If Hermione thought she was nervous before Malfoy came by earlier in the afternoon, the feeling had multiplied tenfold as she tried to prepare herself for the fashion show that night.
She sorted blankly through her luggage, but even the new items she had purchased skewed more towards casual than runway show.
So when Malfoy knocked on the door that evening, she released a heavy breath and answered it, hair and make-up halfway done and still wearing her same outfit from earlier.
His eyes bulged. "Oh shit." Malfoy wore a sharp, impeccably tailored suit. Hermione had to consciously tear her gaze away from the way the trousers fit his arse.
"Help me," she pleaded, the words coming out smaller than she intended.
But if anyone knew about what would be appropriate for her to wear, it would be him. He only smirked at her and shook his head, striding into the loft and venturing towards Pansy's bedroom.
Hermione had laid out the few dresses she had either brought or purchased on the bed, and he eyed them each in turn, fingering the material. He lifted one of the hangers up, peering at the cut of the dress before eyeing her head to toe.
Merlin, she felt stripped bare in his eyes.
He set the dress back down, all business, before moving towards Pansy's expansive walk-in closet.
"You could wear that one," he mused, twisting his lips to the side, "or…" He flicked through the seemingly endless dresses hanging along one rail, at last settling on one. He gazed at it in silence, almost reverence, before drawing it from the railing.
A breath caught in Hermione's throat. It was gorgeous.
The material was a deep purple satin―almost black―with intricate stitching details along the strapless sweetheart bodice, fitted through the waist before flaring into a uniquely constructed skirt that ended just above the knee.
He held the hanger up in front of her, his throat bobbing with a swallow. "This one."
"It's beautiful," she whispered, hesitant to even touch the rich fabric.
"Pansy's finest work, in my opinion." His eyes caught hers. "But she's never worn it."
Hermione's jaw fell open. "Pansy made this? Won't she be upset if I wear it out?"
"Not a chance. You'll be wearing her design to one of the hottest runway shows of the season." His lips tugged into a smirk. "And I guarantee you'll catch people's eyes."
Leaving her with the dress, Malfoy skimmed a shelf of carefully organised shoes, peering at two options before selecting a pair with a heel that made her grimace. Then he sorted through an array of Pansy's jewellery, collecting a few shimmering silver pieces.
Hermione eyed the look of concentration on his face, wondering whether she ever could have imagined Malfoy picking out her outfit for a posh event―but she supposed he was probably used to such a thing. Or at the least, he knew more about what would look good than she did, and in that vein she was willing to trust him.
He stepped from the closet with a soft, "Get changed," and closed the door behind him.
As she gazed at the dress, transfixed, she felt a smile sweep across her lips. As carefully as she could manage, she slipped into the dress, finding it fit her quite well. She donned the silver jewellery he had pulled out and emerged to find Malfoy leaning against the wall, waiting for her. His grey eyes slid sideways to find hers and flared with heat.
With several quick taps of his wand, the dress adjusted to fit her form perfectly. He murmured a few spells, twisting his wand into her hair and settling out the partially managed curls.
"You must do this a lot," she said, the tension between them choking her words.
"Not that much," he said quietly, "only when I'm working on a magical shoot."
He was close enough that she could smell his intoxicating cologne as he peered at her make-up, and with a few more quiet incantations, he stepped back, pursing his lips.
Hermione caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror, sucking in a breath. Her hair fell in soft, sleek curls, her eyes smoky but not so overdone that she didn't recognise herself.
"In case you had any doubt," Malfoy said quietly, "you're absolutely stunning." His lips quirked. "And it will be my honour to have you at my side tonight."
"Thank you," she said, horrified to feel emotion welling within her and spiking at the corners of her eyes. She blinked several times, unwilling to run the risk that his makeup spells might ruin. "You've been very kind to me since I've been here."
Malfoy only stared at her, a bit of a furrow between his brows. As if she were a piece of artwork he couldn't quite understand. "I would love to photograph you."
"Now?" she asked, the word coming out high in her surprise.
He smirked. "No, not now. Before you leave."
Hermione felt colour creep up into her cheeks and she tightened her gaze, assessing him. "I'm not a model."
"You're going to blow away any of those models tonight."
She couldn't tell whether he was coming onto her or if he was simply forward, but he hadn't moved since adjusting her hair and make-up, his hands hanging loose at his sides. She slipped on the heels he had picked out, the height of them bringing her nearly eye level with him.
"Think about it and let me know," he said, stepping back at last as he offered a hand. "We'd better get going."
When she slipped her hand into his, he laced their fingers, the feel of it so natural that a jolt of energy shot through her.
Hermione knew the instant they arrived at the fashion show that Malfoy had downplayed his influence. It seemed he knew every other person who walked past them. He was all waves and charming grins, but not once did he remove his hand from her back, introducing her to various fashion and photography types.
More than once she turned to find a flashbulb going off in her face, and she understood what he meant about her arriving in one of Pansy's creations. Throwing caution to the wind, Hermione smiled and posed with him for some of the photographs. His hand was sturdy and reassuring on her back, heat flooding through her every time she met the warmth of his stormy eyes.
When they finally arrived at their seats―front row, nonetheless―Hermione shot him a stare.
"Sorry about that," he murmured, a teasing smirk pulling at his lips. "I would have warned you in advance but the look on your face was too good."
"I didn't know you were a celebrity," she hissed, eyes narrowing.
But he only rolled his eyes in return, shifting his hand along her spine to rest on her upper back. His fingers played about the bare skin between her shoulders, almost absently, and the feel of it was more distracting than she might have expected.
"Six months from now I could be nothing," Malfoy said softly. "New York can be fickle like that."
Hermione nudged him in the ribs. "I think you're being humble―and that is something I never thought I'd hear myself saying about Draco Malfoy."
His eyes met hers. "Say that again."
"That you're humble?" Hermione snickered. "I'm not trying to give your ego―"
Heat flared through her, throbbing with her pulse as she whispered, "Draco," the word rolling from her tongue like silk. Distantly, she was aware of the hum of noise around her, and even the eyes that watched them, but she found herself lost in the grey of his irises.
Malfoy's palm flexed on her back, a soft smile curling his mouth. Finally he said, "I'm not going to say I don't like the sound of that."
Hermione couldn't get a read on him, whether he was actually interested in her or if he was just a flirt and it was all an act for the cameras. But he still traced the curve of her spine with his fingertips, his touch soft, and she wondered how he could be that good of an actor.
She breathed, "Say mine."
His expression faltered. "Hermione."
Her heart jumped into her throat, skin tingling, and she didn't think she could have looked away from him if she tried.
But then the lights dropped, loud music with a heavy beat burst to life, and she sucked in a breath, shifting in her seat. His hand curled around her far shoulder, warming her bare skin as he sank into his seat.
Following his lead, Hermione settled in for the show.
Her ears rang but a wide grin stretched across Hermione's face by the time the fashion show was over. Between the steady beat of the music, the consistent flashing of cameras, and the blaring lights dancing around and illuminating the models in wild clothing, her mind whirled.
Malfoy looped an arm around her waist, his thumb dragging across her hip as he led her from the building into the crisp night air. His eyes were a little glazed from the steady rounds of champagne, and given the way she didn't feel particularly cold, Hermione figured she was moderately intoxicated as well.
Despite the late hour, New York City was still alive, lights flashing on every corner and people bustling along the walks.
Malfoy ducked in, his breath warm against her ear as he asked, "Are you cold?"
She shook her head, chewing her lip. Hermione was infinitely grateful for the cushioning charms Pansy must have put on the heels she'd borrowed as they ambled back in the direction of the Apparition point.
His hand still lingered on her hip, and he hitched her closer.
"I had fun tonight," she said, offering him a smile as she tucked herself into his side.
A smirk teased his lips. "As did I. Thank you for accompanying me."
Her head spun a little from the champagne; perhaps she'd had more to drink than she realised, and she stumbled a little as she walked. Malfoy snickered, his arm around her tightening.
"Come on. Let's get you home."
Hermione came to an abrupt stop, dropping her chin as she stared at him. "Why have you been so nice to me?"
Malfoy's eyes flashed as he came to an abrupt stop, people jostling them as they rushed past.
"Because I treated you so badly when we were young," he said, his voice hoarse, "and you didn't deserve that. It took a bloody war for me to realise the very foundations of my life were built on sand." His brow furrowed, despair etched in his handsome face. "I'm surprised you even gave me a second chance."
"It was a long time ago," she breathed, searching his gaze for any hint of a lie and coming up short. "And why shouldn't you have another chance if you're willing to set aside your pride and ask?"
His breathing was shallow, his hand still lingering on her hip as he stared at her.
She wanted to kiss him.
But someone shoved past her and Hermione stumbled forward in her precarious heels. Malfoy shouted something after the man, and despite everything else, she found herself giggling with mirth at the situation. He flashed her a grin, rolling his eyes.
Then he dragged her between two buildings to the Apparition point, and within moments they were back in Pansy's loft.
The space between them hummed with electricity as Hermione toed off her heels in the entrance, losing several inches to Malfoy's taller stature. She wasn't entirely certain what had almost just happened between them on the street, but back under the bright lights of the loft she felt anxious.
He lingered near the entrance, eyeing her as he slid his hands into his pockets.
Hermione hesitated, meeting his stare. She found she almost continually had to remind herself she had only known him―this version of him―for six days. And that she would be going home in a week.
But Merlin, the heat in his stare would be her undoing.
A little breathily she said, "Do you want to stay for a drink?"
It wasn't a proposition.
His tongue flickered out to moisten his bottom lip. "That would be alright."
"I'm going to change out of this dress," she said, almost unnecessarily, but nerves had crept up within her at the idea of Draco Malfoy in her temporary home after they had been drinking. And she didn't exactly know what she might end up saying.
"Let me―" he stuttered forward behind her, halting when Hermione froze. But he only tugged the zip of her dress halfway, exposing her bare back to just above the curve of her arse. The feel of his hands on her skin caused her eyes to flutter, warmth pooling within her core as she lingered in front of him.
Malfoy left one hand on her spine, the other drifting around her collarbone and along the base of her throat. She sucked in a breath, and it took all of her willpower not to sink back into his hold.
Not to surrender to the desire that pulsed through her with a dull roar.
His voice was a low purr when he said, "Thank you for coming with me tonight."
"Thank you for inviting me," she responded, her breath escaping as a soft puff. Her fingers curled around his wrist but she didn't make any move to stop his hands as they teased her bare skin. At last she whispered, cursing herself all the while, "I'm going home in a week. So I need you to be honest with me about what this is."
After a long pause in which she was painfully aware of her breathing, he said, "I don't know." He released her, taking a step back, and Hermione mourned the loss of his warmth. "I don't think my answer to that fits into a week. And it certainly doesn't involve you being intoxicated."
The smile he offered her looked forced, and Hermione turned to face him, closing the space between them once more.
"What does that mean?"
"It means," he said, almost apologetically, "I find myself drawn to you, Hermione Granger." He glanced away, blowing out a shallow breath. "Maybe it's best I leave you alone for the rest of your time in New York."
Her mind reeled. After the afternoon―and the night―they'd shared, she didn't want to walk away.
She whispered, "I don't think that's best."
Then before he could respond she pressed up on her toes, threading a hand into his hair as she brushed her lips against his. For the split second that followed Hermione thought she might have made a terrible mistake―but then Malfoy kissed her back, his lips soft yet assertive, one hand coming around her back to hitch her against his chest.
His kisses were teasing but patient, as if he truly didn't want to do anything further while they were inebriated. The thought only made desire coil tighter within her as her tongue darted out to graze his.
Hermione wound her arms around his neck, carding her hands through his hair as he dragged one hand down her bare back, giving her arse a squeeze while he maneuvered her against the wall.
When he drew back from the kiss, dragging his teeth along the curve of her jaw and layering kisses to her throat, a soft moan slipped from her lips. Hermione was of half a mind to drag him into the bedroom and forget the rest, but he drew away, tugging her earlobe between his teeth before resting the side of his temple against her own.
He ghosted the fingers of one hand along her spine. "I should go."
In the back of her foggy mind, she respected him for stopping. She bit her tongue on an offer that he simply stay over, because she didn't know that she trusted herself enough for that.
And she still didn't know what exactly she made of the situation between them.
So she whispered, "Okay."
Malfoy pressed one more firm kiss to her lips before releasing her. He stared at her for a long moment, his throat bobbing with a swallow. Hermione could only imagine the swelling of her lips, the wildness of her hair from his hands.
"I wish I could capture you like this forever," he said, then lifted his hands and pantomimed snapping a photo with a click of his tongue. A crooked grin dragged across his lips that sent a sparkle into his eye, and Hermione couldn't help her own smile in return.
"I'll see you soon," she said, the statement lifting a little towards the end though she hadn't intended it as a question.
But he nodded. "Soon." Brushing a kiss to her cheek, he said, "Good night, Granger."
Hermione wrung her hands to keep from reaching for him again, some of the haze clearing from her mind. "Good night, Draco."
A cheshire grin spread across his face and he offered a wink before slipping through the door.
Hermione released a groan, dropping her head back against the wall as her heart performed a joyful dance in her chest.
"You will not believe this." Potter found Pansy in the kitchen of Granger's cottage as he let himself in, and she gaped for a moment before turning back to the screen before her on the table.
The bridge of Potter's nose wrinkled with confusion. "Is that a computer?"
"Yes," Pansy said, waving a dismissive hand. "I work with Muggles a lot; it's the easiest way to communicate with them." Waving towards the screen again, she ushered him around and he dragged a chair closer.
Potter squinted for a moment in disbelief, then asked, "Is that Hermione? With… Malfoy?"
Pansy turned to face him, lifting her hands in shock. "He took her to one of the biggest shows of the season. Can you believe that?"
"I can't, actually," Potter clipped, folding his arms. "I can't see Hermione falling for anything that git says."
Pansy rolled her eyes. "Draco's changed a lot, you know. I think even you would be surprised." But she only marvelled at the photo a moment longer. "Look at how beautiful she is."
"She is," Potter admitted, his gaze flashing briefly to the screen again before drifting back to Pansy. "I still don't buy it that Hermione would willingly spend her holiday with Malfoy."
Pansy ignored him, her gaze tracking the brief article that followed. She whispered to herself, "Celebrity fashion photographer Draco Malfoy… mystery woman dressed by―" With a quiet yelp of surprise, she grabbed Potter's arm. "Look! There."
Peering closer, he flashed Pansy a grin. "Parks. You made that dress?"
"Yes," Pansy said, dragging her fingers distractedly along the photo again. "It's one of Draco's favourites. Merlin, she looks stunning in it." Incredulous, she shook her head. If the evidence wasn't laid plain before her she never would have believed it. "Look at how they're staring at one another."
The most baffling part of the entire situation was that Granger and Draco gazed at one another as if there was something deeper between them. But the article―and by extension, the photograph―was Muggle. Only a moment captured in time and frozen for eternity.
"I don't believe that," Potter said, squinting again at the photo. "It must be a trick of the light. She's only been there for a week."
Pansy grimaced, rummaging in her bag for the mobile phone she used for work but had turned off when she left New York. She barely knew how to use the thing beyond its most basic functionality, but she carefully dialed Draco's number, releasing an impatient huff when the line rang twice, then three times.
At her side, Potter only frowned, a furrow in his brow as he watched her struggle with the mobile.
At last Draco's tinny voice clipped onto the line. "Hello? Pans?"
Pansy set the phone down on the table, jabbing at the speaker phone button as she exclaimed, "What the bloody hell do you think you're doing?"
A hesitation on the line, and then, "Is everything okay Pans?"
"Everything's fine!" Pansy exclaimed, her voice rising. "Except you are bothering my house guest!" When he didn't respond right away, she pressed on. "I swear to Merlin, Draco, if you've slept with her―"
She could hear him release an amused huff. Then he said, "You're on speaker, Pans."
A quiet, feminine giggle sounded across the line and Potter gaped at the phone. "Hermione?"
Stunned silence fell over the line for a moment and then Pansy heard Draco's grumbled, "The fuck is happening here?"
Then Granger's voice came through. "Harry, what are you doing there?"
Potter scowled at the mobile. "I could ask you the same thing. Pansy saw a photo of you two at a fashion show."
"Look, Granger," Pansy said, swiping up the phone and speaking directly into it, "I'm sorry about him. I forgot to tell him I was leaving and―"
"It's okay," Granger's voice said with a hint of warmth. "We've been getting along―I'm sorry if Harry's bothered you while I've been gone!"
"Hey," Potter scoffed.
Despite the entire cock-up, Pansy felt a laugh burst forth and she clapped a hand over her mouth. "He hasn't bothered me, but he did drink all your wine."
Potter fired her a glare and deadpanned, "Excuse you, I only helped."
Pansy heard Draco's chuckle come across the line. Confusion reeled within her at the fact that Draco was actually spending time with Hermione Granger, of all people. At last he drawled, "I appreciate your concern, Pans, but I assure you Granger is here with me of her own free will."
"It's true," Granger's voice quipped. Then she added, "Pansy, feel free to kick Harry out. He has a tendency to let himself in."
"He can stay for now," Pansy said, catching Potter's sparkling gaze.
"For the record, Pans," Draco's voice said again, "Granger wore one of your dresses to the show two nights ago and you're blowing up over here." He was silent for a moment before adding, "I hope you're doing well."
"Yeah," Pansy huffed. "Life experiences and all that."
Potter still stared at her, a devious smile curling his mouth. She felt heat flare within her.
"It sounds like this has all been cleared up," Granger said with a bit of a titter.
Though she still reeled, Pansy threw her hands up into the air. "I suppose it has. Look out for one another, I guess?"
"You too." Draco's voice sounded far away. "See you soon, Pans. Enjoy the rest of your trip."
When the line went dead, Pansy only stared at it for a moment before ending the call. Then she glanced at Potter, her brow heavy as she chewed on her bottom lip. With a grimace, she asked, "Can you believe that?"
"Not really." He blew out a breath. "But Hermione's always been able to take care of herself. I'm not worried about her if you say Malfoy's grown up."
"He has," she murmured, her gaze landing on the stack of drawings she'd been tweaking. "Did you hear that? About the dress Granger wore?" Excitement swelled within her; she couldn't pay for that sort of exposure.
A crooked grin spread across Potter's face, causing Pansy's stomach to coil and tighten. At last he said, "It sounds like we should go out and celebrate."
A smile tugged at her own lips. "Indeed we should, Potter."
The man was daft.
He had no concept of nuance, was too trusting for his own good, and most of the time he didn't pick up on Pansy's sarcasm.
But Merlin if Potter hadn't crawled under her skin in only a week of getting to know him.
There was something about him that she couldn't even identify, but he broke down her walls in a way that no one else had managed to do. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that she had been haunted for a decade by the last time she had seen the man.
Or maybe it was something else. Something Pansy couldn't quite understand because she often made a point of ignoring the subtle shades in her life, preferring to stick with the concrete blacks and whites and the things that made sense.
What she felt for Potter didn't make a lick of sense.
In fact, he was the opposite of her type. He wasn't polished, he wasn't sharp with his words, and he wore his heart on his sleeve. Merlin, the man was an Auror; he was more prone to charging into a situation, wand aloft, than to trade wit and cunning.
He was a Gryffndor. She supposed that summed him up.
He was rough around the edges, in all the places where she was crisp and controlled.
They were in some seedy pub in Dublin―the third of the night―that Pansy never would have stepped foot in on her own; the floor was sticky beneath her heels, the lights dim and flickering, and several men had just been kicked out for brawling.
The scene was distasteful, to say the least.
But after half a dozen Irish whiskeys, Pansy couldn't help the laughter that burst forth at one of Potter's lame quips, a smile lingering on her lips at his roguish grin as he slung an arm around her shoulders.
He dragged his other hand through his messy hair, his emerald green eyes sparkling as they found hers.
"When are you leaving again?" he asked, his face faltering as he stared at her.
Pansy squinted for a moment, considering the question over the watery haze in her brain. "Six days." She tittered a bit of a laugh and teased, "Why? Going to come visit me in New York?"
Tossing back the last of his drink, Potter shrugged. "Maybe."
The smile fell from her face. "Really?"
"Is it inconceivable that I might want to see you again?" he asked, his tone unusually droll. "And besides―I've never seen New York."
"It isn't your scene." Even as she spoke the words, she swallowed. Most of her experiences with men were largely transactional; especially in New York, where most people were only out to get theirs. She couldn't remember the last time anyone had said anything to her with a shred of sentimentality. But she certainly never invited such a thing either. Dropping her voice, she said, "I think I'd like that."
"Then it's settled," Potter announced, that crooked grin spreading across his face again.
He made it sound so simple. Pansy snagged her bottom lip between her teeth, and his gaze flickered to the movement. But she only whispered, "Okay."
The admission was oddly sobering. She withheld a yawn as the late hour caught up with her, fidgeting with her empty glass. "Let's go back."
Potter held her stare for a moment before he nodded, helping her to her feet and leading her from the pub. They had arrived via the Apparition point in an alley two buildings down, and a shiver crept through Pansy's frame as they walked back.
He wrapped an arm around her, leading her towards the alley, his warmth infusing her skin.
Pansy felt on the verge of something she couldn't quite fathom. His hold was firm and comforting, and when she turned towards him in the alley, she only caught the flash in his eyes before she pulled him in.
His lips met hers, firm and unwavering, his hands threading into her hair as he pressed her back against the building. Her mind swam with whiskey and desire as he hitched her leg up to his hip, deepening the kiss.
Heart pounding in her chest, she slipped the top buttons of his shirt, his firm body holding her against the old shack as his tongue delved into her mouth.
A quiet whimper escaped Pansy's lips as he dragged a hand along the bare skin of her thigh beneath her skirt and she hissed, "Let's go, Potter."
His lips never left her as he pulled them both into the twist of Apparition.
Landing in Granger's dark cottage, she made quick work of his shirt, pushing the fabric from his shoulders as Potter hitched her legs around his waist, stumbling a little as he hauled her towards the bedroom.
He flashed her that stupid grin between kisses, and Pansy felt her heart stutter in her chest as he tossed her into the bed and stripped her bare. She couldn't hold back her own indolent smile.
Merlin help her.