Draco Malfoy parked his Tesla in the student lot of Hogwarts High School, killing the engine as he checked himself out one last time in the rearview mirror.
“Looking good,” he said to his reflection, winking over the top of his mirrored sunglasses before climbing out of the car and sauntering into the school’s central quad.
He high-fived Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle as he arrived at their usual table, climbing up to stand on the tabletop. Here, in the center of everything, he held court as the unofficial King of Hogwarts—student body president, captain of both the water polo and basketball teams, and boyfriend of the absolute hottest girl in school: Astoria Greengrass.
He and Astoria hadn’t seen each other in over a week; her parents had used spring break to take her and her twin sister Daphne to Palo Alto for a tour of Stanford, where they both would be attending in the fall. He looked for her now, searching the crowd for the familiar sight of her long, blonde hair and willowy figure, eagerly anticipating their reunion.
“Looking for your brains, Malfoy?” came a snide voice from just below him. Draco looked down to find his childhood best friend/high school mortal enemy, Harry Potter, smirking up at him.
“Actually, I was looking for your dick, Potter,” Draco shot back, feeling only a twinge of guilt as Crabbe and Goyle broke into loud guffaws behind him. Harry’s face flushed, and he stormed off to his little corner of the quad with the other artsy weirdos he had ditched Draco for freshman year.
Not that Draco was bitter about that, per se. So what if he couldn’t play an instrument or write poetry or draw anything more complicated than a stick figure? He was Draco Malfoy; he didn’t fucking need to.
The buzz of his cell phone pulled his thoughts back to the present. He dug it out of the front pocket of his distressed, $200 jeans, flicking his finger across the screen when he saw Astoria’s name.
Meet me in front of the school, it said. That was it. No “I love you,” no “I missed you,” not even any heart or kissy-face emojis. It was...weird.
Be right there, babe, he texted back, jumping off the table in a single leap and heading to the entrance of the school.
Draco was not blind to the effect he had on other people. He smirked as lower classmen turned to watch him walk past, girls sighing and preening, boys scowling or shouting a desperate, “What’s up, Malfoy!”
He nodded in greeting but didn’t stop, too anxious to see Astoria again. When he arrived at the front of the school he stopped, searching for her. Students milled about, catching up with friends before the first period bell rang. He thought he caught a glimpse of blonde hair under a weeping willow tree, but as the girl was currently tongue-deep in a redhead boy’s throat, there was no way—
Wait a second.
The couple making out under the willow tree turned, and Draco got a good look at the girl’s face in profile. He’d recognize the gentle slope of her nose anywhere, not to mention the curve of her ass, which was currently held in a death grip by the older boy she was kissing.
“Astoria?” Draco asked, walking toward the couple with a sinking feeling in his chest.
Was this why she hadn’t texted him since the first day of spring break?
Was this what—or apparently, who—she’d been doing for the whole week they’d been apart?
At the sound of her name, she jumped guiltily, pulling away from the redhead—whom Draco now realized was Percy fucking Weasley. Two years older than them and some kind of child prodigy, Percy was already in grad school—at fucking Stanford—and had sold several truly weird paintings for more money than Draco would pay to punch him in the stupid, freckled face right now.
“Draco!” Astoria said, breathless and guilty and still so pretty. Damn her.
He said nothing, just stared at her, mouth open in shock.
“Oh, Draco, I’m sorry,” she simpered. “I didn’t mean for you to see that. I just—well, you know that my parents are friends with the Weasleys, and we met up with Percy and his family while we were in Palo Alto, and one thing led to another…” she trailed off, pleading with her eyes for him to say something, to understand.
“Are you—are you breaking up with me?” He knew it was stupid, but it was all he could manage. He felt his eyes water, and blinked furiously to keep the tears from spilling over.
Astoria sighed, stepping away from Percy to put her hand on Draco’s arm. “Draco,” she began, looking up at him with those sky blue eyes that he had always thought were so beautiful. “You are such a good boyfriend. But we’re just too different. I like art galleries and film festivals. You like sports and Netflix. Percy—” she turned, gazing dreamily over her shoulder at the scrawny little fucker. “Percy and I are just...more in sync. He’s an intellectual. Plus, he and I will both be at Stanford next year, and you...”
She trailed off, smiling sadly at him before reaching her hand back for Percy’s. “I’m sorry, Draco.”
Then she was moving away from him, Percy’s arm around her shoulders as he walked her to her first class.
Draco felt numb. He turned slowly, dimly aware of a bell ringing somewhere above his head, but in such a state of shock that he could barely put one foot in front of the other, let alone navigate his way to class.
He decided he would go home for the day. He wouldn’t be able to concentrate in his classes, so he might as well just—
Exactly what he planned to do next, he’d never know, as just then someone slammed into him from behind. He cursed loudly as they both fell forward onto the grass beneath the willow tree—now the scene of both his heartbreak and this humiliation.
Facedown in the grass, Draco debated just lying there for the rest of the day. But then the smaller body on top of his back shifted, rolling off of him and muttering, “Oh fuck, I’m sorry,” in a distinctly feminine voice.
A distinctly familiar feminine voice.
Turning his head just an inch, he was unsurprised to see the raucous curls of Hermione Granger in his periphery. She was on her hands and knees, furiously shoving notebooks and pens back into the canvas tote they had spilled out of.
She looked up at him suddenly, narrowing her eyes. “Don’t. Say. A. Word. Malfoy,” she hissed, punctuating each word with a jab of her finger at his face. Said finger was adorned with two silver rings—one a lion’s head, the other the circle and cross of the “female” symbol. The rings joined the army of jewelry she wore on her other fingers, both wrists, ears, and even her nose, where a delicate silver hoop looped through one nostril. She stood, stepping toward him, black combat boots stopping within an inch of his face. A worn flannel shirt was tied around her hips, a faded—probably vintage—Nirvana t-shirt tucked into the waistband of her skin-tight jeans.
She leaned over, extending a hand to him. He ignored it, pushing himself up onto his hands before nimbly hopping into a standing position. She glared at him again, and he mimed speaking. “Oh go ahead,” she snapped, rolling her eyes.
“Well you said I couldn’t speak—after you assaulted me, by the way—so I wasn’t sure I was allowed,” he shot back, enjoying the way she bristled at his words. Ever since she’d moved to town in fourth grade, he’d enjoyed making her bristle.
“Look, I said I was sorry. My car wouldn’t start so my dad had to drive me to school, and I didn’t want to be late for Calc—” she broke off, blowing her breath out in a sigh that made her curls fly about her face. “I don’t know why I’m telling you this. I’m just—I’m sorry I knocked you over.”
Turning her back on him, she hurried off toward the nearest building, bag slung over her shoulder.
Draco sighed and bent to retrieve his own books. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a dog-eared paperback lying just under the tree.
“Hey Granger, you forgot something!” he called, picking up the book and inspecting the title. “Pygmalion?” he read, just managing to finish the title before having the book snatched out of his hand. “Is that for English class?”
“No,” she said, lifting her chin, enough haughtiness in her expression to impress even his mother. “I’m reading it for fun.”
He glanced at her, incredulous. “I don’t think you and I have the same definition of ‘fun.’”
Her brows lowered, eyes sparking with annoyance. “Obviously not. Now, if you’ll excuse me, one of us has an important class to attend.”
She turned to leave again, tossing her hair over her shoulder. Draco watched her walk away, headed toward her advanced math class, where she would probably talk about advanced things with all of her advanced friends and then—
He was glad no one was around to hear his audible gasp, eyebrows shooting up to his hairline and heart seizing in his chest as an idea struck his brain with the force of a lightning bolt.
Not sparing a moment for second thoughts he ran, taking several loping strides and lunging forward, snagging Hermione by the elbow just as she reached the door of her classroom.
“Granger—wait,” he said, a smile spreading slowly over his face.
Hermione’s face changed, going from irritated to wary. “What is it, Malfoy?”
“You’re smart, right?”
Her eyes narrowed. “Objectively.”
“And you like art and music and shit, right?”
“‘Art and music and—’ did you hit your head when I knocked you down?”
He shook his head, pale blond hair falling artfully into his eyes. “Listen, I need your help. Can you teach me about stuff like that? Teach me how to be more…intellectual?” The words burned like acid in his throat, but he’d be damned if he gave Astoria up without a fight.
Even though she looked at him as though he’d sprouted another head, he took heart from the fact that she didn’t immediately laugh in his face and tell him to piss off. Instead, she said, “What’s in it for me?”
He grinned. “Ah, so you have a mercenary streak. I can deal with that. What do you want?”
She pursed her lips, considering. “There’s a two week singer/songwriter workshop at Berklee College in June. I want to go, but I can’t afford it.”
“You want me to pay for it? How much?”
Draco’s mouth dropped open. “$1,500! What the fuck, Granger?”
She rolled her eyes again. “It’s Berklee College, Malfoy, not the YMCA. And don’t even act like you can’t afford that, Mr. ‘I Drive a Brand New Tesla.’”
“My parents bought me that! And besides, it’s good for the fucking environment,” he added, scowling at her.
She arched an eyebrow. “Those are my terms.”
He groaned, dropping his head back to squint up at the ceiling. “Okay. Fine. Deal.”
“Pleasure doing business with you,” she said, finally jerking her arm from his grasp and pulling open the classroom door. “Meet me after school in the parking lot,” she added over her shoulder. “You can give me a ride home.”
Feeling as though he may have just been swindled, Draco turned and jogged off toward his own first period class. Guess he couldn’t leave now—he had to give his new tutor a ride home.