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Exams are approaching and time never seems to be enough. Hermione Granger is secretly crying over the fact that magic is not real, because she would have gladly found herself a spell to manipulate the flow of time so that she wouldn’t need to pass every living second tapping on her computer, churning out one essay after another like her own life depended on them.

She is not alone in her misery. Ginny spends most of her days with her head buried in her textbooks, too, swearing at herself every couple hours for choosing to go to uni instead of travelling the world; when Harry knocks on the door of the girls’ bedroom to spend some time with her, he usually ends up sitting on her bed and scrolling absentmindedly through whatever it is that interests him that day on his phone. After a while, he had started bringing either his laptop or a book with him: exams are approaching for him, too, no matter how little he might care about them.

The two young women have very different study techniques, though. Hermione just buries herself in her work and stops acknowledging everyone and everything around her for hours on end, while Ginny blabbers about every little thing that crosses her mind, topic-related or not, non-stop. It doesn’t bother Hermione much: she is so used to it that it just becomes white noise in the background.

That’s why she is not listening when her friend throws a rubber ball at her.

“Ouch!”

“Wake up, I said I got a text about you.” The puzzled look on Hermione’s face speaks for itself. “Yeah, apparently someone wants to set a blind date with you and McLaggen.”

She blinks for a few seconds. “I’m sorry, what?”

“Don’t look at me like that, I’m not the one doing it.”

“Thank God, I was fearing you really hated me that much.”

“I might have thought about it once or twice, though, I won’t lie.”

“So you do hate me that much!”

Ginny chuckles. “Anyway, you now know both about the masterplan and the man, so it’s not even blind anymore. Do what you want with that.”

“Who even came up with it in the first place?”

“Fred.”

“Ugh,” Hermione rolls her eyes. “Typical. He won’t have it, this time.” And she’s already back to typing.

“Have what?”

“We’re both working on this long and tedious essay we have to hand in by the beginning of next week and we chose the same topic, so it’s getting very personal,” Hermione explains while adjusting some rebellious curls that escaped the bun on the top of her head. “I bet he’s willing to do just about anything to distract me.”

“Typical, then, yes,” Ginny nods seriously, perfectly aware of the lengths her brother is willing to go. And this is honestly nothing compared to what he’s capable of.

Hermione has already dived back into her work when her phone vibrates with an incoming call. She picks it up without looking at the caller ID, a polite hello on her lips as her eyes keep scanning a PDF in front of her, trying to rush to the end of the sentence before the conversation kicks in– but a too familiar voice startles her and the words zoom out of her sight, a choked sound escaping her lips.

“Who is it?” whispers Ginny looking at her jaw setting.

Hermione brings her index finger to her lips to hush her, clearing her throat before speaking in a businesslike manner. “What do you want, Malfoy?”

Ginny does a really bad job at hiding her laugh with a cough.

Ever since that one time when the ginger asked Hermione to let Harry stay over and take his place in his shared room with Malfoy, a series of peculiar circumstances made Hermione spend more and more time with the blond man. It’s undeniable. And it has definitely not been overlooked by Ginevra Weasley, who might come off as a tornado of chaos and frivolity, but is in fact one of the most attentive, receptive and meticulous people Hermione knows.

Although, she still thinks that they’re only forced to work together because of group projects and that, afterwards, they go back to their usual cordial despisement for one another. In Ginny’s defence, Hermione knows how to not leave traces of her clandestine meetings.    

“You really are the epitome of grace, Granger.” It’s a sarcastic drawl, and yet the sound of his voice sends a jolt of electricity down her spine. It takes her a lot of self control to keep talking normally and not close her legs to scratch the sudden itch forming at the apex of her thighs. 

She hates his voice. He shouldn’t be able to do the things he does, with his voice. To her, specifically.

“Are you actually going to say something or did you call because you had some time to waste?” She can swear, she can swear that he smirks on the other end of the phone.

“A previous engagement was called off and my afternoon is free. If you’re not busy, we can meet up for that essay we need to write.”

Now, here’s the thing. The ‘series of circumstances’ was less a trick of fate and more of a… well, it’s a bit unclear. It had definitely started as an unexpected individual event, with Professor Lupin paring them for his class out of the blue; but then other professors, too, had found out about the wonders the duo Granger-Malfoy could birth and started asking them to work together on small projects. Sometimes it was presenting a lecture, sometimes analysing a text, sometimes a joint essay.

The first time Professor McGonagall asked them if they felt like doing a little extra thing on the side, she had stressed the fact that it was not mandatory at all and that they should have only done it if it worked with their schedules. Hermione had been about to turn it down, given her already half-packed calendar, but then Malfoy had immediately said yes, and in such a nonchalant way that she simply couldn’t back down from the challenge. It would have been awfully degrading for her pride.

Hermione had been more tense than ever when they met up again, mostly pissed off at herself because she couldn’t wrap her mind around the fact that she had willingly decided to spend more time with him despite the fact that the very sight of him made her fingers itch with repressed slaps in the face. 

Yes, their first presentation went great and she most certainly did not complain about the very physical turn that their study date had taken – to be honest, that fateful night she had actually gone to bed unusually content and satisfied like it hadn’t happened in a very long time, but then she’d woken up the following morning and she’d known that that was it. She gave into the fantasy one time and that would have been enough.

Needless to say, her resolution had crumbled the second Draco walked into her room. A disgrace, really. She had looked at him studying, reading, and writing and couldn’t focus on a single thing he was saying, until he had locked eyes with her, knelt on the floor and settled his head between her thighs. The next words he said had become the first reason she got wet during her lonely nights, along with the memory of his skilful tongue.

Hence, the very sound pattern repeating itself for weeks now. Draco accepts the thousandth small, simple project, Hermione follows suit and then proceeds to complain and yell at him as soon as they walk out of the classroom, he leaves without saying a word, she texts him the time and place (mine or yours), they work together on it for a handful of hours, and lastly she ends up with his cock inside her – preferably in her pussy but she doesn’t take offence if it has to be her mouth.

It works like clockwork.

Unfortunately, she doesn’t have time for it now. And she’s painfully aware that she’ll have to force her brain to win her hormones over, which makes it yet another reason why she really just hates him: he has no business making her weak like that.

“I wasn’t planning on working on it until next week.”

“Alright, well, I only called because you mentioned some references you had that might be useful? Maybe I can drop by and get started on them by myself.”

Why the fuck doesn’t he just enjoy a free afternoon without pestering her?

“Yeah, okay, fine, but–” is he maybe implying that he’s going to get started on them in her room? “Are you going to, um… take them?”

He sniggers. “Your books will be treated as the most respected of hostages.”

Hermione stifles an insult. “Hilarious.”

“I can stay there, if it bothers you.”

“It doesn’t bother me, Malfoy, I’m not a psychopath. And, anyway, Ginny is here and she’s loud when she studies, so I don’t think that would be ideal for you.”

“Oh, no, count me out,” Ginny chips in merrily. “I’m leaving in a bit.” 

Great. That’s just great. Isn’t that perfect. She’s leaving, he’s dropping by with a sudden (and quite frankly suspicious) free afternoon, and Hermione really doesn’t have the privilege to take her eyes off of her essay.

“Weasley or no Weasley, I’ll be there in ten,” and he ends the call.

Hermione glares and scoffs at the phone. “I thought people hung up without saying goodbye only in films.”

“Is something going on between you and Malfoy?”

“Yes, essays are going on between me and Malfoy,” Hermione promptly answers without turning, not really sure about the state of her cheeks. 

“It’s just that when I asked you to share the room with him you acted like I personally killed your pet for three days straight, and now he can just ‘drop by’,” Ginny exaggerates the word with a heavy flexing of her voice, “to get some books he could probably download online.”

“Your point?” She can’t possibly have found out.

Her friend shrugs. “I don’t know. Have you two, maybe, between one reference and another…” oh, God, Ginny knows. Maybe she forgot to empty the bathroom bin one time. Maybe he left a t-shirt over. Maybe she left a t-shirt over and both Ginny and Harry saw it. Hermione is already rummaging her brain for excuses and possible theories to propel her friend to distract her from the truth, when Ginny says the one thing Hermione had not anticipated. “...become friends?”

She pauses, frowning. Then, the words settle in her mind and she bursts out laughing, bending in two from the force of it. “Gosh, that was… that could have been anything, but that was…” she says, drying her tears. “Ginny, Malfoy and I are not friends.”

“You act like friends.”

“Yeah, right.”

“Then what are you?”

“Nothing.” Lie. “Absolutely nothing.” Incredibly false. “We’re just study buddies.” Fuck buddies. “Forced study buddies.” Forced study buddies with a lot of benefits that exceed outstanding marks. “But definitely not friends.”

Someone knocks on the door left ajar and a blond head peeps in the room. “Am I interrupting something?”

Her friend huffs out a laugh and looks at her like the cat that got the cream, but Hermione simply ignores her and swings her leg off the bed to go and open the door. 

“These were way less than ten minutes.”

“I never said minutes,” he shrugs as Hermione lets him in and closes the door. He nods at her roommate. “Weasley.”

“Malfoy. Long time, no see. Did you do something to your hair?” Ginny spent the previous night in Harry’s room which is also Draco’s room, so the sarcasm in her voice doesn’t go unnoticed.

“Why, yes, Weasley, thank you for noticing. I did sprinkle it with fairy dust this morning, it should be exceptionally shiny. The packaging was very clear on that.”

A laugh escapes Ginny’s lips, no matter how much she tries to hold it in, which prompts an eye-roll from Hermione.

“Okay, Peter Pan, listen,” she says, ignoring the little skit and walking to her desk. “You might find something useful here.” She takes out a couple of volumes from a precariously tall pile and hands them to Draco over her shoulder. “Don’t write on them. Don’t highlight. Sticky notes are the only thing I allow. No pens, I will personally kill you if you use a pen on any of these pages.”

“Speaking like a true tyrant.”

“Don’t test me.”

“And yet, you’ll still comply, won’t you?” Ginny can’t keep her mouth shut for the life of her, apparently. “I thought you, out of everyone, would have escaped her constant bossing around.” Hermione’s head snaps to her: if looks could kill…

“I shouldn’t be the one telling you that she probably doesn’t like being called bossy,” Draco says in a surprisingly serious tone.

“You know I’m right here, right? And I can hear you?”

Ginny completely ignores her and keeps smirking at Malfoy. “Bossing, commanding, use whatever words you prefer. I still thought you’d have a bit more spine.”

One could fry an egg on Hermione’s cheeks. She is definitely not the commanding one, when it comes to whatever it is that’s going on between them in bed. (Or on uni-issued desk chairs, which neither of them would recommend for comfort.) 

“I have all the spine I need, don’t worry about it, Weasley.” 

Fuck me, he does. 

Draco seems unfazed by the dangerous direction the conversation has taken nor by its implications, simply turning the textbooks in his hands to read the titles and scan through the indexes. Hermione finds herself hypnotised by his fingers touching the pages so delicately. Maybe he trims his nails with a ruler. Gosh, the things he can do with his hands.

“What are you working on, by the way? Maybe I have something useful, too,” Ginny asks after a moment, shifting on her chair to catch Hermione’s gaze, but she is quick and immediately drives it away before she can be caught red-handed.

“It’s an analysis–”

“None of your business,” Hermione cuts him off, turning Draco around to lead him back to the door.

“I was just trying to make conversation!” 

“Conversation is distracting and Malfoy is about to leave. Aren’t you?”

“Right, yes, along with these Lost Boys,” he raises his arm to show off the books.

“Aw, that’s cute, he kept the Peter Pan reference,” Ginny exclaims, looking at Hermione with an annoying twinkle in her eyes. “Friendly behaviour, I like it,” she comments, nodding to herself. It takes a certain effort for Hermione not to let out a string of swear words.

She takes a deep breath and addresses Malfoy instead. “You heading to the library?” Maybe she could give him a book to return, to save herself a trip.

“No, actually, I’m going back to my room.”

“Oh, no, don’t go to your room,” Ginny interrupts, again, before swiftly standing up and closing her computer. “I’m going to your room.”

Hermione squeezes her eyes shut, then looks up at the ceiling. God help me.

“Can’t it wait?”

“Absolutely not. You weren’t supposed to be here, don’t look at me like that,” the redhead says easily, ignoring Hermione muttering something to herself with her hands pressed to her ears.

“You were there last night.” 

“Yes, and so were you,” Ginny points out with an eloquent raising of a single eyebrow, then pats Malfoy on the cheek and moves him out of the doorway. “Don’t come to your room; forewarned is forearmed and all that. You can steal my desk, though, if you want. Have fun!”

Hermione releases her ears when they’re finally alone. “She done?”

“Looks like it.”

“So, I suppose you’re going to the library now,” she says, turning around to snatch the book she wants to return from another pile on her bedside table. “If you could just...”

“Actually,” Malfoy says, almost tentatively, “it would make more sense if I stayed here, wouldn’t it?” Something in Hermione’s chest starts freefalling. “I mean, for your books and everything. Going there and coming back– it would be a pointless waste of time, more than anything.”

“Right,” she repeats slowly. “For my books.” Is he expecting something else, too? Because she really doesn’t have time for that. But it is the traditional ending to their study sessions, by now, and it’s not like she would pass on it on any other day– if she only had time and energy to dedicate to him. “I’m really busy, though.”

“Yes, I know. That’s why I said I would start working on the essay by myself.”

“Good, ‘cause I couldn’t help you.”

He frowns at her. “Look, Granger, if you don’t want me here just say it, don’t keep repeating the same sentence over and over again.”

“No, no, it’s fine, you can stay,” Hermione hears herself say, but it’s more because she’s used to contradicting him even on the colour of the sky (which, by the way, isn’t always simply blue). She points at Ginny’s chair despite the fact that she keeps thinking that she should just excuse him out – he’ll distract her and she already knows how it’s going to end; instead, she watches in resignation as he sits down and pulls his laptop out on the desk. “Why did you have your computer with you?” 

He looks at her with his eyebrows pinched in confusion. Well, she can’t blame him, can she? Who cares why he has his laptop with him. Maybe he was out last night. But Ginny said he was in his room. Oh, God, is she tracing Malfoy’s steps? Who cares. Who. Cares.  

“No, actually– I don’t care, just...” she gestures to the screen and the volumes on the desk before climbing on her bed again, ready to bury herself into her work.

If she can get to focus on it again, that is.

Fortunately, once she’s back in her position, it takes reading just a couple of lines before zoning back into her project. Besides, Draco is a really quiet study partner so it’s easy to pretend he’s not even there.

Nonetheless, she does find herself staring at his hands every now and then. It’s easy to look over her screen; it’s not her fault he’s in perfect sight. And he has this annoyingly elegant way of moving his hands over books, papers, and keyboards, chill and relaxed and sinuous. She blinks away only when he grabs a pen and starts twisting it around between his index and middle finger, which makes a weird but definitely not unfamiliar feeling get to her knees and melt them down.

She can’t stop a soft grunt from escaping her, which makes Draco turn around. “Everything okay over there?”

“Huh? Yeah, I–I’m… I’m doing something,” she stammers, before focusing her attention on the first draft of an outline on her screen. Fred already has his, and the bastard had sent it to her, therefore every time she comes up with something now she feels like she’s copying his version, in some nonsensical way. Maybe she should be the one to organise a blind date for him. “Will likely kill myself in the next five minutes, but no biggie. You? Are you at a good point?”

“Yeah, I found some pretty useful stuff. Need help?”

With the essay or with my increasingly and inconveniently wet pussy?

“No, it’s fine, I just… I know what I want to say, I just need to find out how I want to say it,” she sighs, looking menacingly at the blinking cursor on her document. “But I’ll get to it. Somehow. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll just have to slam my head on the keyboard and see if anything comes out of it.”

Something like a laugh comes out of his mouth, which makes Hermione frown and smile at the same time. “Bit dramatic,” he says with a tilt of his head.

“Desperate times.”

Shaking his head with a lopsided smile, Draco turns back to his research.

It might be the suppressed need for touch talking, but Hermione feels like something is off. It’s not like he is much different than other times they studied together – because, yes, the outcome was what it was, but they did study; it’s just that she’s always assumed they spend time studying together because of said outcome. Or, well, to the very least that was her motive. In his place, she would have probably just walked back to her room if he had made it clear that nothing else was going to happen during one of those study dates. 

Instead, he stayed. And now he is studying. And he asked her about her work. Well, not really, but kind of. He’s not even bothering her like he normally does. Maybe he even looks a bit less grumpy than usual.

Hermione grabs her water bottle and chugs down half of it before re-focusing her gaze and mind on her assignments, getting back into her study mode. It’s only when Malfoy snaps his fingers in front of her that her eyes drop to the clock.

“Granger? Still with us?”

“Uh? I…” she trails off, a bit taken aback that three hours have passed. The document’s word count is exceptional. “Sorry, did I just completely ignore you for three hours straight?

“Or, as I’d call it, another random Tuesday,” he shrugs casually. He really has no right looking hot doing stupid things like moving his shoulders. “The project is almost finished by the way, I uploaded it on the drive so you can take a look at it. And, no–” he anticipates when Hermione opens her mouth, “I didn’t write your parts. I just left some bullet points to organise the flow and only wrote mine.”

She downloads the file and reads through it quickly. “That’s… wow, this is great work.” Not that she was expecting anything less. He is only second to her in their classes for a reason. “Thank you.”

“No problem. Let me know when you get to it.”

“Yeah, sure, uh– when is the deadline?”

“Next Monday.”

She’ll have to somehow create time she doesn’t have, but that’s fine. She nods but before she can say anything else, Draco has collected his things and is out of the room with a wave of his hand and a “Great. I’ll see you, then.”

The door clicks shut behind him and Hermione keeps staring at the whiteboard with the division of chores between her and Ginny that they hung next to it when they’d moved in. 

He just left. Without doing anything else. Without even hinting at something else. They just broke their silent pact of sex-succeeding-studying for the first time and the world hasn’t stopped spinning (yet). Not that it does because they have sex together– but, well, it had come to be the natural subsequential development of events. Things in nature don’t just stop being like that, out of the blue, without consequences. 

She is not making this up on the spot, Hermione reassures herself. It’s science, really; it’s literal physics, it’s chemistry. Nothing is created, nothing is destroyed, everything is transformed: it’s the law of conservation of mass, take it up with Lavoisier.

And it tracks. They were already in a shared system – their class.

Professor Lupin first put them together for a group project – the mass is transformed. Not created. Transformed.

They went from school rivals to school rivals with benefits – the mass is transformed. Not created. Transformed.

And now they apparently lost the ‘with benefits’ part – the mass is transformed. Not destroyed. Transformed.

Back to school rivals, then. Easy-peasy.

School rivals don’t work on essays together. They certainly don’t do it in each other’s room– alone. Maybe Ginny is right, maybe you’ve become f–

Hermione loudly clears her throat and starts reading a document for another class. She won’t let her thoughts derail to some forbidden location, not if she can help it.

-

They bump into each other a couple of days later, while Hermione is getting in line at the canteen with Harry, both actively engaged in a conversation about one of the latest government bills. 

As it turned out, Harry had no idea what a tampon tax was, which made Hermione start a half-rant half-explanation about women’s bodies, the patriarchy, and the absolutely dreadful example that every self-proclaimed civilised country sets for the rest of the world. After a long praising of Scotland, Hermione is about to make their conversation take a very republican turn with some bashing of the Crown, when a pale hand taps on Harry’s shoulder, making her shut up on the spot.

“Potter. Sorry to interrupt.”

“Hey, mate! No worries, Hermione was making a very clear case of why men as a whole species suck, so nothing out of the ordinary,” Harry says, before asking Draco if he wants to join them for lunch. 

Hermione simply nods in his direction and he politely nods back.

The thing is, that no-sex-day (that’s how she labelled it in her head, as silly as it may sound) has been kind of tormenting her. She hates it when she can’t give a proper name or reason to things, and this whole Draco Malfoy situation is really gnawing at her brain.

“No, I have class in a bit. I was about to text you,” the blond says, “but then I saw you here, so… I’m leaving today, something came up with my parents. I’ll be back on Sunday night.”

“Are they okay?” Harry asks, more out of courtesy than anything. Draco doesn’t sound worried.

“Yes, they’re fine. It’s just a family thing.” Something seems to be flashing in his gaze, but it must be the weird neon-y lighting.

“Okay then, thanks for telling me, mate,” Harry pats him on his shoulder, and Draco has already turned to leave with a goodbye nod, when Hermione blinks as though coming out of a daze.

“Hold up– Malfoy!” His eyes find hers in a split second, as if he was actually waiting or hoping for it. Which is absurd. “Our essay. We were supposed to meet this Friday. You texted me.” It’s unclear why she is speaking like a telegram machine.

He shrugs. “We’ll have to reschedule.”

“Due date is Monday.”

“You’ll have to work on it alone, then, Granger. You’re a big girl, I think you can manage,” he says, rather sharply. “It’s already mostly done anyway.”

Ouch?

She blinks at him, stunned by his abrupt change in behaviour, but she can’t make out a single thing out of his face. Not that she was ever able to do it. She ignores a feeble voice in her head telling her that it’s not true, she has come to know him rather well in the past few weeks; or, at least, that’s what she’s thought until now. 

“Yeah, I mean… it was for brainstorming, mostly.” And something else, too. Possibly.

“Well, I don’t know what to tell you.”

Well, fuck him. Who needs Draco Malfoy? Surely not her. Who cares. She can finish the essay by herself. He left bullet points anyway. And he didn’t brainstorm his parts. He just wrote them; and then he left. And she came to the conclusion that their thing – their mass, whatever it was – had already transformed into something else, so, truth be hold, it was pointless to expect further change, right? Utterly useless, if one had to trust science.

If the whole truth had to be told, though, Draco now looks even more different than he looked that day in her room. And Hermione is pretty sure they can’t have just regressed to whatever it was they were before all this, if that even had a name. There must be some other scientific law for that.

“Right. Well, it’s fine, I’ll just tell you when I’m done and you can look at it, then.”

He nods. “I’ll see you,” he says to the both of them and turns around, walking out of the crowded dining hall. 

Hermione looks at his retreating back slightly disconcerted, eyebrows pinched together in a frown. Next to her, Harry is already back to discussing tampons, sanitary towels, and razors, when the words slip out of her mouth.

“Is something wrong with Malfoy?”

Harry’s green eyes widen in surprise behind his glasses. “Why do you care?”

“I don’t.” She doesn’t. Does she? “He just looked… distressed.”

“He always looks distressed, if you haven’t noticed.”

“Well, then– more distressed than usual.”

Her friend keeps scrutinising her. “Has something happened?”

“I don’t know. He came to our room last weekend to work on an essay we have to write together and just stayed there in silence, quietly working on it.” Hermione does realise that there is absolutely nothing out of the ordinary about what she’s describing, which is also what she has tried to repeat to herself constantly for the past few days in order to stop thinking about it, but, alas, she can’t seem able to let it go. “He even wrote almost all of it without complaining and then he left.” He just left. Maybe he didn’t feel like carrying out their non-arrangement anymore.

“I don’t know, Hermione…” Harry clearly doesn’t know how to tell her that she’s stressing over nothing. “What exactly looks weird to you out of all that?”

“All of it! It just… I don’t know, it felt like…” She struggles with her words. How can she explain it to Harry without telling him the one reason why it looks weird?

“You know,” he eventually says with a grin, “you’re allowed to have study dates with Malfoy.” He nudges her with his elbow. “After all these projects you’ve been doing together, I’d say it’s normal that you’ve become friends.”

“We are not friends,” she says resolutely, glaring at him.

“Call it what you want, but if he spared you some work because he noticed the dark circles under your eyes and the mess that is your hair, I wouldn’t exactly define it as rivalry.”

She slaps his arm with a scoff. “My hair and my eyes are perfectly fine, thank you very much!”

“Hey!” he says, massaging his bicep, “Be glad I’m honest enough not to lie to your face.”

Hermione grabs the metal fork from the food tray and holds it up in front of her face as a mirror. She drags her skin down with her fingers to better look under her eye. “This is nothing exceptional,” she mumbles.

“Sure it isn’t.”

“It’s not.”

“Yeah, just like you and Malfoy are not friends.”

Hermione puts the fork down with a loud exhale. “We’re not. You and I– we are friends. Ginny and I are friends. All of her brothers and I, that’s friendship. You know, shared experience and history, texts, trips, film nights, and emotional comfort. Malfoy and I just write essays together.” And we fuck. “That’s not friendship.”

“You text,” Harry says easily, heading for a free table in the middle of the hall.

“It’s nothing meaningful.”

“It’s still a connection.”

“It’s just dumb memes about authors we studied! What kind of connection is that?” she exclaims falling down on the chair exasperated by Harry’s insistence.

“So you never discuss something different from uni.” He sounds skeptical and ignores the simmering energy of her impending outburst.

“Nope.” Or– well, rarely. Something chips into the conversation, every now and then. Like places they visited. Good restaurants they ate at. But those were for recommendation. 

“Nor personal.”

“Definitely not personal.” They never discuss when the other’s phone beeps with a message from someone outside their friends’ circles, because it mostly turns into an excuse for banter-before-banging.

“Look at me.”

Hermione looks up with a groan. “What? I told you– we’re not friends.”

His eyes dance inside the rounded frame of his glasses. It’s unnerving, really, the way he just knows things in his bones with a single glance. Harry is probably the only person she knows who fucks up when trying to be logical but somehow never meets failure when thinking and acting on instinct. She can bet her own arm that his instinct is painting the exact picture of what’s going on between her and Malfoy. And that cannot happen.

“You know what? It’s fine. I don’t really care. It was just the spur of the moment and my constant need to know and have a reason for everything, I guess.” Hermione tries shoving some pasta in her mouth, mostly to stop herself from saying something that might give her away, but Harry keeps looking at her as his fork fumbles in his plate.

It’s like she can see a cup resting on the edge of a table, and when Harry frowns slightly and tilts his head to the side, she knows the cup has lost its balance and it’s now falling down, inching towards the floor, bound to shatter.

Harry half-shouts in her face.

“You’re not shagging Malfoy, are you?”

Hermione chokes on her mouthful. “What the fuck, Harry?!”

He stands up and pats on her back as she coughs and sputters. “Sorry, sorry– here, drink,” he offers, handing her the water bottle.

“That’s attempted murder, you wanker!”

“And you survived, that’s quite impressive. But you haven’t answered.”

She glares at him, as red as a tomato. To the very least, there’s a reasonable explanation to that. Which is also why it’s easier to lie. “No, Harry James Potter. I am not shagging Draco Malfoy. Now, can you let me eat my lunch in peace?”

She knows he got it. But he shrugs anyway, and the topic is soon forgotten.

-

She keeps looking at the bags under her eyes as she brushes her teeth before going to bed.

She never wanted to be friends with Draco Malfoy.

She most certainly doesn’t want it now. If they become friends, it gets weird. This can’t get weird. It’s too good to get weird. And it already got weird.

They’re not friends. Except for some superficial knowledge, she doesn’t know anything about him. Nothing worth knowing, nothing a real friend would deem important. For example, she’d have no idea what to give him for his birthday, but she would come up with an idea for Harry in the blink of an eye.

That’s not entirely true, though, a treacherous voice whispers in the back of her brain. A good poetry collection would work perfectly, best if by some contemporary author he doesn’t know and–

She spits the toothpaste in the sink and turns the tap on to silence that voice and any other voice that dares contradict her. It’s not like she’s going to get him a present anyway. 

Why would she. They’re not friends.

Then what are you?

Nothing. Two people who enjoy each other’s genitals (the idea of it still aggravates her). Nothing more.

When she grabs her mobile to set the alarm, she almost expects a notification from him, despite there not being a single reason for it. It would be one of those providential signs that always happen in films, that clarifies the inner doubt of the main character. But, Hermione reminds herself, her life isn’t a romcom. There are no new messages.

Which is good. Why would there be?

-

Monday morning arrives sooner than expected. On Friday night, Hermione had finished the essay all in one sitting and she had texted Draco to let him know it was all done. Text to which, by the way, he didn’t even reply. Not a great, not a thank you, not a I’ll get to it ASAP, not even a thumbs up emoji. Just the read checks.

Not that she cares, obviously.

The new week dawns upon Ginny and Hermione filtering through the blinds and both girls groan when their alarms go off at the same time. The redhead promptly turns around in her bed, covering her head with the duvet and muttering curses, while Hermione reaches for her mobile to turn the alarm off. She drags herself out of her cocoon when she realises that it’s pointless to scream at Ginny to turn hers off and she shuts it down before opening the windows. The sunlight burns her sleepy eyes.

“Five more minutes, ‘Mione,” her friend complains when she takes the covers off of her.

“I fear the day you’ll go living by yourself, honestly,” Hermione mumbles, heading to the bathroom. 

Not that she wouldn’t like to go back to sleep. It’s a struggle to keep her eyes open and she knows her whole body would very much prefer to lie down for the rest of the day instead of standing up, getting dressed, and face another draining week. To the very least, days are getting longer. And Hermione is an ectotherm animal.

“When is the clock changing?” she asks while starting her morning routine.

“I don’t know. Mustn’t be too far away though– ouch, fuck,” Ginny screams, hissing when she hits her elbow for the millionth time against the new wardrobe. The old one broke and the university changed it, but it’s slightly bigger: which is a good thing, except that Ginny’s muscle memory hasn’t adapted to it yet. “We need to move this thing.”

“We can’t move it, you just need to get used to it,” Hermione comments rather flatly. It’s a recurring argument. “I’d expected it happened sooner, actually, given how you’re the athletic on– fuck.

On the other side of the door, Ginny pauses.

“Fuck. Bastard. Fuck! Shit.” And a long, interminable whine.

Her friend knocks on the door, opening it slightly to check if she’s alright. “You okay?”

Hermione is holding up one finger after the other, muttering numbers, then a string of swear words, finishing with a prolonged groan.

At the umpteenth mention of a colourful word, Ginny puts two and two together. “Period?”

Hermione groans again, stretching an arm to rummage through packs of loo paper and tissues on the nearby shelf. “Yeah. Can you hand me a pack of tampons, please? I can’t find them in here.”

A few minutes later, she’s back on her bed, tum down and face pressed into the pillow. Ginny is dressed and ready but before setting off to her first class of the day, she sits next to her, massaging her lower back. 

“How are you feeling?”

“Right now? Fine,” Hermione mutters back. “In a half-hour? Probably like the Devil was twisting up my insides.”

“You need something? Medicines? Pizza?”

“No, I have everything, I think,” she says, turning around to check in the drawer of her bedside table. “See? All good. Weren’t you supposed to go to your mum, anyway? Was it today?”

“Yeah, it’s today after class, but I can tell her to reschedule if you need me here…” the redhead says with a note of concern in her voice.

“What? No, absolutely, you go. I’ll be fine, it’s just a period,” Hermione shrugs. “All good and natural.”

Ginny looks at her with a stern look. “I know how bad it gets.”

It does get pretty bad. So bad, in fact, that it’s best if she just doesn’t leave her room for the day; she doesn’t fancy haunting every toilet on campus and walking around like a zombie.

“Oh, come on, it’s just some internal fluids coming out of my body, I can deal with it,” Hermione says easily, reaching to grab her phone as a snort escapes Ginny’s lips. “I’ll be fine,” she repeats, urging her friend to go. “Now, off you go or you’ll be late! And say hi to your mother for me.”

“Text me if you need anything. And–”

“I won’t need a thing, don’t worry.”

“–I’ll send Harry or something–”

“Go!”

“–and get some rest! Okay, bye!”

The moment she’s finally alone, Hermione falls back on the bed. She unlocks her phone and starts typing emails to tell her professors she’s not going to be in class today. It’s always the same four sentences, really: Apologies for the short notice, then something like Unfortunately, due to some health issues, and then a polite I hope you’ll understand the situation, followed by a Please, let me know if there’s anything I need to do for attendance, concluding with a cordial greeting before her name and last name.

As she’s sending the last one to Professor McGonagall, Hermione suddenly remembers that the essay she rushed to finish last Friday was for her class. And, along with that, comes the dreadful realisation that she didn’t write it alone.

With a hand pressing on her face, cursing the single spermatozoon that brought her to life, she dials Malfoy’s number. He answers after a couple of rings.

“Granger? Something wrong?”

“Good morning to you, too, Malfoy. No, I haven’t had breakfast yet, but it was so nice of you to ask, will you bring me some?” To hell with him.

“Oh, sorry, Miss Politeness and Good Manners, let me rephrase,” he drawls out sarcastically. “The sun is shining and birds are chirping, and I hope you woke with their singing in your ears after a long, relaxing night’s sleep…”

“Shut the fuck up,” she sighs back, her hand now on her lower stomach. The first cramp is always the weakest. “I got my period this morning.” This must be a fever dream. In which reality would she be telling Malfoy about her period.

He remains silent for a second too long, which makes Hermione check if she accidentally closed the call. Then, “Well, um– that’s good, I guess? Given– well. You know.”

Men. MEN.

“You absolute. Disgusting. Revolting. Piece of shit!” she roars in his ear, sitting up in fury. “That is the last of my concerns, right now!”

“Hey, hey, calm down!”

“Don’t tell me to calm down!”

“I was just–”

“I can’t believe you instantly made it about you–”

“Sorry! I’m sorry, it was the first thing that–”

“Yeah, the first thing that popped into that idiotic brain of yours, right?!”

“Look, I just didn’t think–”

That was obvious!”

Granger!” he shouts over her, making her pause. “Are you okay?” he asks, his tone suddenly quiet and serious.

Hermione inhales a deep breath. Lashing out at Malfoy was actually cathartic and it brought some kind satisfaction and distraction from the increasing abdominal pain.

“Yes,” she says, sighing. “Yeah, I’m fine, you know, considering. I just… I won’t be coming to class today.”

“Okay.” He clears his throat. “Do you need me to tell McGonagall?”

“No, it’s okay, I already sent her an email… even though I don’t know if she’ll read it straightaway, so, you know, if you can tell her to check it when you give her the essay…”

“Yeah, sure, no problem, I got it,” he says easily, and something pings in Hermione’s brain. She’d assumed he’d be an arsehole about it or wouldn’t care at all, but… “How are you feeling?”

“I’m…” (What?) “I’m fine.”

“Do you need anything? I don’t know, medicine, or something?”

“No, thank you, I…” What is going on? “I already have everything I need.”

“Okay, great. I’ll tell you what she says about the essay,” he says, very straightforwardly. “By the way, sorry for not mentioning it before, I only got a chance to read it this morning and I was hoping to talk with you in person, but… well, anyway, it was great work. As per usual.”

“Oh, um.” She frowns a bit. “I know. Thank you.”

He scoffs. “Right. Talk to you later, then.”

“Yeah. Bye.”

Hermione falls back on the bed and looks at her phone as if it was a weird, alien object. She hates that she can’t understand what’s going on between them. Did he just act like a… a… a friend? She shudders. They’re not friends. They’re not, she’s as sure about that as she is about the Earth orbiting around the Sun.

Thankfully – or not – she doesn’t have time to think about it, because a sudden urge to run to the bathroom gets the best of her and Draco Malfoy is momentarily forgotten.

-

Spotify has played almost every song in her library when someone knocks on the door. Hermione lifts herself up from the floor with a groan, ready to meet Harry and food on the other side of it.

Ginny had called around dinnertime to let her know she was not coming back because her mother had got dinner ready and was expecting everyone to stay over, and she also went on a long ramble asking her how she was doing (meh), if she had lifted herself from the floor (no), if she had eaten something (she tried, her stomach had been of a different opinion, though), if she was now hungry (most definitely), if she still had pads and meds (enough, yes). 

Her friend had then proceeded to say that she would have called Harry to tell him to get her some dinner, and if that good-for-nothing was busy she would have contacted someone else, Hermione had nothing to worry about, after which the brunette had stopped listening, just holding her phone away from her ear, a resigned expression on her face. She loves Ginny, mind you, she really does, which is the only reason why she lets her talk freely when her mother-hen instincts get the best of her. It doesn’t happen often, at least.

Much to her surprise, there is no unkempt mop of black hair looking back at her, no green eyes, no glasses and no face scars. Instead, there’s a slightly taller blond man, skin unblemished and piercing gray eyes, holding a plastic bag in his hand.

“Granger.”

Hermione blinks at Draco for several seconds.

He lifts the bag. “Please, tell me you eat kebab.”

Hermione squeezes her eyes firmly. Maybe she took too much ibuprofen. He’s still there when she opens them, looking at her with a confused frown. As if he gets to be the perplexed one here.

“What are you doing here, Malfoy?”

“Weasley called Potter and demanded he go grab you some dinner but he was busy, you didn’t text me back when I told you about McGonagall, so I decided to come myself,” he shrugs. As if that was a normal thing to say and do.

“And you brought kebab,” it’s all she manages.

“Well, I... figured you’d be very hungry.” He looks inside the bag, eyebrows pinched. “But maybe, I don’t know, in your condition it’s not–”

“I’m in no condition, Malfoy,” she bristles, pulling him inside and closing the door behind him. A whiff of smell reaches her nostrils and now her stomach is dying for her to put the meal inside of her craving body.

“Wow, this is…” Malfoy begins but trails off as he looks at her unmade bed, at the computer left on the floor, a book opened next to it, several empty bottles of water scattered around and one of those convenience boxes of sanitary towels next to the bathroom entrance.

“Don’t say a single word,” Hermione grumbles, closing her laptop and putting it back on her desk with the book, before arranging the duvet on the bed to make it look as tidy as possible. Then she gestures towards Ginny’s desk. “You can move some stuff around there and leave the bag on it...” she suddenly pauses, straightening herself. “Why did I let you in?”

Draco snorts. “I’m not sure I can answer that.”

“No, I mean– I guess you have to go back to your room for your dinner…”

“Oh, no, I grabbed this for two, actually,” he informs her, taking two rolled up sandwiches out of the bag and moving books around to make some space.

Hermione frowns at him. “You’re going to eat with me?”

He glances at her. “If it doesn’t bother you.”

“I’m not planning on going to the common room, though.” Does this answer even have sense? She doesn’t really know.

“Yeah,” Draco chuckles, “I figured that much. That’s why I’m trying to set things up here.”

Hermione goes to collect the box of pads from the floor and looks at him as she stands next to the bathroom door. Her stomach grumbles and she’s had a very shitty day, all things considered, therefore one can’t blame her if she’s not really mindful of the words that come out of her mouth.

“I’m sorry, what… why are you here?”

He turns to her, eyebrows raised and something flashing in her eyes. It’s fleeting, though, so she’s pretty sure she imagined it. Especially because it looked dangerously like disappointment and that can’t be. 

“Damn. Okay, Granger, I’ll just leave you with your dinner, then. Next time just ask.”

“No, I mean…” Nothing, that’s precisely what she means. Maybe it’s just time they discuss it. “Well, nothing, that’s what I mean. Why are you here? It’s not…” she looks around, helpless in her confusion. “This isn’t something we do.”

“Do I need to have an essay to write to be friendly with you?”

“You’re not friendly with me.”

“Wow,” he exclaims, and Hermione can’t really pinpoint the note in his voice. It’s not his usual mix of sarcasm and indifference, there’s something more that sounds almost like hurt, which leaves her even more confused, if possible. “Thank you.”

“Don’t play the part, Malfoy, you’re not friendly with me. Actually, the last time you spoke to me was in the dining hall and that was anything but friendly.”

He stares at her for a moment before averting his eyes. “You know what, you’re right. Forget this even happened, I’ll just...” and he’s already walking towards the door when Hermione steps in front of him and pushes the box of pads against his chest. He blinks down at it. “Can you, please…?”

“What, you’ve got something to say about my luxury items?” she says, waving the ridiculously purple and pink thing in front of his face.

“They’re very luxuriously blocking my way,” he says raising his hands.

“Why are you here, Malfoy?”

He groans, rubbing his forehead in frustration. “I just came to check up on you, okay? Weasley sounded worried and you always reply to texts. So.”

“So?”

“So here I am! But it was a bad idea evidently.” He tries to move Hermione out of the way, failing when she steps to the side to block his way out again. “Granger, you know I could just lift you and move you away.”

“Do it, then.”

He sighs again, and she can see his jaw twitching in frustration. “Why are you blocking me here, if you don’t want me?”

“Because I’m not satisfied with your answer.”

“That’s your problem, not mine.”

“Malfoy, what...” her brain tries to hold her words back, but her tongue is quicker. “What are we?”

Draco stares down at her for a few moments. “What?”

Hermione inhales deeply, throwing the box in the bathroom’s direction and crossing her arms. “Yes. What are we?”

His eyes wander off for a second before locking with hers. “We’re colleagues, Granger.”

“Colleagues don’t ‘check’ on each other just because one of them got a period.”

“Apparently, they do.”

She keeps looking at him, and he looks back, even though she doesn’t really feel his eyes on hers.

Well, here goes nothing.

“Are we… we’re not friends, are we?”

Draco opens his mouth to speak, but then exhales without saying a word. He seems to be gathering his strength to say something, when Hermione stops him by putting a hand on his chest.

“No, hush. I need to– toilet. You stay here and get dinner ready,” she tells him, glancing at the desk over his shoulders before making a run for the bathroom. Her mind is completely blank as she changes herself and washes her hands. She looks at herself in the mirror and seems to realise just now the dreadful condition she’s in: her hair is a mess (more than usual), her eyes are puffy and it’s a miracle she changed out of her pyjamas and into… well. An old and stained oversized t-shirt and sweatpants.

She sighs wearily. Well, the damage is already done.

The desk is covered in napkins when she comes out and sits down at it; she starts unwrapping her dinner while Draco washes his hands. Hermione politely waits for him to sit down, too, before attacking her meal.

A chuckle escapes the boy’s lips.

“What?” she mutters in-between bites, glaring at him.

“You’re moaning at your kebab.”

“Shut up and eat.”

As they eat their dinner sitting next to each other in silence, she casts some sideways glances at him but can’t focus on him too much because the kebab is excellent (she needs to ask him where he got it) and she’s starving. A part of her brain starts praying every deity that not an ounce of it will leave her stomach during the night.

After a while, Malfoy informs her that McGonagall loved their essay, as expected, but Hermione is positive that he’s speaking just to fill the semi-awkward silence between them. Her question is still lingering around unanswered.

She’s about to bring it back into the conversation when a very intense cramp gets the best of her and all that comes out of her mouth is a whiny grunt. Bringing her hands to her lower belly, she curls on herself on the chair, heavily exhaling from her mouth.

Draco promptly wipes his hands clean and drags his chair closer to her, tentatively putting his hands on her curved back. “You okay?” he asks, a distinct shade of preoccupation in his voice.

Hermione mumbles something in response, but it comes out as another growl.

“Do you need something, should I…” he tries, unsure of what to do or say, massaging her spine. Pointless, but somehow comforting.

“No, no, it’s fine, it’s just…” Another grunt. “It’ll pass, it’s okay.” Another.

A heavy breath.

And then it’s gone.

Hermione straightens herself and takes a deep steadying breath. “See? All good.” Draco is looking at her wide-eyed. He also looks a shade or two paler in the face but maybe that’s just the lamp light. “Oh, goodness me, Malfoy, it’s just cramps. I’ve had worse.”

“Cramps?”

“Yeah, I’ve had worse cramps. You’re looking at me like I’m a creature from outer space, stop that,” she tells him, shoving the rest of her french fries down her throat.

“Have you been coping with that all day?”

“I’ve been coping with worse every month since I was eleven.” He makes a strange choked noise. “Oh my God,” she exclaims as she starts collecting their litter, “is this the first time you see a woman menstruating?”

Draco actually thinks about it, mouth slightly agape and eyes scanning the void. “Well… that I know, yes.”

Hermione stares at him for a few seconds, then bursts out laughing. “Jesus, oh my…” she manages in between laughter and tears, but unable to form a complete sentence.

“Look, I don’t have a sister and my mother stopped having her period when I didn’t even know what it was!” Draco exclaims defensively but also apologetically.

“Sisters and mothers aren’t the only women in the world, Malfoy.”

“Yeah, well, what can I say! I’m not an all-knower.”

“That is…” Hermione gives a last giggle before exhaling and sagging back on the chair. “You know what, that’s rather depressing. You’re a full 23-year-old and you have no idea how half of the world lives on a monthly basis.”

“I know the theory of it,” he smiles tentatively.

“No, no, don’t,” Hermione hushes him, holding a finger up. “You don’t know shit,” she says, smiling back.

“I’m still twenty-two, by the way. My birthday is in June,” he says after a minute. She waves her hand around in a ‘whatever’ gesture. “How do you know how old I am, anyway, Granger?” he asks, rather cheekily.

Hermione scoffs, biting her tongue. Maybe it’s just her hormones doing somersaults, or maybe Draco Malfoy is actively trying to flirt with her. “Harry told me. Kind of.”

“Kind of?”

“Well, I know you changed faculty shortly before graduating, so I put two and two together.”

He hums, relaxing back into his chair. “Don’t mind me asking, but… you’ve had your period for ten years?”

Hermione peers at him as his eyes are focused on a book on the corner of the desk. He is again in his tracksuit. She hates that she knows he did it on purpose, this time. “How do you know how old I am, anyway, Malfoy?” 

She tries and fails to hide her smile at the rare sound of his genuine laughter, followed by a slow shake of his head. “I can put two and two together, too, Granger.” He turns to her and holds her gaze for a moment longer than she was ready for. 

Maybe it’s not just the hormones.

“Right,” she clears his throat and averts her eyes. “Well– yes, ten years now. Time flies when you’re having fun, doesn’t it?”

“That’s young.”

“Some kids have it worse.”

“Do they?”

“Well, you can get your first period any time between the ages of eight and sixteen, roughly,” she explains practically, but Draco can’t hide his surprise.

Eight?”

“You really are oblivious, huh?”

“I just… I can’t even begin to imagine it.”

“Yeah. Why do you think women have been married off at such young ages for decades?” She stands up, pressing her hands on her belly. “Because we’re baby machines!” she exclaims, falling on her bed to take some more medicine from the bedside table. “Well, obviously when I say ‘women’ I mean uterus-equipped people in this case,” she mutters while swallowing down several sips of water, “but I’ll leave the inclusive-language-trauma discourse to another session,” she concludes with an angelic smile in Draco’s direction.

He scoffs, probably offended that she deems him not educated enough on this issue, too, then points at her with his chin. “Does it always get medicine-bad?”

“For me, yes. Ginny has it easier, for example. It depends on the single body, and stress levels, and sleep routine and all that stuff, you know,” she shrugs, before pausing. “Well. No, we have established that you don’t know.”

“No, I don’t know, Granger,” he laughs back.

“It’s weird that you have no idea about it, though,” she says, still looking at the way his eyes squint when he laughs or smiles genuinely. It shouldn’t be endearing. But Hermione is finding out too many things that shouldn’t be and yet simply are. “I mean, it’s something so natural for me that it just seems crazy that someone could live without the constant thought of it.”

“Is it constant?”

“Oh, it’s incessant. It literally defines our whole lives,” she sighs, adjusting her pillows and leaning back on them, Malfoy sitting straight across from her on a chair that seems too small for his lean body. “When you’re not menstruating, you’re ovulating; when you’re ovulating, you’re fertile; then you have mood swings and cravings, then you see an offer at the supermarket for tampons and start counting the days that separate you from your next menstruation because you don’t remember how long it’s been or whether you still have some left at home… 

“Then, sometimes it likes to play games, your silly little reproductive system, and poof, your period comes early, or sometimes it comes late and it– well, it scares the shit out of you, because what if something broke?” She emphasises the verb, looking straight at Draco, whose face is somewhere in between amused and terrified.

“Or maybe you don’t have those kind of worries because you’re on the pill, but still, you think about it every day because you have to take the pill every day, and then there are issues of weight gaining, and thrombosis, and a lot of other medical issues that I don’t remember but that I am a hundred percent positive you have never heard about.

“And even if you wanted to ignore the constant physical thought of it, somehow every day something happens that reminds you that, even though you are the one experiencing constant and uncontrollable bleeding every month, there are people out there who think they should have the last word on the direct consequences that your natural and unavoidable ‘condition’,” Hermione air quotes it, “brings you. So, there you have it: abortion, and taxes, and IVF, and freezing your eggs, even C-sections are discussed, somehow. There’s always someone, especially men, who feels the need to say something about it.”

She brings her hands again to her belly, feeling another cramp coming. “Can you believe that fucking Adam couldn’t keep his mouth shut and now I have to spend billions of pounds in sanitary towels for my whole life?” She squeezes her eyes shut then, waiting for the pain to pass.

Draco chuckles. “One could argue that it was Eve who ate the fruit.”

“As she should,” Hermione mutters.

“You’re defending her?”

“Of course I’m defending her!” Hermione exclaims, opening her eyes. “What was that tree, the tree of knowledge of good and evil? Getting that knowledge didn’t make us gods– it made us humans. That’s what we’re all about: choices and free will,” she says with a shrug. “If your ancestor had just walked to God Almighty when He called him without being ashamed because, oh my goodness, I am naked!...”

“Hold on,” Draco stops her, half-grinning, “are you saying God created humans without giving them their humanity? That’s rather blasphemous.”

“Are you seriously discussing theology?”

“You brought it up!”

“Oh, yes, keep blaming Eve,” Hermione retorts, but she can’t hide a smile. Maybe it’s not exactly flirting. Maybe they’re just having fun. Like friends do. “Anyway. If you really want to get into it, my argument actually gets everything but blasphemous, because it actually reinforces the idea that Eve was right.”

“How so?”

“Right, so, Our Father who art in Heaven, yes? He’s the perfect one. He doesn’t make mistakes. And it’s always been like that, it’s not like God changes, right?” Draco nods, eyes twinkling with curiosity. “And He’s had a plan since before the existence of time– or at least that is what the doctrine says. Therefore, one could argue that it’s always been His intention to have Adam and Eve disobey Him.” She pauses. She’s making it up on the spot but Draco looks actually convinced. This is fun. “Think about it. If before eating the forbidden fruit they had no idea about good and evil, then it wasn’t even a choice.”

“It was a choice between obedience and disobedience.”

“But based on nothing! Come on, Draco, I know you know about ethical and civil disobedience and all that; you can’t just obey rules for the sake of it.” Hermione realises she’s called him by his first name only when she stops talking. That only happened… well, that only happens during sex. She clears her throat, hoping he hasn’t noticed. “I mean, if God had a plan, then it had to go that way. It was the only way to really create humanity– it is, after all, the defining moment of the biblical story.”

Malfoy tilts his head to one side, pondering. “Do you really believe it? The plan and all that?” he asks after a minute.

“Absolutely not,” Hermione says immediately, making him snort. “I think it’s a huge contradiction– there’s a plan, but there’s free will, there’s bad choices but they fit into the perfect plan and then there’s also forgiveness and all that… I don’t know. I’m too knackered to properly debate it,” she grins when his face cracks into a smile.

“I was almost falling for it.”

“I stand by the Eve part though. Humanity or non-humanity– the knowledge of good and evil? Get that fruit, girl.”

“I would have rather lived in blissful ignorance,” Draco replies, standing up to go to the toilet.

“Yeah, that’s why you’re the one descending from Adam.”

“You descend from Adam, too.”

“Hard pass, thank you.” 

He chuckles, closing the bathroom door behind him.

Hermione feels the drowsiness crawling onto her brain with every passing second. Which is a good thing, given how, was she present with herself, she would be probably obsessing over the out-of-the-world conversation she just had with Malfoy and that shines a very different and complete new light over their relationship– or whatever it is that they share. But the kebab was phenomenal and now the food coma is kicking in, along with the sleepiness induced by the pain-killers, so she’s settling under the duvet when Draco comes back.

She looks at him as he starts collecting the rest of their rubbish, the only noise the rustling of the plastic bag as he puts everything inside.

“What was it that you studied, anyway? Before, I mean.” It slips, mostly. She doesn’t really care.

No, that’s not completely true. She does care. Let’s say she doesn’t care that she cares.

“Neuropsychology.”

Her eyebrows shoot up. Damn.  

“And what are you doing studying English now?” That sounds so dumb.

Draco snorts, putting the bag down and turning to her. “Well, I first chose it because I was fascinated by the idea of finding out the very place where the human thought is formed. Like, in the brain. I had read this research paper on lab rats and it was mind-blowing, I had to know more.”

“Talk about that knowledge of good and evil, huh?” she smirks. He smiles with a shake of his head. “And then?”

“Then I realised that what really interested me was the thought itself, not where it was formed. Who cares about the exact place and how it sparked in you, I wanted to know more about the thought as it is.” He shrugs, and picks up the bag again. “I had a bit of a conversation with my parents about it because, well, you know, the usual– science versus literature, utilitarianism versus uselessness… but they didn’t succeed in changing my mind.” He seems to be remembering a specific moment in the past, before he looks at her with a lopsided grin on his face. “They say it in your film, you know.”

“My film?”

“Yeah, Dead Poets Society.”

Hermione blinks. Her film. The one she randomly told him to watch that night she slept in his room and that he actually watched afterwards. 

Isn’t Draco Malfoy a man full of surprises.

Medicine, law, business, engineering– these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love: these are what we stay alive for,” he quotes. “It truly was a great film.”

Hermione smiles softly, feeling instantly comforted by those words. It is, after all, one of her favourite films. “Yeah, it’s beautiful.” 

He stares at her and something curious happens in her chest, but it’s too quick to really gauge the extent of it, its reasons or consequences, and it all seems to go back to normal when he averts his eyes and looks around the room. Everything is back in order. Outside and inside. 

If her cheeks are flushed, that has nothing to do with that weird, unfamiliar feeling she can still feel the effects of lingering somewhere in her belly. That’s just her period.     

“Right,” Draco breathes, and heads for the door.

That something inside of Hermione accelerates at once.

“Wait.” 

It also makes her do stupid things apparently. 

Several voices inside her head start screaming on top of each other, which doesn’t help the already mixed feelings she’s being engulfed by.

Trying to find a compromise between her traitor body inexplicably craving Draco’s weight against it and her mind absolutely outraged at her for waking it up just to talk to Malfoy, she asks: “Where are you going?”

He looks at her, a slightly perplexed look on his face, and holds up the bag. Looks like it’s a whole habit of his. “Rubbish.”

“Could you do me a favour?” No. What favour? What are we doing here? “Could you drop by the pharmacy and get me some more medicine? I’ll give you the box so you can get it right.” 

If she’s having a loud debate with herself about whether she actually needs more medicine or it’s just an embarrassingly weak excuse to have him come back to her room again, that’s something Draco wouldn’t be able to notice, given that nothing in the way she stretches to her bedside table to grab the small cardboard box gives it away.

“Sure,” he agrees easily. “I’ll be right back.”

Hermione doesn’t give herself time to stare at the door because she hastily turns around on the bed and fixates her eyes on the wall opposite of her. What was she thinking? What is she thinking? Why is she holding him hostage like that? Why does she want to hold him hostage like that? Why does she suddenly feel like she would sleep much better if she had at least half her body covered by him, pressing her down on the mattress, or maybe spooning her, wrapping his arms around her?

What they have is not friendship. It’s not a friends-with-benefit-ship either. This is something she is definitely not in the right shape of mind or body to deconstruct, understand and deal with in her usual Granger-like manner (Weasley’s words).

When Draco quietly walks back in the room ten minutes later, Hermione is already having a peaceful slumber.

-

The moment she blinks her eyes open, the first thought that comes to mind is that she absolutely has to run to the bathroom.

The second is that there’s a light on. Which wasn’t when she dozed off.

Slowly sitting up (and checking the bed sheets for possible stains), Hermione is taken aback when she sees Draco sitting at Ginny’s desk, a book opened on his lap, his head dandling on his neck following the rhythm of his breathing. The desk lamp is switched on, pointed as far away as possible from her bed.

She slips out of bed, tiptoeing to the bathroom in a flash to change herself; when she comes out, she stops and stares at Draco’s face. His hair tickles his forehead and, somehow, he’s still frowning in his sleep. His mouth gives away a hint of a pout. But there’s something… 

Stepping closer, she gently shakes his shoulder. “Draco.” He startles immediately, blinking at her and squinting at the light for a few seconds. “You okay?”

“What time is it?” he croaks out, voice gruff still laced with sleep. His frown deepens. There’s something sweet about it. 

“Around 2 AM, I think. What are you doing still here?”

He rubs his eyes, holding the book up. It’s definitely a habit. “I saw this. I started reading. I know you’re very possessive over your Lost Boys so I stayed.”

Hermione holds back a chuckle at the Peter Pan reference. “Well, you can take it, you have my permission. Now go find a bed, or your back will give you hell for the next few days,” she urges, patting him on the shoulder.

There’s reluctance in his eyes, and something like sheepiness. She cocks an eyebrow and he sighs.

“Weasley called while I was at the pharmacy and practically threatened me to stay with you just in case something happened.” Hermione shakes her head, ready to argue and insist that she is fine, when he adds: “She also said that you told her you had enough medicine?”

Pausing at that, Hermione is torn between outright lying (because she did have enough medicine) and contemplating the fact that he actually stayed. Asleep on a chair and all that. “Ginny can be a very scary mother bear,” is what she ends up saying.

“Tell me about it,” Draco snorts. His features look so… soft. Tender, almost. In the dim light, his angles are not as sharp and his eyes are not as careful, calculating. It almost looks like he’s let his guard down.

She would have expected to be irritated by this sudden and honestly remarkable change. She’s not. She likes it.

Fuck it.

“Just get in bed with me.”

Draco glances at her, surprised but not as much as he would be if he weren’t just waking up. He looks like he’s trying to make out whether the conversation is happening in real life or just in his head. “I can… Weasley’s bed… my clothes…”

“Just– come on,” Hermione insists, grabbing his arm and decidedly shutting up the voices in her head. Yes, okay, she has her period and she wants to sleep curled up against someone’s chest– yes, okay, his chest. Let her be. “You go on that side, I need easy access to the toilet.”

Draco slips his shoes off and climbs under the covers and Hermione quickly follows, laying on her side next to him and facing away from him. When a minute passes in silence, she is sure that he’s going to come up with some random excuse and just walk out – this is not something they do – but then she feels him move and his arm slides over the curve of her waist, the mattress dipping as he shifts closer to her. A small gasp of surprise mixed with relief escapes her when his hand comes to rest on her belly and starts massaging it lightly.

Apparently this is something they do.

“Kick me if you need to get out,” he mutters into her hair as Hermione adjusts her position in his arms. She laughs, feeling a sense of calmness washing over her for the first time since she woke up in the morning.

“Don’t show too much of your soft side, Malfoy,” she whispers.

“I don’t have a soft side.” His voice is quiet, lulling her, as his other hand brushes her curls, tucking them away from her face.

“Yes, you do.”

“No, I don’t. I’m a cold-hearted bastard, remember? I think you said it for… I believe it was during our research for Trelanway’s essay.”

“That woman makes me say all sorts of things.”

“The point still stands.”

“You’re spooning me and brushing my hair.”

“Are you complaining?”

“Just stating facts to confute your argument.”

“It doesn’t count, anyway. You’re almost dying.”

Nothing is created, nothing is destroyed, everything is transformed. Hermione knows science, she likes science, too, along with rules and laws. It gives her a sense of certainty, of steadiness. And yet, she must remind herself, even science contemplates exceptions, every now and then. They’re isolated cases, and they shouldn’t be taken into account when creating hypotheses and theories, but they still exist.

Maybe Draco Malfoy is an exception.

She rolls her eyes but there’s a new smile on her face. “I see. It’s an exception, then.” 

Draco hums in agreement. His chest rises and falls against her back. He keeps pressing on her stomach, which distracts her more and more from the dull ache in her lower belly and spreads a comforting sense of contentment through her. The gentle heat of his breath on her head warms her up and makes her shiver at the same time. His other hand is still playing with her curls, tangling and untangling them around his fingers.

Nothing is created, nothing is destroyed, everything is transformed. Or maybe he isn’t an exception. Maybe it’s just a transformation of some sorts. One Hermione hasn’t completely figured out yet.

“I think I like exceptions,” she murmurs. 

He doesn’t reply right away so maybe he hasn’t heard. Which might be a good thing, Hermione muses, because her sluggish brain has the tendency to overshare and make her act more cuddly and softer than she actually is.  

She’s almost asleep when he calls her.

“I have dreadful news, Granger.”

“Please, don’t tell me you have to go to the toilet,” she mumbles.

He grins. She knows because he does so against the crown of her head. “Worse. I think I have an answer to your question.” Her eyebrows pinch together but she’s too sleepy to reply. “I reckon,” Draco says, pulling her closer until she feels cocooned in his warmth, “that we are not not friends. And that you can do whatever you want with that.”

Her eyes flicker open in the darkness. Well, Draco clearly knows science, too. Neuropsychology and all that.

He smells like plain soap and moss aftershave.

She wants to see him so she turns around in his arms. They’re both on their sides, and she looks at him until her heavy eyes adjust to the absence of light and can make out his features. The glowing grey of his irises. The angle of his jaw. His dishevelled hair. The softness in his expression that feels too intimate but familiar at the same time, so much so that she wants to keep it to herself. 

For moments like this, where they’re not the best students in their year (possibly the best in every year), the gifted Granger-Malfoy duo, but they’re just Draco and Hermione. Two twenty-somethings who are finding out things about each other and enjoy each other’s presence more and more every day – even if they struggle to admit it.

“I’m going to do something now, but don’t be weird or cute about it,” she says in a whiff.

Draco grins and something flutters in her belly. She knows he’s going to say something impossibly stupid, but she’s ready this time. “I’m cute about everything, Grang–”

She catches his lips with hers and he shuts up, only a relieved sigh echoing between them. Hermione caresses his mouth with hers, and she realises that the tranquillity spreading into her is amplified by Draco returning the kiss, softly, gently, by his hand stroking her back delicately. She savours the taste of him as her hand inches up to his face, thumb resting on his cheekbone. When she pulls back, he leaves an unexpected peck on the tip of her nose that makes her giggle.

He looks at her, without speaking. Hermione gives him a tender smile, a rare one; then, her hand slides down to his shoulder and she pushes slightly. When his back touches the mattress, she nestles against him, head resting on his chest, arm draped across his torso as he wraps his around her shoulders, nose buried in her curls.  

It’s his steady breathing and the sound of his heartbeat that lull her to sleep this time.

Not not friends. 

Maybe it’s Lavoisier’s exception. Or maybe not.