Hermione pulled her beaded bag a bit higher over her shoulder and bent to pick up Crookshanks. The old half-kneazle scowled in Hermione’s arms, his bright eyes fixated on the figure still lingering by the sofa.
Hermione’s gaze joined Crookshanks’, and she sighed.
Three wonderful, maddening—even infuriating at times—years, and it had led them here.
Ron shoved his hands into his pockets and stared at his shoes, chewing the inside of his cheek. Hermione had to remind herself of why they were doing this. It would be so easy to stay, to return to the comfortable normality that they’d shared for so long.
No, the niggling voice in the back of her brain told her, this is the right thing. She had to be strong.
“Well, I think I got most of it, but I’ll come by later this week to get the rest of my things,” Hermione said softly, casting her eyes around the flat.
“Are you sure you don’t want to stay? I could sleep on the couch.” Ron shrugged, his eyes glancing up.
“No.” Hermione shook her head, her jaw tensing slightly. “No. I think it’s best if I go. You know—it’s just too hard.”
Ron nodded, shuffling his feet. They stood awkwardly across from each other for a moment, neither of them making eye contact. Hermione stroked Crookshanks behind the ear, her throat growing tight. She felt… paralysed. She couldn’t stay, but leaving felt so final. Leaving meant it really was over between them.
“I don’t know what to do now,” Ron admitted with a dry laugh.
Hermione wiped away a wayward tear. “I know. It’s going to be so weird without you.”
“Well, maybe in a few weeks, once it’s not so raw, we can get together and grab a cup of coffee,” Ron suggested, rubbing the back of his neck.
The corners of Hermione’s lips lifted. “Sure,” she spoke with a sigh, her eyes traveling to the familiar trappings and furniture. Certainly this place would always feel a bit like home for her. And Ron… Certainly she would always feel something for him, though she couldn’t say exactly what that was right now. But she couldn’t imagine ever looking at the man she had loved for so long and feeling nothing.
Despite the awkwardness that had already seeped into their once beautiful relationship, Hermione had no regrets. She’d do it all over again if she had the chance, even knowing that it would end.
“Well, I should get going. Take care of yourself, Ron.”
She stood on tiptoe to kiss his freckled cheek before moving to the door. Though her heart sank further toward her toes with every step, she didn’t dare look back at him as she left the flat. She could just imagine him staring after her, his face drawn in grief and uncertainty.
Her eyes burned.
“Bye,” Ron mumbled just before she closed the door with a click.
“Here,” Ginny chirped, pushing a glass of firewhisky into Hermione’s hands and sitting down next to her on the couch.
Harry and Ginny’s flat was small but cozy. Decorated in warm colours and plush furniture, it was a comforting place for Hermione to retreat to after leaving Ron’s flat. They had welcomed her with open arms for as long as she needed a place to stay.
“I said just tea would be fine.” Hermione eyed the amber liquid with a sigh.
“You’re going through a break-up. You need something a lot stronger than tea.”
Hermione rolled her eyes but took a sip of the alcohol anyway. It burned going down. “I’m fine, Ginny. It’s hard right now, but it really is for the best.”
Harry trudged into the living room with a groan and flopped onto the soft, red armchair adjacent to the couch. “I hate this already.” He crossed his arms and pouted like a child. “Ron just owled to ask me to get a drink with him. I‘m already having to divide my time between you.”
Hermione’s stomach twisted, but she forced a smile that she hoped was reassuring. “It’s okay. You should go. I don’t want my relationship with Ron ending to make things weird for everyone else.”
Ginny grinned, her eyes alight with glee that Hermione couldn’t understand. “Yeah, we’ll have a girl’s night.”
“That actually sounds perfect.” Hermione took another sip of firewhisky. “Go on, Harry. You two have fun. Ron shouldn’t be alone tonight.”
“Alright,” Harry sighed, pushing himself to his feet. He pulled on his cloak and pocketed his wand. “Just remember that alcohol is a depressant; don’t get all weepy. It would also be better if I didn’t come home to two sick witches later. And if you invite any blokes over, at least have the decency to hide them in the closets when I come home.”
Hermione grinned at Harry’s jesting. “See you, Harry.”
He gave Ginny a quick kiss and disappeared into the fireplace in a puff of Floo powder and emerald flames.
“He’s so weird.” Hermione smiled fondly as the fire returned to its normal glow.
“Yeah, he is, but I love the guy.” The redhead turned back to her friend. “Are you really okay?”
Hermione shrugged. “I’m going to be fine. It’s just bizarre. We were together for three years, and before that we were best friends for seven. I don’t really know what my life looks like without Ron, you know?”
Ginny nodded and reached out to rub her back. Hermione knew that Ginny didn’t like thinking of her brother as a romantic being, but she listened without cringing.
“And then, of course, there’s the fact that I’m now homeless.” Hermione grimaced and took a large drink of her firewhisky at the thought.
“You didn’t want to fight him for the flat?”
Hermione shook her head. “I’d be too sad there. All those memories of us and the life we had. I think I would feel a little… stuck.”
“Well, feel free to stay here as long as you like. We don’t have much room, but this is a very comfortable couch.”
Hermione patted the cushion and grinned just a little. “Thanks. It is comfortable. But I don’t want to be in your hair for longer than a day or two. You don’t happen to know of anyone looking for a flatmate, do you?”
Ginny thought for a moment before her eyes lit up. “You know, I actually think I do. I got lunch with Luna last week, and she mentioned that there’s an extra room in her place. I’m sure she would rent it to you.”
“That would be great! Do you think it’s still available?” Hermione asked.
“Probably. They said they weren’t in a big hurry to lease it out.”
Ginny’s mouth fell open for a moment and her cheeks went a little red. “Er, yeah. It’s a three bedroom flat. They were looking to bring in a third.”
“Oh, who’s her flatmate?”
Ginny bit her lip for a moment. “It’s Pansy Parkinson,” she confessed, words spilling from her mouth more rapidly with every second. “But Luna says she’s not nearly as mean as she was at Hogwarts. You should at least go over there and look at it. It’s a great place. Right in the heart of London within walking distance of Hyde Park and the Ministry, and the rent for the room is only eighty-five galleons a month!”
“Eighty-five a month?” Hermione balked. “How is it so inexpensive?”
“I’m not sure. Rent control, probably.”
Hermione furrowed her brow. As much as she didn’t relish the idea of living with Pansy Parkinson, the price was too good to pass up without at least looking at it. “Alright, I’ll look at it. Can I borrow your owl to write Luna?”
After scrawling a brief note asking if she would be available to meet for lunch the next day to talk about the spare room, Hermione returned to the couch to drink with Ginny.
“Are you really okay with me and Ron breaking up?” Hermione worried her lip as Crookshanks jumped up on her lap. The cat didn’t seem to notice her anxiety at all, purring happily as she scratched him absently behind the ears.
“Of course!” Ginny leaned forward and placed a hand on Hermione’s shoulder. “I could never be mad about someone getting out of a relationship that they weren’t totally happy in. I mean, I had hoped that you two would get married and you would be my sister-in-law, but we’re still friends. We’re always going to be friends no matter what happens between you and my brother.”
Hermione’s lips lifted and she took a bracing swig of her drink. She was beginning to feel warm and light from the effects of the amber liquid. “And if I start dating someone new, will things be weird?”
Ginny’s eyes widened. “Is there someone new?”
“No!” Hermione shook her head vehemently. “Of course there isn’t. I’m not ready for anything like that. But one day I will be, and I don’t want it to be weird when I start bringing some bloke around to dinners.”
“Well, it won’t be weird for me. I’m sure Ron won’t be thrilled, but then again, eventually he’ll be dating other witches too.”
Hermione’s heart sank at the mention of Ron moving on. She logically knew that breaking up with him meant that he would one day be with someone else, but hearing the words was a completely different story. She buried her face in her hands, feeling tears threaten to fall for what must have been the tenth time that day.
“Oh, no,” Ginny gasped, moving to put her arm around her friend. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”
“No, it’s okay.” Hermione sniffed, wiping her eyes miserably. “I know that breaking up with Ron was the right thing to do. We’d run our course. We weren’t happy like we were in the beginning. But it’s still just so hard to let him go, you know?”
“Of course. It’s going to take time.”
“It’s just…” Hermione’s voice warbled before trailing off. She shook her head, wiping away fresh tears as they fell.
“What?” Ginny prodded gently.
Hermione took a shuddering breath, the fear that always lingered in the back of her mind like a parasite finally threatening to rear its ugly head.
“What if…” She hiccoughed and felt the urge to retreat but pushed forward anyway. “What if no one ever loves me the way that he did?”
As she finally vocalized her fear, a sob erupted from her throat like a cork put under too much pressure.
“What?” Ginny patted her on the back, disbelief etched in her voice. “Hermione, that’s ridiculous.”
Hermione let out a watery laugh. “I know it is. Logically, anyway. I just can’t help but be afraid.” Here, emboldened by the firewhisky, she spoke the words that she had been too afraid to say aloud. “When Ron and I started dating it felt like... destiny. We’d been friends for so long and falling in love with him was so easy. What if I never feel that way again?”
Ginny frowned and hesitated, as though she was choosing her words very carefully. “You won’t feel exactly the way you felt with Ron again. What you had was unique to the two of you. And you might never feel like another relationship is destiny.”
A fresh wave of tears welled in her eyes.
Ginny pressed on, reaching out to stroke Hermione’s hair away from her face with care. “But you will love again. And it will be new and exciting and scary in its own way. But it will be beautiful, and you will be happy.”
Hermione smiled and wiped her tears away. Ginny’s words were comforting to hear, but at this moment she couldn’t imagine a scenario where she could have such strong feelings toward another man. Perhaps it would just come with time. “Thanks, Ginny. And thanks for letting me stay here. I’m pretty tired. It’s been a very long day.”
“I’ll let you sleep. Let me know if you need anything.” Ginny stood and retreated to the bedroom, leaving Hermione alone.
The following morning, Hermione awoke to the sound of tapping on the window. Harry’s owl, Gizmo, had returned, and he had a reply from Luna clutched in his beak. The blonde’s loopy, uneven scrawl invited her to come over after lunch to see the flat. Ginny had been invited as well, but because Quidditch season was rapidly approaching, she spent her Saturdays in rigorous practices with the Holyhead Harpies.
When Hermione flooed to Luna’s flat, she was greeted with a dreamy smile and a cup of freshly-brewed tea.
As soon as Hermione emerged from the fireplace and into the living room, she fell in love with the place. The living room was spacious and impeccably decorated, clearly designed by someone with excellent taste. Despite the finery, it was still very welcoming and comfortable. The fireplace was so large that she hardly had to duck her head to step out of it. Bookshelves lined the wall on either side of the hearth. Two plush, modern couches sat symmetrically around the coffee table, and Hermione couldn’t wait to sink into one of them and devour the hundreds of books. A small corridor led away from the living room to the left, and Hermione guessed it led to the bedrooms and loo. To the right, an arched entryway led to the kitchen.
Hermione found herself staring, mouth agape at the room before her. She had known that this was Pansy’s home as well as Luna’s, but she had expected to see a bit more of Luna’s eccentric style represented. Perhaps a stuffed head hanging on the wall or bits and baubles hanging from the ceiling.
On her second sweep of the room, Hermione noted small touches here and there: a bright, patchwork quilt over the back of one of the couches, and an odd, sculptural wall hanging that looked like hammered metal curling away from a large geode in the center. It was certainly eccentric, but notably, it complemented the rest of the decor quite well.
“Hello, Hermione!” Luna chirped, rising from the couch and wrapping her arms around Hermione who still stood rooted to the spot as she took it all in.
“Hi, Luna.” Hermione shook herself out of it and grinned. “It’s so great to see you. This place is amazing.”
Luna smiled and looked around the room vacantly. “It’s very clean isn’t it? Would you like the tour?”
Hermione nodded eagerly. Luna led her to the kitchen. It was a large room with white cabinets, black granite countertops, and a spacious island with bar seating. There was also a sunny nook with a six-person kitchen table.
They moved out of the kitchen and down the little corridor.
“This is my bedroom,” Luna announced, opening the door to an enormous bedroom. It was curiously designed in a mixture of styles; it seemed that Luna hadn’t been able to make up her mind between a bohemian style and a minimalist aesthetic. The furniture was simple with clean lines and neutral tones. Surrounding it, Luna had placed a brightly coloured bedspread and a unique tapestry hung on the wall. Curious flowers that Hermione couldn’t identify grew in a small pot by the window, but it was shockingly tidy, everything in its place. It was an odd juxtaposition, but it worked somehow.
“Lovely.” Hermione offered an approving smile.
“Thank you.” Luna closed the door and led Hermione down the corridor. The bathroom was spacious and updated with plenty of room for three girls’ items. “This is Pansy’s room. She’s quite private.” Luna gestured to the door, but did not open it.
“Of course,” Hermione nodded. There really was no need to see Pansy’s room. Especially if seeing it would anger her potential future flatmate before she even moved in.
“If you choose to live here, this will be your bedroom,” said Luna, opening the door at the end of the corridor.
It was most likely the smallest bedroom, but it was still larger than the one she had shared with Ron. There was already a bed, two nightstands, a dresser, and a bookshelf. She walked around the room, examining the spacious closet before turning to Luna. “It looks great,” she said, gesturing to the lovely room. “Would you mind if I rented it? I really need to get off of Harry and Ginny’s couch, and I can’t imagine a situation much better than this.”
“I’m sorry about you and Ron. I’m sure it feels a bit like mourning a death,” Luna said bluntly, her pale eyes observing Hermione kindly.
Hermione cleared her throat, her eyes dropping to her shoes. She willed herself not to cry. In truth, Luna was right. It did feel like a death. But now was not the time to think about it. “Yes,” she clipped. “Thank you.”
Luna smiled, either ignoring or not noticing Hermione’s distress. “Are you sure you could live with Pansy? I know you two never got on in school.”
Hermione frowned, thinking of the girl who had bullied her for seven years. Pansy had been foul, yes, but after everything Hermione had been through in the war, the unkind words of her former classmates seemed very trivial.
“Maybe the three of us could get tea and see? I’m sure that if you two have been getting along, I'll be able to move past things too.”
Luna just smiled dreamily. “I’m sure you two will be very close friends if you try.”
Hermione glanced around the bedroom, trying to imagine it filled with her belongings. It seemed very foreign to her now, the idea of this being her home, but she was sure that a few books and personal touches would help.
Yes, this would do very nicely.
The Leaky Cauldron was nearly packed when Hermione arrived at noon the next day. She managed to snag a table for three and sat down to wait for Pansy and Luna. She couldn’t help the butterflies that fluttered in her stomach at the prospect of having lunch with one of her old school bullies.
It’s fine, Hermione. You’re an adult now. You’ve grown up. She probably has too.
“Granger,” a cool voice greeted her.
Hermione stood up as Pansy and Luna wove through the crowded tables and approached the table. She did her best to smile like she was reuniting with an old friend. “Hi, Pansy. Luna. Good to see you again.”
Pansy quirked a perfectly sculpted eyebrow. “It is really?”
Hermione blushed. “Yes. Well, in the interest of getting you to let me rent your spare room, yes, it’s good to see you.” Pansy smirked as the three settled at the table.
The waiter came over to take their orders. As the server walked away, Hermione observed the two witches before her; she could not think of two more different girls. Luna’s hair was piled on top of her head in a messy bun, her wand stabbing through it to hold it all in place. She was wearing a brightly coloured, floor-length sundress and an oversized sweater with too many holes in the sleeves. Her large radish earrings hung next to her pale neck.
Pansy, on the other hand, was the very definition of prim and proper. She wore neatly pressed robes of dark blue over a crisp white blouse. Her shiny, black hair fell just below her chin, perfectly styled. Her light makeup accentuated her blue eyes, and her fingernails were perfectly manicured.
She briefly wondered how two polar opposites had come to be flatmates.
“So, Pansy,” Hermione began, “what are you doing these days?”
Pansy peered at the Gryffindor witch over her teacup. “I’m a fashion designer. I’m working under Madame Bijoux now, but I’m hoping to launch my own line soon.”
“That’s wonderful.” Hermione offered a light smile, even though she didn’t have the foggiest idea who Madame Bijoux was.
“And what do you do?”
“I work at the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. I’m the first assistant to the Head of the Department.”
“And do you like it?” Pansy tilted her head slightly, as if she were genuinely curious.
Hermione blinked. It seemed so unlike the Pansy Parkinson she knew to inquire about her job satisfaction. “It’s… not where I want to be in the long run. But I think it’s a good step towards that place.”
“And where is that?” Pansy inquired, bringing her cup to her lips. Before Hermione had the chance to answer, the waiter delivered their meals.
“I would like to be in a position where I can change and propose legislation,” Hermione explained between bites of shepherd’s pie. “There are many laws in place which are discriminatory towards magical creatures. Werewolves, goblins, centaurs, house-elves; they are all horribly marginalised. I would like to be able to do something to help.”
Pansy smiled, scratching her nose with one red fingernail before taking a sip of water. “Well, I can’t say I’m surprised. Hermione Granger, champion of the downtrodden. Didn’t you have some kind of house-elf liberation club while we were in school?”
Hermione laughed. “Well, can you really call it a club if I was the only real member? I’m surprised you remember that.”
“Well, you were pretty obnoxious about it. Putting signs up everywhere and jabbering on about it to anyone who could hear you.” Pansy chuckled, and Hermione felt her reassurance settle in her chest.
“Yes, well, I didn’t go about it in the best way I suppose. But I still stand by those beliefs.”
Pansy just smiled and took a bite of her salad.
“Hermione stopped by the flat yesterday.” Luna’s dreamy voice wafted over the table.
“Yes.” Hermione nodded. “It’s a beautiful place you’ve put together. You clearly have impeccable taste.”
Pansy hummed in assent. “The lease was transferred to me by my aunt. She used to love the city, but after she turned sixty she decided to move to the country for a quieter life.” She smirked and then leaned in conspiratorially. “Which, of course, really means that she had a contentious divorce and then found a lover twenty years her junior in Sussex.”
Hermione choked on her tea. “Oh,” she spluttered as she attempted to not snort in public. Was Pansy actually gossiping with her like they were old friends? Clearing her throat, Hermione tried to keep a straight face. “Well, aren’t you lucky to have benefitted from her flight of fancy?”
Pansy grinned. “Indeed.” She wiped the corner of her mouth with her napkin. “So, when did you want to move in?”
Hermione’s eyes widened. “You mean…?”
“The room is yours if you want it.”
“Really?” Hermione’s heart swelled, and words began to pour out of her. “Thank you! Er, I have a cat, you know. He’s very well behaved, and I would of course clean up after him, but I understand if—”
Pansy waved one of her hands dismissively. “Cats have never bothered me. Luna?” She turned to seek the approval of her flatmate.
Luna nodded, her eyes bright. “Cats can be very good luck. They were worshiped in ancient Egypt, you know.”
“Yes, that’s true,” Hermione said cautiously. “Are you sure?”
“Yes, of course! Luna told me you’re going through a break up. We’ve all been there. It’s the worst. The room is yours.”
Hermione grinned and sighed, slumping into her chair slightly. “Thank you so much, Pansy. Should we talk about any flat rules or expectations?”
Pansy set down her tea cup. “The rent is eighty-five galleons a month. You’ll give it to me, and I’ll get it to the landlady. As far as expectations, I guess just the usual. Clean up after yourself in the common areas and knock before coming into any closed doors. Just common courtesy.”
Hermione nodded. “Of course. I really appreciate this, Pansy. Sleeping on Harry and Ginny’s couch—it’s not exactly a long term solution.”
“Don’t mention it. I’m sure you’ll be an exemplary flatmate.”
The tight coil of anxiety that had been in Hermione’s stomach since she and Ron had split loosened slightly. “Is tomorrow too soon to move in? I can come over straight after work.”
“That’s fine. We’ll have a key made for you and alter the wards for you to Floo in any time you want.”
“I really appreciate it. The past few days…” She trailed off as tears pricked at her eyes and cleared her throat to dispel them. “Well, it’s been rough.”
Pansy smiled kindly. “I can imagine. I wouldn’t want to live on Harry Potter’s couch either.”
Hermione moved in the following day. She spent every evening that week in her new bedroom, unpacking and organising her belongings. She stayed out of the common areas of the flat as much as she could. It didn’t feel like home to her yet, and she didn’t want to step on Pansy's and Luna’s toes. By Thursday evening, Pansy came knocking.
“Did I actually get a new flatmate? We haven’t seen you all week,” she chastised through the closed bedroom door.
Hermione greeted her with an apologetic smile. “Hi, sorry. I’ve just been unpacking.”
Pansy looked past her shoulder. Hermione knew her freshly unpacked room to be spotless. Every item had a place, tucked away neatly and out of sight. In fact, the only signs that anyone was living there were the steaming cup of tea on the nightstand and the open book on the bed.
Pansy raised an eyebrow with a smirk as she took it all in. “Looks like you’re done unpacking. Come on. Have a glass of wine with me and Luna. There’s a lovely living room out here, Granger, though it seems you’ve never seen it.”
Hermione blushed and nodded, following just behind Pansy. As she sank onto the sofa, Luna handed her a glass of red wine. Pansy sat in a plush armchair and picked up her own glass, sipping from it delicately and eyeing Hermione.
“How has your week been?” Pansy pressed her lips to the rim of her glass.
“It’s been an adjustment,” Hermione admitted. “I keep finding myself avoiding certain areas of the Ministry to keep from running into Ron.”
“Was it that bad of a break up?” Luna inquired, sipping from a glass of something other than wine. It was cloudy and pink and smelled strongly of liquor and strawberries.
“No, it was quite amicable. But we agreed that it would be best if we didn’t see each other for a while.”
“It can be so hard to go back to being friends after a break up,” commiserated Pansy. “It’s definitely possible, but it takes hard work.”
Hermione nodded and took a sip of wine. “That’s definitely my hope. We were such good friends before. I know it will never be like it was, but I do hope that we can stay friends.”
“And how’s work?” Luna asked, pulling her legs up underneath her.
Hermione sighed. “It’s… fine.”
Pansy lifted an eyebrow. “Fine?”
Hermione thought about how she’d spent the day following behind Billings as she attended several meetings. The meetings had been interesting in Hermione’s mind, but it had been maddening to be unable to contribute, and several of Billings’ decisions had made Hermione want to rip her hair out.
“Do you remember how Filch used to follow around Umbridge?” she asked, running one finger around the rim of her wine glass.
Pansy and Luna nodded.
Pansy let out a loud blast of a laugh.
Luna smiled and reached out to pat Hermione’s knee gently. “I don’t think so, Hermione. Your bone structure is much more attractive than Filch’s.” Her head cocked to the side thoughtfully. “Although you do have a cat…”
Though Hermione suspected that Luna hadn’t intended for the comment to be a joke, she found herself fighting back tears of mirth with Pansy.
Hermione woke up early on Saturday morning. The flat was still quiet as she donned her thin, cotton robe over her pajamas and made her way to the kitchen. She started the kettle and put some bread in the toaster. Flipping through The Daily Prophet, she waited for the water to boil.
After a couple of minutes, she heard one of the bedroom doors open. Looking up, she expected to see Pansy or Luna approaching the kitchen. Who she certainly was not expecting was the tall, shirtless form of Draco Malfoy making his way through the living room with a yawn.
Hermione’s heart quickened. Her throat went dry, and her tongue felt momentarily stupefied. She had not seen Draco Malfoy in person since the war had ended. He was one of the people who she would have been all-too-happy to leave in her past. Perhaps she should have expected to run into him when she moved in with Pansy, but she had just been so relieved to have a place to live that she had forgotten how close the two Slytherins had been in school.
As he walked through the archway and into the kitchen, he spotted her and stumbled to a halt abruptly, looking around the room in confusion. “Am I in the wrong bloody flat?” he grumbled, his brow furrowing.
Hermione blinked, her lips twitching at Malfoy’s surprising discomfort. “I moved in with Pansy and Luna on Monday,” she replied as her toast popped. She turned to retrieve it as Malfoy flicked his wand toward the coffee maker to start it up.
“Weird,” he commented, moving past her to retrieve a mug. As he went, he took one of the pieces of toast off her plate.
“Excuse you,” Hermione chastised.
He just grinned over his shoulder and took a bite, wrinkling his nose. “Got any jam?”
Hermione scowled. “Get it yourself, thief.”
“Lighten up, Granger. It’s just toast.” That familiar smirk was splashed across his smug face.
Hermione just grimaced and buttered the piece of toast he hadn’t taken.
“It is still Granger, right?”
Hermione glanced at him; he was peering into the open refrigerator, bent at the waist to look for the jam. His backside was toward her, his pajama trousers very low on his hip bones. His back was pale and toned. She fought the ire bubbling up in her stomach, reminding herself that he hadn’t known that she would be there, and Luna and Pansy were probably very used to seeing his thin morning attire. She averted her eyes and returned to the toast. “It will always be Granger,” she replied evenly.
Malfoy straightened up, jam in hand and turned back to her. “Oh, come now. No need to be so negative. You may find your prince charming yet.” He raised his eyebrows in her direction, his tone like that of someone who was trying to comfort a toddler.
Hermione let out a frustrated laugh, averting her eyes away from his muscular torso. “I didn’t mean—I meant that I’ll never change my name regardless of my marital status.”
“How very modern of you,” Malfoy droned, taking another bite from his stolen toast.
The kettle began to wail, and Hermione removed it from the stove, pouring the water into her prepared teacup.
Pansy shuffled into the room and cast her dark eyes on Malfoy. “Hello, darling,” she greeted with a cheeky grin. She yawned as she made her way around the kitchen island to place a kiss on his cheekbone.
“Morning, dear,” he replied with a smirk, his silver eyes flickering to Hermione over the top of Pansy’s head.
Hermione turned away, resolutely keeping her eyes on her toast and tea. She wished that Luna had warned her that Pansy’s boyfriend would be over often. She was doing well with the break up, all things considered, but that didn’t mean that she needed to be subjected to Malfoy's and Pansy’s pet names and kisses in the mornings.
“How was the pub last night?” Pansy asked as she levitated four eggs over the pan. With a wave of her wand they cracked, their contents plopping into the pan. Another wave turned the heat on and set a spatula to stir the eggs gently.
Malfoy shrugged. “Blaise went home with Astoria.”
“Again?” Pansy sighed with an exasperated roll of her eyes. “Those two are so toxic.”
Deciding that the kitchen was getting a bit too crowded, Hermione folded the paper under her arm and picked up her plate and cup, making her way toward the table. Pansy and Malfoy chatted about their mutual friends’ love lives as Hermione flipped through the paper. After a few minutes, Luna entered the room, her blonde locks wild on her head. “Good morning,” she sighed dreamily.
“Morning, Luna,” Hermione greeted, glancing up from an article about the repatriation of hinkypunks.
“Eggs, Luna?” she heard Pansy offer.
Hermione was still getting used to the easy friendship that Luna and Pansy had developed. It was so odd to see Pansy genuinely smile. The former Slytherin grinned at the blonde as she put some scrambled eggs on a plate for her. “Granger, eggs?”
Hermione jolted at the sound of her name. “Oh, no, thank you.”
“So, Granger,” Malfoy drawled, “what do you do these days?”
Hermione looked up from the paper. “I’m the assistant to Mildred Billings, the Head of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.”
“Assistant?” parroted Malfoy. “So you get her coffee and run her errands for her?”
Hermione blushed crimson. “I assist her in meetings and her day-to-day activities.”
Malfoy nodded and took a sip of his coffee. “But you also get her coffee and run her errands.” It wasn’t a question, and Hermione blushed deeper still.
“Well, what do you do?” Hermione snapped.
Malfoy scoffed haughtily. “Haven’t heard of Malfoy Enterprises? We’re on the cutting edge of the latest magical innovations. We’re actually hoping to partner with the DMLE on how to increase security and protection for Aurors.”
Hermione seethed. Of course he had a big, important job while she was fetching coffee for the world’s most demanding woman.
“I suppose you used your daddy’s money to start that up,” Hermione sneered.
Malfoy frowned, his playful eyes darkening. “Family money, yes.”
“How easy it must have been for you then,” Hermione goaded.
“Only an idiot would deny his own privilege. At least I’m using mine to try to do something good in the world,” he spat coldly. “At least I’m not sitting at the Manor every day getting drunk on thousand galleon whisky and masturbating onto a pile of gold.”
Hermione wrinkled her nose at his crass words and turned away.
“We actually have a meeting with the Auror department this week. I might even see dear Potter and Weaselby.”
Hermione’s heart twisted painfully at the mention of Ron, and she turned the page of the paper to avoid looking at Malfoy’s smug face. “I’m sure they’ll both be so delighted to see you again.” She made sure to make her tone extra sarcastic.
She could feel Malfoy’s eyes on her for a moment after her glib remark. “You know, I might just save their lives. Our research team has been making some interesting strides when it comes to protective clothing. Luna, are you sure you still don’t want to join the research team?” Malfoy tipped his head in her direction. “We could use someone like you.”
Hermione looked up sharply. Malfoy wanted to hire Luna? How was Luna so friendly with these Slytherins? And why were they so friendly to her?
“Draco,” Pansy hissed with a pointed look.
“No, thank you. I don’t want to do that many experiments,” Luna answered politely. “Besides, I’m quite happy working as a Magizoologist. Rolf has taught me so much.”
“Well, let me know if you ever change your mind.” He and Pansy fell back into conversation, and he reached his arms high over his head, stretching with a groan. Hermione caught herself reluctantly staring at the muscular V shape at his hips which accentuated a thin line of light hair leading down from his belly button into the waistband of his trousers.
Hermione tore her eyes away from him with a grimace, choosing to face Luna instead. “Does he always walk around like that in the morning?” Hermione whispered.
Luna chuckled quietly. “Honestly, you’re lucky he put on trousers.”
Hermione’s mouth curled in distaste. She supposed she had better get used to Draco Malfoy being around.
“Well, I better get going. I’m meeting Blaise for lunch and I desperately need a shower,” Malfoy said, placing his dishes in the sink and casting a spell to start their cleaning. The scrub brush sprang to life and began to wash.
“You know you’re always welcome to shower here,” Pansy offered.
“I know, but I think Granger is uncomfortable.” He smirked at Hermione, and she scoffed in return.
“See you later,” Malfoy sang. He retreated to Pansy’s bedroom for a few moments before returning fully dressed. With a final wave at the trio of witches, he cast some Floo powder into the fireplace and disappeared.
“Sorry about that,” said Pansy as she joined Hermione and Luna at the table. “I know you two don’t get along.”
“I’m fine,” Hermione assured her. And she really meant it. “I’ve been through too much to let Draco Malfoy get under my skin anymore.” She hadn’t meant to, but she’d spat his name with a bit too much disdain. “Sorry,” she squeaked, backtracking a bit.
Pansy tossed her head back with a laugh. “Don’t apologise to me. I know exactly how much of a prat he can be. I can tell him to come over less if you’d like.”
Hermione shook her head. “No, don’t be silly! I don’t want my living here to change things for you at all. I’m fine.”
It occurred to her that by saying “I’m fine” a second time, she had made herself sound like she was anything but fine. She cursed herself internally.
As Pansy and Luna fell into easy conversation together, Hermione sipped from her coffee and flipped through the paper, not really retaining anything about the hinkypunks. She thought back on all the lazy Saturday mornings she and Ron had spent together over the years. How just a couple weeks ago, that’s exactly what she had been doing. And now… How different her life had become. From breakfast in bed with Ron and hours of talking and cuddling to enduring Draco Malfoy’s presence and feeling like an outsider in this confusing circle of friends.
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In Hermione's experience, the focus and sympathy of break-ups tended to centre solely on the person being left behind and their struggles to move forward. Rarely acknowledged were the troubles faced by the person who did the leaving. And although Hermione's split with Ron had been very amicable, she was certainly the one who had initiated it. Shock had covered his face when she first admitted her insecurities about their relationship—that it had run its course. But after a long and painful conversation, he had arrived at the same conclusion: they’d long since lost the romance and were only together out of habit more than anything else.
Although it had been Hermione’s decision to end things, that didn’t mean that she was immune to the sting of lost love. She cried every day for a week after moving out of Ron’s flat. As she unpacked, she found a few of his socks mixed in with hers. There were a few missing things that she was sure were back at their— his place, but she wasn’t sure she was ready to go back to get them. She tucked the socks aside for a time when she could stomach the idea of facing him.
During the second week following their break-up, she caught a glimpse of red hair in the Ministry atrium and felt her heart jump into her throat, immediately looking for a place to hide before realising that it was just Percy. The next day, she stayed an hour late to avoid running into Ron as he left the DMLE.
Hermione knew the best thing for her during such a challenging time would be to throw herself into her work, but it seemed that Billings was determined to keep Hermione’s duties as mundane as possible. On the Thursday of her second week as a single witch, Hermione spent three hours in an extremely dull meeting about Flobberworm farming regulations, and the next day she did nothing at all. Billings spent the entire day holed up in her office, leaving Hermione at her desk just outside the door, trying to look busy and not think of Ron.
By Friday evening, Hermione was eager to spend a relaxing evening with Ginny. She arrived at her friend's flat after work with a bottle of wine and a full bag of takeaway Chinese food.
“Where’s Harry?” asked Hermione as she sat down on the couch.
“He’s on duty tonight,” Ginny called from the kitchen. She returned to the living room a moment later with two plates and two wine glasses. “He should be home around eleven.”
“Is it hard? Dealing with his schedule?”
Ginny shrugged, reaching for the container of dumplings. “A bit. It’s the danger that concerns me more. But I always remind myself that if Voldemort couldn’t do him in, he’s got pretty good chances against wizards who are no more competent than Mundungus Fletcher.”
Hermione nodded, thinking of how much she worried about Harry and Ron. It was a very dangerous career, after all. When she thought about Aurors, Mad-Eye Moody came to mind. He had been one of the most vigilant and skilled wizards she’d ever met, and he’d lost so many pieces of himself that it sent him into early retirement and earned him a very apt nickname. And no one knew more than Hermione did just how much help Harry and Ron had needed to defeat Voldemort in the end. She chose not to mention this to Ginny and instead poured herself a glass of wine.
“So, how are you doing?” Ginny asked as she prepared a plate of rice, vegetables, and orange chicken for herself.
“Fine,” Hermione lied. “Work is… work. But I’m settling into the new apartment. I like it a lot. Except…”
Ginny raised her eyebrows. “Except?”
“Pansy and Luna are… weird. Maybe I’m just not used to it, but I can’t figure out how their relationship changed so drastically.”
“Really? You think it’s weird?” Ginny paused to take a sip of her wine. “I think it’s kind of sweet. And they were never really enemies in school. I feel like they mostly just ignored each other.”
“That’s true. I’m sure I’ll get used to it. It’s just a little jarring.”
Ginny gave her a curious look for a moment before shrugging and taking a bite.
“Oh, and Malfoy comes over sometimes.”
Ginny swallowed thickly. “Draco Malfoy?”
“No, his mother,” Hermione droned. “Of course, Draco Malfoy.”
Ginny laughed. “Well, are you really surprised? I mean, you knew he and Pansy were close through school.”
“Honestly, I didn’t really think about it at all until he came out of Pansy’s room for breakfast last Saturday morning shirtless.”
“Ooh, go on!” Ginny smirked, waggling her eyebrows.
“Well, I always thought Malfoy was rather fit.” Ginny pointed a stern finger at Hermione. “And if you tell Harry that, I will murder you.”
Laughing, Hermione felt her cheeks heat. “Well, sure, he’s rather fit, but—”
“Blah blah blah, I know. You’re going to say it’s too soon. But the point is, Hermione, that you should feel free to look when fit men walk through your kitchen without shirts.”
Hermione swallowed and took a sip of her wine to hide her discomfort.
Ginny’s cheeks turned pink. “Hermione, you’ve never been with anyone other than Ron, have you?”
Clearing her throat and shifting in her seat, Hermione shook her head. “Erm, no.”
“And when was the last time you… er… explored your inner sexual goddess?”
Hermione laughed. “Well, Ron and I probably—”
“No, not with Ron,” Ginny interrupted, wrinkling her nose. “By yourself.”
Hermione’s cheeks burned, and she looked down at her hands. “Oh—er—no… I haven’t…”
Ginny stood so abruptly that Hermione jumped slightly. The redhead disappeared into the bedroom and reemerged a moment later holding a book. “You need to rediscover your sexuality as a strong, independent woman.”
Ginny shoved the book into Hermione’s hands. “You like books so much. Read this.”
Hermione stared at the book. The cover was… practically obscene. There was a shirtless man holding a woman close to his chest. Her head was thrown back in ecstasy and her breasts were heaving out of her corset and chemise. She wrinkled her nose as she noticed the title. “The Burning Within? No. Ginny, I’m not going to read one of these books,” she scoffed, thrusting the book back toward her friend.
“I’m not saying it’s a great work of literature. You’re not going to get any intellectual stimulation from it. But it’s other kinds of stimulation that you should be more concerned with right now.” Ginny winked at her, and Hermione felt her cheeks burn hotter than ever.
“Ugh, Ginny! I don’t want to talk about this with you!” She buried her face in her hands.
“Why not? Listen, Hermione, you dated my brother for three years, so we could never talk about this kind of thing. But now you’re single! From this point forward, I want to know everything.”
“Don’t you think that’s a little hypocritical? I mean, I don’t know everything about you and Harry.”
“Do you want to? I’ll tell you! Like this morning, Harry woke me up by—”
Hermione let out a little scream and clapped her hands over her ears. “Ah! I don’t want to know!”
Ginny just laughed and placed the book in Hermione’s lap. “Just trust me. Read it, drink some wine, and let yourself… enjoy.”
Hermione groaned and rolled her eyes but picked up the book. “Fine. I’ll read it. Happy?”
Ginny just grinned and took a sip of her wine.
When Hermione got home late that evening, slightly tipsy from several glasses of wine, she stumbled straight to her room and flopped onto the mattress. The book was in her hands, and she eyed it thoughtfully for a moment before shoving it into a drawer in her bedside table. She wondered how long she could put off reading it before Ginny found some way to force her.
Hermione heaved a sigh.
Was this what life as a single witch was going to be like? Reading smutty books to stave off the loneliness that crept in at night? She thought of Ron and felt her chest tighten. How could she even think of anything remotely sexy so soon after the breakup? Surely it was normal to have a mourning period.
Determined to forget the book, Hermione undressed and crawled under the covers, dousing the lights for a fitful night of sleep.
A week later, Hermione woke gasping late in the night, bolting upright in bed and clutching at her heart. It took her several minutes to slow her breathing and get her heartbeat to return to a normal rate.
Ever since the breakup, Hermione had been plagued by vivid nightmares from the war that she’d thought were a thing of the past. It turned out that having Ron’s warm body next to her had been more comforting than she’d ever realised. But now, in a cold bed all alone, the nightmares had returned in full force.
For several days after her dinner with Ginny, Hermione woke in the middle of the night with visions of Bellatrix’s sneering face looming over her. Even worse, Ron featured heavily in these dreams now. Nearly every time, she lost him in one way or another. He’d be holding her in his long, freckled arms one moment, and then the next he’d be ripped away from her by a shadowy force. Or she’d reach out to him, fingers stretching into the darkness, but he would turn away from her, leaving her frightfully alone.
Hermione flopped back down and pressed her palms into her face. She wondered how long it would be before she felt like herself again.
Realising that sleep would elude her tonight, Hermione stood up and turned on her light. Ginny had been pestering her to read the book she’d let her borrow and frankly, Hermione could use the distraction. Snatching the book off of her nightstand, Hermione left her room and headed to the kitchen. She poured herself a large glass of wine, drank the whole thing standing at the counter, poured another, and then settled in the living room. She lit a fire and opened the book.
After an hour of reading, Hermione concluded that this was not the type of book for her. It was a romance, and while there was certainly nothing wrong with romance novels, it was not her usual preferred genre. The story was poorly thought out, and it relied too heavily on love scenes for her liking, but she couldn’t deny that many of the scenes were very hot.
The one she was reading now, however, was not one of those scenes. The romantic leads were just talking. Talking. And it wasn’t even well written! One of the characters had actually just said to the other one "You complete me."
Hermione groaned aloud and rolled her eyes.
“Troubling book, Granger?”
Hermione jumped and wheeled around in her seat to see Malfoy walking out of Pansy’s room. “Malfoy,” she panted, her heart racing, “you scared me.”
He smirked and sank into a dramatic bow. “A thousand apologies, milady.” He crossed through the living room and into the kitchen, reemerging a moment later with a bottle of firewhisky and a glass. He sat down in the chair adjacent to her, pouring the amber liquid into the glass before taking a long swig.
It had been several days since she’d seen Malfoy. Although they hadn’t spoken much since the morning he stole her toast, she saw him around the flat now and then. Sometimes he came over for dinner or hung around with Pansy and Luna in the evenings. Whenever that happened, Hermione did her best to avoid him. Not that it was hard to do. She often brought piles of work home with her and spent time holed up in her room instead of out with the group.
It was harder to avoid him when he stayed for breakfast. Malfoy had been civil with her—even pleasant at times—but she always did her best to keep her head down and eat quickly, her face buried behind the newspaper.
But now they faced each other in the middle of the night. There was nowhere for her to run off to. No place to hide.
Malfoy’s silver eyes settled on the book, and a slow smirk spread over his face. “Well, well, well. Look what we have here. Miss Granger, is that a dirty book?” He leaned forward and plucked it from her grasp.
“Malfoy,” Hermione whined, stretching out to try to snag the book from his fingers. He just pulled it away beyond her reach. “Give it back.”
“I never would have thought that you would be reading a book like this.” He examined the cover, eyes widening with amusement at the steamy photo and title.
“I’m not.” Hermione rolled her eyes.
“Oh?” Malfoy raised a pale eyebrow. “My mistake. I must have been confused by the fact that you were sitting here reading page… one hundred and thirty two.”
“I mean, I was reading it, but it isn’t my book. Ginny told me to read it. It is… not my kind of book at all.”
“Of course Hermione Granger, swot extraordinaire, wouldn’t be interested in erotica of any kind.” Malfoy rolled his eyes, tossing the book back to her. Hermione blushed crimson, closing the book and setting it face down in her lap.
“I just tend to go for books with a bit more… substance.”
Malfoy nodded, taking another sip of his firewhisky. “And the photo of the lady on the cover with her tits practically out... that’s not substantial enough for you?”
Hermione blushed and scowled at his crass words. “Not particularly, no.”
Malfoy grinned and sat back in his chair. “Read me a bit,” he requested in a tone so casual it made a shiver run up Hermione’s spine.
Hermione blinked and drew back. “ Excuse me? I am not going to—”
“If it’s so ridiculous, then read a bit to me.”
“Read it yourself if you’re so curious!” Hermione snapped, tossing the book to him.
“I want to hear you read it,” Malfoy countered, throwing the book back.
Malfoy shrugged. “Why not read smut to an old school enemy who shares your hatred of literary rubbish?”
“Come on.” Malfoy rolled his eyes and shifted a little closer, a smirk on his face. “This isn’t some weird fetish for me, Granger. I just think it’ll be a laugh. You seem like you could use one.”
Hermione bit her lip. She did find the book funny. Why was she so embarrassed? It wasn’t like she had written the book. She wasn’t even the one who had bought it. Summoning all of her Gryffindor courage, she opened the book to the passage she had been reading when Malfoy had walked in. “I’m warning you,” she said, peering at the blond wizard over the top of the book. “It’s terrible.”
He grinned, tumbler pressed to his lips. “Oh, I’m counting on it.”
Hermione suppressed a blush and cleared her throat. “Scarlet looked at Salvador, her bosom heaving. ”
Malfoy was already laughing. “Scarlet and Salvador? Really?”
“You think I’m lying to you? Look!” She laughed, holding the book out for him to see.
He waved his hand for her to continue reading.
“‘I waited three years for you,’ Salvador said, his eyes filled with heat as he looked into hers. ‘I missed you every day,’ she sighed in response. In a flash, he stepped towards her, his strong arms reaching out and encircling her waist.”
Hermione looked up from the book, grimacing. “This is ridiculous.”
“Yes, it is,” Malfoy said with a wolfish grin. “Keep going.”
Hermione’s heart thudded in her chest as she tore her eyes away from his and looked back to the book. “He pulled her in until her chest was pressed against his. And then his lips were on hers, his tongue delving into her mouth. Her knees felt weak, but he held her waist tightly.’”
“Do women really get weak in the knees?” Malfoy chuckled.
Hermione scowled. “Rarely.” She thought of Ron. Her knees had always remained firm in his presence. Deftly keeping her eyes away from Malfoy, she continued reading.
“The kiss deepened, and their tongues battled for dominance.”
Malfoy threw his head back with a laugh. “Shut up, battled for dominance? Has the author ever actually kissed a human person?”
Hermione grinned. “It seems unlikely.”
She continued, “With a great tug, Salvador ripped Scarlet’s bodice open, her heaving breasts breaking free. She gasped and looked up at him, relishing the look of desire in his dark eyes. Feeling bold now, she threw her arms around his neck, her breasts pressing against his chest.”
Hermione felt her cheeks heating, and she didn’t dare look at Malfoy, but something kept her reading.
“Salvador’s strong arms encircled her tiny waist, and he lifted her with ease to carry her to the bed. He placed her with care on the plush blankets and stood back, frantically pulling his shirt free from the waistband of his trousers. Scarlet carefully untied the remaining laces of her bodice and quietly shed the garment from her body. Salvador was removing his shirt as well, and Scarlet took her time to admire the rippling muscles of his chest and arms. Sitting up, she reached out, her fingers brushing over the chiseled lines of his eight-pack abs before reaching for his trousers.”
Hermione cleared her throat and reached for her glass of wine, still avoiding Malfoy’s gaze. She could feel his eyes on her but refused to take her eyes off the book. This had to be one of the most humiliating moments of her life. Every inch of her burned with something akin to shame; she was almost itching with it. And while she enjoyed sharing a laugh at the book’s expense, it was something she might have enjoyed more with Ginny or Luna. Or hell, even Pansy. But reading this with Malfoy? There was still a part of her that couldn’t believe that she was doing this. After taking a large gulp of the wine, she set down her glass and forged on.
“His manhood sprung free, and it was everything she hoped it would be. Long, hard, strong.”
Hermione cleared her throat again, her face impossibly hot. She pulled her hair over one shoulder to get it off her neck, and her eyes flicked to Malfoy. He was staring at her intently, long fingers gripping his whisky glass. Turning back to the book, she desperately tried to think about the words on the page and not about his manhood.
“With tentative hands, Scarlet reached forward and stroked it gently. Salvador smiled at her and climbed onto the bed to lean over her. His large hands pushed up the many layers of her skirt and petticoat to expose her molten core. Sure fingers grazed her slickened folds, making her shiver. ‘Please,’ she breathed, her body keening with his touch.”
Neither of them were laughing now. The silence hung heavy between them as she paused to wipe her sweaty palms on the thighs of her pyjama bottoms.
“He smiled and stroked his cock against her entrance before pushing into her in one long stroke. Scarlet had never felt pleasure like this before. As he pumped in and out of her, she felt herself climbing to a great precipice. At long last, something within her gave way, and she felt a great flood of bliss spread throughout her body. With a throaty sigh, Salvador found his own release as well and collapsed next to her, still holding her close.”
Hermione closed her mouth tightly, finally chancing a longer glance at Malfoy. His expression was unreadable, but his cheeks were somewhat pink and his eyes were fixed on hers. “That’s... That’s the end of the chapter,” said Hermione, closing the book and setting it on the coffee table. “Obviously it’s not great literature. The words are repetitive, the sentence structure is abysmal, and it’s riddled with horrible clichés.”
Malfoy cleared his throat and finally broke his gaze. “Yeah. Awful writing, really.”
“I’m only reading it because Ginny recommended it. I think she’s worried that I’ll become an old maid and will need books like this for company.”
“Well, if these kinds of books will be your only company, I think you’ll be very unsatisfied for the rest of your life.” He stood and flashed her his signature smirk. “At least from a literary point of view.”
Hermione felt her cheeks heat again at the insinuation.
“Thanks, Granger. That was very… illuminating.” He winked at her before turning and disappearing into Pansy’s room, the door closing behind him with a click.
Hermione sank back into her chair with a sigh. Her heart was pounding, her cheeks flushed with embarrassment. Had she really just done that? Read an absolutely horrific romance novel aloud to Draco Malfoy? She buried her face in a sofa pillow and fought the urge to scream.
Perhaps she was mistaken, but it had seemed a bit like Malfoy had been rather… hot and bothered after the passage. Hermione tried to ignore the possible moral issues of reading smut to another woman’s boyfriend. Did it really matter if he’d been turned on by it? Surely it was the passage that had been arousing, not Hermione. Besides, he’d returned to Pansy’s room immediately afterwards. For all Hermione knew, he’d woken her up to satisfy his lust.
Feeling more alone than ever, Hermione doused the fire and returned to her bedroom. She put the book in her bedside table drawer and crawled into bed. Had she crossed a line by reading the book to Malfoy? Logic told her that she hadn’t, but the aching feeling between her legs seemed to disagree.
With a frustrated groan, she turned off her lamp and buried her face in her pillow, determined to ignore the longing she was feeling that definitely did not have anything to do with Malfoy.
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When Hermione woke up the next morning and emerged from her room to make breakfast, Malfoy was mercifully absent. She had spent the better part of the night tossing and turning, her stomach roiling with shame and guilt. It was late and Hermione had plans to meet Harry in just over an hour, so she decided to forego breakfast and just have a cuppa instead.
“Plans today, Granger?” Pansy asked as Hermione filled the kettle and set it on the stove.
“Er… yes, actually. Harry and I are getting lunch.” She sat down across from Pansy while she waited for the water to boil.
“I was hoping you might come shopping with me and Luna.”
Hermione blinked, surprised by the offer. She couldn’t imagine how odd it would be to shop with Luna and Pansy. Could they even agree on stores to go into together? They were so… different. “Ah, well perhaps next time. Thank you for inviting me.”
“Yes. Next time.” Luna smiled and placed a gentle hand on Pansy’s forearm for a moment before retracting it to pick up her fork. The blonde skewered a bit of sausage and nibbled on it as her blue eyes danced around the room as if following invisible pixies.
After finishing her tea and chatting with Pansy and Luna, Hermione excused herself to take a quick shower.
Harry arrived through the Floo promptly at noon. As he brushed soot from his trousers, his eyes went wide as they took in the spacious living room.
“Harry!” Hermione stood from the couch to wrap her arms around his neck.
“This place is incredible,” he said in awe.
“I know. I can’t believe how inexpensive it is too. Pansy’s very lucky to be able to rent from her aunt.”
“Are she and Luna here?” Harry glanced around as if expecting Pansy to pop out from behind one of the couches at any moment.
“No, they left a few minutes ago. Shall we go? I’m starving.”
Harry craned his neck one way to look down the corridor and the other to peek into the kitchen. “Yeah, sure.”
Hermione scooped up her bag and wand and grabbed his arm to direct him back towards the Floo.
“How many square feet is this place?”
Hermione laughed. “I’ve no idea. Diagon Alley.”
In a swirl of green flames, they were whisked away.
As they settled at a small table in the back of the Leaky Cauldron, Hermione asked the question that she’d been holding back since Harry had walked through the Floo.
Harry cleared his throat. “Oh, you know. Good days and bad, I suppose.”
Hermione frowned and busied herself by staring at the menu.
“He’s quiet most days,” Harry continued. “Really focused on his work. He’s been taking extra shifts.”
Suddenly concerned, Hermione looked up sharply. “He’s not working too much, is he? I mean, he’s being safe, right?”
“Of course.” Harry reached across the table and placed his hand over hers. “I would never let him go into the field when he wasn’t in the mental state to handle it. I’ve made sure he’s getting plenty of time off to rest too.”
Hermione let out a little sigh of relief.
“He’s doing alright, Hermione,” Harry assured her. “All things considered. Hasn’t talked much about it to be honest, but you know how Ron is.”
She did know. He had the emotional range of a teaspoon afterall. In the years that they dated, she’d discovered that he felt the emotions very deeply, he just didn’t always express them. She’d learned to read him though. A quiet Ron usually meant a troubled Ron.
“How are you doing?” Harry asked after they’d ordered their drinks and food.
“It’s been… weird,” she admitted. “I miss him. And work hasn’t been as much of a distraction as I’d hoped it would be. Billings is driving me mental.”
“Still shooting down your ideas?”
Hermione nodded, grumbling miserably. She avoided his eyes by straightening her spoon next to the knife, but she could feel his eyes watching her, taking in her slumped shoulders and downcast eyes.
“How is it living with Luna and Pansy?”
“Oh, it’s been fine. I was a bit worried about living with Pansy, but she’s actually been fairly nice.”
“Have you figured out how they came to live together?”
“No!” Hermione said, exasperated. “But they’re such an odd pair, right? And they seem close too! It’s not like they’re just roommates; they’re actually friends! Today they were going shopping together.”
Harry nodded. “They’re so different. But Luna definitely has a way of worming her way into your heart.”
“That’s true.” Hermione shrugged. “I’m sure I’ll get used to them, but right now it’s just so surprising to see the way they act around each other.”
“Ginny told me that you said Malfoy has been around a bit.”
Hermione’s cheeks flamed. Mercifully, Tom arrived with their drinks and provided a decent distraction from her humiliating memories of the previous evening.
“Er… yes,” Hermione said as Tom hobbled away. “He’s been around some.”
“Has he given you any trouble? You know, I could have him arrested.”
Hermione laughed. “He’s been civil. Thank you though. I’ll keep that in mind if he starts to irk me.”
Harry shrugged and picked up his butterbeer. “I suppose he and Pansy are still dating.”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
Harry frowned as he took a sip of the frothy beverage. “Well, as long as he isn’t being a prat to you, I suppose it’s not the end of the world if he’s there every now and then.”
“He mentioned that he had a meeting with the Auror Department last week. Were you part of it?”
With a grimace, Harry nodded. “I was. I hate to admit it, but the smug prat actually has some good ideas. I can’t talk about it too much, but some of the protective gear his firm has designed is pretty incredible.”
“Well, I’m glad you all will be better protected in the field, but I kind of hate that it’s thanks to Malfoy.”
Harry laughed as Tom set their meals in front of them. “Couldn’t agree more.”
Malfoy was around the flat more that week. He was there nearly every evening when Hermione arrived home from work with aching feet and a weary soul. On Wednesday, he greeted her with a smug smirk just as he had every day so far.
“Did you have a nice day at work?” He sent her a taunting grin as she brushed off her robes. “Changing the world one cup of coffee at a time?”
“Piss off,” she grumbled, stalking to her bedroom and shutting the door with a snap.
She knew she shouldn’t snap at him over harmless teasing. By all accounts, Malfoy had been perfectly pleasant towards her since she’d moved into the flat. If Harry or Ginny teased her the way Malfoy did, she wouldn’t be offended in the slightest. But Malfoy was not her friend. And worse than that, he was right. She did spend most of her days at work running worthless errands for her boss.
Hermione kicked off her shoes and flopped onto her bed with a sigh. She missed Ron. She missed coming home after a mind-bendingly boring day and being able to talk to him about it. She missed having a companion by her side through all of the mundane moments of life—the tiny triumphs and defeats.
Eyes burning, she pressed her hands against her face. When was it supposed to get easier? Surely after nearly a month she should be a bit more used to things. She’d never been through a breakup before. How long were the feelings of debilitating loneliness supposed to last?
She sat up as the sound of Ginny’s voice floated through the flat. “In here, Gin!” she called.
Her door opened a moment later and Ginny appeared, leaning against the door frame. “Are you ready?”
Hermione blinked. “Ready?”
Ginny’s eyes widened and her palms flipped up in an exasperated gesture. “Dinner? Did you forget?”
Hermione sighed. “Shit. I did forget. Sorry, Ginny. Erm… just give me a moment.” She rose from the bed and stepped into her closet to change out of her work clothes. Once she had put on some much more comfortable trousers and a soft jumper, she emerged.
Ginny had spied the book on Hermione’s nightstand, and her eyes lit up. “Did you read it?”
“I did,” Hermione replied evenly, pulling her hair out of its tight bun to let it loose over her shoulders.
“And? What did you think?”
Hermione’s cheeks flushed. “Well, I—”
“She hated it.”
Malfoy appeared in the doorway behind Ginny with a tumbler of firewhisky in his hand and his typical smirk.
The redhead turned to him in surprise, her eyes alight with intrigue. “Oh really?”
Malfoy hummed and nodded, lifting his glass to his lips. “I, however, thought it was very… illuminating.”
Ginny let out a little laugh. “You read it?”
“Just a small passage, yes. Granger here gave a wonderful dramatic reading for me.” Malfoy’s eyes flickered to Hermione, darted over her body for a moment before returning to Ginny.
Hermione wanted to die. As if it wasn’t bad enough that she’d read to him, now he was telling people about it. When Ginny turned to her, mouth agape, Hermione would have been perfectly happy if the Earth had opened up and swallowed her whole.
“Fascinating,” Ginny quipped with a grin.
“Ginny, aren’t we late for dinner?” Hermione stepped forward and picked up the book from the nightstand, pushing it into her friend’s arms before stepping around her and brushing past Malfoy on her way to the fireplace.
She could tell by the sound of Ginny’s footsteps following her that the girl was practically skipping with glee. With a grimace, she grabbed a handful of Floo powder and tossed it into the flames, stepping back to allow Ginny to take the lead.
Ginny stuffed the book into her bag and grabbed hold of Hermione’s arm firmly before stepping into the flames, calling out for Diagon Alley.
“You have to tell me everything,” Ginny demanded as they walked down the narrow street.
Hermione let out a groan. “Ginny, there’s really nothing to tell. I couldn’t sleep, so I was reading the book in the living room. When he saw what I was reading he practically forced me to read some to him. It wasn’t a big deal.”
“Reading steamy romance novels to a fit wizard isn’t a big deal?” Ginny grinned wolfishly.
Hermione decided to shift the focus away from Malfoy. “The book was not my type of thing, Gin.”
Ginny shrugged. “That’s fine. I just wanted you to reawaken your sexuality as a strong, sexy, independent witch. You can do that a lot of different ways. I just figured books would be right up your alley.”
“Can you please keep your voice down while talking about my sexuality?” Hermione hissed, noting the scandalized look on two elderly wizards passing by.
“Why?” Ginny continued loudly, drawing the attention of several passers by. “You have to own it, Hermione. You are a twenty-two year old witch. This is the prime of your life. You are a sexy woman and you deserve to flaunt it.”
To Hermione’s horror, a young wizard—probably only a few years older than she was—looked her up and down and waggled his eyebrows suggestively. Blushing furiously, she steered Ginny toward the restaurant entrance and off the street. “Yes, thank you for that.”
Ginny laughed. “I’m only teasing, Hermione.”
Hermione ignored her and approached the hostess. “Hi, yes, table for two, please.”
Friday passed at a flobberworm’s pace. Billings had a full day of meetings, which meant hours of diligent note-taking for Hermione. At least most of the meetings that day were interesting. A discussion on the approval of Abraxan horses coming in from Norway for entertainment at the upcoming Quidditch World Cup was followed by a debate about the ramifications of reintroducing unicorns to Britain in an effort to boost the population. After lunch there was a discussion about the migratory patterns of Hinkypunks and a meeting with the Auror department about the reported sighting of a Chimaera in Ireland.
It was all very fascinating for Hermione. She only wished she was allowed to participate in the discussions.
By the time she finished her paperwork for the day, it was nearly half past six in the evening. She locked everything away in her desk and made her way toward the Atrium Floos, longing to get home and kick off her heels.
As she stepped off the lift in the Atrium, she stopped dead in her tracks. Ron stood near the fountain with a small group of his fellow Aurors, his boisterous laugh drifting through the air towards her.
Her heartbeat quickened, and she briefly debated going back downstairs. Surely she could find some work to keep her occupied for a half hour or so until he was gone. But then his eyes found her and the smile slid from his face. He turned to his friends and spoke a few words before offering them a wave, and then his feet were carrying him closer to her.
Hermione stood tall and prepared herself. They hadn’t spoken since she’d moved out, and she’d be damned if she appeared beaten down by the break up.
“Hello, Hermione.” Ron stood tall before her, a forced smile twisting his lips.
“Ron,” she greeted, pulling her bag higher on her shoulder. “How are you?”
He thrust his hands into his pockets. “I’m fine. You know…” He trailed off, but the unspoken words hung between them. “And you? How are things?”
“Good!” Hermione chirped a bit too loudly. “I—er, I like my new place. I’m not sure if Harry told you, but I’m living with Luna and Pansy now.”
“He mentioned it, yeah.” Ron raised a hand to rub the back of his neck, an obvious tell that he was uncomfortable.
Hermione’s heart twisted. “How’s work? Did you ever solve that case you were working on?”
“Oh, yeah! Turns out it was a rogue potioneer that had started dealing illicit potions on the side. We caught the guy last week.”
“That’s great!” Hermione couldn’t seem to make the words sound sincere and she grimaced. “Listen, I—er—I found a few of your things that got mixed in with mine.”
Ron nodded and shuffled his feet like he was preparing to run away. “Right. Yes, you left a few things at mine as well. Maybe we could get together some time and exchange.”
Something about his tone made Hermione realise that he didn’t really want to get together. She pushed aside the feeling of disappointment to remind herself that she wasn’t ready to pursue friendship with him either. “Maybe. Or I could just send your things with Ginny or Harry next time I see them. And you could do the same.”
Ron let out a quick breath, his shoulders relaxing. “Sure.”
Hermione nodded, feeling the tension increase between them. For several seconds, neither of them spoke.
“Sorry,” Ron clipped.
A nervous laugh escaped Hermione’s throat. “Go ahead.”
Ron gestured back to the fountain. “I was just going to say that I should probably get going. A few of us are going out for dinner and drinks.”
“Oh, of course.” Hermione felt her cheeks heat up as she looked at the small group of Aurors. A tall, blonde witch was eyeing them curiously, and Hermione felt jealousy unfurl in her belly. She quickly shook the feeling away. “Have a good time,” she said brightly, smiling at him as genuinely as she could.
Ron shifted his weight awkwardly. “I—Would you like to join us?”
Hermione blinked. What part of this awful interaction had encouraged him to invite her along? Surely he was just being polite. “Oh, no.” Her response had been too quick. She backpedaled. “I mean, thank you, but I wouldn’t want to intrude. Besides,” she lied quickly, “I have plans of my own.”
The only plans she had involved some takeaway, perhaps a bath, and a sizable amount of wine, but she didn’t need Ron to know that.
“Oh, good.” Ron let out a puff of air. Hermione couldn’t tell if he thought it was good that she had plans or good that she wouldn’t be joining him and his friends.
“Have a good time at dinner,” she chirped with what she hoped was a genuine smile.
“Thanks… It was good to see you, Hermione.”
Hermione’s heart ached in her chest. “You too, Ron.”
With a tight smile, Ron turned and walked back to the small group of Aurors gathered at the fountain. The blonde girl’s face lit up when he approached, and she reached out to touch his arm as she greeted him.
Hermione forced her eyes away from them and set her feet to move toward the Floos. She could feel the Aurors’ eyes on her as she passed them, and her throat tightened painfully when a chorus of laughter echoed through the Atrium.
Ignoring the prickling behind her eyes, Hermione hurried into the first available Floo and landed back at home.
As she stumbled out of the grate, the tears began to fall. They’d been threatening since she’d seen the smile slip from Ron’s face at the sight of her. Pansy and Luna were seated on the couch, but Hermione marched past them, ignoring their greetings and words of concern to close herself in her bedroom.
She dropped her bag by the door and slowly began to shed her work clothes, hoping to also rid herself of the sound of Ron’s laughter with his friends, the image of him shuffling his feet before her, and the reluctant tone in his voice as he invited her along. After pulling on some soft lounge trousers and a tank top, she climbed into bed next to Crookshanks. A wave of her wand silenced the room, and then she let herself cry.
She cried for the love she’d lost, the friendship she may never recover, and the future which now seemed so uncertain.
A while later—possibly hours later—when she had finished crying, her grumbling stomach forced her out of bed. When she opened her bedroom door, she found a full bottle of wine and a glass on the ground outside.
She smiled, grateful for her flatmates’ compassion. She picked up the glass and the bottle and made her way to the kitchen, sipping from the glass as she went.
On the island sat a bowl of stew, still steaming under a stasis charm, a note set in front of it. Hermione set down the bottle of wine to examine the tidy lettering on the card.
Looks like you had a rough day. Hope you’ll eat something to soak up all the wine.
P.S. Men are rubbish.
A laugh bubbled out of Hermione’s lips, and she once again thanked the heavens for Pansy’s understanding. She ate the stew quickly, feeling the warm broth soothe her aching heart, then set the bowl and spoon to wash in the sink. Grabbing the bottle of wine and her glass, she moved into the living room to settle on the couch for a bit. She set the bottle down and then took the glass with her to browse the bookshelves for something interesting to read.
At last, she selected a book about the Goblin Wars of 1612 and moved back to the couch, pulling a throw blanket onto her lap. For several minutes, she sipped her wine and read until her mind was blissfully light from the alcohol and distracted from redheaded wizards.
The Floo burned bright green, and Malfoy stumbled out of the fireplace, bumping into the coffee table with a curse. He bent down to rub his shin and his grey eyes landed on her. “Granger,” he greeted through his teeth.
“Malfoy. Fun evening at the pub?”
“Very eventful. And you… You’ve finished an entire bottle of wine by yourself?” He picked up the bottle and examined it, one pale eyebrow twitching up. “I’m guessing you had quite the day.”
“You could say that,” Hermione grumbled, tipping the remainder of the glass into her mouth.
“There’s more wine in the kitchen,” Malfoy announced, crossing the room confidently and disappearing into the next room.
Hermione stared at her glass, feeling the swimming in her head and wondering if she should drink more. The last time she’d drank with Malfoy, she’d read him smut, and it wasn’t something she was in a hurry to repeat.
Malfoy returned and moved to refill her glass.
“Oh, no thank you.” She moved her hand in the way of the glass’ opening, her eyes finding his.
“Are you sure?” His eyes were hard and sceptical on her.
She hesitated. Her mind was still conjuring images of Ron and the blonde Auror together.
“Would it help you decide if I told you that I saw Weasley at the pub?”
Hermione’s stomach dropped. “Pour the damn wine.”
Malfoy grinned and filled her glass before his own. He settled on the opposite end of the couch from her and turned his upper body towards her as he drank his wine.
Hermione took a long drink, building up the courage to ask the question on the tip of her tongue. “Was he—? Nevermind. Well… Did—?”
Malfoy raised an eyebrow at her stuttering, but said nothing.
“Did he seem… happy?”
Malfoy shrugged. “I think you’re putting too much stock in how much attention I paid to him. He was there with friends. They were loud. Blaise and I practically had to shout to hear each other over them.”
Hermione hesitated, thinking of the lovely girl in the Atrium who had kept her eyes on Ron. “There was… a blonde…” Shame shivered over her skin, and she felt her cheeks flame. How desperate she must have seemed to him, asking about her ex-boyfriend like some lovesick puppy.
Malfoy didn’t tease her. She could feel his eyes on her as she stared fixedly at her wine. Her face was hot.
“It didn’t seem like a date, if that’s what you’re asking. She seemed into him, but he didn’t pay any more attention to her than he did anyone else at their table.”
Hermione sucked in air, unsure if the information made her feel better or not. “Sorry. I just saw him today. First time since the break up. It was horrible.”
“Did you fight?”
Hermione shook her head as she downed more wine. “Worse. It was so… awkward. I dated the man for three years and now we can’t have a conversation for two minutes.”
“It can be hard to stay friendly with an ex,” he said matter of factly, lifting his glass to his lips.
A vicious scoff left Hermione’s lips before she could stop it. He had been dating Pansy for as long as she could remember. “How would you know?”
Malfoy’s eyes snapped to hers, his brow furrowing slightly. He took her in, his eyes darting toward the bedroom corridor briefly before a slow smirk spread over his face. “Someone’s feisty tonight.”
Hermione gesticulated broadly, nearly sloshing her wine onto the couch. “I just hate that he’s off going to pubs with gorgeous blondes, and I’m getting drunk at home alone on a Friday evening.”
Malfoy leaned in conspiratorially. “You know, Granger, you could also go to pubs with gorgeous blonds.”
“Well, where am I supposed to find one of those?” she whined, her voice coming out very high and squeaky. She punctuated the sentence with a hiccough.
Malfoy laughed loudly.
“Besides, I broke up with him! Doesn’t that mean he should be struggling more? Not that I want him to struggle, but—”
“Maybe he is struggling,” Malfoy suggested, sitting back and crossing an ankle over his knee.
Hermione grumbled petulantly. “Yeah… maybe.”
“He’d be mental not to be beat up about it, Granger.” Malfoy leaned forward and refilled his glass.
Hermione’s heart thudded in her chest. “Thank you.”
“I mean,” he said with a scoff, “it always seemed to me that you were the mental one for going for him in the first place—”
“Yes, thank you,” Hermione snapped, waving her hand dismissively in his direction.
He chuckled at her.
“Sorry, I’m sure you didn’t want to come over here and spend your evening chatting with me about my miserable love life.”
Malfoy shrugged. “Actually, I find it extremely entertaining.”
Hermione grimaced. “I’m so glad my unhappiness is so amusing for you.”
Malfoy straightened out the cuff of his robes with a smirk. “Old habits, I suppose.”
Frowning, Hermione took a moment to let her eyes drift over him. Why was he here talking to her, when he should have been in Pansy’s room? It was Friday night. Didn’t he want to be with her? Perhaps they had been together for so long that they didn’t feel the need to spend every second with each other even when they were in the same flat. But even so, it struck Hermione as odd that he would willingly drink wine with her over shagging his girlfriend.
“You don’t have to stay up with me. I’m perfectly happy drinking alone with my book.” She hoped he would leave her alone. She felt guilty thinking that Pansy might be waiting for him.
“And what are you reading tonight? More erotica from well-meaning friends?”
Hermione held out the cover. “Goblin wars, I’m afraid. You’ll have to look elsewhere for your erotica this evening.”
A slow smirk spread over his lips as his eyes bored into hers. “I’m happy to hear that you don’t find the Goblin War of 1612 to be erotic.” His eyebrows lifted playfully, and Hermione felt her cheeks burn again.
“Well, I’ve always liked books that were a bit more… intellectually stimulating,” Hermione explained with a grin.
“And what of men?” Malfoy prompted, raising his eyebrows again. “Now that you’ve ditched Weasley, will you look for a man who’s more… intellectually stimulating?”
The grin slipped from Hermione’s face. Truthfully she did hope to find someone who engaged her mind a bit more than Ron had. But Ron had other strengths that had made her fall in love with him. He was kind and funny and loyal and he had always felt like home.
She pushed those thoughts aside. If she was ever going to move on from Ron, she’d need to stop putting him on a pedestal. “You know,” she began, sipping her wine and brushing past Malfoy’s question, “there isn’t a single story from the past ten years of my life that doesn’t have Ron in it. I genuinely don’t know who I am without him.” The wine was making her melancholy; she was aware that she was sharing far too much with Malfoy. He wasn’t even her friend. He was just her flatmate’s boyfriend who she occasionally spoke with.
“That’s rubbish, Granger.”
Hermione blinked and looked over at Malfoy, eyes wide at his dark tone. “Excuse me?”
“You’re Hermione fucking Granger. You’ve known exactly who you are since the day I met you and you’ve never once been ashamed or apologised for it. That was long before you were friends with Weasley.” Malfoy finished his glass of wine and set it on the coffee table. “The fact that you became so codependent over the years doesn’t mean you can’t remember who you are. You said you don’t have any stories that don’t include him. Well, maybe it’s time you create some new stories.”
He pushed himself to stand and stalked out of the room. Hermione watched him go, stunned and slack-jawed. He disappeared into Pansy’s dark room and closed the door behind him with a click.
That night, Hermione dreamed of strong arms wrapped around her. Fiery kisses trailing a burning path down her neck and large hands gripping her flesh hard as a muscular body covered hers. Breathy moans and hot puffs of air hitting her ear, whispering her name.
When she woke in the morning, flushed and panting, she realised that for the first time in years, she had dreamed of being with a man other than Ron Weasley.
She only wished it hadn’t been Draco Malfoy.
Next chapter posts Thursday, September 24th (The day before my birthday! I accept comments as gifts.)
Follow me on Tumblr and pop over to the Dept of Fanfiction Discord server in the GracefulLioness chan! I have some lovely readers over there who like to yell at me and speculate wildly. You could be one of them!
For Shelbie Ann; all this fluff is for you, dear! Thinking of you.
Many thanks as always to BiscuitsForPotter and NuclearNik, who always seem to know exactly where the commas go. Magic, I'm telling ya.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
In the days that followed, Malfoy began to spend more and more time at the flat. He seemed to always find excuses to come over even when Pansy was out. On Sunday, Pansy had a model casting session in the afternoon, but that didn’t stop Malfoy from sitting on the couch across from Hermione. She read quietly while he ate popcorn and made sarcastic remarks about the triviality of learning the difference between two small subspecies of Grindylows until finally, she had to set her book down and argue with him.
Tuesday evening, Pansy worked late, leaving Hermione and Luna to dine with Malfoy. Never in a million years would she have ever envisioned herself sharing a meal with those two people.
“Luna, does Scamander have any new ideas?” Malfoy asked, reaching for a second bread roll.
“Oh, yes. Loads!” Luna spoke with her mouth full of potatoes. Malfoy raised an eyebrow haughtily but said nothing about her lack of table manners.
“He found that the reason Runespoor eggs are so useful in potions is really because of a potent protective quality found in the Runespoor itself. It’s especially noticeable in the saliva.”
Malfoy swallowed and dabbed at the corners of his mouth with a napkin. “Protective qualities, you say. And can these benefits be derived from the saliva?”
Luna tilted her head. “Possibly.”
“And can the saliva be extracted without hurting the beast?”
Hermione looked up, shocked that Malfoy would show any regard for the wellbeing of any creature other than a pure-blood witch or wizard.
“I believe so. But I think that the Runespoors would be happy to give it up if they knew it was going towards a good cause.”
Malfoy’s lips twitched up in a barely restrained smile. Hermione had to fight a laugh as well at the mental image of someone explaining to the vicious three-headed snake why they were taking its saliva.
“I’d like to meet with him this week if I can. Perhaps we can go into business together.”
Luna hummed and skewered a potato with her fork. “I’ll let him know. He has a meeting with the Niffler ambassador on Tuesday, I believe.”
Hermione spent the next several minutes trying to determine if the “Niffler ambassador” was a human who advocated for Nifflers, or an actual Niffler.
“Granger, how’s work?” Malfoy asked, turning in her direction.
Hermione hurried to swallow her roast chicken before offering him a halfhearted shrug. “It’s fine.”
“Anyone give you any trouble in the coffee line this week?”
Hermione scowled at him. “I do far more than just fetch coffee, you know.”
“Oh really? Please enlighten me.”
Hermione’s mouth opened to tell about all of the important things she did, but she couldn’t think of a single thing. Truth be told, most of what she did every day was very unimportant.
A wicked smirk spread over Malfoy’s entire face.
“I—I assist the head of the department in her meetings. I provide counsel and offer support for her projects.”
“Let me ask you this,” Malfoy began, grabbing his firewhisky and sitting back in his chair. His grey eyes pierced through her. “If you take a sick day, does anyone really care? Or does business proceed as usual?”
“I wouldn’t know,” Hermione spat back. “I’ve never had a sick day.”
Pale eyebrows jumped up quickly. “Never?”
Hermione shook her head, turning back to her food and willing the angry flush on her cheeks to cool.
“Amazing. Still just as much of a swot as you were at school.”
Hermione sneered at him. “Oh, do fuck off, Malfoy.” Although she wasn’t finished with her meal yet, she waved her wand and sent her plate to the sink. Pushing back from the table, she picked up her drink and stalked out of the kitchen, ignoring Malfoy’s laughter following her all the way to her room.
The rest of the week passed slowly. Hermione did her best to avoid Malfoy when he was at her flat. She stayed locked in her room most evenings, even taking meals there some days. It was bad enough that she’d opened up to him about her abysmal love life; she didn’t need him goading her about her professional failures too.
She made a personal vow to fight for more responsibility at work. Billings’ second assistant, Harrison Boyd, seemed to be perfectly happy getting coffee and taking notes during meetings, so Hermione didn’t see why Billings needed two people for such tasks. Surely she could take a more proactive role at work.
On Thursday, Hermione submitted a proposal for an amendment to a new law going before the Wizengamot, which would guarantee that werewolves could not be discriminated against when seeking employment or terminated should their status become known to their employer.
Billings frowned as she flipped through it. “I agree that these measures need to be put in place, Hermione, but I don’t think now is the time. Perhaps we can revisit this next quarter.”
Next quarter? That was three months before she could even discuss the matter with Billings. And who knew how long it would take to pass after that. Government moved at such a Flobberworm’s pace that she was beginning to believe that she would never make any headway with werewolf or house-elf rights.
When she arrived home that evening, angry and exhausted, the living room was blissfully Malfoy-free. Feeling her heart slow and her shoulders relax instantly, she crossed to her room to change out of her work clothes. Perhaps she would treat herself to a nice bubble bath this evening and reevaluate her strategy for making progress at work.
As she opened her bedroom door, she froze at the threshold.
On her bed sat an ornate gift box wrapped in a golden bow. Furrowing her brow, she closed the door and set her bag on the floor beside her nightstand, sitting on the bed and reaching for the small card tucked under the ribbon.
Hermione’s heart quickened again. Malfoy had gotten her a gift? She opened the small envelope to see a card with tidy lettering.
For your non-intellectual stimulation.
With shaking fingers, she untied the bow and pulled the lid of the box off.
Inside were at least ten paperback books. She lifted one out and was greeted by an artistic rendering of a witch and wizard trapped in a passionate embrace. The title read simply, Desire.
Hermione grimaced and set the book aside, reaching for another. The entire stack was clearly comprised of erotic novels, their cover art growing increasingly revealing with each title she reached for. The last book she pulled out boasted a couple— fully nude , wrapped strategically around each other, with the witch’s head thrown back in passion as the wizard kissed her neck.
The titles made Hermione balk. Ardent Passion; Once an Enemy, Now a Lover; The Potioneer and his Mistress; Bound to You; and His Long Wand.
Hermione blushed as she looked at the covers. What was the meaning of this? Was it meant to be a joke? Was he teasing her for reading Ginny’s book? Annoyance bubbled within her. She shoved all of the books back into the box and jammed the lid on. After she slid it under her bed where she wouldn’t have to think about it, she kicked off her shoes and changed out of her work clothes.
For your non-intellectual stimulation.
She mulled over the words as she shimmied out of her pencil skirt and blouse. Did Malfoy intend for her to… pleasure herself while reading those books? If so, did it cross a moral line for him to gift them to her, knowing what she might do with them? After all, he was dating Pansy.
Perhaps she should talk to Pansy about all of this. If Hermione were dating someone and he began to send erotic books to another woman, she would want to know about it. And yet, if it was purely innocent—just a ploy to rile her up and tease her—then bringing it up to Pansy might imply that Hermione had crossed a line of her own with Malfoy, even if it was not reciprocated.
She pulled on some baggy lounge trousers and a soft jumper and emerged from her bedroom, still not sure if telling Pansy was the right move.
“Hermione,” Pansy greeted happily as Hermione walked into the kitchen. “How has your day been?”
A sigh left Hermione before she could stop it.
Pansy smiled ruefully before turning away to fill a glass of water. “Luna’s picking up takeaway. I’m sure there will be plenty if you’d like to join us.”
“That sounds lovely, thank you.” Hermione flopped down at the kitchen table. She and Pansy were the only ones in the flat. Perhaps this would be a good time to bring up Malfoy’s strange behavior.
“I have a showcase on Saturday,” Pansy announced as she tapped a bottle of wine with her wand. The cork lifted out with a pop. “If you don’t have plans, you should join us. Luna loves coming. Of course, all the beautiful models seem to be a major draw for her. I’ve never seen such shameless flirting.”
Hermione chuckled. “From Luna? I honestly can’t imagine.”
Pansy cast her a smile as she filled three glasses with wine. “You’d be surprised. Sometimes I think she’s just using me to get close to all the models I work with.”
The dark haired witch laughed and sat down across from Hermione, sliding a glass across the table to her.
“Thank you.” Hermione bit the inside of her cheek for a moment. “Will—er—will Draco be there?” The name felt odd on her tongue, but she felt that it might be a bit rude to refer to him by his surname to Pansy.
Pansy inspected her nails nonchalantly. “No, he doesn’t usually. Why? Has he been giving you trouble? I know he’s over a lot.”
“Oh! No! I mean… he seems to like teasing me, but that’s nothing new.” Hermione felt her cheeks flush. She wondered why Malfoy wouldn’t go to Pansy’s shows. Didn’t he want to support her? Perhaps he wasn’t the most attentive boyfriend. Their relationship seemed more and more strange the longer Hermione spent with them.
She opened her mouth to tell Pansy about the books, but at that moment, the Floo roared to life and then Luna floated into the room. “Hello,” she greeted cheerily as she set the bag of takeaway on the counter.
Pansy stood from her chair and retrieved three plates from the cupboard. She thanked Luna for picking up the food with a warm smile and a brief touch to the blonde’s arm. Hermione moved to the counter as well and helped serve the containers of curry before they all sat down to eat.
She would have to wait to tell Pansy another day, perhaps once she had decided if Malfoy’s behavior was actually inappropriate or if she herself had crossed some kind of line. After all, she’d dreamed of him—and not after reading the erotic novel. As infuriating as he was, she couldn’t deny the swooping sensation she got in her stomach when she remembered how he’d watched her read aloud, or how he teased her with a genuine smile as opposed to his usual sneer.
It had only been a month since she and Ron had broken up. Surely it was too soon to be thinking about another man.
She mentally counted the days. Had it really only been a month? It felt like much longer. She wondered if her heart had known that she and Ron were done before her brain realised it.
Regardless, even if she was ready to start entertaining the idea of dating again, Malfoy wasn’t an option. For several reasons, least of which being that he was dating her flatmate.
She would just have to shut it down. Whatever game Malfoy was trying to start up, she refused to play it. He wasn’t available, and she wasn’t interested. There was no need to bother Pansy about the books. Hermione was sure she would never read them. They would sit in that box under her bed until she could find a way to get rid of them.
“I do think I’ll come to your show this weekend, Pansy,” Hermione announced before taking a bite of naan.
“Wonderful! I’ll get you a backstage pass.”
“Thank you.” Hermione smiled and shrugged. “Maybe I’ll meet a model too.”
Pansy laughed and shook her head. “I don’t think the models are your type, Granger.”
Hermione shrugged and took a sip of her drink. “Doesn’t mean I can’t look.”
Pansy lifted a brow but said nothing as she brought her fork to her lips.
After dinner, Hermione closed herself in her bedroom and set to work. She was determined to convince Billings to reconsider her werewolf proposal. She would march into the office tomorrow morning and present her boss with irrefutable facts and figures. She would dazzle Billings with her organisation and dedication, and then Billings would have to push the legislation through this quarter.
And that’s just what she did. She woke up early, put on her favourite work robes, gathered up her notes and marched straight to Billings’ office. She presented her facts with an impassioned but succinct speech. And at the end of it all, Billings frowned and said, “Thank you, Hermione. We will revisit this next quarter.”
Hermione then had to spend the rest of the day sitting behind Billings in meetings about Hinkypunks and Flobberworms, trying not to huff indignantly when her boss spoke about the importance of equal rights for all or the plight of the magical creatures.
By the time she made it home, she was fuming. She threw her bag onto the couch with a frustrated groan and went straight into the kitchen, reaching past the wine to grab the bottle of firewhisky. It was gone. Were they out? She let out an exasperated scoff.
Hermione wheeled around to see Malfoy sitting at the kitchen table, reading a book by the window and sipping from a glass of whisky.
She rolled her eyes. “Please don’t start with me, Malfoy. I’m not in the mood.”
He slid the bottle of whisky across the table, his grey eyes watching her carefully. “Tell me all about it,” he urged. “I promise I’ll be on my best behaviour.”
Hermione grabbed the bottle and poured herself a glass of far more liquid than she probably should have. She slammed the bottle back down a bit too hard and took a hearty swig. Pacing back and forth across the kitchen, she launched into the story.
“Billings just keeps shutting down everything I propose at work. Werewolf legislation has to be pushed back to next quarter, while we spend hours in meetings discussing the most inane minutiae of Flobberworms. Flobberworms!” Her heels clicked on the hardwood floors as she stomped her foot like a child before resuming her pacing.
“And I’m not saying that Flobberworms don’t need to be discussed, but is it really more important than the marginalized witches and wizards who are being denied work or equal pay because of their lycanthropy? No! It bloody well isn’t. And if she would get her head out of her arse for two seconds, I think she would realise that.”
She paused to take another sip, grimacing as the fiery liquid burned her throat. “And she has two assistants, mind you. You would think that Boyd could get her damn coffee and I could help with other things. Like, oh, I don’t know, making a fucking difference? But no! I just sit behind her and take her bloody notes and schedule her bloody meetings. You were right, Malfoy. I contribute nothing to the department. I’ve been there two years, and I have nothing to show for it!”
She flopped down in the chair across from Malfoy with a pout and leaned forward until her forehead was resting on the tabletop.
“You should come work for me.”
Malfoy’s tone didn’t seem sarcastic or mocking, but it didn’t stop the scoff from escaping Hermione’s lips.
Hermione lifted her head off the table and looked at him with her brows raised. “Work for you?”
Draco shrugged and sipped his drink. “Look, I’m not saying you’d be changing the world, at least not in the way you planned, but we do good work.”
“You’re actually serious,” Hermione said incredulously.
Draco nodded. “We need legal representation for patenting our new products. It seems like the kind of thing you’d be good at. But if that doesn’t suit you, I’m sure we could find a place for you in research and development.”
Hermione frowned and stared at her glass. It wasn’t what she thought she’d be doing, but then again, neither was her current job. Would working for Malfoy be something she found fulfilling? And beyond that, could she stand to work for him?
“I’ll think about it,” she promised.
“Great.” Malfoy downed the rest of his drink and stood. “Well, I really just came to get a drink and drop something off for Pans, but I’d better get going. Wouldn’t want to interrupt date night. See ya, Granger.”
With a wink and a smile, he crossed the kitchen and disappeared into the Floo. Hermione didn’t have the foggiest idea what he meant by that. With him gone, no one in this flat was likely to have a date tonight.
Pushing his odd words aside, she poured herself another glass of whisky.
Saturday morning, Hermione woke up early with a splitting headache. Whether it was from lack of sleep or the copious amount of firewhisky, she wasn’t sure. She dragged herself from bed and staggered across the corridor to the loo. In the medicine cabinet, she located a phial of Pepper-up Potion and downed it before taking a much-needed shower.
Clean and headache-free, Hermione dressed and made her way to the kitchen. As she set the kettle to boil, she remembered with a jolt that today was the day of Pansy’s showcase. She groaned and looked down at the simple jeans and jumper she’d picked out to wear, knowing it wouldn’t be appropriate for a fashion event. Did she even have anything appropriate? Her work clothes were good quality, but they looked so professional. She didn’t have many clothes for social events.
One of the doors in the corridor opened, and Hermione lifted her head to see Pansy emerge with a yawn. Good. She could just ask Pansy what she should wear. Surely she could find something in her closet once she knew what people typically wore.
As Pansy made her way into the kitchen, it occurred to Hermione that she had never before seen Pansy look so disheveled. Her usually sleek hair was wild on her head, and she wore only a brightly coloured robe with an absurd pattern. She padded across the kitchen barefooted with red cheeks and swollen lips.
She looked so thoroughly shagged that Hermione couldn’t help but blush at the sight of her.
Hermione stared, her mouth agape. Malfoy had left before dinnertime last night. And Hermione had been awake in the common areas of the flat until nearly midnight. She was fairly certain that he hadn’t come back. So who had Pansy been with?
“You’re up early,” Pansy remarked with a light smile.
“Mmm.” Hermione hid her pink cheeks by busying herself with making some eggs. “So are you.”
“Luna has an early meeting with Rolf,” Pansy said, reaching into the cupboard for a travel mug.
Hermione’s brow furrowed. Why did Luna’s early meeting force Pansy to wake early?
Realisation washed over her slowly as the eggs began to cook in the skillet.
Malfoy hadn’t been here last night, but Luna had. And now Pansy was up early because Luna was up early. Malfoy had said that he hadn’t wanted to interrupt date night. Was it really possible…?
Luna came into the kitchen fully clothed, a multicoloured bag slung over one shoulder. Pansy stepped around the island to hand her the travel mug filled with freshly brewed tea.
“Thank you,” Luna sighed with a smile. “I’ll meet you at the showcase at three.”
“Perfect. See you then.” And then Pansy leaned in, one hand delving into the thick blonde waves at Luna’s neck and the other curling around her hip. They kissed slowly and tenderly.
They pulled away, and Luna left with a smile, the two witches completely oblivious to Hermione’s slack-jawed stare.
They were a couple. And had been for some time judging by their shared residence and domesticity. How had Hermione not realised?
She thought back. Perhaps no one had said that Pansy and Malfoy were dating. Perhaps Hermione had just assumed. And she had never seen Pansy and Malfoy go into Pansy’s room together at night or seen them come out together in the morning.
She thought of the odd dichotomy of decor in Luna’s room: elegant sophistication blended with wild whimsy. Everything was clicking into place now, but she had more questions than ever.
“Granger,” Pansy said quickly, “your eggs are burning.”
Hermione blinked and jumped, hurrying to turn off the stove and remove her eggs from the heat.
“Are you alright?” Pansy asked, her eyes narrowed in concern.
“I… I…” Hermione stammered, feeling her cheeks flame.
Pansy’s eyes went wide and her hands flew to her cheeks. “What? Do I have something on my face?”
Hermione gaped at her, mouth open like a fish. “I—I’m sorry… You… and Luna?”
Pansy’s brow furrowed for a moment before her jaw opened. “Oh, Merlin. You… You didn’t know?”
Cheeks flaming, Hermione stepped back from the stove and buried her face in her hands. “Shit, I feel so stupid.”
Pansy approached quickly, grabbing Hermione’s hands and trying to reassure her. “Don’t be embarrassed! Oh, fuck. I had no idea you didn’t know!” She ushered Hermione to the kitchen table and sat down across from her.
“You two are a couple? Why didn’t you tell me?”
Pansy laughed. “I honestly thought you already knew! It certainly wasn’t our intention to keep it from you.”
“But you never touched or kissed or anything when I was around,” Hermione pointed out.
Pansy shrugged. “Well, we knew you were recovering from your break-up. We decided that we should be sensitive to the fact that you would need some time to heal, and that we shouldn’t rub our relationship in your face. And who’s to say how long is long enough? You seem to be doing better recently, but we still didn’t want to be too touchy-feely around you out of respect.”
Hermione stared at Pansy, her mouth gaping open in disbelief. “I—“ she stuttered. “I’m sorry, I’m just really floored.” She shook her head and brought her hands to her eyes.
“Because we’re lesbians?” Pansy asked, arching one perfectly shaped eyebrow.
“Well, yes, frankly.”
Pansy frowned. “Sorry we don’t fit into your small, heteronormative world, Granger.”
Hermione shook her head. “No, that’s not it. I just thought—Draco is over all the time.”
Pansy smirked. “We’re friends, nothing more. Same as you and Potter. Sure, we fooled around a bit in our Hogwarts days, but now we’ve grown up and have figured out what we want. And it isn’t each other. Things were awkward for a while after we broke up, but once I came out, he realised that it had nothing to do with him. We’re just friends, and we’ve never been closer.”
Hermione’s cheeks reddened. She felt so stupid. She had been living with Pansy and Luna for over a month and had never once suspected that they might be romantically involved. Maybe she was heteronormative. Brain stuttering and fighting to keep up with this turn of events, her brow furrowed. “But he’s always staying in your room. Spending the night.”
Pansy cocked her head to the side. “Have you ever looked in my room, Granger?”
Hermione shook her head.
With a smirk, Pansy rose from her chair and beckoned for Hermione to follow. Together, they walked through the living room and down the corridor to Pansy’s door.
Inside Pansy’s room was little more than a workspace. An office, perhaps, for her designs. In the center of the floor was a design mannequin. A small desk littered with sketches sat against one wall next to several shelves of various fabrics and tidy, clear drawers of buttons, snaps, zippers, and ribbons. Against the other wall was a long chaise lounge with a pillow at the head and a blanket folded neatly at the base.
“So,” Hermione began as her eyes took in Pansy’s room, “this is your office.”
“Office, at-home design studio, yeah. Whatever you’d like to call it.” Pansy smiled at her. “Draco just crashes here sometimes after he’s been out at the pub.”
Hermione stared at her feet as the question bubbled up within her. If she’d been so blind about Pansy and Luna, it was entirely possible that she’d read other people incorrectly as well. “Is Draco—?” she trailed off, unsure if she should even ask.
“Gay?” Pansy finished for her. “No. Not at all. And he’s single.”
Hermione tried to quell the relief that she felt at the confirmation. The unwelcome feeling must have shown on her face, because when she looked back at Pansy, the girl was frowning.
“Do you have an issue with homosexuality, Granger?”
“No!” Hermione cried at once. “Not at all. You know me, Pansy. No one is a bigger proponent of equal rights than I am. That’s not—I didn’t mean—oh, I’m not articulating myself well.” She ran her fingers through her hair, wiggling them out after they got caught in her unruly curls. Her cheeks burned, realising that she’d been relieved to hear that Draco was straight and single. If he was available, then her recent butterflies around him were not entirely hopeless. If he was available, then she wasn’t just a witch lusting after her flatmate’s boyfriend. Shame prickled over her skin, and she quickly refocused her attention on Pansy.
“It’s none of my business,” Hermione said. “I was just surprised. But I’m really pleased for you both. Honestly, I am. How long have you been dating?”
“Almost two years,” replied Pansy.
“Forgive me, but you two don’t seem to have the most… compatible personalities.”
Pansy laughed. “It seems like that, doesn’t it? She’s so… odd.” A warm smile graced her lips. “But she’s warm and kind, and she helps me see the world in a way I never thought I would. I know she has some unorthodox beliefs, but I like that about her. Merlin only knows what she sees in me.”
Hermione grinned. “I think you sort of ground her. Keep her with one foot in the real world. Maybe you two just sort of balance each other.”
“That must be it,” Pansy sighed. She pulled the office door closed and leaned against the wall of the corridor. “You know,” she began with a mischievous smirk. “Draco never used to come around as much as he has recently.”
Hermione’s heart beat a little faster. “What do you mean?”
Pansy arched an eyebrow. “I mean, he would stay over maybe once every week or two. Pretty much only when he would get too sloshed at the pub to Apparate home. But now he spends two or three nights a week here. And he’s rarely drunk when he stays. Why do you think that is, Granger?”
Hermione stared at Pansy wide-eyed, her gaze darting around, her stomach fluttering wildly. “I’m sure I don’t know,” she breathed.
Pansy’s smirk grew, and she shrugged. “I don’t either. All I’ll say is that the change in him happened right around the time you moved in.” She brushed her dark hair over her shoulder with grace. “Just think about it.” She cast Hermione a quick wink before retreating to the bathroom.
Hermione returned to the kitchen to salvage what she could from her breakfast. The eggs were ruined, so she had some tea and toast before retreating to her room.
What had Pansy meant? Draco came around more now than he had before she moved in. Could it possibly have something to do with her? Perhaps he just liked getting a rise out of her. He’d certainly been poking fun at her a lot recently. Teasing her about her job or her books seemed to be one of his favourite pastimes.
But it was always good-natured; never malicious. And he’d offered her a job. Not to mention the very confusing gift of steamy romance novels he'd sent.
Perhaps his interests in her were a bit more… physical.
A fluttering began deep in her belly, and she quickly pushed the feeling away. It was too soon.
Logic told her that it was absolutely too soon, but the quickening of her heart when she’d heard that Draco was single seemed to disagree.
She knew exactly what Ginny would tell her. She would say, “The quickest way to get over someone is to get under someone else.”
Hermione’s stomach swooped at the idea of being with Malfoy in that kind of way. Sure, she’d had that dream, but acting on that urge was an entirely different story.
Shaking her head of those thoughts, Hermione dressed in a red blouse and some black trousers with a pair of pointy-toe pumps. She spent a while taming her hair into somewhat manageable curls and then applied some light makeup.
In the early afternoon, Pansy and Hermione Flooed to the site of the showcase.
As soon as they arrived, Hermione understood why she’d been told that these models weren’t her type—they were all female. Tall, gorgeous models roamed around the backstage area in various robes, while some only wore their undergarments. Hermione blushed as one walked by wearing only a thong and some small adhesive circles covering her nipples.
The woman didn’t seem at all ashamed of her near-nakedness. In fact, none of the models seemed to be fazed by much of anything.
Pansy jumped into action immediately, instructing which designs models should wear and fixing the ones who were wearing them incorrectly. “Luna should be here soon. Just enjoy yourself, Granger,” she said as she walked toward a model who was struggling with a garment that appeared to be just one long piece of fabric.
Hermione stood awkwardly as the stylists and models bustled around her in preparation for the show. She wondered briefly why Draco rarely came to these things. It seemed like the kind of thing a straight, hot-blooded man would love: seeing half-naked models.
Sure enough, Luna arrived after just a few minutes, and she wasted no time approaching a nearby model under the guise of helping her zip up her dress. As Pansy had mentioned, Luna, it seemed, truly was an unapologetic flirt. She giggled and touched the model’s arm and twirled a lock of her own hair around her wand.
If Hermione hadn’t known better, she would have sworn that it was Lavender Brown disguised as Luna.
Pansy approached her girlfriend and greeted her with a kiss before exchanging a few hushed words and hurrying away again.
Soon after, Luna and Hermione made their way to their seats to enjoy the showcase.
It was a splendid affair, and Pansy’s clothes were stunning: elegant, unique, and fashionable without losing their practicality.
Afterwards, the three witches went out to dinner in Diagon Alley to celebrate Pansy’s successful day. They shared a bottle of champagne and treated themselves to a nicer meal than they would typically enjoy.
Hermione watched the couple across from her carefully. Now that she knew, it seemed mad that she hadn’t noticed it before. Luna loved to rest a hand on Pansy’s forearm as she spoke, something Hermione had noticed before but never thought much of. And there was just so much warmth in the way they looked at each other.
Luna was so supportive of Pansy’s success, and she talked at great length about her favourite designs. After dinner, Hermione was sure that all of the designs had been Luna’s favourites.
Pansy and Luna wanted to stay out and continue celebrating, but by nine o’clock, Hermione was exhausted and a bit drained of being the third wheel. With a smile and a hug for each of her friends, she left them at the bar and made her way back to the flat alone.
When she walked into the living room, she found Draco sprawled out on the couch, a book in one hand and a glass of firewhisky in the other.
Hermione’s stomach swooped as his eyes lifted to her and his lips twitched.
“We’re going to have to start charging you rent if you keep crashing here and drinking our whisky,” Hermione quipped, dropping her bag by the coffee table and flopping down onto the adjacent chair.
“Actually, the whisky is mine,” he replied with a smirk. “It’s my contribution to you all for your hospitality.”
“Oh, well in that case…” Hermione waved her wand and summoned a glass from the kitchen. It zoomed into her hand, and she poured herself a bit of the amber liquid.
“What are you reading?” she inquired, kicking off her stilettos and tucking her legs underneath her on the chair.
“Hogwarts: A History,” Draco said, showing her the cover. “Make fun of me all you’d like, but I’ve always liked it. Ever since I was a kid, it’s been one of my favourites.”
Hermione balked, her heart fluttering. “It’s one of my favorites too!” she squawked excitedly, sitting forward so abruptly that she nearly spilled her drink.
Draco’s eyes went wide, and his lips curled in amusement. “Well, why doesn’t that surprise me one bit? Oh, I can just picture it now.” His gaze became far away as the mocking tone settled in his voice. “Little Hermione Granger gets her first year Hogwarts books and reads them all before September first, learning every detail she can about the magical castle that will become her new home.”
Hermione grinned. “I always liked reading ahead.”
Draco scoffed and closed the book. “I did too, but I didn’t finish all of my books before term even began.”
With a shrug, Hermione took a sip of her drink.
“Did you get my gift?” asked Draco, his eyebrows twitching up.
Stomach flipping, Hermione avoided his eyes by plucking a loose thread from her sleeve. “Erm, yes.”
“And have you read any of them yet? I believe there are more adventures from Scarlet and Salvador.”
Hermione laughed, still avoiding his eyes. “I haven’t.”
“You’ll have to let me know what’s next for those two. You know, I’m very invested in their story.”
She rolled her eyes with a scoff. “Yes, I’m sure it was the story that you were interested in.”
Draco just laughed.
“I was wondering why you gave them to me…” Hermione felt her cheeks flame and glanced up at him through her lashes. His eyes were dark on her.
“A man can’t give a gift to a woman whose life he made a living hell for seven years?”
Hermione shifted in her seat. They had never talked about their unfriendly past. She had assumed that he’d just wanted to brush past it without acknowledging it too much, and she’d been all too happy to do the same at first. But he had been over a lot more frequently in the past couple of weeks; perhaps it was wise of them to get it all out in the open.
Draco spoke again, his smooth voice cutting across her thoughts. “Consider it an olive branch. And an apology.”
“Well,” Hermione began, still unsure how she should feel about the box of romance novels under her bed, “I appreciate the gesture and the olive branch, and I’ll accept your apology, but the books are a little…”
“Unnecessary,” she finished.
He laughed as her face heated.
“A bottle of wine or firewhisky would have been a perfectly acceptable olive branch,” she remarked with a wry smile.
“Well, I already told you you’re welcome to the whisky I bring.”
Hermione raised her glass to him briefly before bringing it to her lips. They fell into silence, and she felt her heart flutter under his gaze. Deciding she needed to move, she stood and walked to the bookshelf next to the fireplace.
Her eyes danced over the tidy spines of the tomes, but she didn’t truly take in any of the titles. She could feel his eyes watching her, burning a searing path over her back, legs, and arse. It prickled over her neck as she pulled her hair over one shoulder nervously.
“So, I learned something interesting today,” she said, keeping her eyes on the book.
“Oh?” Draco hummed.
“Yes. It seems that Pansy and Luna are dating.” She glanced over her shoulder at him.
A wicked smirk grew on Draco’s lips. His eyes sparkled. “You don’t say.”
“It’s true,” Hermione smiled, turning to face him properly. “For quite a while actually.”
Draco took a sip of his firewhisky. “That is fascinating.”
“It’s funny… I just assumed that you were dating Pansy.”
Draco was looking at her intently now, and the heat behind his eyes left her a bit breathless. “I know you did.”
“You could have corrected me.” She frowned, raising a brow at him.
A smirk bloomed over his face. “And ruin all the fun? Now, why would I do that?”
“I feel quite foolish now,” she admitted.
Draco made a thoughtful noise. “I wonder what else has escaped your attention this past month or so.”
Hermione’s heart stopped. “Perhaps many things,” she breathed.
Draco finished his drink in one gulp. “Well, you’re a smart witch. I’m sure you’ll figure everything out in time.” He stood and sent his glass into the kitchen with a wave of his wand, moving to stand in front of her. He was close, their chests practically touching.
Hermione looked up at him with wide eyes. Was he about to kiss her? Did she even want him to? Her mouth parted in shock and anticipation. He leaned in slightly, and her eyes flickered down to his lips.
At the last moment he turned his head and reached past her to grab a handful of Floo powder from the pot they kept on the shelf.
“See ya, Granger,” he smirked, tossing the powder into the fireplace and disappearing, leaving Hermione standing breathlessly by the fire, feeling more foolish than ever.
Who guessed it?! Many of you guessed! I hope you liked this one. Leave me a review if you're so inclined! Tomorrow is my birthday, and I happily accept gifts in the form of comments!
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(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“I can’t believe you didn’t know!” Ginny’s laughter lilted through the Muggle café as she and Hermione ate lunch the day after Pansy’s showcase.
“I can’t believe you didn’t tell me!” Hermione scowled at her friend. “I feel like an idiot.” She pushed the remnants of her salad around on her plate petulantly, her cheeks hot with embarrassment.
Ginny just laughed again, only quieting when Hermione’s glare sobered her. “I’m sorry, Hermione. I thought I’d mentioned that Luna was dating women a long time ago. I figured it would be obvious when I brought her up as a potential flatmate. It didn’t even occur to me that you wouldn’t know. I mean, Merlin, you’re supposed to be the clever one.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Well, it’s not like there were a ton of signs. They never kissed or even touched much in front of me. They said they didn’t want to be insensitive since I’m so newly single. And by the way, you absolutely did not mention that to me.”
“Does it bother you? Living with them knowing that they’re a couple?” Ginny asked with a frown.
“No, of course not! They’re wonderful flatmates, and I really enjoy living with them. And they seem to be a lovely couple. I just hate feeling so foolish! I assumed that Pansy and Malfoy were dating.”
Ginny’s eyebrows twitched up at the mention of Malfoy. “You thought they were dating and you still read that book to him?”
Hermione dropped her fork and buried her face in her hands with a groan. “I don’t know what I was thinking!”
Another laugh burst from Ginny’s lips. “Well, the good news is that he’s single, so no harm done! He is single, right?”
Hermione ran her hands through her hair and nodded. “According to Pansy.”
Ginny raised her eyebrows suggestively with a smirk.
“Ginny, no. Don’t even start. It’s still… too soon.”
“Says who? There are no rules about how fast you should or shouldn’t move on after a relationship.”
“No, but it’s too soon as long as I feel like it’s too soon,” Hermione said adamantly. “And besides, Draco and I are not… He’s not… We’re just friends.”
“Friends, huh?” Ginny’s eyes sparkled with words unsaid. “Well… I suppose that’s a start.”
Over the next couple of weeks, Hermione let herself indulge in little fantasies about Malfoy. She didn’t see the harm. He was single, and like Ginny had said, she should feel free to look when fit wizards walked through her flat.
Sometimes Malfoy was over in the mornings, and Hermione would run into him as she left the washroom after her shower, wrapped in her towel with her wet curls clinging to her shoulders. He emerged from Pansy’s office in his boxers and watched her with heated eyes as she hurried into her bedroom. Her mind conjured images of him catching her wrist as she passed, pressing her against the wall and kissing her hard as his large hands crept under her towel to touch her warm, wet skin.
In the evenings, he sometimes came by as she was cooking dinner, and her mind drifted to fantasies of him walking up behind her and kissing her neck, letting his hands curl around her body. More than once, these thoughts distracted her enough to overcook her dinner. As a result, she ate dry chicken as Malfoy teased her about her poor cooking skills.
Sometimes she caught him staring at her, his eyes a bit glassy, and she wondered if his mind was wandering to fantasy as well.
As much as she suspected that Malfoy would be receptive to her advances, she never made a move. Fantasising about him was one thing, but actually doing something about it… well, that was something else entirely. And she just wasn’t sure she was ready to move on in such a definitive way.
“Why are you over here so often?” she asked him late one Friday night two months after she’d moved in.
He looked up from his book, eyebrows raised. “The company of three lovely witches isn’t reason enough?”
“Well, seeing as two of those witches are lesbians and have no romantic or sexual interest in you, and the other one only moved in two months ago and used to hate your guts…” Hermione tilted her head with a smirk.
“Used to? Aww, Granger. Warming up to me?” He sent her a teasing smile.
Hermione ignored him. “And you were over a lot even before I moved in. I’m just curious why.”
Draco’s eyes dropped back to his book, but Hermione could tell that he wasn’t reading. He cleared his throat. “Would you like the fun answer or the honest one?”
Her heart sank. Perhaps it was a far more personal question than she’d anticipated. “What’s the fun answer?”
Draco grinned. “I like the company. Plus, Mother doesn’t like me coming back to the Manor at all hours of the night when I’m drunk off my arse. Pansy and I are still good friends despite our romantic history. She’s generous enough to let me crash in her office and keep a few personal items here for when I need to stay.”
Hermione nodded and considered this information. Surely the Manor was large enough for him to come and go when drunk without running into his mother. And besides, he was seldom drunk when he came over anymore. The first few times he’d been over in the evenings he’d been pissed, but it was quite late at night now and he was practically sober.
“And what’s the honest answer?”
His smile faltered. “I hate the Manor. Far too much happened there during the war for me to feel at home there anymore. Mother’s been renovating, but it’s a long process, and there’s no telling if it will ever be completely rid of the dark magic it’s been exposed to.” He turned a page absently, his eyes unfocused. “I can Occlude easily enough during the day and when I’m sober, but at night or if I’ve been drinking, it’s much more difficult. The nightmares… Well, they’ve been getting worse recently. If I stay here, I have a chance of getting a decent night’s sleep.”
Hermione didn’t know what to say. She had never known Draco to be so… open. So honest. So vulnerable. Her heart fluttered in her chest. Perhaps she and Pansy had been mistaken about Draco’s reasons for being over so often. Perhaps he was just escaping his worsening nightmares and it had nothing whatsoever to do with Hermione. She tried to ignore the disappointment spreading through her veins. “I’m sorry,” she breathed.
Draco grimaced as his eyes snapped to hers. “Don’t do that. I don’t deserve that from you of all people.”
“Pity,” he sneered, his lips curling in disdain. “Like I’m some kind of victim. No, Granger, not after everything I did to you. I don’t deserve that kind of compassion from you.”
Hermione frowned at him. “You were a child,” she insisted. “And you were a victim. Don’t try to convince me for a moment that anything you did was of your own free will. You were trapped, just like your mother.”
Malfoy scoffed, rolling his eyes.
“It’s true. You’re not an evil man. If you were, you’d be in Azkaban. If you were, I wouldn’t let you sit across from me in my home. If you were, I wouldn’t…”
She trailed off, biting her tongue to stop herself from revealing too much. She’d nearly told him that she liked him. And she did like him, she just hadn’t figured out in what way.
“Hey,” she said brightly, changing the subject. “How would you like to read a book together?”
Draco’s eyes snapped to hers, one pale brow arched in curiosity. “What book?”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Hermione tilted her head and shrugged coyly. “But there’s a box of ridiculous romance novels under my bed with very embarrassing titles. We could start with one of those.”
Draco grinned wolfishly, a wicked glint slowly returning to his eyes. He nodded once and jerked his head towards her bedroom door.
Her cheeks were hot, but Hermione couldn’t stop the smile on her face as she hopped up and hurried to her bedroom. She sank to her knees and reached under her bed to slide the box out. She looked at the titles, wondering which one would pique Malfoy’s interest most.
One cover caught her eye. A man with a broom slung over one shoulder stood on a Quidditch pitch. A witch embraced him, her head thrown back and her hand splayed on his exposed chest.
Quidditch seemed like the exact topic to keep Malfoy interested. She picked up the copy of His Long Wand and made her way back to the living room. She tossed the paperback book into his lap and flopped onto the adjacent couch.
Malfoy picked it up, one of his eyebrows twitching upwards as he inspected her selection.
“You get to read this one,” Hermione told him, pulling a throw pillow onto her lap and hugging it against her middle.
“Oh, do I?” His lips twitched in amusement.
“It’s only fair.”
Draco smirked and opened the book. “Shall I start at the beginning?”
“Oh, I think you should find a scene that piques your interest. I don’t think we should be concerned with chronology, do you?”
“A scene that piques my interest, you say. But what about your interests, Granger?” Draco flipped through the book, his eyes dancing over the words quickly.
“I already told you that I don’t have much interest in these books.”
His eyes flickered to hers and his lips twitched. “Well, let’s see what we can do to remedy that.”
A shiver rippled down Hermione’s spine as he grinned at her with a wicked glint in his eyes and turned back to the book. Her heart pounded for the next few minutes as Malfoy searched for a passage to read. She found herself biting her nails anxiously and forced herself to stop, opting to reach for her wine glass instead.
Malfoy looked up at her sharply, his head tilted to the side as he examined her thoughtfully. Then his head jerked side to side, and he returned to the book, flipping several pages ahead.
“If you’re looking for quality literature, I doubt you’ll find it in there,” she quipped.
A low chuckle rumbled in his chest. “Trust me, that’s not what I’m looking for.” His eyes flickered to hers. “Just be patient, Granger,” he purred.
Hermione’s stomach fluttered, and she pulled the pillow on her lap tighter against her.
“Ah, I think this will do nicely,” Malfoy announced after a few minutes. “Ready?”
“As I’ll ever be.” Hermione fought to keep the nervous waiver out of her voice.
“She wasn’t supposed to be in the locker rooms, but that never stopped Isabelle from sneaking in after the matches to see Arturo. He suspected that she did it on purpose to catch a glimpse of him coming out of the showers. Even though she always blushed crimson and looked down modestly when she saw him in his towel, he saw the way her eyes lingered on his toned chest and glistening abs.
“The rest of the team had already gone. They were always in a hurry after matches to go out to dinner with their loved ones, but Arturo liked to linger. He liked to watch her blush.”
Malfoy looked up from the book briefly, his eyes dancing over her face, and Hermione wondered if he was watching her blush. His lips twitched, then he turned back to the book.
“As Isabelle wandered in, Arturo loosened his grip on his towel slightly, letting it sag lower on his hip bones. Her eyes followed the line of it, her pink tongue darting out to wet her lips before she looked away with a gasp.
“‘Great game today,’ Isabelle purred, gazing up at him through her long eyelashes.
“Arturo couldn’t help but chuckle at her. ‘Thank you.’
“‘The way you caught the Snitch was so skilled. I plan to write all about it for my column tomorrow.’
“Ah yes, her column. The official reason for her locker room visit was always her column in the local paper. But Arturo knew better. If it was an interview she was after, she would have cornered him on the field right after the win. This wasn’t business… It was pleasure.”
Hermione laughed. “That’s a good line.”
Malfoy grinned and pressed on. “Arturo crossed the space between them and stood behind her. ‘And what else will you put in your column?’
“Isabelle’s lips twitched as she raised her chin to face him properly. ‘Oh, you know. General stats about the match and your career. I’ll be sure to double check everything with your publicist, of course.’ Her face was cherry red as her eyes fought to look anywhere but his exposed skin. ‘And some simple facts about you that our readers would like to know. Height, age, relationship status, wand type and length, that sort of thing.’
“‘Wand length, huh?’ Arturo leaned slightly closer. ‘And which wand are you talking about, Isabelle?’”
“That’s very forward,” Hermione piped up.
Malfoy nodded and his eyebrows lifted. “I’ll say. This Arturo has all the confidence of a man who’s never been slapped in the face.”
“Well, so do you,” Hermione teased. “But I know for a fact that you’ve been slapped in the face.”
Draco’s mouth tightened for a moment, and Hermione suspected that she’d touched a nerve. But then he smirked at her. “Well, the confidence isn’t easily slapped away for some of us. Besides, that was different.”
Hermione took a sip of her drink with a smirk. “I still attest that you deserved that slap.”
Draco’s lip twitched and then he shrugged, his eyes returning to the book. “Fair enough. Shall I continue?”
Hermione nodded and waved her hand to urge him forward.
“Arturo smirked at the crimson flush that bloomed on her neck. ‘Well,’ Isabelle murmured. ‘I only have the stats on one of them.’
“‘Would you like to know about the other?’
“Isabelle let out a nervous laugh and dropped her gaze to her shoes.
“‘Come on, Bella.’ Arturo stepped closer to her, reaching out to tuck a strand of golden hair behind her ear. ‘This game of cat and mouse has gone on long enough, don’t you think?’
“As if her apprehension had been dissolved by his words, Isabelle stepped forward, wrapping her arms around Arturo’s neck and standing on tiptoe to press a kiss to the corner of his mouth. Surprised but not deterred, Arturo’s hands flew to the nape of her neck, cradling her face as he kissed her passionately.”
Draco paused to turn the page, his eyes flicking to her over the top of the book and holding her gaze for just a second before returning to the words with a smirk.
“Her lips were soft and warm, but even better than that was the way her body arched to press against his. Arturo could feel all of her through her thin summer robes. He wasted no time, dropping one hand to curl around her hip and pull her against him.
“She let out a gasp as their hips collided, and he was sure that she could feel his arousal pressed against her. Long and hard.”
Hermione’s throat felt dry, so she took a long draw from her glass to keep from clearing her throat.
Draco’s lips twitched before he continued. “Arturo gently guided her back until her back collided with the wall. Then he sank to his knees before her. He ran his hands up the creamy skin of her legs to push her skirt up as Isabelle let in a sharp intake of air.
“He couldn’t wait to make her scream for him. Slowly, looking up at her with a grin, he pulled her knickers down her legs and let them pool at her ankles. Gently, he nudged her knees, encouraging her to spread them. She shifted uneasily on her stilettos but was soon open wide for him. He brushed his fingers over her dripping core, enjoying the way her hips bucked at his touch. Then he leaned forward, holding the backs of her thighs, and flicked his tongue against her.
“She gasped, keening at his touch, and she moaned his name as her fingers curled into his hair. ‘Don’t stop,’ she pleaded as her hips canted against his mouth. He didn’t plan to.”
Draco’s eyes flicked to her face once more as he paused to turn the page. Hermione wasn’t sure what he was looking for, but he seemed to find it. His cheeks turned slightly pink, and his tongue darted out to wet his lips before he turned his focus back to the book.
“Arturo took his time, alternating between his fingers and his tongue as her moans and gasps grew increasingly louder. He would have been happy to continue all day, but after only two minutes, Isabelle’s hips jerked and she cried out, fingers gripping his hair hard as she screamed her release.”
“Two minutes?” Hermione scoffed incredulously. “Not bloody likely.”
Draco’s eyes were wide as he looked up at her. “Never finished in two minutes, Granger?”
Hermione rolled her eyes, ignoring the heat rising in her cheeks. “It’s too fast. They went from just speaking to that in only two minutes? Impossible.”
“Wanna bet?” His eyes were hot on hers, lips curling into a smirk, challenging her.
Hermione’s heart pounded in her chest, and despite the excitement thundering through her veins a moment ago, a new impulse had settled in her belly. She wanted to run. Run away. Away from him, from the book, from the swooping sensation he caused in her, from whatever silly attraction had taken hold in her foolish mind.
Suddenly, she couldn’t breathe. Her stomach clenched painfully, and she felt tears prickle behind her eyes. She couldn’t explain why things had shifted so quickly, but all she could think about was escaping before she did something truly humiliating in front of him—like weep.
She felt like a coward, but she couldn’t stop herself. “I’m tired,” she squeaked, pushing herself to stand with trembling legs and hurrying from the room.
“Granger, I didn’t mean—” Malfoy called out to her, but she didn’t look back, afraid of what she might do if she did.
As she retreated into her bedroom, she heard him murmur, “Fuck,” just before she closed the door.
She flopped onto her bed and covered her face with her hands, trying desperately to quell the frantic thrumming of her heartbeat. What was wrong with her? Hadn’t she been fantasising about Malfoy for weeks? Hadn’t she been flirting with him mere minutes before running away?
Embarrassment prickled over her skin, and she pulled the blanket over her head with a groan. Perhaps it was just too real. Fantasy was one thing, but actually acting on it was something else entirely. Was she actually ready to move on in such a real way?
Footsteps approached her door, and she held her breath, peeking out from under the blanket. The sound of hard-soled shoes stopped just beyond her closed door. For a moment she thought that he might knock and try to talk to her, but then the footsteps retreated.
That night, Hermione tossed and turned in bed, warring with herself. Her mind and her heart seemed to be at odds about what they wanted. Her mind wanted Malfoy. Or her body did. She couldn’t determine exactly how she wanted him, but she did. Only her heart, it seemed, was not yet ready to open up again.
Her stomach turned at the thought of facing him in the days to come. How could she explain her sudden departure? Surely he didn’t believe that she had so quickly gotten tired enough to scamper from the room like a frightened deer.
By three a.m., she finally gave in and pulled a Dreamless Sleep potion from her emergency stash. It had been weeks since she’d used one, and she hated feeling like she was dependent on potions, but her mind simply wouldn’t stop replaying the events of the night. She unstoppered it and drank it down in one gulp and after only a few minutes, her mind quieted as her eyes drifted closed.
Hermione didn’t see Draco again for a week. She supposed that she had scared him away with her unexplainable behaviour. It was most likely for the best. Though a part of her missed seeing him most days and letting her imagination wander, she was obviously not ready for whatever they’d been sprinting towards over the past few weeks. Still, knowing that she needed time and space didn’t stop the pang of disappointment in her stomach when she came home from work every day and he wasn’t there.
And then one day, he was there. On Friday Hermione came home late, arms laden with folders Billings had sent home with her, and Draco was seated at the kitchen table with Pansy and Luna. Three heads swiveled in her direction, and her heart stuttered in her chest as his eyes connected with hers for the first time in a week.
“Hello.” Hermione shifted the folders in her arms and grimaced as a few slid off the top and toppled to the floor, parchments scattering across the hardwood. “Bugger,” she mumbled, setting the remaining folders on the coffee table.
Humiliated, she sank to her knees and began to gather the scattered parchments, all the while feeling eyes watching her.
A pair of dragonhide dress shoes approached her, and then Draco was sinking to his knees too, helping retrieve the papers with long, pale fingers.
Hermione looked up, her eyes meeting his. “Thanks,” she breathed.
When they had assembled all of the fallen folders and papers back into a pile, Draco stood and picked them all up. Hermione rose too and moved to take them from him, but he just added them to the pile on the coffee table and began walking towards her bedroom, folders in hand.
Hermione followed and opened the door for him, her heart thundering in her chest as she stood aside to allow Draco into her room for the first time. “On the desk is fine,” she directed.
He stepped inside and placed the folders on the tidy surface of her desk before turning to take in the rest of her room.
Hermione hurriedly looked around for anything that might be out of place, suddenly worried that there might be knickers hanging to dry or dirty clothes in a pile somewhere. But everything was where it should be. Even Crookshanks was in his usual place, curled up at the foot of her bed. The orange kneazle lifted his head, yellow eyes surveying Draco with interest as if trying to determine if this new person posed a threat.
Draco stepped forward and held out the back of his hand for Crookshanks to smell. Hermione held her breath; Crookshanks typically didn’t like men much. He’d always hissed at Ron even after years of them living in the same home.
But Crookshanks, after stretching his neck forward to sniff Draco’s hand curiously, just laid his head back down, allowing Draco to scratch him behind the ear.
“Listen,” Draco began, putting his hands in his pockets, “I’m sorry about last weekend. Pansy always says that I’m an incorrigible flirt. It’s not the first time it’s gotten me into trouble.” He let out a half-hearted chuckle and shuffled his feet. “I forgot that you’re… not used to that… from me, I mean. And I… I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”
Hermione stared at Crookshanks to avoid looking Draco in the eyes. She didn’t know what to say. Perhaps his flirting hadn’t had anything to do with her at all. Perhaps he was just such a natural flirt that he would have made suggestive comments like that towards any woman. Should she explain to him why she’d run away? She could just imagine what that would sound like…
I ran because I was afraid that I was about to launch myself across the couch and shag you senseless, but I got freaked out because I’ve only ever been with one man.
No. That was idiotic.
“Thank you. I would prefer… prefer if we just forgot the whole incident.” She glanced at him, feeling her cheeks flare under his gaze. “If you don’t mind.”
Draco nodded. “Sounds great.” He stepped past her and moved to the doorway.
Hermione halfway wanted to stop him.
“We have plenty of food for you if you’d like to join us,” Draco said.
She did. Desperately. But she had a mountain of paperwork to sort out, and she wasn’t sure she could bear sitting next to him when she could hardly stand to look at him right now. “Thank you, but I should really focus on the work I brought home.”
Without another word, he left, and Hermione closed the door behind him.
Over the next few weeks, Hermione and Draco tiptoed around each other. He came over less frequently than before, and when he did visit it seemed like he was trying to keep a respectable distance. They spoke cordially. He teased her about her cooking and asked her if she’d convinced her boss that she was worth more than an errand runner.
They certainly didn’t read any more romance novels.
He was acting nice enough, but Hermione could tell he was holding himself back, policing his words to avoid frightening her away again.
But as it always did, time passed, and the walls Hermione had built around herself grew less firm. Perhaps it was simply because her distance from Ron was greater. Or perhaps it was because Malfoy had become a reliable presence in her life.
Either way, the awkwardness eventually faded into comfort, and by the time Hermione noticed it, his bantering teasing began to creep back into their conversations.
They talked. Laughed.
He teased her, and she called him a prat, but they both smiled at each other.
And when she watched his eyes crinkle at the upturn of his lips, not for the first time, Hermione felt her heart flutter.
“Why on earth did you want to meet so early?” Ginny asked as she came through the Floo on Sunday morning, three months after Hermione moved in.
Hermione checked the clock on the wall. “Ginny, it’s ten. Do you really consider this early?”
“On my days off, anything before noon is early.” Ginny slid into a chair at the kitchen table and rested her cheek on her palm. “Got any coffee?”
Hermione laughed and hurried around the kitchen island to fetch two mugs. She poured the coffee and then settled across from Ginny at the table. “I just thought we could get an early start at the shops. I haven’t bought a new dress in a long time and I figured Harry’s birthday would be a good excuse.”
Ginny drank greedily. “The shops will still be there at eleven.”
Hermione just rolled her eyes and settled in to enjoy a cup of coffee or two with Ginny before their day of shopping.
“Morning, ladies,” a voice drawled as Draco walked into the kitchen.
“Oh no, did you lose your shirt again?” Hermione teased, taking in his naked torso. “You really must learn to keep an eye on your belongings.”
Draco grinned at her and held his arms wide, displaying his chest and abs proudly. “I think it’s nice to greet our early morning guests in the best possible way.” He winked at Ginny and then made his way to the cupboard.
“Guests,” Hermione scoffed. “You’re a guest, you prat.”
Draco pulled the bread down and cast a cheeky smile over his shoulder at her. “You’re right, I am. So, don’t you think you should be a little nicer?” He picked up a slice of bread and replaced the rest of the loaf before walking to the table. “Not very friendly to call your guests prats, now is it, Granger?”
“Perhaps if you were less of a prat, I wouldn’t have to call you a prat so often,” Hermione said with sickeningly sweet honey in her voice.
Draco leaned one hand on the table and took a bite of bread. He pursed his lips and furrowed his brow as if in deep thought. Finally, he shook his head. “No. Not worth it.”
Unable to stop it, a laugh bubbled out of Hermione’s lips as Draco stepped back to the counter to pour himself a cup of coffee. Her eyes moved back to Ginny, and she felt her cheeks flare with heat from the look her friend was giving her. Ginny’s eyebrows were raised, her lips turned up in an amused smirk. The grin slipped from Hermione’s face, and she busied herself with stirring some sugar into her coffee to avoid her gaze.
Coffee and toast in hand, Draco left the room, and he’d been gone no longer than two seconds before Ginny burst into laughter. “Wow, that was practically foreplay. Are you sure you want to spend your day shopping?”
“Ginny,” Hermione chastised, sure that her cheeks were scarlet. “We’re just friends.”
“Mmhmm, sure.” Ginny raised an eyebrow and lifted her coffee cup to her lips with a smirk.
Across the flat, Pansy’s office door shut with a bit too much force.
Hermione hardly saw Draco that week. She worked late several days, and if he was there when she arrived home, he always scowled and left quickly, making some excuse.
She couldn’t explain his foul mood. By all accounts, things had been going quite well between them recently. Perhaps it had nothing to do with her. She decided not to dwell on it; she didn’t really have time anyway. Billings was running her spare with mountains of paperwork and reports to be filled out and organised.
By the time Friday arrived, Hermione was so pleased to have an excuse to leave work at five o’clock sharp. Harry’s birthday party was scheduled to begin at six-thirty, which would give her just enough time to go home, shower, and change clothes before heading to Harry and Ginny’s flat.
“Hermione! Good, you’re still here.” Billings hurried out of her office and to Hermione’s desk just as she was packing up for the day. “I need these reports filled out and sent down to Robards at the DMLE before you leave.”
Hermione gaped at the stack of folders Billings dropped onto her desk. It was two hours’ work at least. She checked her watch. It was nearly five. She would be late to Harry’s party if she had to do these. And she wouldn’t have time to change into the new dress she’d bought for the occasion. “Ma’am, I…” She trailed off, her plea to leave on time dying on her tongue.
Billings asked too much of her, but Hermione felt like any day now she would be allowed to start helping more in the department. Perhaps asking so much of Hermione lately was Billings’ way of seeing if she was ready for more responsibility. For all she knew, refusing to finish the reports today would solidify Hermione’s incompetence in Billings’ mind.
“Yes, ma’am. I’ll finish them before I leave.”
Billings nodded and pulled on her coat before closing and locking her office door and departing for the night.
Hermione sighed and sat back down. Picking up her quill, she settled in for an evening of diligent reporting.
It was nearly eight when Hermione finally arrived at Harry’s flat. She hadn’t had time to go home, so she was still in her work clothes. She mourned the new black dress she had hanging on her closet door at home. Perhaps she would be able to find another excuse to wear it soon.
At least fifteen people were packed into Harry and Ginny’s flat. Hermione recognised most of them from school, but there were a few new faces that she guessed were Aurors.
After a moment, Ginny floated over with a drink in each hand and passed one to Hermione, eyeing her clothes with curiosity. “Where’s your new dress?”
“I didn’t have time to go home,” Hermione mumbled, bringing the drink to her lips and hoping the alcohol would chase away the headache building in her temples. “Sorry I’m late.”
Ginny frowned. “Billings still working you to the bone?”
Hermione nodded. “Where’s Harry?”
“Last I saw him, he and Neville were doing shots in the kitchen.”
Hermione glanced around nervously. Before she ventured into the party, she needed to know what to expect. “Is… erm… is Ron here?”
Ginny’s eyes suddenly darted away. “Er… no. He was here, but he left early.” The redhead lifted her drink to her lips as her eyes deftly avoided Hermione.
Hermione frowned, her mind connecting the dots without issue. “He’s on a date.” It wasn’t a question.
With a grimace, Ginny finally met Hermione’s eyes. “Yeah… I think so. I’m sorry.”
Hermione shook her head, drinking to avoid needing to respond. An odd feeling settled in her chest at the news that Ron was on a date. It didn’t hurt her as she thought it would, but she felt rather… hollow.
She wondered how long Ron had been dating again. Was this the first date he’d been on since they’d broken up, or had he been going on dates for weeks now? She wondered if he was having as hard of a time moving on as she was.
The idea of Ron being with someone new didn’t upset her, so why was she so concerned with what he might think if she started seeing someone new?
“I’m fine,” Hermione said when Ginny’s concerned expression didn’t wane. “Really. Good for Ron.”
“He did ask about you,” Ginny provided, clearly still concerned that Hermione was more upset than she was letting on. “Wanted to make sure you were doing well. Said he was sorry he missed you tonight.”
Hermione nodded, surprised by the nothing she felt at the news that Ron had inquired about her. “That was nice of him. I’m gonna go wish Harry a happy birthday.” With a smile, Hermione walked away from Ginny and crossed to the kitchen, where a drunken Harry was waiting for her with a grin and a hug.
By the time Hermione made it home, it was nearly midnight. The flat was dark except for the glow of the dying fire. She exited the Floo and made her way to the kitchen to get herself a glass of water, her heels clicking on the hardwood floors.
She walked into the kitchen and illuminated the room with a flick of her wand. After rummaging through the cupboard for a glass, she got herself some water and made her way towards her bedroom, where she planned to kick off her heels as soon as she could.
“Merlin’s saggy bollocks, Granger,” grumbled a voice from the couch.
Hermione jumped and stumbled back in surprise. She didn’t know how she hadn’t noticed, but Draco must have been lying on the couch when she came in. He was now sitting up and looking at her over the back of the sofa with a dark expression. “Malfoy, you scared me,” Hermione gasped.
“Why are you still in your work clothes?” he drawled. “It’s midnight.”
“I haven’t changed yet. It’s Harry’s birthday, and I didn’t have time to change before I went over to his place,” Hermione explained. “What’s got your wand in a knot?”
Draco just grumbled and laid back down on the couch with a scowl.
With a roll of her eyes, Hermione began to walk back to her bedroom. Draco had been grumpy with her for days now. She couldn’t understand why. She thought they had reached a civil sort of relationship over the months she’d been living here. Perhaps she had even begun to think of him as her friend. And now he was blowing her off and acting like they were back in Hogwarts again.
Turning sharply before she reached her door, she marched back over and sat on the couch, forcing him to move his feet and sit up with a frustrated groan. Setting her glass of water on the coffee table. “What’s wrong?” she snapped.
Draco grimaced, avoiding her gaze. “Piss off,” he growled.
“Oh, that’s very mature,” Hermione chastised. “And here I thought we were adults who could have a conversation about what was bothering us. I know it’s something to do with me. Just tell me.”
Draco glanced at her, his silver eyes raking briefly over her crisp white blouse, pencil skirt, and stilettos. “It’s nothing,” he insisted, deftly turning back to the fire.
“Draco,” she sighed, “I don’t know what I did. But please tell me. I thought we were friends now,” she said, turning to face him fully. Her heart was pounding nervously. She had come to enjoy his company, and she didn’t want to go back to the hostile animosity they had shared at Hogwarts.
Draco grimaced. “There’s that word again. Friends,” he spat.
“You told Ginny on Monday that we were friends.”
“That’s what this is about?” Hermione balked.
Of all the things to make him upset.
He was scowling at the fireplace again, and her heart sank. “You don’t think we’re friends?” she asked hesitantly, feeling horribly vulnerable.
Draco scoffed and turned sideways to look at her. “I thought I had made it very clear that my interest in you wasn’t friendship. I knew you needed time and space, so I haven’t pushed anything. But Granger, friends is the last thing I want to be. Especially since all I can think about right now is ripping that pretty little skirt off your body.”
Hermione blinked. Had he just said what she thought he said? Surely he couldn’t mean…
But then she noticed the heat behind his eyes, the way he looked her up and down, his gaze settling on her legs before travelling up to her chest where she had unbuttoned one or two more buttons than usual while at the party.
A hot flush spread over her cheeks and neck under his stare. Her heart was pounding wildly beneath her breasts. She had fantasised about this, yes, but that was very different than having the opportunity present itself in reality. Was this something she could actually act on? She finally felt over Ron, but she had never been with anyone else. Still, she felt very… curious.
Slowly, as if waiting for him to laugh in her face and tell her it had all been a joke, she inched a bit closer to him. His eyes widened a bit as she advanced, but he didn’t move away. He also didn’t reach out to her. Somehow, she knew why. This had to be her choice. She had to make the move.
She pulled her legs beneath her to sit on her shins and leaned forward, one hand bracing against the arm of the couch. Her mouth hovered over his, and she hesitated. His hands reached up, long fingers ghosting over her waist, making her shiver.
He looked at her expectantly, waiting patiently. She could pull away and remain a girl who had never kissed Draco Malfoy.
But she didn’t want to.
At last her lips brushed his—feather light—and he returned the kiss. His hands gripped her waist firmly, and he pulled her closer. She twisted to sit on his lap, and he kissed her harder, one hand travelling up to delve into her messy bun. She felt it loosen and fall apart, but she didn’t care. There was a fire coursing through her veins now. Her arms encircled his neck, and she deepened the kiss, her tongue darting out to tease his lips.
He groaned and opened his mouth to her, his tongue reaching forward to meet her own.
Hot breath against her mouth, a moan of pleasure from her throat, his fingers in her hair, on her neck, on her waist. His growing arousal in his trousers pressing against her thigh.
Hermione’s head was spinning.
She gasped out as he broke away from her mouth to drag his hot lips down her neck to her collarbone. His lips closed around her skin, sucking lightly as the hand on her waist dragged upwards to palm her breast through her shirt.
Her lips reached for any part of his skin nearby, dragging across the shell of his ear with a throaty sigh. It had been so long, and her skin was tingling under his heated touch; she felt her arousal pool at her centre.
She arched her back into his touch, and his hand gripped her breast harder.
His other hand was on the side of her skirt, his fingers running along the line of the zip as if contemplating…
Nerves fluttering in her stomach, she pulled away only enough to pull his head back up so that her lips could find his again. Her fingers gripped the back of his neck as she pressed her chest against his.
Merlin, she wanted him. Her blood was singing in her veins, eager to feel all of him around her, on top of her, within her. She could feel his cock, long and hard against her hip. She wanted to touch it. Her hands trailed down his chest, feeling his abdominal muscles jump in anticipation.
The sudden sound of a door opening sent Hermione reeling away from Draco. She frantically righted her skirt, her hand flying to her swollen lips as Pansy rounded the corner into view.
“Oh, you’re still up,” she said, her eyes flickering between the two on the couch. “Just getting a glass of water. Everything alright here?”
Hermione’s heart was pounding, and she knew her face must be scarlet. She cleared her throat and nodded. “Fine,” she squeaked.
Draco chuckled next to her.
A slow smirk spread over Pansy’s lips as she crossed the room to the kitchen. Hermione looked down at her clothes. To her horror, she discovered that her blouse had shifted, exposing several inches of her lacy bra. She quickly covered herself and chanced a glance at the blond next to her.
Draco was doing a very poor job of trying to contain his laughter. His hair was ruffled and there was a faint hint of lipstick around his mouth and trailing across his cheek.
If ever there was a moment to sink into the couch and disappear, this was it. Hermione stared at her hands, utterly mortified as Pansy turned the faucet off and her footsteps returned.
“Goodnight,” Pansy sang with a grin as she returned to the bedroom.
As soon as the door snapped shut, Hermione let out a breath she didn’t realise she had been holding.
Draco laughed, and Hermione, though she wasn’t sure it was possible, felt her cheeks burn even more.
A nervous chuckle escaped her lips, and she cleared her throat. “I should probably get some sleep too,” she said awkwardly. “Long day, you know.”
Something passed over Draco’s face as she rose to her feet. Disappointment, perhaps? Whatever it was, it was fleeting. He quickly slipped back into his typical mask, impossible to read.
“Goodnight, Granger,” he mumbled.
Hermione stepped past him, her heels clicking against the hardwood floors.
“Goodnight… Draco,” she breathed before retreating to her bedroom.
She shed her clothes in a daze, wondering what would have happened if Pansy hadn’t interrupted them. Would Draco be the one undressing her right now? Would he have gotten to—as he had seemed so eager to—rip this skirt off of her? A thrill of arousal shot to her core at the thought.
Perhaps she should invite him to join her. It had been months since she’d had sex, and she could no longer deny to herself that she wanted Draco.
As soon as she had entertained the idea of opening the door and beckoning him into her room, she heard the door across the hall close with a soft click. Draco had retired to Pansy’s spare room for the evening.
Perhaps that was for the best. As much as she loved the idea of having a night of passionate sex with Draco Malfoy, what would it mean if she let herself do that? He’d said he didn’t want friendship, but what did he want?
She pulled on her pyjamas and climbed into bed, unable to think of anything but the blond man whose kiss had set her on fire just across the corridor.
I'm hoping to post the next chapter on November 12th. Again, I will post on my Tumblr if that needs to be delayed at all. I am also very active in the #gracefullioness channel on the Dept. of Fandom Discord server. Come hang out with us there and chat about this story or any of my works!
Leave me a comment if you're so inclined! I also have a new WIP inspired by the movie How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. It's (cleverly) titled How to Lose a Wizard in 10 Days. Check it out if you want!
Can you believe it? It's actually going up on time! I've got to thank my lovely AlphaBet team - BiscuitsForPotter and NuclearNik - who came in clutch to get it done for you all.
I hope you enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The following morning, Hermione awoke with her mind already reviewing the events of the previous night in detail. Draco’s lips on her neck, his palm on her breast, his hard cock against her hip…
She clapped her hands over her face and groaned. Had she honestly snogged Draco in the living room like some randy school girl? For Merlin’s sake, it was Malfoy . Sure, she’d been entertaining the fantasy of him for a few weeks, but to actually act on it…
She was mortified.
He was probably having a good laugh about it right now.
Something tapping on her window forced her to sit up. There was a large barn owl outside carrying a parcel.
She rose from her bed and crossed to the window, throwing it open and allowing the owl to swoop inside and deposit the parcel on her desk. It flew out without waiting for a reply.
Hermione fiddled with the string that bound the brown paper to the parcel, retrieving a small card tucked there.
Please complete these reports by Monday morning. We will have a meeting at 9am with the Romanian Ambassador regarding the transport of Thestrals.
Hermione scoffed and tossed the card down before opening the parcel. Inside were at least a dozen folders.
Lamenting the loss of her free time, she pulled them out and set them on the desk. She would have to spend the day on them, but first, she desperately needed something to eat.
Judging by the sounds coming from the kitchen, she was the last one to greet the day. She could hear voices and the telltale sounds of cooking drifting through the flat. Glancing at her clock, she noticed that it was well after nine.
Hermione pulled on her light robe and padded to the kitchen in her sock feet. Pansy and Luna were finishing eating, chatting happily about their plans for the day. Draco was there as well, gazing intently at her over the top of the Daily Prophet. He sipped his coffee, eyes never leaving her as she made her way to the cupboard.
Hermione couldn’t help but feel naked under his stare. Perhaps she should have put on something more presentable—taken a comb to her unruly hair—something. She pulled a mug down from the cupboard and prepared a cup of coffee for herself. Sipping it, she wondered if she should brave sitting down at the table in the empty chair next to Draco.
She dawdled as she made her breakfast; spreading jam on her toast at a glacial pace and adding sugar to her coffee and stirring it far slower than was necessary. Just as she was wondering how she was going to stomach sitting at Draco’s side, Pansy and Luna stood up and took their plates to the sink. Hermione let out a little breath of relief. At least this way she could put the table between her and Draco.
“Hermione, any plans today?” Pansy asked.
Hermione nodded as she spread jam over her toast. “Yes, actually. I’m getting lunch with Ginny. After that, I’m afraid I have to do some paperwork for my boss.”
“That boss of yours still hasn’t let up, has she?” Pansy sniffed.
Hermione shook her head miserably. “Unfortunately not.”
“Well, if you need a break, you’re welcome to swing by my studio. I’m prepping for the show so I’ll be fitting the models all day.” Pansy lifted her eyebrows suggestively. “The male models. Five minutes of that and I doubt you’d be stressing about work.”
Hermione laughed, fighting a flush as she felt Draco’s eyes on her again. “I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks.”
Pansy flitted away back to her bedroom with Luna. Just as Hermione turned around to take her breakfast to the table, she felt something pressed into her lower back. Gasping, she jumped a mile high, nearly dropping her plate.
She spun around, only to find Draco right there, a wolfish grin taking over his face. Without a word, he took her plate and mug and set them on the counter.
When she followed the motion, Hermione found herself facing Draco. He stepped into her, his fingers finding her hips and pulling her against him. “Do you have any idea how sexy you are in this robe?” he murmured.
Before she could even think of forming a reply, his lips were on hers unapologetically.
Hermione gasped, tilting her head back to accept his lips against hers. His mouth was hot and needy as he kissed her fast and hard. Winding her arms around his neck, she stepped closer to him, returning the kiss in earnest. His palms were splayed wide against her back as he pulled her close. One moved up, fingers tangling in her bedraggled curls as the other moved down to grip her arse possessively.
A little moan escaped her lips before she could hold it back, and she felt him smirk against her mouth. She desperately wanted to regain some control over the situation, but her mind was having a hard time even keeping up with him. Her senses were flooded by all of him: his scent, his touch, his taste.
His lips detached from hers, and she reeled with the loss, but they were only gone for a moment before he was kissing a fiery path down her neck. He pushed her back, her arse colliding with the counter as he slotted his hips against hers.
One of her legs lifted, guided by his hand, allowing him to press harder against her centre as he sucked hard on the juncture of her neck and shoulder.
“Draco…” she gasped as she felt his erection press against her.
“Hmm?” His fingers curved over her arse and brushed against her centre through her pyjama shorts.
Hips bucking involuntarily, she found herself writhing against him wantonly, gripping his hair as his tongue darted out across her collar bones. She let her other hand wander over him, feeling the tight muscles of his arms and shoulders through his shirt.
He repositioned his hand, reaching between them as he lifted his head to kiss her again. His fingers snaked beneath the waistband of her shorts and into her knickers, and he swallowed her moan as he brushed over her wet folds.
He circled her sensitive bud a few times before curling his hand and sinking two fingers into her dripping heat. A cracked cry escaped her, and she had no doubt that her knees would have buckled had he not been holding her so tightly against the counter.
“Shh,” he instructed, barely breaking the kiss as his fingers began to slowly pump in and out of her.
Hermione opened her eyes, looking up at him through her lashes as he fucked her with his fingers. His eyes were nearly black with arousal, and while his smirk had once seemed malicious to her, now it set her on fire.
A pressure was building inside of her, faster than she thought was possible. Her mouth fell open, and Draco leaned in, swallowing her moan in a heated kiss. She curled her hands around his biceps, holding on to him for dear life as his fingers took her higher and higher towards that great precipice.
There was a distant noise, and with a jolt, Hermione recognised the sound of Pansy and Luna’s door opening. She jumped, pushing against Draco’s chest until he pulled his hand away from her and stepped back to the kitchen table as if nothing had happened at all. Hermione barely had time to right her clothes and pick her coffee back up before Pansy popped her head back into the kitchen.
“We’re heading out. Remember to swing by if you need a break, yeah?”
Hermione smiled and leaned against the counter in what she hoped was a casual way. “Sure. Thanks.”
With a nod and a curious glance at Draco, Pansy left with Luna through the Floo.
As soon as they were gone, Hermione breathed a sigh of relief.
“I should go too,” Draco announced, folding up the paper and taking his plate to the sink. “Have a lovely day, Granger. Don’t work too hard.”
He leaned over her and placed an innocent kiss on her lips before backing up. Sending her a wicked grin, he lifted his fingers—the ones that only a moment ago had been buried inside her—to his lips and sucked them into his mouth. “Mmm…” he moaned, his eyebrow lifting suggestively. “Delicious.”
Hermione felt her cheeks burn, her mouth falling open in shock.
And then, cool as could be, he turned and left through the Floo, leaving Hermione mortified and painfully aroused.
She took a few bites of her cold breakfast, trying desperately to quell the rhythmic puttering of her heart and the throbbing in her knickers.
As she showered, she hoped the tepid water would calm her down, but it was no use. She could still feel Draco’s fiery touch on her body, his lips on her neck, his fingers brushing against her.
Not seeing any other options, Hermione let her own fingers travel down and made tight circles on her clit, imagining his fingers and his tongue on her until she came hard, a whimper escaping her throat and echoing off the tiles. And she kept going, thinking of his cock pressed against her this time as she brought herself to a second orgasm just for good measure before finishing her shower and dressing to meet Ginny for lunch.
As Hermione settled into her seat at the café, she forced herself to focus on anything but Draco.
Ginny walked in and greeted her with a smile and a wave, sitting down across from her and promptly ordering a cup of tea.
“I have to do some work later,” said Hermione. “So I’m afraid I can’t hang around too long.”
“Well, it’s nice to see you too, Hermione. A fine welcome this is,” Ginny teased.
“Sorry,” Hermione laughed, cheeks flushing. “How are you?”
“Fantastic… Really? What’s going on?”
“Well, my best friend obviously has some juicy news for me judging by the massive love bite on her neck.” Ginny grinned and sent a pointed look at Hermione’s scoop neck blouse.
Hermione jumped and twisted around, trying in vain to see her own neck. When that didn’t work, she scooped up her spoon to try to see it in the reflection on the back. Sure enough, Draco had left a purple bruise on her neck just above the curve of her shoulder. Flushing crimson, she covered it with one hand.
“Let me guess…” Ginny tapped her chin with one finger, a large smirk stretching across her face.
“Please don’t tell Ron.” Hermione grimaced, setting the spoon back in its place.
“Ah, I was wondering if that was the result of an embarrassing backslide with my dear brother. It appears that it’s not, so that just leaves…”
“It was Draco, alright?” Hermione hissed, wanting to crawl into a hole and die.
“Oh, do tell.” Ginny leaned forward on her elbows and rested her chin on the back of one of her freckled hands.
“And don’t tell Harry, will you? He’ll tell Ron.”
“Alright, I swear I won’t tell a soul.” Ginny raised her hand in promise. “Now spill.”
Hermione groaned and ran her fingers through her hair. “Well, apparently it all started when I told you last week that Draco and I are friends.”
“Are you not?”
Lifting one brow, Hermione continued. “He was in quite a mood all week. I finally confronted him last night. He said he doesn’t want to be my friend.”
“He wants to be more!” Ginny’s eyes lit up with barely restrained excitement.
Hermione glanced around the café, hoping that Ginny’s exuberance hadn’t attracted too much attention. “Apparently.”
“Okay, so what does that mean? Does he fancy you?”
“I have no idea. The next thing I knew I was snogging him.” Hermione buried her face in her hands. “We didn’t exactly have time to talk about the specifics. But I’m freaking out, Gin. I mean, does he just want to shag me? Just a casual sort of thing? Or does he want more? I have no idea.”
“You could... ask him.” Ginny’s smirk made ire bubble up in Hermione’s stomach.
She scoffed. “Oh sure. I’m just supposed to stop snogging him to ask him why he’s snogging me. ‘Pardon me, Draco. I know your hand is in my knickers, but let's stop to talk about what all of this means.’”
Ginny’s eyes bulged wide. “His hand was in your knickers?”
Hermione flushed and nodded. “Around the time he was sucking on my neck, yes.”
“Well, I think you should definitely shag him. Regardless of what ends up happening in the long term for you two, you definitely need a proper rebound from Ron.”
“I’m not really a rebound kind of person, Gin.”
Ginny rolled her eyes. “Everyone is a rebound kind of person. Some people just take longer to rebound than others.”
Their conversation was interrupted when the waiter brought over their drinks and took their lunch orders. How Ginny could go from talking about sex one minute to casually ordering a tuna melt the next, Hermione didn’t know. She wasn’t as gifted, spluttering through ordering a turkey club before the waiter left with a smile.
“You’ve only ever been with one man, Hermione,” Ginny said, sipping her tea casually. “Even if it doesn’t end up being anything in the long term, I think you should let yourself have a little fun.”
“You’ve only ever been with one man, too,” Hermione pointed out with a scowl.
“That’s true, but Harry’s so adventurous that it feels like—”
Hermione clapped her hands over her ears. “Argh—Ginny! I don’t want to hear that!”
Ginny just snickered into her tea. “Listen, all I’m saying is that I don’t think it would be such a bad thing for you to fool around with Malfoy a bit.”
“But don’t you think Ron would be mad? I mean… it’s Malfoy.”
“Who cares what Ron thinks? You two broke up. That means you’re free to date or shag whomever you please! Ron might be a little put off about the whole idea, but he’d get over it.”
Hermione bit the inside of her cheek nervously. She knew that Ginny was right, but the thought of Ron finding out that she was involved with Malfoy made her stomach twist.
“Listen, Ron just wants you to be happy. I realise you two are taking some distance from each other, but I do think that he wants to be your friend once the dust settles. He knows that you’re going to be dating soon, and I’m sure he’ll come around to anyone who makes you happy.”
“Yeah, but of all people… Malfoy.” Hermione groaned. “Ron hates him. I can’t see him being accepting of anything where Malfoy is concerned.”
Ginny shrugged. “If he wants to be your friend he’ll just have to get used to it. He might surprise you.”
“All of this is a moot point anyway. I don’t even know if Malfoy wants to date me. For all I know he’s just looking for a quick shag.”
“Well, what do you want?” Ginny asked.
Hermione thought for several seconds. What did she want? Last night and this morning she had certainly wanted nothing more than to shag Draco senseless. Perhaps she just wanted a physical relationship with him. Nothing serious, just a casual fling.
But then again, she thought about their conversations. The way he flirted with her mercilessly and made her heart quicken and stomach flutter. His advice when she’d opened up to him about her relationship and break up with Ron. The way she felt when she got home at the end of a long day to see him sitting on the couch in the living room.
It was definitely more than just a physical attraction.
She looked up, her eyes locking with Ginny’s, who seemed to understand Hermione’s turmoil. “If he’s what you want then damn the past,” she advised. “And damn what Ron will think. Do something selfish for once in your life. Let yourself be happy.”
“He’s just… so fucking sexy.” Hermione giggled in spite of herself.
Ginny laughed. “Oh, I’ve noticed. Harry’s the only man for me, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sneak a little peek the other morning when he was walking around without a shirt.”
Hermione groaned. “Ginny, he does that all the time. It’s like he knows what it does to me.”
“He probably does.”
The waiter returned with their food and they both tucked in, laughing and gossiping about Hermione’s new romantic prospect.
The rest of the weekend Hermione had to lock herself away in her room to complete the work Billings had sent home with her. She decided not to go to Pansy’s fitting. She was already far too distracted by one sexy man; adding more men—especially extremely fit male models—into the mix would only exacerbate her problem. On Saturday evening, Luna knocked on her door, asking her to join them for dinner, but Hermione could hear Draco’s voice drifting in from the kitchen and knew that she’d never get back to work if she let herself become distracted by him. She regretfully declined and cast a silencing charm on her room to keep herself from being tempted to join the joyous trio enjoying their weekend.
Hermione finished her work late Sunday afternoon and ventured out into the flat in hopes of talking to Draco about what they both wanted from their mutual attraction. He was nowhere to be found, and Hermione was reminded that despite his near-constant presence in their flat, Draco did not live there.
She didn’t see him until Wednesday evening. Getting home from work late, she’d stumbled out of the Floo and immediately kicked her heels off. She scooped them up and made her way towards her room. Before she could enter it, however, the door to Pansy’s workspace had opened and Draco had pulled her into it, closing the door and pressing her against the wall with a fierce kiss. She dropped her heels, and they clattered against the wooden floor as her hands flew to his biceps.
“Missed you this week,” he mumbled against her lips, hands drawing her closer by the nape of her neck.
Hermione sighed and pressed her chest against his. “Missed you too.” Her heart was singing. She wanted to curl into him and feel his warmth against her. “Are you staying for dinner?” If she could just talk with him alone, maybe she would be able to discern what exactly was going on between them.
“I can’t,” he said with a regretful sigh, his thumb trailing along her cheekbone affectionately. “I promised Mother I’d be home.”
Hermione’s heart sank as he kissed her again. Perhaps this was all they would ever be. Snogging for brief moments when they could be alone. Stolen moments between their various responsibilities.
“Have dinner with me this weekend,” he suggested, before capturing her lips again.
“Dinner?” she asked like she’d never heard the word before.
“No, no…” He shook his head. “I know a place. Perfect for a nice meal and a private conversation.”
Heart quickening, Hermione felt herself nod. He wanted to talk to her as well—the idea made her stomach flip.
“Fantastic,” he grinned before kissing her again. “I’ve got to run, but I’ll pick you up Friday at seven.” He pulled away and opened the door but paused to pick up her heels for her and place them in her hands. “And just to be clear,” he added with a smirk, “it’s a date.”
The next two days passed at a Flobberworm’s pace. It seemed that Billings had no idea that Hermione had or even wanted a personal life. She put so much work on Hermione’s desk that she was forced to work late Thursday and go in early on Friday if she had any hope of being ready in time for her date with Draco.
She didn’t arrive home until six on Friday and had to rush through a shower before standing in front of her closet in a towel staring at her clothes. What should she wear? Was Draco hoping to have sex tonight? Was she hoping to have sex tonight? The little swoop in her stomach at the thought seemed to say yes.
Perhaps she should wear some of her nicer knickers just in case. She selected a matching set made of red lace. Now, what to wear over them? Should she go for something sexy? Cute? Sophisticated? She had no idea where Draco was taking her. How nice was it? He had mentioned that it was a place for a nice meal. But what did that mean exactly? Draco had money, so it was entirely possible that he could take her to quite an expensive restaurant.
With a sigh, Hermione realised exactly who she should ask for help, but she was too afraid to do it. She combed through her closet and pulled out a few options. They were too varied. From a casual sundress to a sultry cocktail dress to a pair of tight jeans with a silky blouse. She placed them all on her bed but felt no closer to making a decision.
Summoning her courage, Hermione pulled on her robe and walked down the corridor to knock on Pansy and Luna’s door. Luna opened the door with a dreamy smile.
“Hey Luna, is Pansy here?”
Luna nodded and swung the door open wider to reveal Pansy. The girl’s eyes travelled over Hermione from where she sat on the bed.
“Can you help me with something?” Hermione asked, butterflies fluttering in her stomach.
Arching an eyebrow, Pansy stood and glided past her girlfriend to follow Hermione to her bedroom.
“I need some fashion advice,” Hermione said as she closed the door and gestured to the clothes on the bed.
“What’s the occasion?” Pansy asked, bending to touch the silk top thoughtfully.
“I—er—have a date.”
Pansy’s head turned sharply, her eyebrows lifted in surprise. “Oh? And who’s the lucky lad?” She smirked, and Hermione felt her cheeks burn.
Pansy straightened up with a grin. “Ah. I thought I may have interrupted a little moment last weekend. I’m happy for you. Merlin knows you two have been dancing around this inevitability for weeks now.”
The tight coil of anxiety in Hermione’s chest loosened slightly. “Thank you. Do you know where he might take me? He only mentioned dinner, and I don’t know what to expect.”
Pansy glanced at the three options Hermione had laid out and shook her head. “None of these.” She crossed to the door and threw it open wide. “Love,” she called down the corridor, “could you pour the three of us some wine?”
Luna’s blonde waves came into view and the two of them exchanged hushed words briefly before Pansy closed the door again. Turning to Hermione’s closet, the designer began to rifle through all of Hermione’s clothes.
“Draco will most likely want to make a good first impression,” Pansy began. She paused and glanced at Hermione. “Or rather… second impression.” She pulled a dress from the rack and looked at it for a moment before replacing it as she shook her head. “He likely knows that you won’t be impressed by some gaudy display of his wealth, but that won’t stop him from taking you somewhere nice. Only the best of the best for the Malfoys.”
Pansy pulled out the black cocktail dress that Hermione had bought to wear to Harry’s birthday party. She wasn’t sure why she hadn’t thought to wear it. It was an appropriate date dress with off the shoulder sleeves and a keyhole back.
Pansy held it out for Hermione to take. “Try this. Draco was raised in pure-blood society, which means everything tonight is going to be about courting you properly. I don’t know where he’ll take you, but it will most likely be a five-star restaurant. Knowing Draco, he probably has the whole date planned out to the minute. That man never does anything by half.”
Hermione’s heart was pounding. Her stomach felt so tight that she thought she might be sick. Was Draco expecting her to be knowledgeable of the etiquette for an evening in pure-blood society?
“Put it on,” Pansy insisted when Hermione had stared off into space for too long.
Hermione jumped slightly and took off her robe.
“Are those the knickers you’re wearing?” Pansy raised an eyebrow, her blue eyes dragging over Hermione’s body.
Blushing, Hermione glanced down at her red lace. “Er—yes. I don’t have to though if—”
“No, no,” Pansy interrupted, her lips twitching. “They’re just very… Gryffindor.”
Hermione flushed crimson. “Is that bad?”
“Granger, they’re perfect. Don’t be so nervous.”
Hermione pulled the black dress on and smoothed the fabric out over her stomach and backside. “Sorry. I just… I’ve only ever been with Ron and he wasn’t… We never went to five-star restaurants or anywhere particularly fancy. I don’t know all of this pure-blood stuff.”
“And Draco asked you out anyway,” Pansy pointed out. “Trust me, Granger. Draco doesn’t care if you use your dinner fork for your salad. He just wants to make a good impression on you. Relax.” She turned back around and pulled a pair of red stilettos from Hermione’s shoe rack. “What time is he picking you up?”
Pansy’s eyes flew to the clock and widened. It was already 6:45. “Merlin, Granger, you should have come to me sooner. We haven’t even gotten to your hair.”
“What’s wrong with my hair?” Hermione asked, glancing in the mirror. It was actually rather tame after her shower… at least by her own standards.
Pansy just rolled her eyes. “I think you know the answer to that, Granger. Sit,” she ordered, pointing to Hermione’s desk chair.
After summoning a mirror, Pansy set to work on Hermione’s hair and makeup. She moved quickly, using her wand to tame Hermione’s curls a bit, still leaving them full. She pulled the front back so that it was away from her face and secured it magically.
The makeup Pansy chose was subtle—much less than Pansy typically wore, for which Hermione was grateful. Just a little eye makeup and a soft lipstick. “All done,” Pansy announced at just two minutes to seven.
Hermione glanced in the mirror. She had to admit Pansy had done a good job. She looked well put together while still looking like herself. “Thank you, Pansy.”
“Don’t mention it,” Pansy chirped with a wave of her hand. “You’ll knock him dead, Granger. I have no doubt.”
Hermione stood, sliding on the red heels Pansy had picked out before making her way toward the door. Before she could leave the room, however, Pansy grabbed her arm and pulled her back.
With a thoughtful look, Pansy pulled the neckline of Hermione’s dress a bit lower so that it showed a hint of the dip between her breasts. Then, without a care to Hermione’s modesty, she plunged a hand into the front of her dress and pulled her breasts together a bit. As Pansy stepped back with a smile, Hermione gaped at her.
“Draco loves tits,” Pansy said with a wink.
Flushing, Hermione nodded and turned to leave, yelping as Pansy swatted her on the behind on her way out.
Should she wait in the living room for Draco? Was that too eager? Perhaps she should wait in the kitchen to seem more casual.
Hermione stood in the middle of the living room, unable to decide what was best. At last, Luna walked up to her with a glass of red wine.
“Drink,” the blonde ordered with a smile.
Letting out a nervous laugh, Hermione grabbed the glass and downed it in three gulps. “Thanks.”
“You look lovely,” Luna commented. “Very fertile.”
Hermione baulked. Surely she didn’t want to look fertile. Should she change?
Turning back to her room she nearly ran directly into Pansy, who took hold of her shoulders and turned her back toward the fireplace. “Oh no, you don’t. Sit down. Have another glass of wine. Relax.”
Hermione’s laugh came out as more of a wheeze as Pansy pushed her toward the couch and filled her wine glass again.
Why was she so nervous? It wasn’t like she was some blushing virgin. She’d been on dates before. Sure, Ron was marginally less intimidating than Draco, and she’d been friends with him for years before they even kissed, but still. Why was she so intimidated by the prospect of an evening with Draco?
Pansy sat down and pulled Hermione down to join her.
“When we were in fifth year,” Pansy began, eyeing Hermione’s wine glass pointedly, watching as Hermione drank while the witch spoke, “Draco was trying to flirt with Daphne Greengrass and tripped down the stairs coming from the Astronomy tower.”
Hermione laughed, choking on her wine.
“He broke his wrist and had to go to the hospital wing to get it fixed.”
“Why are you telling me this?” Hermione asked.
“To remind you that Draco is human and that you have nothing to worry about,” Pansy insisted, placing her hand on Hermione’s knee. “Drink.”
Hermione sipped her wine, trying to focus on the mental image of Draco falling down the stairs and not the memory of him sucking his fingers into his mouth after thrusting them inside of her in the kitchen.
It was five after seven now; he was officially late. Perhaps he’d had second thoughts about the date. Maybe he really did just want to shag her and nothing else.
Pansy’s eyes flickered to the clock, and her lips pursed. “When Draco and I were children, he was trying to show off to me and Theo on his new broom. But he fell off and was attacked by one of the peacocks at the Manor. Narcissa had to look up a special charm to remove all the peck marks and feathers.”
Hermione laughed as she listened to Pansy share embarrassing stories about Draco for the next several minutes, but she couldn’t stop the nerves from bubbling in her stomach. Was Draco standing her up?
Just when she was bracing herself for his inevitable rejection, the Floo flared to life, and Draco stepped through.
“I’m so sorry I’m late,” he announced, eyeing the three witches on the couch.
Hermione glanced at the clock. It was a quarter past seven.
Draco ran one hand over his hair, his cheeks going pink. “My last meeting ran long. And my assistant was out sick today, so I had to go to the florist myself. The line was atrocious.”
From behind his back he produced a lovely bouquet of white roses.
Hermione blinked and stood from the couch, swaying slightly on her heels thanks to the two glasses of wine she’d chugged in less than ten minutes. Draco’s eyes took her in slowly, dragging over her face and body as she approached him.
“Thank you,” she said, reaching for the flowers. As she closed her hand around the bouquet, the white roses changed to brilliant tones of yellow with a dusting of red on the edges of the petals. “They’re beautiful.”
He smiled. “They’re enchanted to transfigure into your favourite colour of rose.”
Hermione had never been given magical flowers before. Her heart fluttered. “I’ll just put these in some water,” she said.
“Let me,” Pansy said, standing and taking the flowers from Hermione’s hands. “You two go on and have fun.”
Draco cleared his throat and held out his hand for Hermione. “Ready to go?”
“Sure,” Hermione squeaked with a small smile. Swallowing the lump in her throat, she slipped her hand into his and followed him into the Floo.
Since 2 weeks from today is Thanksgiving in the States, I'm tentatively scheduling the release of chapter 7 on Friday, November 27th instead.
We've arrived at the first date! I hope y'all enjoy!
Many thanks as always to BiscuitsForPotter and NuclearNik, who are just the bee's knees.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The Floo took Hermione and Draco into the crowded entryway of a beautiful restaurant. As they stepped out of the grate and brushed off their clothes, Hermione caught sight of Diagon Alley beyond the large front windows.
Draco’s hand rested on the small of her back as he guided her towards the podium where a young witch in stylish black robes was waiting.
“Welcome to Le Papillon.” The hostess greeted them with a bright smile.
“Hello,” Draco replied, clearing his throat. “We have a reservation. Draco Malfoy.” His hand twitched against her waist.
The hostess checked the book, her painted fingernail dragging down the list of names. After a moment, she pursed her lips, her brow furrowing. “I’m sorry, Mr Malfoy. Your reservation was for seven o’clock. We have a fifteen minute grace period, but unfortunately we had to give your table away.”
Draco checked his watch and frowned. “It’s just barely a quarter past. Surely there’s something you can do.”
Offering him a sympathetic look, the hostess shook her head, her light brown waves dancing around her shoulders. “No. I’m very sorry, but we’re fully booked this evening. You’re welcome to wait for a table to open up. If you’re alright with a table on the patio I can probably seat you within…” She glanced at the list again. “... an hour.”
Draco shook his head. “I don’t want to wait for a table; that’s why I made the reservation.”
Hermione placed her hand gently on his forearm. “It’s alright, Draco. We can go somewhere else.”
He turned to her with a pained expression, the apples of his cheeks pink. He frowned, his eyes darting back and forth between hers. Head swiveling back to the hostess, he leaned in, speaking quickly in French.
The hostess’s eyes flickered to Hermione briefly before she replied, also in French. Hermione’s French was rusty, and they spoke so quickly that she couldn’t keep up with the conversation. She maintained her hold on Draco’s arm, applying gentle pressure in a way that she hoped would be calming for him. At last, Draco straightened up and ran a hand over his face.
“Are you sure you don’t mind going somewhere else?” he asked her.
Hermione shook her head. “Not at all. I’m sure we can find a place without much of a wait.”
Draco looked a bit skeptical but nodded at her.
“And perhaps we could come here another time,” Hermione offered, tightening her hold on his arm and offering him a reassuring smile.
After a quick nod to the hostess, Draco snaked his arm around Hermione’s waist and led her out the door and into Diagon Alley.
It was a warm evening, but clouds were gathering overhead and a blustery breeze whipped down the street. Hermione wasn’t bothered by walking though. The sun was still peeking through the clouds, glistening off of shop windows and illuminating them in a warm glow.
Hermione looked up at Draco as they walked, and she couldn’t help but grin as he smirked down at her.
“Where are we going now?” Hermione asked, revelling in the feeling of his fingers on her waist.
“Where would you like to go? Obviously, my plan didn’t exactly work out.”
Hermione looked around Diagon Alley. There were several restaurants that seemed promising. Ones she’d been dying to try. But they all had lines out the door or masses of people standing near the entrance, waiting for tables. Her heart sank. Perhaps their first date would have to wait for another day when they could make another reservation somewhere. She sighed. “Everything looks so full here.”
Draco’s brow furrowed as they passed a restaurant with what appeared to be just as many people outside as inside.
“Should we just pick something up and take it back to the flat?” Hermione suggested.
Draco stopped so abruptly that Hermione stumbled slightly in her heels. She turned to see him staring at her with a pained expression. “Is that what you want? To go home?”
She stepped back to stand in front of him. “No. I just… You don’t seem like the kind of person who likes waiting for a table. Perhaps if we just…”
Draco’s hands shot up to cup the nape of her neck gently. “I don’t want to eat there. I don’t want Pansy smirking at us all evening and trying to listen in. I don’t want her walking in while I’m kissing you. I wanted a night out, where we could be alone and talk, because…” He trailed off, his lips pressing tightly together.
“Okay,” Hermione breathed, resting her hands lightly on his arms. “We won’t go back. I wanted a night out with you too. We’ll find a place.”
The feeling of eyes on her made her glance around. They had drawn the attention of several passers by. She was instantly reminded of how she’d felt after the war when her photo had appeared in the paper at least once a week and her name had become quite well known. And now she was standing in the middle of Diagon Alley with perhaps the most recognisable reformed Death Eater and very eligible Malfoy heir in what could only be described as an intimate embrace.
She cleared her throat, eyes dropping to the cobbled street. “I don’t think a nice evening alone is in the cards for us here.”
Draco pulled back slightly, glancing around at the curious onlookers. “We don’t have to stay in Diagon,” he said. “I don’t know any restaurants in Muggle London, but I’m sure we could find somewhere to eat where we wouldn’t be gawked at.”
Hermione smiled up at him and nodded. Together, they made their way through the Leaky Cauldron and into the Muggle world.
Here, although they were quite dressed up, they didn’t draw attention. No one knew them here, and so they could disappear into the hustle and bustle of Friday evening London foot traffic. They walked for quite some time, chatting happily as they passed several upscale restaurants with long lines before Hermione finally stopped them in front of a pub which looked like it might have some vacant tables. A sign over the door read The Golden Lion.
“How about here?”
Draco peered through the window at the dark pub. His nose wrinkled. “Here?”
Hermione nodded. “There’s no line. And I’ve actually been here before a long time ago with Mum and Dad. They have great chips.”
“Chips…” Draco parroted as if he couldn’t imagine eating chips while wearing what was probably a two-thousand galleon suit.
“I know it’s not what you had planned…” Hermione leaned into him and wrapped an arm around his waist. “But I’m starving. And I promise the food here is wonderful.”
She could see the hesitation in Draco’s features—his brow furrowed, his jaw set. At last, he nodded stiffly. “Yes. Alright.”
He held the door open for her as they entered and looked around with skepticism as the loud music and smell of greasy food and cigarettes hit them.
A broad-shouldered bartender shouted at them from behind the bar. “Hi! Come on in and sit anywhere that’s open.”
Draco shuffled his feet awkwardly, obviously unaccustomed to eating anywhere that didn’t employ a hostess. Hermione spotted an empty table near the back and took charge, guiding Draco there with a smile.
Before she could sit, Draco hurried to pull out her chair for her, a move much too formal for their current environment, but Hermione found herself blushing at his chivalry all the same.
A round-faced waitress walked over and asked for their drink orders, holding up a small pad of paper to write them down.
“Erm… Firewhisky, please,” Draco said, distracted by the menu the waitress had just given him.
The round-faced girl frowned, her brow furrowing in confusion. “You mean Fireball?”
Draco looked up, his wide eyes flying to Hermione in his horror at having ordered a magical drink in a Muggle bar. “Oh… Er…”
Hermione rushed to correct the issue. “We’ll each take a Guinness, please.”
The waitress spared one more confused look at Draco before nodding and walking away.
“Muggles don’t have Firewhisky, Draco,” Hermione said once she was sure they wouldn’t be overheard.
“What’s that she offered me instead? A ball of fire?”
Hermione laughed. “Fireball. It’s a cinnamon whisky… but it’s not really whisky. I don’t think you’d like it.”
Draco’s nose wrinkled. “And what did you order for us?”
“A stout beer. I think you’ll like it. But if not we can have something else. I’ll pay for it if you don’t like it.”
Draco’s eyes bulged out. “Absolutely not. I’ll be paying for everything, and I refuse to debate otherwise.”
Hermione smiled, not at all surprised by his traditional view on first date etiquette. “Suit yourself. Do you have any Muggle money?”
Draco just winked. “A true gentleman always comes prepared.”
He looked at the menu, his jaw twitching as he looked at the food offered. “You said you’ve been here before. What’s good?”
Hermione hummed thoughtfully and peered down at the menu. “I think I’ll get the burger this time. The fish and chips is good! That’s what I got when I came with my parents.”
Draco closed his menu. “Fish and chips it is then.”
Once the waitress had taken their orders and brought their beers, Hermione sipped from hers happily, trying not to laugh as Draco peered at his with great skepticism. He picked up his glass, holding it close to his face and watching the bubbles rise through the dark liquid.
“You’re supposed to drink it,” Hermione quipped with a smirk.
“Why is it so dark?”
“It’s a stout beer. They’re dark. Would you like a detailed explanation of the science behind different types of beers?” Hermione teased with a smirk.
Draco rolled his eyes at her before lifting the glass to his lips. After a deep breath and a wary glance at her, he took a sip.
As he lowered his glass, he shrugged. “Not bad,” he determined, a thin layer of foam clinging to his upper lip.
Hermione grinned, laughter bubbling up from deep within her at the sight of his foam mustache.
“What?” He frowned at her.
Leaning across the table, Hermione reached out and swept her thumb across his upper lip, catching the foam before bringing her thumb to her own lips and licking it off.
Pink bloomed on Draco’s cheeks, and Hermione’s heart sputtered in her chest.
She didn’t think she had ever seen anything more adorable than Draco Malfoy sitting in a dingy Muggle pub in his fine Wizarding suit drinking beer with foam on his upper lip. He was so out of his element. He was always so confident and poised at the flat. But here, stripped of his comfort zone, Hermione found him even more charming. She couldn’t help but grin broadly.
“What?” he said again, casting her a curious stare.
She shook her head and picked up her stout. “Nothing,” she sang lightly before taking a sip.
It took a moment for Draco’s suspicious eyes to return to their typical cool confidence. He took another drink, careful to lick his lip clean this time. “How’s work?” he asked as he set his glass back down on the polished wood table top.
Hermione shrugged. “It’s fine, I suppose. I no longer feel like I’m just getting coffee. The problem now is that the work never seems to stop. I had to work late yesterday to be sure that I could go home on time today. But at least I’m doing something valuable for the department. How’s work for you?”
Draco tilted his head thoughtfully. “Our account with the Auror department has been keeping us busy, but I think it will be good for us as well as them. My development team has been working hard to try to create innovative protective gear. My meeting that ran long this evening was with Potter.”
“Oh?” Hermione’s eyebrows raised. Had Draco mentioned to Harry that they had a date tonight? Nerves fluttered in her stomach.
“He was… uncharacteristically cordial with me,” Draco said, one of his eyebrows twitching up.
Hermione felt her cheeks flush.
“Would you have anything to do with that?” Draco’s smirk made her stomach flip.
Hermione busied her hands by slowly turning her glass against the table. “Ginny probably said something to him even though I told her not to. She loves to gossip, that one.”
The smirk on Draco’s face faltered. “Oh, you… You didn’t tell him?”
“I—No. I was worried he’d tell Ron, you see.”
Draco’s head swiveled away from her. He stared at an elderly couple seated a few tables away, but his jaw was tight, and Hermione got the distinct impression that he wasn’t actually interested in people watching. His fingers drummed lightly against the table, but his shoulders looked a bit stiff, and his eyebrows were knitted together.
She rushed to explain, unsure of how to tell him that she wasn’t keeping him a secret. That she wasn’t ashamed of him. That she was pleased that they were on a date.
“I just wanted to know what this was before telling Harry and Ron. They have a tendency to… overreact. You may recall.”
There. A small joke at Harry and Ron’s expense would probably put Draco in better humour. She watched Draco as his lips twitched. He didn’t relax entirely, but the tension in his jaw seemed to ease slightly.
The waitress brought their food with a smile and then flitted away. Draco looked skeptically at his supper before taking an experimental bite of one chip. He chewed with furrowed brows before giving a definitive nod. Then he picked up his knife and fork and took the most formal bite of his fish Hermione had ever seen.
“Not bad,” he mumbled.
Hermione grinned before taking a bite of her burger. It was delicious, but the food certainly wasn’t her favourite thing about the evening so far. They ate and chatted happily about work, Hogwarts, and their childhoods.
“I’m ashamed to say that I don’t know much about Muggle upbringings,” he admitted, sipping his beer.
“Well, it seemed very ordinary to me. I went to primary school in London. I had a few friends there, but most of the kids didn’t talk to me much. They thought I was odd.”
Draco’s brow furrowed. “Odd? Why?”
Hermione laughed. “Well, ignoring the fact that I was unknowingly a witch, I was quiet. I read a lot. While the other children played football or ran around on the playset after school, I sat and read books. Honestly, I doubt anyone really noticed when I didn’t come back after I left for Hogwarts. My parents told anyone who asked that I went to boarding school, but I doubt anyone from my old school cared much at all.”
Draco nodded. “I had a hard time making friends as a child too. I think it’s easier for people with siblings. I knew several of my fellow Slytherins before starting at Hogwarts, but I could hardly call them friends. I think my father had a lot to do with that. He always told me people would be tripping over themselves to be my friend, but I didn’t really see that much until I got to Hogwarts and met Crabbe and Goyle.”
Hermione smiled. “I didn’t truly have any friends at all until Harry and Ron. And even they couldn’t stand me until two months of school had passed.”
Draco opened his mouth to reply but was interrupted by the screech of feedback from a microphone. They both jumped, heads whipping around for the source of the unwelcome noise.
To Hermione’s horror, she saw that a band was setting up in the corner of the pub. A wiry man was testing the microphone while three others set up instruments.
“Oh… dear,” she breathed, bracing herself for the assault on her ears.
“What’s going on?” Draco asked.
“It looks like they’re going to have some live music tonight,” Hermione explained.
“Well, that sounds nice.” Draco’s spine straightened as he turned his attention to the stage.
“No, Draco, it’s—”
The band began to play, and it was immediately apparent that it would not, in fact, be nice.
The raucous sounds of drums and electric guitar filled the pub until Hermione could hear nothing but the heavy bass and rhythmic drums.
It was obvious that Draco had never been to a pub that hosted live music like this before. His grey eyes looked at her with shock, as if appalled that any establishment would subject their patrons to such spectacles.
He leaned closer, yelling. “—expected to—this racket—?”
“What?” Hermione shouted in response.
Draco raised his voice further. “How are we—have a conversation—so loud!”
Hermione huffed in frustration and moved her chair around the small, round table to be closer to him. “I can’t hear you!” She leaned in close, hoping he would speak directly into her ear.
He leaned over, his arm coming to rest on the back of her chair. “I can barely hear myself think!”
Hermione laughed and nodded.
“Would you like to go somewhere else?” he asked loudly, his words, though they were shouted directly into her ear, barely audible over the cacophony of the band.
“We just got our food,” she cried in reply, gesturing to their full plates. “Let’s just finish eating, and then we can go.”
Draco's brows knit together and he pointed to his ear.
Hermione quickly pointed to their plates and mimed taking a bite before pointing to the exit.
Grinning at her, Draco nodded. Hermione felt her cheeks blush at her ridiculous pantomime. With a smirk, Draco began eating again. Hermione pulled her plate towards her and tucked in as well. They ate side by side in silence, any words they’d hoped to share drowned out by the noise.
Several minutes passed, and each time Hermione looked at Draco, she couldn’t help but notice the tightness in his jaw and the wrinkles between his brows. He ate with downcast eyes and sipped his beer with a frown.
Hermione chuckled as he picked up a chip and dipped it in some tomato sauce. As he brought it to his lips, a bright red drop fell from the chip and landed on his crisp white shirt. His eyes flew to her, widening as he noticed her laughing. He reached for his wand but froze, his head swivelling around the dozens of Muggles in the room.
Grabbing a napkin, Hermione gently dabbed at the tomato sauce. It would stain for now, but she knew that he would be able to vanish the mess as soon as they were alone or back in Diagon Alley. She smiled up at him as she pressed the napkin to his chest. His cheeks were red with embarrassment.
As he finished his meal, he didn’t touch the tomato sauce again.
After dinner, Draco left far too many pounds on the table to cover their meal. Then he escorted Hermione from the pub with his hand around her waist.
As the sound of the band was muffled and the sweet relief of relative peace and quiet met their ears, Draco let out a groan. “Do Muggles actually like that?”
“Being forced to listen to music so loudly that your eardrums burst?”
Hermione shrugged. “Some do, I suppose, or else they wouldn’t do that.”
“Ghastly,” Draco tutted, pressing a finger into his ear. “I think I’ll hear ringing for a week.”
“I am sorry. I didn’t know they would be doing that. At least the food was good, right?”
Draco just grumbled. “My chips could have been singing Cauldron Full of Hot, Strong Love for all I know.”
Hermione laughed. “I think that pub would be far more famous if they had singing chips.”
She looped her arm through his and leaned into his side with a smile.
“What else did you have planned for us?” Hermione asked.
“I thought we might go for a walk. Hyde Park isn’t far from here, right? Fancy a stroll?”
Hermione beamed at him. “Sounds perfect.”
They made their way down the bustling streets of Muggle London. Hermione enjoyed the feeling of anonymity here. No one gawked at them or stopped her to talk about her contributions to the war or ask her questions about Harry. They were just two unknown people on a first date.
“So, before we had our ears assaulted by the most atrocious excuse for music I’ve ever heard,” Draco began, “I believe we were talking about your childhood.”
“Yes, I think so.”
“Would you tell me something about it? Something most people don’t know about you.”
Hermione bit her lip while she thought. As her eyes flicked to the side she saw Draco watching her, his gaze darting between her chest and her lips.
Pansy’s words floated through her mind.
Draco loves tits.
She fought the blush that rose hot on her face and refocused on the question. Childhood. Had she had a childhood? All she could think about at the moment was his eyes on her skin.
“Erm… When I was young, before I got my Hogwarts letter, before I knew what I was, I wanted to be a ballerina.”
Draco’s eyebrows jumped in surprise. “A ballerina? Really?”
They crossed the street and entered Hyde Park, strolling along the wide, shaded pathways in the evening sun. “Yeah. I even took lessons until I started at Hogwarts.”
“I figured you’d want to be some kind of scholar or a writer.”
Hermione shrugged. “I’ve always loved books, but I was three the first time my mum took me to see the Royal Ballet perform Sleeping Beauty. It just seemed so… magical. The way they moved… I just fell in love with it. It was a childhood dream.”
“Shame you had to give it up.”
Hermione laughed. “Not really. I was dreadful. My mum pulled out some old home videos of me last year at Christmas. I was woefully uncoordinated. I just loved it.”
Draco grinned. “Videos are those moving Muggle pictures, yes?”
Hermione nodded. “Essentially.”
“I’d love to see those some time.”
“They’re quite embarrassing,” she admitted with a chuckle.
“I knew I should have taken you dancing instead. That would have been hilarious.”
Hermione jabbed him in the ribs with a scowl, though she laughed in spite of herself.
“Ah, it’s just as well,” he continued, “you’d have probably stepped on my toes all night.”
Before Hermione could reply, Draco tripped, stumbling forward several feet as an impressive string of expletives left his mouth.
“Buggering shit, fucking hell!”
A woman passing by with two small children cast Draco a withering glare as he righted himself. His face turned scarlet as he mumbled apologies to the woman.
Hermione couldn’t help the laughter bursting from her mouth as she approached Draco and took his arm again. He scowled at her, but it did nothing to dampen her spirits.
“Oh yeah, very funny,” he grumbled.
“Merlin, must you always try to be so perfect?” Hermione teased, leaning into him and continuing their walk. “Didn’t you ever learn to laugh at yourself?”
Draco just frowned and kept his gaze straight ahead. Hermione wasn’t sure what his problem was. It didn’t seem like such a big deal to her to trip. Was Draco so proud that he couldn’t handle being the tiniest bit embarrassed? Then, Pansy’s words from earlier ran through her mind.
Everything tonight is going to be about courting you properly. He probably has the whole date planned out to the minute.
Her heart fluttered in her chest. Perhaps it wasn’t that he didn’t like being embarrassed; maybe he just didn’t want to be embarrassed in front of her . Especially here, now, on their first date.
She opened her mouth to try to reassure him but was interrupted by a loud crack of thunder.
They both jumped, casting their faces to the sky just as it opened up and rain poured down upon them.
Draco cursed, his hand twitching towards his wand before he eyed the Muggles nearby, opening up umbrellas or pulling their jackets over their heads and hurrying to shelter.
It rained hard, soaking the curls Pansy had worked so hard to tame and making Hermione’s dress cling to her skin. She looked up at Draco, whose wet hair was already slicked to his forehead as he gaped down at her.
She glanced around, looking for anywhere they could get out of the rain or get out of sight enough to Apparate. But they were in the middle of the park, and save for a few trees, there was nothing nearby.
The laugh bubbled up from her belly, shaking her shoulders before escaping her mouth. She cast her face to the sky, closing her eyes and letting the rain soak her through. She lifted her arms, palms skyward, and embraced the warm summer storm.
“What are you doing?” Draco shouted over the sound of water falling all around them. “You’re getting wet.”
Hermione opened her eyes. Draco had pulled his coat up and was holding it over his head, though it did little to stop the rain from falling upon him. “So are you,” she pointed out with a laugh. “Might as well enjoy it.”
Draco looked at her as if she had sprouted wings—confusion and awe painted across his features. “You’re mental.”
“Mental or not, we’re both getting wet.” She was grinning like a loon, she knew. But she couldn’t stop herself from stepping into him and pushing his arms until he dropped the coat.
He brought up one hand and rested it against the side of her face, his thumb trailing along her cheekbone. “Completely mental,” he murmured, leaning in.
His kiss was light—far more tender than anything they had shared before, and Hermione melted into him, moulding her body against his as her hands trailed up his arms to circle his neck.
Another clap of thunder shook them apart, and Draco cast a wary glance at the sky. “Come on. Let’s get somewhere safe before we’re struck by lightning.”
Hermione nodded and took his hand. They hurried through the park and to the nearest exit. They wove down streets until they found a secluded alley out of sight of any Muggles. From there, they Apparated back to Hermione’s flat.
She was pleased to find, as they landed in the entryway, that Pansy and Luna were not in the common areas. Some privacy with Draco was all she truly wanted, especially after that kiss in the park.
Draco raised his wand, casting drying spells over both of them. “Well,” he began, shuffling his feet, “it certainly was an interesting evening, wasn’t it?”
Hermione smiled and set down her bag on the coffee table. “I’ve had a lovely time.” She crossed the living room and into the kitchen, heart fluttering at the sight of the roses in a vase on the kitchen island. “Would you like a glass of wine?”
“Erm… actually I was just going to…” He stood in the archway to the kitchen, shifting his weight between his feet, his hands shoved in his pockets.
Hermione’s heart sank. He was leaving. Why? She checked the clock. It was just past nine—still too early to call it a night. “Oh… Have I done something wrong?”
Draco shook his head. “No, of course not. But you must admit, this date was a bit of a disaster. I understand if it’s our last.”
Hermione’s throat tightened. Disaster? She thought back on the events of the evening. Sure, the band at the pub had been loud, and they’d gotten caught in the rain, but that hadn’t been enough to ruin the date… at least in her mind. “Do you want it to be our last?”
A muscle in his jaw ticked. “Not at all, I just thought—”
Hermione crossed her arms over her chest. “What about this date was a disaster to you?”
He frowned at her. “I mucked it all up, Granger, and you know it. I was late. We missed our reservation and ended up in that pub with the awful music. I dropped tomato sauce on my shirt and had to walk around all evening with the stain. I embarrassed you in front of that Muggle woman and her children. I couldn’t even conjure an umbrella for you in the rain.”
Incredulous, Hermione gawked at him. “And you think that any of that matters to me?”
Draco didn’t reply, instead keeping his eyes trained on a spot on the counter next to her.
She stepped closer, reaching out to place her hand on his chest. “Draco, I don’t give a Hippogriff’s arse about fancy restaurants, or magical flowers, or loud pubs, or stained shirts, or introducing children to some colourful new words, or having to walk home in the rain. I had a lovely time tonight because I was with you.”
Draco’s lips twitched. “You don’t like the flowers?”
Hermione laughed. “No, I love them. But you don’t need to court me like I’m some Victorian damsel. Those sorts of things don’t matter to me. I just… I like you, Draco. And I agreed to the date because I wanted to see if we had a connection beyond me just wanting to snog you senseless.”
Draco’s chest rumbled with laughter. “And?” he prompted, his eyebrows lifting.
Hermione smirked and stepped into him. “Well… I still want to snog you senseless,” she admitted. “But I think there’s a deeper connection too.”
His lips curled up in a smile.
“Do you think so?” she asked, heart hammering anxiously in her chest.
His forehead came down to rest against hers and he nodded. “I do… I really do, Granger.”
“Then I see no reason why we should end the date so early, do you?” she breathed.
He shook his head.
“Good,” she chirped, stepping away from him and grabbing a bottle of wine and two glasses. “So I don’t want to hear any more about how this date was a disaster. Understood?”
“Yes, ma’am,” he agreed with a chuckle.
She poured the wine and held out a glass for him, feeling her cheeks redden with the question on her tongue. “Erm… would you… would you like to come to my bedroom?”
Draco’s brows shot up, surprise painting his features for a moment before he schooled his expression. “Definitely.”
Draco followed her through the living room and down the corridor to her door. As soon as she opened it, Crookshanks darted through it with a soft meow . Hermione ushered Draco inside and shut the door behind them.
Perhaps this was a mistake. The only places to sit down in the room were the bed and her desk chair. Was it too forward of her to invite him to sit with her on her bed?
Don’t chicken out now, Hermione, she thought. No use being coy. You already invited him in.
Setting the bottle of wine on the bedside table, Hermione sank onto the edge of the bed, sipping from her glass demurely.
Draco looked around her room for a moment, his eyes dancing over the titles of the books on her shelves. He lingered by her desk, looking at the tidy surface from her precisely placed quills to her open planner calendar.
She sat quite still as he looked around, careful to appear comfortable though her heart was pounding in her chest.
Draco Malfoy was in her room. And she’d invited him in.
And she fully intended to ravage him before the night was out.
“How many books do you have?” Draco asked, turning away from her shelves.
Hermione shrugged. “A few hundred. I’m not exactly sure. I’ve got more in my closet too, and on the shelves in the living room… and some at my parents’ house.”
Draco smirked at her. “And how many have you read?”
Cheeks flushing, Hermione took a bracing swig of wine. “At least half. Probably more.”
He sat down on the bed beside her, tapping his fingers on his knee anxiously. “You should see the library at the Manor. I think you’d have a heart attack.”
“Is it big?”
Draco’s lips twitched with amusement as he lifted his glass to his lips. Hermione felt her cheeks heat as she realised the double entendre.
Hermione hid her blush behind her wine glass and drained the liquid.
Draco chuckled. “Seriously though, it’s the largest privately owned magical library in Britain. I believe only Hogwarts houses more books in the whole country.”
“Well, I’d love to see it some time.”
She reached out to set her empty glass on the bedside table, her trembling hand making the base rattle against the wood for a moment.
“Are you nervous?” Draco’s gaze was on the floor, his fingers still dancing on his knee.
“No,” Hermione answered at once. But then she tuned into her body—the rhythmic puttering of her heart, the shakiness of her hands and voice. “Well, perhaps a bit.”
Draco ran a hand over his face. “We don’t have to rush into anything physical, Granger. I don’t want you to think that I expect anything just because you’ve invited me in. We can… take it slow.”
Disappointment bloomed in her stomach. “Is that what you want?”
His lips twitched and he cast her a smirk. “Not at all. Not with you wearing that dress. Not with how we’ve been dancing around each other for weeks.”
“Good.” She pulled his glass from his hand and set it next to her own. Draco’s eyes were wide as she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him full on the lips.
His hands were on her waist in an instant, curling around her and pulling her in. “I thought you were nervous,” he mumbled against her lips.
“I am.” Her fingers snaked over his shoulders and onto his chest, and she pulled his tie loose. “But it’s an excited nervousness. The same feeling I had on the Hogwarts Express my first year. The feeling I get when I know something wonderful is beginning.”
Suddenly, Draco’s hands were on the nape of her neck, and he was kissing her with renewed fervor. He pushed her back, twisting them until her back hit the bed and he leaned over her.
It had been so long—months—since Hermione had felt the weight of a man over her. Her blood hummed through her veins at the feeling of being held. She held the back of his neck, fingers threading through his fine, soft hair.
One of his hands was at her hip, pressing her into the mattress as he kissed her hard. The other was buried almost reverently in her curls.
The heat of him was dizzying. As she opened her mouth to gasp in air, his tongue darted forward to tease hers. A low moan escaped him as her hips shifted, and she could feel the hardening bulge of his cock against her thigh.
He broke away briefly, his grey eyes connecting with hers, his pupils blown wide. For one horrifying moment, she thought he might pull back and leave her so unsatisfied, but then his knuckles brushed her cheek gently as his eyes darted over every inch of her face. He opened his mouth as if to say something but then bent low again to capture her lips.
His large hands ran over her body, gripping her breasts and stoking a fire within her.
She dragged her hands over his shoulders and tugged at his tie, pulling it loose and tossing it away before moving on to his jacket. She pushed it over his shoulders and down his arms until he was forced to sit up to discard it properly. With a flick of his hand and a flurry of wandless magic, he sent it soaring across the room to drape over the back of her desk chair.
Immediately, Hermione pulled him back in, setting to work on his shirt buttons with trembling fingers. He looked down at her as she worked.
Dammit, she was nervous. She tried to recall if she’d been like this her first time with Ron. Surely she had been to some extent, but they had both been fumbling, and it had made the entire experience endearing. But now, she felt woefully inexperienced in Draco’s confident touch.
His hands covered hers, and he pulled back, stoically unbuttoning his own shirt while she blushed.
A sleeping lion roared to life within her. She was not going to fumble through her first time with Draco like some blushing virgin. She had to do something to shake these nerves away, to show him that she was a sexy and confident woman in her own right.
She stood up from the bed abruptly. Draco looked at her with wide eyes as if afraid she was going to ask him to leave. Instead, she just reached behind her back to drag the zipper of her dress down.
Draco’s mouth fell open as she pulled the dress down her arms and wiggled it over her hips to let it pool on the floor at her feet. She straightened up and stepped out of the dress, left in nothing but her red knickers and heels.
Draco gawked at her, and Hermione resisted the urge to cover herself with her arms. His gaze settled on her chest as his cheeks turned pink.
Knowing that she would lose her nerve if she stood there much longer, she stepped forward until her thighs were between his knees. Her hands slid up his arms to his neck as she bent her head to kiss him.
His fingertips brushed up her thighs, drifting around her to grip her arse. He pulled her in until she climbed onto his lap, straddling him and never breaking their kiss.
Gripping her harder, his mouth became more heated against hers. She set back to work on his buttons, finishing the last few before pushing it over his shoulders and tossing it aside. It would be wrinkled in the morning, but Hermione found that she wanted everyone he encountered when he left this room to know where he’d been and what he’d been doing. She hoped he wouldn’t charm it smooth.
She allowed her fingers to explore his chest and shoulders. With little else to compare him to, her mind drifted briefly to Ron, who’d been thin and wiry. Draco was different. While still thin, he was far broader than Ron had been. His lean muscles were well defined under her fingertips, and she found herself moaning at the feel of his biceps and abs.
Her hips moved of their own accord, canting forward against him until he groaned into her mouth. They broke apart, eyes meeting as they panted, breath mingling.
“I’ll silence the room,” he breathed.
Hermione nodded and climbed off his lap, kicking off her shoes in the process. While Draco reached into his trousers pocket to draw his wand, she summoned her own and cast a quick contraceptive charm.
After Draco’s silencing charm had been cast, he stood from the bed and quickly removed his trousers. Hermione watched him from the bed, eyeing the sizable bulge in his pants. She reached for him, and he climbed back onto the bed to once again cover her body with his own.
He kissed her hard as his hands traversed hot paths over her body. His thumb brushed over the lace covering her breast, and her nipple hardened in anticipation. One of his knees slipped between her thighs, and he parted them enough to settle his hips against hers, rutting against her center while his lips left a blazing trail down her neck.
“Draco,” she whimpered, hips jumping, chasing his touch.
“Do you want to stop?” he rasped out, his lips continuing across her collarbones.
“God, no!” She arched her back, desperately seeking more from his eager hands and greedy mouth.
One of his hands snaked behind her to release the clasp on her bra. He pulled it away from her body, and his eyes took in her bare breasts for the first time.
“Perfect,” he murmured, dropping his head to close his lips around one of her nipples.
A jolt shot through Hermione as he lavished her breasts with attention from his hands and mouth. Heat pooled at her centre, and she wantonly rolled her hips against him.
One of his hands dragged down her stomach to tease along the top of her knickers briefly. Though she desperately wanted him to touch her directly, he left his hand on the outside of the lace, drifting his fingers over the wet fabric covering her. A gasp tore from her throat as his fingers brushed over her clit. She felt his cock twitch against her thigh.
He lifted his head from her breasts and locked eyes with her as he slowly rolled her knickers down her legs. She shifted her hips and legs to allow him to pull them free. After tossing them aside, he gently pushed her knees, encouraging her to open herself for him.
Flushing with embarrassment, Hermione averted her eyes to the ceiling as Draco teasingly ran his hands along her inner thighs. The air was cool on her wet folds, contrasted greatly by his scorching hands tickling over her skin, dancing closer and closer to the part of her that ached for him but never touching it.
Her hips twisted, seeking his touch. “Please,” she moaned as his fingers slid towards her knees once more.
A low chuckle escaped his throat, and Hermione felt her cheeks burn even hotter.
Suddenly, his mouth was on her, hot and wet. A strangled cry left her lips as his tongue flicked against her clit with incredible skill. His hands curved around the backs of her thighs as he settled between her legs, laving at her.
Her eyes returned to him, and she found him gazing up at her with his mouth open wide, his tongue against her with broad strokes. A twitch of his eyebrow and a quick smirk and then he returned his attention to his ministrations.
Reaching down, she threaded her fingers into his fine hair, clutching at it as he slid two fingers into her dripping cunt. Her mouth fell open, and the sound that left it was one she was sure she’d never made before. It started as a gasp, but morphed quickly into a whine and then a guttural moan. Surely Draco Malfoy was an artist with his tongue.
His lips closed around her nub, and he sucked as his fingers twisted to press against her top wall. Hermione saw stars and bucked against his mouth, tangling her hands deeper into his hair. The coil was tightening within her now, taking her gradually to that highest peak.
“Don’t stop,” she pleaded as he returned to moving his tongue quickly over her in a dizzying pattern. “Yes.” A jolt of pleasure ran through her, and she recognised the signs of her impending release. “Oh!”
With a cry, she came undone, her legs quivering on either side of his head as he continued to lick and finger her. After several seconds of shaking and moaning, she collapsed on the bed with a sigh. Only then did Draco pull back, a wicked grin on his glistening lips.
He crawled up her body and kissed her hard. She could taste herself on his tongue as it swept between her lips. A moan escaped her, and Draco pulled back with a smirk. “I told you you were delicious.”
Hermione laughed and clapped her hands over her face in embarrassment as her cheeks flushed.
Draco chuckled and pulled her hands away, pinning them to the bed next to her head and bending low to kiss her slowly. “Don’t be embarrassed.”
Hermione’s heart swelled as he settled his weight on top of her and kissed her deeply. Her fingers flexed against his hold, and her hips rolled against his.
He kissed her for several minutes, their bodies canting against each other and hands roaming freely as he released her wrists. Finally, he pulled away and rolled off of her to lay flat on his back. He cast one final questioning glance in her direction before hooking his thumbs into his boxer shorts and pulling them down.
His cock sprang free: long, thick, and hard. Hermione gawked at it. He was larger than Ron had been, certainly in girth if not also in length. And she’d never had any complaints about Ron’s size.
A thought crossed Hermione’s mind—one which caused her heart to seize in her chest. He’d just put his mouth on her… Did he expect her to return the favour? It wasn’t something she had particularly enjoyed in the past. She didn’t hate it, but there was just something about it… Some remnant of her conservative upbringing combined with her staunch feminist beliefs that caused a niggling voice of displeasure every time she’d tried in the past. It was something she’d tried to overcome for the sake of being a more modern and sexually adventurous woman, but every now and then that little voice whispered in her ear.
As such, she didn’t feel particularly skilled at the art of fellatio. And after Draco’s incredible performance with his mouth, she knew she’d only embarrass herself if she tried to reciprocate.
She must have stared and worried for a bit too long, because Draco leaned over and kissed her gently, his hand delving into her hair at the nape of her neck. “You don’t have to, Granger,” he mumbled against her lips.
Her heart hammered in her chest, and she was frantic to reassure him in some way. “It’s not that I don’t want to, I just—I—I…” She was trembling again, her nerves returning in full force.
He silenced her with a kiss, his fingers rubbing soothing circles into the back of her neck. “It’s alright, Granger. You don’t owe me anything.”
Her Gryffindor courage roared to life again. The same courage that had propelled her hand into the air to answer Snape’s questions even as he scowled at her scornfully. The same courage that had assembled a group of students in the Hog’s Head to defy Umbridge at fifteen. She may not be ready for everything with him, but she had to prove to him—prove to herself— that she was ready to move on. Move on from Ron, from her loneliness, from her uncertainty.
She pushed him gently by the shoulders until he was flat on his back again, then she swung one leg over his hips. Kissing him deeply, her curls fell around their faces like a thick curtain. Only thin slivers of light peeked through as she pulled back just enough to give him a blazing look—one he returned, his grey eyes full of fire.
She reached between them, closing her hand around his stiff cock. His head fell back and his eyes fell closed as she stroked him experimentally a few times. As she ran her thumb over the weeping head, he twitched in her hand.
The head of his cock brushed against her folds as she guided it to her entrance, and her breath hitched. Draco’s eyes flew open to meet hers and his lips parted.
Slowly, she sank down onto him, gasping at the feeling of being so deliciously stretched. Draco’s hands came to rest on her hips as she took him inch by inch.
He groaned as his eyes drifted closed once more.
At last, he was sheathed entirely within her. Humming her delight, Hermione leaned in and kissed him, sweeping her tongue through his mouth for a moment. Then, she sat up, bracing her hands on his chest as she pushed herself back up and sank down again, pulling another curse from Draco as she did.
His fingers dug into her flesh as she rode him—slowly at first, and then gradually building up a steady pace. He moved his hands with her, gently guiding her motions. “That’s it,” he praised as she rolled her hips a new way.
Encouraged, she rolled them again, and again when he rewarded her with a guttural moan.
One of his hands slid up, cupping her breast as she bounced on him. He squeezed her, rolling her nipple between his thumb and forefinger.
Her hand shot up, covering his and squeezing as she moved even faster. She lowered her body down towards his, rolling her hips in a way that made her clit brush against him each time.
The coil was tightening within her again—jolts of pleasure shooting through her body as Draco’s hips jumped up to meet her. She let her mouth fall open, uncaring that it made her gasps and moans dance freely around the room, losing herself to the ecstasy coursing through her veins.
Draco’s head lifted up, and he closed his lips around her breast. His tongue flicked against her nipple before he dragged his mouth up slightly, sucking hard on the fleshy mound of her breast as his hands gripped the globes of her arse.
With a cry, another orgasm took over her. Her hands came down on either side of his head as her body quaked around him. He pulled her face to his, swallowing her moans with a kiss.
Before her orgasm had subsided, Draco had flipped her onto her back and began to drive into her with abandon. He held her close, their sweat slick bodies sliding together as he fucked her hard and fast. His laboured breath was hot on her ear. It was all she could do to cling fast to his shoulders, still reeling from her release, until he stilled with a grunt.
His cock twitched within her as he came, panting hard against her neck. Her heart was pounding, and she felt so thoroughly spent that she could barely hold her arms up to run her fingers over his neck and shoulders.
He shivered with her touch and pressed a kiss against her neck. Lifting his head, he brushed his lips languidly against hers before he pulled away, his cock slipping from inside of her.
As he settled next to her with a sigh, Hermione felt his release dripping out of her. She rolled onto her side, feeling the come between her thighs as she rested her hand on his heaving chest.
It felt so deliciously wanton, to be so completely fucked, to feel his seed dripping from within her, to bear the love bites she would surely have tomorrow from his greedy mouth.
His head lolled to the side, and he grinned at her before pulling her in until her head rested on his chest. He pressed a kiss to her forehead and then let out a heavy sigh. “Granger,” he began with a cheeky grin, “you really are a genius.”
Hermione laughed, feeling her cheeks flush.
They lay together for several minutes as their heart rates returned to normal.
“Do you think you’ll ever call me Hermione?” she asked after a while, lifting her head so that her chin rested on his chest.
Draco opened his eyes, looking at her with curiosity, as if he’d never considered calling her by her given name. “I don’t know. I can. Would you like me to?” He tucked a wayward curl behind her ear.
Hermione bit her lip thoughtfully. He had always called her Granger. To imagine him calling her by her given name seemed odd to her for some reason. Sure, when she was younger, she’d hated that he always referred to her by her surname—although it was far from the worst thing he’d called her—but since they’d grown up and become closer, she’d come to like the way he purred her name. It didn’t feel derogatory anymore. On the contrary, it almost felt like a term of endearment.
Besides, she thought, everyone called her Hermione. It might be special to have him call her something else.
She smiled and nestled into his side. “I quite like being your Granger.”
A slow grin overtook Draco’s face. “Granger it is then.”
She tilted her face to kiss him slowly, her heart soaring in her chest. “Will you stay the night?” she murmured.
“If you’d like. I could always go across the corridor to Pansy’s office if—”
“Don’t you dare,” she cut him off, draping one leg over him and clutching tightly to his arm.
Draco laughed and embraced her, turning in her arms until they were chest to chest. “I wouldn’t dream of it, Granger.”
Let me know what you think! We've got about 3 chapters left.
Chapter 8 posts on December 10th!
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