“Have you ever noticed Malfoy?”
Hermione’s mind was preoccupied with an arithmancy formula, and it took her several seconds to process Ginny’s question. She stared at the page in front of her a moment longer before looking up, bewildered, to meet Ginny’s curious stare.
“No. I don’t generally make a habit of noticing Malfoy if I can help it.” She narrowed her eyes as she studied Ginny. “Is there something noticeable about him?”
Ginny was sucking on the end of a sugar quill in a way that made Hermione’s inner dentist wince. “He’s really tall.”
Hermione stared blankly for a moment before her eyes narrowed. It was never a good sign when Ginny brought up topics indirectly. The last time it happened, it resulted in the Naked Pygmy Puff Roll, which Hermione shuddered to recall.
She still woke up in the middle of the night sweating at the memory of Flitwick's expression.
“Tall? That’s what you think I should notice about Malfoy? His height?”
Ginny quirked an eyebrow and licked the tip of her quill suggestively. ”Well, isn’t that your thing? Lockhart. Krum. McLaggen. Ron. The only thing they have in common is being tall enough to give me a neck ache.”
Hermione felt her ears grow hot, and she gripped her book tighter. “I don’t have a thing for tall men. Their height is—completely coincidental.”
“Right...” Ginny said. Her face would be a picture of blank innocence if one eyebrow and the corner of her mouth didn't keep twitching up. “So you pined after my brother but never looked at Harry twice for a reason that isn’t height related.”
“Height had absolutely nothing to do with it. Harry is like a brother to me,” Hermione said, glaring over her book at Ginny. Honestly. “It‘s disturbing to think of him that way.”
“And it wasn’t with Ron because—?”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “I’m not having this conversation. I don’t have a thing for tall men, but if I did, why on earth would Malfoy be the first person you throw my way? There are dozens—actually hundreds of wizards I’d sooner date than him.”
Ginny shrugged a shoulder and nibbled demurely at her quill. “He’s not that bad.”
Hermione snorted with disbelief. “Are we talking about the same Draco Malfoy?”
Ginny just looked at her quill. “Last year—He could have been a lot worse if he’d wanted to.”
Hermione scoffed and turned back at her books. “So what, you want me to notice Draco Malfoy’s height in appreciation for him not being as much of a bastard as he possibly could have been?” Absolutely not. She refused to entertain the notion. Ginny wasn't going to get her that easily. ”That’s a stellar recommendation.”
Malfoy was tall.
She wondered if he’d grown again. He was nearly tall enough to rival Ron.
It shouldn’t have mattered at all. Yet it somehow did.
Hermione kept finding herself sneaking glances at him during classes, trying to estimate exactly how tall he was. He seemed to be in all her classes.
Bugger. That was even worse. She really didn’t want to regard him as being smart.
This was all Ginny’s fault. Hermione would never have noticed him at all if Ginny hadn’t brought him up first. Now that the subject of Malfoy existed in Hermione’s mind, she couldn’t excise it. Much in the way she found herself incapable of excising the question of whether there were any other commonalities in her crushes beyond height.
Surely there was a deeper and more mature commonality.
She was haunted by memories of herself telling Harry how much more fanciable he was since growing taller. Oh god, maybe she did have some sort of height obsession.
It didn’t help that in the process of noticing Malfoy’s height, she discovered that he wasn’t the way she remembered him. Instead of the pretentious arse she was used to, he was withdrawn.
He was a good student.
And he really was very tall. Which, she kept reminding herself, was of no particular importance.
None of it mattered. She could be having amortentia wet dreams about him and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. Draco Malfoy was a bigoted arse. Even if he was the smartest, tallest, most unpretentious person in the entire school population, he would still be the first person who ever called her a Mudblood.
Ginny could date him herself if she was so keen about how much less a bastard he was than he could be.
She was never going to forgive Slughorn. Not as long as she lived.
She stared at the cauldron in front of her and refused to let herself even look up and acknowledge Malfoy or his ridiculous height as he came to join her table.
Gracious. She barely reached the top of his shoulders, and her shoes had two-inch heels. She forcibly averted her eyes once more as her skin prickled.
“Let’s just get this over with then, shall we?” she said.
There was a silence.
“Right,” was his clipped response. She refused to look at his face, but he sounded—almost hurt.
It would be fine. It only took six months to brew Felix Felicis.
She was never going to forgive Slughorn.
Did he have to always loom everywhere?
Ron was taller, according to Hermione’s surreptitious estimates, but he had always been polite enough to slouch and duck his head down bashfully. It made him feel much shorter. Malfoy always seemed to stand around with a straight spine and squared shoulders, as though the student population might forget how much space he occupied if he didn’t claim every centimetre of it at all times.
A shiver ran down her spine.
Goddammit. Hermione started as she was reaching for a jar of ashwinder eggs and sighed with aggravation. “Malfoy.”
She wasn’t sure if he was standing uncomfortably close, or if it just felt that way. The hair on her arms stood up as she turned to look up at him. His expression was closed, and his grey eyes flat and mirror-like.
“How long is this dance going to go on for?”
She schooled her features into a severe expression and jutted her chin out. “We’re not dancing,” she said quickly. “There is no dancing for you with me in any future, immediate or distant.”
The corner of his mouth pulled in a way that could have been a suppressed smirk or a sneer.
“Right.” He arched an eyebrow, staring down his narrow nose at her. ”You just scuttle off whenever I come near and jump a foot in the air at the sound of my voice.” His expression was tense. “I don’t care what you think of me, but I’d appreciate it if you didn’t sabotage our grade in Potions.”
Heat flooded across Hermione’s face and up to her ears. “As if I would.” She glared at him. “Don’t flatter yourself, Malfoy, I’m hardly going to damage my academic record just to spite you.”
A low flush appeared in the hollows of his cheeks, and his jaw twitched.
She shoved past him and stormed back to their cauldron.
He was lying. She wasn’t overreacting to him or jumping. Their potion assignment was fine.
After class she found Ginny and slammed down several textbooks onto the desk beside her. “What exactly is supposed to be so great about Malfoy?”
Ginny looked up, raising a thin eyebrow, expression unsurprised. “Noticed now, have you?”
“No,” Hermione said, her voice snappish. “I just don't know why you even brought him up. Your family has hated his for centuries. It’s practically an established tradition at this point.”
Ginny shrugged and looked away. ”You weren’t here last year.”
Hermione’s back stiffened.
Ginny’s voice was subdued, and she looked down at her hands. “You weren’t. Ron wasn’t. Harry wasn’t. It’s hard to explain what last year was like to anyone who wasn’t part of it—how it felt being here. I came here on my own. Snape was doing whatever he was doing. The Carrows were the ones in charge. The school was practically handed to Malfoy on a silver platter. He could have done anything to the other students if he wanted to.”
Hermione stared at Ginny, and felt sick. “Did he help DA last year?”
Ginny rolled her eyes. “No—well… no. Not really. He wasn’t helping the resistance or anything. But—he knew who was in DA, who the Carrows should have focused on, and he never ratted on us. He never did anything to make it worse than it was. When Neville, Luna, and I got caught trying to get the Sword of Gryffindor, Malfoy’s the one who said we should be given detention with Hagrid. What the Carrows wanted to do was—it was a lot worse. I guess I feel like I owe him a bit.”
Hermione swallowed but then narrowed her eyes and folded her arms across her chest. “I don’t see you making any overtures of friendship.”
Ginny shook her head. “Malfoy doesn’t want to be friends with me. Trust me, that’s not why he did any of it. Never mind,” she waved Hermione off. “Forget I ever said anything. The thing about him being your type was just a joke anyway.”
Hermione wished that she could forget.
She also wished, for the first time in her academic career, that she had a stupider partner. Anyone else would have sat back and let Hermione just make the potion herself, but Malfoy loomed constantly.
He had the audacity of checking and criticising how she’d minced her squills, and saying her counter-clockwise stir rotations weren’t perfectly circular. Hermione seethed with indignation and couldn’t even argue or explain that the reason for her imperfect mincing and stirring was due to unreasonably-sized humans who were constantly hovering, leaning so close his robes brushed against hers, and affecting her concentration.
”For god’s sake, Malfoy, has no one ever introduced you to the concept of personal space?” She nearly screamed the question after having a small heart attack when a familiar hand suddenly reached over her head and plucked the book she was trying to reach off the shelf. She tugged at her shirt, fanning herself; when had it gotten so warm in the library?
She felt him stiffen behind her.
Oh god, had she actually said that out loud? She wanted a hole to open up and swallow her as she awkwardly turned around to face him, her face hot enough to spontaneously combust.
“Sorry,” she said without meeting his eyes. “You startled me.”
He was silent, holding the book out without a word.
“Thanks,” she grabbed it from him, and their fingers touched. Because he was unreasonably over-sized and had stupidly huge hands with ridiculously long slender fingers that she had never, ever stared at.
The brief contact shot through her like an electric shock, and she nearly dropped the book.
Her face flushed hotter. “I’m sorry. I’m just on edge sometimes. Jumpy, you know.”
“Right.” He turned on his heel.
“Wait, Malfoy.” She gripped the book against her chest and forced a smile. Oh god, was she really doing this? Apparently she was. “Would you like to—study with me? I’m working on the essay for History of Magic.”
He paused and glanced back at her, expression flat. “No thanks. Granger.”
He walked away.
Malfoy didn’t want to be friends with her, he didn’t want to be friends with Ginny, he didn’t appear to want to be friends with anyone. No one in the school seemed to have anything to do with him. He sat alone at the far end of the Slytherin table, and none of the other students ever sat beside or across from him. His house-mates often went out of their way to hit him with their satchels as they shoved past, leaving the table.
He’d just sit there, stoic. His eyes were so visibly flat she could practically see the occlumency walls behind them. Even the first year Slytherins seemed to disdain him.
The rest of the school acted as though he didn’t even exist.
Traitor and Death Eater all at once.
His old friends seemed to treat him as though he were a contagious disease.
“Did you mean it? Or did you just say it because you had to?”
She asked the question as she dropped into the seat beside him at Potions. It was ten minutes before class, and the room was empty besides them. She took a deep breath and then regretted it. He smelled silvery-green, and expensive.
How was that even a smell? She refrained from sniffing at him more closely to find out.
He didn’t look at her. He was sitting, staring across the room at the blackboard on the far wall. His expression was neatly contained.
“Mean what?” he said after nearly a minute had passed.
“You said at trial that you were sorry. Did you mean it, or did you just say it because you had to?” She squared her shoulders and twisted to face him. “I won’t tell anyone what you say, I just want to know.”
He turned his head slowly to stare at her. His grey eyes were flat. “Why does it matter?”
Hermione met his eyes. “Because I’m the one you hated. So if you’re sorry, I want to hear you say it to me.”
The corner of his lip curled, and he leaned closer, his eyes glittering as he stopped, their faces barely inches apart. “Why? Are you going to take me under your wing like a destitute house-elf if I grovel for you?”
Hermione didn’t budge, but her breath came faster. “No. I don’t pity you. I just wanted to know if you think you’d have been different if you’d had the chance.”
He sat back abruptly, eyes going flat and shuttering again, just as Slughorn came bumbling into the classroom.
They worked on their Felix Felicis that day without any issue. Hermione finally felt as though she’d recovered a sense of equilibrium, and Malfoy kept his distance, even more withdrawn than usual. After they performed the necessary steps for the Felix Felicis, Slughorn had the class brewing potions to restock the hospital ward while he snored at his desk.
Hermione headed for the library when the class was over.
She stopped and waited for Malfoy. He stopped a few feet away from her. Her heartbeat sped up.
His expression was hard. “I wouldn’t have been different.”
Hermione gave a short, terse nod of acknowledgement. “Thanks for the honest answer.”
It was as definitive and unpleasant to swallow as a bezoar.
She shifted to walk away. Her throat felt tight, and there was a low burning sensation in the pit of her stomach.
“But,” his voice had a brittle edge to it, “I regret that.”
She paused, turning back.
He’d drawn himself up, knuckles white as he gripped the strap of his satchel. “I am sorry. I meant it when I apologised, but I can’t claim that they weren't the choices I made.”
His expression twisted. ”Not the answer I imagine you hoped for.”
He strode past her and up the steps before she could reply.
She found him in the library. She hung her satchel on the chair next to him and seated herself.
He looked up at her, surprise flashing across his face for an instant before occlumency walls flattened the expressiveness.
She pulled her books out of her bag and started working on an essay. ”You gave a good answer.”
Malfoy was vastly superior to any other study partner Hermione had ever had. True, her sample group was primarily Harry and Ron, but she’d been paired with various other classmates several times in the past, and none of them had been of any use whatsoever.
Malfoy pulled his own weight easily, which astonished Hermione until she remembered that his primary companionship in school had been Crabbe and Goyle. They certainly hadn’t been writing Malfoy’s essays for him.
It was surprisingly pleasant to work with someone who actually contributed rather than waiting for Hermione to hand-feed them all the answers.
Other students stared at them oddly, and Ginny liked doing suggestive things with her eyebrows whenever she caught sight of Hermione, but most everyone left them alone. Hermione had never had many friends at school, her pre-established prickly reputation kept everyone away from both herself and Malfoy.
They studied together. That was all.
Which was fine.
It wasn’t as if Hermione had expected anything as the months of their potion partnership rolled by. She certainly wasn’t entertaining fantasies of dating him. That would be—ridiculous.
However, along the way they became partnered in almost all their other classes as well. No one else wanted to work with him; they were already studying together, naturally Hermione volunteered, and he never seemed to mind.
But work was all.
It was fine.
If Hermione had a type, which she didn’t, and Malfoy happened to be it, which he wasn’t, that wouldn’t make her his type.
Hermione was hardly the sort to be anyone’s type. She’d been resigned to that for a few years now.
It was nice just having a study partner who studied. She wasn’t going to let herself start thinking there needed to be anything more to it. She wasn’t going to start daydreaming about things, even if Malfoy did tend to loom and regularly forget about the concept of personal space, standing so close that his body pressed against her back and made her breath catch; leaning over to read something in her notes with his face nearly touching hers.
She doubted that he meant anything by it because he refused to let their partnership ever extend beyond schoolwork.
They discussed school assignments often and at length, but the instant the conversation ranged anywhere beyond school, he closed up like a clam, his expression shuttered and non-reactive.
Other days, especially on Tuesdays after Potions when Hermione’s hair was frizzing everywhere, still flushed and overly warm from spending hours brewing, or the days with duelling practice in DADA, he’d be visibly discomfited and refuse to even look at her. They’d take a study break and he’d immediately stand up and walk stiffly away, not coming back until after Hermione had given up waiting and resumed studying on her own.
Hermione thought that he’d gradually come out of his shell and become vaguely conversational. A little while, and maybe she’d see who Draco Malfoy was becoming post-war.
It wasn’t as though she was in any way unaware of how talkative he was historically inclined to be.
But even after weeks, he remained behind his occlumency walls. In fact, he seemed to progressively withdraw, and become increasingly tense around her. He had yards of notes, but anytime she asked him a question that left his exhaustively outlined research, there was always a long pause, as though he were debating whether to even respond.
He wasn’t verbally rude, which was novel, but after several months he was barely more communicative than a brick wall.
“What did MacMillan want?” Malfoy abruptly asked, when Hermione returned to their desk in the library.
Hermione glanced over in surprise and found him glaring at her. Glaring wasn’t unusual. Lately he seemed to spend most of his time either looming around her or glaring at other students or doing both things at the same time.
“He wanted to know if I already have plans, or if I’m available for Valentine's Day,” she said, glancing at her Transfiguration essay, trying to remember what point she’d been making in the last paragraph when Ernie interrupted her.
There was a snap, and Hermione looked up to find that Malfoy had broken his obscenely expensive eagle quill in half. He didn’t appear to have even noticed.
“Available.” He spat the word out, his mouth twisting as though it had a vile taste. “He asked if you’re available for Valentine's Day?”
His expression was so affronted he looked nearly feral. Hermione didn’t think she’d seen so much emotion on his face since he’d returned to school.
She nodded, eyeing him. A shiver raced up her spine.
Malfoy stood up and walked away without a word. He came back half an hour later, gathered up his books and left again.
He glowered at her the next day when she sat down next to him.
“Is something wrong?”
He looked away. “No.”
Hermione sighed and stared contemplatively at her arithmancy assignment.
She’d taken every step that had brought them to the point of sitting beside each other in the library every day. All he’d done so far was let her.
Perhaps being jealous of her nonexistent relationship with Ernie MacMillan would be enough to make him finally do something. She wasn't manipulating him. She was just giving him a little push.
Malfoy simply glowered. He managed to sulk nonstop through the next two weeks, looming even closer than before and shooting wounded, woebegone looks at her when he thought she wasn’t paying attention. Hermione took deep, calming breaths whenever possible, reminding herself that she needed to respect other people's boundaries and not order them to ask her out.
She had volunteered herself as his partner in all their classes and invited herself to study with him daily. There was a point at which he had to take some initiative on his own.
Malfoy withdrew even further, which she hadn't thought was possible.
On Valentine’s Day, he was both sulking and loitering suspiciously in the entrance hall as she set out for Hogsmeade Village.
He blinked when he saw her and then looked her up and down several times with an expression of disbelief. “That’s what you’re wearing?”
Hermione looked at herself. She had put on practical shoes, several layers, and a coat that was probably best described as sensible.
“Yes.” She raised her eyebrows, “I’m on prefect patrol, since I didn’t have a date for Valentine’s Day.”
Malfoy stared at her for several seconds. “MacMillan asked if you were available for prefect patrol?”
Hermione gave a short nod. “He is Head Boy, and I’m not in a relationship with anyone. So.”
Malfoy looked as though he’d swallowed something the wrong way, the hollows of his cheeks flushed pink, but he didn’t move or speak. Hermione straightened her scarf and pulled her knit hat down over her ears and walked past him without another word.
She patrolled Hogsmeade, watching the giggling couples and trying not to roll her eyes. Being infatuated was all very well, but did they have to grin like maniacs the entire time? Valentine’s Day was such a stupid holiday anyway.
Ugh. She sounded like a resentful spinster. Would Crookshanks put up with it if she got more cats? She doubted it.
Then she spotted Malfoy, skulking alone near Three Broomsticks. That improved her mood considerably as she pretended to not see him. She stopped after passing him for the third time.
“Something you want to say?” she asked in a crisp voice.
There was a pause.
“No,” he finally said.
Her heart sank, but she nodded. “I figured.”
She turned away. “Make sure you’re back at the castle before curfew.”
She paused, heart almost racing as she looked back.
Malfoy already looked as though he regretted speaking up. There was a sort of hollowness in the middle of her chest as she stood, staring expectantly at him while he stood there, silent.
Well, she was done talking for both of them. If he felt entitled to sulk and follow her around, he’d also be required to talk on occasion.
He’d always had plenty to say back when he wanted her dead.
Her stomach twisted.
The silence stretched on and on, and Malfoy just kept standing there with his occlumency shuttered expression, apparently having decided to resume being monosyllabic and just pretend he hadn’t said anything.
After several minutes, Hermione put her hand on her hip.
“Let’s not do this anymore, Malfoy.” She sighed. “I get it. I’m sure to you it’s monumental to even stand here and contemplate a Muggle-born.” Her voice was bitter. “Maybe I’m supposed to be flattered that you’re even here, but I’m not. I’m not going to beg for you to want me. I don’t have any interest in being this difficult to choose.”
She looked away and scoffed. “I don’t know if it makes me a romantic or not, but I don’t want a relationship where I have to go through life wondering whether the cost-benefit analysis still manages to fall in my favour every time I’m vaguely inconvenient.”
She inhaled until the cold air burned in her lungs. “So—I’m done now. I—“ she forced a smile, “—I won’t be bothering you anymore.”
Malfoy remained silent and unreactive.
There was a quick stab of disappointment in her chest as she waited a moment longer before turning away. “It’s fine. You don’t need to say anything. You never do.”
She pivoted on her toe and continued on the patrol route.
She heard Malfoy curse as she walked away.
“Wait. Granger.” He’d abruptly reappeared out of an alley, and she barely managed to keep from instinctively stunning him as he caught her by the shoulders.
He gripped her for a moment before wrenching his hands away and backtracking.
“It’s not because you’re Muggle-born, that’s not why—“ he paused. “I’m not—“ he swallowed visibly. “I’m not a good person.”
Hermione stared at him. “I know.”
“I—“ he hesitated and looked at a loss for words, “Being nice isn’t something I do.”
Hermione nodded carefully. His eyes didn’t currently have any of that walled flatness to them. They were almost glowing with intensity. His expression was open. He stepped towards her. Something in the back of Hermione’s mind skittered, wanting to back away, but she refused to budge as he closed in, edging closer until there was hardly any space left between their bodies.
His head dipped down towards her face, his eyes searching.
“I’m not hesitating because you’re hard to choose.” His voice was almost a whisper.
He felt impossibly close even though they weren’t touching. She had never been so vividly aware of the sensation of not touching someone. It was as though every nerve in her body was on fire, just waiting.
“That’s—that’s not why.”
Hermione lifted her chin. “Why then?”
He inhaled, jaw tensing. “This is my second chance, right?” He tilted his head to the side as he stared down at her unguardedly. “Last chance, I suppose I should say. Not for redemption, of course, that opportunity already slipped me by. But my one last chance to be sorry.”
Hermione stared up at him, trying to take him in. He was being himself. Not the version Hermione was acquainted with from past years, but the new iteration that he’d been gradually evolving into within the walled cocoon of occlumency he constantly hid behind.
He felt—bigger. More vivid. The intensity of him bursting out in a way that she’d only seen glimmers of during the last several months.
His expression was strained. “You—are very easy to want to choose. Too easy, if I’m honest, which I’m not generally when I can help it.” His lips twitched into a vague grimace. “I’m greedy, I’ve never been nice in my entire life, and I have never done well with not getting the things I want. So, imagine how it feels to want someone that I know I have no chance with.”
His mouth pulled into a bitter smile like a knife blade. “I’ll always be judged by the mistakes of my past now. One misstep is all I have left, and I know I’ll make it because I’ve fucked up practically every single thing I’ve done in my entire life.” His voice was becoming raw and his expression twisted. “But just think how much worse it will be, when that happens, if there’s someone that I let myself think I could have.”
He was impossibly close now. She could feel his robes brushing against her legs and the faintest shiver of his breath across her skin. His hand rose up and hovered near her cheek, so close she could feel the heat of it. It was as though he were an instant from cradling her face in his hand, but his hand stayed suspended.
“Someone important to me, who I tried to be better for. When I fuck everything up again, she’ll the first person hurt by it.”
His hand dropped, not away but lower. Hermione’s heart stalled, and she gave a small gasp as his fingertips pulled down her scarf just enough for his fingers to brush against her throat as his thumb ran across the narrow scar there.
“I think,” he said staring at it, “I’ve already hurt her enough.”
He withdrew his hand and stepped back, clearing his throat. His expression slowly shuttered again, all the light and intensity in his eyes guttered out as he shrank back and reverted to that puppet version of himself. “It’s not because you’re hard to choose, it’s because you’re almost impossible not to choose. I've never done well saying no to myself, but I am trying to. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for you to think it was because you’re Muggle-born.”
Hermione’s heart was pounding in her chest. “Oh,” she finally managed to say. “Sorry. I just assumed.”
“It was a fair assumption,” he said, voice flat, looking away from her.
She drew a deep breath. “Well, you know, you shouldn’t decide things for other people. You can’t go around choosing which risks they’re allowed to take. Especially not me.” She put her hands on her hips and gave him her most piercing glare. “I really don’t like it when people tell me I can’t do something just because it’s difficult or I might get hurt—so you should just give up any ideas that you get to go around around deciding things for me.”
She snorted, rolling her eyes. “Honestly, of the two of us, my decision-making record is vastly superior to yours.”
Malfoy made a choking sound.
Hermione stepped closer and held out her hand. “Don’t decide things for me without asking. Alright?”
He hesitated for several seconds before taking her hand and giving a tentative nod.
After Valentine’s Day, they weren’t dating exactly, but they had what Hermione privately termed an exclusive hand-holding arrangement.
Their fingers would wander over and find each other under the desks in class and while studying in the library.
Malfoy had astonishingly expressive hands. And long fingers. Terribly long fingers. His fingertips would dance along the back of her hands, tracing her knuckles or stroking patterns on her palm and inner wrist that sent tingles through her entire body. His little finger would absent-mindedly hook around hers when he was reading, or he’d start massaging the base of her thumb when a rune translation had her ready to start pulling her hair out.
It was astonishingly erogenous.
Hermione felt like some repressed Puritan. Just looking at his hands became enough to make her blush. Heat would start pooling in her lower abdomen and her nipples would harden when his thumb brushed across her knuckles, and she’d squirm when their fingers laced secretly together under the desk at Potions.
Hermione had snogged boys and had less of a physical reaction than she had when the back of Draco Malfoy’s hand touched hers. They didn’t even hold hands properly most of the time, normally it was knuckles against each other, and a few fingers enlaced.
Somehow it was the most arousing thing that had ever happened to her.
Hermione would find herself flushing warmer and warmer while Malfoy remained stoically silent and externally unruffled while caressing her fingers in a way that felt like it should be a violation of half the school ordinances and possibly illegal.
Malfoy was trying to kill her with frustration.
“I think we should kiss,” she said abruptly after weeks of having her hand fondled to a degree that had her seriously contemplating jumping Malfoy right there in the library.
Malfoy went so still he could have been petrified. Hermione turned and found him staring.
“Kiss?” he said after an interminable feeling silence.
She nodded matter-of-factly. “Yes. If you’re comfortable with that.”
He slowly moved his head in a vague pattern of assent.
“Alright then. Now? Or later?” The corner of her mouth turned up in a suppressed smile of anticipation.
There was another long pause. “Now.”
Thank god. She turned towards him but found facing him profoundly awkward. His expression was visibly apprehensive and not at all the way one would hope a boy would look under such circumstances. Hermione wilted.
This was just ridiculous. Any other boy and they’d probably be having conversations and sex by now. Not Malfoy. Aside from the handholding aspect, he continued to be aggravatingly restrained and about as proactive as a sea sponge.
“I also think I should call you Draco,” she said nodding to herself, “and you should call me Hermione—if you ever happen to address me of your own volition.”
Draco choked and now looked ready to bolt.
This was absurd. She was positive that being a teenager was not supposed to be this awkward. Were there steps she was overlooking?
“Never mind,” she said, turning back to her books. “I didn’t mean that we should if you don’t want to. I thought maybe you did.”
“Wait—” Draco’s voice was plaintive.
She turned to look at him again, eyes narrowing. “Do you want to kiss me? Because if you do, it’s not even remotely obvious.”
He stared at her affronted for an instant. Then his eyes gleamed, and he jerked her hand, pulling her sideways and his closed lips met hers.
In less than two seconds he sat back and scrutinized her, looking worried.
Hermione grimaced and scowled at him. “Not like that, idiot. I’m not your mum. Kiss me properly.”
She really did have to do everything herself.
She seized hold of his robes and jerked him forwards.
“I don’t kiss my mother,” Draco managed to say sulkily just as their lips met for the second time.
Hermione kissed him properly, and bit him just a little as punishment for always having to do all the work. His lips were soft, a bit thin, but nice. There was definitely potential.
She started to sit back, but as she drew away, his chair twisted, legs screeching on the wood floor as his hand caught her shoulder and he pulled her back, capturing her lips; half-dragging her out of her chair and into his arms. Her heart somersaulted.
Hermione stumbled forward, and his arm wrapped firmly around her waist while his other hand found her jaw, and she toppled into his lap as he kissed her hungrily. She could feel her skin flush warmer as she pressed against him.
As with hand holding, Malfoy was excellent at kissing once he actually started doing it. His fingertips ran across the arch of her cheekbones, tracing the curve of her jaw before finding a sensitive place behind her ear that made her shiver while his lips caressed hers. A frisson of pleasure vibrated through her like a string on an instrument. She squirmed in his lap, heart racing in her chest. His tongue flicked against her lips in the same languorous, teasing manner that his fingers often brushed against her hand, which meant that he’d been purposefully making her horny during classes for the last several weeks.
Prat. She kissed him back with a vengeance.
She had spent an obscene amount of time wondering what kissing Malfoy would be like. Whether she’d like it or find it just alright.
Historically, she didn’t particularly care for kissing. It tended to be rather anticlimactic or wet. Viktor had been nervous and so chaste it was underwhelming. Cormac had been like being attacked by a whomping willow, his hands and fingers rough and entitled. He’d shoved his tongue into her mouth before she’d even realized they were kissing. Ron was—well, his kisses were rather wet, and his hands never seemed to go where that she wanted them. He had his favourite spots to squeeze, and even when she’d move his hands to preferred locations, they always immediately wandered back.
Malfoy was an entirely new experience in kissing. Every time his fingers so much as shifted against her skin, she felt herself grow warmer and tingles ran through her entire body until her toes were curling in her shoes.
He nipped at her lower lip with his teeth a moment before his tongue slid against hers. The quick spark of pain melded with the rushing headiness until she could hardly think straight. Hermione moaned and tangled her fingers through his hair, finally mussing up that enraging contained and perfect appearance of his as she shifted, straddling him so that their bodies were pressed together. She wanted to feel all of him, all that intensity he kept holding back from her. She wanted to break through his walls and find those things he kept so restrained. It would just be hers. The thought flared through her like fireworks, and she pulled him closer as he greedily kissed her as though he were breathing her in, snatching the oxygen from between her teeth.
The whole world was burning, through her lungs, into her veins and out her fingertips as she sat tangled in his arms. He groaned and his fingers ran up into her hair, twisting in her curls and pulling her lips more firmly against his.
His hand on her waist had found the edge of her shirt, and his fingers slid under the fabric. Hermione gasped as his hand spanned the small of her back against her bare skin and then slithered up, tracing her ribs. Her whole body tensed and wanting more. Oh god, this was so very good.
She shifted closer, arching her back in order to get a better angle, almost kneeling over him in his chair. Both of his hands were under her shirt, nearly spanning her waist and sliding upwards. His head tilted back to meet her lips as she ran her fingers through his hair again, ruffling it, and he moaned against her lips.
The sound sent a rushing sense of possessive heat straight through her. Her fingers trailed down his neck, using the collar on his robes to pull him closer, loosening his tie, and finding the buttons on his robes.
His body against hers was delightfully hard, and—
“Miss Granger! Mr Malfoy! Twenty points from Gryffindor and Slytherin for indecent behaviour!”
Hermione screamed and nearly jumped out of her skin at the abrupt invasion of Madam Prince’s sharp voice.
She wrenched herself away from Draco and nearly fell on her face as she scrambled off his chair and struggled to regain her balance as she faced the enraged librarian.
“Sorry,” she said, gasping for breath, feeling as though her face was about the burst into flames. “We—we didn’t mean to. We got carried away.”
“This library is the seat of knowledge; it is no place for such carnal behaviours. If I see any further misconduct, it will be fifty points and detention.” Pince sniffed and glared at them both.
Hermione guiltily stuffed her shirt back into her skirt. Draco appeared to be impersonating an armadillo, his large frame was curved into a tight ball in his chair and only the tips of his bright red ears were currently visible.
“Sorry,” he said in the thick voice without looking up.
Madam Pince glared a moment longer before turning away.
Hermione sank shakily into her seat beside Malfoy. “Well...” she finally said, because she couldn’t think of anything else to say.
Malfoy still hadn’t unfolded. He was breathing heavily, his head nearly resting on the edge of the desk for several minutes.
“Right,” he said when he finally straightened, his voice still thick and almost rasping.
“Sorry,” she said, feeling so embarrassed she thought she might die and staring determinedly at her essay. “I got carried away.”
Hermione refused to let herself look up, and Malfoy didn’t say anything else. Her heart was still pounding. She kept sneaking glances sideways and finding Draco’s eyes intently fastened on the textbook in front of him, his ears still tinged pink.
She really should have waited to propose kissing when they were somewhere else. She was just shameless. One kiss and she’d proceeded to practically climb him and start taking off his clothes.
Her face was so hot she could probably warm a cauldron with it.
After ten minutes, she was finally able to make herself calm down enough to focus on homework, still keenly aware of Malfoy sitting stiff and silent beside her. Oh god, what if he was angry and embarrassed about it?
He probably wouldn’t even say so. He’d just withdraw again, or maybe start avoiding her.
She should have just resigned herself to an indefinite period of erotic handholding. That was apparently all she had the capacity to handle.
A few minutes later there was a light touch against the back of her hand where it was resting on the desk.
She looked up.
Malfoy was still reading, but his hand had wandered over and found hers, his index finger running along her knuckles. She turned her hand, arching her fingers to catch and entwine with his.
They didn’t say anything else, but he didn’t let go until it was time to go to dinner.
They were careful not to kiss in the library again. At least not intensively or for very long. However, occasionally such things were unavoidable.
As a result, their study sessions mysteriously migrated out of the library into other less populated parts of the castle.
Empty classrooms, alcoves tucked away behind tapestries. The greenhouses.
Draco still wasn’t talkative, but he was adept at non-verbal communication. A bit too adept. Apparently he was also capable of time travelling because Hermione was certain they couldn’t possibly be spending their entire afternoons each day snogging, yet she found herself staying up to ungodly hours of the night in order to finish reading that she hadn’t managed to get done during study times.
They weren’t having sex, but only by the vast benevolence of technicality.
However, during all the sex they weren’t having, there was an abundant quantity of undressing and fondling and licking. And orgasms.
Many, many orgasms.
In the process, Hermione had come to terms with the fact that she was indeed shameless, and decided to embrace this newfound aspect of her personality.
At the moment, her time table indicated that she was supposed to be drilling arithmancy equations, but instead she was sitting on top of Draco on an abandoned professor’s desk, kissing him slowly while unbuttoning his shirt.
Her fingers traced down his chest, finding the scars that zig-zagged across his torso. She followed one of the slashing lines with her fingertips as she nuzzled his face with her nose, nipping at the arch of his cheekbone. His hands were sliding up her back, peeling her jumper off and over her head.
“This is a very sturdy desk,” Hermione said under her breath as she shimmied her hips down his body, twisting her hand behind her back to unfasten her bra.
“Mhmm,” Draco was nibbling along her neck while he pulled her bra off and his sinfully dexterous fingers began stroking the underside of her breasts in a way that made her head drop as she moaned.
“It doesn’t—even creak, ” she said, nearly collapsing as he tweaked her nipple and his thigh pressed between her legs exactly where she wanted him.
“Mmm,” was all the response she got from him as he shifted out from under her, pinned her down, and proceeded to kiss her until she could barely think straight.
When he finally broke away for air and began kissing his way down her body, she caught him by the hair and tugged him back up until he was looking at her again.
She really was going to have to do this too.
“Draco,” she held him by the robes and rubbed her thigh against his obvious erection, “what I’m trying to say is that we should have sex. Here. On this desk.”
He stared. Eyes wide and expression almost closed, but despite the mask his pupils bloomed out, black swallowing the grey. His expression gradually grew hungrier and hungrier.
There was still a wall there. She could see it in his eyes.
“Now?” he finally said.
Hermione blinked owlishly at him. “Yes. Obviously now, did you think I stopped you because I wanted to schedule it for next week?”
Before he could reply, she pulled him closer until their faces were practically touching and wriggled her hips in a way that made him bite his lip and groan.
“Draco Malfoy, I want you to have sex with me on this desk. Right now. Is that alright with you?”
“Yes...” he practically hissed the word through his gritted teeth.
“Good. It’s settled then.” She kissed him again and shoved his shirt off, running her fingers admiringly over his shoulders. She might not like Quidditch, but it did have certain undeniable benefits.
It would have been nicer to have sex somewhere involving a bed, without vague thoughts of splinters or the cold. But the faculty at Hogwarts really went out of their way to ensure that was practically impossible. Hermione forgot to think about most of that within a matter of moments as Draco’s mouth closed on her breast and his long fingers hooked around her knickers, dragging them down her legs. His skin was warm against hers, and it marked with every greedy nip she gave him while finding the buckle of his belt and the zip of his trousers, and then reaching in and curling her fingers around the rigid length of his cock as he groaned and bucked in her hand.
His fingers curled possessively between her legs, caressing her where she was so sensitive and ready. She shivered as his fingers trailed lower, stroking and sliding slowly into her.
She gasped and clenched as he bit his lip and pushed his fingers in deeper. She gripped his cock tighter as a familiar heat coiled low inside her pelvis. His thumb pressed carefully between her legs as she gave an incoherent mewl and bucked against his hand.
“Oh please,” she said in a ragged voice, torn between parting her legs further and hooking them around his waist in the hopes he’d finally fuck her.
His thumb pressed her clit again, moving in slow circles as his fingers slid deeper, finding a specific spot behind her pelvis that made her eyes cross.
“No. I want this with you... ” She slid her hand down his length, tugging and shifting her hips until he was aligned.
He withdrew his fingers. His expression still closed, but his eyes were carefully locked on her face as he pushed in slowly. She exhaled unsteadily, and he instantly froze.
She cut him off. “This is good.”
Her head tilted back as he slid in further with a low groan, his body curling forward, over and around her as he sank in to the hilt.
Hermione gave a low sigh, just relishing the sensation of being this close to him. So connected. She rolled her hips up to meet his.
Suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, he started talking. It took her a moment to register it.
His head was buried against her shoulder, and she could make out less than half of the words, but she got the general idea because he said everything about a dozen times as he held her close, talking under his breath as he peppered her skin with kisses.
She hadn’t expected it—it hadn’t even occurred to her that he would talk during sex.
“You’re perfect—Don’t even know—“ his hands were roaming everywhere, sliding along the length of her body and up her arms to her wrists until she was stretched out under him, hands pinned above her head. His voice was breathless. “You’re so perfect—never thought—didn’t even want to dream.”
He kissed her hungrily and thrust deeper in a way that filled her so intensely that her toes curled. She wrapped her legs tightly around his hips.
He rested his forehead against hers. “I’m not going to hurt you—never. I swear, I’ll die before I hurt you.”
Should she say something? She felt like she should, but she wasn’t exactly sure what to say.
”Never thought I'd have a chance, ” he said nuzzling her ear. ”Tried not to want you—no idea how hard you are to stay away from. I don’t know—why you would—I’m so happy.”
He squeezed her hands where their fingers were entwined as he sank into her again, and she gave a low moan, body tensing under his.
“Saved me—I thought I was going to be alone for the rest of my life,” he said against her throat, his voice raw.
Hermione slid her hands free from his and cradled his face, tilting his head up so she could look into his eyes.
“Draco—Draco,” she said, curling her head forwards in order to press their faces together. “It’s alright.”
He stared at her. “I just want you to know.”
She smiled at him, running her thumb across his cheekbone. “I know. I’m here because I know.”
He nodded. “Alright.”
She kissed him slowly until he groaned against her lips. His body curled around her as he held her close. The vibrating, raw, unrestrained intensity was finally hers, and she felt as though she could catch fire just feeling it.
His fingers tangled with hers, and when she shattered, she gripped his hands so tightly she barely knew where she ended and he began.
Afterwards, they stayed tangled together for several minutes. Hermione’s eyes were closed as she lay catching her breath. Draco stroked back a few curls that were sticking to her face before kissing her cheek.
“Can I ask you something?”
“Mmm?” She cracked an eye open.
“Why did you ask me, that day in Potions, if I was sorry?”
Her eyes snapped open. Draco was staring down at her. “Oh, well—I noticed you.”
“You noticed me?” He arched an eyebrow.
Hermione could feel a low flush developing in the hollows of her cheeks. “Just—little things at first. Then Ginny told me that you protected DA last year, and that made me wonder—“
“What did you notice?” He was staring down at her, looking quizzical.
Hermione’s mouth twitched and the tips of her ears grew hot. “It was just—silly. The first thing I noticed. Really, it was finding out about DA that made me—“
He cocked his head to the side. “What was it?”
Oh god. He wasn’t going to let it go.
“Nothing. It really wasn’t—“
“You can’t tell me?” There was a flicker of hurt in his eyes.
“It’s not like that. It’s just—embarrassing.” Her face was growing warmer and warmer. She hid her face in her hand. “You’ll think I’m so shallow if I tell you.”
“Granger—“ Draco sounded exasperated.
Hermione groaned, she pulled her hand away and stared up at him. “Fine,” she said, her voice resigned. “The reason I first noticed you was because Ginny pointed out how tall you are.”
Draco blinked down at her, expression blank as though the answer simply didn’t register. Hermione’s face grew molten hot, and she slung her arm over her face to conceal her sense of embarressed horror.
“You noticed me…” he said slowly, “because of my height?”
She sat up, crossing her arms. Draco was staring at her, his expression a mixture of amusement and affront.
“That—was just the first thing. That’s not why we’re here now. It was just the—impetus. Once I noticed your height, I kept noticing other things about you that made me more curious.” She inhaled. “I decided to ask that day because I wanted to know if you were someone worth knowing now. And it turned out that you were, which is the important part. That’s the point that we really should be focused on.”
She ducked her head. “However—if I’m entirely honest, it all started because I was trying to figure out how tall you are.”
Draco eyed her sceptically for a moment longer before his shoulders began shaking with suppressed laughter.