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Draco winced as the cage he was in abruptly came to a crash in the center of the Wizengamot. As prepared for it as he had been, his head still smacked painfully on the bars as he lost his footing and fell backwards.The dull tone that reverberated from the contact was duplicated in the sharp pang he felt at the back of his head.

He was sure that his eleven months in Azkaban attributed to his loss of dexterity, certainly causing him to collapse. He felt weak and brittle and pathetic. Anyone else would have loosened a grip on their pride, given in to the daily abuse of the guards, if only for pure self preservation, but not Draco Malfoy.

"Thank you, Sir, may I have another?" Draco's voice hid the ringing pain in his head well. He decided to stay put on the grimy bottom of the cage instead of risking another fall.

The guard to his left glared at him through the dark rusted bars. A warning, Draco thought. He chuckled, wondering what this guard thought he had to lose. He had nothing to live for. No one to live for. Not anymore.

"So what is it today, Bodrick? Another sentencing? Have I committed additional crimes that I'm not aware of?" He mockingly waited for a reply he knew would never come, but he needed some way to amuse himself.

"Perhaps I've been given a pardon? Oh no, Bodrick you'd be simply simpering with sorrow if that were the case." He turned his head to look at the guard on his right. “Maven, love, surely you'll tell me? No? Alright, you DO know how I love surprises."

The woman had always refused to look Draco in the eye when she was assigned his prison escort. He suspected it was because she was muggleborn. 

Draco gave up and looked around the room that held the Wizengamot. Empty, as usual. Some of the guards liked to bring him in early so they could levitate his transport cage just a little too high, and watch as it smashes to the ground. Sometimes, if they were in a particularly nasty mood, they'd flip the cage upside down first.

He hadn't been in this room since his sentencing six months ago. The memory was faded in his mind. He was forced to drink a Calming Draught after hearing his mother had been sentenced to fifteen years in Azkaban. He hollered and threatened and shook the bars of his cage until they forced the potion down his throat.They swiftly sentenced him to 8 years.

One by one, the seats filled with the members of the Wizengamot and other assorted Ministry members. Draco paid no attention to the movement around him. There was no one there he gave a damn about, only those who wanted to see him suffer. Perhaps they had reconsidered giving him the Dementor’s Kiss after all. 

He looked down at his hands and busied himself with removing the dirt from under his filthy nails. He wished, not for the first time, that he could have a proper shower and shave. Since he had been locked up, his hair had grown past his jaw, and his cheeks and upper lip had sprouted a thick beard, covering the hollows of his cheeks. Draco hated the facial hair, but he was not permitted a shave, magical or otherwise.

"Mr. Malfoy, are you ready to begin?" The Baritone of the chief warlock made Draco feel small every time he heard it. Perhaps that was by design, some charm to make him sound more imposing.

"Ready for what?" Draco sneered, his patience running thin.

"Mr. Malfoy, some new information has come to light recently and your sentence has been overturned. You have been granted a probationary release with heavy conditions." The Warlock didn't even bother to look up from his scrolls. Draco was waiting for the punchline. 

"You will be on magical probation for twelve months. During that time, you are not allowed to leave your residence unescorted by your designated surety. You may only leave your residence for approved outings and appointments. You may not use your wand, or any other wand, for any reason."

He still didn't understand — was this some kind of trick? He was sure this was a trick.

"In addition, you can not reside within the wizarding community. Your residence will be in muggle London." 

What? No, this had to be a joke. They couldn't expect him to know how to blend in with muggles. He’d only been in Muggle London a handful of times, and it was always just to pass through. 

"Because of your history as a blood purist, you have been assigned a muggleborn surety to reside with in their home. During this time, you may not send any owls, you may not.."

Draco stopped listening and looked around the room in confusion. No one was snickering. Would he really have to live with a muggleborn? In Muggle London? 

He continued scanning the room while the Chief Warlock droned on. "Since your mother was released on similar conditions in December, we will allow her a single one hour visit in your residence upon release, and an hour visit on the second Saturday of every month. Your assigned surety is-"

Draco jumped up from his spot on the cage floor. "My mother was released?! Why didn't anyone tell me? Where is she?" He searched the room more desperately now.

"Mr. Malfoy, your surety will explain everything to you immediately following these proceedings."

Draco was still searching faces in the large room, "And who is the surety that I'm meant to live with?" He scanned the room one more time in desperation. His eyes stilled and focused on the witch in the back row, almost directly across from him. He suddenly had a guess who his surety was.

As the Chief Warlock spoke, Draco showed no surprise as he sneered pointedly at her.

"Your assurity, Mr. Malfoy, is Miss Hermione Granger."

 

There's the punchline.

 

Chapter Text

The guards had taken him to the inmate showers located within the Ministry. The tiny tiled room was dark and smelled of mildew. Some of the tiles on the floor had been broken or were entirely missing. There was a cracked yellowed sink on the wall left of the entrance. Directly in front of him, he saw three rusted shower heads jutting from the tiled wall. Each one had a matching knob about a foot below.

Draco was provided with a small bottle of shampoo, a muggle razor, a small comb, and a threadbare towel. Grunting, he pulled off his tattered, grey prison uniform and tossed it to the ground. He wouldn't be missing that outfit anytime soon. He had exactly ten minutes to clean the grime of Azkaban off his body and scrape the pesky hair from his face. No amount of scalding water could cleanse him of the deep filth he felt.

He turned the center-most knob all the way to hot and did not hesitate to plunge under the shocking cold torrent. He made quick work of cleaning himself before he turned to the mirror above the leaking sink. He couldn't remember the last time he saw his reflection; he felt like he was looking at a stranger.

Draco forced his eyes away and begun to shave the wild beard and mustache that plagued his face. With every stroke he felt more like his old self, but he still couldn’t meet his own eyes reflecting back at him. 

I must look presentable for my new roommate, Granger! He thought bitterly.

Why her? Of all the Muggleborn witches and wizards, why her? Why would they make a war hero as recognized and celebrated as she was do something like this? It's not as if little miss goody two-shoes had done anything worthy of punishment. It didn't make sense — unless she volunteered, which was impossible. She had more reason than most to hate him. 

He thought about the last time he had seen Hermione Granger. 

After the Battle of Hogwarts, he watched Potter lead her and Weasley out of the Great Hall. He excused himself from his mother's grasp and found a window on the third floor to gaze down at the trio. He didn't know why he was spying on them there was no longer any reason to. The war was over, the Dark Lord vanquished, and he was free to walk away from Hogwarts and his years of anguish. 

He never had to watch Potter show off in Defence Against the Dark Arts ever again. He never had to see Weasley shovel food down his gaping gullet in the Great Hall. He would never again hear Granger’s annoying squeaks of desperation when she knew the answer to a question in Charms class. Or see the disgusting way Weasley ogled her like she was water and he was in the desert.

He never had to see any of them again, so he should have just walked away right then before he had to endure anymore. He should have just walked away.

He watched Potter walk back towards the castle after unceremoniously throwing something over the bridge. Draco couldn't have cared less what it was. Granger and Weasley followed not far behind, but as they drew up to the entrance, Weasley grabbed her hand and led her behind a pillar where only Draco could see them. He should have just walked away.

From here, Draco could see how nervous they both looked. He watched as the bumbling idiot and the swot drew nearer to each other. Weasley put both hands on the tops of her shoulders as if it was his first dance and he was the woman. Granger stood straight with her arms pinned to her sides, eyes wide as saucers. She looked scared. For some reason, this angered Draco, and he couldn't say why. He narrowed his eyes and crossed his arms tight in front of his chest. He really really should’ve walked away.

Before he could turn to leave, he saw Weasley had pressed his mouth to hers in a way that Draco could only describe as clumsy. Granger still hadn't moved her arms from her sides, her eyes still open in surprise. Something in the back of Draco's mind told him she needed help, but he knew better. Why should he be the one to help her anyways? It wasn’t like they had ever been friends. 

After a moment, Hermione's hands reached up and grasped each of Weasley’s elbows, her eyes closed as well. Draco felt sick. How embarrassing the whole thing was. They didn't even know what they were doing. They definitely deserved each other. Weasley with his obtuse orange hair and his pimpled face, and Granger with her... with her..

 

He could feel bile rising in his throat and before he could stop himself, he bent over and heaved onto the cobblestone floor. He hadn't eaten much in the previous few days, and he chalked it up to the stress of the battle. He didn't bother to vanish his sick off the floor before he turned to retreat back to the Great Hall.



Once Draco was finished with his shave, he dried himself hurriedly and grabbed the bag Maven had shoved in his arms when she swung the cage door open. This bag held his personal effects confiscated on the day of his arrest, including his clothes. 

He fished out his black trousers and pulled them up, noticing the bottom hem only reached mid-shin. When he let go, they slumped down past his thighs.He rummaged through the bag until he found his belt and used it to fasten his trousers tight around his waist. Evidently, he had become simultaneously taller and leaner during his stay in Azkaban.

Draco finished dressing in his ill-fitting clothes and combed back his ridiculously long hair. His father had always encouraged him to grow it out like his, told him that the Malfoy platinum hair was their signature. Draco normally didn’t let his hair grow past his ears, not after Marcus Flint said he didn't allow little girls on the Quidditch pitch. Draco used both hands to ruin the sleek hairdo, allowing the damp silver locks to lay haphazardly. 

After adjusting the lapel on his navy blue blazer and slipping his Slytherin ring on his right index finger, he looked at his reflection in the mirror once again. 

Better, he thought, although he was not pleased with the way his sleeves were sitting about three inches below his elbows. His Dark Mark couldn't be hidden. His face looked gaunt, and his eyes had darkened circles cresting against his cheekbones. As he straightened his black silk tie, he realized how much older he looked. He looked just like his father, except Draco had a much leaner frame and was half a head taller than Lucius last time he saw him. Draco wondered how much taller he'd be now.

Draco collected the prison uniform and toiletries, shoving them in the bag that had held his personal effects. He tightened the drawstring around the opening of the bag and swung it from one hooked finger as he walked towards the door, whistling. As he stepped out, he was greeted with the usual enthusiasm from his prison escorts. Wordlessly, Maven produced a small pocket watch and his billfold and shoved them in Draco’s direction. Draco gave her a smirk as he slowly wandered up to her and plucked his belongings from her outstretched palm. As soon as they left her possession, she snatched the bag from his hands and turned on the spot to proceed down the long corridor. Draco got the impression she didn't approve of his release.

Draco followed, not used to having the freedom to walk without manacles. He was suddenly nervous and unsure of himself, self-conscious of the ill-fitting clothes. He anxiously tugged at the sleeve where his Dark Mark was protruding.

After a couple moments, they emerged from the long corridor to find themselves at the Ministry lifts. Standing against the opposite wall was Hermione Granger. Draco stiffened at the sight of her and his feet stopped moving.

 

She had her tangle of curls pulled away from her face and fastened with a clip haphazardly on the back of her head. The accessory was failing at keeping her mane in check; it seemed as if her hair would gain sentience and break free at any moment. Draco had never known anyone with more hair. It was annoying, really. Distracting.

She was dressed in muggle apparel, a navy pencil skirt that stopped an inch or so before her knee, a simple white blouse with buttons done up all the way, and a cream coloured cardigan. Her shoes were simple black flats that looked like they had been worn on a consistent basis. There were distinct scuff marks on the toes of the shoes.

She was staring down at her fingers, picking at her nails, just as Draco had done during the resentencing. She looked about as nervous a Draco felt, although he hoped it wasn't as evident on his face. 

Maven continued walking toward Hermione and cleared her throat at their approach. Hermione's head snapped up and her eyes flitted from Maven to Draco in a fraction of a second. She ran her flattened palms down the sides of her torso, smoothing her button up as she drew herself straight.

Draco was shocked to see that she, too, looked older. Although not in the battered prisoner way that he did. He hadn’t seen her up close in over a year, not since she was tortured in his home. Her features had sharpened and her face had finally caught up with her teeth.

"Audry, lovely to see you." She addressed the guard while she shook her hand. "Malfoy." Her eyes trained on his for a brief moment before flitting away, looking as if she were holding her breath. As if she couldn't bear to breathe the same air as him. She was afraid of him.

"Granger." He said after a moment, keeping his face blank and unreadable. He couldn't say any more for fear of hearing his voice break. The sight of her was unnerving. He absentmindedly tugged his sleeve down and instantly regretted it. Hermione's eyes flicked down to the movement and she caught a glimpse of the brand on his arm. Her hand darted up and her fingers met the top of her skirt on the opposite side of her body. She hesitated and her eyes moved to Maven.



"He's been told the rules so if you want to use magic around him, it's on you. He's not technically a prisoner anymore so I can't restrain him, but I can take him down if he attacks." Maven watched Draco's face as his eyebrows furrowed in confusion and drew her wand.

Draco looked down at Hermione's slim fingers as they barely touched her stomach. His eyes wandered down to the gentle curve of her hip and rested on the outline of a wand placed between the stretched fabric of her skirt and the front of her thigh.

She keeps her wand there? Draco thought as he pulled his eyes back to hers, not hiding the confusion on his face. Was she that afraid that she was going to hex him after one word? He searched her eyes for some clue.  She did looked scared for a moment before he saw the fear turn into determination. The look on her face was one that Draco had seen many times before at Hogwarts. 

"Malfoy, I'm going to transfigure your clothes so they cover- so they fit properly. You've.. you've gotten quite a bit taller.. it seems." Her cheeks flushed and her fingers twitched where they rested at the top of her skirt. She watched him carefully as he processed the words, face turned down in a grimace.

After a moment, Draco relented and gave a curt nod of his head. He knew there would be press waiting to photograph him upon his release and he'd rather not look a fool. 

Draco kept his eyes on Hermione’s as she slipped her fingers a few inches into her skirt and retrieved her wand.  She abruptly moved toward him, making Draco reflexively flinch. She paused for a moment before starting the incantations. Draco held his breath and squeezed his eyes shut as she began transfiguring his apparel. 

He tensed for the hexes he was sure would come, but all he felt was his trousers elongating, and then tightening at his waist. Once she had finished with his entire outfit, he watched her slip her wand back down her thigh, fumbling with the blouse that was tucked in her skirt. When he looked up, Maven was scowling at him. 

Draco looked down at his clothing, noting the fit and seeing that his Dark Mark was well covered. He looked up at Hermione with his lips pressed together tightly and gave her another curt nod in a show of appreciation. 

Hermione ran her hands down her sides again. Shaky determination remained on her face. "Right then, we'd better be off. Your mother will be at the flat soon enough." 

Draco felt his lungs tighten and a thousand questions were surfacing all at once, but he forced himself to remain silent until he could see his mother. She'd have the right answers for him. Maven summoned the lift and they quietly shuffled in. During the ascent, no one spoke, tension thick in the air. 

Hermione stood closest to the door, never looking back at Maven or himself. Draco watched as her curly flyaways danced from the draft of the speeding lift. He could see a blush creeping up her neck, and it made the hairs on his arms raise. He looked away. Once they reached the main Atrium, Draco was extremely grateful Granger had fixed his clothing.

There were reporters awaiting him as expected, and the flash of the bulbs made him squint. He saw Rita Skeeter run towards him with a hungry look on her face. The questions began. 

"Draco, are you regretful for your part in the war?'

'Why have you chosen to reside with Miss Granger?'

"How do you feel about your parents' recent divorce? "

Dracos head spun as the reporters crowded, pressing Maven, Hermione and himself against the grate of the now closed lift. 

His parents hadn't divorced surely, that was just simply not done — purebloods did not divorce. The papers were always full of lies and half truths, so these questions were obviously meant to bait him. Maven tried fruitlessly to clear a path while Hermione raised her voice over the rabble to tell them they weren't interested in interviews. The questions were also directed at her, asking why Draco would be living with her, asking if she and Weasley had broken up. 

So they are still together , Draco thought to himself, not really surprised.

He was losing his patience and could feel his magic pooling at his fingertips. He balled his hands into fists at his sides. Hermione looked up at him and he saw a sense of recognition on her face. She grabbed Draco's hand and started forcing her way through the crowd towards the hall of fireplaces. He grasped her hand tightly and pressed himself as close as he could to the witch, not wanting to get left behind.  

Maven caught up to them as they emerged from the throng and motioned for them to go. The guard swept her wand arm in a large arc, creating a sizeable forcefield between them and the crowd. 

Hermione dragged Draco across the room to the closest Floo and grabbed a fistful of floo powder with her free hand. She spat her destination into the flames and they turned green. Before Draco could look around, he was being dragged into the fireplace, his hand still entwined in hers.

 

Chapter Text

Draco sat on the cream coloured couch in the living area in the tiny flat. His knees almost touched the glass and dark wood coffee table in front of him. The room had a large round carpet that spanned the sitting area nicely. It was a deep wine red and plush to the touch. Directly in front of him was an unimposing fireplace, just big enough to floo through. It crackled quietly and cast orange flickering light across the room. 

The wall had bookshelves. So many bookshelves that Draco could barely see the beige walls at all. Hermione had placed trinkets on the mantle and in various locations on the shelves. Some of the trinkets Daco couldn't identify. Muggle gadgets he suspected. The room was actually quite warm and inviting, but Draco still felt the frigid weight that lived in his chest. 

His mother rested her hand on his knee in silence waiting for him to speak. She had arrived moments after he and Hermione had tumbled out of the fireplace. Thankfully Granger had immediately vacated the room to allow them privacy. He bombarded his mother with questions, and she patiently offered up the information he needed. 

Narcissa patiently informed Draco of the terms of his release in detail. What he gathered from it was that he was effectively glued to Granger, and he could not have communication with anyone that she did not approve. Most glaringly, he was not permitted magic. No, he was not permitted a wand , he realized. He could work with that. Over the months he was imprisoned, his wandless magic had flourished. His magic would not be contained it seemed. 

He hadn’t bothered to ask his mother about the rumours of the divorce. He wasn’t sure he could handle that knowledge on top of his current situation. 

He sat motionless in the couch, absorbing the gravity of his new reality. He could hear Hermione in the kitchen fixing tea and after a few moments, she quietly placed the tray on the coffee table and retreated down the hall to what he assumed was her bedroom. 

His mother let out a sigh and poured the tea into the mismatched tea cups Granger had brought before handing one to Draco. After another long moment, he lifted the cup to his lips and inhaled. He didn't realize how much he missed tea. It should be a crime to force a Brit to go without a proper cup for so long. He felt the warmth run down his throat and burn his tongue. He relished it.

Placing the cup back on the tray, he faced his mother. She looked as beautiful as ever, but the look of concern on her face gave her deep lines that made her look older. Draco felt pained at the sight of it and he tensed his jaw. He supposed he had to say something. He dropped his gaze and spoke.

"So tell me if I have this correct. I am to live here for a year, with no wand, no owls, no visitors and no flying? Who came up with this punishment? They should have just left me in Azkaban. At least there, the people that hated me would lose their job if they killed me.” He was grumbling and he knew his mother did not appreciate it. She attempted to placate him and he snapped. “I can't live with Hermione Fucking Granger!” His mother flinched at the curse and he hastily stood, striding a few paces away.

“She could draw and quarter me and the world would stand and applaud! What do they have on her that forced her into this?" Draco could hear how his voice had steadily gotten louder, but he didn’t care. He fisted the hair on the top of his head and looked at his mother with wide, expectant eyes. 

"They don't have anything on her dear." Narcissa placed her own cup back down and stood to grasp Draco's hand. "The Sentencing would only have been possible if a muggleborn witch or wizard volunteered. No one volunteered, dear, no one except her. We should be grateful to her, you can move on with your life—"

"Grateful? Why should I be grateful to HER?! She’s- she’s a-" Draco desperately searched for the right words "She's obnoxious, and petulant, and haughty, and, and... So full of herself!" He slipped his hand away from his mothers and ran both of his hands through his too-long hair. 

"She's probably doing this to get back at me, or maybe, maybe I'm just a pity project to her, something to up her celebrity status, make her look more self-sacrificing and forgiving." Even as he said it he knew it couldn’t be any of those things. That was just not Granger’s way. She was good.

Narcissa gave another sigh and sat to retrieve her tea. "I don't think that’s why she's done it dear. I've spoken with her enough to know that her help is genuine.” Draco regarded his mother with surprise. He knew that she didn’t feel quite as venomous towards muggles and muggleborns as his father, but he never would have imagined his mother would go out of her way to talk to one, never mind defend one. 

“Her boyfriend, the Weasley boy, however.." Narcissa gave a quick glance behind her and down the hall making sure she wouldn't be overheard. "He just may draw and quarter you, he is firmly against this arrangement."

Draco smirked. "At least I'll get some amusement out of this disaster.” 

Knowing that Weasley didn’t want him here made it almost too easy to get under his skin.

Narcissa's expression hardened "Draco, if this doesn't work, if you screw up, it's back to Azkaban. This is your one chance to redeem yourself, our family’s image, and your future. I want you to take this seriously because I can't bear to see you being hauled back there... It almost killed me last time." At this her lip quivered and she started to tremble. Draco sat and took her in his arms, feeling stupid for being so insensitive. 

"You're right, mother, I don't want to go back either. I just don't know how this is going to work, they all hate me and I don’t know anything about muggles." Draco allowed his expression to fall into despair once his mother's gaze was safely buried in his shoulder. "Why did they choose this punishment anyway? I’ve never heard of anything like it."

Narcissa drew her head up and quickly brushed away her tears. "I’m not entirely sure how this came about, but believe it was partly concocted to see you fail. I think they find the idea... amusing."

Draco wasn't surprised. He'd been taunted and tormented the entire time he was in Azkaban. The guards enjoyed watching him suffer. They never got enough retribution it seemed. If this was indeed a joke, it would be all the sweeter to prove them wrong and see this sentence to the end. If only for his mother.

"I must say, Draco, you really have grown, at least half a foot I’d say.. although I am concerned with how slender you are. Did they not feed you?" Narcissa ran her thumb across his cheek.

"Yes, they fed me, Mother. I'm fine, I’m sure I’ll put on some more weight by the time I see you next month." As if he had summoned them, two Aurors stepped through the Floo and told Narcissa it was time to go.

"Please do ask Hermione to owl me if you need anything. I may not be able to bring it myself, but I can have it delivered. In any case, I'll send over some new clothes for you." Narcissa had been allowed to remain at Malfoy Manor, under house arrest, in order to manage the estate and provide "charitable donations" in the aftermath of the war. The Wizengamot found her to be of little threat and allowed her to send and receive owls, but she was also restricted from using a wand for another seven months.

"Thank you, Mother." Draco drew himself up front the couch and habitually buttoned up his blazer. He gave his mother a brief hug and a kiss on the cheek before she was led through the Floo.

Draco stared at the orange flames in front of him for what seemed like hours. When he pulled his eyes away, all light outside of the windows had been extinguished. Draco could hear Hermione in a hushed argument down the hall. He had been unaware that anyone else was here. 

He started to wander and took in the rest of the apartment. He hadn't left the sitting room since arriving. Directly behind the couch there was a small hallway. There were two doors on the left, one on the right at the end, and one door directly ahead. The door on the right side of the hall had light shining through the slightly cracked door. 

That must be her room, he surmised. 

The kitchen was located off to the right side of the hallway and open to the living room, the only separation created by a low breakfast bar that raised up to Draco’s hip. Three stools were tucked under the bar. Draco walked around the couch and found himself gliding his hand across the grey and white granite top of the bar. He didn't exactly know why, but he quite liked it. 

He turned and strode over to the first door on the left side of the hallway. He opened the door to reveal a very, very small bathroom. A small sink was wedged in between the toilet nearest the door and a tub up against the far wall. At the manor, Draco had a luxurious sunken marble bathtub that could almost serve as a swimming pool. He also had a separate spacious shower with brass gilded hardware and numerous bath oils and fragrances. Hermione's flat had a plain white tub with a removable shower head. He frowned and shut the door.

Draco stopped at the next door and pulled it open. He was greeted with a long hallway filled with numbered doors. 

Just like Granger to label the rooms in her house. Draco mused. 

Just before he could step out to examine further, the door labeled 35 opened. Out came a small round woman with tightly curled grey hair and a shopping cart. Draco suddenly remembered that Hermione lived in a flat, and these doors were in fact other flats. He mentally slapped his forehead for being so dense. 

"Ello, dear, are you Hermione's new flatmate?" The woman waddled over to the door that Draco held open, the door he now saw was labeled 36. She smiled up at him expectantly.

"Erm, yes, I suppose I am." Draco tried to remember his manners. "Draco Malfoy, how do you do?" He grinned and took the woman's hand and gave it a gentle shake. He wasn't sure of the muggle custom, so he decided a kiss on the knuckles was too risky.

The small woman blushed visibly and opened her mouth to respond. Behind Draco, there was a commotion. He heard the door behind him fling open, and in a whirl of auburn locks Hermione had skidded to a halt on Draco’s left side. She had a look of panic on her face. She squeezed in the doorway beside Draco.

"Hello, Mrs. Dunnery, how are you this evening?" Hermione straightened her oversized jumper and her eyes flicked nervously up to Draco and back at the small elderly woman.

Draco looked down at the small witch, her hair had been freed and was cascading down her shoulders, untamed and unforgiving. It was longer than he remembered it ever being, falling to rest midway down her back, brushing where he knew her lowest ribs would be. She must have changed. She wore a plain black jumper with a neckhoke that looked worn in and soft. It was much too large for her and slid off her right shoulder. Draco wondered bitterly if it was Weasley’s. He couldn't help but notice that she didn't have a visible bra strap. How very unladylike of her. She wore tight denim jeans on her legs, and had fluffy looking socks on her feet.

"I'm quite alright, thank you, dear. I was just introducing myself to Draco here. What a dashing young fellow Hermione, don't you think..?" Mrs. Dunnery gave her a conspiratorial wink.

As Granger started to stutter, Draco leaned against the door and eased his left arm behind her, lifting it up to brace against the doorframe just above her head. She had panic in her eyes but she refused to meet his gaze. “I.. I.. Uh..”

"Do you find me dashing, Granger?"

She found her voice and shot a sharp glare at him. "I find you rather pompous, actually!" Hermione huffed, crossing her arms and staring ruefully up at him.

Draco gave her the most delicious smirk he could muster. He did love to see her squirm. "Now Granger, you've hurt my feelings, and I've only just arrived!" He gave her a mock frown and shot an amused glance at Mrs. Dunnery. 

"Oh, you better be careful with this one deary, he's a CAD!" Mrs. Dunnery giggled while clutching her chest. "I best be off to do my washing before the launderette closes! Be good, kids!” She gave Draco a knowing glance. “I’ll see you on Sunday, Hermione!” She shuffled off with her cart towing behind her.

Hermione turned and went back into her room, picking up the book that was abandoned on the floor. Draco closed the front door and lazily turned to lean against her door frame. 

The room was small — there was enough room for a double-sized bed, a small desk and a dresser. The wide window on the left side of the room had a small cushion on the seat and several books piled beside it on the floor.

She must read there. Suddenly Draco was assaulted with a vision of Hermione sitting on the ledge with her legs tucked up against her chest, her chin resting on her knees and a book balanced on the tops of her feet. Morning sun lighting up her hair, making it look like warm gold. A lock of hair tumbling in front of her face.. A small smile playing on her lips as she read something amusing.

Draco shook his head and looked around. On the wall were photographs and awards and a dainty water painting of purple orchids. On her desk, there were scrolls, ink pots and coloured pencils strewn about. There were even more books piled next to her desk, all stuffed with scrap parchment for bookmarks. One drawer of her dresser was open a crack, and Draco could see the leg of a pair of track pants hanging out. Her bed had a silver wrought iron frame decorated with twisted vines. Her white bedspread was tousled and a small worn bear peeked out from behind one of the many pillows. The walls had a muted pastel peach tone, but by the light of her candles on the dresser, they looked like the colour of fire.

"Is this my room, Granger?" Draco teased. He swiped his hand through his hair as she turned around.

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Your room is not actually ready yet. I didn't have time to get the bed set up and I've only just rounded up some spare clothes this morning." She slipped around him and opened the door at the end of the hallway, right next to her bedroom.

Draco turned to see a small plain room with beige walls and a dark wooden desk. On the far wall, there was a window seat identical to the one in Hermione's room, and underneath it, there were two cardboard boxes.

"I know it's awfully plain. I just used it as an office before. You can decorate it however you like, Narcis—your mother was saying she had some ideas and would try to send new curtains and a rug and perhaps new furniture. I don't know if she mentioned it to you or.." Hermione rambled while ringing her hands and looking around the room. Draco didn’t miss the fact that she stopped herself from referring to his mother with so much familiarity. 

"Where's the bed?" Draco interrupted. Was he expected to sleep on the floor? Although he couldn't imagine anything being worse than the horrid prison bed he'd been sleeping in for the last 11 months.

"Like I said, I haven't had time to gather all the necessities. I only found out you were coming last night.. I had planned for you to use the couch, just for tonight. I didn't realize you were so tall now. It would be dreadfully uncomfortable for you... So you can use my bed and I’ll use the couch." She had a look of uncertainty on her face.

She obviously doesn't want me in her bed, but she's afraid if she doesn't offer I'll, what? Hurt her? Yell at her? Force her out of her own room?

Draco turned to look at her, "Are we going to have a makeover and talk about boys before you tuck me in like a dolly? No, I think I’ll suffer on the couch, thank you."

"A simple no thank you would have sufficed, Malfoy." She crossed her arms and furrowed her brows in frustration. 

Draco strode into the room and stooped in front of the boxes. He opened one of them to reveal muggle clothes. He glanced over his shoulder at Hermione. 

"Are these Weasley’s clothes?" he spat at her.

"No! Don't be daft, they were my father’s. I knew you'd never wear anything of Ron's, I mean, not that he'd offer..." she trailed off

"Where is Weasley, anyway? I expected him here for a welcome home kiss." His voice was dripping in sarcasm. 

"He's at home. I told him not to come over so you could settle in."

"Bet he was on board with that one." He loved the idea that Weasley was sitting at home angry, ousted by his know-it-all girlfriend for Draco’s benefit. 

"I must admit he is still not supportive of my decision.... It couldn't be helped." She loosened her crossed arms and started rubbing her palm against her forearm. 

So she is being forced into this after all. She said it couldn't be helped. .. Draco couldn't think of a single reason she could have for agreeing to let him stay here, not one that made sense.

"What do they have on you?" Draco fully turned to look at her now, getting straight to the point. 

"What? Who?" She looked incredulous.

"What does the Ministry have on you that's making you do this?" Draco kept his voice even, but his anger bubbled up unbidden. "Or is this a publicity thing, raise you in the ranks at work, perhaps? Maybe you're just doing this to watch me squirm, watch me suffer and fail so you can laugh with Potter and Weasley about it for years to come." He stood before her with a cruel sneer cemented on his face. 

She regarded him with shock, her mouth agape. Perhaps he had overestimated her. Maybe this was indeed petty revenge. The longer she remained quiet the more his anger grew. His breath started coming out in sharp bursts, his shoulders shaking under the weight of his sudden rage.

Hermione's mouth was still hanging open, her expression a mixture of confusion, horror and shock. She blinked rapidly and shook her head, clearly not sure how to respond. "I... That's not—"

A loud trilling filled the air then stopped. Draco started, but Granger didn't seem fazed. She was still trying to form her thoughts.

"When I agreed... It has nothing to do with...I did this because—"

The trilling started again, then stopped. Draco thought it was coming from Hermione's room. 

"Granger, what is tha t?" Draco craned his neck to look into her room.

She let out a huff and ran her hand down her face in a slow motion of exhaustion, then she turned towards the trilling. Draco followed her and watched her pick up a strange oblong device on her dresser. It seemed to be connected to its base by a long, thin corkscrew. She spoke into it, and Draco could just barely hear another voice coming from the strange gadget. Hermione glanced at Draco and excused herself as she shut her bedroom door. Something in the back of Dracos mind told him that was a telephone. A muggle communication device.

I guess I know who Granger was arguing with earlier. Not that I’d put it past her to argue with herself.

Draco paced angrily for a few moments waiting for Hermione to emerge and explain herself. After a few moments, his rage started to ebb and his shoulders relaxed. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply. In Azkaban, he had to learn to curb his anger or he would get into serious trouble. The first few weeks of his confinement, Draco had exploded in fury and landed himself in the infirmary four times, sporting injuries from both the guards and the other prisoners. 

Once his pulse slowed, he went to the window in his room and took in the view. It was actually quite pretty.. Wherever they were. It was springtime in London, which usually meant constant rain. But this evening was clear and crisp, the moon visible behind light stringy clouds. The street below was narrow, and only a few pedestrians strolled by. There was a small bistro directly across the road that had an intimate looking patio with four small tables. Over the patio, a pergola wore a thick coating of clematis and ivy with small twinkling lights intertwined. Draco guessed he was three floors up, but he could still hear the din of conversation, and the clinking of wine glasses. 

"Tea, yeah? Are you hungry?" Hermione had returned, sounding slightly relieved. He could still see the trepidation in her posture; she shifted her weight between her legs like she was preparing to run. He took solace in the fact that she looked just as uncomfortable in his presence as he was in hers, not that he’d ever let her see that.

He scoffed. "I don't eat muggle food, thank you very much, Granger." Draco's stomach made an audible rumble at the thought of food. 

"Well, I'll pop down some toast then, unless that's unsuitable muggle food, as well?" She smiled at him triumphantly.

"Sure, whatever, Granger." Draco refused to show gratitude for toast and tea. He'd never give her that satisfaction. "Was that Weasley?"

"What?" She seemed genuinely confused

"On the.. telephone? Checking to make sure I haven't hexed you into next week?" They both knew he couldn’t if he wanted to, as per the rules of his release — he would remain wandless for an entire year. He spent his incarceration routinely practicing wandless and wordless magic to keep himself from going insane, and he was actually quite good, but definitely not good enough to use any powerful offensive magic. 

"Er, yeah. Something like that. He'll be round tomorrow after his Auror training."

Hermione turned and made her way to the kitchen while Draco rummaged through one of the boxes. He twisted his mouth into a grimace when he saw t-shirts, jeans, track pants, zip-up jumpers and khakis. There wasn't one pair of suitable pressed trousers or a solitary tie. At least Granger had the sense to get almost everything in black or grey. He pulled out a pair of soft grey track pants and plain white t shirt. The only white item in the box. He found an unopened package of  "boxer briefs" and grabbed one of the dark grey undergarments reluctantly. At least they were new. 

Draco made his way down the hallway with his apparel clutched in his fist. Without a word to Hermione, he turned into the bathroom and shut the door. As he undressed, he avoided his gaze in the mirror. He stepped into the shower and appraised the soaps Granger had to offer. His eyes settled on an unopened bottle of his favourite scented shampoo, specially made from the apothecary in Diagon Alley. 

Why does Granger have this soap? Is this here for when Weasley is here? I didn't even know the oaf knew what soap was, nevermind expensive ones like this.

He smiled as he popped the cork, inhaling deeply before greedily using close to half the bottle. He scrubbed thoroughly, intent of removing the evidence of Azkaban. When he had finished showering for the second time that day, he toweled off and threw his clothes on. He emerged from the bathroom to the smell of toast and coffee. He made his way to the bar and slid onto the center stool. She tensed at his arrival and plastered on a very unconvincing look of confidence. 

Hermione poured tea into one mug and coffee into another. There were slabs of thick toast on a tray to his right. She had brought out butter, three types of jams, and a small bowl of strawberries and raspberries. Her hair had been pulled back into the clip again. It was frizzy from the moist heat of the boiling kettle.

Hermione placed a cup of black tea in front of Draco and stirred one sugar and some milk into her coffee. She set a plate down in front of him, and one in front of her on the other side of the breakfast bar.

"Help yourself, Malfoy," she said without looking up as she turned to put the dirty spoon in the sink.

"Aren't you going to offer me milk and sugar?" Draco quipped looking into his mug.

"No, you take your tea black," she answered simply. She cradled her mug in two hands and took a small sip. Draco's eyebrows shot up and he looked at her expectantly. How did she know that? When she looked up from her mug she realized what she had said.

"Well, I assume your mother probably mentioned it at some point, everyone knows you drink black tea!" 

Her expression dared Draco to argue with her. Instead, he rolled his eyes and picked up his mug. “How much have you been talking to my mother, anyway?”

Hermione flushed and concentrated hard on buttering her toast. “Not a lot, maybe once or twice just to work out the logistics of our arrangement.”

God, she is a terrible liar.  

His jaw tightened and he had to fight the emerging anger. He hated that she was meddling in his affairs and he could do nothing about it. His mother had assured him that this was the best he could expect as an ex Death Eater. Draco resolved to question his mother about her interactions with Granger at the next opportunity. He could tell Granger wasn’t going to answer any of his questions without a fight. 

They sat in tense silence for a while, eating toast and berries. Halfway through her toast, Hermione produced a book and started reading. Draco didn't recognize the title. He noticed her favoring the raspberries to strawberries, but she spread strawberry jam on her toast instead of raspberry. He found this rather odd. Draco ate as slowly as he could, even though the anger in his stomach begged him to inhale everything from the tray, but he refused to act unbecoming. He was still a Malfoy, after all.

When Hermione reached for the last raspberry Draco's hand shot out and snatched it before she could react. She gasped in outrage and set her lip in a pout. Draco couldn't stop the self satisfied smile from spreading across his face as he popped it into his mouth. 

She's far too easy to torment. Maybe this won't be as terrible as I thought. Fun even. Teasing Granger felt familiar, comforting even. He felt more like himself around her. The sullen and miserable shadow of himself from Azkaban was starting to fall away. 

Draco stood and stretched his arms above his head while stifling a loud yawn. Hermione's eyes seemingly popped out of her head when she saw Draco's t-shirt raise to expose several inches of his lower stomach. She averted her gaze instantly. He lowered his arms and tugged on the bottom of his t-shirt.

She roughly cleared her throat. "Would you like me to transfigure the rest of your clothes so they.. fit?" Hermione nervously squeaked into her coffee mug.

Merlin, she really is a prude.

In truth, the t-shirt was not that small on Draco. It stopped just after overlapping with his waistline. But he supposed it wouldn't do to give her an aneurysm every time he decided to move around. He gave her a quick nod and they walked together to his room. Draco laid out his clothes on the floor to transfigure while Hermione fought her wand out of the inside of her jeans.

"Why do you keep your wand inside your pants?" Draco didn't look back at her to know that the blush was creeping across her face. "You know you have pockets for that, right?"

There was a pause before she answered, but once she started taking she couldn’t help rambling. "I've also been given conditions, you know. You weren't permitted to stay here unless I followed certain guidelines." She paused again and Draco stopped laying out the clothing. "The main condition is that I carry my wand with me at all times, in an.. inaccessible location, in case... if you decided to turn against me... My thigh seemed like the obvious choice. My arms are too short to have an arm holster and it’s too easy for someone to grab it out of my pocket. I suppose I could strap it to my calf but it would be clumsy to retrieve. The only viable option was a thigh holster."

Draco absorbed the words she said as he finished laying out his clothes. He imagined Granger wrapping a thin leather holster to her naked thigh. Her fingers pulling it taught and  threading the buckle closed. Tugging the holster up.. The tips of her fingers slowly brushing higher.. 

God, what’s wrong with me? That’s Granger. 

He stood up and retreated to the window seat at the far wall. When she was finished with the clothes on the floor, she motioned for Draco to stand. 

He rose from the window seat and closed the gap between them. She eyed him nervously as he approached. Draco lifted his hands in mock innocence as he turned to face away from her. Her eyes flicked down at his pantline very briefly, but Draco caught it. He let a smirk creep across his face. "I'm not going to hurt you, Granger. I don't think my mother would appreciate me harming a woman, no matter how wild and unrefined." He heard a scoff behind him and she made quick work of his outfit. 

"That should do until we can go pick out some new clothes at the shopping centre." 

"The what?" Draco turned around and eyed Hermione suspiciously.

"It's a big building with lots of shops in it. You can buy really anything there." She shrugged. 

Draco seriously doubted you could buy a Nimbus 2000 in the muggle.. shopping centre. He decided not to say so in case he was wrong. He really wished he had taken Muggle studies.

Hermione saw the look on his face and laughed, "Don't worry, Malfoy, it's not like I'm going to make you go by yourself. You wouldn't last a second without me."

She's already relishing the idea of seeing me vulnerable. She's taking me out of my element and watching me fail for her own personal amusement. I’m at her mercy and she knows it.

"Oh, how terrible it would be to spend even a moment away from Hermione ‘The Great Swot’ Granger. Don’t leave me, I don't want to get lost! I'd better hold onto mummy’s skirts!" He looked down his nose and sneered at her, feeling the heat of anger rising yet again. How dare she speak to him like that, like a child. 

Her expression of amusement shifted to anger in a flash. "Well, it's not like you could go on your own even if you wanted to!  Without me, you'd be stuck in Azkaban for the next seven years and twenty-nine days!" She whirled away and stomped into her room. Draco expected to hear the door slam, instead the witch reappeared with a pile of bedding and continued to storm down the hallway. 

Draco followed. "Thank you sooo much, Granger, you saved me from a life of peace and quiet. Now I can hear ear-piercing squawking whenever I please!"

She let out a low screech of exasperation and turned to face him. “I don’t know why I thought you’d be grateful. Why I thought you’d actually changed!” 

He walked up to the small witch and glared down at her. “Did you think Azkaban turned me into a Hufflepuff? That I sat around singing Kumbaya with the other prisoners while we held hands? What in Merlin’s name do you think Azkaban changed in me?” 

She swallowed and tried to speak but he spoke over her. “Don’t bother answering, you don’t know anything about me. I’ll always be an evil, prejudiced Death Eater to you, so why pretend to change your mind now, hmm?”

He could tell that she was fighting the need to break eye contact, but she was stubbornly resisting. After a tense moment, she spoke. 

"If you don't want to take my generous offer for the use of my bed then I won't force you. You can cramp up on the couch for all I care! I’m going to bed so I don’t have to see your snivelling face anymore.” She straightened to add a punctuated huff before flinging the blanket and pillow towards the couch, missing terribly.

“I’d never suffer myself with your sheets, you insolent twat.” That hit the mark. She narrowed her eyes in pure hatred, and her face was a deep red. 

They stood there glaring at each other, breathing hard, neither wanting to back down. Draco thought one of them would surely explode, but he wasn't sure who. The anger rolling off Hermione was palpable. He would not let her get away that easily though. 

Draco drew himself up tall, and stepped as close to Granger as he could without touching. “Oh, I see what’s going on now.”

He bent down so his mouth was a hairbreadth away from her ear, her hair tickling his nose. She stood her ground and didn't flinch. Her jumper had slipped off her shoulder again, but he knew she wouldn't dare reach up to adjust it, she would just be demonstrating how vulnerable she really was, and she was too proud for that. 

"Are you trying to get me in bed, Granger?" His voice came out almost in a growl.

For a few seconds, nothing happened. Then, as he was pulling away, he felt a sharp smack on his cheek as her hand connected with his face. He drew up fully once again to glare into her eyes and rolled his jaw. Her eyes were fire and brimstone. Draco could feel her magic crackling in the air between them.

She's actually a little bit terrifying

He remembered himself and raised his hands feigning innocence again, and Granger’s eyes didn't stray from his steely gaze. Draco let his hands fall to his sides and he sidestepped the fuming woman. He made his way towards the couch while she retreated to her room. 

 

Chapter Text

The squeaking brat was right, I can't get comfortable .

 

Draco had tried to find a decent way to sleep for the past three hours. He even tried sleeping on the floor with about as much success. Hermione's blanket was too heavy, and her pillow smelled like whatever girly shampoo she used. The fight they had was replaying on a loop in Draco's head. 

 

Perhaps I took things too far, I promised mother that I’d try to make this work. I wouldn't be surprised Maven and Bodrick were here in the morning to take me back to Azkaban. I suppose I can’t blame her .

 

Draco always had an issue with his impulse control. When he was four he bit his nanny’s hand when she tried to feed him greens. When he was ten, he pulled the spoke out of a farmer's wagon and watched as the wagon and pumpkins tumbled down the hill. When Draco was 16 he took the dark mark. He'd be nineteen in little more than a month, he wondered what impulses hed give into then.

 

Draco gave up on finding a comfortable position and sat up on the couch. He stood and paced the room. He found himself fingering the spines of books on the bookshelf beside the fireplace, reading titles he didnt recognize. 

 

She probably leaves all her muggle books out here for show. She probably has the decent reading materials in her room.

 

He was about to turn back to the couch when a burgundy leather bound book caught his eye. He pulled it from the shelf and inspected it. The thick book was in fantastic condition, it was no first edition, but even still it must be old. The spine and cover had decorative gold gilding, and the title pressed on the cover was an exaggerated swooping script.

 

"Dante's Inferno, nice choice. You'll like it" Hermione had somehow snuck down the hall without Draco noticing. She was leaning against the bathroom door, wearing the same jumper as before, but she had changed into pajama bottoms so short, that they could barely been seen beneath her baggy top.

 

Draco self consciously fumbled to place the book back on the shelf. " I was simply admiring the craftsmanship of the binding, I have no interest in Muggle Literature.” Hermione looked unconvinced. “Don't you have any decent books, ones that I might be more interested in?"

 

Hermione sighed "Suit yourself, but you and I both know that you're missing out on a whole entire world of literature. I keep all the "Wizard friendly" books in my room. I will be there in a moment, I just need to..." She tilted her head towards the door she had been leaning on.

 

Draco understood, and made his way down the hall while she visited the powder room. He was surprised at how quickly she seemed to get over their row, almost as if she had completely forgotten. 

 

Her bed looked like the Whomping Willow had slept in it. Half of her twisted blankets were on the floor, and her pillows were strewn across the foot of her bed. Her Teddy bear seemed to have gone missing. Draco picked up the small tomb Hermione had been reading off her bed and scanned the cover. 'North-Western Magical Creatures of the Nocturnal Variety' By August Brudenheild. A  german wizard that primarily studied magical creatures. Draco had read it before, twice in fact. He sat on her bed while flipping through the book until Hermione returned. 

 

"You can read it when I'm through with it, I’m almost at the end.” Hermione stopped at the threshold and looked down at the book possessively.

 

Draco eased back into a comfortable position on the bed, stretching out his cramped muscles. He held the open book in one hand and stretched back the other to support his head. He crossed his legs at the ankles, his bare feet jutting off the bottom of the mattress. 

 

"I don't know if I’ll like this one Granger, I may have to study it a bit longer" He lied. 

 

Hermione was visibly uncomfortable. Her gaze flicked between the book in Draco's hand, and his bare feet. "I could give you a synopsis.... If that would help?"

 

Draco couldn't understand why she was still being so accommodating, a few short hours ago she had slapped him in the face, hard. Not that Draco didn't deserve it. He could still feel the sting it caused. Where did that Granger go? It’s almost as if she’d been possessed by another woman entirely. She seemed so reserved and meek. Maybe the war had changed her like it had changed him. 

 

During his incarceration, Draco had a long time to put things into perspective. It didn’t take him long to accept the fact that he had royally fucked up throwing his lot in with Voldemort. He was always so focused on the survival of his family that he never questioned what he could do differently.

 

But sitting in a cell reflecting, Draco couldn’t help but over analyze the events of the past two years and agonize over the choices he made. At the time it felt like there was no possible choice for him, but what if he was wrong? 

 

Could he have gone to Dumbledore the moment he returned for sixth year, bearing the mark that showed his allegiance? Even if he knew that was the right path, Draco was terrified and only just sixteen. His world and the lives of those he loved were balancing on his shoulders. It didn’t even occur to him that there could be a better way. He saw what the Dark Lord was capable of, and he couldn’t fathom anyone being able to best him. 

 

He knew that Granger had been on the run with Potter for close to a year. The stories he heard about the golden trio were almost unbelievable. The media had regaled the escapades as grand adventures, taken up by modern heroes. So why did she seem so lost? Why was she living alone in a tiny flat, and where are her parents and friends? She didn’t mention having a job, and she wouldn’t have a flat if she had returned to Hogwarts for eighth year. The trademark Granger intensity was in short supply it seemed, and Draco found himself wondering why. 

 

She shifted her weight onto one leg and started toying with a loose thread on her cuff. 

 

Look how uncomfortable she is, it would be so easy to set her off...

 

Draco sat up and flattened his back against the headboard, tucking his legs closer to his body. "I'm not going to bite Granger."

 

She didn't move.

 

Draco let out a loud breath and pushed his hair back, flat against his head. "I apologize, What I said to you earlier was.. very unbecoming." Draco looked down at the book cover while he spoke. "Speaking that way to a woman is unacceptable."

 

Hermione stood frozen for a moment longer, before bringing her arms to cross in front of her chest. She shifted her weight to one leg causing her hip to jut out. Draco looked up and was slightly surprised when he saw that she wore a wide smirk.

 

"I never thought I'd see the day that Draco Fucking Malfoy apologized to someone." 

 

The reference to his earlier jab was not lost on Draco.

 

I don't think I’ve ever heard her curse before .

 

Draco rolled his eyes and patted the bed beside him. Hermione made her way around the bed and perched cross-legged facing Draco. She pulled the book from his grasp and started chattering about the eating habits of Wampus Cats. Draco closed his eyes and leaned his head back in his hands to listen.

 

======

 

He woke up the next morning with a soft yellow glow dancing across the room. He could feel the warmth of the sun kissing his chest, shoulders and neck like warm honey. Draco stirred, blinking his eyes a few times. There were tiny dust motes, lazily floating through the beam of sunlight. He shut his eyes again and buried his head in the pillow he was clutching. He took a deep inhale and smelled chamomile and raspberries.

 

He yawned once and found himself patting the bed beside him, searching for something. After a moment he shook his head, not knowing what it was. He opened his eyes again and took in the room he was in for the first time.

 

He sat up instantly and looked around the room, having forgotten that he was no longer in Azkaban. He had fallen asleep in Grangers bed. He shoved off the blanket and stood, straightening his track pants.

 

Did she sleep in here too? 

 

He looked down at the bed quizzically. 

 

Don't be daft, of course not.

 

He made his way out of the room, turning towards the living area. The sun was only just coming up, so the light flat was still muted. He found Hermione asleep on the couch, blanket tangled in her legs and a new book was resting opened on her chest. Her wild hair was sprawled across the pillow and obscured the right side of her face. One of her legs was slung over the back of the small couch.

 

What a mess she is. Completely wild. 

 

Draco busied himself with the task of making tea, but he couldn't figure out how to use the stove. He gave up and had another shower. He stood under the gush of water until it ran cold. Once he was finished, he wrapped the white towel around his waist and made his way into his room to choose his outfit. Black jeans, a black t shirt and a black zip up. By the time Draco had returned to the living area, Hermione had retreated into the washroom.

 

He plucked an apple from a bowl near the sink and bit into it. He salavated at the tartness and took another bite. He could hear the shower turn on and then off again, then a loud groan. Hermione exited the bathroom, looking annoyed.

 

"Having trouble figuring out the shower? I’ll give you a hint, you have to actually get wet." Draco leaned against the counter and continued crunching his apple. 

 

She rolled her eyes but didn’t look overly annoyed. "You've used up all the hot water, I'll have to wait to shower." She gathered her hair in her hands and twisted it into a messy knot on her head before fastening it with a tie.

 

"I didn't realize Muggles had to wait for warm water." Draco said truthfully. "How do we get tea out of this?" He pointed to the kettle.

 

Hermione smiled, amused. "Just sit down and I’ll fix breakfast. Do you like eggs and sausages?"

 

Draco circled the breakfast bar and sat on the middle stool. "Yes that will do.. Do you..."

 

She eyed him expectantly.

 

"Do you have tomatoes?” 

 

She looked at him with a raised eyebrow. Almost like she didn’t understand the words he was saying.

 

“I haven't had tomatoes in so long." He managed to keep the tone of desperation out of his voice.

 

"I don’t, sorry, I don't really like tomatoes, never have. I can go to the shops later and pick some up if you like." 

 

She busied herself with the kettle while Draco watched. He noted the process in which she made the tea so next time he wouldn’t have to ask for help. Once she had placed a steaming cup of tea in front of Draco she set upon Breakfast. Draco retrieved a book of photography from the nearest shelf and skimmed while he sipped his tea, occasionally watching Hermione whirl around in the small kitchen.

 

"You'd make a great house elf." He said into his cup, eyes on the book.

 

Hermione scoffed. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m not really the obedient type.”

 

Draco chuckled. “You’ve got me there Granger, you’d be a shite house elf.”

 

She set a heaping plate of scrambled eggs and sausages in front of him, then turned around to pull the toast out of the toaster. Draco closed the book and slid it to the end of the granite top. Draco was still hungry when he finished his plate. He had gotten used to eating the bare minimum and the ever hollow feeling in his stomach. But now that he had access to hot, fresh food, he felt as though he could eat a Hippogriff.

 

Hermione picked up his empty plate and replaced it with her own. She had only eaten half her toast, one of her sausages and a fraction of her eggs. She turned before looking for a reaction and started hand washing the dishes.

 

Draco had never shared food before. If he was still hungry at Hogwarts or the Manor, he'd just summon a house elf to bring him more. If there were leftovers, the elves would snap their fingers and take it away. Draco never questioned where the food went. Hermione had cooked without magic, so it seemed like a waste of effort to just throw the food away. Draco picked up her fork and cleaned the plate.

 

"I'm going to pop in the shower now, the water should be warm enough. Around noon your mattress will be delivered, but your mother sent an owl this morning insisting that she‘d have the rest of your furnishings delivered in a few days." Hermione started wiping the breakfast bar down with a damp rag. "Then this afternoon I can head to the shops for groceries. You can write a list of items you like and I can see if I can get them for you." She looked up, unsure "Unless you'd like to come?" 

 

Draco knew he wasn't ready to brave the strange muggle world, so he pretended to think it over. "Uh, no, I don't think I will this time." 

 

"Alright" She didn't seem surprised. "I will have to ward you in when I go.. Nothing personal. It's part of the deal." 

 

Draco found himself ruminating once again on her part in this "deal".  He gave her a nod of understanding and she turned down the hall to her room. She returned moments later with a tangle of clothes and headed straight into the bathroom. 

 

She was in the shower a long time, Draco noticed, before she opened the door in a waft of hot steam and the lush scent of chamomile. She was wearing faded jeans and a white t shirt that had the words "Spice Girls" printed across the chest. The letters alternating between red and blue. She had a towel in her hands, squeezing the water out of her long hair. Her bare feet padded down the hallway and she disappeared. 

 

Draco traded the book of photography for a book about drawing and portraiture and made his way over to the couch. Hermione had left her Pillow and blanket scrunched up at the end of the couch.

 

What a slob.

 

Draco picked up the blanket, folded it in half a couple times and placed it on the end of the couch then retrieved the pillow and balanced it on top. He plopped the book down onto the cushion and lit the fireplace with a flick of his finger, not wanting to do it the muggle way. Lucius had taught him to light a fire non magically when he was 7 while on a camping holiday. Draco had hated it. He didn't understand why he had to hunt and cook his own food and sleep outside. What kind of holiday could it be if you had to work? Once the fire was sufficiently stoked, Draco settled own on the couch and began reading. 

 

An hour or two later, there was a loud rapping at the door. In a matter of moments Draco's new mattress was leaning up against the wall in his room. Hermione retrieved her wand and used a simple cutting spell to relieve the bed of it plastic cover. Draco laid it down on the floor and hermione produced some crisp white bed sheets from her room, and retrieved the blanket and pillow from the living room. He watched as she tugged the sheets on, wondering why she didn't just use magic. 

 

"What do you think, do you want it by the window?" She straightened and pushed her still damp hair back off her face. She snapped her gaze towards the window and put her hands on her hips.

 

"Here's good." He bent down and easily shoved the mattress into the nearest corner, the one that shared a wall with her room. "I think I’d like the desk beside the window."

 

He strode across the room and maneuvered the dark desk beside the window, leaving the window free for him to sit on the ledge.



“Right, well your mother will be sending your new things round tomorrow I expect. Help yourself to some books before I go. There’s parchment in your desk if you wanted to write a list of things you’d like from the shops.” When Draco gave no reply, she retreated to the kitchen. 

 

Draco sat at his desk, trying it on for size. It wasn’t very large, but it would do. He ran his fingers along two parallel gaps on the surface, following them to the edge. Realizing what they were for, he lifted the panel and propped it up on its hinges. This was an artists desk with a built-in easel. The desk looked new, as there was no visible scuffs or marks. Inside the drawers he found a stack of parchment, ink and quills, and an assortment of still in the package art materials, both muggle and magical. Why Granger owned so many art supplies he didn’t know. He couldn’t recall her having a penchant for visual art, if she did she’d surely have made it known, show off that she is. 

 

Draco folded the easel back down and withdrew some parchment and a self inking quill. He made quick work of his list and stood to retrieve some books before waltzing down the hallway. He was pleased to find that she had several books on wandless magic. 

 

Once he was settled into his preferred seat, he slid the parchment towards the witch in the kitchen making sandwiches. She put down the knife in her hand and picked up his list. 

 

“This only says tomatoes and fire whiskey.” She looked up at him cocking an eyebrow. 

 

“Yes Granger, well done.” He rolled his eyes and reached for a sandwich. 

 

She looked contemplative for a moment, but seemed to resolve her quandary on her own, shrugging her shoulders. 

 

They ate in silence once again, on opposite sides of the bar. The fact that she’d rather stand on the other side rather than sit beside him was not lost on Draco. Once Hermione finished, she pulled on some red high top trainers and a blue jumper. 

 

“Right, I’ll be going now.” She didn’t make for the door immediately, and she looked like she wanted to say more. 

 

“Not to worry Granger, I’ll try not to get any of my death eater germs on the sofa.” He said sarcastically. 

 

Hermione rolled her eyes and crossed her arms looking a bit more relaxed. “I’ll be back in an hour or two, I have some errands to run. I’ll be back before Ron gets here at half four.” She turned on her heel and seconds later, the front door opened and then closed, marking her exit. 

 

Draco looked around the apartment, making no move to vacate his seat. He took in the tiny flat, and tried to reconcile the fact that this hovel was his new home whether he liked it or not. Even if he hated it here, he couldn’t find it in him to miss his family home. Malfoy Manor has been tainted by the Dark Lord and his violent tendencies. All his happy childhood memories now lived in the shadow of the horrors that wracked his dreams nightly. He felt jilted, knowing that there was no where he truly called home. No where he belonged. 

 

He sat at the bar for a long time, contemplating. He leaned his elbows into the granite and playfully rolled a rounded blue flame he had produced in his hand.

 

After a while Draco’s eyes grew heavy, and he found himself stretching out on his new mattress. He basked in the comfort after having slept on a lumpy pad for so long. His back was still a mess of knots and tension, even after a good night's sleep in Grangers bed. He figured it would take some time for his pain to subside. He opened a book but lost consciousness before he could finish a page. 

 

Chapter Text

Hours later he woke from the complaints of his blatter. He scrubbed his face with his palms and stretched his protesting back muscles before padding towards the loo. He was headed back towards his room when the front door flung open, less than a foot away from Draco, making him jump. 

 

“Malfoy.” Ron was standing in the entryway, regarding Draco with disgust. 

 

“Weasley.” Draco face automatically produced a spiteful sneer at the sight of the ginger. 

 

The two men regarded each other for a moment, sizing each other up. Draco was taller than Ron, but Rons musculature had increased since the last time they saw each other. Both men were standing with their shoulders squared and their postures stiff. 

 

“Don’t get too comfortable Malfoy, the second you step out of line I’ll throw you back in Azkaban myself” Ron was clenching his jaw noticeably. "We both know you won’t be here for long either way.” Ron stepped out of the hallway and closed the door behind him, bringing the rivals closer together. 

 

“Oh, I don’t know. I quite like it here. I think I could get quite comfortable here indeed.” To make his point, Draco leaned casually against Hermione bedroom door frame. 

 

Ron stepped into Draco again. “You listen here ferret, I’ll be watching you. I’ll be here every waking moment until you mess up, and you will mess up.” He jabbed his index finger into Draco’s chest. “If you try to hurt her, if you even so much as look at her wrong you will regret it. You will never see the light of day again.”

 

Draco’s face drained of amusement and turned dangerous and cold. He may not be as feared and respected as he once was, but he was still a Malfoy dammit, and it was a snow day in hell before he would take threats lying down. He straightened to his full height and looked down his nose at Ron. He purposefully plucked the finger Ron had pressed into him and slowly removed the digit from his person, his eyes not leaving the shorter man's gaze. 

 

“Watch yourself Weasley, it seems as if you have forgotten who you are talking to. I don’t take threats kindly.” Draco’s voice was low and threatening.

 

 "I know exactly who I'm talking to. Nothing but a washed up death eater coward with no magic." Ron smirked proudly at his assessment.

 

 Draco easily mirrored with a cold smirk of his own. "I don't need magic to handle the likes of you Weasley."

 

They stood there glaring at each other for a few more seconds before Ron turned away, entering Hermione's bedroom. Before Draco could walk away Ron turned back to him. 

 

“Where’s Hermione?” He didn’t wait for an answer. He strode past Draco into the living room. 

 

“How should I know? She is my keeper, not the other way around.” Draco said nonchalantly. 

 

Ron whipped his head about the living room in confusion. “Well she wouldn’t just leave, there’s no way she trusts you alone in her flat.”

 

He had a point. Draco didn’t think about the fact that she allowed him to stay behind so readily. He’d half expected her to lock him in his room for the entirety of the next year. 

 

“What time is it?” Draco wanted to know. 

 

“It’s just past half four. Why?” Ron looked at him suspiciously. 

 

“She said she’d be back before you would be here at half four.” He shrugged. 

 

Ron furrowed his eyebrows in confusion. “So you do know where she is.”

 

Draco shrugged “She probably got lost in that dreadful mane on her head. I knew someday it would swallow her whole.” Draco leaned against the wall, focused on his fingernails. 

 

“Shut it Malfoy.”

 

Just then there was a muffled curse and a series of dull thuds at the front door. Both men froze momentarily before Draco reached out and turned the door handle. The second he did, the door swung wide and Hermione tumbled to the floor, her groceries flying out of her hands and crashing to the floor. Her house keys launched from her grasp and smacked Draco in his stomach then promptly plunked to the floor.

 

She was splayed out on the floor at Draco’s sock clad feet, and he couldn’t resist chuckling. “Now Granger, I’m flattered, but you really needn’t grovel. I know that women worship the ground I walk on but this is a bit literal don’t you think?”

 

Hermione whipped her head back in annoyance, her hair flipping back and out of her face. She glared up at Draco as she righted herself. 

 

Ron hurried over to his girlfriend “Are you alright?” He turned to Draco “Now look what you’ve done, you git!”

 

Draco just smirked and stepped into his bedroom, closing the door behind him. He smiled to himself as he replayed the vision of Hermione flying through the air. She’s lucky to have survived this long with reflexes like those. How she became such a powerful duelist, he’ll never know. He reached for his book and propped himself up on his bed, back against the wall. 

 

He read in peace for some time before the tell tale sound of hushed argument pulled away his concentration. It sounded far away, they were most likely in the kitchen or living room. But he could still catch a few words and it didn’t take him long to realize they were arguing about him. 

 

Draco put his book down and massaged his temples as he groaned. This was going to be a long twelve months if this continued. He wanted nothing more than to silence his room permanently. He knew if couldn’t achieve that without a wand, but he tried anyway. Unsurprisingly it didn’t work. 

 

I should have asked Granger to get me ear plugs. 

 

He let his head thump against the wall behind him as the bickering moved into Hermione's bedroom. Obviously the walls in the flat were paper thin because the words were much clearer now.

 

“I just don’t trust him, he could hurt you!” Ron’s voice permeated the walls. 

 

“We’ve been through this over and over again Ronald! I can handle it. I’m not a child or a damsel in distress. I don’t need you to protect me!” She was trying to keep her voice down, but it came out much too shrill. 

 

“You don’t know what he’s capable of! He’s an evil git and you know it! I won’t leave you alone with him! I won’t! I’m moving in tonight and that’s final!” He had stopped trying to keep his voice down and he was nearly shouting. 

 

There was a stretch of silence before Hermione  struggled to speak in a deep and measured manner. 

 

“This is MY flat Ronald. Don’t you DARE tell me what I can and cannot do in my own flat. You are NOT moving in, and if you aren’t careful, you will not be welcome back at all. I do not need your protection, and I’m horrified that you think so little of me and my abilities.”

 

“What does that mean Hermione? Not welcome back?! Are you saying I should leave you here with this MONSTER, and if I don’t you'll break up with me?” He was getting very angry now, Draco could tell. 

 

“You’re twisting my words Ron. I never said-“

 

“But that is what you’re saying isn’t it? You’ll choose this psychopath over me? What’s wrong with you Hermione?”

 

“I’m not choosing him over you! Honestly Ron how can you even say that? You clearly don’t respect me enough to trust me to take care of myself and that hurts.“ 

 

Draco could hear the tears in her voice. What an imbecile Weasel was, Granger was obviously coerced into taking him in, she had no loyalty towards him. She didn’t want him here. Still, Weasley had a point, it’s not as if she couldn’t get rid of him easily. 

 

There was another long pause and the only sound that permeated the room was an occasional feminine sniffle. 

 

“I made my piece with him having to stay here. I get that you don’t have control over it. I still don’t like it, but I accepted it under the assumption that I could stay with you and keep you safe.” Weasley spoke quieter now, but there was still a steely tone in his voice. 

 

“I don’t know what gave you that impression. I never asked for your permission, I never agreed to let you move in, and I’m not going to change my mind.” 

 

Draco pressed his ear to the wall when the conversation ceased. It was completely silent for a few minutes before he heard the bedroom door open, and then slam. A few seconds later the sound of the floo marked Weasley’s departure. 

 

Hermione remained quietly in her room until the sun set. Draco lit the candles on the window sill wordlessly and settled in the window seat. He tried to refocus on his book, but he was distracted by the need to listen for his roommates movements. 

 

He found himself ruminating on the argument. He couldn’t fault Granger for wanting to be independent, in fact he admired her stance. Obviously Draco was relieved that he didn’t have to live with Goody Goody Granger and the Witless Weasel, but he couldn’t help feeling relieved for Granger herself. Too many witches begged for attention and married young, throwing all other ambitions to the side. The wizarding community promoted these ideals and it ran rampant.

 

He never expected this to be an easy situation, but he never would have thought Granger would threaten her relationship to keep Draco out of Azkaban, no matter how independent she was. It would be simple for her to be rid of him and go back to her pathetic life, free of death eater house guests. Perhaps there was more to her side of the arrangement that the Weasel wasn't privy to, maybe whatever dirt the ministry is holding over her head is so bad that she doesn't want him to find out, and she was willing to risk harming her relationship to keep it out of the light. What that could be, Draco didn’t know. 

 

Shortly after sunset, Draco heard Hermione finally exit her room. He was torn, should he talk to her about it? No, that was stupid, but he also didn’t feel like he’d get any satisfaction out of using the fight against her. She was obviously emotionally fragile. Draco never relished a woman’s tears. 

 

Eventually he’d have to leave his room, so he couldn’t avoid her all together. Should he just pretend he didn’t hear anything, even if it was obvious that he had? As idiotic as that sounded, it was his his only real option. He couldn’t make fun of her and he wouldn’t show her sympathy. 

 

He resolved to stay in his room as long as possible, and then he would simply refuse to acknowledge the row. Before he could finish another page, there was a quiet knock at his bedroom door. 

 

“Come in.” He called from his window seat. So much for avoiding her.

 

Hermione poked her head in the door sheepishly. “Sorry to intrude.”

 

“Well now that you have, you might as well say what you came here to say.” Draco closed his book and placed it on his desk. He crossed his right leg over his left and looked at her expectantly. 

 

“I’ve made supper, if you’re interested.” 

 

“Is that all?” Draco picked his book back up. 

 

“I suppose.” She started to leave but she turned back. “Oh, I did pick up the things you wanted.”

 

“Yes, it was hard to miss the tomatoes rolling across the floor.” Draco smirked when Hermione's face flushed red. 

 

“Is it so hard to just say thank you Malfoy?” She crossed her arms and popped her hip. She looked more annoyed than angry. 

 

Draco considered skipping dinner, and staying in his room for the night, but the scent wafting in from the kitchen made him salivate. There was also the promise of Fire Whisky, which was a welcome notion indeed. 

 

He almost considered thanking Granger, but he dismissed the idea. That would set a precedent and Draco could not afford to look weaker than he already did.

 

He stood fluidly and sauntered to the door. “I wouldn’t know Granger, I’ve never tried.” 

 

She she scoffed and backed up as he exited the room. Draco made his way to his usual spot while Granger placed the plates and utensils on the table. She pushed the sleeves of her jumper up her arms and Draco caught sight of a puckered pink scar... No not a scar... Scars. 

 

He felt his stomach lurch and his head swam at the realization. He gripped the bartop tightly when his eyes refused to turn away. He must have made an unconscious noise because she was now looking at him with.. confusion.. concern?

 

“Malfoy?" She dipped her head in hopes of catching his gaze. "Are you okay?” She searched his face for explanation then followed his gaze. Immediately she paled and ripped her sleeve back down, in shame. 

 

“Sorry.. “ She seemed to be looking for something else to say but when she came up short, she turned to leave. 

 

Without a thought, Draco jumped up from his feet to stop her. He felt like someone had Imperio’d him because he felt completely out of control of his actions. His head was still swimming as he reached out to her retreating from. He latched onto her arm, The Arm, and stopped her in her tracks. 

 

She tensed when he made contact and turned her head to look at him. Something in his expression gave her pause and she slowly faced him with wide eyes. 

 

With trembling fingers Draco moved his grip to hold her wrist so her palm was facing up. His gaze flicked up to hers to see her reaction. She looked frightened, but not terrified. 

 

Draco’s heart thumped heavily against his ribs and the air in his lungs felt like porridge. Slowly, he inched her sleeve up her arm. Once revealed, he traced the letters etched into his skin.

 

M

Draco almost ripped his hand away.

U

He felt his knees shake.

D

Hermione let out a small gasp.

B

This is too much.

L

He should stop.

Her arm began to tremble, or was it him?

O

Something wet splashed on her forearm. 

D

He couldn’t move. He couldn’t think. He couldn’t even blink. The sounds of her phantom screaming pierced his ears louder than in his dreams. In his chest he could feel the gripping cold creep outwards, claiming the entirety of his body. 

 

Hermione made to move her arm away and it shattered the invisible force that encased his body. He held her wrist firm and let his shaking fingers graze across the letters at a glacial speed. 

 

He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t breathe. His vision flickered and his head throbbed. He could hear a faraway voice, drowned out by her screams. He clamped his eyes shut and felt his muscles go rigid. Pain was lancing down his spine and he could feel it branching out into his limbs like rivers of scalding lava. 

 

Was he under the Cruciatus curse? It certainly felt like it. A hundred thousand needles pierced through his skin and when he opened his eyes again, all he saw was white. He could hear that far away voice still, but it was as if he were underwater and the sound was warped and muffled. He tried to reach out, somehow knowing that voice was his salvation. Behind his eyes was a severe blunt pain, as if someone was pressing their thumbs into his sockets. His body felt petrified, but somehow also shaking violently. He could feel his heart beating at a terrifying pace, his ears deaf from the pressure of the blood relentlessly pumping. The pain incapacitated him for.. he didn’t know how long, until he heard it again. He heard Her again.

 

He mentally reached out and he could feel a pull as her voice grew louder now. She was saying his name. 

 

“Draco!” 

 

The pain behind his eyes dulled

 

“Malfoy look at me!”

 

Slowly the majority of his pain seemed to lose it’s hold on his body, and the feeling returned to his limbs starting in his fingertips and toes. His muscles were still rigid and the screams were still audible, but quieter now. 

 

“Draco can you hear me? Oh my god, Draco what do I do?” She was right beside him now. 

 

He squeezed his eyes shut again as the world slowed. His cheeks felt warm, but the rest of his body was still made of ice. 

 

When his head stopped swimming and her screams were no more than whispers Draco opened his eyes. 

 

“Draco? Draco, say something!” Hermione’s face registered, she looked terrified. 

 

“Firewhisky” Draco croaked. 

 

She furrowed her brow. “What?!”

 

“Firewhisky” He repeated. She didn’t look any less confused. “Please, Granger.”

 

At first it looked like she was about to refuse, but after a moment she relented and hurried into the kitchen. All the heat in Draco’s cheeks vanished, making them feel cold and damp.   

 

Was she holding my face?

 

He had apparently slid down the wall if his current position was any indication. He was sitting against the wall between the kitchen and Hermione's room, left leg folded under the straight right leg. Draco tested his muscles and immediately regretted it. A ragged scream escaped him as molten lead shot down his spine. 

 

Hermione returned with a half full tumbler of whisky and dropped to her knees at his side. “What is it? What happened?”

 

“Can’t move.” He said simply. He eyed the glass in her hand and she seemed to get the hint. 

 

She started to raise the glass to his lips but then paused. “Are you sure this is a good idea?”

 

Draco let out a growl and shot her a death glare. She let out a tiny squeak and lifted the glass to his lips. When she tried to take the drink away, he growled again and she allowed him to drain the glass. 

 

She sat back on her feet and stared at him. 

 

“What the fuck was that?” Draco said when the  warmth from the alcohol started spreading through him, thawing him out somewhat. He allowed his head to loll forward, too tired to keep it up. 

 

“I think you had a panic attack, or maybe a fit, I’m not entirely sure. We need to get you to St Mungo's.” She cupped his cheeks and held his face up to look at her. The missing warmth on his face seeped slowly back through her touch.

 

“No.” He said simply 

 

“Malfoy, you couldn’t hear me, you looked like you were being tortured.. You were shaking!" Hermione bit her lip when it started trembling. It looked like.. like..  I thought you were dying!” She started sobbing. “I thought you were dying.” 

 

He lifted his gaze and winced when he saw the unadulterated sorrow on her face. She dipped her head and tried to hold in her sobs, tears falling onto her thighs.  

 

No, she needs to stop that. 

 

With tremendous effort, Draco raised his hand to her face and cupped her wet cheek. She lifted her eyes to him as he glided his thumb across her cheek bone. 

 

“No tears Granger, don’t waste them on the likes of me.” He looked into her eyes and his heart clenched when he watched fresh tears roll down her face. He let his head loll again. His hand dropped heavily onto her lap when his strength waned and she clutched it tightly, bringing warmth into his fingers again. Her sobs had subsided but her hands continued to tremble.

 

“What do I do?” Her voice again. 

 

Draco hesitated, and decided to delay his answer. “More Firewhisky.” He could sense she was about to argue. “Firewhisky first.”  

 

She set his hand down on his thigh and fulfilled his request. When the second glass was empty she watched him expectantly. 

 

“Now you.” Draco eyed the tumbler meaningfully. 

 

“No, I don’t want any.” 

 

“Granger,” he let out a small sigh and with some difficulty he raised his head to look her in the eye. “You can't very well help me if you’re a wreck. Just take a drink so you can calm down. I’m not asking you to get drunk. Just.. you need to relax.”

 

He didn’t expect it to work, but the next thing he knew, he was watching her pour a generous amount into the tumbler. He almost laughed at the look on her face after she threw back her entire drink. 

 

The alcohol was doing its job, he felt a little lighter and the pain in his back was somewhat muted. She had taken his hand back into hers at some point but Draco didn’t recoil. What did he care anyways. 

 

When his heart slowed to a steady beat, he lifted his head to address the witch on the floor in front of him. “My muscles are locked. This has happened with my back before, in Azkaban. But now it’s my whole body. I need to move or stimulate the muscles, and I need warmth to loosen them again.“

 

He could see her mind working, processing the information and laying out a plan. “Do you think you can even stand?”

 

“Probably not” he admitted. 

 

He didn’t like the look on her face. She had that signature Granger determination written all over it.

 

“Then there’s only one course of action...” Instead of an explanation, she shuffled her body across the hall near his feet. She slowly straightened out his bent leg watching Draco for his reaction. 

 

He hissed in pain, and she stopped. “Close your eyes and relax. The more you resist, the more painful this will be.” 

 

He eyed her skeptically. 

 

“Just trust me.” 

 

Hesitantly he closed his eyes and let his head rest in the wall behind him. What's the worst that could happen anyway? 

 

He could feel her adjusting his legs to lay flat. He heard her shuffling and heard a zipper, his jumper. She hesitantly grasped the base of his neck and eased him away from the wall. His cheek pressed into something soft and warm. Her stomach, he thought. He relished the contact, though he would never admit it. Life in Azkaban had been cold and impersonal, and she was just so warm. Not including the light hand hold he shared in short visit with his mother, he could not even remember the last time someone had touched him with anything other than their fists.

 

Hermione held him there as she very carefully peeled the sweater from his shoulders. Jostling his frame as little as possible. When she was finished, she carefully leaned his body back against the wall. He could sense her moving away, and he felt his own body shifting, falling. She quickly caught him and moved back to her original position so he would stay stationary. 

 

Draco opened his eyes as she pulled away from him slightly and worked the sleeves off his wrists. She was so close. She was kneeling, one leg on either side of his body, knees holding his thighs in place to support his frame against the wall. Her abdomen was inches away from his face, and she was close enough to smell that chamomile shampoo of hers. 

 

His head began to swim again, but he didn’t know if it was from the whisky, or her proximity, or both. He closed his eyes again as his head fell forward again.  She allowed the contact and finished shucking the sweater from his left arm. His left arm. 

 

She had stopped moving, and Draco could feel the pounding of her heart intensifying. Or maybe it was his heart, he couldn’t be sure. He groaned as he tried to wrench his arm away from her. The arm that bore the dark mark. 

 

She grasped his wrist in a manor not dissimilar to what he had done to her moments ago. “It’s okay, I’m okay.” She breathed. 

 

“Leave that arm.” He tried to pull away again, but his strength was almost non existent. 

 

“I’m okay, I promise. Trust me.” And for some reason he did. 

 

She brought his arm between their bodies and began gently massaging the muscles in his hand and worked her way up. Her legs started shaking after a few moments.

 

“Granger it’s okay-“ He murmured against her midsection.  

 

“Shh.” Was all she said in reply. She adjusted her legs again and hesitantly and very carefully sat on his thighs. “Is t-this okay?” 

 

“Mmm.” A small hum of contentment was all he could muster. He was feeling lost inside his own mind again, but this time it felt like floating. He found himself lowering his head onto her shoulder.

 

She continued her treatment until she had loosened the muscles from fingertip to shoulder, and repeated it on the right arm. 

 

“I need to take your shirt off.” It wasn’t a question but he nodded his acceptance anyway.  

 

Once his shirt had been prized off, she kneaded the tense muscles on his shoulders. 

 

“Fuck” Draco groaned. Her efforts were paying off, not only could he feel his arms again, but whatever she was doing was more than relief. It felt bloody good. 

 

Hermione froze. “Did I hurt you?”

 

“No.. No, it’s working.” He would scream if she stopped now. The alcohol made it so that he didn’t even mind that it was Granger touching him like this. 

 

She continued, though he could feel slightly more tension in her frame then before. She slid her hands from his shoulders up to either side of his neck, raising his head off her own shoulder. He felt one of her hands leave his neck momentarily to brush his fringe off his face.  

 

She began making tiny circles with her thumbs just under the hinges of his jaw, right where the corded muscles started. She dragged her thumbs down slowly while the rest of her fingers lightly trailed down the back of his neck. His skin instantly woke to her touch, and he shuddered. It was as if every pore on his body exploded in delight. 

 

“Again.” He demanded, greedy for more. 

 

When he felt her hands reposition he opened his eyes. She was watching his face almost in a nervous awe, her mouth parted and her eyes taking everything in. Her face was flushed from the firewhiskey and she looked a little dizzy herself. His eyes rested on her bottom lip. She repeated the motion and Draco’s eyes rolled back momentarily. He focused back on her face and she swallowed hard. Regardless of the growing fear on her face, she repeated the action once more without prompt. 

 

She placed his head back down on her shoulder, higher this time. The tip of his nose tickled her neck whenever she inhaled. He took a deep breath and allowed the air to rush out of his mouth. He watched as goosebumps exploded across her neck. She shifted anxiously on his lap. Next he felt her slipping her arms under his and around to his back. She pulled him to her and allowed his weight to rest against her own torso. 

 

The feel of her body pressed into his was as pleasing as the sensation he got when his magic flowed from his fingers. He never thought anything or anyone could make him feel that good. He found himself wanting to hold her, bring her as close as he could so she could melt the ice that was inside him. He found this notion ridiculous. He was half mad from pain and drunk for the first time in almost a year. Even still, he felt his hands move to flatten on the tops of her thighs, and he had to fight to keep them still. 

 

She spent a good amount of time on his back before pressing him back against the wall. Draco felt like warm pudding in her arms and he almost tipped onto the floor when she let him go. 

 

She grasped him again and lifted his face so she could look him in the eye. “How do you feel? Is it working?”

 

He held her gaze through half closed eyes. “Yes, it’s working.” He swallowed “The pain is leaving but...”

 

“You’re weak.” She finished for him. “If I lay you down, I can start on your legs.”

 

He closed his eyes “And my chest... please.”

 

She didn’t respond as she carefully lowered him down onto the floor, twisting his body to lay parallel to the wall. When she was done she was winded. Although he had a lean frame, she still didn’t have enough strength to easily move him. She took a few moments to compose herself before she slid her bottom farther down his thighs, giving better access to his chest. 

 

Draco kept his eyes closed as she gently rubbed his chest, working her way downwards. Every new touch sent violent shivers up and down his body and he had to bite his tongue to keep his gasps of ecstasy contained. Lower and lower her fingers traveled until Draco had feeling everywhere but his legs. 

 

Her hands in his body felt bloody good. Too good. Arousingly wonderful. Uh oh. 

 

He suddenly became aware of the warmth in his lap, and the slight friction he felt whenever Hermione leaned forward to run her hands back up his chest. He was half hard, and he knew that if she continued, it wouldn’t take long before his track pants tented. 

 

“That’s enough Granger, you can move onto the legs.” He snapped. He kept his eyes closed so she couldn’t see what he was thinking. He willed himself to think of anything but the witch hovering above him. 

 

Merlin please don’t let her notice. 

 

“Are you sure? I haven’t finished-“

 

“Yes I’m sure, don’t you think I’d know?” He tried to sound biting but it came out sounding like desperation. 

 

She sat still and silent for a few seconds before she slowly climbed off of his thighs and positioned herself on the floor near his feet. Thank Merlin she didn't remove his trousers. She worked her way up both legs. Half way up each thigh, he snapped at her to stop. He felt guilty, but there was no way he was going to chance getting fully aroused in Grangers presence. It was a struggle enough without her hands straying any closer. 

 

When Granger finished, she sat cross legged on the floor facing Draco and cracked her knuckles. 

 

He stared at her for a while, a host of alarming emotions running through his brain. He closed his eyes to shut them off. He laid there cautiously flexing his muscles and bending at the joints. When he finally felt confident enough to stand, Hermione was immediately at his side, grasping his hand. 

 

“Let’s get you into bed.” 

 

Once he was tucked in, Hermione cast a warming charm over his body then turned to leave. 

 

“Wait.” Draco reached out to her retreating frame. She paused at the door, but didn’t turn back. 

 

“Thank you.” 

 

She looked down at her feet. “You’re welcome Malfoy.” She lingered a second longer then pulled the door closed behind her. 

 

Surrounded in darkness, Draco gave in to his exhaustion.

Chapter Text

Draco slept for two days. All the while he dreamt of the muggleborn witch screaming in torment in his ancestral home. Sometimes the scene would play out as it had in the previous year, other times his imagination would create even more horrific scenarios. When this happened, Granger would almost always die at the hands of his family, and sometimes even himself.

 

He woke to the sound of knocking, and he listened as Granger spoke to the visitor at the door. His head was pounding, and his stomach was in knots. Thankfully, it was late evening and the light that filled his room was muted and yellow. 

 

Draco threw off the blankets, he was incredibly warm. He sat up and noted the stiffness in his form. He carefully placed his feet on the cold floor and rolled his neck, relieved that it didn’t send shooting pain through his body. 

 

There was a small side table beside his bed that wasn’t there before. On it was a tall glass of water and some strange blue tablets. Draco picked up the glass of water and appreciated the cooling charm that had been applied to it. He drank half the glass while he shook off the sleep from his limbs. 

 

After a few moments his door creaked open and Grangers head popped into view. “Oh! You’re awake!” She looked embarrassed to be caught checking on him. 

 

“Yes, it appears I am.” Draco took another gulp of water. 

 

“Those pills on the table are a muggle remedy for sore muscles.” She pointed at the blue tablets. 

 

Draco looked at them and furrowed his eyebrows. “What am I meant to do with them?”

 

“You swallow them whole, with water. Like a Bezoar” She awkwardly stepped completely into the room, rubbing her arm anxiously. 

 

Draco quirked an eyebrow in her direction as if to say, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’

 

She nodded encouragingly, but when Draco made no move to pick up the pills, a challenging glint in her eye appeared. “You aren’t scared, are you Malfoy?” She crossed her arms flashing him a smirk. She visibly relaxed at this, and Draco couldn’t help but smile. 

 

He picked up the little blue pills and swallowed them with a gulp of water. He felt ridiculous when her pleased smile warmed his chest. 

 

He was still dressed in the same sweatpants, but now he was wearing a black jumper. Draco eyed Granger but kept his comments to himself. He walked over to the boxes of clothes while he pulled the jumper off, leaving him shirtless.

 

“Did I sleep a whole day?” He rifled through the box until he found a black pair of jeans and a black t shirt and added a pair of socks and boxers to his pile. 

 

“Er…” He turned to see her shifting uneasily, looking at the ground. “No, you were asleep two days.” She flicked her eyes up to his and back down to the ground. 

 

Draco furrowed his brows and walked the short distance to her. “Two days? How is that possible? I didn’t wake up at all…” As soon as the words left his mouth, he found he had hazy snippets of memories from the past two days. Opening his eyes to see the full moon peering through his window. Feeling a warmth spread through his hands, then fingers brushing his own. A brief shouted argument in the hallway, and Grangers quiet sobs. The memories were fragmented and faint, he didn’t even know if they were real or imagined. 

 

Draco looked at her and took in her tangled curls and sunken eyes. He wanted to ask if she took care of him, but he doubted her guardian services would stretch that far. He wondered if she and Weasley had another fight. With a jolt of panic he wondered if Granger told him about the.. whatever it was that he had, and the.. therapy.. she provided in the aftermath. 

 

He had thought that once he was sober and clear headed he would realize the affection he felt was indeed a product of the situation. Looking down at the petite witch he was alarmed to find that the urge to touch her and hold her close to his chest had decidedly not subsided.

 

Draco cleared his throat when he realized he had been standing over her, bare chested and unreservedly staring into her wide eyes. He took a shaky step back and broke the silence. “I’m just going to.. Uh.. Shower.”

 

“Yea, okay.” It took her a moment to realize she was standing in the doorway, blocking his path. She blushed and stumbled a bit to vacate the room in haste. “Right, I’ll just be..” She motioned to her bedroom door without looking up. 

 

“Right. Yes.” He nodded like an idiot. Draco was struggling to get a hold of himself in the awkward exchange. A feeling he did not much care for. He did the only thing he could think of and all but ran to the bathroom and hastily shut the door behind him. 

 

The latch on the door didn’t catch and it swung back open, but luckily, he noticed before he started undressing. 

 

He spent as long as possible in the shower, even letting the cold water run down his body until he shivered. He clenched his muscles, and stretched to alleviate the lingering strain he felt from his attack. He felt a lot better than he had any right to and after twenty minutes, he could feel the muggle medicine easing the tension he couldn’t shake off. 

 

Feeling quite rejuvenated, he dressed and stood in front of the mirror. His scruff was starting to come back, and the silver of his eyes had deepened to a slate grey. Draco was, however, pleased to note that the grey pallor of his skin had faded and the sunken bags under his eyes had softened. The sight of his long hair still displeased him, he’d have to deal with that. 

 

He glared at his own reflection, willing the wizard in front of him to pull himself together before he walked out to face her. He even considered giving himself a pep talk. 

 

Sighing, Draco grabbed his laundry and yanked open the door. He immediately saw Granger in the kitchen, pulling what appeared to be roast and potatoes from the oven. His stomach gurgled loudly. 

 

Hermione looked over her shoulder and chuckled. “It’ll be ready in five minutes.”

 

He returned his clothes to his room. Realizing he had nothing else to do in preparation for dinner, he grabbed the book, ‘Wordless, Wandless and Wondrous Magic’ from his desk, and made his way to his preferred dining spot. Once seated, Hermione produced two wine glasses and poured out a rich red wine to compliment the meal. 

 

They ate in silence, and at first Draco tried to read while he ate, but quickly abandoned it and set his focus on the meal in front of him. He had three helpings of the roast, a heaping pile of potatoes, and five Yorkshire puddings, all swimming in gravy. 

 

He looked up when he was finished, and noticed Granger had barely touched her food. Her bites were small, and even though her portion was minuscule in comparison to his, there was still a good deal of her dinner on her plate. She finished her wine and poured out another portion for both of them. She cleared the table and pulled a small tray from the fridge. 

 

“Do you think you have any room in there for dessert?” She set the tray down on the bar, revealing three small chocolate tarts, each decorated with a single strawberry. 

 

“There’s always room for dessert, Granger.” Draco had to stop himself from rubbing his hands together like a cartoon villain at the sight of the pastries. 

 

She placed one on a plate and handed it to Draco, and then served herself. 

 

“Who is the other one for?” Draco asked. 

 

“Oh, Ron was supposed to come over for dinner, but he got caught up in a case.” She brushed it off and took a tiny bite of her tart. “He may still come by but it’s already getting late.” She looked at the clock on the wall and took a deep drink from her wine. 8:47pm. 

 

She wordlessly pushed the rest of her tart over to him and cleared up. Glancing at his book she let out a snort. “Figured out the loophole did you?”

 

He wasn’t the least bit surprised that Granger had also noticed the vague wording when it came to his magical restriction. “Of course. That was a glaring oversight on the Ministry’s part. Give me a week and I won’t need a wand at all.” He stuck his nose in the air and made a gesture that reflected his indifference to needing such a thing. 

 

She snorted again. “A week Malfoy? I know you’re a talented wizard, but I doubt you’ll have mastered wandless magic in a week.” She turned back to the sink and reached for the tap. 

 

Before she could close her fingers on the knob, Draco flicked his fingers and turned on the tap. When she hesitated, he added soap to the basin and gathered the dishes. He made them dance around Hermione’s head before settling into the bubbly water. As she was turning around Draco playfully dropped a tea towel over her head. 

 

She tore the fabric from her face and attempted an indifferent expression. “I suppose that wasn’t a terrible attempt.” 

 

Draco laughed and leaned onto his elbows. “Not terrible? Really Granger?” He dramatically unfurled his fingers, creating a fat blue flame at the end of each finger tip and set them to chase each other down his palm and between his fingers. 

 

Her look of feigned disinterested shifted to mild shock. She pulled her wand out of the holster on her thigh and created several identical blue flames to join his. “I’ve never seen anyone else make them, everyone else produces orange flames when they conjure them.” She looked down at his hands where he was now making the balls of heat bounce from one palm to the other. 

 

“I didn’t think anyone else made them either.” He confessed. He couldn't tell if he was annoyed that his unique spell was a shared talent, or if he was flattered to be on the same level as Her Highness Swot. By the look on her face, she was feeling the same. 

 

Draco gathered all the flames together, coalescing into a single ball, and concentrated hard to make a small heated implosion. He sat back into his seat, crossing his arms and allowing a self scarified smile cross his features. 

 

Granger’s face had gradually betrayed her indifference and when she looked up at him, her eyes were wide and her mouth was parted in awe. “That was..”

 

Draco picked up his book and pointed to the title. “Wondrous?”

 

He couldn’t help it, when she started giggling he broke out into laughter. It was strange, feeling so light in her presence. But he’d be damned if it didn’t feel good. 

 

Before their laughter could die down, the sound of the front door closing brought them back to reality. The sight of Ron Weasley coming around the corner was even more sobering. 

 

He looked between them, looking anything but happy. Granger broke the silence quickly. 

 

“Have you eaten? Are you hungry? Of course you are. There’s plenty left, I’ll just make you a plate. Sit down and I’ll heat it up.”

 

Ron turned his attention to the wizard seat across from him. “You’re in my spot Malfoy.” 

 

“That’s so strange, I was sure this was my spot.” He made a show of craning his head to look at the chair he was seated in. “Yup, this one's mine.”

 

“You’re finished dinner, why don’t you just run along now?” Ron grabbed a chunk of cold roast beef from the roasting pan and started gnawing on it. 

 

“I’ve not finished my wine yet, King Weasel.” He picked up his glass and topped it off. Knowing it would get a reaction, he dumped the remainder in Hermione’s glass.

 

“Are you trying to get her drunk? She can’t handle her alcohol at all, she can’t have more than one drink without making a fool of herself. She doesn’t need any more.”

 

Granger spun around and scowled at the ginger. She picked up her glass and took a large swig and roughly placed the glass back down on the counter. 

 

“I think she can decide that on her own, Ginge.” He swirled his wine around and waited for the expected pathetic rebuttal. He wasn’t disappointed. 

 

“Oh, sod off! What are you playing at Malfoy?” 

 

Before Draco could reply, Granger placed her hands on Weasleys shoulders. “Ron, can we please go one day without these theatrics?” She pleaded, a desperate look on her face that conveyed just how tired she was. 

 

“‘Mione, he’s in my spot.”  

 

“He lives here Ron.” She was visibly slouching. Her exhaustion taking hold. 

 

Weasley pushed her hands off his shoulders and grabbed the plate she had made him. “You don’t need to remind me. He lives here, and I don’t. For some ridiculous backwards reason I can’t live with my fiancée, but a death eater can.”

 

Fiancée. Draco’s eyeline flicked to Hermione's left hand, but there was no proof of betrothal. He searched his memory trying to remember if she had been wearing a ring since he arrived. He was certain she had not been, he would have noticed. An ugly feeling unfurled inside him, something he hadn’t experienced in a long time and he felt like he would be sick. By the time Draco realized what was happening to him, Granger was already speaking. 

 

“Ex-Death Eater,” She quietly corrected, much to Draco’s surprise. “And I haven’t said yes yet, so technically I’m not your fiancée.” She looked away from him and started to rub her forearm anxiously. 

 

Draco had noticed that she would do this when she was feeling truly uncomfortable, but it seemed that Weasley was oblivious to this fact. 

 

“Whatever, it’s a matter of semantics. It’s not like you’re going to say no, and it’s not like the ferret is ever going to be anything more than an evil git. So I stand by what I said.” Ron stabbed a potato and shoved it wholly into his mouth. 

 

“Ugh, I did not miss your atrocious eating habits.” Draco wrinkled his nose in disgust feeling his stomach become even more uneasy. “I refuse to be a victim to the horror that is your mouth.” Draco took a large swig from his glass, dumped the remainder in Grangers glass and on a whim, gave her a wink. 

 

He stood with his book and made the short journey to his room. He could almost feel the heat from Weasley’s face as he strode away. 

 

He fully expected a yelling match to ensue once his door was closed but, to his surprise, there was only low, muted conversation and the occasional clink of silverware on dishes. He could have easily stayed and pushed all the Weasels buttons, but he didn’t want to distress Granger any more than she was. After all, he was the one that had to live with her. 

 

Draco lit the candles on the sill and cast his gaze to the street as he perched in the window seat. The bistro across the street had a live jazz band that night, plus it was Saturday, so it was busy. The air was filled with the smooth tones of the trumpet and the boisterous conversations of the patrons. Even though the bistro was packed, it managed to retain its intimate atmosphere.

 

Draco wondered if Granger had ever been there on a night like this. He could imagine her sitting on the patio, dressed in a flowing sundress, laughing contentedly with a glass of white wine held daintily on her grasp. He imagined the way the twinkling lights would play on her glowing skin and her luscious hair. Her lips as she flicked her tongue out to catch a stray drip of wine. Her bright, innocent eyes peeking over the rim of her glass, setting his blood on fire. 

 

Suddenly the scene changed, and Granger was giving him a shy smile before he pushed her back onto her bed. He imagined her look of surprise he would see in the low light of a single candle. How that expression would heat when he slid his hands up her thighs, thumbs catching her skirt as he inches higher. How her breathing would quicken, her breasts pressing tightly against the fabric of her dress, her nipples hardening from the friction of the garment. He wondered if she would gasp or moan if he slipped his hand into her knickers. 

 

Draco squeezed his eyes shut and rubbed his face hard. He had to stop thinking about her. She didn’t belong to him, and she never would. Since he arrived, Draco had been suppressing conscious thought of how she made him feel, If he was being honest, he always had but Draco was not being honest with himself. He was happy to stubbornly lie to himself, no matter how feeble and futile it was. His denial was preferable to the alternative, pining for someone who loathes him, someone who belonged to someone he detested with every fibre of his being. He refused to allow himself to admit he was jealous of the man. 

 

Malfoys always got what they wanted, so he insisted to himself that he didn’t want her. After all, she was the only woman he’d been in close contact with in a long time, and Draco had been painfully lonely. He was 18 years old, of course he would react to the close proximity sharing a flat would bring, it was simple biology. 

 

Simple biology indeed. When he heard a knock at his door, he had to pull his legs up his chest to hide his tight trousers. Once he had arranged himself in a comfortable manner, he granted the visitor access. Granger stepped into the room and tentatively crossed the room to sit at his desk. 

 

For a moment she shuffled nervously and grasped her arm. He didn’t rush her, but he watched her expectantly. When she looked up and met his gaze, she dropped her hands to her lap and sighed. She stood and dug her wand from her trousers and Draco had to look away before he started thinking about her naked thighs once more. 

 

She flicked her wand and cast a muffliato on the room before settling back in the chair. 

 

Draco raised his eyebrows at her and she finally spoke. “I’d appreciate it if we could keep what happened on Thursday to ourselves.” He didn’t immediately reply, so she continued. “You know, in the hallway. After your.. episode.”

 

“I know what you meant Granger. I’m just surprised you’d keep anything from your fiancé.” He couldn’t help but emphasize the word, drawing it out like it was a particularly nasty term. 

 

Her lips screwed up into a petulant scowl and she squished her eyebrows together. He almost expected her to cross her arms and stomp her foot. But of course, he did not find it adorable. He had to put some distance between them. Things had been far too friendly recently. 

 

“He’s not my fiancé.”

 

“Why not?” He said the words before he could stop them, but at least his tone was somewhat mocking. 

 

“I don’t see how any of that is any of your concern.”

 

“Maybe not, but you should certainly be concerned.”

 

“What does that mean?”

 

Draco felt his fingers twitch from the magic that begged to be set free. He let it flow out of him by conjuring the familiar blue flames, setting them free to float around the room like fireflies. “It means, Granger, that if I were you I’d be considerably more polite to the person who knows your secret.”

 

“Is that a threat, Malfoy?” She stood, narrowly missing a collision with a floating flame above her. 

 

“A threat? No…” He intentionally trailed off and tossed her an innocent smirk. 

 

She glared at him and he waited, knowing that he had her. 

 

“What’s it going to take?”

 

Draco rubbed his chin thoughtfully and made a show of squinting as if he was deep in thought. He let her squirm for a while before standing and facing her. A flame drew precariously close to her hair and he swatted it away. 

 

For a crazy moment, he thought of asking her for a kiss in exchange for his silence, but like the stray flame, it swatted the thought away. 

 

“I want a haircut.”

 

She scoffed, “Is that it? A haircut?”

 

It was Draco’s time to scoff. “Hardly, I was just easing you in. My mother should have my barbers information, he makes house calls.”

 

She looked at his hair tucked behind his ears and nodded. “That’s easily done. What else?”

 

“I want a night out with my mates.” 

 

She barked out a laugh. “No way. Not an option Malfoy, even if I wanted to agree, you can’t go anywhere without me, you’d be arrested on sight.”

 

Of course he knew this, but he thought that asking for something so ridiculous would make his actual request easier to swallow. “Fine!” He turned around to feign frustration. “Then I want them to be able to visit here, floo here when they please.”

 

It worked, she immediately flew into compromise. “Once a month!”

 

“Three times a week, and I get to choose my guests.”

 

“Once a week, and you can have one guest.”

 

Draco couldn’t believe how easy it was to play her. He wasn’t the compromising type, but he was a Slythrin, faking comprise was something he could easily do. “Okay Granger, twice a week, one person at a time. Take it or leave it. That’s my final offer.”

 

She looked up at him in frustration, and just when he thought she’d refuse, she relented. “Fine. But I have to pre-approve your visitors.”

 

“Theo, Blaise, and Pansy.” He rattled off with no hesitation. He didn’t think she’d have a problem with anyone but Pansy, she was as cruel to Hermione as Draco had been, if not worse. If Granger refused her, it wouldn’t bother him. He only included her in the hopes that he could finally get some release after a long term of forced celibacy. 

 

Blaise was not a close friend, but he was good for a laugh and always had the best firewhiskey and cigars. He had even once brought Draco a muggle drug that made him feel light and giggly when he smoked it. 

 

Theo had been his best mate leading up to the war. His father also being a death eater, they found themselves spending more time together with the increased frequency of the meetings and revels held by the Dark Lord. They had both been scared, but too proud to admit it. Theo had somehow managed to avoid taking the dark mark,  but he was still expected to join in the same deplorable acts as Draco. 

 

Theo understood how it had been for him, because he was living the same hell. Only Theo managed to escape prosecution as his part in the revelry was not witnessed by anyone other than the death eaters themselves and their victims. 

 

Theo was the only person in the world who really understood Draco. He had written him almost daily while he was in Azkaban, and Draco was grateful for it. He had few simple pleasures in his cell. Besides the letters, Draco’s time was filled by pacing and sleeping and the occasional wank. 

 

But then there was his magic. Early on in his imprisonment, Draco set a strict regimen of practicing wandless magic before bed. He did this secretly, of course. Prisoners using magic of any form was cause for punishment. He knew that witches and wizards were known to lose their magic if they didn’t keep it flowing, and there was no way he was going to allow that to happen to him. 

 

It started small, simple levitation and coloured sparks. Draco pushed himself harder every day, and by month six, Draco could accio anything smaller than a grindylow. Near the end of his sentence, he was able to conjure a long list of objects and levitate his cot. But every day he ended his regimen by conjuring his flames and letting them dance around his cell while he lay back and let them lull him to sleep. 

 

Those same lights were now dipping and weaving around Granger and himself, pulled to them like they were magnetized. One darted to suspend between their faces and Draco closed his hand around it, snuffing it out. 

 

Granger let her face fall into resignation. “If I agree, do you promise you won’t tell anyone?”

 

“Yes, I give you my word.” In truth Draco had no inclination to tell anyone about the experience they shared. It felt private, sacred in a way. Using it to blackmail her would surely sully the memory. But Draco had allowed himself to be complacent in her presence. She needed to be reminded that he was still a Malfoy, still someone to be feared and respected. Maybe he needed a reminder too. The only way he knew how to do that was to lean on his underhanded Slytherin tendencies, to be the snake he was groomed to be. 

 

Granger examined his face, looking for any trace of deception. He held her gaze while she searched, and was once again struck with the desire to touch her, to run his fingers across her jaw down to her throat with his mouth following closely behind. 

 

“You have yourself a deal Malfoy. I’ll send your mother an owl tomorrow. You can give me any letters you need to send to your friends when I go.” She waved her wand and the muffliato spell dissolved. Tucking her wand into the holster, she made her way back to the door. 

 

Draco spoke when she grasped the door handle. “One more thing Granger.” She kept her hand on the handle but looked back at him over her shoulder. “One day, you are going to tell me why exactly he isn’t your fiancé.”

 

She pulled her eyebrows together in thought, but left the room before Draco could see what she was thinking. 

 

What the fuck was that? Draco smacked his palm on his forehead and groaned at his stupidity. Why the hell did he say that? Yes, he was curious, but he should never let her know that. He should not care. 

 

Draco made his way over to his desk and began writing his letters. Hopefully seeing Theo would bring the old Draco back. 

Chapter Text

The next two weeks went by without any incident. Draco relegated himself to his room, with the exception of showering and the occasional shared meal. Granger didn’t bring up Draco’s episode, or the deal they made to keep it under wraps. In fact, they both kept conversation to a minimum most of the time, and they avidly avoided eye contact. 

 

Draco kept himself busy with his magic and continued drawing, just for something to do. Theo had written back, saying he would visit the following week, as he was tied up in some business in America. Blaise had briefly visited, gifting Draco a bottle of firewhiskey

 

Pansy has also written back, eager to see him. She not so subtly implied her desire to give him ‘a proper welcome home’. She was adamant that she would not visit while “That filthy Mudblood” was around, which wasn’t going to happen. Her words left a sour taste in his mouth. Immediately after reading it, Draco summoned a bright blue flame to incinerate the letter. 

 

One morning, Draco woke before the sun. He made his way to the kitchen and successfully made tea, only slightly burning himself in the process. He peered out the window in the living room. It was raining but shortly after the sunrise, the clouds cleared away, leaving behind large puddles and slick grass. 

 

Below, he looked down at the parking lot and adjoining sodden grass field. Hermione’s neighbourhood was quiet. While the view indicated a heavily populated area, the streets were lined with old trees and shrubs, seeming to blanket the area in a muted peace. The roads were not paved like most of muggle London, but comprised of old cobblestone. A few shops and pubs lined the street on the southern side of the building. He spotted a few joggers and a couple walking a dog. All things considered, it reminded him of Hogsmead, and it had made him feel a little more relaxed in the flat. 

 

Glancing at the clock, he saw it was close to 7am. He figured he’d shower and eat quickly so he could spend some time reading and practicing more complicated magic. He’d been excelling far beyond his expectations, and it brought a sense of pride, something he had not felt in a long, long time. With thought alone, he was now able to direct his signature blue flames, not only in movement but also shape. He’d taken to summoning dancing blue dragons at night as he laid in bed. They almost reminded him of a patronus. 

 

As usual, he planned to spend the day in his room, re-reading the instructive texts for the third time. Perhaps he’d ask his mother to send more advanced volumes. 

 

Draco swiftly showered and spread jam on a piece of bread. He couldn’t, for the life of him, figure out the muggle contraption that made it into toast. In his haste, he neglected to bring fresh clothes with him to the bathroom, so he had wrapped his towel around his hips as he retreated towards his room. 

 

The moment he turned the corner, Hermione’s bedroom door swung open. Draco stopped in his tracks and held his breath. With his free hand, he fisted the towel tighter to his hips. 

 

Unexpectedly, it was Weasley that emerged from her room, already dressed in his Auror uniform. Draco hadn’t known that he had spent the night, which meant that they had used silencing spells on Hermione's room. The implications made Draco’s jaw clench, but he tried to brush it off. 

 

“If it’s possible, you’re even more scrawny than before, ferret.” Ron puffed out his chest and widened his stance. 

 

Recovering quickly he retorted. “Now Weasley. I’m flattered you are taking such an interest in my body, but I’m afraid you and I are not of the same inclination .” Draco summoned his confidence and leaned against the wall with his free arm, taking a bite of his breakfast. 

 

Ron struggled for a moment with his reply. “Very funny, Malfoy. Get some clothes on before you waltz around the house, have some decency.”

 

“Am I making you uncomfortable?” Draco held his hand to his chest in a gesture of mock horror. Behind Ron, Hermione stepped out of her bedroom, her eyes bulging at the sight of a very nearly naked Draco. 

 

“Pity, I myself am quite... comfortable here.” Draco let his eyes suggestively rake down Grangers body, taking in the lovely exposed skin of her legs and the brilliant flush leading up from her neck. 

 

Ron pushed Hermione behind him more roughly than necessary, and set his face into a scowl. “Don’t you dare. You keep your eyes off my fiancée! As if she would lower herself to the likes of you, a washed up criminal.”

 

“As I understand it she wouldn’t accept your proposal. Why is that Weasel?” Draco stalked closer to Ron so he could look down on him while he spoke. “Perhaps her… needs… aren’t being met?”

 

Before Ron could respond, Granger dashed between them and started shoving him back into her room. “Stop it! The both of you!” She held a hand against Ron’s chest and turned to scold Draco. “Go back to your room, now!” 

 

He considered for a moment while he smirked down at the bed rumpled witch. When he didn’t move she poked him hard in sternum. “ Now, Malfoy !”

 

“Yes, Mum .” Satisfied that he had the desired effect on the other man, Draco spared another glance to the red faced Weasley before he strode confidently into his room. 

 

Draco spent the rest of the morning practicing intricate conjuration and delved briefly into transfiguration. When he refused Grangers offer of lunch, he listened to her leave the flat on some errands before fixing some cold leftovers. He resolved to learn heating charms next. 

 

By mid-afternoon, he was tired and needed a break. He thought of selecting a book or two from Granger's muggle collection, but pushed the thought away. His eyes were already dry from reading so much. 

 

He sat down at his desk and pulled the drawers open, taking out a package of charcoal and contemplated. He used to enjoy sketching in his spare time when he was young. It was simply a way to pass the time and he never deemed any of it good enough to keep. Still, he needed a way to fill his time so he sat down on his sill with a stick of charcoal and a large sketchbook. 

 

He set his sights on the bistro. It was after the lunch rush, so there were few people dining. Outside, Draco could see a busboy clearing the tables and sweeping the patio. Draco sat for some time while he captured the scene. 

 

He supposed it was alright- a passable depiction. He flipped the book closed and set it on his desk, intending to wash up before Granger got home. Before he could move away from his desk, he heard a tapping on his window, quieter than an owl. 

 

He turned and saw a tiny paper airplane tapping on the pane, just like the memos that flew around the ministry. Curious. 

 

He opened the window to retrieve it, and it instantly flew into his grasp and unfurled. 

 

Little Dragon,

 

Tomorrow morning’s edition of The Prophet should prove.. Enlightening. 

 

We are waiting. 

 

Draco turned the parchment over in confusion. There was no signature, crest or insignia. The only thing he recognized was “Little Dragon,” something his mother used to call him, much to his embarrassment. He read through the note again, and only grew more confused. If this note was indeed from his mother, what was she trying to hint at? And why would she say WE are waiting? 

 

The realization hit Draco like a freight train. 

 

His mother was not the only one to call him Little Dragon. Once, while entertaining a large host of Voldemort’s followers, his mother had made the mistake of using the nickname at the dinner table. The raucous laughter that followed stung sharply. Draco had fled the room but the damage was already done. From then on he was often referred to as Little Dragon. Even those ranked lower than him had maliciously taunted him, to his great displeasure. 

 

We are waiting. 

 

Draco’s brain seemed to stop working. He was sure this revelation should terrify him, or at the very least worry him. But he could not find it in himself to raise the alarm. Draco calmly walked over to his desk and conjured a small wooden box. He placed the piece of parchment inside and laid his palm on top of the box, locking it magically. 

 

Once he tucked the box into the back of a drawer, he continued his plan to wash the charcoal from his hands. He scrubbed his hands thoroughly with soap and made sure underneath his fingernails were clean. 

 

Glancing in the mirror, Draco hoped Granger would soon be successful in arranging his haircut. She hadn’t heard back from his mother yet. Looking at himself with long hair made him a little sick, he loathed how it reminded him of his father. Maybe he’d just get it shorn off completely, save himself the trouble of seeing any platinum hair at all. 

 

He forced himself to stare at his reflection and he started to catalogue all the small details that had slipped his notice since his release. He looked older, that was for sure, although the pronounced guantness was drastically muted, both in his face and his frame. He had been sleeping and eating considerably better since his release and the difference was drastic. He almost looked healthy again.

 

The line of his jaw had hardened and his chin had slightly squared, softening the sharp angles of his previously pubescent features. His nose was still straight but his pointy cheekbones were less prominent. The skin on his face had completely returned to his natural shade of near luminous ivory, but now his jaw and brow were littered with various scars.



The most prominent scar he had received in his first week of imprisonment. A guard had corned him in the showers, and spent several minutes sending stinging jinx’s at Draco and laughed as he recoiled. Draco couldn’t handle any more and set of an accidental burst of magic at the attacker, blowing him into the wall. He was repaid in kind, and his skull collided with the shower head, producing a large gash that ran from his right temple over his eyebrow and ended kissing his hairline. It was healed now of course, but because he was not afforded any treatment, the scar was thick and red and ugly to behold. 

 

Lastly he regarded his eyes. Had they darkened again? They had been normal this morning. He looked meaner without his silver grey irises, he almost hoped his eyes would stay dark. He looked less like his father that way. 

 

Draco’s face set in a scowl thinking about his father. He avoided all thought of his sire since the wars end. Lucius had doomed his family, offering them up like sacrifices to the Dark Lord for whatever purpose he deemed necessary. He held fast to the cause until the bitter end and, as far as he knew, still regarded blood purity propaganda as gospel. 

 

Draco often wondered how his life would have turned out had his father refused to join Voldemort. Where would he be? He imagined being raised in a household without prejudice. Maybe he would have had friends at Hogwarts that he chose for himself, instead of the pure blooded offspring of his father's acquaintances. Not that he didn’t like his friends, he just never had a choice. His acquaintances were pre-arranged from his birth. Maybe he would have even been friends with Granger had things been different. 

 

The summer before seventh year, his mother confessed that she had never truly believed the Pureblood propaganda. He always expected as much, considering she would get misty eyed and  refused to speak of her estranged sister, Andromeda. The Black family had ousted her because she married a Muggleborn. Narcissa was more than relieved to find that Draco’s point of view had been of a similar nature, only a fool, or someone who was truly delusional, would think Muggleborns were any different than Purebloods. He’d seen amazing feats of magic from many of his Muggleborn classmates, and he’d seen Purebloods struggle with some of the most basic spells. If that wasn’t enough, he now lived with the most famous and most talented Muggleborn witch in Britain. Maybe even the world. 

 

He resented his father for misleading and manipulating him his entire life. He felt stupid for having idolized him, he was nothing more than a tool in the end. 

 

Was it possible that his father had sent the note? It was unlikely, as he was relegated to Azkaban for the next 25 odd years, although not impossible when you factored in Lucius’s resourcefulness. He’d escaped Azkaban once, even if it was with the help of the Dark Lord, and he could do it again with enough luck. After all, Lucius Malfoy was a formidable wizard and dangerous man with enough galleons and influence to get what he wanted. Malfoy’s always got what they wanted. 

 

The thought of his father escaping imprisonment churned his stomach. If he managed it, Draco would have no chance at redemption. He’d be forced to run, or take his place at his father's side. If Lucius Malfoy escaped Azkaban, Draco wouldn’t be safe, and neither would Granger. 

 

Draco emptied his stomach violently. He bent over the toilet bowl and wretched until his head pounded and the muscles in his neck and shoulders ached. He stood leaning on the sink for a long time waiting for his hands to stop shaking. 

 

He didn’t notice that Granger had returned until he heard a tentative knock at the bathroom door. Stealing himself, he opened the door expecting to see a short curly haired witch. 

 

He did not expect to see Ginny Weasley. 

 

He stood frozen in shock as he took in the fiery woman in front of him. She was dressed in some kind of muggle athletic ware and her hair was tied into a high ponytail on her head. She abruptly pushed a tall glass of water in his hand and spun back towards the kitchen. 

 

Draco walked over to the bar and set down his glass, still too discombobulated to speak. Weaselette surprisingly didn’t seem to be wary in his company, or even phased by the fact that Draco was still covered in a sheen of sweat from being sick. She almost seemed bored, but Draco could pick up a hint of curiosity in her expression. She casually leaned against the counter. 

 

“Hermione got caught up with something with Harry and Ron, something about catching some criminal or another. She doesn’t know when she’ll be back. She wanted me to come let you know and make sure you have dinner.”

 

“Criminal? What criminal are they after?” Draco’s earlier fear of his father escaping resurfaced. 

 

Ginny shrugged. “They don’t tell me anything, do they? Harry and Ron are overprotective, have been since before the war.”

 

Draco furrowed his eyebrows “But they aren’t protective of Granger? She’s out there running around with them isn’t she?” 

 

Ginny grabbed a box of biscuits from the pantry and bit into one. “I guess they just need her, she’s the brains of the operation. Everyone knows that.” 

 

Draco frowned. Of course she was. Potty and Weasel couldn’t tie their own shoes without her. It made Draco angry that those gits were concerned with Weaselette but not Granger. Why didn’t anyone else see how much they were using her? They had always had taken advantage of her kindness, even when they were kids. Draco didn’t need to be close to Granger to know it was true. 

 

“What operation is that? Is Granger an Auror too?” He couldn’t remember her saying anything about a job, and she had spent most of her time at home in her room, so he was pretty sure she wasn’t. In fact, he had expected her to return to Hogwarts to make up her seventh year. The knowledge that she didn’t was almost concerning. 

 

“No, they just ask her to help out sometimes.” She shoved the rest of the biscuit in her mouth and spoke through the pastry. “Blimey Malfoy, you haven’t insulted me once. Did all that upchucking scramble your brains?”

 

Draco grimaced at the thought of the ginger listening to him vomit. “Did you want me to insult you Weaselette? I promise you, I won’t disappoint.” He slipped into his seat and drank cautiously from his glass. He didn’t have enough energy to come up with any cutting retorts at the moment anyways, but she didn’t need to know that. 

 

She brushed him off. “Maybe later. I’ve got football to get to.” She opened the fridge and surveyed the contents. 

 

“Football?” Draco asked

 

“It’s a muggle sport.” She said with her head still in the fridge. “It’s like quidditch without brooms, bludgers or snitches.”

 

Draco tried to picture what that would look like but it didn’t compute. Maybe Granger had a book on the subject. 

 

Ginny piled turkey, cheese and tomatoes onto a couple of slices of bread and pulled crisps out of the pantry. She handed him a plate and sat on the counter, digging into her own. 

 

“I could have made myself a sandwich. Just because I was born wealthy doesn’t mean I can’t throw meat on bread.” Draco rolled his eyes. 

 

Ginny shrugged. “Don’t look at me, Hermione insisted I make sure you ate.”

 

Draco snorted. “That’s a bit hypocritical of her.”

 

There was a pregnant pause before Ginny spoke in a smaller than normal voice. “She’s been like that since the war. She’s..” She set down her plate beside her. 

 

“Lost?” Draco guessed. 

 

“Yea. Lost.”

 

He looked down at his plate. “I’ve noticed. She’s not the same Granger from Hogwarts. It’s like she’s lost her fire.”

 

“I think her parents have a lot to do with that.” 

 

“What’s wrong with her parents?”

 

“She didn’t tell you?” 

 

“No.” Draco hadn’t even thought about Granger's muggle parents. They would have been vulnerable during the war, being excellent leverage against the golden trio. He figured Granger must have had the sense to hide them. But had it gone wrong? Did Voldemort find them? 

 

“You’ll have to ask her then.” She hopped off the counter and seemed to wrestle with her thoughts for a moment. “Malfoy?” Another pause. “ You’re not the same either.. are you?”

 

Draco slowly stood and turned away. “I guess…” His gaze locked on a photo of Granger and Weasley on the mantel. “I guess we’re all a little lost.”

 

They stood in awkward silence for a few moments before he moved back towards his room. 

Chapter Text

Draco spent the evening trying not to pace. 

He tried to keep busy by practicing wandless magic, making tea, and completing a sketch of the candles on his windowsill. He wandered into the kitchen and looked at the time, 7:32. He’d effectively wasted 68 minutes since Weaselette had left. 

Where’s Granger? He knew it was silly to be worried, but the images of his father kidnapping and torturing her would not subside. He’d been picking apart the anonymous note all day, hoping against hope that his father had nothing to do with it and that he was still securely tucked away somewhere in Azkaban. 

 Draco sighed. He wished he could get out. He wasn’t just stuck inside this flat, he was stuck inside his head. Having Granger around made him feel less trapped in a strange sort of way and now that he didn’t have her presence to lean on, he was uneasy. Hearing her move around the flat grounded him but she'd been gone since noon, and the walls of the flat were starting to close in on him. 

Draco lit the fireplace and relaxed against the couch. He tried meditating, something that used to help when he felt this way in Azkaban. He closed his eyes and focused on the breaths he took but it was no use. His mind was buzzing with thoughts of his father, Scarhead and Weaselbee pulling Granger into another suicide mission, the fate of her parents, of her feeling lost. 

Draco stood and marched to the kitchen. After a few moments of rummaging through the cupboards, he found the bottle of firewhiskey Blaise had brought him and a tumbler. Retrieving a book from his room, he settled into the sofa and relaxed in the warmth of the fire. After 6 chapters and two firewhiskeys, Draco put down his glass and corked the bottle. 

He managed to ignore the liquor for a whole 12 minutes. He knew this because he kept glancing at the clock. While he already had a faint buzz, Draco’s anxiety was still out of control, he felt on edge and twitchy. He was obsessively listening for the sound of the front door, the floo, the crack of apparition, anything to signify Granger’s return. His concern was baffling. He’d never felt so protective of anyone other than his mother, and this was Granger for Merlin’s sake. 

Giving in, Draco abandoned his book and poured an excessive portion of the golden brown liquor into his glass. He drank in silence, watching the flames dance. 

After several drinks, Draco peeled off his socks and his jumper and tossed them aside, it was too warm. He wiggled his toes into the soft plush rug and laughed. He was definitely wasted.

He must have been even more drunk on the night of his attack, because he didn’t feel nearly as good as he had then. He wanted that feeling back, that weightless warmth, the mind boggling bliss. He wanted to go back to that place and never leave, he couldn’t remember feeling anywhere near that content in his entire life. He knew some of that feeling had probably come from the loopiness from the after effects of his episode, but he wasn't experiencing an iota of that euphoria now. He resolved that more drink couldn’t hurt. 

By the time the bottle was empty it was 12:28am. Draco’s body was overheated from the mixture of firewhiskey and the proximity to the fireplace, so he shucked off his t shirt and banished the flames with a single thought. 

Where’s Granger?

Draco decided he would search for clues as to where she went. He drunkenly stumbled around and began pawing at the items on her mantel, and pulled out books to look for hidden secrets. 

After a very thorough investigation of the pots and pans under the sink, Draco decided that if he found anything it would be in her room. He would have to be very careful and stealthily break in. He tiptoed down the hall. 

Maybe if she was in trouble he could rescue her. He could do that right? She’d like that, bloody Gryffindor that she is. He could climb out the window, and then.. Well he still had to figure it out from there. 

He reached her bedroom and turned the knob. He frowned when he found that it was locked. He scowled at the door for a moment and it popped open. That’s more like it. He started at the desk, rifling through the topmost pile of parchment. Curiously, some of them had scorch marks and some were completely charred. He shrugged and looked at the pile of books next to the desk. They all seemed to be about mind healing. 

Finding no secrets, he sat down on the edge of the bed and started opening the bedside table drawer. 

A shout came from the other side of the flat, “MALFOY!”

It was Granger! She was back from saving the bloody world with her crazy giant brain. 

Draco called out gleefully, “Granger! You’re home!” He tried to get up but ended up sliding down the bed, landing on his bum with an ‘Oof!’ 

Granger appeared in the doorway looking panicked. Her head turned to completely take in the scene before she rushed over to Draco, then hesitated a few feet away. “Malfoy, you’re going to burn the entire building to the ground!”

He frowned at her. “Well Hello t’you too,” He drawled in an overly sarcastic, but slurred tone. “ ‘Ow wasyer day? I was about to rescue you, y’know.”

She looked at him with wide eyed confusion for a fleeting moment then pulled out her wand, casting aguamenti on the bed behind him. “Malfoy, put them out!”

He didn’t understand what she was talking about, and before he could ask her what she meant, Granger had grabbed her blanket and wrapped it around his head. 

He gave an annoyed grunt and stood up, flinging the blanket away from him. “Whaddar ya on about Granger?!” 

She started backing away from Draco with a tinge of fear on her face. He reached out and grabbed her arm to stop her departure, and she yelped and jumped back. It was only then that Draco realized his hand was engulfed in blue flames. 

For a moment he stared dumbfounded, then remembered that he had touched Granger. His attention snapped to her where she was turning her arm over and frantically running her hand over the unmarked skin. “Are you okay?” He stepped forward to examine her himself but stopped short when he remembered he was on fire. 

She was breathing rather frantically and there was soot streaked across her face. She dropped her arm and looked back up at Draco. She had a look of wild incomprehension on her face. “Yes.. I’m alright.. I don’t understand..” She shook her head in confusion before her face hardened marginally. “Malfoy put them out now!”

He looked down at both of his hands and willed the flames to go away. It didn’t work so he tried again, closing his eyes tightly. When he opened his eyes, they had still not gone out. “I can’t. I can’t put them out. Why doesn’t it hurt?”

“I don’t know! What about your head? Does that hurt?” She looked a touch less unhinged now but stayed where she was, wand at the ready. 

“No, why would it?” He patted his head and felt for whatever could be wrong. He turned to the mirror above her dresser. 

His head was on fire. 

The same blue flames that were encasing his hands had also taken up residence on the top of his skull. Upon closer inspection he realized that his head was not ablaze. His hair was. Somehow it had not been burned off, instead, his hair seemed to act like flames, rising up off his shoulders and waving back and forth hypnotically in the core of the blaze. He turned slightly and noticed a burning line licking up his spine that started at his tailbone and merged into the inferno that was his hair. 

He was staring at his head with such commitment that he didn’t immediately notice his eyes. They were white. A shining, no, glowing white. His irises and pupils were gone, yet his vision seemed to be perfect. He leaned forward and blinked rapidly to confirm he wasn’t insane. 

He glanced back at Granger wide eyed. She had lowered her wand. He looked back down at her arm. It was fine, there wasn’t even a tiny indication that she had been burned. 

The heat coming off his body seemed to race through his veins, instantly decimating any trace of alcohol. With his sobriety, came an awareness that nearly knocked him over. He felt so alive , electrified. He could no longer see the room. All he could see was Granger. It was like the air was rippling around her, pulsing against him in warm waves. 

Wordlessly he reached his hand out, palm up, and offered it to her. They gazed at each other for a moment before Granger swallowed and very slowly inched her fingertips forward. Her hands were shaking but the look on her face was pure Granger, she was openly intrigued and determined. She paused before she closed the last inch or so to glance up at him. They wore matching expressions of tentative curiosity. 

Her shaking fingers met the flame and she gasped. Draco immediately yanked his arm back and shuffled backwards. 

“No! I’m okay… That was..” Granger trailed off as she stepped forward and without hesitation grabbed his hand. He was about to retreat again when he felt it. Her skin felt like soft static, and goosebumps erupted up his arm. Granger smoothed her palm over his, sending tingles racing across his skin. She let out a small huff of breath and a deep blush creeped onto her face. Draco could feel her magic sliding over his skin, weaving through his own bolstered pool of magic. 

Their eyes locked and they started moving closer together as if in a trance. Draco felt a pull to her, a magnetism so strong that he barely felt his legs doing any work at all. Granger must have been feeling it too, because the pulses thrumming off her body were growing more intense. The contrast of the push and pull was dizzying, but somehow not contradictory. 

Inches apart now, Granger slowly lifted her hands up to either side of his face, her warm eyes locked on his all the while. The awe on her face was intense and raw as she slowly caressed his face from his jaw, to his cheeks, then his temples. She stopped herself when her fingers brushed the tops of his ears and whispered, “Can I?”

Draco swallowed and felt his magic swell, stoking his flames audibly. All reservations he had about being too close to Granger now seemed ridiculous. All those years of pretending to himself that he hated her were ridiculous. Every moment he wasted being away from her were ridiculous. Every slight, every taunt, every sneer; ridiculous. Now he could see nothing else, nothing else but her, and she was everything. 

He shuddered at her touch and whispered back a breathy, “ Yes”

She slowly dragged her fingers through his hair and they both gasped. 

Draco was wrong, the euphoric state of bliss he had experienced in the hallway was nothing compared to this. He felt alive, powerful, invincible. The magic surging through him was like nothing else he had ever fathomed and Granger was his catalyst. The places she touched sang out in unadulterated pleasure. 

He couldn’t resist stroking her cheek, he needed to feel her skin and the rosy flesh of her face was inviting. When he made contact she started from the sensation and closed her eyes. He cupped her face with both hands and felt the urge-no-the need to capture her lips with his own. He gave in to the force that was drawing them in and dipped his face to meet hers. 

Her eyes shot open to reveal glassy white orbs that perfectly matched Draco’s. In the back of his mind, Draco knew this should have shocked him, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that this was supposed to happen. He marveled at her for a moment before inching his lips closer. The tips of their noses brushed and their parted mouths were puffing out small shaking breaths. He could almost taste her through the air that he took in and his head swam with pleasure and untapped power. 

As the seconds ticked by the intensity of the pull tightened, Draco could feel Granger shaking. He never imagined anything could feel so intoxicating, so right. For the first time in his life, he felt whole, unburdened and free. 

He didn’t feel lost anymore. 

Before their lips could meet, she stepped back and the strange intense force that had been pumping through his body vanished, like a snuffed candle, causing him to stumble slightly. He felt empty, brittle even. There was a hollow space in him that he never knew he had, and now it was painfully apparent. He looked down at his hands and the flames were gone. He looked in the mirror. Gone.

His eyes were dark again, and when he looked back at Granger, so were hers, although her eyes were more dark chocolate than Draco’s deep slate. She had backed up against the wall, grasping her forearm. Her mouth, the same one he almost kissed, was hanging open in pure shock.

“Holy Shit.” Draco let his arms fall heavily to his sides, instantly feeling exhausted. 

Granger seemed to be shell-shocked, so Draco asked the question on both of their minds, one he knew neither of them would have the answer to. “What was that?”

She kept quiet and continued to stare at him in shock. 

“Did you feel…” He trailed off trying to clear his mind. What the hell had just happened? What did it mean? The only thing he was sure of was that it meant something. Something big, and it wasn’t just about him. No, he had a painful awareness that Granger was linked to him somehow. Did she know? She must, when they touched it was like they shared a skin, they were twined together with magic and the entire world fell away. 

“I felt it.” Her voice was so quiet he almost didn’t hear her, but her expression of shock had shifted to nervous curiosity and her shoulders relaxed a bit. “What did that mean?”

Draco was at a loss. Still, he rifled through all the knowledge he had about obscure magic. This was like nothing he’d ever heard of. It was almost as if there was some binding aspect to it, but he couldn’t be sure. 

“I honestly have no idea.”

“Has that ever happened to you before?” Granger awkwardly motioned to the top of his head. 

“No, never.” He looked down at his hands. “The blue flames though.. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.”

She didn’t say anything to that. They both knew that their shared signature flames were somehow significant. Granger suddenly furrowed her eyebrows and then stuck her hands on her hips. “How did you get past my wards?”

For a second Draco was confused, but then he looked over at her bedroom door that had been blown open. Chunks of the door frame had exploded across the floor, and the broken doorknob was on the opposite side of the room. He tried to recall how he got in but all he could remember was that he was frustrated and it just opened. 

“I was really drunk, Granger. I’m not really sure what happened before…” Before he went into a strange trance where his former school rival was the center of the universe and he was on bloody fire? Yea that. 

She didn’t seem to believe him, or maybe she was just looking for a reason to yell at him. “You were drunk?! I was gone for a couple hours-“

“Try a whole day.”

“-and I come back to a smouldering flat, thinking that someone had broken in to get to you! I called your name until I was screaming, and when you finally answered, I come here to find you drunk and on fire, sitting on the floor in front of a ravaging fire that had once been my bed!”

Draco turned around and almost stumbled when he took in the sight of her mattress. It was torched. Three quarters of the mattress was charred and crumbling. There was smoke still rising in some places so Draco made quick work of completely extinguishing every heat source. 

“Why aren’t you drunk anymore, anyways?” Her rising fury was somewhat undermined by her curiosity. 

“I think it was literally burned out of my system. That’s what it felt like anyways.”

She purses her lips in annoyance. “Why were you drunk in the first place? You haven’t done that before.” He had in fact been fall down drunk many times, but he knew she meant since living with her. 

Draco may have just shared a mind bendingly intimate experience with the witch, but he wasn’t about to admit out loud that he missed her and was scared she was in trouble. Not when he was finally starting to admit to himself that she meant something to him, flaming, magic trance aside. 

“I don’t have an answer for you, Granger.” Not one that he was willing to give anyway. 

She stood glaring at him with her hands still perched on her hips, looking like she wanted a fight but couldn’t figure out how to get it. Her eyes trailed down his body, and she turned an adorable shade of pink when she seemingly noticed for the first time that he was only wearing a pair of dark jeans. Giving up on her quest for an argument, she abruptly turned away and started stomping out tiny embers on the bedspread that she had wrapped around his head. Without a backwards glance, she tore out of the room. 

Following Granger, he nearly choked when he came to a halt in the entryway to the living room. The couch, several items on the mantel and the kitchen cupboards were blackened. Not to mention the ceilings that were caked in soot. There were spatterings of scorch marks on various bookshelves and places on the wall where Draco must have stumbled into while drunk. 

He couldn’t believe it. How on earth didn’t he notice that he was setting the flat on fire. This is precisely the next thing Granger asks and he looked down at her frustrated face sheepishly. “I must have drank too much. Way too much.”

She let out a frustrated huff. “Help me make sure it’s all put out and I suppose we can talk about this more in the morning. It’s late.”

“So you aren’t going to send me back to Azkaban?” He didn’t really think about it before, but now that he proved to her that he was dangerous, there was a very good chance he would serve the rest of his sentence incarcerated. 

She cocked her head to the side. “Huh? Why would I do that?”

He gestured to the charred room they were standing in. 

“Did you do this on purpose?” She arched her brow. 

“Merlin, no! Living with you may not be my idea of a luxury holiday but, believe it or not, I would rather live here with you than be in Azkaban.” 

“Then I see no reason to report this.” She made to turn away but changed her mind and whipped her head back to look at him sternly. “But no more getting drunk, and you’re going to help me put this flat back to rights. Then we are going to the library to figure out-”she wiggled her fingers above her head like flames. “-this thing.”

She was much more like the old Granger, ordering him around, scolding him and stomping about. Not that he didn’t deserve it, Draco almost destroyed her home. “I promise I’ll do all those things, but, Granger?” He looked down at his feet. ”I’m.. I’m so sorry. I have no idea how that happened. I don’t know-”

Her ire melted somewhat and gave him a weak smile and interrupted. ”Its okay.” She let her eyes soften a bit and the tension in her body all but disappeared. She looked almost as exhausted as he felt. “It’s okay, really. We’ll figure it out tomorrow.”

They worked in silence for a good twenty minutes thoroughly sweeping the flat for any more burning debris. Draco tried to give Granger his bed since it was the only place to sleep that wasn’t burnt to a crisp, but she refused. They argued and eventually they conceded that they were both too tired to care, and that they’d share, just for tonight. 

As Draco washed and changed for bed he resolved to have Granger send an owl for him to his mother to have to flat refurbished, all on the Malfoy sickle. He finished his nighttime routine and made his way down the hall to where Granger was waiting in his bed. 

 

Chapter Text

Draco took a deep breath before knocking on his bedroom door. He had stalled as much as he could without looking pathetic. 

“Come in,” Granger called.

Draco opened the door and peered in. Granger had changed into the short pajama shorts that she had worn on his first night in the flat, along with a pale pink tank top and fuzzy socks. 

Merlin’s Balls. 

She had her back turned to him, and she was brushing her still damp hair over her shoulder. He awkwardly stepped past the threshold and stared at her. 

Should I just get into bed? Does she have a preference for what side she sleeps on? Do I shut the door? Leave it open? What is the protocol for sharing a bed with your roommate who also happens to be your school rival and witness to your drunken-fire-magic… whatever. 

He’d been standing there in silence for too long, he had to say something. Anything. 

“I like your socks.”

ANYTHING BUT THAT. 

She looked at him over her shoulder and chuckled, “You like my socks?” She turned around fully and regarded him with an amused expression, “Would you like to borrow them?”

If I ever get my hands on a time turner, I’m going back to stop myself from ever having been born. 

He closed his eyes and rubbed his temples. “No thank you, Granger. I’m not really the warm and fuzzy type.”

She snorted. “Well you’re definitely not fuzzy but after tonight I think you’d have to admit that you’re the warm type.”

He barked out a laugh, “Well you’ve got me there.” They both smiled and looked down at the floor, Draco was pleased that she seemed to be acting more like herself. 

She’s got her fire back. He inwardly rolled his eyes at the irony in that. 

Granger grabbed her wand from the side table and started casting over the bed. Draco recognized a few of them, one meant to detect high temperatures, fire repellent charms, and a smoke absorption spell. 

“What’s that last one?” Draco pushed his hands into his pajama pants pockets and cocked his head. 

“Temperature regulation. I get cold, and you apparently get hot,” She shrugged and Draco couldn’t help but notice the way subtle way her breasts bounced, “Seemed like an appropriate measure.”

Speaking of appropriate.. Draco’s gaze shifted to her chest, large beads of water were running from her hair, soaking into her tight tank top. The wet fabric clung to her skin, and he was mesmerized by the way the moisture spread south. Like a tortuously slow waterfall, the water soaked her shirt further and further down, trickling just centimetres away from her-

“So, which side is yours?”

Draco’s eyes widened and flicked back to hers, “What?” He felt his face heat. 

“Which side is yours?” She reiterated, pointing at the bed. 

Draco cleared his throat and looked away from her, “The outside, if you don’t mind.” He wanted to be able to get away if he needed to, and being pressed up against the wall by her body was entirely too tempting. 

She must have gotten a new dose of Gryffindor courage, because she hopped onto the bed without any hesitation and wiggled herself under the covers. 

I’ve got to stop thinking about her wiggling. 

“Shut the door will you? There’s a draft.” She asked once she was under the blanket. 

Draco was sure this would end badly. He was already fighting his hormonal impulses and he knew he was about to fail. The image of Granger in his bed, with a wet shirt and her alluring aroma, it was too much. He frantically tried to find another solution. He considered sleeping on the floor, in the bathtub, on the sodding bartop. But he just couldn’t fully convince his body to walk away from the vision in front of him. 

He was aware that he had been staring, probably for much too long, so he quickly shut the door and rounded the mattress. He settled himself beside her, as far away as he physically could. For a moment they both laid on their backs stiffly in silence. 

Draco eventually broke it, “Aren’t you going to dry your hair?”

“Oh! I forgot,” She sat up and wordlessly cast a drying charm on her hair. 

Draco couldn’t help but watch her top rise as she sat up, exposing a few inches of bare skin just above her arse. When her hair was dry, she flicked it over her shoulders and the tips of her curls danced across her exposed lower back. It did funny things to his insides. 

She laid back down beside him and they were silent once again. Feeling wide awake, Draco summoned his blue dragons to fly around the room, hoping they would ease him into slumber, and maybe he wanted to impress her a little. 

Granger gasped and sat up on her elbows to get a better look, “Malfoy! Those are beautiful!” The light of a passing dragon lit up her face in a soft blue/white light and her dark eyes sparkled. Draco wordlessly directed it to dip under her body where she was propped up and fly through her hair at the nape of her neck. When it did, her hair sparkled with blue energy and blew around as if the wind had caught it. Her peeling laughter was pure joy and the look on her face was like that of a child seeing magic for the first time. 

He reveled in her awed expression, breathing it in like it was his last breath. His mouth turned up in a small smile, “Yes, I suppose they are.”

His face must have betrayed the adoration he was feeling at that moment, because when Granger's eyes locked onto his, her face flushed and she hastily laid back down. 

“This is truly amazing. It reminds me of a Patronus charm,” She grazed her fingers along another hovering flame beast and giggled as it cooled around her hand of its own accord. “What form does your Patronus take?”

Draco felt his heart sink a little at this query, “I don’t know.”

Granger let her hand fall to her lap and turned her head towards him, “Oh,” She said quietly, obviously knowing what that meant, “I’m sorry.”

Draco waved off her apology. He had tried many times to produce a Patronus even before the war. He was terrified of the Dementors, and begged his mother to teach him. Once, he had managed a small puff of white while thinking of the first flying lesson at Hogwarts. He was the first to summon his broom, and he was wonderfully smug at the sight of swotty little Granger struggling at something for once. 

Granger didn’t press Draco on the issue, instead she rolled over and faced the wall. 

He closed his eyes, trying to forget she was there, but her soft breathing and occasional little movements were breaking the illusion.

He couldn’t help but look at her. The blanket was resting in the small of her waist, unfairly showcasing every dip and swell of her figure. Her hair was mostly behind her on the pillow, but a few strands were draped across her shoulder and falling down the naked skin of her back. 

She wiggled her hips to find a more comfortable position, pushing out her arse just a little bit more towards him. Draco gulped, and had to really concentrate to keep his breathing steady. Slowly, very slowly, he slipped his hand under the covers to tuck his now rock hard member into his waistband to make his arousal less obvious. He covered up the movement by loudly scratching his abdomen. 

Just as he was about to turn his back and face away from her, she flipped over and spoke, “You should probably know, I sometimes have nightmares.. and..” She tucked both hands under her cheek, making her breasts press together deliciously. Unfortunately for Draco, she didn’t seem to notice that her chest was basically dripping wet, or the fact that she was obviously cold if her now erect nipples were any indication. 

 Draco had to really concentrate on what she was saying. 

“Sometimes I talk or thrash, I’ve been told it’s not always pretty,” A flash of shame crossed her face, “So if I do, just wake me up.. or I can cast a silencing charm… Maybe I should just sleep on the living room floor...” 

She was getting more and more nervous and embarrassed as she spoke, reminding Draco just how much she had been like her old self that evening. She was quickly slipping back into the timid and nervous woman who brought him home from Azkaban. 

Horrified, Draco turned over to face her and halted her tirade with a stop gesture. He wouldn’t allow her to revert that easily, “Who’s telling you that? That your nightmares aren’t pretty? Of course they aren’t. They’re nightmares!” He didn’t wait for a response as he continued, agitated, his arousal firmly placed on the back burner. “I have them too, so it’s not like I’m going to get mad at you, or cast a silencio on you. That’s awful, who would do that?” He allowed the full extent of his distaste show on his face. 

She seemed to relax a touch at that, but all she said was, “Okay.”

Draco had a thought. “No one has done that to you, have they?”

She quickly flipped over onto her back and looked pointedly at the ceiling, “Done what, wake me up while I’m having a nightmare?” She attempted a laugh and it came out sounding like a whimper, “What a silly question.”

He propped himself up on an elbow and looked down at her sternly, “You know that’s not what I’m asking.”

She started toying with the end of a curl but kept her mouth shut. 

“Granger,” He said impatiently. 

She still didn’t say anything, so Draco held her chin and turned her head to look at him. The timid, guilty look on her face made him sigh. She looked so small, so fragile. He wanted nothing more than to gather her up in his arms and keep the world and all that had hurt her away. But he couldn’t, because she wasn’t his. He shouldn’t even be hovering over her in his bed, with his hand on her face breathing in her scent. That privilege belonged to an undeserving ginger prick. 

Draco’s face hardened and he spoke harshly through a clenched jaw, “It was Weasley wasn’t it?”

Grangers face blanched and she tugged her chin out of his grasp, “No.”

“You’re lying.” 

She furrowed her eyebrows in anger and met his gaze, “It’s none of your business! I can take care of myself! I told him to do it. It upsets him.” The angry tears pooling in her eyes had his blood boiling over. 

“Oh, Ronniekins gets upset when his girlfriend makes inconvenient noises? Why didn’t you just say that in the first place? It’s not like he could do anything differently, like say, comfort her.” His sarcastic tone was drifting more and more towards venomous. 

“I never said he doesn’t comfort me!” She sat up and started scooting down to the foot of the bed. “Don’t presume to dictate my own relationship to me, Malfoy. It’s fine! I told him to silence me when he stays over because it upsets him. That was my choice to make!” She stood from the bed and made for the door. 

Draco sat up and followed her off the bed. “Maybe so, but if he cared about you he would never have done it, permission or not. He wouldn’t even be able to tell if you were suffering if he silenced you!” He ran his hands through his hair angrily and paced towards her. 

“I know what it’s like to have nightmares plague you! If someone who was supposed to love me slept peacefully beside me while I was in hell; it would devastate me. So don’t you dare stand there and tell me it’s fine!”

Her eyes were sparkling with tears, threatening to break free. Her voice was shaking, undermining her facade of rage, “He’s not supposed to love me, he does love me.”

Draco didn’t miss the fact that she didn’t refute the rest of his claim. It had to hurt her, no one would be okay with it. She went to grab the door handle but Draco got there first. 

He spoke in the softest tone he could manage in his current state, “Then why do you look so sad when he’s here? All you and him do is fight, he’s always yelling and he doesn’t even notice when you’re upset. You always look nervous and jumpy, like he’s about to attack you at any moment.”

A tear escaped and trailed down her face, curving slightly towards her nose when it met the swell of her cheekbone. She turned away from him sharply, unable to meet his gaze. Something inside Draco twinged. 

“Granger,” Draco felt this anger rising and his core was heating, his skin prickled and the hair on his arms stood on end. “If he hit you..” He closed his eyes and tried to push down his rapidly building rage. He could feel his magic pulsing. 

She turned back to him. “Of course not!” Her face was contorted into a painful kind of sorrow and tears were flowing freely now. “He wouldn’t do that! Just because he gets angry doesn’t mean he would hurt me!”

Draco wasn’t convinced it was the truth, but he knew that he was pushing her. This new Hermione Granger was clearly too fragile. She was shaking and hugging herself tightly. 

I’m going to kill him. He’s dead. 

She started sobbing uncontrollably, and the rage that was building in him was instantly sucked away. Without a second thought, he closed the distance between them and scooped her up against him. Her arms immediately reached for his neck as her head burrowed into his chest, where she loudly cried into his t-shirt. 

Draco rested his cheek on the top of her head and wrapped one arm around her waist. He used his free hand to stroke her hair while she sobbed. He held her tightly as if she was about to crumble. His body subconsciously swayed ever so slightly to soothe her. He offered hushed words of apology and comfort while she slowly calmed down. He told her she was safe and that nothing would happen to her. 

They stood there for a good deal of time. Draco let her cry while he savoured the feel of her in his arms. Every once in a while, a blue dragon would loop around them. In fact, most of the dragons had congregated around them as if they were sentient beings that were standing vigil over the pair. 

Draco didn’t want to speak, he was sure the moment that one of them did, the spell would be broken and he would have to let go of her. So he continued to rock her slightly, inhaling the calming scent of her chamomile shampoo. He eased his hand underneath her tresses and started stroking her back, then up the back of her neck.  

His heart was hammering in his chest, and he couldn’t resist tracing a line down the side of her neck, following the curve of her shoulder and doubling back for the dip of her collarbone. Her grip tightened slightly on his neck, and she tilted her head to the side ever so slightly, enough for Draco to realize she liked being touched by him.

She said she felt the magics pull, maybe she wants me too. 

She had completely stopped crying, he realized. She was breathing deeply and he could feel her heart slamming against her ribs at the same manic pace as his own. He brushed a few strands of hair over her bare shoulder and slid his hand up her neck and into her hair, just behind her ear. He dipped down to caress her forehead with his lips, letting his breath linger on her warm skin. 

He felt dizzy-exhilarated-yet terrified. He didn’t know how to form any other thought but, ‘ Kiss her! Kiss her! Kiss her!’

His let his thumb trace over her ear and whispered, “Granger?” 

“Yes?” She sounded far away. 

“I… I…” 

He splayed his fingers across her back and pulled her tightly against him. He started tipping back her head with the hand that was still entangled in her hair. He held his breath, and lowered his face. 

Realizing what he wanted, she stiffened slightly and pulled her arms down from his neck. “I’m okay now, thank you.” She backed away completely and pressed herself into the wall, hand grasping her damaged forearm. She looked around the room, frantically trying to find anything but him to focus on. Draco felt something inside him deflate for the second time in a few hours. 

“Sorry-“

“I didn’t mean to-“

They spoke at the same time, but Granger was the one to press forward, “I’m sorry, I’m not usually like that,” She leaned against the wall and dragged her hand down her face. “It’s been a long day.”

I guess we’re just ignoring that then. 

She looked up at him expectantly, almost as if she were waiting to see if it was okay that she was tired. 

“Better get to bed then, yeah?” He offered her a small smile and her tension melted, seeming to be relieved at his response. 

She dropped her shoulders and crawled back into bed. He followed, and settled himself a respectable distance away, this time resting on his front. 

He turned his head towards hers. “Goodnight Granger.”

With a thought, he transformed the floating dragons into a handful of otters that swam through the air. The smile he got in return took his breath away. 

“Goodnight, Malfoy.”

—-

Draco’s heart was racing, and his feet were stuck to the floor. He wasn’t sure if he was petrified, or simply frozen in terror. He tried to open his mouth to shout, or maybe scream but when he opened it, all that came out was pitch black smoke, curling and twisting like the trail of a Death Eater‘s cloak. 

He could feel the heat from the fireplace behind him. His back and legs were thrumming with heat from the proximity. 

In the dark drawing room, he focused on the only two other occupants. 

Ron Weasley had Silencio’d Granger, and he was kissing her with brutal force. She was soundlessly crying out for Draco, reaching towards him, eyes begging for help. Weasley looked over at him, still clutching her shoulders painfully and laughed. 

He threw Granger to the ground and drew his wand. Just as she had started to clamber away, he hit her with the first Crucio. She spasmed and writhed without a sound, her limbs and skull bashing against the marble floor. Weasley tortured her until all the fight had left her body. Draco watched on in horror as he slowly wrapped his thick fingers around her throat and strangled her to death. Draco could only watch as the man suffocated her, with a twisted, gleeful grin on his face. Granger’s own face had turned purple, blood vessels in her eyes had popped and her jaw was becoming more and more slack.

“Malfoy!” She called, her face blank and unmoving. 

I thought she was silenced , he idly thought. 

His body was burning, warm orange flames licked up his legs and set his entire person ablaze. Draco could smell his flesh burning, could feel his skin peeling away from his body. When he screamed, the dense black smoke blocked his view of Granger, so he kept his mouth glued shut. He used all his energy to break free of his fiery prison, to get to her. 

“Draco!”

Her eyes rolled back into her skull and thick while foam started leaking from the corners of her mouth. 

“Draco! Wake up!”

Just as her body started thrashing in the throes of death, Weasley turned to him and laughed. 

“You’ll never have her.”

—-

Draco sat up, sweating and sucking in air. He stared into the darkness of the room, the fiery familiars having gone out when he lost consciousness. He slowly realized he was in his room in the flat, and not watching Granger die in the drawing room. 

He jumped when he felt someone touch his arm and started to scramble out of the bed. 

“Dra-Malfoy it’s just me! It’s Hermione!” 

He was still a little sleep addled so he just stared at her for a moment. The vision of a purple faced dream Granger still lingering in his mind. 

“It’s okay, you’re safe. It was just a dream.” She crawled towards him and tentatively placed her hand on his shoulder. 

He scrunched his eyebrows together and looked down at the hand on his shoulder. He took her hand and turned it over. There was the scar, puckered and pink but not fresh. He reached up and cupped her cheek. 

She’s okay. Thank Merlin, she’s okay. 

Draco let out a relieved breath and wrapped his arms around her middle, pulling her into his lap. It was alarming how quickly he set aside his pride when it came to her. Just yesterday he would have bristled at the thought of embracing her, but he didn’t care anymore. 

The thought of something happening to her was too much to bare. He needed to shield her, had to protect her. Every cell in his body was dedicated to her. When she came home to him aflame, his eyes were opened. When the strange magic possessed them, his mind was made up. She was important, she was everything, and he was always too stubborn to let himself see. He felt stupid for it now, now that she belonged to someone else.

Even still, he wouldn’t let her go until she pushed him away. He squeezed her tightly around her middle and buried his face into her hair, his head resting on her shoulder. He tried to quell his tremors, but he was losing the battle. 

Granger had gone stiff initially, but she eventually reciprocated his embrace, one hand on his back, one stroking the back of his head. Draco almost laughed when he realized that just hours ago, the roles had been reversed. 

Eventually his tremors subsided, and the dreamt images that were seared into his brain dimmed. Granger didn’t offer words of comfort, instead she poured it all into her embrace. She held him closely and smoothed her hand over his neck and the back of his head, cradling him closely. 

When his eyes started to droop, she directed him to lay down. He expected her to roll away from him once they were under the blankets but, to his delight, she snuggled into his chest and allowed him to pull her close to wrap his arms around her. 

I’ll keep you safe. No one is going to hurt you. 

After a few hazy moments, he was asleep. 

 

Chapter Text

When Draco woke up, she was gone and the sheets beside him were cold. He laid there looking at her pillow and replayed the events of the previous evening. He listened for any indication that Granger was in the apartment but it was silent. 

I almost kissed her… Twice. 

He didn’t move for a long time. He closed his eyes and tried to remember what it felt like to have her so close to him. He thought about the overwhelming sensation of her hands running through his fiery hair and the dizzying need to press their lips together. The soft skin of her neck under his fingers. That little pink shirt of hers...

Draco shivered, he could feel the blood rushing south again. He wouldn’t allow himself to act on his urges, however. It would almost be like he was violating her if he did, not to mention that he knew if he started thinking about her, he wouldn’t be able to stop. The thought of pleasuring himself to images of a witch he couldn’t have was pathetic, and more than a little masochistic. 

He considered waking himself up with a cold shower, but decided that since he’d be cleaning up after his drunken pyrotechnics display, he’d do it later. He’d just have to keep his mind occupied as much as possible. 

He sat on the edge of the bed and stretched, his back hadn’t felt so good in a long time. He quickly changed into an old dark blue jumper and worn grey jeans. 

Draco padded over to his desk and wrote a quick note to his mother, asking her to oversee the refurnishing of the flat. He tucked it in his pocket and made his way into the kitchen for tea and toast. 

The smell of smoke was prevalent, so he magically threw open all the windows and cast an air freshening charm. He made quick work of his breakfast and, since Granger wasn’t there, he began cleaning up. He told himself that she was probably off to the library researching his magical anomaly, but a small part of him worried that he overstepped and scared her off. 

Draco mentally kicked himself for acting so brazenly. It was hardly like him to lose control like that. Even though he regretted coming onto another man's woman, even if it was Weasley, he couldn’t deny that he’d do it all over again. Nevertheless, he decided to bury his feelings, after all, there was no guarantee Granger wanted him back. He could go on pretending nothing had changed. 

Right?

He spent the next couple of hours piling the charred remains of furniture in a corner of the living room before he realized that he could just vanish them. He magically cleaned the scorch marks and soot off the ceilings, cupboards and walls and carpets with ease.

Just as Draco moved on to assessing the damage to the books, Granger arrived via floo in a flash of green. She looked shaken, and she was clutching something behind her. 

Draco cocked his head, “What’s wrong?” He stood and brushed off his pants and wiped away the blackness from his hands onto his jumper. 

Under her zip-up jumper, she was wearing the same tank top as the night before and a quick glance at her waistline told him she also still wore the flannel pajama shorts. She had obviously left in a rush, but why? 

Was I correct to assume I scared her away, or was there some kind of emergency? Was she off somewhere risking her life, again?

Draco stepped closer to her, worrying more by the second. When she didn’t answer him he fixed a hard stare on her, “Granger, What is it?”

Still, the only reply she gave was a tightening of her shoulders and a downcast gaze. Draco sighed, he knew getting angry with her was not going to help, even if it was his first instinct. Post-War Granger did not always respond well to confrontation. 

Draco let his hands hang loosely at his sides and took a deep breath, “Can you at least tell me if you’re okay?” 

She seemed to snap out of it then, finally meeting his gaze and sighed, “Yes, Malfoy, I’m okay,” She scrunched her brow in thought for a beat, “But I need you to come with me.” Without another word, she grabbed his hand and pulled him towards the front door. 

He pulled back slightly when she pulled it open, “I don’t have any shoes on.” Hermione quickly pulled her wand out of her back pocket and flicked it. Seconds later his shoes came flying out of his room. Lifting a leg at a time, they fastened themselves. Without another moment to lose, Granger grabbed his hand again and started pulling him down the hallway to a staircase. 

“Why is it that you always drag me wherever we go? I can walk unattended, you know.” Draco feigned annoyance, while trying to hide an amused chuckle as she stomped about, curls bouncing every which way. 

She shrugged non-committedly, “This way is faster. Keep up!”

He trailed behind her, tempted to fall behind to rile her up. In the end, he just went along for the ride, being yanked about by a tiny control freak, “Yes Ma’am!”

Four flights down later they reached a damp, underground car park. She led him to the opposite end, which turned into a corridor with dozens of heavy metal doors lining each side. 

They made their way down to the end of the hallway and stopped at door number 36. She looked quickly up and down the passageway then tapped the door once, effectively unlocking it. She pulled it open and yanked him in behind her. The room was very small, made of concrete and had a single air vent directly above them. There were two decrepit looking cardboard boxes in the corner. He used every ounce of his concentration to ignore the feeling of terror at being locked into a small concrete cell-like space. 

Draco got suspicious when she started casting a familiar set of charms, “Can I ask why you’re warding the room against fire?”

She didn’t answer him, instead she cast a series of privacy charms and finally turned to look him dead in the eye. Draco waited patiently while she studied his face, apparently looking for something. 

“Your eyes are light again. Silver.”

“Okay… Did you bring me all the way down here just to tell me the colour of my eyes? Yours are brown, if you wanted to know.”

Granger snorted faintly, “Yes, that’s exactly why.”

Draco pointedly raised his eyebrows, indicating he did not intend to let her beat around the bush. Her face fell and she started fidgeting, “Something bad happened.”

He waited for more information while giving her a once over to make sure she was indeed unharmed. She winced when he caught her in another impatient stare, and fumbled for her words. Eventually, when speech failed her, she unceremoniously shoved a Daily Prophet into his hand. 

He stared down at the folded up paper as it dawned on him. 

Tomorrow morning’s edition of The Prophet should prove.. Enlightening. 

He felt a lump form in his throat as he looked back up at Granger. She had a wary look of concern on her face, and she looked like she desperately wanted to say something, but she kept to herself. 

This is it, this is the day father breaks out of Azkaban. 

Draco took a steadying breath and unfolded the Prophet with slightly trembling fingers. Once the headline was visible, his stomach roiled. 

 

MURDER AT MALFOY MANOR

 

On Thursday, May 27th, in the early hours of the morning, The Auror department responded to a tip sent anonymously by interdepartmental memo. 

Said tip led to Malfoy Manor, the ancestral seat of the Infamous Malfoy family, which had been set ablaze. When this reporter arrived on the scene, the massive flames that engulfed the upper floors of the Manor were still being fought. 

Upon searching the house for inhabitants, the Ministry workers quickly surmised that the only resident, Lady Narcissa Malfoy, was missing in action. The two Auror’s that were stationed in the Manor were found dead. There were no reports on how they were murdered, but one officer did say it was  “a right bloodbath.” 

After the flames had been quenched, the rescue teams did a secondary sweep of the damaged East and North wings in search of the Lady of the house. The teams came back empty-handed, and the Ministry confidently surmised that she had not perished in the fire. There was evidence of a struggle, and this led the Auror department to conclude that she had been abducted at the time of the attack. 

To further this theory, upon return to the Daily Prophet headquarters, this reporter discovered another tip, again in the form of an interdepartmental memo. It read as follows;

 

—-

Little Dragon, 

 

We are waiting for you to come out and play. I guess we’ll just have to occupy ourselves with the Lady Malfoy while you play house with the Mudblood. 

 

Don’t keep us waiting.

—-

 

It was not a difficult leap for the writer to surmise that ‘Little Dragon’ was in fact Draco himself. The article went on to reiterate his conditional release and pondered the ramifications of the obvious threat to his person. It highlighted his Death Eater ties, and since it was the Prophet, it went on to speculate on whether or not one third of the golden trio had indeed been “playing house” with a convicted felon behind her unsuspecting boyfriends back. 

The large photo that took precedence on the cover was an aerial shot of Draco’s family home. The fire raged as the rescue teams flew about on broomsticks, casting water spells as they darted around the twenty-foot flames. The only part of the Manor that was completely untouched was the West wing; his wing. 

Draco stared at the photo and tried to comprehend what he was seeing. The words he read refused to absorb, so he re-read the article. His head was pounding and his vision was going blurry. He squeezed his eyes shut and dropped the paper. 

When he opened his eyes to look at Granger, she looked very distressed, and she was clutching that arm of hers again, “Draco?”

When she broke the silence, it finally hit him. 

They have Mother. 

“No,” He sank to his knees, “No, no, no, no!”

The room was spinning and his vision started darkening. The sense of terror that engulfed him was all too familiar. It was the same dread that haunted him all throughout sixth and seventh year. On top of that was the unmistakable sting of failure. He had failed to protect his mother. She was in danger, Merlin knows where, and it was all because of him. But mostly, he just felt angry. Teeth grinding, fist clenching, bone crushing anger. 

“FUCK!” His rage opened up like floodgate and he felt his magic swell drastically. He looked down at the newspaper as a flash of cerulean incinerated it. 

The hair on Draco’s body was standing at attention and his heart was hammering relentlessly. He felt pressure building behind his eyes and magic pool to his extremities. His core boiled like hot magma and his spine seared. He slammed his eyes shut when the pressure became too much. 

He realized he had stood up when he finally snapped open his eyes. Once his sharp gaze focused, he looked at the small witch in front of him. She looked back at him with wonder and a little fear. Her long hair was whipping around her as if she were caught in a hurricane, and her feet were having a tough time staying planted below her. The whole room was an eerie blue, like they were in an underwater cave. His flames, he just now noticed, were twisting around in a firestorm at a tedious speed. 

On instinct, Draco held out his hand, just like the night before. Granger seemed to debate her next move, but not for long. She took two shaky steps towards him and grasped his hand. 

Draco immediately felt the pressure in his head deflate, and goosebumps race deliciously down his body. The magic that flowed through him and into Granger ran like a fast river. She gasped loudly and her eyes fluttered closed. He took her other hand and stepped closer. He could feel her magic slipping over his skin and when he focused on the sensation, noticed the way it was tamping down on the more wild spouts of raw magic. Where he felt like he would crack apart from the sheer power, her magic pressed in between the fissures and held him together. 

Once she adjusted to the torrent of power, she opened her milky white eyes. 

“Draco, you need to calm down. I will help you find your mother, I promise.” She placed a hand on his naked chest right above his heart, his jumper having had burned away, and intense tingles danced on his skin. She took his hand and placed it over her own heart. He watched in mild fascination as her shirt quickly burned away at his touch. Instead of harming her, his burning touch seemed to transform the broken little witch in front of him into a mighty goddess. 

She was magnificent. Her skin seemed to glow more warmly than his fire. Her hair writhed about in a fit of sparks and electricity. 

The moment she made contact, Draco felt like all his empty places had been filled, every broken spot mended, every hurt healed. His anger was still present, but with every beat of her heart, his control resurfaced. 

Once he no longer felt volatile, when their heartbeats sang the same rhythm, he could tell that the twisting inferno had slowed to a crawl. He could feel the energy inside flow more like a trickling stream. He caught his breath and watched in fascination as Granger's eyes dimmed to a deep shade of brown, so dark they were almost black. 

When the air became still around them, and the flames burnt out, the pair stood staring into each other’s eyes, breathless. Realizing that his hand was resting on the top of her bare breast, ( Breasts that I will not look at) Draco conjured a simple blue t-shirt directly onto her form. After all, he wouldn’t want to do anything unbecoming. Even if he really, really wanted to. 

She jumped a little and looked down to see what he had done. She turned a brilliant shade of crimson when she realized that there had only been a small scrap of her top circling the bottom of her abdomen. She hastily backed up enough so their hands fell down to their sides. 

After a beat, reality sunk back in for Draco. His mother had been taken. His heart twisted and he felt his stomach drop. He could feel panic gripping his chest, and he had to close his eyes to tamp it down. He wasn’t ready to broach the subject yet though, he didn’t want to think about it. So he settled for the next biggest quandary. 

“How did you know that would happen?” 

“Huh? Oh, I didn’t. Well, I did. But I didn’t really-not really,” She huffed in frustration and tried again, “What I mean to say is, I'm not sure how I knew, I just did. It was like instinct or something.”

Draco nodded absently, “And the fire, it didn’t hurt at any point?”

“No. It just felt like...” She bit her lower lip and looked up at the ceiling, searching for the right words, “Raw magic. Wild, in a way.” 

He wanted to ask if it made her feel whole like it did for him, but he already knew. While it was happening, the look on her face was a mirror image of his, he was sure of it. 

‘That doesn’t mean she cares about you. It doesn’t mean she wants you,’ He scolded himself, ‘ It was the magic that drew her in, nothing more.’

He pondered for a few more moments, hoping to come up with more questions to distract himself, not only from his mother, but also the bossy witch that haunted his thoughts every waking moment. 

Draco could tell that Granger was almost bursting at the seams with questions. She had held her tongue while he absorbed the new information, but now she was basically vibrating. Draco was positive that she’d raise her hand and start jumping up and down like she had in every class at Hogwarts. 

“Okay, Granger, I know you’ve got questions so let’s just get them out of the way before you rupture something,” Grateful for the continued distraction, he crossed his arms and leaned his back against the far wall. 

She nodded tersely and jumped in without preamble, “Well we should start with the physiology of the matter, considering that’s probably what you can tell me the most about. What does it feel like? More specifically, where does it originate and how is it controlled? Does it hurt?”

Draco answered her questions honestly, “It feels bloody awful at first, the sheer power of it, not the flames. Then it’s indescribably wonderful when—“ He looked away from her, “When we—“

She saved him from finishing his sentence. He knew she understood, her touch had eased him, “Right. Can you describe the pain? Can you tell where it flows from?”

“I don’t know where it comes from, it’s just building up inside of me,” Draco took a loud breath, “When it builds up enough, it’s like a lead balloon is inflating in my head, and my chest feels like it could break apart at any moment. It was way more intense this time.”

“And after..” She waved her hand around awkwardly, “You know, after I’m there?”

He snorted, “Certainly would not call it pain at that point, no.”

She continued without acknowledging his statement, albeit with a more anxious tone, “How has it affected your magic? Is this part of it, or a separate entity of sorts? Other than last night has this happened before, or since for that matter?” She started pacing back and forth, her mind whirring with lightning speed calculations. 

“Were you given a magic suppression potion while you were in Azkaban? No, no, I would have seen that in the paperwork,” She wasn’t even talking to him anymore, ”Do you have any magical maladies? I’ve never come across this kind of condition before. Maybe it’s a curse? Did anyone curse you with any strange curses or hexes? Or maybe—“ 

“Merlin, Granger, take a breath!”

She halted her march and looked a little jilted from having her thought process interrupted. She huffed, “Last night was the only other time this has happened?”

He nodded. 

“Is it your own magic or something else?”

He thought for a moment, almost able to push the ball of anxious fear to the back of his mind from the distraction Granger was providing, “It’s most definitely my magic, but whatever this is makes it.. bigger. Like it’s growing, evolving, making it too big to stay in.”

She crossed her arms and nodded at the floor, “I think we can safely say that it can react to emotional stimulation. Does anything go through your mind when it happens? Do you hear things? Are there visions?”

“No. It’s just all instinctual. I just feel… Compulsions.” 

Granger pushed a broken piece of concrete around with her toe and tried to sound uninterested, “What kind of compulsions?” He watched her cross her arms and awkwardly take a casual stance, still looking at the ground. 

Gods she’s adorable. 

“I think you know.” They had been under that spell together. He just knew she felt that pull. Felt it like it was an inevitability.  

The pair was silent for several tense moments before Granger let out a small curious hum and started pacing again. 

“You figured something out didn’t you?” It wasn’t really a question, he knew that look, it was another Hermione Granger classic. 

She waved her hand in a frantic shoo motion, “Shut up!” That made Draco bite back a grin. 

Her pace quickened, stopping abruptly a few times as if she were going to say something just to return to her march. All the while she kept her eyes focused on the ground in front of her feet. 

Draco took a deep breath. Without her nattering he could feel the walls of the small room press in on him. Sweat was starting to bead on his forehead and his lungs felt tight. He was parched, and when he tried to speak nothing happened. He had to swallow several times before he got it out, “I'd like to go back up to the flat.”

“Hmm?” She slowed slightly and cocked her head in his direction absently while still staring off into space.

He tried to make his voice as steady as possible, “Granger, look at me.”

She promptly looked into his eyes, the displeasure in his voice startled her and broke her focus, “Sorry, what did you say?” She took in his moist brow, the arms he had wrapped around his bare torso and the tense set of his shoulders. Her face fell immediately with guilt. 

Draco tried not to imagine how pathetic he looked right then, instead, he stood tall and squared his shoulders, “I said, I’d like to go back upstairs now.” He tilted his head and lifted a brow at the metal door behind her. 

“Oh. Yes, yes of course.” She spun around and tapped the lock. Without another word, they headed back towards the staircase. 

Just before they could start their ascent, there was a rapid click of high heels on concrete behind them and a sing-song voice called out, “Yoo hoo! Hermione!”

Granger stopped in her tracks and stiffened. Draco turned around to see who could have affected her this way. Running towards them was a blonde woman in a very short, bubblegum pink babydoll dress and six inch black heels. Her long hair was tied up in a high ponytail, and a large pink bow adorned it. The woman was obviously older than both of them, at least by ten years, but she skipped over to the pair with the enthusiasm of a four year old. 

She skidded to a stop right in front of Granger and threw her arms around her neck, almost taking her down to the ground, “Oh Hermione, it’s been too long! Where have you beeen?”  

“Good afternoon, Barbra. We actually must be go—” Granger choked out from under the weight of a much taller woman. 

“For the last time, call me Babs.”

Draco tried not to cringe. Everything about this woman screamed “ I’m trying way too hard!” Granger seemed to share his sentiment as he noticed her shake off her own cringe as Barbra—Babs pulled away from the embrace. 

“Babe, you look so good that I didn’t even recognize you!” Babs gave her an exaggerated look of shock at this revelation. 

“Thanks.. Babs,” She gave a small forced laugh, “I really didn’t do anything differently.”

“Ugh! You’re so lucky that you don’t worry about what you look like all the time. I wish I could just be like you and just not care what other people thought about my appearance.” 

She’s not even trying to make her insults subtle. What a cow. 

She angled her body more towards Draco, “Isn't that right—“ she slowly dragged her eyes down his body, taking in his naked torso and singed grey jeans, “—handsome?”

Draco’s skin felt like it was crawling from her gaze. He managed to hold back the violent shudder that was begging for freedom and gave her a tight, insincere smile. 

I’m such a git, I should have conjured another t-shirt for myself. 

He could feel his roomates magic thrum and shimmer around her. She clenched her jaw and spoke in a tight low voice, “Barbra, this is Draco Malfoy, my flatmate.”

Draco stuck out his hand and pumped hers twice before quickly retreating, “Pleasure.”

Babs’ eyes popped out and she gaped like a fish, “This is your roommate? Lucky girl!” She didn’t look at Granger while she spoke, “Ron must be very worried. I mean, these apartments are so small that you’d practically be living on top of each other, and who wouldn't want to be under Draco here?” She gave him a slow wink, probably thinking it was a seductive move. 

He was starting to get very irritated. This woman had some gall to stop Granger just to throw thinly veiled insults at her, then make her uncomfortable by insinuating that she would cheat on the Weasel. To top it off, Babs was trying to get his attention to humiliate her further.

Granger turned pink and shook her head, her hair swinging around her, “Oh no! It’s not like that at all!”

Babs gave a condescending snort, “No, of course it isn’t, that much is obvious.” She continued eye fucking Draco as she licked her lips. 

He’d had enough, “It’s been a pleasure Barbra—“

“Babs.” The annoying woman said. 

“It’s been a pleasure Babs , but I’m afraid we have prior engagements and we cannot delay any longer.” Draco pressed his hand on the small of Grangers back to urge her towards the stairs. She looked up at him and gave him a small smile of gratitude. 

“Draco, I’m flat 207 if you need some stimulating company.” Babs called behind them as they started climbing the stairs. Draco ignored her. He was ready to drag the woman up to the top floor, just to push her back down again. 

They ascended the stairs quickly, and as soon as they reached the third floor, Granger let out a relieved breath, “Ugh! What a bitch!”

“She really is awful. Is she your friend or something?”

“No, Ronald met her out front and invited her over to dinner, in my flat. He doesn’t seem to mind the daft bimbo, but she is insufferable! I use the floo or apparate when I can, but somehow she’s always round the corner when I come out of the flat.” She threw the front door open and stomped her way into the kitchen. 

Draco followed and watched her flit about, readying the kettle and tea cups. She was fuming, and if the past twenty-four hours were any indication, he wouldn’t be surprised if she burst into flames at any moment. 

Her hand reached for the cupboard that had the sugar but stopped, looking around the kitchen, “Did you clean the soot off? Where are the scorch marks? Where is the couch?”

Draco walked over to her and leaned in to stage whisper to her, “If I tell you, will you keep it a secret?”

He pulled back to wait for her reaction. Her eyes opened wide, a shy blush forming, “Uh huh.”

He leaned back in and whispered, “I’m a wizard.”

“Good Godrick, Malfoy!” She slapped him hard on the bicep. 

Draco sniggered and stepped back from her, wary of more slaps. She put her hands on her hips and scowled at him. 

“You know what I mean. That shouldn't be possible, not without a wand. Cleaning, sure, but repairing scorched and burnt wood, and vanishing an entire couch?! How did you really do it?”

He wasn’t sure how much to tell her. On one hand, he wanted to give her the information she demanded just to make her happy, but on the other hand, the Slytherin side of him screamed at him to keep his mouth shut. After all, she was still his surety, and if she knew the new scope of his power, he would be deemed a threat and locked back up. 

Sure, he’d been reading books on wandless magic but with the new swells of power available to him, he found all he needed to do was think about the spell he wanted and it would happen. Even before the shocking display the previous evening, he was feeling stronger and casting had become as easy as breathing. Something that he’d not been able to accomplish in nearly a year in Azkaban. 

He assessed the situation quickly, and ultimately decided that he could always tell her the truth later if he changed his mind, “Practice I guess.” He shrugged. 

Her scowl deepened and she started angrily chewing on her lip. The kettle started whistling, taking Grangers attention. As she fixed them both tea he popped up onto the bartop. Passing him a mug, she pulled herself up and sat next to him. 

They sat in companionable silence while they drank. Draco could feel himself relax a little, his shoulders slumping a bit. He was all of a sudden exhausted, and with the exhaustion, came guilt. He had been ignoring the urgency of the matter to keep himself together, but now it just seemed shameful. His mother was being held captive, probably by a Death Eater, perhaps even his own father. He needed to act. 

He knew that Granger was waiting on his cue to start the search. She promised she would help him, offering herself up for more perilous adventures, just like she did for her two idiot friends. He desperately wanted to tell her to stay behind, wanted her to be safe but Draco knew that he would be arrested on sight without her. He needed her. 

He sighed heavily and cut to the chase, “So, I’m assuming you have some sort of plan already?”

She tapped the mug with her fingernail and bobbed her head, “Well I do have a few good ideas on who can help.”

“Alright, who’s first, Granger?”

She hopped down of the bartop and tugged her t-shirt down sharply. She squared her shoulders and boldly looked directly into Draco’s eyes, smiling. There was no mistaking that this witch was a Gryffindor. 

“Harry Potter, of course.”

Chapter Text

Once they had made arrangements to meet Potter, Granger hit the ground running. While Draco quickly washed up and changed into clean clothes, she rummaged around in her room, throwing books, clothes and Merlin knows what else into a heap on the floor where her bed used to be. 

 

He was ready to go in moments, and he tapped his fingers against his thigh anxiously while he watched Granger collect more and more until she had a pile half the size of a hippogriff. 

 

“Granger, what is all of this?” He walked over to the mound and picked up a sewing kit and a pair of hiking boots. “What could we possibly need these for? Are we going on a hike while we practice our needlepoint?”  

 

She continued rifling through her dresser, pulling out a file folder from her bedside table. “I like to be prepared.” She shrugged and walked off into the kitchen, returning with her small beaded purse. 

 

“And how exactly do you expect to bring everything? Even if we shrunk it all, we’d still need a wheel barrel.” 

 

Granger opened her bag and placed it on the floor and very pointedly dropped a hiking boot above it. It startled Draco at first when the hiking boot dropped through the opening and disappeared, making a distant thud when it reached the bottom of the bag. He was impressed. “Huh. You have an answer to everything, don’t you?”

 

She gave a shy smile and continued packing the bag. “Not everything , obviously.” 

 

“Whatever you say, swot.” 

 

Draco tried to help her stow the excess of supplies, but he was shooed away for having ‘interrupted her process.’ He retreated to the kitchen to ready himself for the outside world. Technically, he hadn’t actually been outside since his imprisonment. The closest he had gotten was the underground parking garage earlier that day. Draco paced nervously by the floo, wringing his hands in anticipation. 

 

When Granger finally emerged holding only her tiny bag, his anxiousness was quickly overtaking him. His hands emitted bright blue sparks as he rubbed them together roughly. When she saw this, she immediately moved towards him and encased his hands with her own. “Hey, it will be okay. I’ll be with you in case you need me, but I need you to focus on keeping calm until we can figure out what exactly we’re dealing with. You can’t walk around on fire and expect no one to notice.” She dipped her head to catch his downward gaze. “I don’t know what it would mean if the Ministry found out about this.”

 

He cocked his head to the side and furrowed his brow. “Why haven’t you told them yet? Surely you’ll be punished if they find out you kept this from them. I half expected to be back in Azkaban by now.”

 

She opened her mouth to reply but abruptly paused, rethinking her sentiment. “Well it would be rather unfair to jump to conclusions, don’t you think so, Malfoy?” She said in a matter-a-fact tone. 

 

Draco quirked an eyebrow and looked at her curiously. That was certainly not an answer. “I suppose so.” He let out a sigh, choosing to let it go for now. “I just wish I knew what this even is. Or how to control it.”

 

Granger squeezed his hands. “We’ll figure it out, after we meet Harry and the others we can stop at the library and do some research.”

 

“Others?” Draco dropped his hands, and took a step back. He already had to suffer Potty’s company, what else would this dismal day throw at him?

 

She simply nodded. 

 

“Care to elaborate, Granger? I’d like to know what I’m walking into.”

 

“Would it matter? You and I both know that you are going to come no matter what. We all have the same goal here, everyone wants to find Narcissa.” 

 

She had a point. He’d take tea with Voldemort himself if it meant he could find his mother. Draco took solace in the fact that Granger wouldn’t leave his side since she was his surety. He took a deep breath and nodded. 

 

Hermione nodded back at him and reached out to grab his wrist. A loud crack and a second later, the pair was standing in a grimy alleyway just off a busy street in Muggle London. 

 

—-

 

Draco found himself in a large rounded booth in the corner of a ’greasy spoon restaurant’, at least that’s what Granger called it. There was easily room enough for ten people at the table, and unfortunately for Draco, there were almost as many Gryffindors surrounding him. Luckily, he had secured an end seat, with Granger on his left side. 

 

He knew most of the people there, but there were two men that he’d never met before. They sat together directly across from Draco wearing matching expressions of annoyance. Potter, Weaselette, Lovegood, and Longbottom were pressed into the back of the booth. 

 

On the walk to the diner from the alley, he had panicked when Granger told him that they were going to lunch. He wasn't accustomed to not being able to pay for anything. While he was still technically extremely wealthy, he hadn’t thought that he’d need to have pocket money as he was on house arrest. Mother had been seeing to his personal expenses and provided Granger with the galleons but, now that his mother was missing, he couldn’t be sure there were funds available to cover his costs. When he expressed this concern to Granger, she waved him off and said there was more than enough in the account she had been given access to. 

 

Draco stayed quiet while the table placed their lunch orders. He ordered orange juice and a BLT with extra tomato and a side of chips. Granger only ordered a small soup and coffee. Once their orders had been placed, she cast a Muffelato and spoke. 

 

“Thanks for coming on short notice everyone.” She held out her hand towards the two strangers at the table. “This is Auror Phillips and Auror McGuire, they are the men who are investigating the disappearance of Narcissa Malfoy.”

 

The man on the right, Phillips, was plump with a patchy black beard and a wide nose. McGuire was dark-skinned and slightly taller than his partner. He had warm hazel eyes and his head was shaved clean. Both men nodded at their introduction but stayed silent. 

 

Granger continued, “I’m sure you’ve all seen this mornings Daily Prophet and I’ve asked you here—“

 

“What’s he doing here, Hermione?” Weasley walked up to the booth and stood over Draco to glare down at him. Draco rolled his eyes.

 

“Hermione was just explaining to us what’s going on. Have a seat, Ron.” Potter moved farther into the booth and the two Aurors followed, leaving the end seat open directly across from Draco. Weasley ignored it. 

 

“You’re in my spot, ferret.” 

 

“Don’t think I am, Weasel.”

 

Draco noticed how everyone at the table tensed, their eyes flicking back and forth between the two rivals. To his left, Granger started absently rubbing her forearm. 

 

“Looks like there’s a spot available right over there for you.” Weasley pointed to the open seat beside Phillips. 

 

“I’m quite pleased with the current seating arrangements, but I thank you for the concern.” Draco leaned back in his seat and casually crossed his arms. 

 

“Move your sorry Death Eater arse before I make you.”

 

Granger gasped, “Ronald!” 

 

Only then did Draco look up at the man standing over him. He allowed his face to contort into the menacing sneer he had used on the ginger git countless times over the past eight years. “Oh, please do. I’d love an excuse to break that oversized nose of yours.”

 

“BOYS! That’s enough! Ron, sit down beside Auror Phillips. Malfoy, zip it.” The red haired witch a couple seats down looked like she was about to start smacking them with a rolled up newspaper. When Weasley didn’t make a move to the open spot, Weaselette spoke up again. “Sit down, you idiot. You’re embarrassing yourself.”

 

“Ron..” Potter pleaded. 

 

After a few more huffs of frustration, Weasley begrudgingly sat down, and Draco could feel his hateful gaze bore into him, but he pretended not to notice. He took another glance around the table. Longbottom seemed to be focusing his stare intently on his tea cup, while Lovegood was braiding and un-braiding the ends of her blonde hair with a wistful smile on her face. Weaselette and Potter were focusing their attention back on Granger. 

 

“As I was saying,” she shakily began, “I asked you here because I need your help to find Mrs. Malfoy. The Ministry has assigned these two men to the case, but I’m afraid a lot more manpower is needed for this particular job.”

 

Phillips looked at her warily, “Excuse me? Just because we aren’t teenage war hero’s like you lot doesn’t mean we are incapable of our duties. We don’t need a team of five aurors, three civilians and a Death Eater to find one woman.”

 

McGuire also started to protest but Granger held up her hand. “I’m not saying you two aren’t good at your jobs if that’s what you’re thinking. There’s more to it than just a missing woman.” She started digging in her bigger-on-the-inside bag. 

 

“What do you mean Hermione?” Longbottom furrowed his eyebrows in confusion. 

 

Draco turned to look at her fully. She had a slight tremble in her hand as she pulled out her arm from the depths of the handbag. Her fist emerged clutching a thick bundle of folded parchment then she hesitated, staring down at the handful of paper. 

 

“Granger?” Draco whispered. 

 

She flicked her gaze up to his and he felt his stomach drop when he saw the look of fear in her eyes. A small sheen of sweat had broken out on her forehead and the trembling of her hands seemed to have taken over her legs as well as her hands. Draco wanted nothing more than to pull her on his lap and make it stop. 

 

“Oi, Hermione, I don’t have all day.” Weasley snapped his fingers in her face rapidly to get her attention. Everyone at the table looked at him incredulously, but Granger just paled. 

 

Draco saw red and was about to break off his fingers when the waitress returned with their drinks. While everyone was distracted, Draco caught Granger’s gaze and smoothed his hand under the table comfortingly over her knee. While her face coloured slightly from the contact, she didn’t push him away, so Draco left his hand where it was. He stroked the front of her kneecap with his thumb and felt a strong sense of pride when her frame visibly relaxed. The tremors were becoming significantly less prominent, to the point of being almost nonexistent. 

 

She cleared her throat when they were once again alone. “As I was saying, things are a bit more complicated.” She tossed the wad of parchment onto the table beside her coffee. “It’s probably better you just see for yourself. 

 

Slowly Potter moved to take the piece off the top while searching Granger's face. One by one everyone grabbed some parchment. There was a brief moment of absolute silence while each person took in the information in their hands. Before long there were gasps and curses assaulting the space around them. 

 

“Mione, what the hell is this?!” - Weaselette 

 

“When did you get this? Are they all the same?” - Potter

 

“Why didn’t you tell me?!” - Weasel

 

“Do you know who these people are?” - Longbottom

 

“What terrible handwriting.” - Lovegood

 

“Have you reported this to the Ministry?” - McGuire

 

Everyone around him was shooting questions at her, gesturing wildly, but Draco was frozen. He felt like he was going to faint. The sheets of paper that he now recognized as interdepartmental memos each held a small message. He grabbed one after another, his stomach sinking with every word. 

 

You’re dead Mudblood. 

-

If you don’t do as you are instructed, we will slit his throat while you watch. 

-

Every single one of my men will fuck you bloody before we grant you death. 

-

Deliver him to us, or we start taking your friends, one by one. 

-

We want our Little Dragon back. 

 

The notes were out of order and vague, but the gist was the same. The people that had threatened Draco, had been doing the same to Granger, and for a significantly longer time. Draco could feel his magic mounting and blue sparks started dancing on his fingertips. He quickly dragged his hand under the table to join the one on Grangers knee. She grabbed it and held on tight, pushing down the overflowing energy. 

 

With her touch grounding him in the situation, Draco spoke to no one in particular over the chaos of questions. “Is my father still in Azkaban?”

 

For a beat, no one answered, everyone had expressions of shock painted on their faces. It was Phillips that eventually cleared his throat and spoke up. “I passed by his cell three days ago, and he was still secure.”

 

“Do you miss daddy, Malfoy?” Weasley taunted. 

 

“And now? Is he secure now?” Draco asked impatiently, ignoring the comment. 

 

“We will have to check on that at the Ministry.” He started gathering up the memos from around the table. “Are these all the ones you received, Miss?”

 

Her fingers twitched in his grasp. “Er, yes. That’s it.”

 

“We will need to keep these as evidence, you understand.” He tucked the parchment inside his jacket. 

 

“Yes, I thought you would.” Granger started shaking a little again so Draco tenderly laced his fingers through hers and squeezed. 

 

Potter placed his hands flat on the table and exhaled loudly. “Hermione? How long have you been getting these?”

 

She winced and mumbled, “November.”

 

Draco was gobsmacked. She’d been dealing with death threats for over six months, and she’s been doing so in silence. Why did these people harass her before Draco even lived with her? They couldn’t have known that far ahead that she’d volunteer to take him in. He hadn’t even been sentenced until the beginning of December. 

 

Unless she already planned to take me home before then. Draco instantly rejected this idea. Though he still didn’t know the reasons behind her hospitality, he knew that she hadn’t expected to be stuck with him until the day before his release. 

 

Weaselette gasped and clutched her shoulder. “ ‘Mione! Why didn’t you tell us? This is no joke! The things they wrote… What if you had gotten hurt?” She trailed off, shaking her head. 

 

“She’s right, you should have told someone, at the very least the Ministry.” Longbottom supplied. 

 

She turned to address him but didn’t get a word in before she was interrupted. 

 

“I agree, this is not just about you. The person/persons behind these threats seem to have an agenda similar to that of He-who-should-not-be-named. At first glance, anyway.” Phillips looked ticked off and did not bother to hide it. 

 

Granger straightened to reply but was cut off. 

 

“Do you know who these people are Hermione? Do they mention anything in any of the letters?” Potter looked distressed as he waited for her answer. 

 

Before she could open her mouth, McGuire spoke. “There’s obviously a connection between these and the abduction and murders at Malfoy Manor. They used the phrase “Little Dragon” in the prophet article as well. Same handwriting too.”

 

He could feel Grangers annoyance at being talked over but she kept quiet, allowing it. 

 

Draco wasn’t so patient. “Would you lot leave off and just let her explain?” He drew enough venom in his voice to halt the onslaught of questions and accusations, at least momentarily. 

 

Weasley threw a look of contempt at Draco then relaxed against his elbows, staring down his girlfriend with a similar expression. “Explain then.”

 

She shook her hands free from Dracos and tightly clutched them together on the table. She looked guilty, as if she had committed adultery instead of just holding his hand. She bowed her head, unable to meet his gaze. Not for the first time, Draco wondered what she saw in the ginger arse. Why did she stay with him when he was clearly mistreating her, manipulating her, and maybe even terrifying her? Even if she loved the man, why would Hermione Granger, smartest witch of her age, choose to be with a brain dead waste of space like him? He was overly possessive, controlling and had a massive anger problem. The only thing going for him was that he was the least remarkable third of the golden trio. 

 

“To answer you, Neville, I did go to the Ministry. I’ve been dealing with Shacklebolt directly actually. That’s why I’ve kept to myself up until now. I’ve just been given permission to divulge certain aspects of the case today.” She turned to Draco and added, “That’s where I was this morning.”

 

“But why didn’t you tell me Hermione? I’m your boyfriend. I can’t believe you’ve been keeping something this big from me for six bloody months!” Ron was fuming and to his left, the witch inched back on her seat, leaning away from his rage. 

 

“You can’t be angry at her for that! You know as well as I do that classified information is just that, classified. Would you go and tell her information about a case you were working?” Potter asked

 

“That’s different. I’m an Auror!”

 

“In training.” Draco added. 

 

“Shut it, Ferret.”

 

“Can you two please shut up!” Weaselette ground out. 

 

Both men crossed their arms and pointedly looked away.  

 

“Thank you, Ginny. As I was saying, this has been classified for a reason. There have been reports of similar threats from who we believe are either pardoned Death Eaters, or sympathizers. So far we have been lucky that they have stayed in the shadows. Until now that is. Of course, I am not officially on the case, as I’m not an Auror but since I have been receiving the most intel, I’ve been brought on as a sort of research consultant.” 

 

She glanced up at Draco momentarily. “So far, we don’t know what their motives are, or what they are planning. The only thing we know for sure is that they want Malfoy. There had been mention of him retrieving something that they can’t get themselves. What it is, I’m unsure, but I think it’s safe to say they aren’t planning on having him ‘round for tea afterwards.”

 

“Why do you say that?” Phillips cocked his head. 

 

“They have threatened to kill him if I didn’t cooperate.” She stated simply. 

 

“But why would they try to use that against you? He hasn’t even been staying with you for a month, and it’s not like you’re friends.” Potter's eyes widened and he slapped the table. “Is that why he’s living with you?”

 

She opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out. She snapped her jaw shut and nodded, very obviously lying. 

 

Interesting. 

 

Draco looked around the table to see who had also caught on. Lovegood had a small knowing smile on her face. Ginny furrowed her brow and shifted her gaze from Granger to himself but otherwise, the table seemed to be oblivious to the fib. 

 

“So basically, what you’re saying is that we have to hunt down another band of dark wizards, am I correct?” Potter asked. 

 

“We also need to locate Narcissa, but yes, essentially that’s what we need to do.” She turned to the elder Aurors and continued. ”Harry, Ron, and Neville will be teaming up with you to get the manpower you need for the case. Ginny, I’ll need you to help me by staying with Malfoy when I’m not home. I will, of course, be leading the research and intelligence gathering side of things.”

 

“What about these two? What will they be doing?” Philips gestured to Draco and Lovegood. 

 

“Luna…” Granger cocked her head, “Actually I don’t remember asking you here..”

 

“Hmm? Oh no, you didn’t ask me to come. I was just out for a stroll when I saw Harry and Ginny come in, and I decided to keep them company.” She smiled widely. “But I am happy to be of some help if you need it.”

 

Granger nodded, bemused. “I’ll let you know if I find anything for you then. Malfoy will be assisting me.”

 

Weasley sneered at this information. Fortunately, the waitress chose that moment to serve their meals. For the remainder of lunch, the group discussed their plan of attack in a far more subdued manner. 

 

When Draco noticed that Granger wasn’t eating he nudged her side. “That soup is going to get cold, Granger.”

 

She gave him a weak smile and brought the spoon to her lips. Before she could take another bite, Weasley was picking up the remainder of his sandwich in a napkin and threw down a couple pound notes.

 

“Got to get back, I’ll come by later, Hermione.” Without a glance backward, he moved towards the front door. 

 

Panic grew on her face and she called out. “Not tonight Ron, I’ll be at the library and researching until late.”

 

He stopped in his tracks and turned around. “I’ll keep you company then.” The way he said it sounded like an order. 

 

Granger shifted in her seat. “Not tonight, Ron.”

 

Weasley stared at her sternly and pressed his lips into a thin line before locking eyes with Draco. He turned on his heel and he was out the front door. 

 

—-

 

When they finally arrived back at the flat that night, it was nearing nine o’clock. The pair had spent the afternoon and most of the evening in the library researching the magic behind interdepartmental memos, criminal psychology and several case studies on abductions. They checked out many books on forgotten and rare magic, focusing on ancient wandless magics. 

 

Granger looked exhausted when they apparated back into the living room, and he was sure that he looked equally as tired. They shuffled into the kitchen, and she put the kettle on for tea. On the way home, they had stopped for Indian food. Draco took the takeaway from her and started setting it out on the bar. As the two worked in silence, a booming laugh erupted in the hallway, followed by a grating high pitched giggle. 

 

“Huh, that sounds like..” Draco trailed off as he walked to the front door, Granger following behind in curiosity. 

 

He unlocked the bolt and opened the door. Just as he thought, Blaise was standing in the hallway nattering on in his trademark cocky flamboyance. He was leaned up against the wall chatting with a blonde woman… Babs. Blaise was flirting with Babs. 

 

“Blaise?”

 

“Mate! Where have you been? I’ve been waiting around forever! If it wasn’t for this lovely woman, I’d have died of boredom.” Blaise winked at her and she batted her obviously false lashes in reply. 

 

“I just had some appointments.. Blaise, we didn’t have plans did we? Actually now that I think about it, Theo—“

 

Blaise waved his hand in a ‘don’t worry about it’ motion. “That’s why I’m here actually, Theo wanted me to let you know that he couldn’t make it. Some family emergency I think.”

 

“But Theo doesn’t have any family left.” Draco countered. 

 

“Yea I guess I wasn’t listening very well, all I know is that he was in a rush and seemed a little frantic.” Blaise turned his attention to Granger, who was peeking around Dracos torso. “Ah, Miss. Granger, would the two of you like to join us for drinks?”

 

“Oh, yes pleeeeeassse Draco, we haven’t gotten to know each other nearly as much as we should. Hermione, you should come too, of course, that is if you can find something suitable to wear.” Babs gave her a thorough once over and wrinkled her nose, obviously not trying to hide her criticism. 

 

Dracos jaw tightened and he struggled to keep a polite tone. “Thank you Barbra, but I think I’m much too tired for that this evening, and I’m sure she feels the same. Am I right Granger?”

 

“Yes, sorry Blaise, Barbra, perhaps another time.” She gave a fake smile. 

 

“Come on Hermione, even Ron has had time to get drinks with me, and he works!” The smile Babs plastered on was sickly sweet. 

 

He what ?”

 

“Oh you didn’t know,” the blonde woman put on an air of surprise. “It’s all very innocent I assure you, he’s only been to my flat a couple times—“

 

What?!” Granger tried to push past Draco but he was quicker. He wrapped his arm around her middle and pulled her back in. 

 

“Sorry, we will have to cut this short. Blaise, I’ll be in contact.” He reluctantly addressed the snotty muggle, “Barbra.”

 

As he shut the door, he heard her shout, ‘It’s Babs!’

 

They made their way back to the kitchen and continued their dinner preparations in silence. When Draco was finished, he once again noticed the lack of appetite on Grangers part. 

 

“What’s your favourite food?” 

 

She looked up, surprised by his sudden question. “Er.. I don't know, probably my mum’s apple raspberry pie.” She looked down at her plate and speared a piece of chicken. “What about you?”

 

Draco answered without hesitation. “Lasagna.” He tore off a bit of Naan and dipped it in the Tikka masala. “Well, pretty much any pasta dish, but lasagna is my preference.”

 

“I like lasagna too. I could make it tomorrow?” She popped the chicken in her mouth.

 

“Sure. We should make your pie too.” He stood and started clearing his plate. 

 

“We?”

 

“Yea, why not? It gets rather boring around here sometimes.” Draco shrugged. 

 

Hermione let out a barked laugh, “The past twenty-four hours have been anything but boring Malfoy.”

 

“Touché.”

 

Granger ate a couple more bites then started putting the leftovers in the fridge while Draco began on the dishes. They worked in companionable silence. Having finished, Draco ducked out of the kitchen towards his room. He was about halfway down the hall when she called out. 

 

“I could do it, you know.”

 

He turned around and asked, “Do what?”

 

“Oh, um, cut your hair. If you want.”

 

He hadn’t thought about the fact that his mother was unable to arrange his hair appointment. His desperation to shear off his hair had intensified at lunch when McGuire made a passing comment about the resemblance he held to his father. He didn’t think anyone noticed the grimace Draco had on his face but, apparently, he was wrong. 

 

“Do you know how to cut hair, Granger?”

 

She gave one slow nod. “Yes..”

 

Draco narrowed his eyes at her for a moment before he remembered anything was better than his current visage. Worst case scenario, he could just shave it off completely. 

 

He gave a small sigh. “Alright then, where do you want me?”

 

Granger’s eyes briefly widened at the unintentional euphemism. “Erm, uh, the kitchen is fine I suppose. I’ll just be a second.” She marched into the bathroom and started digging around in the cabinet. She returned and pulled a stool to the opposite side of the bar and gave it a little pat to encourage Draco to sit. When he did, she draped a towel over his shoulders as she laid out her tools on the bartop in front of him. She was standing right next to him, so close that he could feel the warmth of her skin radiating off of her. 

 

“What’s that one?” Draco asked, pointing at a muggle electrical device with tiny, jagged teeth. 

 

“Those are clippers. Muggle men use them for a more consistent cut.” She looked down at them, almost reverently, ”My mum used to cut my dads hair with these.”

 

She sniffed a little and let out an abrupt laugh. “Once, they were having a row, and mum was so mad that she forgot to put the guard on the front. Before she knew it, dad had a big bald strip going up the back of his head.” She laughed again, shaking her head, “They were both so surprised that they ended up howling in laughter until they forgot what they had been fighting about.”

 

Draco looked up at her, and saw her eyes turn glassy. He still hadn’t asked what had happened to her parents, but he wasn’t sure now was the best time to press the issue. Instead, Draco placed his hand softly atop hers, and rubbed his thumb comfortingly against her wrist. He knew that he had been touching her far more than what was deemed appropriate lately, but he couldn’t seem to stop himself. 

 

She gazed at him and gave him a small smile, unconsciously turning her body towards him. 

 

Not yours. He reminded himself. 

 

Draco averted his eyes and let his hand retreat to sit obediently in his knee. Granger straightened out her tools again and moved behind Draco, taking the comb with her. 

 

“So, what do you want done?” She started running the comb through his too long locks. 

 

“Whatever is fine. I just want it shorter, much shorter.” 

 

“Do you want it all one length? What do you normally get done?” She brushing through his hair with her fingers, pulling it all back. 

 

Draco tried to ignore how good it felt, “I honestly don’t have a preference. I trust you.”

 

Grangers hands abruptly paused in his hair, but she quickly recovered. For the next few minutes, she fussed with his hair, pulling the topmost portion into a clip. He felt a small smile spread across his face when the first sounds of snipping reached his ears. 

 

When she was finished with the back, she moved to stand in front of Draco. He was starting to fidget form the tiny cut hairs that clung to his skin, making him insanely itchy. Granger had to give him a first smack once or twice to remind him to stay still. When she reached up to comb his fringe flat, her thighs rested on his knees and she struggled to reach properly. Draco chuckled and opened his legs so she could stand in between. 

 

She looked down at his parted thighs and shyly stepped closer. Draco’s bravado fizzled when her felt her legs brushing against his. He suddenly didn’t know what to do with his hands. He didn’t know where he should look or if he was breathing too loudly. Did his breath smell like curry? How often are you supposed to blink again? 

 

“We will have to share a bed again tonight. If that’s still okay with you, that is.” She kept her focus on his hair as she spoke, but being this close, Draco could see the faint pink of an almost blush rising from her neck. 

 

Draco cleared his throat as he stared at a curl that was swaying with every moment of her arms. “That’s fine. There’s nothing to be done about it.” He tamped down the excitement he felt at the prospect. “If you’d like, we can go out tomorrow and I’ll replace all the furniture, and whatever else I wrecked.”

 

“Oh. Yes I suppose we should do that.”

 

When she was finished, Granger conjured a mirror for Draco to inspect her work. He was actually quite impressed. He was expecting a choppy and flat style, but she apparently knew what she was doing. The back and sides were cut quite short and she had shaped his hairline and sideburns quite tidily. The top was tapered into a slightly longer length, while his fringe hung down almost to his eyes. 

 

“Not bad Granger, I dare say you’ve made me look my age again.”

 

“Hmmm, no, you look positively geriatric.”

 

Draco clutched his heart. “Careful, you’re liable to give an old codger like myself arrhythmia!”

 

Granger giggled and smacked his chest and turned to leave. Draco grabbed her hand and pulled her back in, both of them still laughing.

 

“It’s your turn now Granger, time to sort out that monstrosity atop your noggin.” Draco held onto her wrist and turned to pick up the scissors off the bar. 

 

“Oh no you don’t, Draco Malfoy!” She started to try to twist out of his grip, but he simply trapped her completely against his chest with one arm while pawing for the scissors. Instead, his hand found the clippers and a wicked smile spread across his face. 

 

He held left his hand behind his back as he smirked at her. 

 

She stopped struggling for a moment, realizing he was up to something. “What are you—“

 

Draco flipped the switch and the telltale buzzing emitted from the device. Grangers eyes grew wide. 

 

“Malfoy…” she said in warning. 

 

He looked at her with mock innocence. “What ever could be the matter?” When she started struggling again, Draco brought the clippers closer to her head. 

 

She let out a small screech and started fighting back in earnest, batting away the clippers away with one hand, and pushing his chest with the other. Draco easily held onto her and laughed freely. She started twisting her hips and arching her back, so Draco locked his legs around her thighs.

 

“Now, now, Granger. Be a good girl and sit still.” 

 

She screeched again as his hand drew a small amount closer, and she wriggled even more than before, letting out desperate and breathless laughter. Draco continued laughing even as he realized that her body was pressed quite intimately against his, and his hormones were reacting. Granger twisted her hips desperately and the friction against his groin was enough to make him drop the clippers. 

 

The laughter halted, but his grip didn’t loosen. His now free hand settled on her hip of its own accord. Her flushed face was mere inches away from his, and her gaze was open and vulnerable. 

 

“Your eyes are brown.”

 

“Your eyes are silver, if you wanted to know.”

 

Draco was the first to come back to reality, mostly from the consistent throbbing in his pants. He unwrapped his legs and retracted his arms from her person. She closed her eyes tightly and stepped back. 

 

—-

 

Draco quickly retreated to the bathroom, carelessly shutting the door behind him and ridding himself of clothes. He immediately hopped into the tub and turned the water on. He considered a cold shower, but he was far too tired to endure the muscle rigidity it would bring. 

 

He stood under the spray, allowing the hot water to beat against his face and chest. He could feel the tiny, sharp hairs run off him, relieving him of the incessant itch. Draco grabbed up his shampoo, intent on ignoring the consistent erection bobbing between his legs. He dutifully washed up, and only when he was finished did he allow himself to  consider his options. He promised himself he wouldn’t pleasure himself to thoughts of Granger, so he was left with two alternatives: walk back to his room with a stiff cock, possibly drawing the attention of the witch, or freeze himself to death until it went away. 

 

He closed his eyes and cursed. That bloody witch had gotten him so worked up that he could nearly feel his brain cells dying.  

 

I suppose I don’t have to think of Granger. I could think about a different witch. Someone anonymous, just a faceless witch with curly brown hair and perky tits. 

 

He reasoned that it was okay as long as he didn’t wank to thoughts of her. He was still a young man after all and he couldn’t be expected to lead a totally chaste existence, plus it was a better alternative to hiding a hard-on all night. 

 

He grabbed his cock and started slowly pumping it in his hand. He immediately groaned and he felt his stomach tighten from the delayed touch. He let his head fall back and the water pounded onto his chest. He dragged his thumb leisurely over his head. 

 

Almost immediately Draco’s mind strayed to Granger. He attempted several times to put her out of his mind, but his efforts were weak, and he eventually gave in. 

 

Hermione slowly started peeling off her shirt while she locked eyes with Draco through the translucent shower curtain. Once her shirt and bra fell to the floor, her hands reached up and started massaging her perfect little breasts coyly. She bit her lip and let her head fall back in pleasure. 

 

Draco tore open the curtain and fisted his cock. “Fuck, Granger.” He hooked a finger in a belt loop of her jeans and pulled her closer. “Look what you do to me.” He pulled a hand from her breast and replaced his fist with her soft one, moving it up and down his length to encourage her. 

 

Hermione watched him direct her hand and she licked her lips. He unbuttoned her jeans and turned her around, promptly peeling them down her thighs. She peeked over her shoulder just as Draco groaned, having seen that she wore no panties. 

 

“Draco?” She looked up at him innocently and bit her lip. 

 

He picked up her body wash and curled his finger in a summoning motion. “Come here, love.” She shucked her jeans and stepped into the shower beside Draco. 

 

Draco opened his eyes momentarily and considered the purple bottle of shampoo on the shelf. He was already in too deep, why stop now? He flicked open the bottle and squirted some into his palm. Turning around so his back was now facing the shower, he started lathering his cock in Hermione's shampoo. The added scent of her made his fantasy a little more real. 

 

Draco pressed his cock against her arse as he massaged the soap into her neck and shoulders. He watched as the suds trailed down her chest, dripping off her hardened nipples. He snaked one hand around her waist, appreciating the slippery skin under his fingers. 

 

“Touch me, Draco.” She she breathed and pushed herself against his crotch and let out a small whine of desire. 

 

Granger grabbed the hand he had tangled in her hair and placed it between her legs. 

 

Draco didn’t resist a second longer. He lightly stroked her outer lips while he moved his other hand to start flicking and pinching her nipples. Hermione keened and started grinding her hips against his hand, and he allowed his middle finger to slip into her bare folds. 

 

“Fuck, you’re so wet for me.”

 

She circled her hips to drag her clit against the pad of his finger. Draco pulled her arms up to grasp the back of his neck and started rutting against her. From this angle, her back arched significantly, and the force of his bucks made her breasts bounce.

 

He let his singular finger slip up and down inside her folds, water and soap streaming around his fingers. He twisted her nipple sharply and Hermione cried out in surprise. He moved his hand lower, teasing her opening with tiny prods of his finger. 

 

“Oh Gods, Draco, I want you.” She was arching her back even more now, allowing a better angle for Draco to thrust his cock in between her cheeks. 

 

Draco started panting heavily and swearing under his breath. He palmed his balls and started massaging them. 

 

He pushed one finger into her and started pumping. He pressed his thumb against her throbbing clit as she rode his finger until she was squirming, very close to her climax. 

 

“Look at you, love. I’ve barely touched you and you’re ready to come.” Draco growled the words into her neck, still harshly sliding himself between her cheeks. He removed his thumb from her clit and slid another finger in to stretch her. He sucked and nipped at her earlobe while fucking her with his hand until she was whimpering. 

 

“I want to come with your cock in my mouth.” She pushed his hands away and spun him, kneeling down in front of him while the warm water spilled over his shoulders and down his chest. Hermione glided her small hands up and down his shaft a few times before flicking her tongue out to taste him. 

 

Draco felt his bollocks tighten and squeezed them as he stroked his shaft faster. 

 

Hermione brought his head into her mouth to lightly suck. She looked up at him and pointedly while she slid her hand in between her legs to rub her clit. 

 

“Fuck!” Draco said it out loud, aware of his imminent climax. 

 

He gathered up her hair in one hand and held it away from her face. She started bobbing her head, taking most of his cock into her mouth. Small moans were drifting up from her position on her knees and it was making Draco’s hips snap. 

 

“Oh fuck, Hermione!” Draco started thrusting into his fist, one arm braced against the wall for support. His eyes were still scrunched together in pleasure and he shivered as he felt cool air drift over his body. 

 

Draco tightened his hold on her hair and reached down to roll her nipple between his fingers. Hermione's moans grew louder, and eventually the sound was sending delicious vibrations through his cock. When she came, she moaned loudly and pushed her head all the way to his base and held it there. She squeezed her eyes shut as the water running down his chest flowed directly over her face. Her throat convulsed from the effort not to choke and it sent Draco to the edge. 

 

“Fuck yes!” He whispered. Draco felt his balls clench and his body started to stiffen. He heard a small gasp and opened his eyes. 

 

The bathroom door was slightly ajar, and through the gap he saw a pair of sparkling brown eyes staring down at his swollen member. Her mouth fell open in shock and her face was quickly heating. He should have turned away but it was far too late. He was already on the brink and the sight of her totally unraveled him. 

 

He thrusted into his hand once more before he let out a strangled cry, and he came hard as she locked eyes with him. 

Chapter Text

Draco turned off the shower, grabbed a towel, and used wandless magic to shut the bathroom door quietly. He kicked himself for being so hasty in his retreat. He forgot to double-check that the bathroom door had indeed latched properly. At least she didn’t know what exactly he was wanking off to. At least he hadn’t-

 

“Oh fuck... Fuck!” Draco twisted the towel around in frustration. “Fucking fuck!”

 

Maybe she didn’t hear him. Maybe he hadn’t actually said her name out loud after all. Maybe she’d just gone and obliviated herself immediately. It could happen, a guy could dream. 

 

Draco allowed himself a few moments to let the dread and embarrassment grip him. The look on her face would forever be burned into his brain. Her face had been so red it was basically purple. Her eyes were wide and her mouth had hung open in shock. After the longest handful of seconds in the history of time, Granger finally managed to stammer out an apology and she promptly fled the scene. Draco had just stared at her, his orgasm rendering him a boneless imbecile. 

 

What on Godric's green earth am I going to say to her? Maybe I should take the night to think it over. 

 

Draco resolved to hide in his room until further notice. He started to relax into the plan when he remembered he couldn’t do that at all. With a jarring realization, he remembered that there was only one place in the flat to sleep, and the roommates had agreed to share his bed. 

 

FUCK!

 

He was sure she would be just as mortified as he was, and that would make for the most awkward sleepover ever. What if she was more than embarrassed? What if she heard him call out her name, her given name , and now felt repulsed and disgusted? 

 

There’s no way she’ll sleep next to me now. She probably won’t ever speak to me again. 

 

If he wasn’t so embarrassed, he was sure he’d be a ball of blue fucking fire right about now. He felt the urge to hit something to try and make the terrible awkwardness inside of him go away. Instead, Draco forced himself to prepare his new approach. 

 

He’d just go into his room and get some clothes. If she was already there, he’d bring them back to the washroom to change, and then he’d sleep on the floor, as far away from her as possible. Or maybe he would jump out the window. He hadn’t fully decided yet. 

 

Draco wrapped the towel around his waist and procrastinated by giving himself an unnecessary shave. He had shaved yesterday but he lied to himself and set about cleaning up the imagined scruff. When he could put it off no longer, Draco collected his laundry and reluctantly headed to his room. 

 

He let out a massive sigh of relief to discover it vacant. He could hear Granger on the phone in the next room. Not knowing how much time he had, he quickly pulled on a pair of grey sweatpants and a green T-shirt. He paced across his room a couple times before scolding himself, forcing him to stop - Malfoy’s didn’t pace. 

 

He picked up his laundry and went to deposit it in the hamper. He eyed his charred pants from earlier in the day, and felt the crinkle of paper in the front right pocket as he picked them off the ground. He furrowed his eyebrows in confusion as he pulled out the parchment to see what it was. When his eyes landed on the unsent letter, Draco went rigid. 

 

Just this morning, he had penned a letter to his mother about furniture. Not about how she was doing, or what she had been up to. Not telling her that he loved her and missed her. He wrote to her about a bloody chesterfield. 

 

The door to Granger's room clicked open and the light from her room cut across Draco's face in the unlit space. He didn’t look up, but he could sense that she was just standing there, staring at him. 

 

She shuffled awkwardly for a few moments and eventually stepped out of her room. “What’s that?” She asked quietly, the tone of caution evident. 

 

His anger bubbled up more and more as the seconds passed and the hold he had on his temper snapped. His fist curled around the letter and he crushed it into a ball of crumpled edges and sharp corners. He raised his head and sneered at the woman in the doorway. 

 

“That’s none of your business, Granger.” He spat, “You’re my jailor, not my Mother, or even my friend, so I would appreciate it if you would kindly fuck off .”

 

He didn’t look up to see how his words affected her, choosing instead to surge forward to shut the door. Before he could, she quickly inserted herself into the frame, blocking his efforts. “Is this about—“

 

Draco glowered down at her. “Not everything is about you, Granger, but I shouldn’t be surprised that the “Golden Girl” would think so.”

 

Draco couldn’t help himself, everything in his life was falling apart and he had finally snapped. He knew that he was taking it out on her unfairly, but he wanted a fight. He wanted to scream and rave and make someone understand how much he was hurting, and blatant cruelty seemed to be the quickest way to get there. Everything that he had sacrificed to keep his mother safe during the war was for nothing, it was his job to protect her and he failed. 

 

Draco hated that he felt helpless and pathetic. He was trapped in a tiny flat with the last person he would have ever thought he’d come to rely on, never mind desire. After everything he had done, after all the bullshit he’d put her and her friends through, she was still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. He was the bad guy for Salazar's Sake, she didn’t even ask if he still held blood prejudices. 

 

The concern in her eyes just made him angry. He didn’t need her understanding, and he definitely didn’t deserve it. What he needed from her was her anger. 

 

She puffed out her chest and returned his ire, “How dare you! I was only asking because—“

 

“Must be so hard being you, the attention, the adoration, the swathes of admirers that worship the ground you walk on.”

 

She scoffed, “I wish being me were that easy, it’s nothing at all—“

 

Draco cut her off again, aiming to hit her where it hurts. “Oh that’s right, you’re not the happy little war hero that you pretend to be. You’re just a sad little witch that can’t stand up to her idiot boyfriend. You’re a broken girl that can’t get her friends to give a shit about her or notice that she doesn’t bloody eat anymore. You’re unemployed, reclusive, and for some unknown reason, you’ve gone completely batty and taken in a bloody Death Eater to make herself feel better.”

 

Granger huffed, “That is not why you’re here!”

 

“THEN WHY THE FUCK AM I HERE, GRANGER?” Draco threw his hands in the air and turned to pace to his window, kicking his desk chair into the wall on the way. Inside he was begging for her to spit fire back at him, scream in his face, slap him, anything. Instead, she replied in a matter of fact tone. 

 

“The Ministry needed to keep you safe after the threats—“

 

Draco laughed, “Don’t give me that ‘Ministry’ shite. If this were honestly about keeping me safe, they wouldn’t have placed me here with you. I’d still be rotting in Azkaban. Why would I get a pardon out of the blue— which, by the way, I still don’t have a bloody clue how I got it in the first place— just to be forced on a witch who doesn’t even have any Ministry clearance.” 

 

The brunette turned her head, looking away from him, and he knew she was keeping the real reason to herself. Draco was annoyed that he hadn’t pushed the subject earlier. Any Slytherin worth their salt would have sussed out her motives immediately, but Draco’s snake-like tendencies had been severely dulled in that cell. 

 

“Why am I here, Granger?” When she didn’t deign to answer, he moved back into her space. “If the Ministry didn’t force this on you, that means you chose to take me in on your own, but why? Your sorry excuse for a boyfriend doesn’t approve, so that means you’re hiding the real reason from him too.” Draco leaned in and spoke softly, tauntingly. “This isn’t for the money, you’re not the materialistic type, nor the fame…” Draco threw the balled up letter onto his desk. 

 

Draco clamped her chin between his thumb and index finger, jerking her face forward roughly, forcing eye contact. “For the longest time I thought you had chosen me for your latest pity project, but now I know that I was wrong. This isn’t about any of that.”

 

She glared up at him, magical sparks dripping from her hair and rippling down her arms. The raw and unadulterated emotion in her eyes had his heart beating faster. The energy between them made him feel high, like she was his personal brand of heroin, and he was itching for another dose. Draco felt the electricity coming off of her and his body shivered in response. He couldn’t help but notice how fucking gorgeous she looked right then, like some Warrior Goddess.

 

“Please, enlighten me then.” She replied in a tight, sarcastic voice. 

 

“I think,” Draco tilted his head and gave her a cruel leer. He teasingly rubbed his thumb on her chin, “that you’re tired of being the quiet little house mouse that Weasley wants you to be.” Draco dragged his thumb over her bottom lip. “You want to rebel, to feel some semblance of freedom and adventure. You want to show everyone that you aren’t the same little bookworm anymore. You want to be thrilled.” He dragged his thumb down, and pulled her lip away from her teeth and licked his own lips. “I think you want to be bad.” He released her lip, loving the tiny wet smack it made when it collided with her bottom teeth. 

 

Granger swung her arm to slap him in retaliation, but Draco caught her wrist and laughed. She tried to wrench out of his grasp but he held tight and twisted it behind her back, spinning her around. He trapped her body against his and pressed her arm up between her collarbone, making Granger gasp. As she was completely taken off guard, she didn’t have time to react to Draco’s other arm sneaking around her body, trapping her other arm at her side.

 

She started bucking but immediately stilled when the angle of her twisted arm caused an intense, sharp pain. Draco wasn’t hurting her, but if she tried to move, she would be hurting herself. “Let me go right now, Malfoy, or you’re going to regret it! I swear, the second I’m free I’m going to hex you so hard that you won’t be able to walk for a month!”

 

Draco laughed darkly in her ear, feeling the shutter it elicited from the woman’s body. “Have you noticed, that the only time you seem like your true self is when we fight? You retreat into your doormat mode so easily. You let everyone walk all over you. You don’t even come out of your shell when Weasley is screaming at you for no good fucking reason.” Granger growled at that and tried to stomp on his foot. Draco dodged it easily and dipped his head down, dragging his nose up the curve of her neck letting his hot breath pour over her skin. 

 

“Why is that, Granger? Why is it that you only seem alive when it’s me?” He called upon his trusty sneer and twisted her head to meet his eye-line. “I wonder what kind of reaction I could get out of you if I called you a Mudblood.”

 

Without missing a beat, her mouth turned up in a threatening smile. “Why don’t you find out, Malfoy.”

 

Draco felt a huge rush of excitement at the challenge but he knew it was one he couldn’t accept. He may be letting himself get carried away, but he wasn’t that person anymore. Instead, he chuckled.

 

Granger struggled again, seemingly unfazed by the pain it caused in her shoulder. Draco allowed her to break free while he focused on the thundering rhythm of his heart. Her face was scrunched up in anger, and she fumed as she stumbled for words, Draco relished the adrenaline pounding through his veins. 

 

“You think you’re so clever, Malfoy. Think you’ve got me all figured out?” Hermione stuck her finger in his face and angry tears gathered in her eyes. “If this has been eating at you for so long, why haven’t you asked me before now? You start off by assuming I’m using you and end off calling me a doormat, but you don’t for a second consider that I could be doing this for no other reason than to help you. The fact that you have to ask me now, after all this time proves you don’t know me at all.”

 

“Why would I ever think that you’d want to help me, Granger? You loathed me all through school. I was hateful and cruel. My family tortured you and tried to kill you on more than one occasion.” Draco ran his hand through his hair, startled for a second by the forgotten haircut. 

 

He balled his fists and stepped closer once more, frustrated. “I don’t fucking understand, you tell me you just want to help me but you just lied to my face and tried to blame this all on the Ministry, doesn’t exactly give me confidence in the purity of your intentions. What do you want from me, Granger?” Draco huffed and turned away from her. This wasn’t exhilarating anymore, Dracos adrenaline had been sapped, and he was more confused than anything now. 

 

“Believe it or not, sometimes people do things without the expectation of something in return.”

 

He didn’t believe it. People didn’t just do things for him without wanting some kind of payment.  But, if he was being completely honest, he wanted her to want something from him. Draco wished she wanted him like he wanted her. A small part of him thought that she had enjoyed his company, and maybe had started to feel something for him too. 

 

He let his breath out, feeling his shoulders droop. “So you have absolutely no reason for wanting me here?” He searched her face and tried not to feel too let down when she kept her gaze locked on the wall behind him. He allowed for another few moments of silence before he relented. 

 

He grabbed a pillow from the bed and breezed past her as he said; “The bed is yours, Granger.”

 

—-

 

Draco sat on the floor in the living room, his back against the half scorched bookcase. He had been attempting to read a fiction novel but he just couldn’t concentrate. The more he thought about the interaction between himself and Granger, the guiltier he felt. 

 

In the hours since he had been berating himself for slipping right back into his old persona, someone he had not been in a long time. It’s true, his attitude towards blood status had been drastically changed long before the war ended, but his superior airs and hit temper had been harder to shake. It was alarming how quickly he could don the mask of superiority and malice. 

 

He tried not to think about how bloody sexy she was when she was angry. If he didn’t let Granger go when he did, he wouldn’t have been able to stop himself from fucking her straight through the wall. Touching her had been a terrible idea. When he rolled his thumb over her little plump lip, all he wanted to do was suck it into his mouth and bite until she whimpered. 

 

“I think you want to be bad.

 

Draco shook his head, adjusted the pillow behind his back and brought his eyes back to the page. As soon as he started to turn the page, he heard a whimper float down the hallway. His ears perked up at the sound immediately, but he stayed planted while he listened for more. After a moment or two of silence, he turned back to the book in his hands. 

 

He read another two paragraphs when he heard it again, but louder. Resisting the urge to leap up and run to his room, he begged the sounds of distress to cease, but they didn’t. The whimpers and cries of anguish only grew more desperate and Draco tried his best to ignore them until they passed. After all, she would not be happy to see him right now, no matter the circumstance. 

 

He stared down at the page blindly, feeling tormented by the ceaseless audio. When he could take it no more, he relented and knocked on his bedroom door. 

 

“Granger?” No answer. 

 

He knocked again and again but she would not wake. Draco recalled the conversation they had about her nightmares. About how Weasley would Silencio her so that she could be ignored more effectively. He thought about how she must feel, going through that torment like that. Then he remembered how wonderful it had been to have Granger there to comfort him when he woke in terror, and he made up his mind. 

 

Draco pushed open the door and strode over to the bed. Granger had kicked the blanket to the floor and was curled up in the fetal position rocking on her side. Her whimpering had grown to full out sobs now, and Draco felt his heart fracture. He carefully sat on the edge of the bed and placed a hand on her bare shoulder. She was as cold as ice. 

 

“Granger? Wake up.”

 

When she didn’t rouse, he shook her gently. “It’s just a dream, Granger. You have to wake up.”

 

He brushed the tangled hair out of her face and tapped her cheek. “Granger.” He huffed, this wasn’t working. He edged closer to her and grabbed both shoulders firmly. “Hermione, wake up!”

 

Still sobbing, her eyes flicked open. They danced over his face, and she whimpered again. 

 

“Gra—Hermione, it’s just a dream, you’re safe. You’re okay. Do you understand?”

 

The glazed look in her eyes faded into confusion as her sobs subsided. “Draco?”

 

He shifted uncomfortably and looked away, waiting for her ire. When it didn’t come, he looked back down at her. Her tears were still streaming down her face but the devastation was still prominent in her features. Whatever she had been dreaming about had to have been bad. 

 

“You’re here?” She uncurled her limbs and propped herself up on an elbow. 

 

Draco cringed, she was about to kick him out and yell at him for barging in, he knew. “Erm… Yes?”

 

She didn’t seem to know what to say to that, so she sat up and pulled her knees in close, shivering. After hesitating momentarily, Draco bent down to retrieve the blanket off the floor and very carefully wrapped it around her. He watched her eyes the whole time but surprisingly, he didn’t see hostility.   

 

Once that was done, he awkwardly glanced around the room. “I .. uh. I guess I’ll be…” He jutted his thumb towards the door behind him and turned. 

 

“You don’t have to!” She rushed out. 

 

He turned back around. “I… what?”

 

“I mean…” She peered shyly at him, “this is your bed… You could stay.”

 

He shook his head and his hands fell limp. “But… I was horrible to you. The things I said—“

 

Her arms tightened around her and a violent shiver rocked her small frame. “Can we just worry about that tomorrow?” she looked away from him and at the wall. “I know that wasn’t really about me… I-I saw the letter on your desk, Draco.” She gave a small, tentative small. “It’s been a hard day and neither of us have the energy to argue anymore. Let’s just forget about it, just for tonight.”

 

Draco sighed. Of course, she was right, the tantrum he’d been having really had nothing to do with her. He knew he had a choice to make. Should he stay in here with her, knowing that there was a possibility that she could change her mind and hex him to oblivion for being such a prat? Then there was, of course, the awkwardness regarding the shower incident and Draco didn’t like the idea of that coming up right now. Or he could refuse, head back towards the living room to read a book that he was sure he’d never retain, and undoubtedly miss out on any chance of sleep. 

 

Any reasons he could come up with paled in comparison to the way Grangers teeth were clattering from both the chill and the obvious nervous tremors leftover from her nightmare. Her eyes were wide and haunted and seemed unfocused half the time. She changed a look in his direction, and Draco couldn't deny the way her eyes pleaded with him. 

 

Against his better judgment, Draco summoned his pillow from the living room and conjured a handful of blue dragons to swirl around above them. Grangers’ face broke out in a nervous smile and she scooted over onto the bed, giving him his spot. She unwrapped herself from the blanket and tossed it over the pair of them. Draco rigidly reclined on his back and tried to force his muscles to relax. Meanwhile, her shivers were becoming more violent. 

 

He turned to look at her. She had her back to him and the blanket was pulled up over her chin. He rolled his eyes and yanked her back by her hips, eliciting a sharp yelp from the shivering witch. He wrapped one of his arms around her and tucked the other under the pillows. Draco pressed her back into him to share his warmth and he couldn’t imagine anywhere else he’d rather be. Granger tensed at first, shocked at the contact, before she turned her head to look at him questioningly. 

 

“Can’t very well sleep if you’re making the bed vibrate with your incessant shivering.” Draco went for a complaining tone, but it was painfully obvious that it was a ruse. She seemed to relax, however, and it made his chest tighten.

 

They laid there in contemplation for some time, Granger snuggled closer and Draco started to rub her arm to warm her up. Eventually, her shivering died down but neither of them made to move, and Draco continued stroking her arm comfortingly. 

 

“I’m sorry.” Draco whispered into her hair. 

 

“I thought we weren’t acknowledging that tonight.”

 

“I know, but I still had to say it.” 

 

Draco tucked her head under his chin and took a deep breath, finally asking the question that had been plaguing him. “Why are you with him?”

 

He expected her to defend the relationship, to tell him that they were madly in love and to mind his own business. What he did not expect, was her honest and forthright answer. 

 

“He’s been my best friend all through school. We fought next to each other. Other than Harry, he’s the only one who understands what I’ve gone through, what I’m still going through.”

 

“Does he though?” Draco asked delicately. 

 

“What do you mean?”

 

He gave himself a moment to collect his thoughts before he answered. The last thing he needed was to fuck up again. He couldn’t bare the thought of prying himself away from the heaven that was the woman in his arms so soon. Straight up bashing Weasley would get him nowhere. He had to get her to see reason, and her walls would go up if he so much as threw out one ‘Weasel’.

 

“Hear me out, Granger. The way he treats you… That’s not how you treat someone you love. At best he looks at you like a possession. Like you’re a toy he doesn’t particularly like but he refuses to share it, just because someone else might want it.” When he sensed that she was about to rebuff, Draco held up a finger to stop her. 

 

“Its true Granger, think about it, has he ever looked at you the way Potter looks at Ginny? I’ve never even seen him smile at you. He just looks so angry at you all the time. When you’ve done absolutely nothing to warrant it. He treats you like shite in front of your friends, and worst of all, he makes you believe you deserve it.”

 

Granger half turned in his arms so she could look up at him. Her face held no clues as to what she was thinking, but she did seem to be trying to figure something out as she gazed at him. He let his hand slide down her arm and took her hand in his.

She didn’t say anything so Draco steeled himself and forced himself to keep talking, all the while staring at their intertwined fingers. “Absolutely no one deserves to be treated like that, but you… you’re worth so much more.”

 

Neither of them spoke at first, both of them seemingly lost in their own separate thoughts. A tiny blue dragon floated down and marched across Draco's arm before it moved onto Hermione’s. 

 

“Why are you telling me this?” She whispered, her eyes diligently following the flame beast. 

 

Before he could really think it over, he was already talking. “Despite what you think, Granger, and I know you do, you deserve someone who will treat you like the Golden Girl you are. Not because of what you did in the war, or who your friends are. Not because of the notoriety and intrigue that comes with your name. They should treat you like the Golden Girl because you are self-sacrificing, passionate, generous, kind and incredibly intelligent. Not to mention courageous, loyal, lovable and… and beautiful. You need someone to make sure you are eating enough, and never let you sleep alone and will chase your nightmares away. Someone who will not only encourage your dreams and your aspirations, but will do whatever it takes to help you get there. Someone who needs you as much as you need them.”

 

Draco so wished he could be that for her. He knew that he would do anything for her happiness but he knew that her happiness did not, would not come from being with him. He may hold some strange magical connection over her, but the fantasy of having her crumbles when the flames die out. He was still the prejudiced Death Eater bully from school. 

 

“Like who?” She said, barely above a whisper. 

 

Me. Draco wanted to say. Instead, he pulled the covers tighter over her body and breathed her in. 

 

“Someone… Someone who deserves you.” 

 

“What if they don’t think they do?” Her voice was so small, almost as if she didn’t even want him to hear her. Her free hand was shaking slightly as she brought it up to place on the bicep he had wrapped around her middle. 

 

She couldn’t possibly mean him, could she? He tried not to think about it. It was easier to give up any hope then to love with bitter rejection. Either way, his answer would be the same. 

 

“They probably don’t, Hermione.”

 

—-

 

Draco woke with a start, having felt that something was wrong. The room was still dark, but the hint of daybreak was evident from light of the window. He blinked his eyes a few times and instantly noticed the little witch nestled into his chest. He was on his back, and Granger had thrown an arm and leg over him clinging to him, even in sleep. He craned his neck to look at her face. The haunted expression from the night before had been replaced with a blissful calm. 

 

He smiled and wrapped his arms around her tighter, attributing his unease to his abrupt consciousness. She let out a breathy sigh and shifted her face so that her nose and lips were just barely pressing into his neck. He felt the warmth of goose flesh spread over his body and let out his own sigh. He knew as soon as they left this bed, their truce would be void and he would have to face the consequences of his actions. So, he would be damned if he wasn’t going to soak in every second of this sleepy nirvana. 

 

Draco pressed his lips to her forehead softly, careful not to rouse her. He let his eyes slide shut as he listened to her shallow breaths, fighting sleep so that he could commit every second of her touch to memory. 

 

Her breaths were so slight that he could barely hear them, and that’s how he was able to discern an additional set of breaths in the room. 

 

Frigid dread permeated his chest and he froze in place, keeping his eyes closed to listen more intently, but there was no doubt. They weren’t alone. Before he could talk himself out of it, Draco snapped his eyes open and peered directly in front of him through his bedroom door. He vaguely remembered that he had left it open the night before. 

 

Standing in the doorframe was a tall figure with broad shoulders and a threatening stance. In the early morning light, the man's features were hidden, but his piercing blue eyes were unmistakable. 

 

As recognition hit him, Ron Weasley slowly lifted his wand, sporting the same terrifying smile from Draco’s nightmares. 

Chapter Text

Draco awoke with a soft hum of magic filling the air around him. The tang of sterilization charms invaded his nose and stuck to his tongue like thick molasses. Before he even opened his eyes, he could tell that the room was bright and he shielded his vision with his arm as he carefully opened his eyes. 

 

He could feel his head begin to swim from the effort to move his arm alone. A searing pain became evident across his torso and Draco began to lose consciousness almost immediately. As his hand fell back down to the bed, the sweet smell of warm chamomile drifted over him and pulled him back under. 

 

—-

 

Draco didn’t know how much later he roused again but it must have been during the night since the hospital room was much darker than before. As he let his eyes adjust to his surroundings, he picked up on hushed voices off to his left side. 

 

He turned his head and there she was.

 

The Weaselette had gathered Granger in her embrace and cradled her head affectionately against her chest. They were crowded together on the single armchair that the room held. Neither of the women noticed his gaze. 

 

“How long, Hermione?” The redhead asked gently.

 

Hesitation, and then a whispered, “Third year.”

 

What happened in third year?

 

Ginny nodded her head without any kind of strong reaction. She quietly stroked her hair for a few moments while Draco fought the pull of sleep. 

 

“I’m a terrible person, Ginny.” Granger sniffed. 

 

“You are absolutely not! Do you hear me, Hermione Granger? He has been horrible to you for years. Maybe getting yourself into this situation in the first place was a mistake, but I don’t think anyone can blame you for the fallout. As much as I hate to say it, the only thing you can do now is get him out of your life.”

 

No, I don’t want to go. 

 

Draco felt another wave of drowsiness rush over him and his lids started to droop. He fought the sleep, not wanting to take his eyes off of his witch. 

 

“You’re right, Ginny. It’s over now, I’ll tell him when he wakes up.” 

 

No!

 

Draco felt his heart leap into his throat and tried fruitlessly to sit up and reach for her. The smallest movement sent blinding pain lancing through his chest and he instantly lost consciousness.

 

—-

 

Early morning light filtered through the cheap curtains and landed on the empty armchair by his bed. 

 

No Granger.

 

Draco groaned as he pulled himself up in the stiff hospital cot. The pain in his chest was dulled now, as he suspected they had administered a powerful pain potion. His limbs felt rubbery and his mind was clouded so he didn’t pay any of that much thought. 

 

Did she leave without saying goodbye?

 

He swung his legs to the floor and absently righted the plain white hospital robes he wore. The battle with gravity was immediate and his legs wobbled with the effort to bear his weight. 

 

The thought of finding Hermione was all-consuming. He was so distracted that he didn’t notice the warmth spreading across his chest and dripping down his legs. He didn’t notice the look of distress the witch in the hall gave him when he passed. He didn’t even notice when one of his best friends was yelling his name from the nurse’s station. 

 

But he did notice when a short brunette with wild curls turned the corner, her face cast down towards a heavy book that was open in her hands. The air around him seemed to still and his magic thrummed in agreement. The ceaseless noise of the hospital ward fell away.

 

The relief he felt at the sight of her was startling. He’d been so used to her always being around that he never thought about how much it would hurt when she was gone. She had said it was over, that she’d send him away. Maybe, just maybe, he could change her mind - no, he would change her mind. Now, if only the wall would stop leaning against him so he could reach her. 

 

The warmth in his chest was turning cold, a numbing kind of chill that delved deep into the cavity beneath his ribs. With it came a drifting calm and an unyielding urge for rest. 

 

“Drake! What are you doing?!” In the back of his mind, Draco registered Blaise’s panicked voice but paid it no mind.

 

Granger looked up at the sound of the shouting and her eyes widened as she took in Dracos state. She rushed forward, yelling to someone behind Draco for help. The tiled floor called to him but he just slumped against the wall watching the way her ringlets tangled around each other in the updraft her hasty motions created. 

 

Draco felt a strange pinch in his abdomen and instinctively pressed a hand to it, frowning when it pulled away wet with blood. He looked down to find his crisp white robe bore a vast swath of crimson where it clung to his hard body. He looked down at it in fascination until the white and red fabric swirled together in a waltz of metallic scents and nauseam. 

 

She was there with him now, frantic and shouting her panic at an inexperienced looking mediwitch. He pitied the girl having to deal with Granger, and he nearly laughed at the absurdity of the sight. However, when he opened his mouth, the only sound that escaped him was a sharp gasp of pain. Granger ordered her harshly to go find a healer and she grasped Draco around the middle, dragging him back towards his room. 

 

They stumbled towards his bed and she slipped in the trail of blood. Before she could fall, Draco miraculously managed to clamp his arm around her waist to steady her. She didn’t even seem to notice as she tried to coax him back into bed. 

 

If I fall asleep she’ll leave again.

 

Draco felt the ground tilt at impossible angles but willed his legs to remain locked. He had to stay awake. He had to get her to stay. He just couldn’t figure out how to access his speech at that particular moment. 

 

Hermione’s eyes were filled with tears and her hands shook as she pressed her hands against his wet chest. The contact felt phantom, like his body was someone else’s and he was just an observer. 

 

“Draco, please, please get back into bed. You’re hurt.” She pleaded with him. Draco couldn’t make out the expression on her face since it refused to come into focus. 

 

“You’ll leave.” He managed to choke out, feeling a strange buzz behind his eyes from the utterances. 

 

“I’m not leaving. I won’t leave you.” 

 

He felt like he was swimming through oatmeal to stay focused. He gathered the words she said, imagining he held them in his hands. He envisioned chewing each word to digest their meaning. 

 

Yes, stay. 

 

He could feel the vibration of her raised voice, but she wasn’t making any sound. He cocked his head at her and she paled. He watched as her hand was pressed against his cheek, but frowned when he couldn’t feel it there. She made to pull away towards the door and Draco used every ounce of his waning strength left to stop her by grabbing her wrist. He raised his other arm to her face, cupping her cheek gently. 

 

He felt the draw of unconsciousness rush up to meet him and gave into it after he muttered his desperation. 

 

“Let me keep you.” 


—-

 

The next time he woke, the day brought Luna Lovegood to his side. She was waving her wand over his chest and humming absently.

 

Draco hadn’t moved yet, his open eyes having been the only indication that he was not still asleep. So, he was more than a little surprised when she addressed him without looking at his face. 

 

“She’s visiting Ron.”

 

He was too tired to summon the anger and jealousy that would have accompanied that statement. Instead, he allowed a cold despair to infect his mind. He felt like he was sinking and he would soon drown. He wasn’t sure if he would fear or welcome it. 

 

“Oh, I see.” His voice was weak and scratchy, but he didn’t bother clearing his throat. 

 

“Do you remember what happened?” Lovegood dropped her wand arm to the side and perched on the side of his bed. 

 

Draco squinted and tried to recall. The last thing he could remember was waking up with Granger in his arms. He shook his head no, but then flashes of the event started surfacing. 

 

The Weasel. Blood. Grangers screams. Blue fire. More blood. 

 

“Is she okay?” Draco gulped down his panic but he was sure it still showed on his face. He couldn’t remember all the details but from what he could recall, there had been blood dripping steadily from her arm at some point. 

 

“She’s okay thanks to you.” Catching the shocked look on his face, Luna elaborated. “You stepped in front of a nasty hex. That’s how you got this.”

 

She stood and shut the door, pulled the blanket down to his knees and carefully began to remove a series on bandages on his chest and upper thigh. Draco gagged at the sight of the inflamed, nasty gash. The cut was as wide as a finger and slashed across his torso, originating below his pectoral and ending down past his hip bone onto his thigh. It neatly bisected the largest of his sectumsempra scars and left him with a crude ‘X’ on his chest. 

 

It looked fresh, just barely started to heal. The air that brushed over the wound was like a cold knife, and it made Draco’s muscles clench. The motion tore open the few inches that ran over his stomach, freeing a bright red ribbon of blood. The tangy smell reached his nose and he flinched.

 

That’s when it all came back to him. 

 

—-

 

“Everte Statum” Weasley’s teeth flashed as he uttered the incantation. 

 

Draco's arm instinctively shot out and the force of his wandless shield was more than enough to rebound Weasley’s spell. The attacker was thrown across the flat before he smacked soundly into the bookshelf in the living room. 

 

Hermione instantly woke and gasped as she witnessed the last milliseconds that her boyfriend was airborne before he crumpled to the ground. Draco could feel the beginnings of his strange magic stirring and did not resist the pull. Granger seemed to sense this, and hastily recast the fireproof charms over the bed mere moments before Dracos body exploded in flame. 

 

Ron rose to his feet and gaped at the sight of the burning wizard. While the weasel still looked angry, there was obvious hesitation about how to proceed. Granger broke the tension. 

 

“Ronald, how dare you cast a hex at a sleeping wizard! What were you thinking?!”

 

He laughed, seeming to dismiss Dracos state. “What was I thinking?! I knew you were fucked in the head Hermione, but a Death Eater? Really?” Ron held his wand aloft once more while he advanced back towards them. “You won’t even let me touch you, but him? You’ll let a slimy Death Eater shag you?”

 

Draco raised an eyebrow but let it fall when Granger huffed indignantly and scrambled off the bed. She pulled her wand from somewhere under the covers. Draco followed, not trusting that Weasley wouldn’t hurt her. He stood behind her to the right, close enough to grab her if the need arose. 

 

“I did not shag Malfoy!” She shrieked.

 

“How could you do this to me? Don’t you love me?” Weasley’s wand hand was shaking now that he had come closer. He nervously glanced at Draco, who was still covered in flames, a few times but didn’t stop his advance. 

 

“You’re one to talk, Ronald. Do you think I’m daft? That all that time spent with Barbra was innocent? That you didn’t fuck her in my bed ?!” She snarled.

 

Draco was taken aback, and not just from the profanity that hissed from her lips. No wonder she hated the woman, not that it was hard to do so in his own opinion. The fact remained though… Granger knew that Weasley was cheating on her and she didn’t leave him? Why would she do that?

 

Weasley’s face faltered but he quickly spread a grimace across his face. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

 

“Go ahead, deny it. I already know the truth, so I wouldn’t waste your breath. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the rumours about you and Lavender are true. You aren’t exactly subtle.” Granger crossed her arms and shot a condescending smirk at the feckless git.

 

The man had the gall to laugh at her accusation and it sent a twist of dread into Draco's stomach. He remembered that laugh from his dream, and Draco refused to stand back and watch the altercation anymore. 

 

The look on Ron's face was feral and cruel, it reminded Draco of the expression Voldemort would wear when he’d torture someone. Right now that distinct expression was being directed at Hermione, and that was not okay. 

 

Dracos rage rippled and a swell of magic stoked the flames, causing them to turn a shade brighter. Weasley swore and stumbled back a bit, using his arms to shield his face from the blaze. Draco stepped forward and used his body to block the doorway, letting his flames lick up the frame. 

 

Weasley let out a growl and started throwing curses at Draco. The power flowing through him was laughably easy to access and manipulate. With a simple thought, Draco erected a strong shield and pushed Hermione back onto the bed, as far away from the danger as possible. He could feel her magic as she was fighting him but his power held. She shouted and kicked against his shield but he was not about to let her anywhere near this monster. She may not see it, but the ginger wizard reeked of dark intentions. Something about him was… off.

 

After a few moments of casting, Ron’s face was heated and sweaty but he stubbornly continued trying to break down Draco’s barrier. He roared in protest when Draco silently disarmed him.

 

He dropped his shield but left Granger magically restrained against the wall. 

 

“Let her go!” Weasel shouted. “You let her go right now, you piece of shite!”

 

“I’m not the one she’s afraid of, Weasel.” Draco scowled and felt his powers intensify. “I’m not the one who leaves her to suffer in silence every night or ignores her until I want something. I’m not the one who takes her for granted every goddamn day and makes her feel like she is anything less than the phenomenal witch that she is.”

 

The ginger scoffed. “She’s not a child, and I’m definitely not her mother. How is it my problem that she can’t get over shit that happened over a year ago? I mean, I lost my fucking brother, and she whinges over her parents, who aren’t even dead. She’s lucky that I put up with it, no one decent would. Without me, she’d be alone.” Weasley looked like he was about to strike Draco but thought better of it. “Either way, what gives you the right to take what doesn’t belong to you, Malfoy? What gives you the right—“

 

“I do not belong to anyone Ronald! I am not some object—“ Her voice was shrill from her anger. 

 

“Shut up, Hermione! I never thought you’d cheat on me with him . I could fuck a thousand women and it still wouldn’t be as bad as what you’ve done.” Before Hermione could reply, he turned back to Draco. 

 

“How was she? I always imagined she would just lay there like a cold fish.”

 

Draco was confused at first but it quickly turned to rage. His anger turned to realization briefly before his features settled on utter loathing. Unfortunately for Draco, Ron could see these emotions flit across his face and it caused him to laugh loudly. 

 

“She didn’t give it up for you either?” His obvious amusement built up to the point of doubling over in dramatic laughter. “Then what the fuck would you want her for?” 

 

Draco would have blushed if he weren’t already so angry. He could feel Hermione’s magic push against his hold, causing the air to spark and pulse. She began to protest but Draco cut her off. 

 

“Don’t talk about her like that, Weasley.” He snarled. 

 

Grangers relentless pushing intensified and Draco had to raise his hand to hold the forcefield. Weasley gaped at the now obvious display of immense power and his eyes darted back and forth between the two bedmates. It didn’t take long for it to dawn on him. 

 

“You’re in love with her.”

 

Draco faltered, and would have lost his hold on Hermione had she not let her efforts cease with that statement. He felt himself deflate momentarily, his burning magic waning visibility. The words shocked him, of course he didn’t love her. How could he love Hermione Granger? He’d never even been in love. 

 

Do I love her?

 

Rons cackling had turned ominous and his eyes narrowed spitefully. Before Draco knew what was happening, Weasley pulled a spare wand from his back pocket, aimed it at Draco's chest and sent a vicious Crucio at him. His screams were ripped from his chest as his body slammed to the floor, his fiery magic petering out almost instantly. Only a small bluebell flame resting in his palm remained. 

 

Draco struggled to look back and watch as the bluebell floated over to Granger and sink into her chest, right at the spot he knew held her magical core. Her chest lit up from the inside, the glow tinted red by her blood. She pressed a hand against her chest and looked over at Draco. In a single blink, Hermione’s eyes transformed from warm brown to luminous white. She took a deep breath and burst into flame. All without Draco’s touch. 

 

The Crutiatus lifted immediately, and Ron stumbled back a bit in shock. Her whole body was engorged with the roaring flame and her mouth was open in a prolonged gasp. The woman was gorgeous in a visceral, entrancing way. Her clothes began to burn away as she stood. Her veins lit up like some kind of bioluminescent creature, and the magic dripping from her fingers was like liquid electricity. 

 

A fierce wind began whipping through the room, sending papers from Draco’s desk in every direction. Hermione’s hair seemed to writhe of its own accord, the gales of wind having no impact on it at all. She fixed her piercing gaze on the Weasel.

 

He threw several Crutios at her, which all bounced off her shield. Draco was fighting the searing pain to get to his feet but it was slow going. 

 

When she spoke, her cadence was haunting, almost as if it reverberated through the skin instead of through the eardrum. “Leave here, now.”

 

Both men were momentarily rendered speechless and for a moment it looked like Ron would cower in fear. Instead, he looked back at Draco and let a slimy grin twist across his features. The Weasel kept his eyes locked on Draco but lifted his wand to point at Granger.  

 

“You’ll never have her.”

 

As Draco finally got to his feet, Weasley began an unfamiliar incantation. Dread cut through him like a knife, and Draco instinctively threw his body at the attacker, uncaring that a foreign curse had just struck him hard in the chest. They were both brought to the ground. 

 

White-hot agony gripped him and his vision was blinking in and out. His heart was thudding in his ears. There was shouting and wand light, thuds, and cries of pain but all Draco could think about was how it felt like his body was being wrenched open by a hellish blade. 

 

Draco could feel her small hands desperately ripping the tattered shirt away from his body. Her gorgeous hair was dancing above her in the cerulean flames that shot out of her head. Her milky eyes were focused on his chest and her dripping red hand was wildly swishing her wand above him. 

 

She’s so beautiful.

 

This was different than sectumsempra, it didn’t hurt anymore, it was warm like bathwater. He wanted to tell her he was okay, that he felt just fine and that she didn’t have to worry, but he was growing groggy and couldn’t figure out how to form words with his tongue. He lifted his shaking hand to comfort her.

 

Hermione turned her face to his and he knew she was about to cry by the way her lip quivered. He placed a single digit over her lips and watched in fascination as his finger slid away, leaving a perfect ruby red line down the center of her mouth and chin. 

 

As his arm landed in the pool of blood at his side and his vision went black. 

 

Chapter Text

He was in the hospital for another six days. 

 

In that time, Granger scarcely left his room. Conversation was kept to a minimum, and not only due to Dracos wavering consciousness. So much had happened in less than a week and he knew that she was processing it all, just as he was. But that didn’t stop him from watching her as she read, or gazed out the window, or even as she slept in the pale green armchair by the door. 

 

Sometimes she would catch him staring, and he would quickly look away… Most of the time. On occasion, Draco would hold her gaze until she was the one forced to look away, usually with a bright blush staining her cheeks. In those moments, he found himself too exhausted to care what she might think, too tired of fighting the longing that was making it hard to breathe. In those moments, he pushed the thoughts of Weasel and his mother out of his head and allowed himself to drink her in, unabashed, unashamed, uncaring. 

 

After he had gone on his little adventure and re-opened his wound, the healer in charge refused to give him any strong pain medications unless he consented to be restrained. Draco flat out refused, much to the chagrin of Hermione. She tried to reason with him but even as stubborn as she was, he just wouldn’t relent. He was already all but incarcerated, and he didn’t need further reminder. So he endured with minimal pain potions, putting forth a brave front. 

 

The first few days were the hardest. The gash on his torso felt like a white-hot brand, searing his insides. Sometimes the pain was so unequivocally raw, that Draco was certain that the curse had a flesh-eating component to it. Apparently, the curse that Weasley had used on him was unidentified and therefore, had to be healed without the aid of magic. They had to bring in a muggle doctor who was the parent of a young wizard in Beauxbatons to see to his wounds. 

 

As the magical healer could be of no help, a junior healer, Luna Lovegood as it turned out, was assigned to monitor his condition. When Granger had to leave the hospital, which was usually once a day, Luna was the one who would sit by Draco’s side. Sometimes, she would be on duty, in her mediwitch robes, but on this particular day, she wore a strange assortment of muggle clothing that made Draco’s head spin. 

 

She wore a pair of tights that had little green daisies all over them, a bright yellow tutu, pink platform boots that had blue laces and a charcoal men’s vest. Her hair had been styled into a dozen or so braids, wrapped haphazardly into a bumpy bun on the top of her head. 

 

“Good Morning, Draco.” Luna said as she plopped into the armchair. “Would you like some tea?”

 

Draco wanted to groan, this had become somewhat of a ritual. Loony would always come with a new exotic flavoured tea to sample along with curious pastries and biscuits. At first, Draco turned his nose up at the notion. He was a proper English boy, and afternoon tea was not supposed to consist of fruity teas or doughnuts. 

 

But his Pureblood manners kicked in and he reluctantly accepted the offers. Now, however, he looked forward to the strange witch’s visits - much to his complete horror. She still seemed to be floating off somewhere in her own world, rambling on about some non-existent creature or another, but she was kind and didn’t force him to talk. Begrudgingly, he admitted that her presence was calming and a welcome distraction from his current woes. He would never tell her, but the teas and treats she brought were delectable. He was particularly fond of the Chai tea and the Rice Crosbies... Rice Cronchies? The one with marshmallows. 

 

“Yes, thank you, Lovegood.” He straightened his blankets and accepted a cup when she offered it to him.

 

“That’s green tea, a very popular drink in Asia, it originated from China, however.” She sat on the edge of his bed and plopped a plate onto the side table by his bed. “These are called Mochi, I think they look quite similar to an acromantula egg, don’t you?”

 

Draco furrowed his brow at the unassuming little blobs. There was an assortment of colours and Draco had the urge to poke one. So he did. 

 

“What is it made of?” He recoiled slightly at the gooey texture. 

 

“It's a Japanese sticky rice cake. Mochi is usually made from sweet rice, cooked and pounded until it becomes a paste that is very sticky and smooth, then formed into cakes.” She pinched a red mochi and bit into it. “They come in many flavours, I brought some sweet ones but they can also be savoury. It is traditionally eaten in New Year’s Ozoni soup or baked with soy sauce.”

 

Draco tried not to roll his eyes and award Ravenclaw 10 points for her very Granger-like response. At the thought of her, his eyes unwittingly flicked to her normal spot. For the first time, she had left before he woke up, and he found that he didn’t like that at all. He never asked where she went when she left, and she didn’t offer up any information. Draco had assumed that she’d be visiting the Weasel, considering she’d returned with a puffy, tear-stained face on several occasions. 

 

Where are you, Granger?

 

“Furniture Shopping.” 

 

Draco stiffened. Did I say that out loud?

 

“Nope.”

 

He propped himself up on his elbows and narrowed his eyes at the eccentric witch beside him. 

 

Are you reading my mind?

 

Luna either ignored his mental query, or he truly was going insane. It was easy to feel that way around Loony. She was harmless enough, but Draco often felt flustered in situations like this. He’d learned that changing the topic of conversation was often the best way to shake it off. 

 

“So, did you say Granger was furniture shopping?” His voice cracked slightly, but Luna just gave a small nod and kept her attention on her tea. 

 

She bought a new bed. Draco’s heart dropped at the prospect of having a wall divide him from Hermione once again. That is until he remembered the whispered conversation from several nights ago. 

 

“I’m a terrible person, Ginny.” Granger sniffed. 

 

“You are absolutely not! Do you hear me, Hermione Granger? He has been horrible to you for years. Maybe getting yourself into this situation in the first place was a mistake, but I don’t think anyone can blame you for the fallout. As much as I hate to say it, the only thing you can do now is get him out of your life.”

 

“You’re right, Ginny. It’s over now, I’ll tell him when he wakes up.” 

 

But she hadn’t told him any such thing, and that kept Draco in a painful state of hopefulness. Would she wait until the last moment to tell him? Had she changed her mind? He shook the thoughts from his head. 

 

He looked over at the treats, trying to hide his curiosity. “What flavour is this?” He pinched up a purple ball and sniffed it. 

 

“That’s Taro. It’s a root, like ginger. It’s naturally vibrant purple like that. Nargles are particularly fond of them on Valentine’s Day.” She gave him a lazy smile and propped her boots up on the table. 

 

The rest of tea was had in silence. Draco didn’t care for the green tea, but he had to stop himself from inhaling every one of the sticky little sweets. 

 

Lovegood stayed for several more hours, checking on Draco’s wound and knitting some sort of convoluted, multi-coloured poncho. Apparently, the weaved pattern was proven to cleanse the wearer’s aura. Draco passed the time reading about the fire mages of Singapore, hoping to find a connection between them and his own brand of magic. He found none and, as far as he knew, Granger hadn’t found anything in her research either. 

 

He knew it was important to find answers to his condition, but he couldn’t help feeling like he should be focusing on finding his mother, even though realistically he was useless in his current bedridden state. Potter and one of the lead Aurors stopped by to ask questions but didn’t have any leads. The ministry was still sifting through charred evidence at the manor but so far, it seemed to be dead end after dead end. 

 

Granger had returned shortly after dinner looking exhausted, but Draco could detect an underlying excitement as well. She waved goodbye to Luna with a bright smile before she parked herself, cross-legged, at the end of his bed. Draco crossed his legs to one side to accommodate her and gave her a quick glare. What was it with everyone sitting on his bed?

 

“Did Luna tell you?” Hermione asked, ignoring his sour expression. She grasped both of her ankles and rocked forward, looking like she was about to burst. 

 

“Lovegood told me plenty of things, Granger, but I dare say the effects of suntulip relish on flea bites is not what has you this excited.” He smirked at her momentary befuddlement that his reply caused. 

 

“What relish?” She waved her hands in the air dismissively. “Not important.” She smiled and let out a nervous breath. “You get to come home tomorrow!”

 

Draco didn’t know how to react, so he just kept his mouth shut and blinked at her. He knew that he should be thrilled at the prospect of remaining with Granger but he couldn’t make the pieces fit. Did he hear her wrong that night when she said it was over? Did she change her mind? His confusion over this whole situation was threatening to make his anger and frustration surface but he worked hard to suppress it.

 

Hermione’s face started to fall and now she looked at him with concern, then disappointment. She hung her head and started picking at a loose thread on her jeans. It snapped Draco out of his thoughts immediately. He hated that her mood had deflated so quickly, so easily, he sat up carefully and grabbed her hand. 

 

“I don’t understand, Granger,” He dipped his head to catch her gaze. “You’re letting me stay?”

 

She let her eyes lock with his but still kept her face pointed down, making her look startlingly young and innocent. 

 

“Of course,” she said, sounding a little confused. “I mean.. Unless you don’t want to…” 

 

“No, that’s not it, Granger. Of course I want to... It’s just...” She perked up a bit at his words and unconsciously inched towards him. 

 

“What you said…” Draco paused to find the right words. “I overheard the conversation you had with Weaslette. I heard you say that this was a mistake and you were going to tell me it was over when I woke up.”

 

Her face flashed with realization and she covered her mouth with her hand. “Oh god, Draco… I’m sorry, I didn’t mean you. Did you think I was going to send you back all this time?” She looked horrified. 

 

It was his turn to look away and he answered her with a shrug. 

 

“God, Draco, I wasn’t talking about you.”

 

“Then who…?” Draco didn’t have to study her face long to put the pieces together, and once he did, he couldn’t decide whether to jump for joy or smack himself in the face for being such an imbecile. She was talking about the Weasel. 

 

“Yes, Ron and I broke up. Well, I guess it’s more accurate to say that I left him. He wasn’t very happy.” She didn’t seem very bothered by this information. In fact, she seemed almost proud of herself. Merlin knows that Draco was. 

 

“So, I can come home?” He asked hesitantly. 

 

She beamed and nodded vigorously. 

 

The hopefulness that he had tried to keep at bay was now overflowing into an elation that he couldn’t keep from spreading across his face. Not only was he going to be allowed to stay with her, but the stupid fucking ginger prick was out of the picture too. 

 

Draco grabbed Hermione by her hips and hauled her to sit sideways in his lap and wrapped her in a tight embrace. She yelped and immediately started trying to pry herself away. 

 

“Draco, you’re still recovering! I might hurt you!” 

 

He chuckled and squeezed her tighter. “Oh come now Granger, you weigh about as much as a bowtruckle.”

 

She snorted. “You’ve been spending too much time with Luna.”

 

If Draco wasn’t so happy he would have been mortified by that comment but as it was, he could only laugh along with her. 

 

As their laughter died down, Granger relaxed into his embrace and she started lightly running her fingers over his forearm. He bent his neck and rested his forehead against her temple, basking in the warmth that was Hermione. They stayed like this for a while before Draco’s pain returned full force. He tried to fight through it, but the smarty pants witch didn’t miss the sudden tension in him or the fact that he had been holding his breath. Reluctantly he let her go, and they spent the rest of the evening in a new kind of silence. 

 

—-



The next evening, after a final check-up and discharge, Draco and Hermione stepped through the floo and into the living room of her flat. He barely had time to take in the scene before him before a certain orange-haired woman bounded forward and yelled “SURPRISE!” 

 

He flinched away from the witch and instinctively drew Granger behind him. 

 

“I thought we said we weren’t going to do that.” Neville said from the other side of the room. He was setting forks and knives down on the presumably new dining room table. When he turned around, his eyes immediately narrowed on the protective stance Draco had assumed.

 

“Yes, well I couldn’t resist. What’s a surprise party without yelling ‘surprise’?” Ginny shrugged and plopped down into one of the chairs set around the table. 

 

“Just a plain old party, Gin.” Of course, the boy who lived was here too. He was in the kitchen, chopping vegetables on the bartop. The muggle way, obviously, it’s not like he was a wizard or anything. 

 

Granger huffed and made her way out from behind Draco, leading him by the hand towards the table. “This isn’t a party , it’s dinner. ” She sat Draco down at the head of the table and retreated to the kitchen, where he could smell something savory cooking. He smelled familiar hints of oregano and garlic, Italian if he wasn’t mistaken. 

 

“Erm,” he started. “Why are you having a… not-a-party?”

 

Everyone turned to face him, looking a bit incredulous. It was Ginny that broke the silence, albeit a tad too sarcastic for Draco’s liking. “Well sometimes, Malfoy, people like to do fun activities on their birthdays.”

 

He rolled his eyes and unfolded his napkin. “So who’s birthday is it then?”

 

Another silence. 

 

Oh, right. 

 

“Draco Malfoy, the most spoiled, little rich kid Hogwarts has ever seen, has forgotten his own birthday.” A familiar voice called from the hallway and, just as Draco was about to reply, Theo came into view. “Never thought I’d see the day.”

 

Wincing as he rose, he headed over towards the wizard and pulled him into a brief hug. “Where have you been, you tosser?”

 

Theo chuckled, pulled back, and adjusted his horn-rimmed glasses. “Working, believe it or not. Some of us peasants are required to work for our rations.”

 

Draco scoffed. “You’re hardly in the peasant category, Nott. I seem to recall a little business called Nott Inc. that made your family a fair amount of scratch.” 

 

“Well I suppose that’s fair but next to you, we’re all peasants. You’re richer than Merlin.”

 

The rest of the evening was pleasant enough, if not a little jilted in the conversation department. Theo sat on Draco’s left side and Hermione on his right, with the rest of the Gryffindors at the other end of the table. He couldn’t help resenting them after all that time they abandoned her. Why do they now all of a sudden care about her again? Was the Weasel keeping them away? In all the time Draco had been living here, not one of them had come to visit her. 

 

He looked over at Hermione, who was quietly pushing her salad around on her plate. She looked like she had lost weight, and the more he thought about it, the more he was sure that he hadn’t seen her eat once in the time they were in the hospital. Draco kicked himself for not noticing earlier. He looked around at her friends, noticing that Ginny was also fixated on Hermione’s plate with a frown on her face. No one else at the table clued in though, so Draco made a note to talk to her later. 

 

Clearing his throat quietly, he turned to Hermione and made idle conversation just to hold her attention. He made a point to take bites of his chicken parmesan as she spoke, and when it was his turn to reply, he cast his gaze to her plate, forcing her to take small reluctant bites so as not to arouse suspicion. She was probably so used to no one noticing her eating habits that she didn’t notice the sly manipulation he was enacting, but one glance down the table told him Ginny saw right through it. 

 

Hermione turned down the offer of cake but Draco wasn’t going to push her. She may not have eaten much at dinner but it was more than he’d seen her eat in a while. It was best not to expect too much too soon. She did, however, indulge in the wine and, with her mostly empty stomach, he could tell that it was affecting her immediately. He thought to say something, until he remembered that the Weasel had controlled her alcohol consumption previously. She deserved a night of indulgence, after all. 

 

The night wore on, and Longbottom was the first to leave. Potter followed shortly after, with Ginny staying behind to tuck Granger into bed. She had three glasses of wine, but that was apparently enough to reduce her to a giggling school girl and sway where she stood. He watched as her friend helped her stumble down the hall, arm wrapped around her middle. 

 

“Wassit a good night?” Granger shout-whispered halfway to her room. 

 

“You threw a very nice party, ‘Mione.” Ginny said in teasing tone, trying to suppress her laughter. 

 

“S’not a party, Ginerva.”

 

Draco chuckled to himself.

 

“You’re right, I apologize.” The Weaselette had a smile in her voice, obviously just as amused as Draco was by her state. 

 

He caught a glimpse of Hermione’s face as she turned into her room. Her expression was somewhat more serious than before. He strained to hear her quiet voice. “D’ya think he liked it?” 

 

Ginny threw a quick look over her shoulder and took in the warm expression he wore. She smiled and turned back to her friend. “You know what? I think he did.”

 

The bedroom door closed and Draco tried to push down the feeling of disappointment at the prospect of sleeping in his room alone. Just because she had left Weaselbee didn’t mean she would want to start anything with him. Now that her friends were seemingly back in the picture, she wouldn’t need his comfort anymore. 

 

He was such a fool for thinking she could ever be his. If he pursued her now, it would be nothing short of manipulation in her current vulnerable state. She was still so innocent, a bloody virgin even, and it made Draco feel like he would taint her with a single touch. His hands had blood on them, after all. The way the war had changed her was heartbreaking, and all Draco wanted to do was fix everything for her, even though he had no idea where he would even start.

 

He cursed out loud, forgetting he wasn’t alone in the room. 

 

“Granger, huh?”

 

Draco swore again and flinched away from Theo as he stepped up beside him. 

 

“Salazar’s sack, did you have to sneak up on me like that, Nott?” Draco pressed a hand to his chest as hot pain bloomed from the still healing wound. He straightened and wiped his face of emotion, hiding his physical reaction from his mate. 

 

Theo smirked and flicked his eyes to Draco’s chest briefly before strolling into the kitchen, drawing out a shrunken bottle from his pocket. He enlarged it and summoned two tumblers from the cupboard. 

 

“What would your father say if he found out his son was in love with a Mudblood?” Theo said without preamble. He looked seriously at Draco, holding his hand up in supplication when he saw the shocked and enraged look that flashed across his face. “You know I really never held the same beliefs as my father, and I mean no offence.”

 

“How the fuck am I supposed to take that as inoffensive?” Draco growled, drinking his generous portion of Firewhisky in one pull. 

 

“It’s a bad idea, Drake, and you know it. I know you may not care what your father thinks, but there are people out there that want to see her dead. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lucius was one of them. Being with her will just put her in more danger. Hell, living here with her is putting you both in danger.” Theo poured them both another drink. 

 

“Well it’s not like I have a bloody choice is it? It’s either this or Azkaban.” He threw back his drink and screwed up his face in frustration. 

 

“You could just run.” Theo suggested. 

 

“Where would you have me go?” He barked out a sarcastic laugh. 

 

“You know as well as I do that there are places for people like us to… Be with our own.”

 

“What do you know, Theo?” Draco took a step back and gazed suspiciously at his friend. 

 

“I’ve gotten summons too, Draco. We all have, the whole of the next generation of Slytherin’s.” He sighed and leaned up against the counter. “They have your mother, and I don’t think you’re going to get her back unless you do as they say. The Dark Lord isn’t around anymore to brand new followers, and that mark on your arm makes you a desirable recruit.”

 

Draco took another step back. “How do you know all this? Have you joined them?” 

 

Theo was quick to shake his head. “No, Merlin. I don’t want to, but if they get any stronger, it would be suicide not to join. I spoke with Goyle, He joined up with them a few months back, and has been trying to recruit me. I think the only reason they aren’t pushing me yet is because I have no family, no one they can take hostage to threaten me with.”

 

Draco looked at him in horror. Who was this man standing in front of him? Had Theo changed that much? Was he so complacent that he would consider turning back into the very thing he loathed? How could he consider going back, when all they wanted during the war was to get out. He slowly shook his head at his friend, feeling a different kind of hurt in his chest. 

 

“How can you even consider this, Theo? Those are the same men that tortured us half to death. The same fuckers that forced us to torture innocent people, innocent children.” He ran a hand through his hair and pulled it until his scalp stung. 

 

“I haven’t forgotten. But which would you rather be? The one that’s doing the torturing, or the one who is being tortured?” Theo’s expression became stony. 

 

“Why does it have to be either? You could go to the DMLE and feed them information, get the fuckers off the street, then no one has to join! No one has to be tortured! No one has to die!”

 

“It’s not that simple, Drake. There’s too many, and it’s too late. There isn’t even going to be another battle. With their numbers, it will be an easy takeover.” Theo removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes. He drained his glass and sighed again. “Just think about it, Drake. They already have your mother, think of what they’ll take next.” He casted a pointed look at Grangers door then walked over to the Floo without another word, disappearing a second later. 

 

Draco looked down at Theos tumbler and grimaced. 

 

That spineless bastard. 

 

He picked up the glass and hurled it into the wall, letting out a feral yell as he did. A few seconds later, Ginny came out of Granger's room to stand next to him in an understanding silence while Draco panted in anger. 

 

He could feel the telltale rush of magic rise inside of him, and it took everything Draco had to suppress it from bursting forth. He thought about how Hermione had been the one to tamp his magic every time he lost control. With his thoughts on the witch, it became easier to quell his rage and, by extension, his eruption of power. He filed this information away, now knowing that his suspicions were correct. Whatever this was, Granger was intrinsically linked somehow. She seemed to be his lightning rod, but something told Draco that it was more than that. 

 

After a few moments, Ginny swished her wand to clear away the broken glass and summoned a new tumbler from the cupboard. She poured them each a glass, and waited until Draco seemed calm enough before she spoke. 

 

“Malfoy, we need to talk.”

Chapter Text

“Malfoy, we need to talk.”

 

She didn’t appear to be angry but she had that look, that stubborn Gryffindor look about her; the crossed arms, a wide stance and determination set in her brow, it was all there. 

 

Draco took a moment to close his eyes and take a deep, steadying breath, quieting the rage that remained from his conversation with Theo. He gave Ginny a curt nod and took his usual seat at the bar, directly across from her. Her usual carefree demeanour had vanished, leaving a terse, somber-looking witch in its wake. 

 

Neither of them spoke initially, and now that his adrenaline had been used up, he realized how stupid he was for physically lashing out. Throwing that glass against the wall had strained him to the point that some of his wound had split back open. He felt idiotic and was just glad that Hermione wasn’t around to witness his tantrum. 

 

He glanced down at his grey t-shirt and saw the dark spot on the fabric spread. 

 

“Shite.” 

 

Ginny had noticed the blood as well and quickly tossed a tea towel at him to hold against it. “Where is your salve?”

 

“Granger has it.” Draco pulled up his shirt slightly, exposing his abdomen and the torn open gash. He heard her gasp at the sight and he looked up to see all colour had drained from her already pale face. Her eyes were wide in horror. 

 

“Weasley, get a grip. Go get me the salve.” He grimaced as he pressed the towel against himself. She still hadn’t torn her eyes away, so Draco waved his free hand in front of her eyes. 

 

“Weasley!” Nothing. “Ginny!”

 

Her eyes refocused and almost immediately she came back to her senses. She hastily made her way down the hall, and returned from Hermione’s room in less than a minute. 

 

“Cast a scorgify for me, will you?” Draco pulled away the towel to show her the weeping gash. She nodded quickly and gulped, the initial shock had worn off and now, instead of horrified, she looked merely sick. 

 

She did as he bade, casting once to clean the wound, and again to rid the rest of his abdomen of blood. Draco could have wandlessly cast, but he wasn’t keen on letting any Weasley know about his magical abilities. Not even Granger knew the extent of his talents. 

 

When the Weaselette tried to administer the salve, Draco slapped her hand away and snatched the tin from her grasp. He scooped up a generous amount and tried to duplicate the way Lovegood had applied it, in small, counterclockwise circles. Luna and the muggle doctor had concocted the sticky substance to aid the healing process, especially in times like these when it reopened. It was a transparent paste that had a strong clove scent. When applied, it caused an unpleasant and incessant tingling sensation that Draco loathed. 

 

“He did that to you?” She boldly reached for his shirt and pulled it up to his chin. “Merlin…” 

 

Draco had finished applying the salve, so he removed her hand and let the shirt fall back into place. He reached into his pocket for one of his minor pain potions, gulping it down without hesitation. 

 

“Well, I certainly wasn’t in the hospital for all that time because of a cat scratch.” He was glad that she knew how much damage her brother had done. The damage that was meant to be inflicted on Hermione. Still, he wasn’t about to tell her the full extent of his injury, about how it stretched down over his pelvis and onto his thigh. Not for the last time, he thanked Merlin that the slash to his body had not strayed two inches to the left.

 

Ginny shuddered and grabbed the bottle that Theo had left behind and took a few large gulps. She dragged the back of her hand over her mouth and gracelessly hopped up to sit on the bartop beside him. At least the overly serious and stern-looking Ginny hadn’t resurfaced. 

 

She stared at his bloodstained shirt for another moment before deciding not to discuss it further. Instead, she brought up the very conversation that Draco had wanted to start in the first place. 

 

“So, this not eating thing… Is this… Is this a recent development?” Behind the worried expression, Draco could see the guilt. Good. 

 

“Surely you’d know the answer to that question, being her best friend and all.” He laid the contempt on thick and his words made her recoil. Her discomfort encouraged him.

 

“What kind of friend wouldn’t notice the fact that someone they care about was starving themselves. Or that they were being bullied and humiliated by their piece of shit boyfriend on a daily basis? A bloody terrible excuse for a friend, that’s who.”

 

Draco stood up and paced to the window with his hands balled into fists, bracing for her undoubtedly outraged retort.

 

“You’re right.” She said, shame evident in her voice. 

 

He spun around, startled by her immediate acquiescence. “I’m — what?” 

 

Ginny sighed and looked down in contrition. “You’re right, Malfoy. I haven’t been here for her. None of us have.” She put the bottle down and clasped her hands together on her lap, studying them as she spoke.

 

“We’ve all been so busy rebuilding and she seemed to want to be left alone… I know that’s not any excuse… I just thought, ‘she’ll be okay, she has Ron.’” She frowned at the mention of her brother. “I could tell that he wasn’t the same, but no one was after the war. It changed us all.”

 

Draco couldn’t help but agree. The only person he knew that had been seemingly unaffected by the war was Lovegood, and maybe Blaise too. Everyone else had a proverbial storm cloud following them around. He even noticed at dinner that Potter had developed an almost constant nervous twitch in his wand hand, Longbottom constantly checked his pockets for his wand, and Theo, well, the change in him was significant as well. 

 

“I just never thought he would be capable of something like this. I mean, he tried to kill Hermione!” She shook her head and huffed out a humourless laugh. “We were all so sure that he’d been Imperio’d, or at the very least drugged with hate potion, but all the tests came back clean, they couldn’t even detect anything through legilimency.”

 

Ginny ran her hand roughly over her face and scooped up the bottle again. As much as he resented her inattention towards Granger, Draco couldn’t help but be relieved by her obvious destain for her brother. He had expected all of the Gryffindors to turn tail and side with the Weasel. Especially since three-quarters of the group had familial bias. 

 

“What’s going to happen to him?” Draco asked.

 

She took a deep breath, letting it woosh out loudly. “Well, technically he’s in custody, even though he is still recovering from Hermione’s rein of fire.”

 

Draco had overheard some healers talking about Weasely’s burns. Apparently, they were so bad that they almost couldn’t be healed, even with magic. Even though the visual burns had faded, there was still considerable pain lingering from the massive scale tissue regrowth that his body had to endure. Much to Draco’s delight, it was supposed to be excruciating. Whatever Granger had done to him must have been brutal. 

 

“They are still investigating, but he will likely be in front of the Wizagamot within the next month. Until then, he will be held in a cell at the Ministry.”

 

Draco figured as much, but he was glad to have actual confirmation that the prick was behind bars, even if it was only a Ministry cell and not one in Azkaban. He could have asked Hermione about his fate but he was afraid he’d upset her, or worse, she’d defend the git. Draco knew now that that wouldn’t have been the case, but before their conversation the day earlier, Draco was terrified that she would stay with him for some misguided, Stockholm syndrome-like loyalty. 

 

He studied Ginny carefully after her statement, and he was satisfied to see that the same disgust he felt for Ron was also written all over her face. Secretly, his respect for the witch raised ever so slightly. 

 

“Look, Weasley, we both know you deserve it but Hermione has obviously forgiven you lot for abandoning her.” He took a deep breath and tried not to grimace at his next words. “She needs you. As much as I’d like to tell you all to fuck off, she won’t get any better without help. She has no one.” His mind immediately went to her parents. He still hadn’t learned the truth about them yet but he just didn’t know how to bring it up. 

 

Ginny raised her eyebrows him and scoffed. “She has no one to help her? Then what are you?”

 

His voice cracked when he replied, but he continued forcing an air of indifference. “What do you mean? I’m her ward, ordered here by the Ministry.”

 

She let out a sad chuckle. “Face it, Malfoy, you’re more than just a ward.”

 

Not to her. 

 

“I mean, you’re standing here, telling me off for her sake. You chase away her nightmares and hold her when she cries at night-“

 

Draco froze, how much had Hermione told her?

 

“-and you even bloody jumped in front of a madman with a wand without a second thought! All for her!”

 

He turned back to the window. “Are you telling me that you wouldn’t have done the same, Weasley?”

 

“Of course I’m not saying that. I would do that but why would you ?”

 

Shite, she had him there. There was really no use pretending with her, it was too late to deny it now but he wasn’t about to confirm anything out loud. Not even to himself. 

 

“It doesn’t matter what I am, it’s not me that she needs.” Draco fought off the tide of misery that brought. “Either way, I won’t be here forever.”

 

“What if you’re exactly what she needs? Hmm?” 

 

What is it with this witch and saying the most unexpected and ridiculous things?

 

Draco said nothing, for fear that he might betray his true thoughts. 

 

“Why don’t you let her decide what, and who she needs? She’s more than capable.” Ginny seemed to have relaxed back onto her playful self, swinging her legs back and forth like a toddler. 

 

“She’s in no position to make those kinds of decisions right now.” He countered. 

 

“Careful, your misogyny is showing.” 

 

“It has nothing to do with her being a woman! Merlin!” He rounded on her and sneered. “She’s vulnerable right now, and after the number the Weasel did on her, it’s likely that she’s not going to have the best judgment between what she needs, and what’s right in front of her.”

 

They stared at each other for a moment in tense silence. The quiet ticks of the clock might as well have been cannon blasts. He knew he was drawing dangerously close to revealing information he ought not to, so he thought it best to end the conversation before he gave too much away. 

 

“I'm going to bed, my fucking chest is killing me.” Without waiting for her to leave, he stomped off to his room. 

 

“Malfoy.” She called after him. 

 

Draco closed his eyes and clenched his jaw tightly. Of course, getting away wouldn’t be that easy. He didn’t turn, but he stopped walking to hear what she had to say. 

 

“If we don’t let her make her own decisions, if we take the choices away, then she’s no better off then when she was with Ron.” 

 

A handful of footsteps and the woosh of the floo came next. 

 

Draco let out a defeated sigh. 

 

Damn her for being right.

 

—-

 

The damage to his bedroom had been repaired. If he didn’t know better, he never would have guessed there had been a fight here at all. 

 

Stepping further into the room, Draco noticed some new additions to his meager furnishings. There was a new wardrobe beside the closet and a forest green rug in the center of the floor. A new sturdy darkwood bed frame that matched his desk and wardrobe had been added, along with a small side table. But most noticeable were several picture frames placed on the walls. After closer inspection, he was surprised to see that they were his sketches, and they had been charmed to move. 

 

Near the window hung a rendering of a vase full of hydrangeas standing proudly on a table prepared for tea in a lush garden. They were swaying slightly in the wind. Over the desk, the simple sketch was of flickering, dripping candles. He turned around, noting several other small sketches spread across the walls before his eyes fell to the largest of the pictures and the only one with colour. 

 

At the head of the bed, a detailed depiction of two caressing hands was on display. The smaller of the two hands trailed its fingers down the larger, tougher palm. In the wake of the soft fingers, trails of familiar blue flames could be seen sprouting. Not in the violent and wild way that natural fire burns, but in a slow, almost seductive dance. The flames twisted and writhed until it had transformed into a little dragon. It took off, flying directly out of the frame before it circled the room above Draco’s head. 

 

He was gobsmacked. This level of magic was, well, it was impossible. To have non-corporeal magic actualize itself, there were absolutely no precedents. There were only two people in the world that cast blue flames like that, (Hermione had checked, and no one had ever recorded such an anomaly.) and since Draco didn’t cast the spell, that left only one person who could have created such beautiful magic. 

 

She’s incredible. 

 

He turned back to the picture just in time to see the larger hand brush its fingers over the other’s fingertips before starting again at the beginning of the loop. He watched on in fascination as several more dragons emerged from the frame. 

 

When he drew this scene, he had dreamt of the first night she had touched him. The night she put her healing hands on his body and thawed the ice that encased his heart. When he woke from the dream he felt compelled to pull out his materials and draw their hands in a tender touch. He had looked at the final product and convinced himself that the hands could belong to anyone. He had slammed the book closed and forgotten all about it until now. 

 

There had never been blue flames on the original, and yet there they were. At this point, he hadn’t even manifested his powers yet. This realization made his awe of Grangers powers grow. Could she cast his dragons now? He knew that she could summon the little plump flames, and he had a foggy recollection of her using his own fire to defend against Weasley. But she had never gotten out of control like him. Whenever she embraced the flames, it was always because he had ignited it. He filed this information away for later. 

 

Her involvement in it was not coincidental, he decided. Besides the fact that she couldn’t be burned, he also had to consider the strange euphoria that came over them. It was a peculiar kind of bond. Something he instinctively knew was meant to be, destined even. He didn’t know how he knew, but he was positive that no one else would be able to share the experience with him. Even the thought of someone trying was disconcerting. 

 

He watched the magical scene play out over and over again, tears filling his eyes as his emotions overwhelmed him. He’d never thought much of his drawings, but now, seeing how Hermione had brought them to life, he couldn’t help but see the beauty. What they created… it was breathtaking. 

 

Draco wanted nothing more than to go to her, crawl into her bed beside her and wrap her up in his arms. It had been so long since he held her, but he knew it was a bad idea. Regardless of what the Weaselette thought, he wouldn’t pressure her when she was so vulnerable. Draco finally had to admit that his feelings for Hermione weren’t some unavoidable byproduct of their bond. 

 

He thought back on all the time he’d known Granger, marveling at how he could ever have hated her. Even though the war had changed her, she was still the most remarkable woman that Draco had ever met. She had never been ugly, he even knew that when he made fun of her bushy hair and beaver teeth when they were young. The insults were lame, but he had found it difficult to find faults in the little Muggleborn witch. 

 

Teasing her for her blood status only went so far and she knew it. The first time she called him out for his unoriginality, Draco began looking at Hermione and her blood status in a new light, at least secretly. He remembered how the circumstances at the start of their third year played a huge role in how Draco would eventually turn against the Dark Lord. 

 

“Draco, pass that over!” Crabbe said in a loud whisper. 

 

“You’ll get your turn Crabbe, and keep your voice down!” Draco’s voice wasn’t much quieter though, considering he already had a taste or two of his pilfered Firewhisky. Feeling quite giddy, he took another swig from the bottle and passed it to Goyle, completely bypassing Crabbe’s outstretched hand. 

 

They had broken curfew to indulge in some of Lucius’ expensive aged Firewhisky that Draco had stowed away in his trunk. Having been almost caught every time they tried to drink it in the common room or the dorms, they were now trying their luck in the restricted section, well past midnight. They were sitting slumped up against the least offensive looking bookshelf in the very last row, with their legs spread out in front of them. 

 

Goyle took a large gulp of the alcohol and shuddered at the sensation. “Blimey, Malfoy, this tastes awful! ” 

 

Draco secretly agreed with his friend, but he was a Malfoy, and Malfoys never showed weakness. “Perhaps you can’t appreciate it because your pallet is about as refined as Thestral dung.”

 

Goyle shook out his arms and shivered. He was passing the bottle to Crabbe when he suddenly froze. There was someone in the restricted section shuffling around. 

 

Draco could feel his heart speed up in alarm, and one look at his companions told him they felt the same. Putting on his mask of superiority, he put his lackeys to work. “Go find out what that is.” The two boys stared at him anxiously. “Now!”

 

Crabbe passed Draco the bottle and both boys set off to find the source of the disturbance. As the seconds ticked by, he became more and more nervous. Was there a Professor lurking about, or maybe Mrs. Norris? 

 

After a few moments of silence, Draco felt his fear claw up his throat and he found it quite hard to swallow. It didn’t help that he was feeling a little fuzzy from the Firewhisky. Just when he’d resolved to make a run for it, a small silhouette appeared a few rows away. Too small to be either of his companions. 

 

The form took a few steps in his direction and stopped, looking right at him. 

 

Draco froze, too stubborn to run and too scared to address the mystery lurker. He was fighting an internal battle to find something scathing to say when the person in front of him giggled. Feeling more confident now that he knew this stranger was just a girl, Draco straightened his robes as he stood. 

 

He turned his head away in a show of flippancy and finally found his voice. “Whoever you are, quit sneaking about and show yourself already.”

 

There was another giggle but the girl stayed hidden in the shadows. “And why, may I ask, should I do as you say?”

 

Draco frowned and crossed his arms. “Because if you don’t, I’ll go to the Headmaster and have you sent to detention for breaking curfew.” There, that should do it. 

 

“Hmm, you do seem to have me there.” The girl sighed. 

 

Draco’s chest puffed up in victory, smirking at his quick thinking. 

 

“Except, what would you tell Dumbledore when he asks how you knew I was here?” The girls form shifted, crossing her arms and popping her hip. 

 

His smirk dropped off his face and was replaced with a sneer. “Don’t you know who I am? My father is on the board of governors, and he wouldn’t allow his son to be punished for something as silly as breaking curfew.”

 

“Breaking curfew and drinking.” The voice said confidently. 

 

Right, Draco had forgotten about that part. He turned back to look at the bottle still sitting on the floor next to his previous seat. “That’s not mine, clearly someone was here before me.”

 

Unconvinced, the girl scoffed. “Right, Malfoy, we both know that if I smell your breath right now I’d pass out from the fumes.” Her voice sounded so familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it, hard as he tried. 

 

“Oh yeah? Try me.” He hoped his bluff would go unchecked. 

 

“Hmm. No thanks.”

 

Draco sighed internally in relief. 

 

“But you can come over here and show me.” 

 

Shite

 

“Why should I come over there? You’re the one creeping about like a common thief.” His impatience was growing. No one spoke to him like that, well, almost no one. “Who are you anyway?”

 

“You mean you haven’t fig—“ Her response was interrupted by a loud crash and a cat yowling. Both students jumped at the noise and Draco began looking around for an escape route while simultaneously casting a breath freshening charm to hide the fumes that lingered on his breath, lest the little witch turn him in. 

 

Before he knew it, the girl darted around Draco and started squeezing herself between two bookshelves in the very back corner of the library. He didn’t see her face, but he did see a familiar wild mane of curly brown hair just before it disappeared into the darkened corner. Without much thought, Draco followed, having a much harder time fitting through the tiny gap.  

 

“What are you doing? Get your own hiding spot!” The girl growled, attempting to shove Draco back out. “You’re going to get me caught!”

 

“We’re both going to be caught if you don’t stop trying to push me back out. I swear, if I’m going down, you’re going down with me.” He struggled to slap her hands out of the way and press himself into the tight space. 

 

“What happened to ‘my father would never let his son—“

 

“Alright, alright! I was bluffing! Now would you kindly get your hands off me and help?”

 

Before she could retort, there was another loud meow much closer to where they were. The pair froze momentarily before the girl grabbed Draco’s shoulders and pulled. He stumbled into her and had to grab her shoulders in return to steady himself. 

 

“That hurt! Did you have to be so—“ 

 

“Shh!” She scolded and smacked her hand over his mouth. 

 

The pair stood as still as statues and listened,  Draco’s hands on her shoulders, and her hand over his mouth. They could hear the occasional meow, and the shuffling feet of what was assumedly Filch. After a few moments of this, Draco finally realized that she was still firmly pressing her hand over his mouth, so he did what any rational pre-teen boy would do. He licked it. 

 

Immediately, she tore her hand away and let out a little squeak of alarm. This amused him immensely, and he decided that a little teasing was in order. “Now now, you mustn’t draw attention, we are hiding.”

 

He surmised that she was not amused by the scoff and the way she wiped her licked hand aggressively against his chest. “Maybe if you hadn’t licked me…” She murmured and pushed his hands off her. 

 

The noises continued outside in the library, so Draco focused on the girl in front of him. He blinked a couple of times before it hit him. He was alone. In a small, dark place. With a girl. A girl who smelled… He sniffed… Like flowers. Maybe vanilla? He didn’t know, she just smelled good. Maybe tonight he would get his first kiss. 

 

His head was still pleasantly light and his body was still thrumming with warmth from his illicit drink. That fact only perpetuated the desire to snog the mystery girl. 

 

“So,” He started, not really sure if this would work. “Does it smell?” He whispered.

 

The girl tore her gaze away from the gap between shelves to cock her head at him. He couldn’t see her features, but if he had to guess, he imagined she had a perplexed look about her. 

 

“What?” Yes, perplexed. 

 

“You said that if you smelled my breath, that you’d be knocked out from the fumes. So I’m asking you if it does indeed smell as if I were drinking.” Draco hoped that she hadn’t noticed him casting a breath freshening charm earlier, or this wouldn’t work. 

 

“There’s no need for me to check, Malfoy. We both know that was your Firewhisky.” 

 

“No, I still deny it.” He stated in his most snooty tone. 

 

She paused and sniffed without moving a muscle. “I don’t smell anything.”

 

“Hmm, no, you wouldn’t from there would you?” He turned his head and left his statement dangling. He sensed that she wouldn’t be satisfied until she knew for sure. 

 

He turned back to her as she lifted up on her toes and sniffed again, this time only a few inches from his face. She grunted and sniffed a third time. 

 

“See? You were wrong.” It was strange how he could anticipate how to manipulate this girl without even knowing who she was. Her voice was familiar, as was her hair, but Draco still couldn’t put the pieces together. 

 

“I’m not wrong!” She clamped onto his shoulders and all but climbed up his chest to get as close as possible to his mouth. Seeing his opportunity, Draco helped by dipping his head just as she rose towards his face. Before she could get a good whiff, Draco puckered his lips and planted them square onto hers. 

 

She let out another tiny squeak of alarm, but didn’t move away immediately so Draco took the opportunity to place his hands back onto her shoulders. The thrill of his first kiss sent his mind reeling. His stomach was in knots, he was breaking out into a sweat and his posture was stiff, but the feeling was like nothing else he had ever experienced. The girl tensed, and after another second of contact, Draco pulled his face away a few centimetres and gulped. She still didn’t move so he proceeded to kiss her again, intending to actually move his lips this time. 

 

When his lips touched hers for the second time she snapped out of her shock. She pushed him as far away as possible in the enclosed hideout, pressing both of their backs against a wall. 

 

“Just what do you think you’re doing, Malfoy!” She spoke through clenched teeth, spitting out his surname and as if it were a curse. 

 

A wave of guilt washed over him as he realized he had just manipulated a kiss from this girl, a stranger. He pushed the guilt down and pulled out his trademark cocky attitude. 

 

“You’d think you’d be appreciative. After all, not just anyone can say they’ve kissed a Malfoy.” He tried acting nonchalant, but inside he was hurting from the intense rejection. 

 

“You wouldn’t be quite so sure of yourself if you knew who I was.” She pulled out what looked like her wand. “ Lumos.”

 

He paled at the sight of her. He felt like an idiot. Of course the girl was Hermione Granger. What other girl had the gall to treat him in such a way? Who else was quick enough to keep up with his repartee? And the hair? How could he have been so stupid? He blamed the Firewhisky. 

 

Draco’s temper flared as he stared at Granger. The light from her wand cast a blue-white glow on half her face, leaving the other side in shadow. Her expression was fiery and tempestuous. 

 

“Why didn’t you tell me earlier?” Draco ground out. 

 

“Well, it was quite amusing to watch you make a fool out of yourself. That is until you kissed me!”

 

“Believe me, Granger, if I had known it was you, I would have let Filtch catch me.” He made a show of vigorously rubbing his mouth with the back of his arm. “I can’t believe you put your filthy lips on me!”

 

She gasped, outraged. “ You kissed me! Why would I waste my first kiss on a pompous prat like you?!”

 

Well, it was my first kiss too! At least you didn’t have to kiss a bushy-haired beaver!” Draco crossed his arms to put a barrier between them. “You’d better keep your mouth shut about this, I can’t have people think I’m some muggle lover.”

 

“I’m a witch, Malfoy, and don’t worry, as far as I’m concerned, this never happened.” She put out her wand and shoved it back into her pocket, leaving the pair in darkness once again. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll risk being caught instead of spending one more second with you.”

 

Granger made to move around him but he grabbed her arm. “I’m serious Granger, no one can know.”

 

She laughed in mock disbelief. “Why? Because Daddy will be upset that you sullied yourself with a Mudblood?”

 

Draco flinched at the ease in which she said the word and his mouth popped open of its own accord. 

 

“You’re going to have to come up with some better insults Malfoy, I’m getting bored.” 

 

Her voice was full of vitriol, and her stance was threatening for such a small girl. She stared up at him with a tight scowl on her face, and he couldn’t help but wonder if that’s how he looked when he used the slur against her. Draco was struck speechless, wasn’t he the one that was supposed to use that word? Now she had used it again at him, and it was entirely too discombobulating. 

 

He let go of her arm and pressed himself against the wall to let her pass. He wasn’t sure what would happen if he opened his mouth to retort, so he didn’t, opting for a halfhearted sneer. 

 

Hermione squeezed past him and only stopped to turn once she was at the corner of the first row of shelves. She had her hands balled up into fists, and her shoulders were stiff. “Tell me, Malfoy,” she said mockingly, “before you knew who I was, did it even occur to you that you might have kissed a Mudblood?”

 

She didn’t wait for a reply, which was good because Draco certainly didn’t have one. She was right. The only thought running through his mind was how good she smelled, and how close she was. Not once in their entire encounter had he even thought to worry about blood status, and it scared the shit out of him. 

 

As Draco changed for bed, his mind never strayed from the inebriated witch in the next room. He gingerly slid under the cool covers and tried his best to relax enough to sleep. When it was obvious that sleep was not forthcoming, Draco turned to look at the wall separating him from Hermione. He slid closer to it and placed his palm flat against the smooth expanse. He closed his eyes, feeling ridiculously melancholy without her. 

 

He opened his eyes and regarded the solid wall.

 

Maybe…

 

Draco turned onto his side and pressed both hands against the wall and scrunched his eyes closed in concentration. He felt something shift and his eyes shot open. For half a second, he stared at the still solid divide. He didn't have time to be disappointed though, as a flame dragon flew into the wall where his hands were pressed. A great whoosh could be heard as a burst of flame erupted, spreading outward across the plaster. It died out as quickly as it came and left behind a large circle of transparent wall. 

 

Draco could feel that the wall was still there, and one look in the mirror on Hermione's dresser told him that it was still opaque on her side. Exactly as he’d wanted. 

 

Hermione was facing him thankfully, with her face smushed halfway into a pillow. Draco settled his head down on his own pillow, still lying on his side. The position wasn’t the most comfortable considering his injury, but it was worth it to be able to look at her sleeping face as he drifted off. 

 

—-

 

Draco felt like he’d only just fallen asleep when her nightmares started. 

 

His eyes opened wide in alarm and he was relieved to see that his side of the wall had remained open to him. One look at the distressed witch had Draco scrambling out of bed. The wards in her room were left down, so he quickly made his way to her bed. Her sobs quieted down after she woke with some soothing words from Draco. He was careful not to touch her too much, or sit too close. 

 

“Will you stay?” She looked up at him pleadingly. “With me?” She added, in case that was unclear. 

 

I shouldn’t. She’s vulnerable, and probably still half drunk. I won’t be able to handle it when she realizes my comfort was merely convenient, so I should just end this now. 

 

He opened his mouth to tell her no before he went back to his own bed. Instead what came out was: “Yes, I'll stay with you.”