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Second Time's the Charm

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Mini-Fest: Love at Second Sight
Prompt: Number 12 Grimmauld Place

/\/\/\/\/\/\

The first time Hermione sees him at Grimmauld Place, she's late. She is often late, thanks to a demanding job, but that night, she is very late. So late, in fact, that she misses dinner entirely.

He is in the hall outside the magically expanded kitchen, leaning against the wall, eyes closed, one leg bent with his foot resting on the wall. Candlelight flickers around him, and shadows dance on his pale skin; his hair is practically glowing. It's been five years, but she'd know that shade of white-blond anywhere.

The sight of his tall frame silhouetted in the dark arrests her.

He turns when he sees her, his eyes hidden in shadow. "Granger."

There is something about the way he says her name that sends a jolt up her spine. Her own reply is slightly breathy. "Malfoy."

Then Luna comes out of the kitchen, a bright smile on her face. She effortlessly slides her hand down his arm and laces her fingers with his. "Hi, Hermione! I'm glad you made it. There's plenty left, and we're about to have dessert."

She nods and smiles distractedly, all the while wondering if she's stepped into an alternate universe. Leaving them in the hall, Hermione joins the rest of her friends.

But she feels his eyes on her as she steps past him in the hall. Feels them follow her all evening.

Feels the phantom weight of his gaze long after the evening is over.

/\/\/\/\/\/\

The second time she sees him there, Luna is on his lap, arms around his neck.

Hermione cannot fathom what he sees in her. He is brilliant and snarky, his wit unmatched—things she learned overhearing bits and pieces of conversations. Luna laughs at everything he says, but, sometimes, Hermione sees his jaw clench as he smiles. She doesn't mind because it makes it easy to see the sharp lines of his face.

Luna is a butterfly, and she flits here and there and everywhere. Hermione finds herself in conversation with Malfoy over the most boring details of their sixth year potions books, arguing over the best course of action in studying the subject: following the directions or listening to intuition.

Two hours later, they are still in the thick of it, and Hermione can't remember the last time she felt so alive. She hasn't noticed the way time has flown, the way others have been side-eyeing them, the fact that Luna hasn't made an appearance since dinner—not once.

When Luna does return, the moment shatters, and he walks out the door with his hand on her back.

/\/\/\/\/\/\

The third time he's there is a special form of torture. She tries to avoid falling into his orbit again because he is dating her friend, and it isn't right for her to have these feelings for him. Feelings she's tried to ignore and bury and burn spring up the instant she hears his voice down the hall. She has to close her eyes and force herself to breathe.

His arm is tossed casually around Luna's shoulder as he speaks with Theo Nott, Seamus's most recent—albeit longest—obsession. He doesn't notice her right away, but she can feel when he does.

She's trying to pass for completely fine, chatting about nothing with Ginny and Blaise. Out of the corner of her eye, she can see Malfoy. Somehow, she is perfectly positioned to hear the waves of his speech, the vibrations of his laugh. Perfectly tuned. Someone passes between them, and he looks up, his gaze falling on her. She feels it. His eyes seem to bore holes through her resolve, a siren call beckoning her to turn his way.

But she adjusts her body instead so she can't see him because he is dating her friend, so it doesn't matter that she's been unable to think of anybody else. Doesn't matter that she's started seeking him out everywhere she goes, hoping for a glimpse of white blond hair around every corner, beyond the next turn.

They don't exchange more than a few words all night.

EBut each one of them burnsBurning through her.

/\/\/\/\/\/\

The fourth time he's there, at Grimmauld Place, invited by Luna into the circle created by Harry after the war, is a disaster.

She's decided not to avoid him this time, convinced herself that she was imagining things. She wants to test the waters, to see what might be possible, should things with Luna and him not work out. So she seeks him out, starts conversation, tries for more. His eyes are intense, but he laughs lightly with her, trades barbs with her, debates poetry and policy with her. After an hour, she feels weightless, besotted beyond all reason.

Someone finds Luna in a compromising position with Dean, who's been in love with her for ages but hasn't made a single, solitary move. Well, he amends that tonight, making many moves with his hands, his mouth, and, Hermione assumes, other parts of his body based on the scandalized reactions from her friends. But Luna brushes herself off, holds her head high while pulling a sheepish, embarrassed Dean behind her. He tries to hide his face, as though it would matter, following Luna down three flights of stairs and out the front door.

Hermione's attention is glued to Draco, and she observes his response with growing dread. Surely he is going to fight Dean. Surely he will murder Dean. But he's dispassionate as he watches Luna appear, watches her walk across the room as though she's won the grand prize, watches her walk out without a word. They exchange one look and only one look. Hermione sees the way Luna barely, almost imperceptibly, nods her head, but then she's gone and so is Dean, and Hermione doesn't know what to think.

She's frozen in place, not daring to look at Draco for fear of what she'll read in his eyes.

Everyone else is stunned, staring at the door for three seconds before bursting into conversation and speculation, huddling in groups of three or four to break down everything that's happened. Draco smirks at the floor, then fetches his cloak. Of course he would leave; he was only there for Luna, and now that she's gone, what reason does he have to stay?

She desperately wishes he knew how desperately she wants to be his reason.

/\/\/\/\/\/\

The next time she sees him is two weeks later, at Grimmauld Place again. She's early, for once, but Luna and Dean are already there, inseparable, as they'd been the week before. It makes her uncomfortable, but that's nothing compared to what she feels when Draco walks in with Theo and Seamus.

Sure, she'd wondered about him, thought about him, mused about him, even. But she never expected to see him here of all places. Not walking in with Seamus, Dean's best friend. Not laughing like he is now, the smile on his face brilliant and blinding and wreaking havoc on the sensitive nerves of her heart.

She knows that any second now, he's going to see Luna, see Dean, and things will get awkward.

As if in slow motion, she watches. Sees him hang his cloak on the rack. Sees him clap Theo on the back and follow him into the kitchen, where everyone else is already gathered. Sees his gaze dart around the room.

Sees him see Luna, with Dean. Sees him blink as he fully absorbs it—honestly, what did he expect?

Then he sees her, and she sucks in a breath. His gaze lingers, the corners of his eyes soften slightly. Theo whispers something in his ear, and he nods, makes his way towards her. On his way, he grabs two bottles from the fridge and holds one out, popping the top off the one he keeps for himself.

He holds out a bottle to her, smirks her favorite smirk. "Granger."

/\/\/\/\/\/\

They are the last to leave. There is no end to things she wants to hear him say, though they haven't arrived at what she most wants to hear.

The most interesting and pertinent piece of information was that Luna had asked him to pretend to be dating in an attempt to make Dean jealous. Things between them had come to a head on Draco's previous appearance, and it turned out that what pushed Dean over the edge was Draco's inattention to Luna that night.

Hermione had felt a smidge of something over this revelation because he'd been spending his attention on her.

But, it had all been pretend anyway.

Now, as they jump from one topic to another, her nerves flutter in a constant cascade. Every time his knee bumps hers, his elbow brushes her arm, she feels a fresh flow of this anxious energy. She wants him to kiss her, but maybe that's not what this is about. Maybe he simply enjoys maddening conversations littered with flirtatious comments and lingering glances.

She, on the other hand, is about to lose her mind.

She's never been so attracted to someone in her life, never before wanted to shut someone up with her tongue like this before. It would be so simple. They are both sitting on the sofa, a respectable and agonizing distance between them, and he is talking non-stop about some new referendum the Ministry is working to enact.

All she can think about is silencing him. Yes, she wants to discuss this with him. Yes, she feels strongly about it and enjoys debating the pros and cons. But sweet Merlin, all she can focus on at this point is his lips.

"Granger?"

She drags her gaze up from his mouth, notices the pink tinge to his cheeks, the deep well in his eyes. She blinks. "What?" It's breathy, like she's run a mile.

His lips curve in a smirk, and he chuckles. The sound goes straight through her, shoots down her spine and settles in her core. Once again, her gaze is drawn to his lips, and she can't help but think of the role they've played in her growing attraction. From the way he says her name to the hours they've spent talking, it is his lips she most cherishes.

She wants him to put them to a different use.

"I was saying—"

But something snaps. She lunges forward, grabs his face, and presses her lips to his in a slightly awkward, frantic way. If he's surprised at all, he doesn't show it. He wraps his arms around her as though they've done this a hundred times.

It's amazing how he seems to know just what she wants, and she sighs against his lips—his perfect, perfect lips—as they threaten to burn her from within.

She wants to be consumed.

It's not until she's flat on her back, his hand splayed on her bare stomach, that she realizes what's happening. Her eyes fly open and she sits up, scooting away from him.

He freezes, eyes wide, lips wearing a thoroughly kissed color. His hands are up as though afraid she might attack.

As they gape at each other, breath coming in long draws, she realizes something.

She wants more than this.

More than the sweaty press of their bodies, more than a few minutes of ecstasy under his ministrations, more than stolen kisses in a semi-dark room after everyone else is gone.

She wants those things to, too, of course, but that's not all. And she doesn't want any of it without all of it.

But how does she tell him this? He's watching her warily, waiting for her to do something, say something.

Nothing comes to her, and she nearly panics.

"Too fast. That... that was too fast." Draco sinks back into the cushion where he'd been when she pounced, dragging a hand through his hair and talking long, even breaths.

Hermione bites her lip. "I don't—it wasn't—i mean—"

"Do you want to have dinner with me?"

He's looking at her, straight in the eye, and her fears dissolve. He does understand. He does have feelings for her. He is not content merely to kiss her.

He wants more, too.

She nods and he gives her a tentative smile. Her entire body relaxes, and she slides close to him again. They discuss dinner plans and confess feelings, steal kisses and hold hands.

It's the perfect beginning to something, and she can't wait for what comes next.

THE END.