallowed, the sound audible from the other side of the line. "I know you want to look at this optimistically, but we can't afford to do that. You need to speak with her, Draco. And what are you thinking, keeping something as important as this from Hermione? Now, I want to think of the worst-case scenario as much as the next person, but this is life-altering."


"Don't," she hissed. "It's absolutely irresponsible to keep a secret like this from your partner. Promise me you'll tell Hermione, and soon. No putting this off, Draco." His mother was right, of course. He knew that.

He'd known it since they were seated across from each other and the gravity of the situation crashed down on him. "I know. I'll talk to Tori this weekend when I pick up Scorpius."


Staring at her toes, she wasn't certain what to think. It had been on her mind for several days, The responsible thing to do was to speak plainly with Draco about it, but Hermione hadn't been able to bring herself to do so.

It hadn't been her intention to discuss it with Charlie either, but as he sat on her sofa, his chin braced against his palm as his eyes narrowed dangerously, Hermione had done just that. "You haven't asked him about it?" He asked, his voice low, but she could hear the thinly veiled anger. "Hermione?"

She shook her head. "No, I haven't."

"Why the fuck not?"

Her wince didn't go unnoticed.

"Give me a second. I'm at Hermione's and she doesn't know yet. I don't want to put her in a panic."

Hermione brought her knees to her chest. "For all I know, he has a very good reason for this." She reasoned. "Now that I've allowed so much time to pass, it only looks even worse that I've waited to—"

Charlie held up a hand. "No, it doesn't. What makes this look worse is how he's apparently keeping something from you."

"He might have a good reason not to worry me," Hermione repeated, but even she didn't believe the hollow words that left her mouth. "All right, even if he did, I wouldn't want him to keep things from me for the sake of not worrying me."

Charlie nodded. "That's right. He shouldn't keep anything from you, and you ought to call him out on it."

Despite the fact that he was right, it was the absolute last thing Hermione wanted to do. The near promise of conflict set her on edge, but she had to admit that their relationship had been strained—at least from her side—for days. Draco had noticed the littlest details: how she found ways out of holding his hand, how she shied away from physical intimacy.

She blew out a harsh breath. "I know."

"Then you'll confront him about it? Because if you don't, I'm going to," Charlie warned. "I'll break that man like a twig."

Hermione snorted. "No, you won't." While Draco didn't possess the burly build that Charlie Weasley did, Hermione was intimately aware of just how strong Draco was. "And even if you could," Charlie looked offended, "you wouldn't. You wouldn't want to upset me."

He grimaced. "Well, if he upsets you, all bets are off."

Her mobile rang, an unknown number stretching across the screen. Normally she wouldn't answer, but Hermione dragged her finger across the screen anyway. "Hello, this is Hermione."

"Hermione, it's Astoria."

Hermione's eyes shot open and Charlie stared at her, making several motions with his hands and mouthing, "Draco's ex-wife?"

She waved him off and stood. "Hello, can I help you with something?" Hermione replied, pacing in front of the couch. "Is everything all right?"

There was a deep breath. "Yes, everything is," Astoria's breathing hitched. "Everything is fine. I was wondering if you might be able to meet me to pick up Scorpius? Draco was called into surgery hours ago, and he's still in the operating theatre."

Hermione had offered the month before to pick up Scorpius if Draco couldn't, but Draco had reworked his schedule where she wouldn't need to.

"Of course." Hermione rushed. "One thing though, I don't have a car seat, and—"

Charlie held up a finger. "I have one in my backseat for Victoire."

"Nevermind." Hermione cut herself off. "My friend has one already for his niece if that's all right?" She mistakenly stubbed her toe on the coffee table and bit down on her lip hard to refrain from emitting a long string of curses.

"Is that 'Mione?" Scorpius asked in the background.

"Yes, sweetheart. She's coming to pick you up. Is that okay?"


Astoria returned to the phone. "Yes, that would be perfect. I'm so sorry to spring this on you."

"No, no." Hermione stepped into her flats, snatching Charlie's keys from the hook. "I don't mind. I'm happy to help." She threw her door open, whispering to Charlie to lock it behind him. "Where can we meet you?"

Astoria was sick.

Hermione knew it from the moment she stepped out of the car at the park, and Scorpius rushed to her. Swinging him into her arms, and settling him on her hip, she wasn't sure what to say. It wouldn't be acceptable to ask Astoria anything, Hermione imagined.

There were dark circles beneath her eyes, and she appeared weak, frail on her feet. Gone was the rosy colour that seemed to come naturally to the blonde. Now her complexion rivalled her son's and not in the best way.

"'Mione, I missed you." Scorpius wrapped his arms around her neck, squeezing tightly.

"Me too, buddy. Why don't you play with Theo for a minute while I talk to your mum?" Hermione set him on his feet. While the man's name left a bad taste in her mouth given the shared history between Draco and Astoria, it wasn't her place to judge. "It's nice to see you." Hermione smiled. "Astoria, this is Charlie. Charlie, this is Astoria."

Tori shook his hand. "You don't mind if I speak to Hermione alone, do you?"

"I'll make myself scarce," Charlie said, making his way toward Theo and Scorpius.

Hermione shifted her weight, tucking her hands into her pockets. "What brings you to London?"

Taking a seat at the table, Astoria waited for her to sit across from her. "I had another appointment with a specialist." She murmured quietly. "Before you ask, everything is all right. You just caught me on a bad day."

Hermione forced a smile. "I have no doubt."

Gulping, Astoria clasped her hands over the table. "I'm actually happy Draco was busy because I wanted to talk to you. If that's agreeable with you…?"

The woman's mood had made a dramatic shift since their first meeting months ago. "I'm not in any rush," Hermione replied quietly, her eyes straying to where Scorpius was attempting a handstand. Or, she thought that was what he was doing.

Astoria sucked in a deep breath. "I owe you an apology."

What Hermione had expected, that hadn't been it. "I beg your pardon?"

"I've acted like an absolute cow."

Hermione snorted.

Astoria's eyes lightened. "Yes, I'm quite aware that's putting it mildly. I wasn't ready for Draco to start dating, or for him to find 'the one' on the first attempt."

Two words were all it took to render Hermione silent.

"And sharing my son with another woman—especially one he adores so much—hasn't been easy either. Still, that's no excuse for my behaviour on either part. I lost Draco due to my own selfishness, and if I'm required to share my son with someone," Astoria lifted her eyes, placing her hand over Hermione's. "I find that I like you. Once I got over myself, that is."

Still reeling from every word that had been spoken, Hermione didn't know what to say. So, that was all she said.

"I'm sure it's a great deal to take in." Astoria laughed, pushing her hair from her face as the wind blew past them. "I understand that you loathe Theo."

"I—" Could she say she didn't? Hermione sighed. "He's not my favourite person, but treating him badly won't improve the situation. What occurred during your marriage is done, and there's no changing that. From what I can see, Theo is doing a lot for you now, and I can't be angry about that."

"I might love him," Astoria whispered. "You're the only person I've told that."

Out of all of the conversations in her life, this must have been the most surreal. "Perhaps you should tell him. Somehow, I doubt he'll say anything but the same."

She shook her head. "That's not fair, is it? For me to fall in love with the same person I ruined my marriage over?"

Unsure of what Astoria expected her to say, Hermione chose to pretend that this wasn't Draco's ex-wife. This was a stranger, maybe even a tentative friend. "Mistakes don't mean you should deny yourself happiness." Hermione turned her hand over and squeezed Astoria's. "And to be blunt, you chose him for a reason, I imagine. While I can't fathom making that kind of decision, letting him go means ending your marriage for nothing."

Pretty blue eyes grew glossy as they watered, and Astoria slid her fingers through Hermione's. "That's very kind of you to say."

Hermione smiled, and it was genuine. "You're still allowed to be loved and move on with your life. You don't need to punish yourself anymore. Let that go. Everyone is healing, or I think they are, at least."

"Oh, yes. Draco is nothing like what he was last year. You've done so much for him, for Scorpius, that I'm not sure how I'll ever repay you."

Arching an eyebrow, Hermione thought it sounded ridiculous. "You don't need to repay me for anything. Just promise me you'll take care of yourself, and you'll stop punishing yourself."

Astoria smiled.


Dinner with his parents had not been planned, nor had it been wanted. Not even in the slightest, but when his father called with the news that they were in the city, and had made reservations for four, there hadn't been a good way out of it.

Hermione had taken the news quietly, nodding her head before putting her earbuds back in and typing madly away at her laptop.

She was another problem he hadn't solved yet. Hesitant to use the word problem, but not knowing what else to say, Draco knew something was wrong. Hermione had been distant for days now but hadn't said anything to him. In fact, he'd been forced to hear from Tori that their visit had gone very well, and she wanted to celebrate Scorpius' birthday next month together.

Two months ago, that would have signalled the end of times.

"Hermione?" Draco whispered, massaging her shoulder.

She shut her laptop softly and looked up. "Is it time to get ready? Your father will probably expect us to be early, or he'll tell me how I'm—"

"What's wrong?"

She clammed up, her mouth snapping shut and she turned away from him. "Nothing's wrong. What are you talking about?"

Sighing, he leaned against the desk in her living room and folded his arms over his chest. "Hermione, you've been upset for a week. I'm not blind. I thought it might be best to give you space, but—"

Hermione dropped her notebooks on the counter. "I don't think the correct time to talk about this is before we meet your parents for dinner."

He frowned. "Well, the correct time would have been anytime this week, but since you haven't—"

She glared at him, her lips pressed into a thin line. "Oh, you're blaming me? That's fucking classic, Draco. It couldn't be your fault, could it?"

His eyes narrowed. "As far as I'm aware, I haven't done anything to upset you."

Hermione drew a deep breath. "Give me a second. I'm at Hermione's and she doesn't know yet. I don't want to put her in a panic."

All of the colour drained from his face.

Still glaring, she asked, "Does that sound familiar? You said it while you left me a note telling me you needed to get to the hospital for surgery."

"Shite, Hermione, this isn't as bad as you think it is." Draco rushed. He'd really gone and fucked this up. "Astoria is sick, and they don't think the prognosis will be good."

"I know that, you tremendous prat."

"She told you?" Tori hadn't even told him yet.

"It's fucking obvious!" Hermione growled. "It's a terrible thing, and I don't know specifically, but how hard is it to say 'Astoria is sick, and we're worried about the worst?' Fuck, Draco, you told me you were worried over dinner last month!"

When he took a step toward her, Hermione took a step backward. "I know this was a mistake. I'm so sorry."

Hermione shook her head. "I would have understood if you told me you were worried, but that you didn't want to talk about it. What I'm most angry about, what I'm hurt," her voice wavered, "about is how you left a note that you'd been called into surgery. This is something you tell me at least once a week, sometimes more than that. How am I supposed to believe that now?"

Draco reached for her, and let his hand fall when she didn't reciprocate. "Hermione, I would never lie to you. I thought that this—"

"I'm going to get dressed," Hermione stated. "I'm going to do my makeup as well, and I would prefer not to cry anymore." She turned away from him, her eyes watering.

Draco wished he'd just cancelled the fucking dinner, especially once they got there.


Draco didn't attempt to apologise again, even though she could see how he would open his mouth and shut it just as quickly. He didn't hold her hand in the car, and she missed the contact desperately. He met her outside the car after the valet opened her door, and while he would normally have placed his hand at the small of her back, Draco allowed his hand to hover instead.

Hermione couldn't decide if she wanted to grab his hand or continue to keep her head high and remain angry. Anger never solved anything, she reasoned, but she couldn't accept the fact how easily he'd lied to her. Whether it had been an attempt to spare her feelings, or not. It bothered her that her trust was seemingly fractured.

The only consolation was that she knew he was sorry, and Draco would likely never make this mistake again. She just needed to work through this was all, and it would be fine. Their relationship would resume its own normalcy and she could roll over in bed in the mornings he stayed the night and lazily rock against him.

Narcissa stood from the table, kissing Hermione on the cheek and wrapping her in a one-armed hug. "It's so lovely to see you, dear. Thank you for making time for us." To the left of them, Lucius scoffed. "Behave." Narcissa hissed, pinching his bicep.

Already feeling wholly unwelcome, Hermione took her seat as Draco held it out for her. "Thank you for inviting me." Hermione's voice was quiet, polite, and she avoided Lucius' eyes from across the table when she could.

In fact, the man hardly spoke, which Hermione considered to be a blessing. She wasn't sure she was up to verbally sparring with the man at the moment.

"How is work?" Narcissa asked.

Draco offered a sufficient answer of how the hospital was as busy as it ever was, but there had been an increase in knife related crimes, which led to an increase of teenagers being brought in. "It's a terrible thing." He said, his knee bumping Hermione's under the table. "One can only hope it will lessen soon."

Lucius took a long drink of his whisky. "Perhaps parents will learn how to raise their children as well. So many deviants in the streets here," he stated distastefully.

Hermione frowned. "You can't possibly lump all of those teenagers into the same category of having bad parents."

Draco released a hard breath.

Lucius glared at her. "Perhaps not, but one could say infestations start at the root." His features were drawn, "Do you often let her spout whatever nonsense is on her mind?"

"Father—" Draco snarled.

Hermione laughed. "You must be under the impression that your son is my keeper. I'm sorry to disappoint, but I'm my own person. Careful, Mr Malfoy, your prejudice is showing when you talk about those so called deviants. Several of them have been failed by the system."

Lucius' fingers curled around his fork, and he pointed it in her direction. "So you'd defend them?"

Draco squeezed her knee under the table. She wasn't sure if it was out of support or a warning. "The violent offences they're committing are atrocious, but you complain about a problem without getting to the root as you so eloquently put it."

A smile curved Narcissa's lips, and she winked.

"It's not the job of others to fix—"

Hermione snorted.

He took her laughter as well as she could have expected. "Is this how you plan to raise Scorpius? To talk back to his elders, and spout utter nonsense."

She stopped short, her head whipping to the side to stare at Draco. "What are you talking about? I'm not Scorpius' mother."

Narcissa appeared stricken. "Draco, you were meant to—"

Hermione swallowed hard, ashamed of the fact that she had gotten fifteen minutes into dinner before it fell apart. "Are you keeping even more things from me?" She whispered.

Raking his fingers through his hair, Draco looked pained. "It's not so simple."

That was a yes. "You're kidding." Hermione pushed away from the table. "I'm sorry to have ruined your dinner, but I can't stay."

His mother nodded, sympathy clouding her features as Hermione pulled her handbag over her shoulder.

With watering eyes, Hermione left the restaurant and Draco was right on her heels as she hurried down the sidewalk, reaching into her bag for a cab fare. "Hermione, stop, please," he rushed.

She froze in the middle of the street. "Draco, I'm sure we'll talk about this, and everything will be fine, but I don't want to look at you right now."

Draco moved in front of her, planting himself in her path as if she wouldn't just walk around him if she liked. "Astoria has cancer," he blurted. "It's not looking good right now, and while we're hopeful, we're preparing for the worst. I didn't want to tell you because I didn't want to put you under pressure."

Her lips morphed into a scowl. "Did you ever consider the fact that this affects me as well? I understand that I'm not family, but I deserved to hear the truth from you and not your father. Who, by the way, is probably overjoyed that we're fighting."

"All I've thought about is how this will change everything."

She nodded, pursing her lips. "How long has she known?"

A car passed them, spraying water over them, and Draco looped an arm around her waist, pulling her out of the way before she was drenched. "She hasn't told me herself yet. I haven't questioned her either. It's a delicate situation, as you can imagine."

Hermione stared at the sky overhead, counting to ten before sighing. "My bet is that Astoria has known ever since she cried in the kitchen while telling me about Scorpius' favourite foods and books. She's known for a while. If she's seeing a specialist now, then that must mean…" She didn't want to ponder that.

Draco didn't let go of her, and she didn't move. "My father wanted to rile you up. He couldn't have known what he'd be revealing, but he aimed to hurt you."

Of course. "Tell me right now everything you need to tell me," Hermione stated. "If you don't, I'll take a cab home because there will be nothing left to say."

Heaving a sigh, he did just as she said. "Astoria's created a will. She's getting her affairs in order, and one of those would be you."

Eyes widening, Hermione tilted her head up.

"She doesn't want Scorpius to be without a mother."

Her legs wobbled, and Draco steadied her. Hermione hadn't considered children much, but this? "I'm not his mother," Hermione whispered. "She'll always be his—"

Draco cupped her cheek. "She knows that, Hermione. She's just scared for him."

"He'll have you," she breathed.

"Of course he will, but all she's ever wanted is for Scorpius to grow up in a healthy home with two people that love him. I didn't want to put this on you. It's so much to ask when we've only been dating for a short time."

Her heartbeat was loud in her ears. "I still don't agree with that decision."

He chuckled. "Believe me, I know. You've made that clear. I'll never keep anything from you again."

Hermione curled her fingers in his shirt. "You've told me what Astoria wants. What do you want?"

Blond hair fell into his face as he jerked. "I can't ask you anything, Hermione. This is your choice, and I don't want to sway you either way, despite how selfish I am."

That was half of an answer, wasn't it? Hermione shook her head. "Please, I want to hear it from you. I couldn't make this choice without hearing it."

Draco cradled her face and leaned down, pressing his lips to hers feverishly. It must have been the desperate kiss they had ever shared, his thumb running along her cheekbone until she was dizzy. When he pulled back, Draco murmured, "I'm quite certain that all I've done in my life is wander until I found you."

Tears burned her eyes. "Draco..." she whispered.

He smiled. "I've spent the bulk of my life not doing what I truly wanted, and all I want is you. I'm not asking you to make a sudden decision to be the mother to my child right now, but I'd like to know if it's a possibility."

It wasn't something she'd ever wanted until right then. The circumstances were horrifying, and she hated to think of the absolute devastation it would bring to them. But even with the worst circumstances, Hermione knew the answer.

She stretched up on her toes, pressing her lips to his and bumping his nose with hers in the process. "The answer is yes," Hermione murmured and laughed quietly when he picked her up off her feet.


Chapter Text



As morning light trickled through the sheer curtains, Hermione moaned and rolled over. "Answer your bloody phone." She grumbled, and poked Draco in his side. "Draco—Draco!"

Finally, he stirred and looked up at her with a sleepy smile that could have made her heart stop. "Don't get your knickers in a twist."

"I'm not wearing any. Someone—" she gave him a pointed glare "—decided to rip them off of me last night like some sort of caveman."

Smirking, Draco's hand slid up her bare thigh as he murmured, "And here I thought you liked my enthusiasm."

The ringing stopped, and Hermione's brows shot up. "Enthusiasm? Is that what we're calling it? You all but slung me over your shoulder last—"


Eyes narrowing, Hermione pressed her pillow against her face and gave a muffled groan. "Answer the bloody thing. What if it's the hospital?" Of course, she knew it wasn't. It had been long since learning Draco had a different ringtone set for that.

He chuckled and the bed dipped as he rolled onto his side. "Tori, is everything alright?" His playfulness vanished, and Hermione stretched her hand out across the bed to squeeze his muscled thigh reassuringly.

Seconds later, Astoria's voice crackled through the air as he placed it on speaker. "Everything is perfectly fine." From her tone, she imagined Astoria was rolling her eyes. "Am I safe to assume that Hermione is aware of my condition now?"

Hermione peeked out from under the pillow and caught Draco's grimace.

"Right," Astoria continued, her voice softening. "I heard about that disastrous dinner with your parents last week. Although, I have to praise Hermione for verbally sparring with Lucius. That's something I could never manage."

Draco pinched the bridge of his nose and exhaled. "It was an ordeal."

"Is Hermione there?"

Even though they were past the point of awkwardly skirting around the fact of the relationship when it came to Astoria, Hermione hesitated to say anything. It was seven o'clock in the morning, and there was truly only one reason Draco would be there so early. Her cheeks heated.

Catching sight of it, Draco snorted. "Yes, she's here."

"Oh, perfect! I wanted to ask you about it, and I'll be in appointments all day," she said breezily. "Halloween is coming up. Scorpius hasn't mentioned it, but I know it would mean so much to him if all of us were there."

Hermione's lips parted and warmth bloomed in her stomach—accompanied by nerves—but Draco only grinned.

"Including Hermione, in case that wasn't clear."

Draco covered the speaker and leaned down. "What do you think?" he whispered, and he pecked the tip of her nose.

"Are you sure it's okay? I don't want to intrude…"

He nodded. "I'd love for you to come with us. Not that she's mentioned, but I have a feeling that Theo will be there as well, and that, well—" Draco rolled his eyes "—that would be awkward."

She sniggered. "Yes, I'd love to." Hermione listened as he told Astoria of her agreement, and then he ended the call.

Draco slid under the sheets with her once more, and hovered over her, knee parting her thighs. "When do you need to leave for work?" His lips closed around her nipple, teeth grazing her sensitive flesh.

How was she meant to reply when he seemed to be focused on making it to where she couldn't manage any words at all?

"Half-hour," Hermione gasped as his finger slipped between her folds, and slid into her. "And I need to fit a shower somewhere in there. Maybe you should join me."

"Oh, of course. It would help save water."

Hermione blinked. "I was really just thinking it would give us more time to shag, honestly."

His mouth fell open as he laughed, and Draco leaned his forehead against her stomach.

Scorpius' costume came as no surprise.

Hermione watched as the front door of Astoria's home was flung open, the glass cased inside of it giving a faint shake as it met the siding. "Have I ever told you he's the cutest fucking thing I've ever seen?" Hermione asked Draco, and hurried out of the car.

She'd barely shut the door and crouched down before a bundled up baby dragon rushed into her arms.

"'Mione!" He cheered, and threw his arms around her neck. "I missed you."

What could I have done to deserve this?

She stood, cradling him in her arms as he locked his legs around her waist. "Have you? It just so happens I've missed you too." Hermione combed her fingers through his hair, smoothing it down.

As they met Draco in front of the car, he held his arms out for Scorpius. "What? You're not going to hug me as a hello too?"

Scorpius shook his head and tightened his grip on her neck. "No."

Draco looked as if he couldn't decide whether he wanted to be offended, or if he was deliriously happy.

As his gaze followed her all the way up to the house, Hermione had a gut feeling it was the second.

Theo had been there, and if she were honest, it hadn't been nearly as awkward as she'd expected. All of their collective attention had been centered on Scorpius as he bounded up the street, his green tail swishing as he tried to run ahead.

Draco focused on Hermione, and his son—she had noticed his stare several times throughout the night.

Theo focused on Astoria and Scorpius. He seemed to watch her closely, almost as if he were trying to memorise every part of her, and the sudden realisation hit her like a load of bricks. It made her stand a little closer to Draco, made her lace her fingers through his tighter than she ever had before.

Scorpius stood in the middle of them, holding his mother's hand, and Hermione's.

Though she'd tried to have Draco hold his son's hand, Draco had shaken his head. He whispered in her ear to savour the moment.

It was a good moment, but Hermione knew how important it would be to hold onto the best moments as they entered the turbulence that was to come.


Scorpius bounced in his seat, and dragged his finger down the window, leaving a path in the condensation as he did. "Is 'Mione at work?" he asked from the backseat.

He met a pair of familiar—but softer—grey eyes in the rearview mirror as he took his next turn. "No, she's not at work."

"Where is she?"

Draco smirked. "You'll see. Be patient."

Scorpius folded his arms over his chest and huffed.

He pulled into the parking lot ten minutes later, and from his parking spot, Draco could just make out the frizzy halo of her hair through a slotted window. "Now," Draco began, unbuckling himself. "Hermione doesn't know we're coming. It's a surprise."

She'd been expecting to go with Draco to pick up Scorpius after she left the shelter, but as things would have it, Astoria needed him to meet sooner than originally planned.

Giving a little nod, Scorpius unbuckled himself and slid out of his seat. "Where are we, Dad?"

Draco chose not to tell him. He'd rather see Scorpius' face when he realised how many dogs there were. He had begged for a pet shortly before they divorce had been put on the table, and Astoria was allergic to dogs. Which meant Draco would need to carefully wash his clothes before he returned home to prevent an allergic reaction for his ex-wife.


Scorpius rolled his eyes as Draco set him on his feet, and locked the door. "I'll see," he muttered bluntly, and made his way to the door. He was unable to pull the heavy door open on his own, but that wasn't to say he didn't try.

Fuck, I'm going to hate this stubborn trait when he's older.

Pulling the door open, the buzzer sounded over their heads, and Scorpius rushed inside. "No running!" Draco chastised quickly, but Scorpius had already skidded to a stop. "Scorp, what—"

"Shite, that dog is huge," Scorpius blurted, his eyes wide and his mouth hanging open.

He peeked down the corridor, and spotted Hermione, looking just as surprised as Scorpius did. "Hello, love." Draco grinned. "We thought we might surprise you."

Her eyes brightened from where she sat in the middle of the floor, a large dog sprawled beside her as he rested his head in her lap. "Consider me surprised. This is Echo." She motioned to her, and the large pup cracked one eye open. "She was surrendered this morning, unfortunately."

There was no missing the way her lower lip wobbled at the statement.

"What does that mean?" Scorpius asked, and took a tentative step forward. "Is he… Is he nice?"

She giggled again, and it runs in his ears. Hermione nodded. "She's very well trained. Would you like to say hello?"

Scorpius nodded.

"Walk toward me, but walk slowly, okay? She's scared because this isn't her home." Hermione instructed, and looked to him, her question clear in her eyes.

Draco gave a dip of his head, and made his way to her side, taking a seat on the other side of Echo. She shifted, and gave a low whine while sizing him up, but Echo didn't scoot away when he reached to pet her side. "She's nice. It's okay, Scorp."

He didn't look like he believed them, but slowly came forward. "Why isn't she at home?"

The way Hermione's shoulders sank was miniscule, but not unnoticeable. "Her family left her here."

"When are they coming back?"

"They're not." She cleared her throat. "Sometimes, pet owners give up their pets for all sorts of different reasons, and they come here while they wait for a new family to take them home."

Brows drawing together, Scorpius said slowly, "They…left her? Why?" He came to a stop in front of Echo, and she lifted her head. "She's sad," he muttered glumly.

She nibbled her lower lip before answering. "They decided to move, and didn't have the room to take her. Can you sit down for me?"

Scorpius sat cross legged, and laid his hands in her lap. "I'm sorry you had a lousy family," he said quietly. "Can I pet her?"

Draco smiled. "You may, but be sure to listen to everything Hermione says. She's the expert here, and we don't want to scare Echo, do we?"

He shook his head.

"Put your hand out, and let her sniff you. Now, if this were a stray dog, you wouldn't stick your hand out, but it's safe now."

"Because you're here, 'Mione?"

Her voice wasn't entirely steady when she said, "Yes, because I'm here. Just like that, Scorpius. You're doing great."

Echo crawled closer, pressing her nose to the back of his hand. She mewled, and nuzzled him.

His lips split into a smile and Scorpius laughed under his breath. "That tickles!"

"Look at that," Hermione sighed. "She likes you."

"Really?" Scorpius perked up at that. "I like you too," he declared, and tested the waters by petting the top of her head, sinking his fingers into her thick coat.

As it turned out, Echo was certainly the tamest of all the dogs at the shelter. She allowed Scorpius to lead him across the grass, not once pulling the leash taught, but Draco was at his side just in case while Hermione finished up inside.

By the time she joined them, she found Scorpius laying down with Echo, his head beside hers—with a healthy distance just in case because Draco would always worry—while he pointed to the clouds. "That one looks like a snake, don't you think?"

Hermione wrapped her arms around Draco's middle, peeking up at him from around his shoulder. "Thank you for coming today."

His hands found hers, and he threaded their fingers together. "Astoria needed to meet sooner today, and I thought he'd like it here. He's asked to adopt Echo."

Her laugh was breathy—and it reminded him of their morning spent in bed. "I'm not surprised in the slightest."

Draco turned around, and gathered her in his arms. "I told him no. Our lives are likely about to change rather dramatically and—"

Hermione pressed a finger to his lips. "You don't have to explain anything to me. Logically speaking, if the worst comes to worst, then things will move much faster. However, I imagine it's only a matter of time before you ask me to move in with you—"

His mouth dropped open. Sure, it was bloody true, but she said it so nonchalantly.

"I mean, we're either at yours or mine, but we're hardly ever apart—that's not a complaint. But your flat is nicer than mine, and you're a stubborn man, so you'll never want to move into my flat. Not to mention, it's a bit difficult to to have such a large dog in a complex. She wouldn't have a yard to run like she'd want to. We'd be trying to help, but someone will give her the home she deserves."

Words didn't come to him, and when they did, he could have cringed at how unrefined they were. "Did you just say you'd move in with me."

Hermione arched a brow. "Is that all you took out of that?"

"I—I haven't even asked you yet." He spluttered. "What if it was meant to be a surprise? You've ruined it now."

She smirked. "I think," Hermione murmured, sliding closer to him. "I don't think there's anything that could be more surprising than asking me if I'm willing to be a surrogate mother to your child."

It was impossible for your heart to skip a beat, he knew that. "I don't think I've ever told you how much I like hearing you say that."

"Hearing what?"

"Mother," he breathed.

Her cheeks coloured. "Well, I wouldn't be—it's just—I'm not really his—"

Draco held her face in his hands and pressed his lips to hers, cutting off whatever denial she was in the middle of.

"GROSS!" Scorpius yelled.


The problem with life—with all of the ugly things that came with it—was that it never stopped. In fact, it seemed to move faster. Hermione battled the sickening feeling that the earth was spinning all too quickly right under her feet, threatening to throw her into every lurch possible.

And perhaps that was too dismal an outlook if she wanted to remain positive. Still, as each day began—with Draco, whether it was in her bed or his, or maybe it was more apt to simply call it theirs—and ended, Hermione found whatever grip she'd had on life slipped out of her grasp. Draco noticed it. He peeked at her when he believed she wasn't looking, and there was always a worried furrow to his brows.

All she could think about was how it felt like she was on the cusp of having a life—with a man who genuinely cared about her, and a child that she could openly admit that she adored—that she'd only dreamed of in the past.

However, the only way it became hers was for another woman to lose it all, and more often than Hermione cared to admit, she found herself wondering if she had any right to it. Draco would have reassured her, but he didn't see it through her eyes. Not fully anyway.

Here was Astoria, a woman who hadn't started off well in terms of Hermione, and now she was preparing to lose everything because she couldn't stay. When she called Draco, Hermione could hear just how low Astoria's health had already sunk.

The door cracked open slowly, and Draco stepped inside her office. "I brought lunch."

Hermione smiled. "Good timing. I just finished." She shut her laptop and pushed it to the side before opening the bag. "I thought you were working during the day this week?"

He shook his head. "I was meant to, but there was a scheduling conflict. My mother is going to bring Scorpius down Friday. Will you be all right for a few hours?"

She blinked. It wasn't a rude question, nor was his tone, but something about it rubbed her the wrong way. "Is that a serious question?"

Draco frowned as he chewed his food. He tilted his head to the side, mouth still full.

"Two weeks ago you asked me to step into a bigger spot in Scorpius' life, his mother's shoes—which mind you, I have no idea how to do—and now you're asking me if I'm all right to watch him for a few hours?"

His brows knitted together. "I didn't mean to upset you."

Drumming her fingers against her desk, Hermione could only sigh. "Draco, I meant what I said. I'm not at all sure where to start when it comes to this, but I'm fairly certain if I can't handle having Scorpius for a few hours, that's not good." She picked at her food. "I shouldn't have snapped at you."

His hand covered hers. "I found a parenting book under your pillow this morning, Hermione."

Heat rose in her cheeks. "I've been reading it after you fall asleep."

"Are you scared?" He ran his thumb over her knuckles, lifting his gaze to hers.

"Terrified," she breathed.

"The good news is that usually when you're afraid, it means you're on the cusp of doing something brave," Draco said, lacing their fingers together. "Unfortunately, on the other side of that, it never stops scaring you. It lessens, but I'm just as scared as they day Scorpius was born."

"But you're a wonderful father."

A dry chuckle escaped him. "That's only because I do my best every day. It's like anything, you get up and you work for it. Tori was always a natural at it, and I struggled. As much as I understand that you're nervous, it's all for nothing. You've loved my son before you recognised it yourself, Hermione. That's what I've always believed."

Swallowing hard, Hermione's eyes widened.

"When Astoria and I divorced, I never planned on dating again. That's slightly unbelievable even now, but I didn't want to bring a woman into Scorpius' life if there was a chance she wouldn't be willing to step into his life. Thing is, nearly from the first day, I've been utterly besotted with you. Scorpius has talked about you non-stop since the day he met you."

Wiping her eyes, Hermione sniffled. "I love him. He's such a sweet little boy, but he's going to lose his mum. I would never try to take her place, Draco. I just— It's terrifying to know that he's going to be heartbroken and there will be nothing I can do."

Draco stood, and came around her desk. Crouching down, he gathered her hands in his. "I know. There's nothing we can do beyond trust doctor and hope for a miracle, but Hermione—" His lips skimmed her knuckles. "We have you, and you don't have to put pressure on yourself to be Astoria. She and I divorced, if you recall. It was bitter, and I don't want you to be Astoria."

"Well, when you put it like that..." Hermione pulled her hands away and wiped her eyes.

He smirked. "We can hope for a miracle that may never come, but one already has. They're not just divine intervention. I'm a firm believer that a miracle can be a person. By some grace, you're mine and I'm yours. As much as I wish I had all the answers when it comes to parenting, I don't."

Hermione gave him a watery smile.

"It's not easy. He's in his cute phase right now, but according to your book, Scorpius' personality will go through some rapid changes in the next few years. Then we have to get through the pre-puberty phase—which I have to tell you, I'm not looking forward to—and then we'll have a bloody teenager. Do you have any idea what I was up to as a teenager?" He snorted. "Astoria used to tell me something when he was a few months old, and she'll probably mention it to you at some point.

"When he's old enough to realise, Scorpius won't care that we didn't have all the answers. It's our job as his parents to give him memories that help him grow into the best man he can be. We have a part in watching him grow, and it's our responsibility to protect that." Draco murmured. "She's always been chatty, so that's the paraphrased version if you can imagine."

"That's solid advice."

"Whenever he comes to you with a question, you would be surprised by how much you can come up with in a split second. On the other hand, if you're like me, you'll say something wrong, and he'll repeat it to my mother."

She sniggered. "Do you have an example?"

Dragging a hand down his face, Draco said, "He asked me where babies come from. This was just as I petitioned for divorce, and I wasn't thinking clearly."

She nudged him with her foot. "What did you say?'

"I said sex like any normal fucking physician would. Can you imagine my surprise when I got a call a few hours later from my mother? Scorpius deemed it fit to tell everyone he saw—stranger or not—that babies came from sex." Draco grumbled and she knew her laughter could be heard across the office. "When he came home, he asked me what sex was."

Her grin stretched her lips. "What did you say?"

"I told him it was magic."

Hermione leaned down, and kissed him. "Thank you."

His hands slid up her sides as he pulled her into his lap. "Anything."

Hermione tickled Scorpius' sides as they lounged on the sofa, and waited for Draco to come home. She'd made more popcorn than the two of them could eat alone, and they'd settled down to watch movies while waiting.

The little boy had protested that he wanted to stay awake until Draco came home, and Hermione hadn't said no. However, she also hadn't said yes since she knew he'd fall asleep an hour after bedtime. As the movie drew to a close, animated dragons whipping through the air, Hermione realised she'd been watching it even after he'd dozed off.

Scorpius nuzzled closer to him as she scooped him into her arms, and carried him into the bedroom. Laying him in his bed, she pulled the covers over him, and bent down to kiss his forehead. "Goodnight, Scorpius," she whispered, and turned on his night light as she left the room.

As she padded down the corridor, Hermione wrapped her arms around her middle when a cold chill rolled through the flat.

Draco stood in the kitchen, his hands braced against the countertop, veins standing out from his forearms. His shoulders were shaking. "Is Scorpius already in bed?"

"Yes, he fell asleep and I just put him in bed. I thought you were going to be at the hospital until—what's wrong?" Hermione's stomach dropped as he faced her.

His eyes were bloodshot. "A surgeon that was on call came in to work my shift. They told me to come home and be with my family. Astoria called me."

She was expecting him to say that she was already gone, but if she'd called, then—

"She's refusing treatment. Doctors say she doesn't have very long." He choked, and his hand flew up to cover his mouth. "Hermione, I thought we had longer. I don't want Scorpius to—fuck!" he snapped, and she hugged him fiercely. His arms locked around her, and Draco's lips brushed her hair.

"Why?" Hermione asked, but she could barely manage it.

He shuddered against her. "Scorpius will watch her grow weaker every day, and she doesn't want that. Just, here, she texted me right after she hung up. I was begging her to change her mind, and she wouldn't hear it."

She cradled his mobile in her hands and Hermione had to read the message several times for it to sink in.

From Astoria, 9:15 P.M.: I know you're upset and I'm so sorry, Draco. But it's not about the number of days I live. It's about the quality of the ones I have left.


Chapter Text



He didn't sleep at night.

Draco must have thought she hadn't noticed—though it must have crossed his mind at some point that of course she'd noticed—considering he didn't say a word about it. Still, Hermione could see how the terrible turn for the worse was affecting him.

When they crawled into bed, he always slid closer to her, seeking skin to skin contact. It was nothing new. Over the months, as they had grown closer, they were constantly gravitating toward one another. He tucked his head under her chin while she smoothed her fingers over his spine, tracing over every dip. And in the middle of the night, Hermione could feel him twitch in his sleep as he murmured, "Don't leave."

A week passed, and each night was worse than the last. She would overhear his daily conversations with Astoria—most of them concerned Scorpius—and how his attempts to coax her into treatment went ignored. Hermione didn't want to say she understood the woman's choice, especially not around Draco, but she had to admit that the text had stuck with her.

It crossed her mind several times a day.

Who were they to debate that quantity was more important than the quality of a young woman's—a young mother's—life? Even as she watched dark circles form under his eyes, Hermione couldn't bring herself to voice that he was right, that she agreed with him.

If he noticed it, Draco didn't comment on it.

Hermione had never been the best cook, though she knew more than enough to get herself by as an adult. She'd recently taken it on as a hobby, however, to the delight of Molly Weasley, who enjoyed the chance to pass on all she knew.

When Draco asked her why she'd suddenly started cooking, she'd replied that it was something to keep busy. Afterall, I spend so much time alone while you're at the hospital. It's a hobby for when I'm not writing. She considered herself quite lucky that he didn't mention how she wasn't writing at all.

Hadn't been for a few weeks at that point, actually.

The truth was something she'd only mentioned to Molly—and by extension, Charlie, who had been in the kitchen at the time. Draco could cook, but she was still better than him, even with low skill. However, he was constantly busy. Shifts at the hospital had been even longer as of late, stretching well past what had previously been their normal. He was on call often as they were looking to fulfill another surgical residency.

And when—if, she reminded herself hastily—Scorpius came to live with them, Draco wouldn't be home to prepare dinner.

Or breakfast.

Or lunch.

The concept was dizzying. Hermione's career left a lot of room for her to work from home if necessary, and Xenophilius wasn't going to bat an eye if she suddenly started working from home three days out of her five day work week. He was awfully accommodating, and she knew her colleagues wouldn't have a negative thing to say either.

While they hadn't discussed it, Draco wouldn't want to enroll Scorpius in child care. It was something he and Astoria had agreed to previously. The reason he hadn't fought for primary custody—and she knew how badly he had wanted it—was due to the fact that it would mean they would pay for someone else to spend a larger chunk of time with their son than they did.

She assumed Draco would be agreeable to allowing Molly to watch over him if something came up, considering his mother had formed a tight knit friendship with her.

As she stirred a pot mindlessly, Hermione glared out the window. Currently, Scorpius spent a few hours with his tutor Miss McGonagall, but the rest of his days involved his doting mother.

It was absolutely out of the question to go from that to him being with a stranger for the majority of his days at home. As Draco had told her during her miniature meltdown, he would only be this small once.

A year ago, she hadn't been entirely sure that she wanted to have children. Maybe if the right person comes along, Hermione had thought to herself then. Maybe I'm not meant to be a mother.

In the interest of being brutally honest, she still wondered about that sometimes.

Making the comparison of what she'd thought a year ago, and what she wanted now was cheesy, but she assured herself it didn't mean it was any less valid.

She hadn't been sure about having a family of her own, but now… It was all so different now. With every shop she entered, she found herself looking to buy something for Scorpius. She still read parenting books, and scoured the internet while weeding out false articles that claimed to be advice.

Sure, a year ago she hadn't been prepared to pause her career for a family. Becoming a stay-at-home 'mum' had never been in her plan.

But then I got this family.

Her mobile vibrated, and she opened a video from Astoria. Scorpius was counting to a stuffed dragon, demonstrating how high he could count. The message that accompanied it read: He told McGonagall how you taught him to count to fifteen. He's been doing this all day.

Perhaps there was no way to prepare to become a parent—especially not the way it could happen to her—but she was going to work at it every day.

I'm so proud of him.

"I'm so sorry." Draco blurted as he entered the bedroom. She'd taken to calling it their bedroom, but that was neither here nor there.

She folded another shirt before pausing. "What for?"

"Astoria called."

Dread filled her.

"It's not—I'm sorry. I could have worded that better than I did. She called to ask if we would take Scorpius for the weekend. I told her yes."

Hermione nodded. "Is that all? That's perfectly okay, Draco."

His shoulders slumped as he sighed. "I know I promised a weekend away, just the two of us,"

She crossed the room and wound her arms around his waist. Peeking up at him, she said, "I don't mind. It will still be a fun weekend. I was actually hoping we could decorate a Christmas tree the next time we had Scorpius? Or I mean, the next time you had—"

Draco's lips crashed against hers, and his fingers quickly knotted in her hair. "We have an hour before we need to leave."

Breathless, Hermione reached behind her blindly. "The suitcase."

He shoved it off the bed, and something cracked.

Hermione's eyes widened. "I think that was my laptop."

Draco swore. "Is everything saved?'

"Of course it is."

"We'll buy another tomorrow then," he muttered, pulling her shirt over her head before cupping her bra clad breasts. "Please don't fight me on this. Your laptop must have come out ten years ago. It's ancient."

"Haven't you heard?" Hermione grinned. "I like ancient things."

"Oh, I'll show you bloody ancient—"

"Careful not to put your back out, Dr Malfoy."

An hour later, Hermione found that she was the one deliciously sore as Draco ran a cloth up the inside of her thighs.

And his back certainly wasn't out.

They played a game on the way home, spelling out the alphabet from road signs and license plates.

When Scorpius realised just what they were doing when they entered the store, he had already decided that they needed green and silver ornaments. She was happy to go along with it as she bundled up the boxes in her arms, and she watched Draco fight to get the last larger sized tree. They'd opted for pre-packaged due to the fact that they were in a flat, but she'd mentioned that she wanted a real tree someday as they'd laid in the lazy afterglow of sex earlier that day.

She watched him look to the genuine tree, tugging his lip between his teeth as he internally debated it.

Scorpius carried the tinsel, and slipped his hand into hers. As the crowd had gathered, Hermione had chosen to just pick him up and carry him on her hip.

He'd fallen asleep on the way home.

"Do you mind if I carry him inside?"

Draco smirked. "Of course not."

While he lugged everything inside, Hermione carefully lifted Scorpius out of his carseat, and wrapped a blanket around him as brisk December air nipped his cheeks. Cradling him close, she climbed the stairs slowly, wary of any ice that might have formed.

"'Mione," Scorpius said sleepily, his little fingers curling in her blouse as she fished her keys from her pocket. "Tree?"

She stifled a laugh. "Tomorrow, sweetheart. You're tired."

"Am not."

"Of course you're tired. You're already asleep."

He lifted his head. "This is a dream?"

She had a suspicion that if she said no, he would make it a point to stay awake. This little boy had inherited his stubbornness from his father. "Yes, this is a dream."

"Stay?" he asked, snuggling closer, drifting off again before she could answer.

Hermione laid her keys on the table in the entryway, and made her way to Scorpius' room. Combing her fingers through his messy hair, she laid him on the bed. Even as she pulled his pyjamas from the chest of drawers, he didn't stir.

He did, however, snore.

She managed to undress him, and re-dress him without him waking up. Scorpius rolled over as she draped the blanket over him. His hand found hers, and he wrapped his fingers around her hand. Hermione sat beside him, watching his chest rise and fall with each shallow breath.

It was several moments later that she glanced up. Draco leaned against the door frame, arms folded over his chest. "Are you hungry?"

Hermione shook her head. "I'd rather stay right here."

Crossing the room in three steps, the bed dipped beside her as he sat next to her. "What is it, Hermione?"

"I keep expecting all of this to be a dream—and I do wish that part of it was just a terrible nightmare."

Draco rested his chin on her shoulder while he stroked her back. "Hermione?"

"I didn't know if I would ever have children."

Short puffs of air rolled across her collarbone.

"It's all I've been able to think about recently. At first, I was terrified, and I doubt I'll ever be completely confident, but now it's… I love him so much, Draco."

He wiped away the hot tears that escaped. "Oh, Hermione, he loves you. Even Astoria can't help but talk about it now. He talks about you all the time."

"I'm not sure what I did to deserve this with you, but I'm so grateful to have a place in his life. I don't want to imagine not having this." Hermione whispered. She ran her finger over Scorpius' knuckles. "I hate what's coming."

"I know."

She turned into Draco, still holding a much smaller hand in her own. "Astoria talks to me every day now. It's a far cry from how we started out. She's become a friend, and—" Hermione swallowed hard. "How do I thank her for giving me everything I never knew I wanted? It would feel cheap to do so, considering it means she loses it."

Scorpius made a weak sound as he fidgeted.

"I think you'll know just what to say to her when it's time," Draco assured her.

When it's time, Hermione blinked back tears.



"Not to lessen the seriousness of this conversation, but where did those pyjamas come from?"

It earned a laugh. Hermione wiped her eyes with her palms, already hating the sudden loss of Scorpius' hand in her own. "Oh, these? I bought them earlier this week."

Draco raised a pale brow.

"Along with other clothes I thought were cute. And some toys."

His lips parted. "Pardon?"

"Don't look in the closet." She giggled. "I can't help it. I used to wander stores for myself, but now I can't get out of one without buying something for him."

A low chuckle left him, and Draco wound an arm around her waist. He kissed her slowly, his thumbs stroking across her cheeks where tears had yet to dry, and leaned his forehead against hers. "I love you."

Hermione's eyes widened.

"I hadn't planned on saying that for the first time while you were crying, or while you put Scorpius to bed, but every time I watch you with him, I—"

She surged forward and slanted her lips against his. "Take me to bed, Draco." Hermione allowed him to lead her out of the room, and she cast one last look to Scorpius. As their bedroom door shut, save for a crack, she quickly unbuttoned his shirt. "I love you."

Hands smoothed over her hips after he pushed her jeans down, leaving them to pool at her feet. Draco divested her of her blouse, and dipped his head down to kiss her until she couldn't breathe.

"I love you." Hermione repeated, tracing a long scar over his broad chest with the tip of her finger. "I've loved you since— God, I don't know when. It feels like it's always been this way. Almost as if it's always been you and I."

Draco lifted her, urging her to wrap her legs around him. "I want to give you everything, Hermione. Do you understand that?" He sat at the edge of the bed, large hands skimming her sides as they followed a path he knew well.

Shifting in his lap, Hermione could feel her eyes beginning to water again. "I love you so much it hardly feels real."

His throat bobbed when he gulped. "I think this is what love is meant to feel like, Hermione. All encompassing." Draco unclasped her bra, and it fell to the floor. "Now that I've known you, I'm quite certain everything was always leading me to you."

"Draco," she gasped.

His hand slid between them. "And I intend on spending every moment of tonight worshipping every inch of you." Draco turned them, laying her against the pillows as he hooked his fingers in the sides of her knickers.

The next morning, Scorpius shoved their door open and the knob slammed into the wall. "Good God," Draco hissed into the column of her neck. "I'm never going to get my security deposit back."

She giggled. "Aren't you glad I insisted we put our clothes back on now?"

He groaned. "I don't even want to think about having that kind of conversation right now. Do you think if we ignore him, he'll go away?"

Hermione elbowed him sharply, landing a blow right between his ribs. "Draco!" She sat straight up, and the covers bunched around her waist. "Good morning."

Scorpius' face brightened and he jumped onto the bed, crawling toward her. "Morning, 'Mione." He pressed a kiss to her cheek. "Hey, Dad."

Draco looked affronted by his son's bored tone.

"Can we decorate the tree now?"

She pulled Scorpius into her lap, and dropped a kiss to the top of his head. "Of course we can, but we have to eat breakfast first."

Sighing, Draco slung his arm over his eyes, and twisted into the covers. "Five more minutes."

"Did you know," Hermione whispered loudly to Scorpius, "that your father is ticklish?"

Draco tensed.

Scorpius pounced.

They wrapped her in tinsel before they decided they really ought to put it on the tree. Glitter specks dotted her messy curls as she guided Scorpius, eventually picking him up to decorate above his eye level.

"When I grow up, I'll be taller than you."

Hermione smirked. "Do you really think so? What if you're always this little?"

He gaped at her. "No way!" Scorpius glared up at her once he was back on his feet. "I'll be tall."

Draco caught her eyes as he hung shiny baubles, hissing under his breath when he mistakenly pricked his fingers. "I'm sure you'll be as tall as me, Scorp."

Scorpius shook his head. "Taller."

"Taller?" Hermione echoed. "Your Mum's short, love. You might take after her."

"Noooo." He dragged out. "I want to be just like Dad." Scorpius picked up his hot chocolate from the table and guzzled it. His eyes were wide as he watched them. "Can we turn on the lights yet?" Taking Hermione's hand in his own, he rested his head on her hip.

Combing her fingers through his hair, Hermione's heart swelled. "What do you want for Christmas?"

Soft grey eyes peered up at her. "Candy. A bike. New toys."

A snort came from behind the tree. "Don't let him fool you. He's got a list a mile long."

"What about you?"

Hermione glanced from him to his father—who was fighting a series a ornaments that wouldn't fall perfectly no matter how hard he tried—and wished her answer wasn't as cliche as it was.

"I have everything I want."

The silence that followed was poetic. Draco leaned out from behind the tree, his features softening as he looked at the two of them over.

And then—

"Bullshite, you have to want something."

She burst into laughter as Draco questioned where he'd learned the word.


Hermione twisted in the passenger seat, her pen making a faint sound as it scratched across the legal pad she'd balanced in her lap. "Stop looking at me like that."

Shite. She'd caught him.

"I'm not worried about sitting down with your parents for lunch. Are you?" She didn't glance up as she doodled in the margins. "Draco?"

"No, I'm not worried about you. Mother has instructed my father to be on his best behavior, but last time, you caught him off guard. I'm more worried about what debate the two of you may get into this time."

Hermione raised her head. "Are you asking me not to argue?"

Flexing his fingers on the steering wheel, Draco snorted. "Certainly not. I'm not sure I've seen anything more entertaining than the way my father turned white as a sheet when you made a valid point."

She smiled.


Lucius welcomed them into the manor, wearing a smile that didn't quite catch his eyes. Narcissa hugged her, squeezed her, and then she led Draco from the room.

Which left her with a man that decidedly didn't like her.

"Miss Granger."

"Lucius," she greeted.

He grimaced, looking in the direction where his wife and son had disappeared to. "My wife has made it quite clear that my behavior over our dinner left much to be desired."

She shifted her weight, lacing her fingers together in front of her as the hem of her dress brushed against her legs. "To be fair, I doubt my behavior was ideal either."

The corner of his mouth twitched. "You're not what I expected when I heard Draco had found someone."

Swallowing, Hermione said, "Right. You wanted it to be Astoria, and I'm nothing like her."

While Lucius Malfoy didn't strike her as the type of man to fidget, his fingers curved around his cuff links. "Suffice to say, I've seen the error of that logic."

"Did you come to that conclusion on your own?" Hermione raised her chin. "Or was it due to the fact that I'm not going anywhere?"

Tucking his hands into his pockets, Lucius shook his head. "No, Draco made it clear that you weren't going anywhere months ago. Cissy adores you. My son has been besotted with you since his birthday, and you're all my grandson ever talks about now. Miss Granger, I don't expect you to approve of my excuses, or accept my apology, but once we learned that Astoria is—" He cleared his throat.

"Mr Malfoy?" she whispered.

"I've only ever wanted the best for my son, which I have to admit has led me down a path of not being the best father I could be. If you were the type of woman to leave him once she realised a relationship meant being a mother, I thought it was better for that to be revealed now."

Hermione nodded. It wasn't reasonable to act like a complete arse, but on some level—the level where this made sense to Lucius—she understood. "I love Scorpius, and I love your son, Mr Malfoy. I don't think this was the correct way to assess that—you could have asked me—but somehow, I don't think you do anything in a way I would perceive as normal."

As he chuckled under his breath, Lucius clasped one of her hands in both of his. "I'm happy to welcome you into this family. We should hurry before Draco starts to worry. I imagine the lack of yelling is a sign for him to come to my rescue."

Before she could comment on why it would be his rescue, Lucius opened his mouth again.

"You'll allow me a healthy debate every once in a while, won't you?"

She grinned. "As long as you're prepared to lose."


Christmas wasn't a one day affair.

Draco came to the Burrow with her, and she held a bundled Scorpius tight in her arms as Molly had ushered them in. At some point, either she or Charlie had decided to bring the rest of the family into the fold regarding the present situation, and Hermione counted herself lucky that nothing had mistakenly slipped about Astoria's condition.

Ron met her eyes as she entered, and the dopey smile that had crossed his face had warmed her. He'd sought her out while Scorpius played with Charlie, and pulled her into a tight hug. "You're gonna be a brilliant mum, Hermione." He patted her back and then Harry had hugged her.

And then Charlie had wrapped her into the tightest hug she'd ever been given while he rubbed her back.

It was—

It was good. There weren't enough words to explain the onslaught of emotions that had overtaken her while everyone passed along the same message as if they had known it was exactly what she'd needed to hear.

Scorpius fit right in with everyone else, and that was just the beginning of the day before Christmas Eve had fully settled in. The little boy had come home with a fully belly, and a car load full of toys from her family that had immediately taken him in without question.

She'd been around the corner when Ron told Draco he was happy they'd found each other, happy that she was more alive than he'd seen her in a long while. And she'd listened to Ron tell him that they took care of family, and anything they needed—

Hermione had broken away to stand outside while her eyes watered until Draco found her.

"You're so loved, did you know that?" he murmured, curling a strand of hair around his finger. "You take my life and make it full. You take my son and give him another family. You take my soul and make me whole."

She gasped when he kissed her until she couldn't breathe. Hermione cradled his face and whispered that she loved him over and over again.

They spent the night of Christmas Eve in Draco's flat. Scorpius opened all of his presents while they ate dinner, all of them already in their pyjamas as the seconds ticked by. They baked cookies for Santa Claus, and Scorpius ate at least half of them.

Hermione had put him to bed, and read him a new book that he'd gotten for Christmas while reminding him that he needed to go to sleep because they were leaving early in the morning. "We have to get you home to Mum tomorrow. Santa will stop by there too."

He nodded, and eventually he fell asleep to the sound of her humming while his fingers were clutching her hands.

The bed dipped below her as Draco rolled away from her. It normally wasn't enough to wake her, but then there was the sound of his phone ringing.

It ended.

It started again.

She cracked open eye open to see Draco sitting on the edge of the bed, his hand hovering over the lit screen of his mobile. "Is it the hospital? I thought you weren't on call tonight?" Hermione yawned.

His fingers were shaking. It was slight—he never trembled—and her stomach sank.

"It's Theo," he rasped. "He wouldn't call in the middle of the night for anything less than an emergency."

"Do you want me to answer it?"

He shook his head, and slid his finger across the screen. "Hello?"

Hermione couldn't make out the soft voice on the other end of the line, but she slid closer to Draco and wrapped her arms around his middle.

When the call ended, the phone slipped from his hand and landed on the carpet. Moments passed and she could feel his heartbeat quicken from under her fingers. "Astoria's been admitted to the hospital." His fingers closed around hers. "They say she doesn't have long. Possibly days, possibly weeks if we're lucky."

"We should leave right away. I'll pack our bags, and get Scorpius ready. Okay?"

Draco nodded, but his hands didn't fall away from hers. "I love you."

"I love you." She pressed her lips against the top of his spine, and dressed as quickly as she could.


Chapter Text



Draco pulled Scorpius from his car seat, shifting his son in his arms as Hermione wrapped a blanket around him. "Hermione, I can carry that."

She shook her head, shouldering the overnight bag she'd packed. "You should hold Scorpius right now. I think you're going to need him as much as he needs you." Keeping her voice low so neither of them would wake him, Hermione threaded her fingers through his.

Despite the fact that it wasn't easy to hold her hand while carrying Scorpius—he constantly squirmed while turning into Draco's chest—Draco didn't let go of her hand. He led her through the hospital, nodding his head toward a nurse behind the counter as the passed.

She addressed him as Doctor Malfoy and Hermione thought for the first time that this must have been his previous hospital. Neither of them said anything as the lift doors slid shut, and it began to climb floors.

"I don't know what we're going to tell him." Draco tugged her closer, and she laid her head on his shoulder. "He's going to wake up and find everything different."

Hermione squeezed his hand.

"He was supposed to spend Christmas with them today." He muttered, glancing down at her. "Is this what he'll think of when it's Christmas time now?"

The doors open with a drawn out wheeze. "We can't worry about that right now. I know you don't want him to wake up, and hear this, so we'll discuss it when we can be alone." They stepped out of the lift to find the floor empty, and the silence unnerved her. "I'm worried too, but we'll do everything we can to make it better."

As reassuring as she meant to sound, Hermione couldn't help but feel they were empty.

They rounded a corner, and Draco stiffened.

Her stomach dropped.

Theo sat in a plastic chair that was too small for him, and he was hunched over. He'd buried his face in his hands. Sensing them, he raised his head. "Is he awake?"

Draco handed Scorpius off to her, cupping her face. "Would you take him to get a snack from one of the machines? He's going to wake up soon."

Hermione nodded, and turned away.

"Jesus Christ, Theo, I'm sorry." Draco's soft voice could still be heard from where she stood, and Hermione watched him pull Theo into a hug.

As she made herself scarce, she heard the choked sob wrench free of Theo's chest.

She wished it was a sound she could forget.

Astoria woke up in the middle of the night, shortly after they arrived. Hermione sat quietly outside the room, fidgeting with her nails as Scorpius ate apple slices they'd gotten from the cafeteria. Luckily the woman who was preparing breakfast recognized him immediately, and had come right back with his favorite snack.

He had asked why they were at the hospital twice, and Hermione had taken the easy way out by distracting him.

The door cracked open, and Draco slid out. His eyes were red-rimmed as he knelt down in front of Scorpius. "What have you got there?"

"Apples," Scorpius said, his mouth still full as he grinned. "Lana remembers me."

"Of course she remembers you." Draco laughed quietly, but no mirth reached his eyes. He covered her hand with his own, resting them both on her knee. "I have some bad news, Scorp. We're here to see Mum."

Scorpius stiffened, his hand freezing inches from his mouth. "Mum?"

Draco nodded. "Mum's very sick. The doctors are looking after her right now, but we'll go in to see her soon."

"The doctors will make her better?" His hand fell to his side, and his apple slice slipped from his fingers. "You'll make her better, Dad?"

"I'll—" Draco forced himself to swallow, and Hermione could see his eyes begin to water. "I'll do everything I can.

As the sun filtered through glass windows, Hermione saw Lucius and Narcissa exit the lift. Their footsteps quickened as she stood, her legs weak. "Hermione!" Narcissa hugged her. "How long have you been here?"

"Theo called us at three this morning, and we came straight here. Draco's in the room right now with Scorpius. I thought it might be best if I was here when you got here, and well, I wanted them to have time alone."

Lucius gave a clipped nod, and pulled her into a one armed hug. "You poor girl. I can only imagine how overwhelming this must be." He rubbed her back while she searched his tone for any hint of sarcasm.

There was none.

Hermione wiped her eyes, and stared at her feet.

"What have you told Scorpius?" Narcissa sat next to her, gathering Hermione's hands in her own.

"Draco told him Astoria was sick."

Narcissa frowned. "There's no easy way to deliver such terrible news, especially when he's so young. I told her she should start treatment, but—"

While she didn't voice it, Hermione didn't agree. It was terrible, all of it, whether Astoria succumbed to cancer sooner rather than later. It wasn't something she would have wished on anyone, but the truth of it as seen through Astoria's eyes was that it would be far less traumatising if she were suddenly here one day and gone the next. Instead of prolonging the inevitable.

If there was a chance, Hermione. I swear, if there was a chance, I would stay, but there isn't one. It's a bitter pill to swallow, but the doctors have already told me I won't survive.

Astoria had told her that in the middle of the day when she'd had a question about cooking, about what Scorpius would rather eat, and it had quickly shifted to begging for her to stay.

Lucius caught her eye, seemingly knowing just what she was thinking, and gave a small nod.

It felt like the divides were slowly closing, and Hermione couldn't help but think that this wasn't the way she'd wanted that to happen at all.


He gave up his seat as Hermione entered the room, and stood behind her as she sunk into the spot just next to Astoria.

"How was dinner last night?" Astoria asked. "Did you try the recipe I sent you for dessert? It's Scorpius' favorite, isn't it? I told you."

Hermione's shoulders shook as her mouth opened and closed before she could form words. "I did. I burnt it the first time."

A loud, happy laugh filled the room, and from the corner of his eye, he watched Theo perk up at the sound. "You burnt it? How on earth did you burn it?"

"I left it in the over for forty-five minutes rather than twenty." Hermione deadpanned.

"Did you forget you were cooking?" Astoria sniggered. "Help me understand because I—"

"I was busy!"

"I thought you were cooking?"

His parents grinned from the foot of the bed.

"I was until your son decided to use the finger paints on the sofa!" Hermione exclaimed, and her lips were stretched into a broad smile. "I was still scrubbing the paint off when he asked what was burning."

Astoria reached for Hermione, smiling when she was able to grip Hermione's hands as they rested on the bed. "Our son, Hermione. Oh, don't cry." Hot tears rolled down Hermione's cheeks as she leaned forward, her forehead falling to lay against their hands. "Better your sofa though than mine."

Hermione's shoulders shook.

"Can you all give us the room?" Astoria stroked Hermione's hair with her free hand. She tilted her head toward Draco, lips framing the words: it will be okay.


Astoria whispered her name.

"Look at me."

She kept her head down, feeling every bit like a child, but Hermione couldn't force herself to raise her head.

"It's going to be alright, Hermione. I know it doesn't seem that way currently, but you'll see." She snuck her hand under Hermione's head, and tilted her chin up. "You've been taking this all on yourself is what Draco told me."

"I've talked to him about all of this."

"Yes, but only a few times. You're a team now, and anything that bothers you will bother him just the same." The hospital gown hung off of her, and her collarbones poked through her skin. "I'm sorry all of this has been put on you so suddenly."

"Please don't tell me you're sorry." Hermione rubbed her eyes. "You're the one suffering, and here I am making it all about me."

Astoria scoffed. "Hardly. You couldn't outshine me if you tried."

Hermione's lips twitched. That sounded more like the woman she'd first met so long ago. "I'm going to miss you. Can't imagine I would have said that in the beginning, but everything has changed."

"Family comes together in times of a tragedy. The Malfoys are going to close ranks around you—though I suspect Lucius has already started—and the Weasleys, of course. Draco told me last night how welcoming they were to him, to our son. And Hermione, he is our son."

Staring at the ceiling, she could barely force herself to breathe. "I'm not his mother, Astoria, not really. I'm going to step in and be here for every milestone of his life, but I'll be thinking that you're the one meant to be here for each one."

"Don't think that about yourself, Hermione. It's going to be hard to accept, but one day he'll call you Mum, and it will all be worth it. I was here for his first word, for his first steps, and I've watched him develop the adorable personality that's going to give you hell in ten years."

"Our son."

"When we first met, I was scared to death Scorpius might grow to love you more than me. After all, I was the woman who broke his father's heart, and eventually he'll grow up to learn that."

Hermione shook her head. "He'll know you were a good person. Astoria, all of that is over."

"It is. It's better for it, isn't it? If I hadn't had an affair, he'd have never found his way to you. My point is, before you so rudely interrupted me, that Scorpius has adored you for so long now. I can't imagine anyone else I would trust to be his mum. It's hard to say. I want to take him, and run away, and never let anyone take my place."

She slid the chair closer so Astoria wouldn't have to lean over so far.

"But you don't want to take my place so he'll forget about me. Maybe I don't get to live forever, but I get to live in him, and in the stories you'll tell him about me. Hermione, I want to ask you to take care of them, both of them. They're going to need you so much, and Draco is so stubborn that he never asks for help."

Hermione's voice was caught in her throat, and it was all she could manage not to burst into tears. "I'll take care of them. I promise. We'll always tell him about you so he can never have the chance to wonder who you are."

Astoria tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. "You're going to make the most brilliant mum, I know it. I want you to know that I already miss you. Calling you in the middle of the day for the last few weeks has provided the best distraction I could have had. Thank you for loving Draco where I failed, and thank you for loving our son."

Hermione kicked her shoes off immediately after entering the hotel room, and threw the key onto the table in the entryway. "You should sleep."

He shook his head, slowly peeling his jumper over his head. "You know as well as I do that I won't be able to sleep."

"You've been awake since—"

"So have you, Hermione." Draco snapped, and then his features softened as he realized what he'd done. "I'm sorry, it's just been a long day."

"I know." She picked up his jumper from where he'd thrown it and laid it in the chair. "But tomorrow may be even longer." Hermione sat at the foot of the bed, raking her fingers through her hair. "I'm sorry."

The mattress dipped below his weight as he joined her. Draco wrapped his arm around her shoulder and pressed a soft kiss to her forehead. "Me too."

Relaxing in the moments of silence they were lucky to have, she massaged his thigh as their breathing fell into the same pattern.

"I wanted to ask you about something. Last night, I was searching the flat for my present."

She jerked away from him, eyes widening. "You were what? Did you find it? Draco Malfoy, the quickest way to find yourself without a present is to spoil the surprise!"

He laughed, and it felt like she could breathe again. "No, but I found something else. It was rather interesting."

"As long as you didn't find your bloody present." She grumbled.

Draco's fingers slid against the curve of her spine, up and down until he did it all over again. "A piece of paper slipped out of your portfolio. It looked like character traits, and I promise it wasn't my intention to snoop through your things."

Heat flooded her cheeks, and she ducked her head down. She knew exactly what that piece of paper was, of course. It had been a thought that she hadn't expected to go anywhere in February, but then she'd met him.

And then he'd found it.

"Well, this is embarrassing."

He chuckled. "It's about me, isn't it?"

"Yes, when we first met, I was searching for inspiration, and well, here we are." Her cheeks were bright red.

"Have I been very inspiring?"

"Sometimes." Hermione grinned. "You're a foul, little snoop."

Draco pushed away from the bed, and hauled his bag onto the dresser. After rifling through it, he came to stand in front of her. "Give me your hand."

She blinked. "You're not—you're—"

"No, I'm not." Draco chuckled. "But good to know how that would have gone right now. Just give me your hand, love."

Hesitantly, Hermione opened her palm, and tilted her head to the side as he dropped a set of keys into her waiting hand. "What is this?"

Draco tucked his hands into his pockets. "I know you already have a spare key to my flat, but I can't imagine being apart from you for another day. I know the lease on your flat is still new, but please, Hermione. Move in with me."

Hermione closed the short space between them clumsily, and flung her arms around his neck. "Of course," she whispered into his throat, and followed him as he guided her onto the bed.

At some point, without anyone fully explaining, Scorpius realised Astoria wasn't going to leave the hospital. She wasn't going to come home, and on some level, he must have realised that nothing would be the same.

She witnessed his face fall when Astoria squeezed his hand a few days later, but she couldn't hold on. "I love you," Astoria sang under her breath, and pressed her lips to his forehead. "I love you more than anything in the world."

Hermione felt her heart chip when he cried, "I love you more, Mummy."

Unfortunately, he could only understand so much at a young age. And even so, it didn't mean he accepted it. Not even close. When they weren't in the room, Hermione would take him to the cafeteria while doing all she could to make him smile. Sometimes it worked, but it normally didn't at all. His eyes would water, and his lower lip would wobble, but not once did he ask her if his mum was going to be okay.

It spared Hermione from answering an impossible question, but childish hope slowly ebbed away, and that was so much worse.

"I love you, Hermione," Scorpius told her as they made their way down the corridor.

Lucius was on the other side of her, and if he was surprised—and she suspected he had to be—he didn't give any indication. "This is where you say it back," Lucius whispered, elbowing her lightly in the side to grab her attention.

"I love you more," Hermione promised fiercely, and slung him up into her arms.

It was the first time he'd smiled in days.

Hermione insisted on remaining outside the room after the doctor delivered terrible news that Astoria wouldn't live through the next day. She'd cried while Theo began to shake on her right, and Draco held Scorpius on her left—while also covering his ears.

He had broken the news in private, and she hadn't followed him.

But she hadn't needed to be beside them to hear the sharp cry of anguish that left Scorpius.

Or the sobs that had followed.

Daphne poked her head out of the room. "She wants you to be here, if you're okay with it."

Hermione followed her, and stood beside Draco. He grabbed her hand, clinging to it.

Scorpius laid in bed with Astoria, and out of all of them, she was the only one smiling. It seemed to fit in with the bravery of what she was doing, to continue smiling in the face of everything. She sang to him before everyone told stories around the room.

Draco told them how the pair of them had met, and it was a cute story that made Hermione laugh. They'd grown up together, and to be quite honest, they had never gotten along.

Her sister shared a story of how they had snuck out one night, and their car had broken down in the middle of the country. While they had never been caught—until today, that was—Daphne could clearly recall how worried the two of them had been that they would end up kidnapped.

When it came to Hermione, after all of the stories had been shared, she'd been certain they would skip her. "I—" she swallowed, but her mouth was dry. "I don't have any good stories, but when I first met Astoria, she hated me." Everyone laughed. "But now it's hard to think of going a day without talking to you. I think you're brave, and kind. I think I'll be lucky if I can be a fraction of the woman you are."

While everyone continued to share stories to comfort themselves, starting from the top all over again, Hermione listened as a mother sang one last song for her son, and Hermione was certain the words would never leave her.

Hermione and Draco didn't go to sleep when they arrived back at the hotel. His parents had insisted that they could stay the night in the manor, but they had chosen not to. Scorpius was already fast asleep in bed, clutching a stuffed dragon that he always slept with close to his chest.

She joined Draco out on the balcony despite the freezing air, and hugged him from behind.

"I hate that all we can do is wait."

She nodded.

His hands covered hers. "I love you, Hermione."

It felt like they were constantly repeating it now, but it didn't bother her.

They leaned into one another, neither willing to go to sleep without the other until Draco's mobile rang near two in the morning. On the other end of the line, she could hear Theo speaking through choked sobs.

When Draco turned to her, she pulled him close, and tucked his head under her chin. "I'm so sorry." He cried into her chest, and she held on until night turned into morning, and he'd long since fallen asleep.

Two weeks after the funeral, Hermione and Draco decided to make the move official. She'd been putting it off because it felt like it was too soon to be happy, and Draco told her it would always feel like it was too soon. When that hadn't worked, he pointed out that paying for two residences wasn't logical, and had won her over.

Charlie had brought all of the Weasleys to help them move from one flat to another. Ginny had played with Scorpius in the sitting room—and he was starting to laugh more—while Hermione barked orders about where to put her things. Draco, bless him, stayed out of her way.

Once the heavy things were moved, and there were only boxes left, all of them went to Sunday dinner at the Burrow. Scorpius had been delighted to find that he now had a permanent spot at the table.

Hermione and Draco argued over little things, like where he put his laundry, and when he left the seat up, and she fell into the loo at midnight. They bickered over dinner, but they didn't have any real disagreements.

And Hermione came to the conclusion that while life would never be perfect with its ups and downs and too sharp turns, she did feel that her life was more perfect than it had been at the beginning of the previous year. Even if there were messes, and even when Draco was almost always late coming home, she knew that she got to read Scorpius bedtime stories, and pursue her own dreams while she remained home during the day. Astoria was never far from her mind in the first six months as she shifted to a new life, and a new set of responsibilities.

As she loaded the dishwasher, she looked up to see Scorpius standing there. "What is it?"

"'Mione, please stay," His voice was small, and weak.

She knelt down on the floor in front of him. "I'm staying, Scorpius. I promise. You don't have to worry."


She wrapped her pinky around his and his face brightened. Hermione hugged him close to her chest, and spotted Draco smiling in the doorway. "Until the very end."


Chapter Text



His mobile vibrated in his pocket, and a slow smile curved his lips. Draco knew without a doubt it was Hermione asking where he was. "Straight to the grocer after your shift, and then straight home," she'd told him earlier that morning.

Of course, he'd agreed, but there was just one thing he needed to take care of first.

Flourish and Blotts was around the corner from their home, a cozy brick two story that she'd fallen in love with two years earlier. Even now, he could vividly recall how much she had loathed living in a flat. There had been enough room for the three of them, but she moved as if she felt caged.

And then she and Scorpius had brought home a new friend.

A four-legged friend to be precise.

"Oh, Cerberus won't get very big." Hermione had promised, though now he knew that slight tilt to the corner of her pretty mouth had meant she was lying.

In two months, Cerberus had nearly doubled in size, and while Draco had already had his suspicions, Hermione admitted he was a pure-bred Mastiff. Adopting a pet had played a large role in searching for a new home, and as luck would have it, they found a house that met their needs, and had a large, enclosed yard for him to run.

He knew that most likely, Hermione was sitting on the porch while Scorpius threw chew toys for Cerberus to catch. Or maybe they were playing tug of war, and sometimes when their son was lucky, Cerberus seemed to let him win.

In the beginning, Draco had worried that a large dog would be difficult to manage with a young child, but Hermione had carefully taught Scorpius manners when it came to dealing with dogs. Cerberus had spent weeks in a training program—though Hermione had wanted to do it herself, but at the time had been wrapped up in deadlines—and Draco's worries easily melted away.

Pulling his mobile from his pocket, Draco smirked. He would return her call as soon as he left the shop, but she was too clever for him to risk her realizing what he was up to. Draco swiped his purchase from the section for new releases, and made his way to the clerk.

As he slid his card, she said, "I stayed up all night reading this. I loved it."

"I'm sure my wife will be thrilled to hear it."

Her mouth dropped open. "You mean…?"

He nodded, pointing to the name at the bottom. "Hermione Granger is actually Hermione Malfoy, but she tells me that I didn't write the book so my bloody name isn't allowed on it." Draco chuckled.

Eyes brightening, the girl giggled. "Would you mind telling her how much I enjoyed it?"

Hermione would lose her mind.

Hopefully that would make her forget that he'd forgotten to grab ice cream—and he had just realized it himself. "I'll be sure to do that. Thank you."


Scorpius stared at her, and all she could see was white.

Flour blanketed the kitchen, their faces, and Cerberus, and he swiped it across the floor as his tail swished back and forth. She broke down into giggles as she ran her thumb under his eyes to clean up the flour. "We look ridiculous."

"Yeah, but it was fun." Scorpius giggled. He reached up and ran his finger down her nose. "You're covered."

The door opened, and it was all she could think that of course it was now that Draco finally came home. "Before you scold me, I did forget the ice cream, and I'm sorry—what happened here?" He paused in the doorway.

"You forgot my ice cream?" Hermione echoed.

"You're in for it now." Scorpius said.

Draco snorted. "Let's focus on the fact that the kitchen is covered in flour first. How did that happen?"

Hermione looked at Scorpius, and sighed. "I dropped a bag of flour. It went, well, poof and I think you can piece the rest together yourself. We thought we might try our hand at baking."

He closed the distance between them, and leaned down to press a kiss to her forehead. "Oh? Do you think you'll be trying again?"

Scorpius gagged at the display of affection. "Gross! Don't kiss my mum in front of me."

Grey eyes met hers—nearly the same shade as his father's—and Hermione grinned. "Why don't you go clean yourself up?"

"Can I give Cerberus a bath outside?"

"Oh, yes," Hermione laughed. "Go ahead because I certainly don't want to." She watched as Scorpius raced toward the glass door that led into the backyard, and the white footprints—plus the paw prints—that led to it. "You know, sometimes I can't believe it's been five years since you came into my life, and made me see everything I was missing."

His hands framed her face, and he smiled. "It doesn't always feel real, does it?"

Hermione shook her head. "I've never quite gotten used to Scorpius calling me his mum. Still makes my eyes water sometimes." She nuzzled her cheek into his hand. "What took you so long?"

He held up his hand, a plastic sack dangling from his fingers. "I meant to do this earlier this week, but I thought," his voice dropped to a murmur as his lips skimmed the shell of her ear. "You might appreciate it more today."

She lifted an eyebrow, and then she recognized the shop's logo on the side. "Did you buy me a book for Valentine's Day?" Hermione grinned.

"No," he grumbled, reaching into the sack. "I bought your book for Valentine's Day."

Hermione's breath caught in her throat. Gripped easily in her hand was the book she'd spent so many agonizing nights over trying to convince herself that she could do it at all. "Why?" she asked breathlessly. "You know that story from cover to cover, Draco. I seem to remember us discussing it until both of us were sick of it."

Draco opened the book, and flipped forward a few pages. "Will you sign my copy?"

With shaking hands, Hermione took it from his hands. "You have such a flair for dramatics." She ignored his snort. "Have you read the dedication yet?"

"I haven't. You told me that you wanted me to wait."

Scorpius' laugh echoed in the backyard, and they heard Cerberus bark.

Clearing her throat, Hermione said quietly, "For Draco and Scorpius Malfoy—who taught me everything I know on how to love, and how to be loved in return." She grabbed a pen from the counter, giving a soft laugh as she realized she was still covered in flour. Hermione signed her name and laid the book on the counter. "I love you so much."

Draco's lips crashed down on hers, and he walked her backward, hands settled on her hips. "What are the chances that we can send Scorpius to play with Potter's kids? They're right down the street."

"Harry and Ginny left those two with Molly. You're out of luck, Malfoy."

The door slammed open, and Hermione lost her footing. Draco fell with her, and all she could hear was Scorpius' laughter as Cerberus jumped on them.

"Dog pile!" Scorpius yelled.

Hermione looked at Draco. "Happy Valentine's Day."

"You know, I would rather you be the one kissing me rather than—" Draco started as Cerberus licked a long strip up the side of his face. "Oh, that's just gross."

Scorpius peeked over his father's shoulder, sticking his tongue out. "What's so special about today? Valentine's Day is gross."

With any luck, Hermione thought wryly, he would continue to think girls were gross too for some time yet.

"I met Hermione on Valentine's Day." Draco said, his features softening. "One of the best days of my life."

"Yeah, after you had me." Scorpius rolled his eyes. "Will you tell me about how you met? And about…how you met my mum too?"

Hermione rested her head against the floor despite the flour. "Yeah, we'll tell you all about it. Anything you want to know."