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From down the hall, Hermione caught his eye and ducked her head in response. After waving to her friends, she turned and headed to the library. A staircase before the turn, she pivoted under an archway and let herself into a spare broom closet, musty from disuse but now scrupulously clean from recent occupation.

 

She conjured up a mirrored surface and checked that there wasn’t anything in her teeth. Her hair was starting to poof up on one side where she had stood too close to the cauldron in Potions, but there wasn’t anything she could do about it now. It wasn’t as though Ron had even noticed; not with him locking lips at every turn with Lavender Brown.

 

Hermione’s mouth downturned, her eyes grew flinty in the mirror, and she had to repress a sudden urge to smash the glass to bits. With a swish of her arm that was too wide and angry to be controlled, she vanished her conjured reflection.

 

Just in time, too. The door behind her quietly opened, and there was only the sound of a muffled footfall before an arm wrapped around her middle. 

 

They didn’t talk; there was no need for it. It wasn’t as though they were in a relationship. They weren't even friends.  This was something based on a mutual desire for self-destruction. She didn’t know that much about him or his life, but she had sensed that something was slightly different about him this year. There was a harder, more dangerous air to him; a ripple of recklessness only just tightly controlled, as though at any point he could explode. 

 

She recognised the feeling. It was exactly how she felt when she saw Ron’s arms around Lavender, kissing her as though his life depended on not separating their faces. Even now, she could still remember how the sight of their kiss had stopped her in her tracks, shocked her so much that she couldn’t speak—couldn’t move. 

 

The hand now at her own waist indented into her flesh, turning her around. Hermione closed her eyes. It wouldn’t hurt, not really, to imagine that she was with Ron, only it was next to impossible. This boy smelled different, like expensive, pine-scented musk, whereas Ron smelled of sunshine and fresh detergent. They were both lanky, and while she waited for him to make his move, she could pretend just for a moment that she wasn’t completely fooling herself and doing things that her mother had warned her about. 

 

“Open your eyes,” he said, his voice low and compelling.

 

Hermione shook her head and kept her eyelids stubbornly shut. She heard something that sounded like a sigh, but a hand came up to cup her around her neck, and she felt him lean in to kiss her.

 

She ducked and turned her back on him, tilting her head to the side to afford him access to her neck. His lips found purchase on the shell of her ear, and she tilted her head and shifted her hair away in silent encouragement. Her fingers scraped on the rough stone of the broom closet, the coolness of the wall grounding her against the sudden weakness in her knees at his dedicated, soft kisses. 

 

Against the base of her spine, she could feel him against her, hard and insistent, rubbing in slow circles. Her breath came faster as she arched her back and stood on her tiptoes. Her arse angled upwards and nudged that hard part of him that felt so good against her.

 

His mouth left her neck and roamed down her body. Her shoulder, shoulder blade, and spine all tingled in rapid succession with each new exploration of his mouth, even through the thin material of her uniform shirt.  Hands—large, warm, knicker-creaming hands—gripped her bare thighs before flipping up the backside of her skirt. 

 

Cool air met her bare skin, and goose bumps rose along her exposed flesh. Anticipation unfurled in her as he closed in, the crisp fabric of his trousers against her bare thighs, the touch of his curved palm at one side of her hip. A wall of warm, lean muscle encased in an aroma of heady cologne enveloped her back as his hot breath stirred the hair at her temple. 

 

She shuddered as he gripped her hair in one fist and held it to one side before following up with a kiss down the line of her neck. His right arm rested against her stomach as his other hand skimmed down her hip to grip the inside of her thigh, holding her legs apart and spread for him. His thumb stroked her along her slit in time to his soft murmuring, his mouth flush against her ear. “You’re so wet. Did you get off already before I got here? Were you thinking about how good it was the last time?”

 

His thumb sent a shiver through her; the touch too light and gentle to satisfy, verging on torture. Her hand went down to force him tighter against her wetness, and he grunted and followed her lead. “Like this?” His other hand left her hair to cover her hands that were braced against the wall. She didn’t have to look to know his large hand completely covered hers, and the signet ring on his middle finger reflected the scant light with a bright glint. 

 

“Hurry up.” She turned her face away from the sight of their intertwined hands. “We don’t have all day.”

 

At that, he pulled aside the seat of her knickers and laid his fingers lengthwise against her. She threw her head back and rested it on his shoulder as he stroked her rhythmically. She moved against his fingers and tugged one of her hands free from his grip against the wall. She reached back and around to his trousers and gripped him through the fabric. “Fuck.” He sounded as though he were in pain. His fingers spasmed against her before he doubled his pace on her cunt. The sound of her slickness filled the small chamber, only punctuated by the rasps of their heavy breathing.

 

They moved like that in synchrony, their fingers on one another’s most intimate parts, in this lewd dance in the darkness that the two of them were starting to know so well now. She began to pant as the fire grew in the pit of her abdomen. She wanted to rip off her clothes. “Faster!” she said through gritted teeth.

 

“God, you’re demanding.” There was something like begrudging affection in his voice as his other hand left hers on the wall to unsheath himself behind her. His knuckles bumped up against her buttocks, and he released a guttural sound as her hand finally touched his hot, throbbing flesh.

 

He grunted, and she pulled him in towards her. She hissed when his glans made contact with her slick folds. Her eyes drifted closed, her hand taking over and rubbing his tip back and forth against her. 

 

But when she tried to pull him even closer, he refused to budge. She growled deep in her throat and heard his insufferable chuckle at her ear. “Like this?” His cock was lined up at her entrance, dipping against her but never penetrating. “Is this what you want, you hussy?”

 

The ache was a building inferno deep in her belly, and she gyrated urgently against him. “Get on with it.”

 

Even with her hand at the base of his cock, urgently pulling him forward, he refused to comply; only continuing to stroke her teasingly. “I was thinking,” he murmured against her ear, “that doing this against the wall is—very stimulating, but I really want to try another position. Face to face, perhaps.”

 

Hermione hissed out a sound of impatience and her grip on his cock tightened. “Would you just stick it in!”

 

“Kiss me first,” came his surprising next words.

 

She froze. They had kissed only once before, a drunken mashing together of two mouths that hadn’t been anything to write home about. She’d pushed him off after that fiasco and redirected their attention to other matters. They’d not kissed since. 

 

She preferred it like that. It seemed idiotic, perhaps, after what they’d done together, but she wanted to think that she was keeping something sacred to herself, even if logically she knew it would hardly matter in twenty years. She’d never thought she’d be the kind to do this sort of thing, but it turned out that the adolescent body was very good at compartmentalising emotions and sex. 

 

When she didn’t flinch and duck her face away, he lowered his head and kissed her. 

 

It was very different this time.

 

His hand encircled the base of her throat and her back arched up to press her buttocks intimately against him. Their tongues stroked one another, and she heard him groan deep in his throat. She tasted the sweetness of the juice he had for lunch. There was a sharp bite of coolness from his signet ring as his hand dipped down her sternum. Her own breath hitched as he shifted her higher up against the wall. She was riding on his thigh, but then he shifted to one side and pushed into her. 

 

She gasped against his mouth, the momentum of his thrust forcing their lips apart. 

 

Another nudge and he was seated all the way inside her. She was braced on the very tip of her toes, her elbows braced against the rough wall, her fingertips digging into the stone. Both of his hands came up over her own, intertwined with her fingers. 

 

It seemed all of a sudden a lot more intimate this way. Surely he wasn’t supposed to cover her hands and force her fingers to spread apart on the wall. Perhaps the way he held onto her shouldn’t have been so intimate, as though he were penetrating her on all levels. His tongue was in her mouth, his fingers spreading between hers, and his cock so hard and pulsing inside her. They’d felt so close to one another in that moment that it seemed impossible that they had ever been enemies.

 

It drove in the knowledge that she’d never even held hands with a boy before, never before had the notion that hands could be so similar and yet so different, that fingers that could look as slim and long as his could be so thick and full when interlaced with hers.

 

They moved like that in sync, with only the sounds of their pants and groans echoing around them. Then, in the middle of one thrust, he stopped and caught both of her hands under his right hand. His left hand left the wall and came down to touch the place where they were joined, under her skirt and behind the pulled-apart drenched mess of her knickers. Her thighs shuddered under his touch as his hips regained their speed. 

 

Soon she was lost to the familiar sensation of this—of some primal instinct that drove everything out of her head. Mundane cares and worries flew out of her head against the rhythm of her racing heartbeat, and she rested her forehead on top of his knuckles. His hand twitched when her face made contact, and he faltered behind her, his left hand tightening at her hip. 

 

“Bloody fuck, Granger.” He gave a laugh that was low and almost thick with incoherence as he paused within her. “You’re going to be the death of me.”

 

She whimpered at the loss of speed, the loss of that hard, throbbing heat pistoning in and out of her, and she fidgeted impatiently. There was a soft, open-mouthed kiss at the top of her spine, and then he entered her again, slowly, so slowly that she almost screeched with impatience. Someone was whining—was that pained, animalistic sound coming from her? Then a long sigh of relief as he pushed all the way into her again, back to where he belonged. Their mouths met again over her shoulder, and she sucked on his tongue until she crested, convulsing involuntarily around him.

 

She came down gradually, her cunt slick and sensitive as he found his own release. He bit down on his pleasure next to her ear, but she heard it in that tight grunt and the hiss of an indrawn breath. 

 

She felt it in the way his muscles tensed around her and how the arm under her forehead became rock-hard with the strain. She felt it in the way his cock jerked and spasmed and warmth spurted inside her, over and over again and she felt it sliding down the inside of her legs, dripping down until it reached the top of her knee-high socks.

 

They stayed like for another moment, locked with his bare belly against her knicker-covered arse. Then she felt other things—like hair-roughened thighs touching the back of her legs where she was the most ticklish. Her cunt felt speared and spread apart, so sensitive that she was on the verge of another orgasm. 

 

His hand lifted from hers on the wall and she felt the coolness of her skin as the sweat began to evaporate. Her neck was exposed from her curtain of hair and his mouth was at her cheek again, licking the shell of her ear. “Shall I book a room in Hogsmeade for Valentine’s Day?” the question came huskily out of him.

 

Hermione snorted in response. “Don’t be ridiculous.” She elbowed him away, and he went. Each of them busied themselves with rearranging their clothes. Then there was the inevitable Scourgify as they cleaned themselves up. 

 

She conjured up the reflective pane of glass again and adjusted her shirt collar. She leaned in to examine her red and swollen lips. In the mirror, she caught his reflection, that perfect blond hair that never looked disordered no matter what, and she narrowed her eyes at him. 

 

“Do I take your rejection to mean that you have plans that day?” He adjusted his tie with a quirked brow, looking as bland as though he were simply inquiring after the tea menu. 

 

She vanished the glass and brushed past him to the door. He grabbed her elbow from behind and they stood like that for a moment. She wondered briefly if he would kiss her. What had come over him? What had come over her? Why had she kissed him back? 

 

“Wait five minutes before you leave.” She still hadn’t turned around, and his hand fell away from her. She opened the door a crack, took a look around before letting herself out and closing the door on Draco Malfoy's expressionless face.

 


 

She’d never imagined that her first makeout session would be drunk and with someone she hated, but that was exactly what happened.

 

Hermione had put so much expectation on Ron being her one and only that her fantasies had skipped far ahead of real life. The two of them had spent an entire week together during the summer before Harry had shown up. She’d thought—she’d thought there were times when he’d brushed up against that he felt something too. That it wasn’t just her.

 

That theory was put paid to when she saw Ron snogging Lavender for all like she was a particularly delicious drumstick. She’d thought that maybe it would just be a one time thing, a drunken snog borne out of high spirits after a game, but no. A few days later, it was all around the Gryffindor grapevine that the two of them had hooked up. 

 

After the second win of the season, she’d taken the bottle out of Harry’s hand and found an empty alcove on the third floor. Far enough away so that she could forget Lavender’s little suppressed giggle when Hermione had released the flock of conjured birds on Ron. That little embarrassed giggle that told Hermione that Lavender knew exactly what she was thinking—even if Ron didn’t and perhaps never had.

 

Her heart had flown into her throat when someone rounded the wall, and she heard a grunt of surprise. 

 

She’d thought—idiot that she was—that Ron had come to track her down. To talk to her. To find out why she’d been so upset.

 

More fool her. Ron had never in his life followed her to find out why she was upset.

 

“What’re you doing here?” asked Malfoy instead, his eyes narrowing on her. Despite the late hour, he was still impeccably dressed in his black robes, his blond hair shining and slick in the moonlight.

 

“I’ve a right to be here. So sod off.” The effect of her words only partially ruined by her need to take a long sniff between sentences.

 

The way he shifted from one foot to the other made her think that he wasn’t completely sober himself. The impression was further deepened when he cocked his head to one side and regarded her in a manner that she thought rather insolent. 

 

In years past, he’d always given her a look filled with high-handed disdain. He’d avoided coming into her path all this year, despite the two of them bumping into each other regularly in classes and Prefect meetings. Harry had a half-baked notion that Draco Malfoy was a Death Eater, possibly from the suppressed fury he had emitted since the beginning of the year. Hermione thought it more likely that he blamed Harry for being instrumental to his father’s arrest just before the summer.

 

Despite her antagonistic snarl, Malfoy took a step up and climbed into the alcove, throwing himself in the seat across from her. She frowned at him when he brought out a bottle from within his robes and took a swig. “Well, Granger, I’m sorry to tell you that this is my spot, so I’m going to need you to leave.”

 

She leveled him a look and took a swig from her own bottle—that she brandished under his half-disbelieving gaze with a hint of smugness. “I’d like to see you make me.”

 

He watched without comment as she glugged from her bottle, his eyebrows rising with every swallow. “Mercy, Granger. Take it easy or you’ll vomit all over me.”

 

She had no idea why she felt so reckless and defiant, but she gave him a pointed look and said, “No worries. I’m very good at swallowing.” She almost didn’t care what he thought of her in that moment, or what he’d make of her comments. 

 

She never thought he’d choke on the swig he took or that his eyes would fall on her mouth in a way that defied logic. “Is that a fact?”

 

Nothing but alcohol could explain the way they lunged for each other and began to snog in that darkened and abandoned alcove. Or the way their breathing became heated and laboured as her hands stroked over his hardened length, glorying over the feel of satin over steel. The way she reveled in the way his hand down her blouse rubbed her nipples to hardened peaks. They shared more than a few clumsy alcohol-infused kisses, sloppy kisses that were mostly wet and tasted bitterly of the whiskey on his tongue.

 

She pushed him away the moment she'd heard a sound. They froze there, and she slipped out of the alcove without looking back.

 

In the week that followed, Draco Malfoy never said a word to indicate he even remembered what had occurred. Perhaps it actually hadn’t. The entire incident seemed so fantastical as to have only happened in the depths of a waking dream. 

 

One afternoon, just before class began, Lavender sidled up between Harry and Ron and started to plant kisses all over Ron’s face. Harry cleared his throat in embarrassment, and Hermione pointedly looked away—only to meet Malfoy’s eyes on the opposite side of the corridor. 

 

After class, he stopped next to her table to sneer at Harry. “You’ve dropped your parchment. Sure you don’t need your notes?” he said before sweeping off.

 

Hermione gazed blankly down at the folded bit of parchment next to her table. “It’s not mine” had been on the tip of her tongue, but she stooped to pick it up. As she unfolded it, Harry made a discreet gagging sound beside her. “I’m off,” he said and suited action to words before she could object. 

 

Next to the chalkboard, there was Lavender holding onto Ron’s hand with both of hers, and they looked to be in the middle of cooing to each other. 

 

Hermione gritted her teeth and whipped her head back forward to continue packing up her things. Once outside the classroom, she remembered the parchment and opened it to check to see who it belonged to. 

 

Meet me on the ground floor in the broom closet under the dodgy staircase after Runes.

 

M.

 

There was no indication that it was addressed to her, and Hermione had spent some time gazing at the note in perplexity. It was, in all probability, written by Malfoy. No one else could possibly write such an elaborately and pretentiously curled M and not sign the rest of his or her name. 

 

She did, in fact, have Runes in the afternoon today, as did Draco Malfoy. But it seemed a stretch to think that Malfoy meant the note for her. Perhaps he simply dropped it. 

 

But no, he’d stopped to let her know it was there.

 

Her mind flashed to that night in the alcove. Had that perhaps not been a dream after all?

 

She watched him before Runes started. He didn’t glance her way but the once, and his attention didn’t linger. After the class, though, as he walked past her, he definitely gave her a speaking look.

 

Hermione decided to go to the meeting place.

 


 

“Still not decided on Valentine’s Day?” The murmur swept over her hair.

 

“What is this fixation on that holiday?” she asked testily as she unbuttoned her blouse. “Just—we know exactly what this is. Let’s not fool ourselves into imagining anything more.”

 

Her tone was even colder than usual. She’d just walked past Lavender and Ron in the hallway, and her anger and hurt had roared to the surface once again. To be honest, she didn’t exactly know what she wanted from Ron, or even if she wanted to be with him anymore. It was a goal she’d set her heart on in second year, and like all her other goals, it became a fixation to check it off her list.

 

That was all. It didn’t mean anything to her, not really. Ron hadn’t made any promises to her, after all. Only a silly, foolish girl would be hung up over someone keen on someone else.

 

Malfoy hadn’t moved from the spot he’d taken up when he first ducked his head under the doorway of the broom closet. 

 

Hermione didn’t notice. “This silly holiday starts earlier and earlier every year. Everything’s going to be festooned with red hearts everywhere, I just know it.”

 

“You’re still mooning over Weasley, aren’t you?” he asked abruptly. He hadn’t moved at all, and with his back to the entrance, the light from the cracks around the door cast his face into shadows.

 

She scoffed, loudly. “I’m not mooning over anyone.”

 

“Right, that’s why you never look at me.”

 

Her mouth fell open and she gaped at him. “That’s not—I thought you’d—I mean... what?”

 

“You heard me. You never kiss on the mouth, and you never fucking look at me.” Instead of yelling, his voice lowered in emphasis, and she felt a shiver of awareness. 

 

The old Draco Malfoy was someone who would have yelped and shouted for the entire world to look in his direction. The old Draco Malfoy was someone with a pointy chin and slightly rounded cheeks of a boyhood not too far behind him. She was suddenly very aware of this Draco Malfoy’s height and breadth of shoulders. His voice was a lot lower than she’d remembered it being when he used to hoot out taunts at her in the hallways.

 

He hadn’t done that in a while. 

 

His skirmishes with Ron and Harry hadn’t stopped altogether though. The thought flashed through her mind that even there, things were different from before. They weren’t boys anymore. There used to be a time when she’d been the same height as all of them, and stepping in between them had meant something different. Now, their quarrels occurred over her head, and there was an edge of barely concealed violence that went beyond youthful grievances.

 

“I’m looking at you now,” she said quietly. 

 

He took a step forward, and she caught a whiff of his cologne. It was a tangy fragrance that stayed with her through the night sometimes, even when she didn’t want it to. She’d taken to showering twice a day because of it. 

 

“Are you?” His voice was husky and low, and the tension from a moment ago seemed to have gone from him.

 

In the dimness of the broom closet, she could only just make out the lines of his profile. The rest of his face was cast in the shadows, but she thought she knew what would be written in his expression. This was convenient for him probably in the way it had started out as therapy for her. Surely he would be filled with disdain with her and disgust at himself. 

 

Light flickered into being next to her head, and she flinched from the sudden brightness. It dimmed slightly, and she could see that it was a floating round candle orb that he had conjured. 

 

She jerked away when his hand lifted, but it was only to trace a lingering line down the side of her cheek. She stared up at him in confusion.

 

“This was the last thing I expected, to be honest,” he was saying. He sounded slightly rueful, and if Hermione had ever thought of one adjective never to apply to Draco Malfoy, it would be that one. He wasn’t finished, though he seemed almost to be talking to himself. “You were the last thing I expected to happen to me. But now you’re all I can think about.”

 

There was something in his eyes that wasn’t cool or icy, and it wasn’t just because of the warm glow from the floating orb. Something about the way he looked at her made her swallow hard because it was doing something to her. It made her feel things that should never be, nothing that could ever exist outside of the dark and shabby interior of this dank closet.

 

He lifted a hand up to touch her cheek with the back of his fingers. She stared at him in confusion; this was so out of character given their usual encounters in the semi-darkness, with neither of them looking at the other. “I don’t want just your body, Hermione. I want your heart.”

 

They stared at each other for a long moment in silence as she blinked for a solid five seconds before expelling an uncomfortable laugh. “What is this, Malfoy? Are you feeding me a line? It’s—I mean, we’re already shagging, so…?”

 

Surely the pink blooming over his cheekbones was her imagination. But as she continued to stare, he began to fidget with his wand, and he actually scuffed at the stone floor with his foot. “No, I mean—” He sighed and he broke eye contact to stare up at the low-beamed ceiling. She could see his Adam’s apple bobbing as he swallowed and visibly scrabbled for words.

 

As was her wont, Hermione rushed to fill the breach. “All this for a go on a real bed?” Her eyes flickered over the opposite wall as she tried to work out a solution. She supposed someone like Draco Malfoy would prefer to conduct his illicit affairs in more comfortable surroundings. What she didn’t know is if she herself planned—or wanted—for this to extend outside of the confines of the broom closet. 

 

It wasn’t, after all, something she had planned, and Hermione Granger was someone who set great store by her plans for the future.

 

“Look, what I’m trying to say is…” He inhaled deeply at the ceiling before looking back down at her. “I don’t want—just this.” His palm was out, facing upwards and gesturing at the space between them in accompaniment to his words. His eyes never left hers, and there was something intent in them, as though he were trying to make her understand him; that it was somehow imperative for her to do so. “Do you understand? I want— more.

 

More. 

 

What more could he be talking about? What more could be possible? Her heart thudded in time to the silence. She shouldn’t allow herself to hope, to imagine things other than what were. She didn’t want to get hurt again.

 

“I don’t understand.” She strove for nonchalance, even though something twitched at the back of her mind; something that felt vaguely like glee and... hope. “You mean like in a bedroom with a bed?”

 

He laughed softly, but the sound sounded pained, and he dipped his head slightly so that a lock of white-blond hair fell forward across his forehead. “No, not quite. But I’ll settle for less hate-filled glances in the hallways. For a start. Although you did smile at me today.”

 

“I—” Hermione broke off. She had no idea that that was the impression she was giving off. She had been rushing about the castle in such a giant fit of sulks over Ron’s betrayal that she didn’t realise when it’d started to become less of a thorn in her side. Had she, without knowing it herself, started to get over Ron? Was it due to the presence of Draco Malfoy in her life?

 

If Draco Malfoy had at any point started to replace Ron in her mind, she’d never acknowledged it, not even to herself. What would have been the point? She’d never for a moment imagined that Malfoy would want to continue whatever this was outside of the confines of this small, dark pantry.

 

But now something inside her whispered, surely, surely if Malfoy wanted to continue this meant there was hope for him yet, if he could put aside all the teachings of his upbringing. Another thought followed, that there was hope for them too

 

That was simply too crazy to comprehend, even with a girl who planned to take fourteen NEWTs next year.

 

Only, the way he was staring at her was doing funny things to her insides that she couldn’t explain. She jerked her gaze away but her attention couldn’t help but be drawn back to him. "You want me to shout from the rooftops that I'm shagging you, I suppose?" She spoke with as much sarcasm as she could, to cover up her sudden breathlessness.

 

He gave a short chuff of laughter, and the look in his eyes was one of affectionate amusement. "I very much doubt that Hermione Granger would do any such thing at school. It is, after all, 'a place for learning,' isn't it?"

 

She blushed at his verbatim repetition of the phrase she used when docking points from errant students. "I suppose I could even follow up the occasional smile with a friendly wave. Would that do?" Her attempt at sarcasm wasn’t entirely working entirely because she couldn’t help the little twitch of her lips at his levity, something that seemed even more intimate than all his words or all the explicit things that had already gone on between them.

 

In any case, he ignored any harshness in her tone and flashed her a dazzlingly sweet smile in response. She felt something in her stomach lurch in response. "Brilliant." He took one step closer and brushed a hand over her curls before curving his palm around the back of her neck to pull her in. 

 

Just before he dipped his head down to kiss her, as though it were the most natural action in the world for them, he murmured, "Now. Where were we?"