Chapter 1: Light Beams
Hermione Granger wasn’t meant to be attached to the bar at midnight on a Friday. She wasn’t supposed to be toasting strangers and knocking back shots of vodka in a Muggle club. She didn’t even taste the alcohol anymore. The burn down her throat was comforting. What number was this? The sharp clink of the glass hitting the counter rang in her ears even though the bass from whatever the DJ had chosen to play reverberated through her body. She wanted to keep her eyes shut and feel the alcohol make its slow journey to muddle up her brain. It was good. Great even, when she could no longer remember who or where she was. That was always the goal. She could feel her face tingle as she brushed her hair away from her forehead. The tall bronzed woman with dreads that was mixing drinks caught Hermione’s attention as a small sliver of flesh peeked out from her top as she stretched to pour a colourful cocktail. Georgia, the bartender, caught Hermione’s stare and gave her a small wink before turning away. She was cheeky. Hermione liked that.
She’d met Georgia six months ago when she’d drunkenly made a comment about how pretty her hazel eyes were. Hermione was too pissed to actually stand before she’d been cut off that night. She couldn’t apparate back to her flat and somehow she’d been able to tell Georgia her address before she passed out in a taxi. Not one of her finest moments. It was an absolute miracle that she hadn’t thrown up on anything. Or anyone. Georgia had been there to help Hermione change out of her clothes into something more comfortable before guiding Hermione to her bed.
‘I don’t usually get this sloshed,’ Hermione slurred as she tried to stop the room from spinning.
‘It’s none of my business, love.’
Georgia helped Hermione pull the light blue duvet back as Hermione flopped down onto the mattress.
‘Your face is all blurry,’ she giggled as she tried to focus on the random woman who’d helped her home. ‘You’re still pretty and I look like shite.’
The woman laughed. ‘You need to sleep this off.’
‘You remind me of him.’
And she’d passed out.
Somehow they’d become friends and Hermione still hadn’t told Georgia who exactly she reminded her of. Their features were vastly different – it didn’t have anything to do with their physical attributes. The confidence and the way it was so hard to read their faces like they were such an enigma. Granted, Georgia was nicer at times, but she could still be arrogant. She knew she was beautiful and smarter than the average person. Everything about that attitude had Draco written all over it which had to be part of the reason why Hermione was so drawn to her. It was like a double edged sword. To be reminded of him constantly, but to be comforted by feeling like his presence was still around her. It didn’t make sense which was why she’d taken up drinking and let her nights pass by in a blur. It was easier to have the room spin and wake up with a hangover the next day than to think of his shirts buried in one of her drawers or his favourite brand of whiskey hidden in a kitchen cabinet. She wasn’t supposed to be this girl. She was reasonable and she understood what it meant to be realistic until she’d fallen in love with Draco Malfoy. It wasn’t supposed to mean anything. It didn’t have to mean anything.
She could vividly remember the moment she’d known he had become a problem. She’d woken up one morning with his fingertips against her cheek. His grey eyes were soft as he watched her eyes flutter open and the corner of his mouth tilted in a small smile. It wasn’t a smile she’d ever been privy to. She didn’t even know he could smile like that. She could feel her heart beating in her chest, the sound pumping in her eardrums.
‘Morning,’ he said quietly as he tucked a curl behind her ear.
And she’d just stared as though she’d never seen this man in her bed before.
‘G’morning,’ she whispered, her voice cracking. ‘Have you been up for long?’
‘Does it matter?’
No, it hadn’t mattered. There wasn’t anything else she could think of saying. She’d held his gaze as he shuffled himself a bit closer and that scent of his, a slight cedar, made its way to wrap itself around her. His hand was warm against her cheek and she never understood how someone who looked so cold could emanate as much warmth as he did. It was a stupid thought to always have in the back of her mind because it wasn’t as though he was a vampire. Although, his skin almost seemed translucent enough for him to pass as one. Draco Malfoy was hard in all of the places she was soft and very obviously cared more about his appearance than she ever did. She could feel the hair at her nape starting to frizz. Why was it so hot?
‘Is there a reason you’ve turned so red?’ he murmured, his breath dancing across her face.
‘I…not particularly,’ she stammered, trying to quickly turn onto her back. He’d stopped her by moving his hand away from her face to grasp her waist.
‘Really, Granger. Since when do you shy away from answering a question?’
And she’d kissed him to make him shut up because she hadn’t wanted to go down that road of questioning. Nothing made sense when it came to him and it wasn’t a topic that she wanted to explore. It still wasn’t a topic that she wanted to explore as she downed another shot that someone had pushed her way. The lights were starting to blur, but she didn’t think this was a night where she had to worry about being sick in the bathroom. She made her way to the dancefloor because she didn’t want to talk to anyone at the bar. She knew that she seemed like the perfect target to pursue. She saw it every night. People were like magnets at the club. This was the last place she should’ve wanted to be as she caught another couple snogging in one of the VIP booths. She could feel the envy that rushed through her veins as she stared and tried to dance to the rhythm of the music pounding in her ears. Maybe they weren’t even in love, maybe it was a fling. Maybe someone was cheating. Maybe --.
Someone bumped into her. Or rather, she bumped into them because she didn’t know how to mind her own business. Why was she staring at strangers anyway? She turned and made eye contact with a fairly tall man. Then the strobe lights hit and she recognised him immediately. She assumed he was just as stunned as she was going by the way his deep set almond eyes widened. He was handsome with plush lips, dark walnut skin and high cheekbones.
She needed to leave. She tried to push her way through the wall of sweaty gyrating bodies. It felt like she was suffocating and the nice buzz that she had going suddenly disappeared. Where was the exit? Why were strobe lights so incredibly annoying? She felt a hand wrap around her wrist and suddenly she was being pulled in the opposite direction. She tried tugging her arm away to no avail as she continued being dragged across the club to what she assumed was the exit. The warm summer air hit her immediately.
‘Let go of me,’ she grunted out, finally tugging her wrist out of his grasp. She stumbled backwards before steadying herself.
‘You’re absolutely pissed,’ he muttered under his breath.
‘I’m at a club on a Friday evening, Zabini,’ she hissed, glaring at him. ‘Why the hell are you at a Muggle club? Or have you gone through the catalogue of witches at Knockturn Alley?’
‘So this is what you do now, Granger? Get pissed alone at night clubs?’
‘How do you know I’m alone? I could have friends in there. Maybe I’m with some bloke. Why does it matter to you? I’m having fun. I do what I want to do and I don’t have to answer to anyone,’ she said, turning to walk away. ‘It was really nice catching up, Zabini.’
‘Draco wants to see you.’
She stopped. She felt like she was about to sick on the sidewalk.
‘He’d made it quite clear that he never wanted to see me again.’
‘Look, Draco says a lot of things. He doesn’t always mean it.’
Hermione narrowed her eyes. ‘How do you know about us?’
‘Draco is good at keeping secrets, but he isn’t as mysterious as he thinks he is.’
‘Gods, you’re not even here per his request.’
‘I know my friend.’
‘Well, your friend is a bastard and I don’t want to see him,’ she spat. ‘And I can guarantee you that if I showed up at his flat his wards would absolutely ensure that I wouldn’t be able to get in.’
‘Not if you came with me.’
‘Are you mad?’ Hermione cried out, ignoring the attention that she was starting to attract. She could feel the bile rising in the back of her throat. ‘Just get away from me.’
She had to sit down. Blaise Zabini’s face was starting to blur and she could feel her head start to spin as she lost her balance. She felt herself land into something soft as her eyes shut and she blacked out.
Her head was pounding and her mouth tasted sour. She could barely remember last night which meant Georgia had probably gotten her another taxi. Her bed felt wrong and her blankets were not this light or soft. Why did it smell like tea? Did Georgia take her home instead? She couldn’t bear to sit up as she opened her eyes and groaned.
‘Clubs really aren’t for you, Granger.’
Her eyes caught Blaise sitting back in a suede loveseat perpendicular from the sofa she found herself lying in. This had to be a sick joke. Immediately she felt for her wand that was tucked into her side. It was still there.
‘Don’t try to get up otherwise you’ll get sick all over the fairy cotton.’
‘Why am I here?’
‘You don’t remember embarrassing yourself in Muggle London?’
She had a very vague memory of trying to get out of the club. The night had blurred and blended together after the last shot she’d had.
‘Just answer the damn question,’ she breathed, pressing her fingers against her temples. ‘Don’t you have a Pepper-Up potion?’
‘When you can assure me that you aren’t going to sick all over yourself and my property again there’s tea on the coffee table.’
Hermione sighed and shut her eyes. Out of all the people to have passed out on why did it have to be Blaise Zabini? She should’ve stayed at the bar like she usually did. The universe really hated her. She focused on her breathing for a few minutes before forcing herself to sit up on the couch properly. She stared at the white teacup before picking it up.
‘Merlin, if I was going to poison you I would’ve done it hours ago,’ Blaise scowled.
Hermione still sniffed the tea before she drank it. There was mandrake root mixed in somewhere and it didn’t smell entirely nefarious. It was like night and day once the potion hit and her head stopped throbbing. She took in her surroundings and wasn’t surprised by the luxury that Blaise surrounded himself with. There was an ornate Victorian fireplace directly across from where she was sitting. The walls were cream coloured and there were floor to ceiling windows that had curtains that matched his couches.
‘I’m sure you’ve deduced that you passed out sometime after I spotted you. Although, I’m not sure you’ll remember seeing me as you could barely stand by the time I’d gotten close enough to talk to you. For the brightest witch of our age you have poor decision making skills.’
Hermione rolled her eyes. ‘I was drunk. I like to go out.’
‘Alone, mind you.’
‘I wasn’t alone!’ she snapped, setting the teacup down and causing it to clatter on the saucer.
‘Someone would’ve come outside looking for you.’
‘I’m very independent.’
Blaise scoffed. ‘Right.’
‘I’m going to go now,’ she said, standing up and smoothing her dark floral patterned skirt down.
‘I have anti-disapparition wards up.’
Of course he did. Why did it have to be Blaise Zabini? She flopped back down into the sofa unceremoniously and sighed loudly. She thought Muggle London was fairly safe as she knew the people Malfoy associated with most likely wouldn’t be caught there. Blaise Zabini had never outright said he supported Lord Voldemort at Hogwarts, but he was a pureblood who seemingly cared about blood purity. Hermione had ignored him for the majority of the time when they went to school with one another. She never asked questions about him after they’d graduated from Hogwarts. She didn’t care. She’d seen him every now and then at a fundraiser for St. Mungo’s which meant he had a connection to the hospital in some way. She didn’t know what field he ended up in or if he even ended up working anywhere. He seemed to have done well for himself, but he’d been wealthy when they were younger anyway. Malfoy mentioned him here and there because they were friends. Again, she never asked questions. It was strange to be sat here with him staring right at her when they’d barely uttered a word to each other in years. She wondered if Malfoy had ever mentioned her. Probably not. Maybe he did though? Maybe he’d spoken about his conquest. Perhaps he’d made a joke about getting into her knickers the way blokes sometimes did. Especially because she was supposed to hate him. They were supposed to hate each other. Or Malfoy never mentioned her at all. Granted, if that had been the case she wouldn’t be here in Blaise Zabini’s sitting room.
‘What do you want, Zabini?’ she sighed for what felt like the thousandth time.
‘You’re drinking because of him,’ he stated. ‘Why is that?’
‘I don’t know how many times I’m going to have to tell you that I like to go out,’ she said, getting increasingly annoyed by the second. ‘I’m sorry. Am I not allowed to have fun? Does this ruin the idea that you’ve formed in your head about who you think I am?’
‘A person doesn’t drink as much as you have just to have fun. Have you given that a thought or are you delusional?’
‘You don’t know me,’ she remarked.
‘It was an observation.’
There was something about Slytherins that still got under her skin. It felt immature to box people into their houses, but there were so many similarities between the majority of them that it was hard not to. Blaise still hadn’t answered anything and most likely wouldn’t. The only thing he seemed to care about was calling her out on her binge drinking because he wouldn’t shut up about what he thought of her being a light weight. He was bang on about why she was drinking, but she didn’t know how or why he knew that. Why did he know about her? To the general public Malfoy should’ve been busy making eyes at Astoria Greengrass.
‘Malfoy told you about me,’ she started. ‘Why?
‘He didn’t have to tell me very much after I’d seen the way he looked at you in that dress at the Minister for Magic’s birthday a couple of months ago.’
Hermione blinked. ‘I didn’t see you there.’
‘You were distracted,’ he said, pointedly staring at her. ‘Pretending not to be aware that he was there until he’d dragged you off somewhere.’
Hermione refused to blush, but she knew that her face had to have turned a touch pink. She remembered Kingsley’s birthday and she hadn’t known he’d been invited initially until Harry had mentioned it in passing when they’d gotten to the venue. She’d been stupid not to expect him to be there when he worked to aid in potion’s antidotes at the Ministry of Magic. Malfoy was cordial with everyone inside and outside of his department. Why wouldn’t Kingsley Shacklebolt invite one of the shining stars in that department? She really was a moron. She’d been sipping her champagne when Malfoy had interrupted a conversation she was having with Alice Tolipan.
‘He’s called off the engagement, Granger.’
‘He’s…what?’ Hermione frowned. ‘His inheritance depends on that marriage.’
‘It’s been off for the past few months.’
Malfoy had already been engaged when they’d become friendly at work. He barely mentioned Astoria Greengrass, but it was very obvious to everyone who read any of the papers that they were followed regularly by the tabloids. At first there had been the formal announcement from Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy and then the snapshots of them on dates followed quickly. The ring was a beautiful Malfoy heirloom – a silver band set with an orange pink diamond in the centre with small glittery diamonds surrounding it. Every time it glittered in a picture it felt like Hermione was being taunted by what she could never have with a man who was relatively unavailable. And it wasn’t as though marriage was in her future anyway, so what did it matter?
‘Zabini, I should really go,’ she began. ‘I’m not entirely sure what this has to do with me, but the last time I’d seen Malfoy it was clear to the both of us that he never wanted to see me again.’
‘Draco ends his relationship with you and then he ends the engagement with Astoria. You really think his decision is unrelated to you?’ Blaise questioned.
‘That’s Malfoy’s problem,’ she said quietly. ‘He made his choice.’
‘Draco chose you and now you aren’t speaking to him.’
‘He didn’t choose me. He would never choose me. And from what I recall the ignoring is mutual.’
And it was. She barely saw him at the Ministry anymore and she’d made it a point to eat her lunch in her office because she refused to find herself in a situation where they could run into each other. Hermione always got to work half an hour earlier than the rest of her colleagues. Malfoy and Hermione worked in different departments which meant they were on different levels. She wasn’t the head of the department so she had no reason to talk to Malfoy. The project that he initially approached her for had been completed months ago. It was very easy to avoid seeing him, but it wasn’t as easy to avoid thinking of him when it felt like she was reminded of him everywhere she went. The café across her flat? Tainted. The pub by St. James’s Park Station? Tainted. Her flat? Tainted. Her office? Ruined. Peace and solitude didn’t exist in the recesses of her mind anymore. And it was all because she couldn’t seem to keep her emotions detached when it came to sex. That was a lie – she could have casual sex, but apparently not with Draco Malfoy. She’d slept with Charlie Weasley a couple of times whenever he was back from Romania for the holidays and she spent time at the Burrow or Shell Cottage. It had been innocent enough when they’d cuddled one time after Hermione had had an argument with Ron. Things had never really progressed with Ron after she’d made the move to kiss him in the Chamber of Secrets. It didn’t feel the way she’d expected it to and he’d agreed after they tried to date. After all the time they’d spent together he became a brother to her in the same way as Harry. Charlie had been different. He was calmer, a bit rough around the edges, but he knew how to be enticing. And that was how Charlie’s hand ended up in her shirt and the other down her pants on Christmas Eve.
Malfoy wasn’t calm. He was hard to read. He never gave away too much and kept to himself. He was charming, but he was such an arsehole. Every time he touched her all she felt was heat, it was like a flame trying to lick her from a bonfire. The worst part was that he actually listened to her whenever she would go off on a tangent during his project and then humour her with a response. He could keep up with her when she spoke of the advantages and disadvantages regarding Moonseed to effectively stop Spattergroit from spreading. He even had notes on whether Moonseed and Moondew combined together could potentially cure the symptoms of Spattergroit full stop. She never doubted his intelligence, but looking through his notes had given her an entirely different picture of who Draco Malfoy was. She assumed that Snape had had a hand in how proficient he was in potions. His notebooks were reminiscent of what Snape’s notes looked like in his copy of Advanced Potion-Making. Malfoy had her respect in that regard. It was hard to argue with someone who had concrete evidence from studies and experiments that he was in control of.
‘So that’s it then. You’ll drink yourself into a stupor every night until you vomit on the next unsuspecting stranger.’
‘At the end of the day what I do isn’t any of your business,’ she said, crossing her arms. ‘I don’t know where you get off kidnapping me and then entrapping me in your flat.’
Blaise Zabini’s face broke out into a toothy grin and then a laugh escaped his mouth. This wasn’t funny. All she wanted was to go home. Not even Luna had subjected to her to such questioning and she somehow knew things she shouldn’t have known. She knew that Hermione had been entangled with Malfoy and how ‘fond’, that was the word Luna had used, she was of him. Hermione knew Luna hadn’t dared use the word love because she cared about her friendship with Hermione, but most importantly Luna valued her life. Hermione would’ve hexed her into Hell.
‘This isn’t my ideal Saturday morning either, Granger,’ he replied composing himself. ‘If you hadn’t been drunk off your arse this could’ve been dealt with last night. I wasn’t going to leave you on the sidewalk passed out in your own vomit. Even I have boundaries.’
‘Fine, you have a point. Thank you for helping me last night,’ she replied. ‘What I won’t thank you for is keeping me here when I want to leave.’
‘All you have to do is talk to Draco.’
‘And I’ve already told you, he doesn’t want to see or talk to me.’
‘What did he say to you that has you so fucked up, Granger?’
Hermione cleared her throat. ‘That isn’t up for discussion.’
Hermione hadn’t talked to anyone about the conversation. She barely wanted to think about it. Luna had found her wiping tears away in her flat all those months ago. It felt humiliating to sit there as Luna rubbed her back. Luna didn’t ask and she didn’t pry, she was just there for Hermione. Her sparkling blue eyes had been so soft and understanding that Hermione ended up sobbing once more into her hands. She knew she had blubbered on unintelligibly for far too long when Luna had brought her over to her bed to tuck her in smoothing her hair back until Hermione had fallen asleep. Unsurprisingly, Luna had spent the night curled beside her.
‘He feels bad, you know,’ Blaise said with a levelled stare. ‘He goes to work, goes home. He won’t speak to Theo and he’s barely speaking to me. I’m assuming he hasn’t communicated with his parents.’
‘Oh, that’s rich. He feels bad. He feels bad?’ she retorted. ‘Malfoy made his choice when he told me that he was just using me as his little whore because he couldn’t fuck Astoria until their wedding night. A little pureblood stipulation her lovely parents were adamant about. I was stupid enough to think that he respected me just a tad from all the time we’d spent together. It was a bloody mistake. He was engaged and I knew better, but I still fucked him and let him infect every waking moment. And I want to hate him, but I can’t. I could never claim him because he was betrothed to another woman and I was weak enough to fall in love with him. And he knew it.’
‘Granger, you --’
‘No,’ Hermione spat. ‘I don’t know what I expected, but I didn’t expect to have feelings for Draco Malfoy of all people. It was supposed to just be sex. All those stupid stolen kisses in my office and bringing takeaways for dinner in the evening. It didn’t mean anything. And I wondered whether or not Astoria knew something was going on because he would go home late or he wouldn’t go home at all. He probably lied and said he was working on a project at work. Which, for the record, that’s how this all started. Late nights in the office talking about Moondew and Moonseed or was it Moonstone? Gods, it doesn’t even matter. None of this matters.’
She could feel her throat getting drier by the second as it tightened. Zabini wasn’t even looking at her anymore. She bit the inside of her cheek as she shut her eyes and rested her head on the back of the couch to try to calm herself down. She couldn’t cry in front of him. She needed to pull it together so that she could leave with some of her dignity intact.
‘You’re wrong,’ a voice said softly somewhere in the room.
Chapter 2: Shivering Gold
This was a nightmare. She was going to wake up in her bed tucked in smelling like vodka and everything would be fine again. She could go out, drink more and pass out. Rinse, repeat. Rinse, repeat. None of this was real and she wasn’t in Zabini’s flat. She was in bed. All hope that this wasn’t real suddenly diminished when the cedar floating in the air hit her and she wanted to sink into the ground to never resurface.
‘Zabini, if that isn’t a fucking Boggart I swear to all of the Gods that I will wring your neck the Muggle way very slowly,’ she hissed trying to keep her eyes shut.
‘Granger…’ Blaise hesitated. ‘This was the only way. I apologise.’
Hermione reached for her wand and pointed it at Blaise. ‘You don’t get to make this decision for me. I want to leave. Now.’
She could already feel Malfoy’s energy in the room. She was trying her best not to look in the direction of the fireplace where she assumed he was standing. Zabini’s face was blank as he stared at the tip of her wand. And then her wand was flicked out of her hand. Her wrists were bound together by a thin black rope and once she tried to stand she realized the rest of her body had been stuck to the couch. It was a dirty game for Malfoy to use wandless magic against her, but she should’ve known better. She was going to fucking curse the both of them once this was over.
‘Let me go,’ she breathed, trying to shift her body. ‘Please, I’m begging you. I just want to leave. Please.’
And then Malfoy was beside Zabini holding her wand. His grey eyes were searching hers as he studied her before sitting down. He murmured a few words that she couldn’t catch and Zabini nodded as he stood. Her heart was racing.
‘Zabini,’ she begged. ‘Please, don’t leave me here with him.’
‘He’s my mate, Granger,’ he said, lowering his eyes before turning his back to her and walking away to disappear in a hallway.
‘Well, fuck you too,’ she hissed and turned to glare at the man who had taken Zabini’s spot on the loveseat.
Malfoy looked the same except his hair had grown out a bit as he had some hair tucked behind his ear. He was wearing his work robes – unusual for a Saturday. He was adamant about only working Monday to Friday. She could feel the rush of blood to her head as they made eye contact.
‘I’ve been watching you.’
She was speechless. She should’ve suspected that there was more to Zabini bringing her over to his flat. It was too much of a coincidence for him to find her in Muggle London at a club.
‘I assumed that after a few weeks it would’ve gotten old for Hermione Granger,’ he continued. ‘But it didn’t. For six months you’ve been at that club with that girl…What was her name again? Georgia? She’s very pretty, isn’t she?’
‘You need to let me go.’
‘Silencio,’ he drawled lazily. ‘When I saw you take her home with you, your hands all over her before you’d even gotten through the door…I must say I was quite surprised. I never knew you had it in you.’
Hermione swallowed. He was watching her for what exactly? He wanted to see the fruit of his rejection and the way she was barely dealing with it like a daft cow? Georgia was a friend with benefits and it really didn’t mean anything because it was just a bit of fun. Was he jealous? Because the last time she’d checked he was the one who had told her whatever it was they had was over.
‘You need new blinds,’ he sneered. ‘It’s a little careless to keep them open for all to see when you have that girl fucking you to forget about me. It was a lovely little show.’
She was shooting daggers with her eyes. She wanted to curse him so badly that it hurt. How dare he invade her privacy when he was the one who wanted to be rid of her.
‘I was curious about you,’ he said, narrowing his eyes. ‘I could barely catch you at the Ministry. You were hiding away in your little office until you could go home. Alice really misses seeing you come down to level three – always tittering on about how nice you are.’
Malfoy stood making his way over to her. He pushed the coffee table away so that he could crouch in front of her. His face was a few inches from hers. She missed the way he smelled and she hated how much she enjoyed the cedar and black tea invading her senses as she took a deep breath. Her pulse was increasing and from how close Malfoy was she imagined he could see the blood thrumming by her neck.
‘I’ve never seen you that shitfaced before,’ he whispered, his breath caressing her lips. ‘I hated the way you made me feel. I hated seeing your lips on that woman as she dragged her hands down that body that I knew. As I said, I’d expected this…self-destructive journey of yours to last a couple of weeks at most. And now it’s been months since I ended everything with Astoria and you didn’t even know.’
His thumb rubbed her bottom lip gently.
‘I hated you because you were making me want things that I should have never wanted,’ he voiced. ‘I had already accepted that my marriage to Astoria would be one of convenience. There wouldn’t be love or passion, but we would’ve fulfilled our parent’s wishes. We got along well enough. We would’ve had kids, maybe an affair or two. I didn’t care. The conditions of my inheritance would’ve been met. And then you came bouncing along into my office one afternoon with your stupid curls. Taking your blasted robe off looking as fit as you do like you had no care in the world. I’d told myself you weren’t my type, but my blood was already boiling for all the wrong reasons. And you argued with me about the properties of some potion and you were always winding me up. You’re still an annoying little know it all. You know almost everything and you never shut up about it. And then I fucked you and it was downhill from there, wasn’t it? I’d hear you squeal with joy when I brought lamb kebab and I found myself wanting to hear that noise more. I wanted to have you fix my collar for me or smooth out a wrinkle on my robe with your hands instead of charming it away. I wanted to feel your breath on my neck and your fingers on my sides when you spooned me at night.
‘I’m sorry. I wanted to push you away. You were getting too close and familiar with me. I called you a whore and I regretted it immediately after I’d said it. You didn’t fight me. You just left. I’m a prat. It took everything in me not to go after you. The same evening I’d told my mum that it wouldn’t work out with Astoria – she took it well, my father not so much. You know how he is, a jumped up tosser who’s still obsessed with following pureblood traditions. Astoria already knew by the time she’d gotten to the Manor. She cared even less than I did, can you believe that? And all I could think about was you. Wondering about you and how badly I’d fucked the entire thing up. I went to work and I’d overheard a conversation about you taking time off. In all of the time you’d worked at the Ministry you hadn’t called in sick once. Why would Hermione Granger ruin her perfect attendance record at work? Everyone thought you had to be extremely ill. I had to see you. You hadn’t left your flat in a few days until you finally appeared. You had red lipstick on and a black slip of a dress that I’d never seen you wear before. You were wearing tiny little black heels to match. You weren’t ill.
‘You went to that club. I saw you knock back a few shots and there was that small little grin that you have when you’re about to get goofy. That bartender was already eyeing you and I thought there was no way you’d end up with her because you were definitely on the prowl for some wanker you could get rid of easily. Imagine my surprise when she pulled you off to a corner to make love to your neck. And then you were pulling her along with you to go home, all over her in one of those moving contraptions with wheels. You barely made it to the bedroom. Your dress was already off and I could see the love bites that were starting to form on that delicate neck of yours. I was infuriated. And there wasn’t anything that I could do as I watched you cum for her because I’d put myself in this position. It was my fault that I couldn’t have you because I thought I could go on without having you. The longer I watched you and the drunker you got all those nights I realized how foolish I’d been to think I could be rid of you. You infected me just as much as I’d infected you, Granger. There’s no question.’
She felt like she couldn’t breathe. All of that time spent being miserable and questioning everything about herself was all for naught because she’d fallen in love with someone who was completely off his head. And he’d watched her every night when she was trying to lose herself in any way that she could because she didn’t want to think about him. Dosing herself with Pepper-Up and hangover potions in the mornings to function at work. It was exhausting, but there wasn’t anything else that she wanted to do. And now he was here staring at her, his slender fingers holding her chin. She didn’t know if her eyes could convey all of the emotions she was feeling. She didn’t know if she was upset, shocked or confused. She couldn’t be here. Shouldn’t have been here. Malfoy’s eyes were stormy and the flecks of light grey floating in his iris were more intense than usual. He looked like he was going to pounce, but he wouldn’t hurt her. He stood then, tilting her head up.
‘I quite like when you can’t argue back,’ he said dryly as he waved his hand to release her.
‘You’ve lost the plot,’ she trembled, rubbing her wrists and shifting to put more space between them. ‘Give me my wand.’
‘To give you the ability to hex me? I don’t think so.’
‘I could always punch you,’ she jeered. ‘Just like old times.’
‘But you won’t.’
‘Tell your mate to release the wards.’
‘So that’s it then,’ he started. ‘You can spill your heart out to Blaise Zabini, but you won’t talk to me.’
‘There’s nothing to talk about!’ she cried, standing to push at his shoulders. ‘I don’t want to deal with this. You don’t get to silence me and then expect me to want to talk to you. You’re such a bastard.’
Malfoy gripped her wrists. ‘There’s always Veritaserum or Legilimency. You’re not very good at occluding your mind are you? You can’t learn that from books.’
Hermione gasped. ‘You wouldn’t.’
‘There are a lot of things I would do that wouldn’t please you.’
‘Even that’s beyond you, Malfoy,’ she hissed, trying to get out of his grasp. ‘You can’t keep me here forever.’
Malfoy let go of her and sat back down on the loveseat twirling her wand between his fingers. She wanted to wipe the smirk off of his face.
‘How about this, Granger. I know there’s a crossfire of questions jumbled up in that pretty little head of yours. For every question I answer, you’ll have to match it. Almost like truth or dare, but without the dares.’
‘Really?’ Hermione said in disbelief. ‘You really think playing a game is –’
‘First question, Granger.’
Hermione inhaled deeply before finding her spot on the couch. This was ridiculous. He was ridiculous. It was the perfect way to bait her because she did have questions, far too many questions, that had piled up over the past couple of months. There was only one that she wanted to know the answer to today.
‘Why did you give up your inheritance?’
Malfoy chuckled. ‘Ah, I love how predictable you are. I told you, I just didn’t care anymore. I have my flat, purchased under my name, so I don’t need to worry about a place to stay. I don’t care for the Manor or the cottages – it’s too much work to maintain anyway. I have my own savings in Gringotts that my father can’t touch. Having more galleons is just greedy at this point. It doesn’t matter anymore.’
‘Having more galleons is greedy? When have you ever –’
‘I’m greedy for some things,’ he said with a glint in his eye. ‘But not galleons. Not anymore.’
‘Well what about –’
‘Tut tut,’ he said. ‘It’s my turn now.’
She didn’t like the way his eyes had narrowed again looking at her appraisingly as though he would find something lurking beneath her skin. If he had heard what she’d said to Zabini there really wasn’t much else he could ask her unless…
‘The Muggle. Your girlfriend. You could have anyone, but you chose her. Why?’
He was far too focused on Georgia.
‘Jealousy isn’t becoming, Malfoy,’ she said, raising an eyebrow. ‘Firstly, she isn’t my girlfriend. She’s my friend. I could have anyone and that’s why I chose her. You’ve seen her, she’s beautiful and everything I’m not. I could’ve had a one off with some prick, but men don’t always know how to get a girl off – other girls do. It’s really that simple.’
‘There’s another thing that drew you to her,’ he said knowingly. ‘And you won’t address it, but you can’t deny it can you? I’ve seen her enough to see the similarities. She’s friendly enough, a little obnoxious, but her arrogance is overbearing. She was smart not to trust me when I came sniffing around trying to ask questions.’
Hermione frowned. ‘So not only have you been stalking me, you’ve talked to Georgia too? Merlin, you really are a piece of work.’
‘You were unavailable to me,’ he reasoned. ‘No harm, no foul.’
‘Unavailable? That’s what you call it,’ she responded, her eyes were starting to water and her chin trembled. ‘It would do you well to remember that you told me that I had lost my mind when you found out I had any feelings for you. That it was for my own good to remember my place as your whore and nothing else. That I was delusional for reading into something that wasn’t there because you were engaged. You made me feel absolutely insane. Not being sober was the biggest gift I could've given myself. It was a mistake to have let you in at all. I’ve never let anyone in and it had to be you.’
Malfoy was silent and expressionless.
‘Georgia reminded me of you and I hated myself for it,’ she continued, wiping the corner of her eye with her sleeve. ‘I wanted to forget about you, but I couldn’t. I was trying to escape while simultaneously digging myself into a bigger hole. I had to keep up a façade at work and with my friends. Do you know how horrid it was to watch Dean snog Susan at Luna’s birthday? I felt like I was a fifteen year old girl simpering about. Luna was the only one who knew about you, you know. She wanted me to give you a chance. She said there was more that I didn’t understand about you. You were ‘complicated’ and you had too many diddleduds surrounding your aura. What Luna doesn’t know is that you’re undeniably mad.’
‘I’m only mad about one thing, Granger,’ Malfoy said, holding out her wand to her. ‘I’m sorry for hurting you and for everything I said. I had to make you leave. I was…weak.’
Hermione sniffed as she took her wand back. ‘And you expect me to forgive you now because you were weak?’
‘Look,’ he appealed. ‘You know how hard it is for me to admit when I’m wrong. I was wrong to treat you the way that I did. I’m not asking you to forgive me this instance. I want to fix this. I want to give this a proper go if you’ll have me. Just…one chance for me to make this up to you.’
‘I can’t answer that right now,’ she said honestly, shifting her eyes to look at the flames in the fireplace as she stood. ‘I’m going to go now, Malfoy.’
Malfoy’s hand had enclosed over hers as he pulled her gently towards him. She stiffened as she stood there with him gazing down at her. His thumb wiped away what she assumed were the last remnants of her makeup that had been ruined from the few tears she had allowed to roam free. His blond brows were furrowed as he searched her eyes holding her face in his warm hands. He really was beautiful in a way that she had never expected. His skin was so even and almost poreless – it wasn’t fair. His nose so straight and his cheeks so sharp. His lips were pink and glistening because he’d just licked them.
‘Hermione,’ he begged, his breath laced with tea. ‘I’ll do whatever it takes. Whatever you want. I promise I’ll never treat you like that again. Just one chance, that’s all I ask.’
‘You don’t have to give me an answer now. You have until next Saturday.’
She knew it was going to happen before his lips were on hers because her eyes were already shut. All she could feel was his hard body against hers when she pressed herself into him with her hands on his chest. His mouth was gentle as he devoured her slowly, his fingertips digging into her jaw. She couldn’t believe it had been months as she kissed him back sucking on his plump lower lip breathing into him. Fire was rushing through her veins, her heart racing while her skin blazed. His hands ran down her sides and wrapped themselves around her waist. She missed feeling this way. Out of control when her tongue finally met his, brushing along that soft muscle that made a shiver rush down her spine. Malfoy tore his mouth away, resting his cheek on her forehead before pressing a soft kiss in the centre of it as she tried to catch her breath.
‘Saturday,’ he breathed, letting go of her waist to gently remove her hands off of his chest.
Malfoy looked her over once more as he stepped back and gave her a wry smile before he disapparated with a crack. She loathed him.
Chapter 3: Struggle
The weekend had been dreadful. Hermione hadn’t left her flat. She’d ignored the messages that Georgia had sent her, turning over her phone so the glow would leave her alone. Two consecutive days without alcohol had already taken its toll because her mind had gone into overdrive. It was hard to understand what to do with the thoughts that preoccupied Hermione’s mind over the weekend. There wasn’t anything for it. Seven days wasn’t enough to decide on what she wanted to do and two had already passed so she was down to five. She felt like she wanted to explode every time she tried to take her mind off of Malfoy. She paced around her kitchen as she waited for the familiar click of the kettle. This was mad. She hadn’t talked to him or seen him face to face in six months and suddenly she’d been thrust into a situation that she very much wanted to avoid. And that was the problem wasn’t it? Avoiding everything until she’d fallen into this hole. And the way that he’d kissed her and then smiled, in that stupid way she secretly adored, was infuriating. She wanted to scream. The words he’d said about doing whatever it took to earn her trust back had stunned her. He had relinquished some control, but the ultimatum was still said on his terms. He had given her a deadline as though he hadn’t spat those words that had broken her down in the first place. At this point she didn’t know what she wanted from him. It hadn’t been an option for her to have him back in her life in any capacity. She’d thought they’d both go their separate ways and forget that it had ever happened.
She sipped on her cup of tea as Crookshanks rubbed against her calf as he uttered a tiny meow at her. Hermione sighed as she bent to scratch the top of his furry head. Crookshanks had become unusually clingy awhile back and she knew it was because he’d known she was struggling with something. If there wasn’t another body in her bed she’d wake up with Crookshanks purring beside her in the morning pawing at her sheets. His golden eyes would focus on her every time she downed the potions inside her bedside table. It was very obvious to her that he judged her for her behaviour, but not even Crookshanks’ judgement could stop her from behaving otherwise. This morning had been different. There hadn’t been any potions that she needed before work. Although, maybe she should’ve tried to find a calming draught to be rid of her current anxiety. Hermione was sure that her mind would be on anything but work while she sat in her office today. Or rather the entire week. It had been easier to compartmentalise everything when she’d thought there wasn’t a chance to reconcile with Malfoy and now her mind was trying to find some sort of logic behind all of the emotions that she’d buried.
The truth was that she didn’t have any experience to compare this to. What she felt for Ron so long ago wasn’t the same in any capacity. She’d never felt this emotion the way she did and it felt like she was fighting herself each time she was conscious of it. Physical attraction was easy to understand. There were many people she’d felt attracted to and she didn’t need to explain why or how. It could be something small like someone’s voice, their hands or freckles smattered on their cheeks that interested her. She didn’t have to question that. Malfoy was conventionally attractive, there was no doubt about that. It was ridiculous to watch the way some of the women and men acted around him at the Ministry. Their eyes shining when they spotted him as they held their breath hanging onto every word he said. Malfoy was aware of the effect that he had – it was irritating. She hadn’t thought that he’d have a personality to match that would engage her in a way that no one else had. There were many dates that had gone nowhere – she’d tried dating Muggles and Magical folk alike. Sometimes the sex was good, oftentimes it wasn’t enough. She didn’t equate sex with love and she didn’t feel bad for feeling that way. If she was horny it was only reasonable to find another likeminded individual to scratch that itch. It had been that way with Charlie and it was so easy. She liked fucking him and she hadn’t fallen in love with him. She liked fucking Georgia and had a fondness for her, but she wasn’t in love with her after all these months. Malfoy was the exception to the rule. There was a spark there that she hadn’t felt with anyone else even when she’d tried so hard to look for it. At first she’d thought there was something wrong with her when she saw everyone coupling up. She couldn’t follow the conversations where other people had spoken about how they thought they were falling for someone that they’d been dating. It didn’t make any sense. She had met so many people and this feeling had never been triggered. There was always a bit of excitement or nervousness getting to know someone new, but that novelty wore off quickly and she found herself back at square one. Ginny and Harry had told her that her standards were too high. Luna had said she wasn’t ready because she couldn’t see what was in front of her. She was always perceptive in a way that Hermione had thought were surely the beginnings of insanity until she’d gotten to know her more.
Luna was the complete opposite of Hermione. She was in touch with her emotions and didn’t give much thought to being rational all of the time. Her emotional intelligence and willingness to approach those emotions were traits that Hermione sometimes envied. Luna didn’t support the way Hermione refused to deal with how she felt, but she had never lectured her. There was one afternoon that she spent with Hermione in her flat helping her stopper hangover potions in silence before Hermione had broken it.
‘Thank you, Luna,’ she said softly. ‘But you don’t have to help. I’ve got this.’
‘I know,’ she replied. ‘I want to be here.’
Luna had scourgified the cauldron and put everything away into one of the closets before turning back to face Hermione. ‘It always gets worse before it gets better, Hermione.’
At the time Hermione wasn’t sure if it could get any worse than it already was. As much as she craved escaping there was no actual pleasure in being numb all of the time. There was no pleasure in acting one way when she was feeling the opposite way of what she was portraying. It held up well – no one had thought anything was out of the ordinary. She supposed there was that at the very least. She could only imagine the uproar if Harry found out what she was doing with her spare time. She imagined it would be on the same level as everyone finding out that she fancied Draco Malfoy. She didn’t want to care what people thought about her, but she did care about that to some degree. She had been out of the news for so long that she didn’t want to see herself back on the pages of the Daily Prophet or Witch Weekly. She’d very much kept her personal life private to avoid being hounded. She would sometimes appear in the background of pictures when she attended an event, but she hadn’t granted any interviews regarding her professional life either. There were a lot of pieces of parchment sent out with ‘No comment.’ attached to the owls they sometimes sent her. Dating Malfoy openly, if she ever chose to, would be everywhere and the thought of that was daunting. Suddenly she felt her wand vibrate in her robe signalling that it was time for her to leave for work. She sighed. It was going to be a long day.
Hermione had barely done any work today. She was starting to crave a drink and she had been watching the clock on her desk tick down ever since she’d stepped in. Not even an hour into her shift she’d decided that she was going out tonight. There wasn’t a condition that said she couldn’t continue following the routine that she’d built up. It was fine. It wasn’t really, but at least being dosed with potions meant that she would actually be productive at work. She felt stupid going through her filing cabinet only to read and re-read the same damned sheet with regulations that she had drafted a couple of weeks ago. It was perfect, she didn’t need to edit it. She had already submitted it for review so there really was no point in her looking it over. None of what she was did today made any sense. She placed her forehead on the cool wood of her desk to try to centre herself. Malfoy was in the same building as her and he was probably sitting at his desk doing actual work. She groaned. Maybe she should’ve taken the bloody week off because her focus was worse than she had expected. This was such a waste of time and it was all his fault. She would have gotten over him eventually if he hadn’t pulled that stunt a few days ago. And now he was sitting at the forefront of her mind and she had to decide whether or not to give him a chance. It wasn’t even like she could’ve refused the ultimatum because he was gone by the time she could utter a word. It was so very infuriating not to be in control. Who did he think he was anyway? And why did he –.
Suddenly there was a small familiar tap at her door that she hadn’t heard in months. She wasn’t going to survive this week. The tapping continued.
‘Yes, yes,’ she said, bracing herself. ‘Come in.’
Alice Tolipan pulled the door open with her rosy face beaming as she rushed in holding a few folders with her aubergine robes floating behind her. Her hair was red and fell in soft waves down her back. Her blue eyes were bright as she took Hermione in.
Hermione’s eyes were worriedly glued to the folders she held against her chest and Alice had followed her gaze.
‘Oh! Don’t worry, these aren’t for you,’ she exhaled like she’d been running up and down the corridor. ‘It’s for Duncan, I reckon he made a mistake somewhere. Draco wasn’t too happy.’
Hermione frowned as she absorbed what Alice had said. So Malfoy had been getting help from Duncan Inglebee this time. She’d wondered if he had reached out to anyone in the department. Duncan was a decent replacement she supposed. He was almost as good as her. Almost.
‘…Are you alright, Hermione? You look a bit peaky there.’
‘Oh, I’m sorry, Alice,’ she apologised, standing to approach her to give her a small hug. ‘I have a lot on my mind. There’s a lot to do.’
‘You’re always busy, busy, busy!’ Alice said, shaking her head. ‘I’ve been dying to come up here for ages because you stopped coming round after you’d finished that project. And then Draco handed off all of the work for this floor to that new girl. I ignore her most of the time. Anyway, I think she’d had a disagreement or something with someone, so I’m baaaack!’
Alice clasped her hands together excitedly ruffling the folders. Hermione wanted to die. Alice suddenly sounded so much like Parvati Patil and Lavender Brown squealing in the dorm rooms. She’d really never seen her look this excited before, but she assumed she was more muted around Malfoy because he would never find this behaviour acceptable.
‘It’s really nice to see you, Alice,’ Hermione responded. ‘You’ve always been lovely.’
‘Oh, I think you’re so lovely,’ Alice exclaimed. ‘You’re so helpful and you always had an answer when I –’
‘I’m sorry for interrupting this little reunion, but you left this behind Alice.’
Hermione froze as she peered behind Alice’s shoulder catching those familiar grey eyes she wanted to avoid. Now she really wanted to die. She should’ve taken the entire damn week off like she’d thought earlier today.
‘Oops, I’m sorry, Draco,’ Alice said, turning to grab the folder that Malfoy was holding out. ‘I’m off to Duncan’s. Bye Hermione, see you soon!’
It felt like it had happened in slow motion as she watched Malfoy step aside to let Alice through with her red hair floating in the air while she raised her hand up to wave goodbye to Hermione disappearing into the corridor behind Malfoy. Her fingers gripped her wand.
Malfoy’s body fell into her office with a thud and she shut her door quickly casting Muffliato before Alice heard any commotion and turned back around. He had face planted into the floor and she wasn’t sorry if it hurt. She hoped his nose was broken. She levitated him into the cushioned seat across from her desk. His nose was bleeding. Her palms were sweaty and her fingers were twitching.
‘Right,’ she started as she sat in her seat catching his eyes. ‘You don’t get to look at me like that.’
If he could be more expressive she didn’t know if it was possible for him to look even more murderous than he already did. And what did it matter? He’d almost done the same thing to her. Tit for tat.
‘I don’t know what you’re up to, Malfoy,’ she hissed. ‘But I have doubts that Alice left that folder behind. I’m not playing this game where you randomly show up in my office every day this week so you can fuck with my head even more than you already have.’
She breathed out as she rested her elbows on her desk and cradled her face in her hands. ‘This is so mad.’
For a few minutes Hermione could only focus on her breathing. She didn’t know what she wanted to say to him. She really didn’t expect him to be idiotic enough to show up at all. She’d stupidly assumed that they would go on as they had until she contacted him Saturday if she chose to.
‘I’m infuriated with you for more than one reason, but you already knew that. This entire situation is perplexing in all of the worst ways. You don't get to corner me or come to my office like you haven't been ignoring me for six months. You really have some nerve don't you? I could hex you or punch you or even both and I’d still be infuriated.’
She charmed a tissue to clean his face as blood travelled down his chin. She watched it dance around the lower half of his face, the crisp white turning slowly to red as it absorbed his blood.
‘I’ll have you know that kissing me doesn’t just make everything go away. You gave me seven days and I’m taking advantage of that. And if I’m going to think about giving you a proper chance you need to leave me alone until Saturday. I’m going to go out and you aren’t going to follow me. You aren’t going to watch me. You’re going to leave me alone until I tell you otherwise. Those are my conditions. You gave me your bloody deadline and now I’m giving you these conditions. Blink once if you understand and twice if you don’t.’
Malfoy blinked once. She bit the inside of her cheek. ‘You will never repeat what you did to me on Saturday. Do you understand?’
‘I don’t know how to talk to you anymore,’ she admitted, breaking eye contact to focus on the brass doorknob behind him. ‘I want to scream when I think about you. And now you’re sat here in front of me and I don’t know what to say to you.’
She assumed he was cursing her in his head the same way she’d cursed him when she’d been trapped in Blaise’s flat. How could two fully grown adults act so immature and nonsensical? This was so beyond her normal behaviour. It seemed when it came to Malfoy she always acted out of character. It was worrying. The bridge of his nose was starting to swell.
‘You have to promise not to hex me once I release you.’
It happened very quickly then when she was lifted from her chair to be pressed into the shelves on the far right of her office. She grunted when she felt the wood digging into her back as he held her arms down to her sides. She turned her head away from him lest he try kissing her again.
‘Jesus,’ she breathed. ‘Do you have to always be such a bast–’
‘Yes, I’m always a bastard,’ he hissed. ‘Especially because you’ve just Petrified me at work.’
‘No harm, no foul, remember? How does it feel to be held against your will and spoken to like a child that can’t respond? It's a shame I don't have someone to do my dirty work for me.’
‘Point taken. Consider us even then,’ he said, releasing her arms.
Hermione was still stiff against the shelves.
'You can stop with the face,' he breathed, a puff of his breath hit her cheek. 'I'm not going to do anything.'
'Don't,' she managed to utter when she saw his hand reaching towards her.
Malfoy paused. ‘It wasn’t so long ago that I had you right here, Hermione.’
She shut her eyes. It was alarming to hear her name fall from him lips again albeit in a different tone from Saturday. ‘This isn’t how you earn my trust back, you prick.’
‘I’m not here to play a game.’ Malfoy reached into his pocket and dangled a silver charm that was in the shape of key with her name engraved on it in minuscule letters. ‘This is how I’ve been tracking you. I'm here to give it back.’
The charm had been from a charm bracelet that her mom had given to her two Christmases ago. She hadn’t worn in it months – it was forgotten somewhere in a jewellery box in her room. It must have fallen off around the last time she’d seen him. She watched it glitter in the light before she raised her hand to take it.
‘I’m even less inclined to trust you,’ she muttered under her breath before putting the charm in her pocket. ‘You could’ve owled it, you know.’
‘And miss having a chance to see you?’
‘Well, now you’ve seen me,’ she said, moving away to put distance between them by sitting back down in her chair.
‘I meant what I said on Saturday.’
‘You have a very strange way of showing it,’ she responded quietly eyeing him.
Malfoy paused before leaning against the corner of her desk. ‘I don’t know what I’m doing. I see you and everything that I’ve restrained wants to unravel.’
‘Malfoy,’ she sighed. ‘We can’t do this here.’
‘I’ll see you on Saturday.’
He stared at her and shook the wrinkles out of his robes as he straightened his form. ‘Right.’
‘I can assure you that it’ll be here faster than either of us expect it.’
‘For you, maybe.’
She swallowed. ‘Maybe.’
She couldn’t imagine that the days were going by slowly for him, but it seemed like he was implying just that. It was strange to have him in her office again. The last time he’d been in here his hands were all over her ass while she fumbled with the buttons on his trousers because he’d only had twenty minutes before he had to go to a meeting. She sniffed as she pushed the thought out of her head. She would have cackled in disbelief last Monday if anyone had told her that this was going to happen. His face was as unreadable as ever as he turned away from her. She would’ve never known there was anything lurking beneath the surface. To her knowledge Malfoy had never been an emotional person, but to hear him say that he didn’t know what to do was a little disconcerting. She expected him to have some sort of plan or even an idea on how to navigate through this.
‘Saturday,’ he said, before rubbing his nose and shutting the door softly behind him.
‘Saturday,’ she responded to no one in particular because he was already gone.
Hermione breathed in the warm air of the club. It was unusually busy because of Monday Funday, but she didn’t care – she always took advantage of the cheaper shots. Sometimes Georgia covered her tab and she knew how much that annoyed Hermione, but she seemed to ignore that. Hermione spotted Georgia in the corner of the bar shaking a cocktail shaker. Georgia had her dreads braided to the side which she swung over to rest on her shoulder. She poured the clear liquid into a martini glass and dropped olives into it before pushing it over to someone. Georgia caught her eye and winked while she waved her over. Her eyelids sparkled with gold blended onto them.
‘Hey,’ Hermione said, sitting down on the black bar-stool.
‘You’re alright, yeah?’ Georgia asked. ‘Been ignoring my texts.’
Hermione flushed a little. ‘It wasn’t you…bad weekend.’
Georgia raised an eyebrow. ‘Wanna talk about it?’
Hermione shook her head. She never really wanted to talk about it and very rarely had she opened up to Georgia about what was bothering her. Georgia still didn’t know the exact reason why Hermione drank so much, but she had to suspect that it had to do with another person. Georgia didn't really ever push for more of an explanation, but she was always there if Hermione needed her. She hadn't let the lines blur and Georgia knew Hermione would never become romantically involved; it wasn't something Georgia was looking for anyway. Georgia was fun. Georgia was outgoing. Georgia liked to be free. She was a year or two younger than Hermione and she had to be one of the most impulsive people, besides Harry, that Hermione had ever met. There wasn’t very much that Georgia said no to or questioned. A shot of tequila was pushed towards her. Georgia knew by now that Hermione didn’t need a chaser and didn’t provide any salt or limes.
‘For your bad weekend, babes,’ Georgia smiled.
Hermione raised the glass to cheers her and downed it immediately. It burned a little, but it was smooth. Her mouth watered for more, she felt like she’d been parched all day and no matter what she drank nothing could satisfy the thirst that she had. It had only been two days and Gods had she missed this already. She didn’t know what she was supposed to do without it. As she played with her shot glass she could feel Georgia watching her.
‘Never seen that dress before. Special occasion?’
Hermione scoffed. It wasn’t a special occasion, but she’d wanted to wear something other than the black dress that Malfoy had described. The dress she had on was navy blue and more formfitting that usual. It was cut short clinging to her thighs while the straps rested along her upper arms leaving her shoulders exposed. There wasn’t anywhere else that she would’ve worn this. It was an impulse buy because it had been on sale.
‘Go on then. Give us a little spin,’ Georgia waggled her eyebrows.
This was stupid. Hermione laughed as she stood to give a very quick twirl before sitting back down.
‘It was on sale, alright,’ Hermione said, pushing her frizzy hair back. ‘You’ve always told me to live a little.’
‘Trust me, you’re living right now.’
Hermione let Georgia do her thing as she served the hordes of people that were starting to crowd the bar. She had three shots of vodka to keep her preoccupied as she sat alone and bobbed her head to the beat that was pulsing through her. Hermione was enjoying the familiar buzz that spread through her body. She didn’t have very much running through her head as she watched a group of people dancing and then she felt someone sit down beside her.
She stiffened as she turned to her left. Zabini. Of course he would be here. She couldn’t get away from these fucking people.
She took a shot before speaking. ‘Please tell me that I’m so drunk I’ve started hallucinating.’
‘Why the hell are you back here?’
‘Are you here because he asked you to watch me, Zabini?’
‘Draco doesn’t know I’m here,’ he said with finality.
‘You need to leave before you ruin my buzz.’
Zabini studied her. His dark eyes falling down to the dress. She was going to knock him in the face if he made a comment about how he didn’t realize that she was a woman until just then.
‘You look attractive, Granger,’ Blaise finally said. ‘I’m not hitting on you, so don’t run along and try to tattle to Draco. It’s an observation.’
‘Always full of observations, aren’t you?’ She replied, grabbing the second shot and swallowing it down. ‘Why are you here?’
‘I’d hoped that you’d come to your senses and decide to stay away from this place since you can’t seem to hold your liquor. Regardless, I tried because I know old habits die hard.’
‘That still doesn’t explain why,’ she said, rubbing the glass of her last shot. ‘Be quick about it.’
‘The last time we talked you asked me how I’d known about you I wasn’t entirely honest.’
‘And you’re telling me now because?’
‘I was there when the both of you were having a row in my sitting room,’ he stated, his fingers removing the grasp she had on the last remaining shot. He knocked it back.
‘You don’t need it.’
Finally she rolled her eyes at him. ‘So tell me. What is it that you need to share with me so badly?’
‘Astoria’s going to contact Rita Skeeter about you.’
‘Wait. What? How do you know this?’
‘I have my sources.’
‘But Malfoy said –’
‘I know what Draco said. Astoria cares, Granger. Do you really think it makes her family look good when it officially comes out that the engagement is over? No one has said anything about this. You and I are the only ones outside of the families that know. You don’t understand how seriously Purebloods take these things. When was the last time you’ve seen the dissolution of a Pureblood marriage or relationship in the papers?’
Hermione was silent.
‘Exactly. It won’t be spread about in the Daily Prophet. People talk, Granger. High society still exists even if they don't rub it in everyone's faces anymore. There's a reason there are still events held by the so called elite that you will never be invited to. The only way for Astoria to salvage her reputation to find herself another prizewinning bachelor is to throw Draco under the bus. It’ll be even more of a scandal when they find out Little Miss Perfect Hermione Granger is the other woman,’ he stated. ‘What will you do then?’
‘Why are you telling me this?’
‘Because you need to know what you’re getting yourself into, Granger. Whatever it is you decide you need to be aware of the consequences because my mate’s about to put everything on the line for a confused little girl who’s pretending alcohol can solve her problems.’
‘I’m not a little girl.’
‘Then stop acting like one.’
Her fingers twitched by her side.
‘You can’t hex me in a Muggle club, Granger.’
‘I’m well aware,’ she remarked. ‘It’s a reflex. You’re starting to annoy me.’
‘I apologise if the truth annoys you,’ he sneered. ‘And before you ask, Draco knows. He’s been trying to negotiate with the Greengrass family and without Lucius backing him financially it’s a bit of a lost cause.’
‘Why hasn’t he told me this himself?’
‘Why do you think? You’re barely talking to him as it is. He wants you to be able to make a decision on your own without thinking about what it means for him. He’s being a git right now because of you.’
‘He wouldn’t be the only one affected by this, Zabini,’ she snapped. ‘I’m pretty sure the best case scenario at the Ministry is that both of us get written up. Worst case scenario Draco’s fired. He doesn't manage me, but we worked together on a project he was in charge of. What does it look like if someone who's technically his subordinate is fucking him on the premises? This is bloody amazing. Social and professional suicide.’
‘Don’t be too sure about that, Granger. Draco's good at covering his tracks.’
‘Well, apparently not good enough for his fiancé to not find out who he was cheating with!’
Hermione caught Georgia’s hazel eyes watching her with Blaise in the distance. She wondered how loud she had to have been for her to suddenly look over. She groaned. Now she felt obligated to explain herself to Georgia and she didn’t have the time to tell her what exactly was wrong because she had to deal with Zabini first. Her day was supposed to improve when she’d gotten here, but the exact opposite was happening which added to her already shit day.
‘Zabini, just wait for me outside.’
Zabini followed her gaze. ‘That’s the Muggle, isn’t it? Merlin, Granger, you’ve done well for yourself. I mean, Draco was blabbering on, but I didn’t know she looked like that.’
‘Oh, sod off.’
Hermione nudged him hard enough to throw his balance off of the bar-stool before Georgia made her way over looking concerned. Hermione tried to smile, but she knew it didn’t reach her eyes.
‘Is that him then?’
Hermione blinked. ‘Him? Who…Oh. No, that’s not him.’
‘You don’t have to lie,’ Georgia said sceptically. ‘Not dressed for a special occasion, eh?’
‘Look, Georgia. I swear that isn’t him. It’s someone that knows him. It’s…complicated.’
‘It’s always complicated. He’s waiting for you.’
Hermione felt about ready for her brain to start denaturing. Zabini couldn’t even follow simple instructions. What the fuck was wrong with everyone? Hermione grabbed Georgia’s hand.
‘That isn’t him, I promise you, Georgia. Just trust me this one time. I’ll explain everything tomorrow.’
Georgia’s thumb rubbed her hand. ‘Alright, yeah.’
‘I’ll text you tomorrow, I promise. Put everything on my tab I’ll cover it later.’
‘It’s covered,’ Georgia said, letting go of her hand.
Hermione sighed. ‘Georgia.’
It was futile to argue with her over this. She put her hand up in thanks as she pushed through several people in the dark and walked towards Zabini who was standing by the exit waiting for her.
‘I said outside, you prat,’ she said, pushing her way past him.
‘I had to see how that played out.’
‘Yeah, well, it’s really no one’s business except for my own.’
‘She doesn’t even know does she?’
‘She wasn’t supposed to know anything and now you’ve shown up and complicated everything. And before you start that bullshit that Malfoy was on about, she still isn’t my girlfriend. She’s my friend and during our involvement that has been crystal clear. Now she thinks I’ve been lying to her about who I’ve been shagging when there hasn’t been anyone. I would be annoyed too if I felt like someone was betraying my trust so blatantly.’
Zabini was quiet as Hermione grabbed the crook of his arm and pulled him into an alleyway to apparate home.
Hermione kicked her heels off at the front door. Zabini was visibly uncomfortable standing in her flat as he took it in. It wasn’t even close to the amount of space he had, but it was decent for her. It was your typical flat, but she’d made modifications by adding a balcony (unseen by Muggles) that she enjoyed using to grow herbs through the summer. Crookshanks liked to be let out at times to bask in the sunlight. Her sitting room was cosy and simple – the walls were painted beige and there was a knitted burgundy throw resting on the faux leather sofa with a plush grey rug under the small glass coffee table.
‘Why is your kitchen in the same area as the sitting room, Granger?’
‘It’s an open concept.’
‘It’s a what?’
‘Zabini, forget it.’
Zabini slowly made his way over to the black sofa glancing over at her standing in the kitchen. He had his eyes squinted as he studied the marble island that divided the kitchen and sitting room with grey cushioned steel stools tucked into it.
Hermione rolled her eyes. ‘It’s easier than trying to find a spot for a dining table. It would offend you more if there was a small dining table shoved into the corner of my sitting room, trust me.’
Zabini scratched the back of his neck. ‘And this is acceptable for you or…’
‘I didn’t bring you over here so you could become my interior designer,’ she responded, placing down two multi-coloured mugs with hot tea as she sat down beside him.
‘I thought you’d at least have wine to keep yourself drunk.’
‘I only drink liquor.’
Zabini caught her gaze. ‘It would be best if you practised some control.’
‘I didn’t bring you over to lecture me either.’
‘Granger, you don’t know how easy it is to read you. I barely know you and even I can tell that you’re struggling to reconcile the idea that emotions don’t always coincide with the facts.’
Hermione held her mug in her hands. ‘You sound like Luna.’
‘Yeah, well, Looney Lovegood has a point then, doesn’t she? You need to sort yourself out before you find yourself in a bad way. It’ll start with the alcohol and then you’ll become dependent on the potions until you start seeking out harsher potions that you can barely live without.’
‘I went two days witho –’
‘Right, two days and by the third day you were already back. Amazing sense of control that.’
‘You don’t actually care what happens to me.’
‘I don’t, but Draco does.’
Right. That’s why she’d brought him over to her flat. Malfoy.
‘How did Astoria find out?’
‘It’s really bothering you, isn’t it?’ he smirked. ‘Can’t figure out how you’d be found out when you tried to be so careful. Except neither of you were careful enough. Astoria’s a clever girl. She managed to get Scarlett Lymphsham to apply for a role as an assistant. It wasn’t sheer luck that she landed in Draco’s department. Scarlett was spying on both of you. When you’re spying and you already know what you’re looking for it becomes easier to put the pieces together.’
Hermione hadn’t heard that name before, but surely she’d had to have seen her somewhere? She knew almost everyone on Malfoy’s floor and she couldn’t remember anyone new being introduced to her.
‘I would’ve noticed her.’
‘You can’t notice someone who doesn’t want to be seen, Granger. She wasn’t brought in to become your friend, she was there to spy for Astoria and stay out of your way.’
None of this was making sense. Astoria knew about her involvement with Malfoy that led to the end of their engagement. She had proof that could get them both slapped with misconduct at work. What was she waiting for? Blaise had said that they were the only two people that knew about the current situation, but that couldn’t be true if Scarlett had been privy to their entanglement. The appropriate charms had always been used whenever they ended up alone. If her spying ran deep enough then it meant she’d followed them along to Muggle London and watched them seemingly look like friends to the outside world. Hermione never touched Malfoy more than she had to and they never kissed in public. Wait. Alice had mentioned there was a new girl who’d gotten into a disagreement. Had she meant Scarlett? And if she did, there had to be a way that Malfoy had found out it was her if he’d sacked her.
‘You said Draco was good at covering his tracks earlier. What did you mean by that?’
Zabini brought the mug to his lips and took a small sip. ‘Why don’t you keep using that brain of yours. You're almost there, Granger. You’re thinking so hard I can almost hear your thoughts.’
There was only one answer that she could think of.
‘Malfoy obliviated her.’
‘There we go.’
This really wasn’t getting any better. Hermione didn’t support obliviation and if he was caught this would get him into more trouble than he was already in. What was wrong with this man?
‘They can trace that back to him,’ Hermione stated. ‘He’s absolutely lost it.’
‘Granger, you don’t need to worry about that. Draco’s a big boy, he can take care of himself. Either way, by the time the little bitch had been obliviated it was too late because Astoria already had what she needed.’
‘So now what? Either Malfoy pays the Greengrasses or Astoria goes to the press? Why is it taking this long for her to just spit everything out to Rita Skeeter?’
‘And that’s the question I was waiting for,’ Zabini said, setting the mug down. ‘The ploy for galleons is just that, a ploy. Astoria knows Draco can’t meet those terms. It’s a distraction. She wants him to choose between you or her. Malfoy has very obviously chosen you, but it doesn’t mean that you’ve agreed to it. If you decide on Saturday that you’ve had enough of him he’s going back to Astoria.’
‘He’s…what?’ Hermione swallowed. ‘But he’s already told his parents? And it’s been months. Surely there has to be an agreement between them. I don’t understand what you’re trying to tell me.’
‘He broke that agreement on Friday when he’d pressed me to help get you to talk to him.’
Hermione couldn’t follow this anymore. There were too many things that didn’t make sense.
‘The agreement being he couldn’t expose the end of their engagement?’
‘You’re smarter than this.’
‘I don’t understand!’
‘It’s very simple, Granger. Merlin, you have all the pieces of the puzzle. Look, Draco ended things with you very suddenly months ago, but he’s been following you without approaching you? Why? There were so many moments he could’ve ‘run into you’ or made an excuse for review at the Ministry. He did neither of those things. He hadn’t even written you a godforsaken letter. Astoria has been sitting on this for half a year and she’s only now threatening to use it against the both of you.’
Hermione looked at him blankly. She knew all of these things already. He was only rehashing what she knew repeatedly.
‘I thought your stupidity stemmed from being pissed all the time and you’re not even wasted,’ Zabini said under his breath. ‘Draco was free to go as long as he didn’t communicate with you, right. Astoria was willing to let everything go if he didn’t try to reunite with you. You think you’re pissed off? Astoria wants vengeance knowing that a Muggle-born has taken her rightful spot. And not just any Muggle-born, it had to be Hermione Granger. He had a choice to find someone else, who wasn’t you, and live his merry little life. And he’s done otherwise for a shot with you, Granger.’
‘I…’ Hermione faltered. ‘This…this is…’
‘Mental,’ Zabini finished.
She didn’t know how to react. This information was all too much to deal with. Astoria had let Malfoy go as long as he didn’t try to be with her. Malfoy had been free to find another person that he wanted to be with. And now that he’d chosen Hermione Astoria’s act of revenge would be to force Malfoy to see the marriage through with her if Hermione rejected him? All because Astoria hated her? This was more than mental. It was pure insanity.
‘That’s why you don’t fuck around with Pureblood women, they’re massive bitches.’
‘I think this is a little bit more than just being a bitch, Zabini.’
‘You’re right, Astoria's fucking mental,’ Zabini stated. ‘And it’s all because you weren’t there to provide any testimony for the Greengrasses with a character reference letter the way some of you did for a few ex-Death Eaters.’
That was ridiculous. None of them had ever interacted with the Greengrass family outside of Daphne and there wasn’t anything she could’ve done. She hardly saw Daphne through the last few years at Hogwarts. Nothing about her had changed the last time she’d seen her, so what could she have possibly contributed? They wanted her to lie for them? Because they were part of the Sacred Twenty Eight? When it had come out how much the Greengrass family had been funnelling into Lord Voldemort’s ‘cause’ they had been done for. All of the paperwork held at Gringotts couldn’t be destroyed. The evidence was overwhelming. No one could have saved them from having their properties taken away from them. Hermione didn’t care. They deserved what they got and Astoria was lucky her parents hadn’t ended up in Azkaban for their contribution to the War. They weren’t remorseful, they were only sorry that they’d gotten caught. Three years of being under house arrest and then probation following afterwards was far too lenient of a punishment.
‘That’s what all of this is about? She hates me because I couldn’t save her family from getting what they deserved? None of us knew them!’
‘Doesn’t matter, Granger,’ Zabini said as he stood. ‘I’m just giving you the facts to work with.’
Hermione stared up at him. ‘And what am I supposed to do now?’
‘Stop the drinking. Stop the potions,’ Zabini winked and disapparated loudly.