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September 1998

“Are you sure Mr. Thomas?”

“Sure, Miss Pickles. They’ll work. One spell will have the wards changed in the room so the technology will work and the other will copy what’s on the screens to parchment, like a printer.”

“That’s phenomenal work! How did you manage it?”

“I...em...wanted something to occupy my time, and my mind, considering all that had happened before -” he paused. “You know.”

The new Muggle Studies professor looked at the young student in front of her. Why did they all have to grow up so fast, she smiled sadly. “I can totally understand that, Mr. Thomas. Were they difficult to come by?”

The proverbial “back of a lorry” came to mind as Dean Thomas looked up and smiled.

“Not at all.”
.

August 1998

Hermione sighed and leaned back in her chair. The Burrow was full of hilarity with double helpings of pranks and high jinks. Fred and George had brought two crates of new products for everyone to sample and, so far, Harry was sporting rather perky boobs, Ginny could only speak Swedish, Ron was walking around on the ceiling, and a very pregnant Fleur was trying really hard not to wee on the floor from laughter. Molly was in the kitchen, as usual, preparing a Sunday roast that could feed Wiltshire.

“Mione!” Harry called up the stairs. “You coming down? Check out my new rack!”

“Jag tror att jag kan vara gay,” Ginny laughed, eyeing Harry’s larger chest with interest.

“They look good from up here, mate!” Ron was caught peering down the front of Harry’s open-necked shirt.

Hermione really wanted to stay away from all the noise. She didn’t want to leave her writing; it was soothing, but it wasn’t right to ignore her friends (she’d be doing enough of that when studying started). A year hidden away from the world, hunting for horcruxes, had her craving company but sometimes she needed the silence. To just be.

After the events of the past year, seven years really, the wizarding world had the luxury of sampling normal life; no evil, no corruption, no death, no sorrow. Loved ones were mourned, never to be forgotten, but the future held promise and hope. The Weasleys opened their home to Harry and Hermione, with Molly doing her utmost to ensure the young adults around her spent as much time as possible relaxing and laughing.

After all, laughter was the best medicine.

And so was Sleeping Draught, which they had all been prescribed to alleviate the night terrors and nightmares. Ron suffered from the former more so; he would dream of leaving Harry and Hermione in the Forest of Dean and returning to find their bodies mutilated and burned. His screams in the darkness woke everyone else from their nightmares. It was only through Legilimency, performed by one of the senior healers at St. Mungo’s, that his trauma was revealed and now a counselor at the hospital was helping him deal with his guilt. The rest of the family, along with Harry and Hermione, took various doses of Sleeping Draught.

Hermione took a dose every second night and was slowly weaning herself off the potion. They were returning to Hogwarts in two weeks and she was determined to study for her N.E.W.T.s with as clear a head as possible. She had also discovered an outlet for her recovery, she began to write again.

As a child, she would write little fairy stories and share them with her cousin Janice, who also wrote for fun. They were the same age and inseparable as children.

When Headmistress McGonagall, then a professor, visited Mr. and Mrs. Granger to explain that their daughter was a witch and would be welcome at Hogwarts, Hermione insisted she be allowed tell her cousin of her newly discovered talents. After a standoff with a precocious eleven-year-old, the Minister of Magic had the family agree to various rules and regulations regarding the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy. Janice was introduced to a world she only ever thought of as imaginary, and a spell was cast that prevented her from speaking about it to anyone but the Grangers.

Hermione’s cousin had only recently returned to England having spent the past year in hiding. After Monica and Wendell Wilkins were safely established in Australia, Hermione approached Janice and explained the danger she feared her cousin may face if she remained at her home. The emotionally drained witch spent an exhausting morning casting spells and charms until the girl before her was unrecognisable, spoke with an Irish accent, and was suddenly an expert in both Irish and Scotch whiskies.

Their reunion was bittersweet; Hermione couldn’t reverse the spell she had cast on her parents and was heartbroken by the loss of the two people who gave her life. Janice consoled her cousin as best she could, considering she had to explain her year-long absence to her own family and friends, not to mention her new qualifications that technically should have taken over a decade to achieve. As far as Janice was concerned, she was alive and so was her favourite cousin. Anyone else with questions could just fuck off.

Bothered by Hermione’s dark humour, Janice spent a few weeks at The Burrow with the Weasleys and Harry before returning to her muggle life. The original spell cast on her was lifted by the Ministry so she was able to converse with everyone about magic and other wizarding topics. In turn, she explained to Mr. Weasley how to play Tomb Raider on his newly acquired Playstation. He became rather fond of Lara Croft and her...attributes.

She found herself in awe of the loveable family and their homelife, even more so when Charlie came home from Romania to see the heroes return triumphant. Their attraction was instant and most welcome by Molly who feared her second eldest son may never settle down. The fact he was scheduled to spend more time on British soil, sourcing illegally bought baby dragons, had Molly introducing seating plans at the dinner table so the two could spend as much time together as possible. When it was time for Janice to return home, Charlie went with her...to help her settle back in, of course.
.

The day after she arrived at the Burrow, Janice sought Hermione out and the two left the quirky house to spend some time alone. Stopping about a mile away, they sat on a transfigured picnic mat and ate the sandwiches Molly insisted they bring with them.

“Want to talk about it?” Janice bit down on a carrot stick.

“No.”

“I didn’t think so. How are the meds?”

“I’ll wean myself off the Draught as soon as I can. I need to feel like me again.” Hermione sighed. “I need to feel normal.”

“Hun, you may never feel normal. Your life so far has been a whole fucking world of not normal!”

Another sigh.

Janice handed her cousin a box containing Molly’s famous turkey, ham, stuffing, and cranberry sauce sandwiches. She made them all year round.

Biting into the wholegrain delight, Hermione gazed out over the meadows that surrounded The Burrow. It was so peaceful, so serene. She still couldn’t comprehend how they were all back from a war; there was no victory parade, no pictures of sailors kissing girlfriends, no celebratory holiday. There was just silence, until the twins would arrive the following week.

“I’ve started writing again.”

Janice smiled. “I thought you might. It was always your go-to therapy. What are you working on?”

Hermione drank some tea before answering. “Nothing in particular, just some thoughts and ideas.”

“Will you continue when you’re back at Hogwarts?”

“I’d like to. Why?”

“Well, I have an idea. And I think you’ll like it.”
.

“Seriously?”

“Yeah! Why not?”

“Because I write for myself. And sometimes you. That’s it!”

“Come on, Hermione. Your name won’t be published, just your story.”

“I don’t know-”

“Look, it’s good for you. Writing has always been your escape and now, well, you need something-”

“I’ll have my studies!” Hermione exclaimed. “There’ll be so much to do. I won’t have time-”

Janice laid a hand on her cousin’s arm. “You can do this. That brain of yours will easily separate school work from...from fun work!”

Hermione sniggered. “It might be fun-”

“It is bloody fun! Reading it is one thing but writing it is a whole different ballgame. I’m into this fic at the moment where…”
.

Two weeks flew by in laughter and fun. The day before she was to return to the newly rebuilt Hogwarts, along with Harry, Ron, and Ginny, she spent some time sitting on the window seat in the living room, staring out at the pouring rain. Janice had left with Charlie, and a wad of parchment. Hermione sighed and closed her eyes. What had she let herself in for?

Chapter Text

Draco Malfoy walked across the road with his head down. He was sure he wouldn’t be recognised in the small village but, after years of bowing down in front of an evil oppressor, he had lost the ability to hold his head high. The past two years had cost him his dignity; he was broken inside, at eighteen years of age.

Turning to help The Order had spared him from an imprisoned adulthood. When his wand vibrated every morning to announce a new day in a free world, he would keep his eyes firmly shut for fear of waking up inside a cold, damp cell. It would take a few minutes to remember he was in a warm bed, safe from the terror of threatened torture. The walls of Malfoy Manor no longer comforted him. His parents were there, on house arrest, but their healing was aimed towards each other. They tried to communicate with him, to involve him in their therapy sessions and attempts to right their many wrongs, but he felt he could no longer look at them.

Draco found himself spending as much time as possible away from his childhood home; the place he was once so happy in. He would get up early and leave The Manor immediately. Narcissa would invite him every day to join her for lunch but he’d decline. He would come home late in the evening, but mostly not at all.

Lucius went so far as to offer his son Malfoy Industries; all of it. The company survived the war due to its diversity and the sheer determination of its board members, and the elder Malfoy was anxious to regain the support and trust of those who held his legacy together whilst his judgement was tested over and over again. He was on his way to achieving his objective but, out of sheer desperation at seeing his only son suffering, he thought the distraction would help. Draco refused with a simple “no, thank you.”

He began to investigate the muggle towns and villages dotted around Wiltshire, settling on a favourite - Maybury. The small Georgian village was picture-perfect and he was attracted to its architecture and history. The local hotel became his home away from home and he found himself staying at The White Horse more and more as the summer went by. The publicans, patrons, and other locals knew him as Daniel Mallory, a trust-fund student from London, who was taking some time out before returning to his, so far, unnamed college. He spent some time at the local library, reading up on the local history with the aid of the full-time librarian, Miss Bennet, and getting introduced to science fiction by Katie Morris, the young heavy metal-loving student who worked there on Saturdays.
.

“What’s different?”

Draco looked up from the book he was currently reading, a recommendation from the young girl in front of him. The front of her top looked like she’d vomited on it, and left it.

“Pardon?”

“I said,” she drawled. “What. Is. Different?”

“Your hair?”

“Well, yeah, but besides that.”

“I don’t-”

“Oh for God’s sake, Dan!” Katie laughed, punching him lightly on the shoulder. “My piercing! Look, I got another one!”

For the life of him, Draco couldn’t tell which one she was talking about. Each ear had a row of studs from the lobule to the helix, with small rings through the tragus and daith.

“I got a small stud through the inner conch. Look, here.”

She pointed to a small dot somewhere in the middle of her metal-infested ear.

“It looks like a mole,” Draco commented, before returning to his book.

“What’ya reading?”

Silence. She pulled out a chair and plopped down beside him, bubblegum bursting as she chewed loudly before repeating her question.

Sighing inwardly, Draco closed the book and picked up his empty coffee cup. Rolling his eyes, he signalled to the hotel’s new barmaid to bring him another. Following a loud ‘ahem’ from his unwanted companion, the order was doubled.

“Don’t you have work today?”

“I do. I’m in for half. That gives me twenty minutes to drink coffee on you.”

“Bitch,” he laughed. “War of the Worlds, by the way.”

“Brilliant!” She grinned. “One of the best. Wells was a genius, far ahead of his time. Have you started The Time Machine yet?”

“That’s next. As soon as I get some peace,” he added, with a smile.

Two Americano coffees were placed on the table in front of them and, before Draco could thank their server, Katie leaned over and whipped up his biscotti.

“Speaking of geniuses, here’s another for you to try,” she reached into her bottomless bag and retrieved twelve small paperback books. “You will love these. Wells appears in the...can’t remember. Anyway, give them a go.”

“What are they about?” he asked, turning the first book over to glance at the back cover.

“It’s an organisation that protects history from rogue time travellers. But, get this, the history in the book is really our fiction.”

Ignoring the sheer confusion on Draco’s face, Katie continued.

“Book one, time traveller loses the plot. Goes back in time to kill Ivanhoe, yeah? Famous fictional character created by Walter Scott. Book two, time traveller loses the plot. Goes back in time to cause shit with The Three Musketeers. Book three, time traveller, blah, blah, blah, Scarlet Pimpernel. See where I’m going here?”

Draco nodded, hiding his amusement behind his coffee cup. The more Katie spoke about the books, the more excited she got.

“Good guys are a group of three commandos and their superior. One of them reminds me of you...without the weird hair.”

“What’s wrong with my hair!” He ran his fingers through his locks protectively.

“It’s a bit...no, it’s very...it’s so...BLOND...for a bloke. Look, it’s nearly half past.” She jumped up, shoving the books into his lap. “You’ll love them, get reading. Thanks for the coffee!”

“And you know what they say about blonds!” She called over her shoulder as she ran towards the door.

With that, the whirlwind that was Katie Morris left the hotel.
.

A few minutes later, a small biscotti was put down on the table beside his hand.

“I noticed Katie stole yours.”

Draco looked up from his newly acquired book. The War of the Worlds would have to wait, Ivanhoe needed saving.

“Thanks. She does that a lot. Are you new here?” He hadn’t seen this barmaid before, the owners were an older couple.

“My parents own this place,” she proffered her hand. “I’ll be running it while they’re on holiday. I’m Janice, Janice Brady.”

Draco took her hand. He noticed her handshake was firm, a characteristic he had always admired. “Daniel Mallory.”

He gestured for her to join him. “And what do you usually do, Janice Brady?”

“Em...I’ve been away studying,” she replied. “I’m planning to take over this place eventually, run some festivals and such. My qualifications will, hopefully, draw more tourists; I’m sort of a drinks expert - particularly Irish and Scotch whiskies.”

Draco thought it strange that she'd be an 'expert' at such a young age. She looked around the same age as he was but he didn't want to sound rude or patronizing by enquiring, so he let it go.

“Ah, my favourite drink," he offered instead. "The pub doesn’t stock the Scotch I prefer but I’ve taken a liking to Glenfiddich Single Malt.”

“Which one?”

“The 21 year old Gran Reserva.”

“Fuck me! That’s a seriously expensive dram. You must be bloody loaded! What’s your favourite, can we get it in for you?”

Draco stood up. “I’m sorry, I have to get going. I’ll be back for dinner tomorrow.”

Janice ignored the rapid change in his behaviour...for now.

“See you tomorrow,” she smiled, gathering up the empty coffee cups.
.

Draco stared up at the ceiling, thinking about the woman in the hotel. He had left his curtains open and the moonlight lit up his bedroom at Malfoy Manor, bouncing off the mirrored Art Deco furniture. It was particularly warm and the emerald green sheets were pushed down, away from his naked body. One arm was tucked up under his head and the other was draped across his torso, his fingers tapping out an absent-minded beat.

Janice was certainly beautiful, carrying herself with grace and elegance. She was tall and slender with thick waves of hair that were dyed various shades of red and gold. He wasn’t attracted to her; that wasn’t the reason she was on his mind. Two things were bothering him; he had noticed a ring on her left hand as she placed the biscotti down on the table. It was handmade, hammered silver with a cinnabar stone. It was an unusual choice of jewellery, the red and white colours were almost marble-like, and the stone practically called to him as Janice gesticulated during their brief conversation. But what was it about the stone?

The second thing was more unsettling, to say the least. Janice had asked about his favourite drink and he had moved to leave immediately. Draco knew he could have made up something - mentioning Ogden’s Old Firewhisky wouldn’t have been a sensible move - but, just as she asked, she reached up to tuck her hair back behind her ear. The action shocked him to his core.

Someone else had the same mannerism. Someone who made his heart clench with regret and self-loathing. Someone he wanted so badly, he craved her like a drug.

“Hermione,” he whispered to the room.

Only a few months before, she had screamed for help as that sick bitch tore away her skin. He feared for her life and had almost, almost - but he was scared; a frightened child hidden behind taunts and bravado. A step towards her would have cost him his life, along with the lives of his parents. It would have cost his beautiful witch -

Ah, but she was not his witch. Nor would she ever be. He would never deserve her.

All he could do was dream, and imagine.

His fingers crept down towards his hardening erection. He drew one leg up, taking the hand behind his head forward to caress his chest and stomach.  He imagined her before him; her delicate fingers tracing patterns across his muscles.

“Draco,” she would whisper. “I want you.”

“You have me,” he breathed to the night air. “Please take me.”

She would move forward, her long hair sweeping across his skin as her lips would tenderly brush against his.

Draco massaged himself, arching up from the bed, before sweeping his thumb over the tip of his erection. Rubbing the sensitive head had him leaking over his fingers and he used the precum to lubricate himself before slowly beginning to move his hand up and down.

He imagined her lips tasting him, sucking and licking as his breath quickened with arousal.

“Hermione,” he cried out, his hand moving faster with the other now gripping the sheets tangled around him.

“I’m here, Draco. I want you so much.”

Turning his head to the side, he pictured her lying on the bed next to him. He kept massaging himself, his hands continuing to pleasure his body. Fingers moved across his skin, pulling at nipples, nails digging into flesh. She was everywhere around him, torturing him.

Draco gasped as he felt his orgasm rise within. He didn’t hurry, he wanted the feeling of ecstasy to last. It was exhilarating; an electrical charge that kept him alert and on fire. Sheets slid to the floor as he tossed his body around the bed.

He changed hands, raising his wet digits to his lips and pretending he was sensually licking her fingers. Hearing her laughter in his mind, he continued to stroke and pull and rub until he could no longer bear the pressure threatening to burst out through his pores.

Crying out into the moonlight, he covered himself with the result of his desire. Wandlessly cleaning up, he collapsed back down and drew the covers back over his skin. Exhaustion threatened to overwhelm him as a single tear escaped from the corner of his eye.

He stared across at the exposed window, the midnight moon gazing back at him.

“Hermione,” he closed his eyes, sobbing quietly. “I’m so sorry. I love you.”

Chapter Text

Draco devoured the books Katie left with him, finding both the futuristic and historical intrigue fascinating. Classical wizarding literature left a lot to be desired and discovering the likes of Shakespeare and Poe, thanks to the ever-helpful Miss Bennet, was a breath of fresh air. But science fiction? Wow!

His favourite so far was the second book, The Timekeeper Conspiracy, which was filled to the brim with mystery and sword-fighting - underneath that cultured pureblood exterior was a young boy who still didn’t want to grow up. Draco particularly liked the protagonist, Lucas Priest, who portrayed the ultimate officer and gentleman (oh Katie, you don’t know how wrong you are). He was amused by the red haired sidekick, Finn Delaney, instantly comparing him to - well, it was obvious, wasn’t it? Then there was Andre, a stranger in a strange land, fighting for the right to stand up and be counted. She was misplaced in time, thrown into the deep end and struggling to adapt to new surroundings. Her bravery and determination to succeed had him thinking of Hermione as he read through the chapters.

His melancholy mood, brought on by his constant thinking of her, had him sitting up at the bar of The White Horse one afternoon, a week before he was due to leave for Hogwarts. Having finished his lunch, he was settling into The Lilliput Legion and a pot of Yorkshire tea.

“You look miserable,” Janice commented, taking the empty plate away from the counter.

“Not a good day,” he smiled slightly, looking up.

“I’m on a break in five minutes. Fancy some company?”

“Yeah, alright.”

True to her word, Janice returned from the kitchens with two large slices of carrot cake and a fresh pot of tea.

“On the house,” she announced, sitting on a bar stool beside him. “Want to talk about it? Or her?”

Draco looked up, surprised. “How can you tell?”

“Bar trade, sweetie. Seen it all.”

He took his time chewing a piece of the cake, deciding if he should talk to her. His inner Draco made the decision for him. Fuck it, here goes…

“She hates me. Always has.” He looked down at the pastry fork in his hand. “Always will.”

“Does she know how you feel?”

“No.”

“Then how can you be so sure? Have you tried talking to her? Jesus, Dan, have you looked at yourself lately!”

Draco looked up, confused. “What’s wrong with me?” he asked, his free hand automatically running through his hair.

“Fuck all is wrong with you! You’re a seriously good looking bloke, with a decent personality. Which is bloody rare, by the way. You could have anyone! How is it possible that there’s a girl out there that doesn’t want you? Well, besides me.”

“How come you don’t want me?” he quipped.

“I have a boyfriend.”

“You haven’t mentioned him.”

“He’s working away at the moment, with...em...animals. He’ll be back next week.” She waved her fork around as she continued. “That’s not important, we’re talking about you. Why does she hate you so much?”

“We never got on. We met in school but were in different...classes. I had my friends and she had her...lot. We only came together to fight and antagonise each other but I found myself thinking of her often; her intelligence was the first thing that caught my attention, I guess. She was so far ahead of the rest of us, you know, for a-”

Draco was about to say ‘muggleborn’ but caught himself in time. Having watched Hermione’s deep red blood flow down her arms, he realised she was no different to him. It was a sight he would never forget, with screams he would always remember.

“Anyway,” he continued, refilling their teacups. “She was quite the ugly duckling at first but all I saw was the most courageous and independent person I’ve ever known, even at eleven.” He laughed, his eyes glistening slightly. “I fell in love with her spirit, her zest for life. She’s the most beautiful person I know-”

Draco absentmindedly rubbed his nose at a particular memory before continuing.

“I came across her with two of her friends a few months ago. They were in trouble and I should have helped but-”

“What kind of trouble?” Janice enquired.

Draco stared ahead. For a moment, his mind was back at Malfoy Manor and she was screaming his name, begging for him to save her.

“Doesn’t matter now. She needed - I just ignored her, yeah?” he placed his head in his hands. “Worst fucking mistake of my life, Jay.”

Janice reached over and placed her hand over his. Sighing, Draco lifted his head and looked at her.

“Why haven’t you told her how you feel about her now? Or that you’re sorry for what happened?”

“Would you want anything to do with me? Knowing what I did?”

“Well, I don’t know exactly what you did, Dan. You haven’t explained yourself very well,” she sat back on the bar stool. “You know, my cousin’s in the same boat. She has had feelings for this guy she knows for some time. He won’t give her the time of day but it hasn’t stopped her from loving him from afar. She pines, you know? I was staying with her...family over the summer and to see her-” Janice released a long slow breath. “I want to tell her it’ll be alright and that, you know, if it’s meant to be but-”

“Does your cousin know this guy well?”

“I think so. She won’t say too much about him, even though we’re really close, but I guess they must be in the same boarding school. She’s had a rough few years but she’s slowly picking up the pieces. I’d hope that, one day, he’ll see her for the wonderful person she is. After all she’s been through, she deserves every happiness.”

Janice stepped down from the high stool, taking the dishes with her. Coming back a few minutes later, she handed Draco a bill for his earlier lunch.

Putting his book down to sign his initials to the receipt, D.M., Draco looked up at her.

“Is your cousin like you?”

Janice laughed. “Physically? We’re like chalk and cheese. Otherwise, we’re practically the same person.”

“Then he’s a prick if he doesn’t notice her.”

Janice smiled warmly before turning away. “Perhaps I’ll introduce you two someday.”
.

Draco slowly packed his bag and left the little hotel room that he’d begun to think of as his second home. Tomorrow night he’d be back in the dungeons at Hogwarts, too close to her for comfort. You’ve got to get over this. Taking a deep breath, he buckled up the leather carry-on and left the room.

“Ah, Mister Mallory. Did you enjoy your stay at The White Horse?” Janice grinned from behind the reception desk.

Signing the relevant forms to check out, Draco smiled at her warmly.

“It was most pleasant, thank you for asking. The bar staff are exceptionally friendly. And I must pass my compliments to the kitchen staff, the carrot cake is sublime. Then, there’s the housekeeping staff-”

“Oh, shut the fuck up! Give me a hug.”

She walked around to him and put her arms out. Draco didn’t hesitate, stepping forward and relishing her warmth.

“Thank you for listening, Jay. For everything.”

Stepping back, she looked straight into his eyes.

“I really hope it works out for you, Dan. Will you keep in touch?”

“Sure,” he replied, not having a clue how he was going to manage it. “I’d love to, but school-”

“Here’s my email address,” she handed him a small Post-It with some sort of code scribbled on it. He pulled out his wallet from his back pocket and slipped the piece of paper inside.

“Your school has computers I take it. Or are your teachers still back in the Stone Age?”

“Funny you should say that-”

A few weeks before, Draco had walked into the Maybury library to see Miss Bennet sporting an oversized sweatshirt sporting the logo “I’ve a date with Windows 98.” She instantly dragged him over to look at the new grey boxes lined up against the far wall, spending a good twenty minutes rabbiting on about The Outlook Express, active desktops (although there was no one sitting at any desks in the room), and some bloke called Bill and his gates. Merlin, the woman desperately needed to get laid! He smiled politely and oohed and aahed at all the right moments before escaping, completely overwhelmed by the muggle technology and the fervent Miss Bennet.

Just then, one of the hotel staff stuck their head around the door to let Janice know she was needed in the bar. She gave Draco another brief hug before moving towards the door.

“Make sure you do keep in touch! I have that cousin to introduce you to,” she smiled.

Picking up his bag, Draco nodded before walking out the main door.
.

Stepping into the bar, Janice was shocked to find Charlie Weasley standing by the pool table.

“Oh my God! You’re a whole week early!” She exclaimed, running into his arms.

Charlie looked just as pleased to see her; his cheeky smile lighting up his tanned face. His long red hair was tied back in a low ponytail and his shirt was rolled up to reveal two full sleeves of dragon-inspired tattoos. A fresh cut to his right cheek just made him look sexier, if that were possible.

“Merlin! I missed you so much, Jay.” He cupped her face in his hands, leaning forward to kiss her as if she were his only source of oxygen. “I couldn’t stay away any longer.”

“That’s so good to hear,” she breathed. “I don’t think I could have lasted another week.”

“Get me a room now,” he growled into her ear. “I want you-”

“Charlie, I’m on shift,” she moaned. “I’m not finished work for another hour.”

“I’ve a wand and I’m not afraid to use it.”

Bursting out laughing, Janice went off to arrange to finish work early. Twenty minutes later, she had Charlie booked in, her shift covered, and was moaning in ecstasy as he fucked her up against the door of room nine.
.

The following morning saw mayhem at King’s Cross Station as students and families flooded the secret barrier and filed out onto Platform 9¾. Hermione, Harry, Ron, and Ginny bade farewell to the Weasleys amid a shower of edible confetti, courtesy of Fred and George. Ron spent most of the time trying to lick the multi-flavoured treats off everyone’s shoulders, much to the disgust of his mother who started to beat him around the head with her hand-knitted beret.

Hermione and Ginny hopped onto The Hogwarts Express to avoid one of Molly’s infamous emotional farewells. Laughing, they ran through the narrow corridors to reach their carriage, with Ginny stopping midway to chat to some sixth years she knew from Quidditch practice.

Someone called Hermione’s name as she stepped into the carriage and she turned her head around at the last moment, only to have her body collide with a solid wall. Stumbling backwards, she was caught by two strong arms and brought forward into a tight embrace. Trying to right herself at the same time, her hands found themselves flattened against a chest of pure muscle which was concealed behind a black suit of impeccable quality. Hermione was instantly drawn to the scent of whoever was holding her; it was intoxicating. Gasping, she looked up - into the silver eyes of Draco Malfoy. He stared back, holding onto her a little longer than necessary.

“I really should watch-”

“You really should watch-”

They both started and stopped at the same time, blushing slightly. Draco stepped back, releasing her from his grasp. She tried to hide her nerves by continuing before he could say anything.

“I’m sorry for running into you, Malfoy. I don’t know who called me, did you see? I shouldn’t have looked around, I-”

Her verbal diarrhea was brought to an abrupt halt when he placed a hand gently on her shoulder.

“It’s alright,” he murmured, before picking his bag up off the seat and placing it on the luggage rack.

“Oh.” She could feel her shoulder tingling. Why did he do this to her? Oh, she knew why.

Biting her bottom lip, Hermione went to move past him and head towards the other end of the carriage where she saw Neville and Luna sitting together.

“Granger!”

She turned back around. “Y-yes?”

“I wanted to-”

Whatever Draco was going to say was curtailed by the untimely entrance of one Ronald B. Weasley, knob.

“Mione, come on. We don’t talk to Death Eater filth,” the knob spat.

Hermione gasped. “Ronald! What the hell?”

Draco turned away to sit by the window, picking up the book he had left face down on the seat earlier. Hermione thought she recognised the cover of The Cleopatra Crisis.

“Is that-”

“Mione!”

“You’d better go, Granger. Your guard dog is drooling.”

“Fuck you!” Ron started towards Draco.

“Ronald, enough!” Hermione grabbed his arm and pulled him back. “We’re past all of this. Move!” She added, shoving him towards the back of the carriage.

“I’m sorry again, Malfoy.” She offered before turning to follow Ron.

Draco stared after her, his heart cracking just a little bit more.

“No, I am.”

Hermione looked back, stunned by his words. By now the carriage was filling up and the opportunity to speak again was lost.

Chapter Text

The carriage continued to fill with the rest of the returning eighth years and Ginny (although she was technically a seventh year student). This final year was going to be unusual, to say the least; they were to complete their seventh year studies but would do so separately from the remaining students who were heading into their final year straight from sixth.

The new headmistress had taken quite some time to consider their positions within the student body, consulting with the portraits of many previous headmasters before deciding the small group should all live and study together as a unit. There were bound to be hiccups along the way but these students all needed to heal and mend bridges. She figured the only way to do that was to throw them all to the lions together and she prayed to Merlin she was doing the right thing.

Luna, the only Ravenclaw, was tucked in by a window amidst the Gryffindors. She wanted to sit up front of the train to keep the nargles away from the driver’s lunch as it was Tuesday, and they were particularly hungry after all the mating that went on over the long weekend, but Neville assured her the driver had his lunch safely stashed in his work bag. Happy with this, she started to read the Quibbler’s horoscopes for September out loud for everyone instead.

She had just finished telling Harry that he’d be changing his sexual orientation by the end of the month when a commotion could be heard from the other side of the carriage. Turning heads observed a red-faced Ron Weasley storming down the aisle, followed by an irate Hermione Granger.

“And it’s only the first of September,” Harry observed quietly to Ginny.

His girlfriend rolled her eyes. “Don’t tell me this is what we’re in for. I thought everything was alright at The Burrow.”

Harry was about to respond but thought better of it. He wasn’t in the mood for drama; this was going to be a peaceful year. Hopefully. He settled into a window seat on the other side of the carriage with Ginny sliding in beside him.

Ron flopped into the seat opposite Luna and stared out the window, breathing heavily through his nose and seething with gusto. How the fuck could McGonagall allow that piece of shit back into Hogwarts? That fucking Slytherin cunt didn’t deserve to fucking breathe!

“Won Won!”

“Oh bollocks!” Ron turned away from the window. “Hey Lav.”

He couldn’t have sounded less enthusiastic if he tried.
.

After Ron had unceremoniously sat down, Hermione moved past the Gryffindors and Ravenclaw. She briefly acknowledged Dean Thomas who was entering the carriage with Parvati Patil, the pair looking particularly cosy as they greeted their classmates.

Ginny reached out to Hermione as she continued past but was waved off with a mumbled excuse, the redhead barely catching ‘toilet’.

“Leave her,” Harry coaxed. “She needs to cool off.”

“So does my prick of a brother!” Ginny hissed. “His temper is a bloody embarrassment.”

Harry didn’t have an answer to that; he wholeheartedly agreed.
.

Hermione pulled the carriage door back and stepped out into the narrow hallway at the end. The rocking of the now moving train caused her to stumble towards the toilet, knocking her shoulder painfully against the door. The jolt brought tears to her eyes that continued once she had securely locked herself in the little cubicle.

Gripping the side of the handbasin, the most focused and brilliant member of the Golden Trio burst into heart wrenching sobs.

He had held her for seconds but he would never realise what it meant to her.

After a few minutes, Hermione gathered herself together and, casting a spell to conceal her tear-stained cheeks and puffy eyes, walked back towards her friends with her head held high. It was getting harder and harder to do.

By now all the seats were taken and, despite everyone’s attempts to ‘budge up’ and make room (Lavender instantly hopping onto Ron’s knee), Hermione insisted she wanted to get some advanced reading done so moved into the middle of the carriage to sit on her own. Nobody argued; this was Hermione Granger afterall. One silencing charm later, she had her head down and was furiously writing away with her favourite eagle-feathered quill clenched between her ink-stained fingers.

She wasn’t sure if she had seen things but was it possible Draco Malfoy was reading a muggle paperback? And, not only that, was he reading one of the Time Wars series? Surely not! Hermione wanted to ask the moment she saw him lift up the book but the opportunity was lost, thanks to Ron.

Meanwhile, her Lucas and Andre were in the middle of their own adventure and Janice was waiting to post chapter four online (apparently the story had over one hundred followers thus far and readers were anxious for updates). There was only one slight difference; in BiblioBabe199’s Time Wars fanfiction, Lucas Priest had platinum blond hair and silver grey eyes.
.

Further down the carriage, five Slytherin students were keeping a low profile and talking quietly amongst themselves.

Draco was sitting by the window alongside Theo Nott who was currently engrossed in The Dracula Caper. Across from them were Blaise Zabini, with his girlfriend Tracey Davis sitting on his knee, and Pansy Parkinson cuddled into his side with her legs tucked under her.

“Blaise, mate,” Draco smiled. “We’ve only left the station and you’ve got the girls hanging off you!”

“Says the one! Apparently our Pans is a cuddler,” his best friend replied. “Who knew?”

“Oh, for Merlin’s sake! It’s bloody freezing. At this stage, I’d cuddle Argus Filch himself if it meant I could heat up,” Pansy moaned. “You don’t mind, do you, Trace?”

The quietest Slytherin of them all smiled at her friend. “Of course not, Pans. Cuddle away.”

“Don’t I get a say?” The Italian exclaimed. “Mi sto usando qui!”

“No one’s using you, Blaise,” Tracey laughed. “You’re just doing my best friend a favour; like a dutiful boyfriend.” She leaned down to kiss his cheek.

“Oh, please!” Theo looked up. “Trying to read here.”

“Which one are you on?” Pansy enquired. She couldn’t see the book’s cover from where she was sitting.

“Eight.”

“Oh, I loved that one! All those robotic vampires. It was really cool when-”

“Spoilers, Pans!” They all responded simultaneously.

This was a frequent issue. Pansy Parkinson’s mouth had no filter.

The five friends continued to banter about the muggle books Draco had written to suggest they read over the summer. The girls were engrossed as soon as they started the first book, although it took a while for them to do so, with Blaise eventually starting The Ivanhoe Gambit just to stop Tracey’s constant chatter about how brilliant it was. He was equally enthralled from the first chapter. Theo was the last to agree to try the books, hence he was only now on book eight.

It wasn’t as simple as just picking up the first book and beginning to read, however; it was almost a cleansing ritual for Pansy, Theo, and Blaise. They looked to Draco as their unofficial leader - a title he’d never wanted but took seriously nonetheless - and so, at his suggestion, they took their first steps to freedom by agreeing to read muggle literature. For Tracey, it was an easier step having been exposed to the non-wizarding world through her muggle mother.

The tight-knit group knew they wouldn’t be welcome back at Hogwarts but, of all the Slytherins that graced the dungeons of the old school, they were most anxious to make amends. Tracey and her parents hadn’t been involved in the war and she was kept away from Hogwarts for most of the previous year. She was, however, a Slytherin and wanted to use her halfblood status to prove to the rest of the school that some snakes really weren’t all that bad.

Blaise and Theo had witnessed the Carrow’s torture and mutilation firsthand and, although, they weren’t physically attacked by the siblings, Pansy was. Their lifelong friend had been Crucio’d by Alecto for daring to help a first year who had been cursed for dropping his inkpot. The twisted sister continued to stalk Pansy after that, cursing and hexing her at every available opportunity. The sheer brutality eventually wore the young girl down and she would cry herself to sleep every night, pleading with the gods for an end to her persecution. Seeing Harry Potter in the Great Hall prior to the final battle caused her to speak out against him but she had just wanted it all to stop.

Pansy was determined to apologise for her actions, and explain herself, but it was only the first day of term and she wasn’t quite brave enough. Yet.

A few hours passed as the train continued its long journey towards the Scottish Highlands. The Slytherins remained at one end of the carriage with the Gryffindors and their adopted Ravenclaw at the other. Hermione “Switzerland” Granger stayed in the middle, her quill scratching the parchment constantly.
.

After a snack from the sweet trolley, Hermione stood up and walked past the Slytherins to the opposite carriage door. She had no desire to pass Ron and have him berate her for earlier, or pass snide comments that she would find too hard to overlook, so she decided to pass the Slytherins instead. She figured they would just ignore her.

As she was making her way along the carriage, Draco asked Theo to move so he could step away to use the toilet. The taller wizard stood to allow his blond friend leave his seat, putting both of them right in Hermione’s path, meaning she had no choice but to stop as the aisle was now blocked. She halted a few feet away, biting her lip and trying not to make eye contact with anyone in particular.

“Granger, I apologise,” Theo was the first to speak. “I didn’t notice you.”

“Eh...that’s alright, Nott,” she replied, looking up. It was the first time in all their years at Hogwarts that she had ever spoken to Theo Nott directly and Hermione was taken aback by his quiet tone. He was softly spoken with actual manners, it seemed. She felt the knot (yeah, even she acknowledged the pun) in her stomach loosen as he smiled at her.

“As soon as this blond bombshell steps off my foot, I can move to let you pass,” Theo grinned, his eyes narrowing at Draco. The blond in question was rooted to the spot, not having moved since Hermione came near. She didn’t look at him, her attention focused on his friend, but he felt his pulse quicken all the same. He may just have pushed down heavily on Theo’s foot before moving his own away, muttering an apology. At least, it sounded like an apology.

“Is that a term of endearment or a jibe at his intellectual capabilities?” Hermione’s inner Gryffindor encouraged her to be sociable so she attempted a Slytherin-style remark.

Theo’s answer was drowned out by the laughter of his fellow Slytherins.

“Nice one, Granger,” Pansy snickered. “Look! Draco’s speechless.”

“He won’t be speaking his mind so,” Blaise was laughing so much Tracey almost toppled off his knee. She had to grab the table in front of them for support.

Draco turned to Hermione, an unreadable expression on his face.

“You’ve set them off, Granger. This may go on for a while.”

Hermione couldn’t answer; she was genuinely surprised by the comedic atmosphere. Theo came to her rescue.

“You have to admit, he certainly is a whiter shade of pale.”

That threw her completely. Did Theo Nott just reference a muggle song? She gaped unattractively at the dark-haired obstacle in her way.

“Em...can I please get by? I really need the loo.”

“Of course, of course,” Theo shoved Draco aside to make room for her to pass. “It seems our blond has also mislaid his manners.”

Hermione smiled politely and continued on towards the door.

Draco lit on Theo as soon as she was out of earshot.

“What the absolute fuck!” He exclaimed before turning to the others. “And you lot! Talk about making a show of me!”

“Calm down, Draco. We were joking with her, not at you,” Tracey interjected. “We need this! We need to make things right in order to-”

“And what’s better than getting into Granger’s good books?” Pansy interrupted, casting a warning glance over at Tracey. “She’s the most likely to forgive us first. After her, the rest will follow.”

“We hope,” Blaise added.

“It’s important that Granger accepts us,” Theo continued before sighing loudly. “Look, we may as well tell him.” He looked back at Draco. “Like the guys said, we need this. But, first and foremost, if we succeed, she’s more than likely to accept you. That’s what we’re aiming for.”

Draco was taken aback. “You are all doing this for me,” he whispered.

“We know how you feel, mate.” Blaise confirmed, before placing his hand across his chest and adopting the air of a voiceover actor. “And it is our Slytherin duty to ensure you achieve your goal. Therefore we, my fellow students and I, are determined to see you physically wrapped around the fit body of one Gryffindor princess by the Yule Ball.”

“You ruined it at the end, sweetie,” Tracey murmured.

Theo leaned over to the blond who’s cheeks were now a blooming shade of rose pink.

“Weren’t you on the way to the toilet?” He nodded in the direction of the carriage door.

Draco followed his friend’s gaze.

“I was. Wasn’t I?”

“Well then, no time like the present, mate. Go make a start.”

Theo clapped Draco on the shoulder before gently, but firmly, nudging him in the direction of the carriage door. Before he completely left their sight, however, Pansy surreptitiously waved her magic wand.

There was no sign of Hermione when he stepped through to the small hallway. He felt slightly panicked until the muffled sound of the toilet flushing reminded him of where she was intending to go in the first place. He took a deep breath, stepping farther away from the small door in order not to crowd her. After a minute, the lock slid open and Hermione stepped outside.

“Don’t go back to your seat!”

She looked up, surprised. Draco had rushed the words out, hoping she’d listen to him.

“Pardon?”

“Look, I need to use the toilet, alright? But I’m asking you to wait here for me. I want to talk...to you.”

Hermione tried not to laugh out loud. She pursed her lips together but her eyes shone with mirth.

“What!” He demanded.

“Your hair,” she grinned. “Not your best look.”

Reaching up, Draco felt a mohawk on top of his head with an edge that could cut steel.

“Bastards!” he exclaimed, moving swiftly towards the toilet and praying to Merlin there was a mirror in the cubicle. He turned to close the door and caught her standing by the window, the bright September sun highlighting her long caramel hair. Draco Malfoy’s broken heart pumped a little stronger.

“I’ll wait,” she turned to him. “Hurry though, your hair needs immediate medical attention.”

He never urinated so fast in his life.

And there was no mirror in that particular toilet. Fuck.

He unlocked the door and stepped back out, looking sheepish.

“There’s no mirror and I left my wand back on my seat. I can’t go back looking-”

“I could, you know,” Hermione couldn’t find the words, choosing instead to retrieve her wand from her pocket and wiggle it in front of him.

“Thanks,” he smiled shyly, moving towards her.

Hermione’s heart was in her mouth as she waved her wand towards his head. Pettinare. The razor-sharp mohawk collapsed down and flopped around Draco’s face.

“Em...it didn’t exactly work,” she confessed, biting her lower lip. Placing her wand back in her pocket, she lifted her hands up. “May I?”

He couldn’t answer. Never taking his eyes from hers, he stepped even closer.

Almost reverently, Hermione reached up and touched Draco’s hair for the first time. It was so soft, she heard herself gasp slightly. She ran her fingers through the silky smooth locks, comparing his hair’s texture to that of Teddy Lupin’s baby fine hair. Gently coaxing the unkempt strands back into place, she found herself unable to remove her fingers. So many nights dreaming about him, yearning for him, and here she was touching him for the first time. It was almost heartbreaking; he had no idea how she felt. Nor would he ever know.

Draco thought his lungs would burst. Here she was, so close he could smell her delicate perfume. He would die for this witch in front of him, he knew that now. He just wished he had done it months before and saved her from all that pain.

As she focused on her task, he never moved his eyes from hers; they were the colour of his favourite dark chocolate with flecks of honey or the lightest caramel. The touch of her hands sent sparks of desire shooting through him like a lightning bolt. He closed his eyes, visualising Madame Pomfrey in a Hufflepuff yellow thong and nothing else. It instantly helped.

“I chose my mother.”

Hermione lowered her hands. “Pardon?”

“I had no choice,” he continued, opening his eyes and letting his gaze fall to her navy Converse. “It was her or you. I wanted so much to save you but...I was weak.”

At his final word he looked up, his silver eyes capturing her breath. “I-I don’t understand, how-”

“The Dark-” he began, before shaking his head slightly. Taking a deep breath, he began again. “I had failed in my task during sixth year and barely escaped with my life. I should have let the sick bastard kill me rather than plead for mercy but I guess I’m not very strong.” He shrugged his shoulders. “He called me ‘a waste of space,’ Granger. How right he was.”

Hermione opened her mouth to reply but he raised his hand to stop her.

“I need to say this. Please,” his pleading look was heartbreaking. “Please-”

“Go on,” she encouraged him gently.

“I’m a skilled Occlumens, thanks to Snape, so Voldemort never realised I-” Draco stopped abruptly. “It doesn’t matter. He told me that, if I stepped out of line again, he’d feed my mother to Fenrir Greyback and make me watch. I did what I could when the three of you...I was too scared to do anymore. I’m so sorry.”

Hermione could feel the tears welling in her eyes. One tiny droplet slipped from her eyelash to her cheek and, without thinking, Draco raised his hand and tenderly wiped it away with his thumb. She was frozen to the spot, staring at him in shock.

“I don’t expect-” he began.

He never finished. The train’s piercing whistle announced their arrival at Hogsmeade Station.

Draco stepped back. “We’d better-”

“Yes. Yes, we should-”

He opened the carriage door and stepped back to let her pass. Hermione smiled as she moved ahead of him, feeling the hairs rise on the back of her neck due to his proximity. Abruptly, she turned back and looked up to him.

“Thank you.”

Draco nodded but no words came.

“You saved us that night, even if you didn’t realise what you were doing,” she spoke quickly, as everyone was now out of their seats and reaching for their bags. “You didn’t tell them who we were and you practically gave your wand to Harry. I could see the torment in your face, Malfoy. It can’t have been easy for you either having that-that thing is your home.”

Without thinking, Hermione stood on tiptoe and kissed Draco lightly on the cheek before turning to walk back to her seat.

Chapter Text

Recap: Without thinking, Hermione stood on tiptoe and kissed Draco lightly on the cheek before turning to walk back to her seat.
.

Pansy stepped into the aisle and slid her arm into Draco’s.

“Well?”

“It’s enough, Pans.” His face broke into the warmest smile she had seen in a long time. “It’s enough for now.”

With that, the two Slytherins joined their friends in collecting bags and baggage before making their way to the carriage door.
.

The platform was awash with students, from the tiniest first years to the lankiest Weasley. Hagrid’s deep, throaty voice boomed across their heads, causing some newbies to cower in absolute terror. If only they knew he’s a pussycat, Hermione smiled to herself as she watched them.

“Eighth years! Eighth years, this way! Ginny, Luna, you too!”

The mismatched lions, snakes, and eagle lined up in front of their professor.

“‘Ello all!” The gentle giant beamed down at his favourite Gryffindors before smiling politely at the rest of the bunch. “My, my, Ron! What’s Molly feedin’ yeh? You’re nearly as tall as me! Luna, Professor McGonagall is puttin’ yeh with this lot for the year so yeh’ll be with Ginny, alrigh?”

Before Ron even had a chance to go red, or Luna hum, Hagrid continued.

“The professor wants me to bring yeh all straight up to the Castle. So follow me.”

He turned and marched off, leaving the other staff members to chaperone the rest of the returning students. The first years were to be led down to the boats by the new Defence Against the Dark Arts professor who hadn’t arrived yet.

“They shouldn’t be left on their own,” Hermione looked over to the twenty or so tiny heads. “Perhaps we could wait-”

“Merlin’s Arsehole, ‘Mione. They’re fine! Stop fucking worrying about things that don’t concern you!”

Hermione turned to Ron, aghast at his rudeness.

“How dare you! You nearly pissed yourself the first time you saw the Castle; I heard you tell Harry. What’s gotten into you?”

Ron turned red for the second time in as many minutes.

“Nothing. Forget it,” he snapped, grabbing Lavender by the hand and dragging her off to catch up with the rest of the students. The blonde witch shrugged at Hermione as she was hauled past.

“He doesn’t want us here,” Tracey commented as she caught up. “Any of us.”

The two witches walked side by side without speaking for a few moments, Hermione the first to break the silence.

“Malfoy apologised to me on the train, for everything that happened at his home.”

The Slytherin witch laughed quietly. “Malfoy Manor is not a home, Granger. It’s a cold, miserable hole that he avoids as much as possible. He told me he couldn’t stay there because of you.”

Hermione gasped. “Wh-what!”

Tracey continued as they walked up towards the school.

“He said he would think of you every time he stepped into the library, you being a complete bookworm and all,” she began. “But when he arrived, things went sour very quickly. The library was destroyed one night in temper when a raid didn’t go as planned. Another time, his magic shattered Madame Malfoy’s greenhouses. Did you know she was known across the wizarding world for her rare and exotic plants? No? It was devastating for her. But the library, well, that nearly broke Draco’s heart. He saved as many books as he could but...anyway, after the night you, Potter, and Weasley were captured, he told me he heard your screams in every room.”

Tears pricked at Hermione’s eyes as Tracey continued talking in hushed tones. The rest of the eighth years walked up the winding path in two separate groups but it seemed Switzerland had now gained herself an ally.

“He spent his summer away from the place. Would you believe Draco found a muggle village that he just fell in love with and remained there?” She laughed at the pure shock on Hermione’s face. “Honestly Granger, we didn’t believe it either. He booked into a hotel, joined the local library, read muggle literature, and poured his heart out to the landlady. Obviously, he kept some bits to himself.” She added with a smirk worthy of the Slytherin himself.

“I-I don’t know what to say!” Hermione was stunned. “He told me that he had chosen to remain silent when I was...tortured...because Voldemort threatened to give his mother to Greyback if Malfoy failed him again.”

“He wasn’t lying.”

“Oh, don’t get me wrong, I believe him,” Hermione corrected herself. “I really do. I just wish-”

Hogwarts was coming into view as Tracey stopped walking and turned to her fellow student.

“What, Hermione? What do you wish?”

The use of her given name startled Hermione somewhat but she didn’t dwell on it.

“I should have found some way to let him know I didn’t - I don’t - hold him responsible for what happened to me at his...manor. I’ve explained it, just now on the train, but I had no idea how he felt until he approached me. So, while we were all celebrating over the summer, he was-”

“You had no reason to know, Hermione, but he was broken. He still is, in a way.”

The use of Hermione’s name a second time was deliberate. Tracey decided phase one of Operation Christmas Wrapping (Blaise’s words, not hers) was to befriend the Gryffindor girls and Luna. They all referred to each other by their given names, just like she and Pansy did, so that would be their first step.

“You didn’t mind me calling you by your first name, did you?” She continued. “I just think we should make an effort this year, you know? After everything-”

Hermione realised the girl before her was trying to make amends. What sort of person would she be if she didn’t reciprocate?

“I’d be delighted to start over with you, Tracey,” she smiled, holding out her hand. “Hermione Granger, Gryffindor.”

“Tracey Davis, Slytherin. It’s an absolute pleasure.”
.

The two girls climbed the steps of the Castle and walked into the large open hallway. Professors McGonagall and Slughorn stood before them, the older witch rolling her eyes at something the bumbling wizard was going on about.

“Ah, Miss Granger, Miss Davis. Thank you for joining us.” A raised eyebrow and a stern look over half moon glasses had both girls blushing slightly, keeping their heads down. When the professor turned her back, they glanced at each other and smiled broadly.

Pansy leaned over to Theo and Blaise. “Phase one is a go.”
.

The group of students were led past the Great Hall and up several flights of stairs. Ron grabbed Harry by the arm, a wild look of panic in his eyes.

“What about the feast? Why are we not going to the feast?”

“Mate,” Harry tried not to smile. “I’m sure you’ll eat before bedtime.”

“What if I don’t! I haven’t eaten in, like, an hour!”

Their fellow Gryffindors, including Hermione, groaned at Ron’s turmoil. Luna looked concerned, asking him if the Aquavirius Maggots had started to worm their way through the walls of his stomach yet. Ron grew paler with each step he took.

Arriving at a large arched oak door, flanked on either side by paintings that depicted well known seasonal songs, the students stopped as Professor McGonagall turned to address them. Before she could open her mouth, disco music splintered the air around them as the wiccan elements of Earth, Wind, and Fire broke into the catchy ‘September’.

The paintings came alive as the elemental go-go dancers strutted their stuff around the canvasses; skimpy bikinis and platform boots in shades of the house colours had the males agape at the sheer amount of skin on display. Ron temporarily forgot his hunger. Tears were flowing down Ginny’s cheeks as she clutched Hermione’s arm for support. Pansy and Tracey had started dancing along with Parvati and Lavender. Luna was watching one go-go dancer intently, trying to copy her as the performer dry humped Wind, or was it Earth?

Professor McGonagall stood stock still, breathing through her nose and staring at the ceiling. Approximately three and a half minutes passed before the singing and dancing stopped and the various singers and dancers went off stage for a tea break.

“I can only apologise,” the old witch sighed loudly. “The Castle, it seems, is celebrating the end of the War. We have tried everything to calm the inhabitants with no luck. All I can is bear with us although I have a horrible feeling Professor Dumbledore’s portrait may be behind this entertainment.”

Now that the musical interlude was over, Ron’s stomach began to grumble. Loudly.

“This way please,” Professor McGonagall waved to the oak door. “Miss Parkinson, would you mind?

Pansy opened the door and held it back for the rest of the eighth years to step through. Once the professor followed them, she closed the door behind them leaving the corridor in silence once more.
.

The room they stepped into was large and homely; four windows faced out towards the Quidditch pitch with a large fireplace to the left and a wall of bookshelves on the right. Couches and armchairs were scattered around the room with coffee tables and floor cushions. There were two doors to their left, on either side of the fireplace. Professor McGonagall explained one led to a study room, the other to their bedrooms.

“I would like you all to relax and enjoy your meal, which will be served shortly, Mister Weasley. After that, I shall return to discuss the year ahead.”

With that, she left the room. The fourteen students took a moment to look around, each wondering where exactly they would be eating. A faint popping sound brought their attention to a small elf in a rather stylish business suit.

“Winky!” Harry exclaimed, stepping over to the little elf and kneeling down. “It’s great to see you!”

“I is very busy, Mister Harry, Sir,” the elf commented, her fuschia trouser suit swishing as she tottered across to the rest of the students. Again, the Gryffindors smiled, the Ravenclaw gazed, and the Slytherins wore similar ‘What The Fuck’ expressions.

“Can yous all stands by the walls?” Winky instructed them, waving her little arms in the direction she wanted them to go. “Now, pleases. Now.”

They shuffled across, completely stunned by the mini executive who was now ticking boxes on a clipboard and chatting into a headset.

Once the room was cleared, the couches and armchairs transfigured into cream fabric Parsons chairs and the coffee tables joined to become a large circular oak table. No matter where they sat, everyone would be equal. Hermione smiled, wondering if anyone else noticed. Looking up, she caught Draco’s eye.

“How politically correct,” he whispered.

“One less thing to worry about,” she smiled back. He began to speak again but was cut off by the bossiest elf he had ever encountered.

“Sits down, please!” She ordered the students over to the table by way of waving hands and ‘shoo’ sounds. “Kitchen? Starters pleases, thank you. Pardon? Oh, yes, I is checking now.”

The little elf sashayed over to Harry, teetering slightly in her high-heeled sandals.

“Mister Harry, does Mister Ron still eats so much?”

Harry sighed, smiling despite himself. “You have no idea, Winky.”

“Kitchen? Dinner is for fifteen, nots fourteen.”
.

The dining table may have been round but the division between the students was still quite obvious that first hour and conversation was seriously lacking over the Caesar salad. It seemed as if everyone wanted to speak, to break the ice, but nerves got in the way. As the empty plates cleared, and Ron asked Dean did he know how long they’d have to wait for the main course, Pansy spoke up.

“Well everyone, there’s a proverbial hippogriff in the room so I suggest we address it now and get it over with.”

The rest of the students looked at her but, for a moment, no one answered. Eventually, clearing his throat, Harry responded.

“I think that would be a good idea, Parkinson-”

“Before we begin,” Hermione interrupted with an apologetic glance at The Boy Who Spoke First, “can we start to use each other’s given names? It seems a bit more...friendly, doesn’t it?” She looked around the group for their reactions, knowing Tracey would support her suggestion.

Parvati was the first to answer. “I agree with Hermione, Dean?”

“Absolutely,” her boyfriend answered, looking over at Pansy. “If you guys are up for it?”

“I am,” the dark haired witch smiled, turning to Tracey who nodded back.

“I agree...Hermione,” Theo spoke next, his cheeks flushing slightly, “but it may take a little getting used to.”

She smiled back. “No doubt, but it’ll be a start.”

No one else agreed, neither did they speak up against the idea, so Hermione took that as a success.

“Pansy,” she continued. “What were you going to say earlier?”

Just as the Slytherin was about to speak, the main course appeared in front of them. Eyeing Ron’s rapid response to the arrival of more food, she burst out laughing.

“Perhaps it’ll wait until we’re finished our meal. Would you agree, Ron?”

Through stuffed cheeks and the frantic cutting of chicken, Ron could only nod.
.

A note from Professor McGonagall explained she would not be able to meet up with them after the meal due to the Sorting Hat taking considerably longer than usual to get through its welcoming song (which was now accompanied by a conjured showband and backing singers), and an impromptu union meeting of the portraits that guarded the dormitories (they were looking for holiday pay and dental cover). She suggested they all enjoy the evening in their new common room and “spend the time together wisely.”

Once dessert was over, Winky popped back into the room. Waving frantically and ticking more boxes, she ushered the bemused students over towards the wall again. With that, the oak table separated into the coffee tables once more and the Parsons chairs changed back into the various couches and armchairs.

Hermione knelt down beside the recovering alcoholic and whispered in the little elf’s ear. Winky nodded, ticked a box, and the furniture in the room started to rearrange itself. Two couches now faced the large fireplace with the armchairs on either side. The U-shaped arrangement surrounded the coffee tables that were now formed into one.

“I just thought it would be nice for tonight if we were more comfortable as we talked,” Hermione replied to the unspoken questions on the faces of her fellow students as cafetières and teapots appeared on the enlarged table with plates of biscuits and cakes.

“Brilliant idea, Gra-Hermione,” Blaise complimented her, “shall I be Mother?”

With that, Winky popped away and the fourteen students made their way over to the couches and armchairs. Once they were seated and served coffee or tea by Blaise, who entertained them with impressions of McGonagall as he did so, Pansy cleared her throat.

“Right, well, I’ll start.” Turning to the Boy Who Was Dipping A Digestive, she began. “H-Harry, I owe you an apology. I don’t expect you to forgive me; what I did the night of the Battle was out of...desperation, I think. I just-”

She put down her teacup and clasped her hands in front of her. This was harder than she thought it would be. Over the next ten minutes, she detailed the torture she had endured at the hands of the Carrows and, for the first time, admitted she had been raped by Corban Yaxley. Tracey broke into sobs upon hearing this and a tearful Blaise held his girlfriend close as she shook. Pansy reached over to hold her best friend’s hand as she continued.

“I don’t think we can ever really explain what it’s like to be brought up in a pure-blood culture like ours. Tracey was terrified of us in first year as she was the only half-blood amongst us. Theo and Draco wouldn’t even look at her.”

The two Slytherins hung their heads at this comment until Tracey, wiping her eyes, looked up.

“And now, I couldn’t imagine life without them,” she smiled warmly at her boyfriend’s best friends.

Theo bit his lower lip, the pain and embarrassment showing in his eyes. He spoke to Tracey first before looking around to make sure everyone in the room heard him.

“Think about what it’s like to be an only child, spending all of your time with your parents. They do no wrong in your eyes; they’re the first people you know. At least, you think you do. They become your idols, don’t they? You want to be like them, exactly like them, because they’re always right.”

Various heads nodded around the room - Draco, Blaise, Hermione, Neville, and Luna.

“But they’re not always right,” he continued, a hint of desperation in his voice. “They make mistakes; big, fucking massive, mistakes! But you’re so blinded by obedience that you don’t see these mistakes until it’s too fucking late. You’re in too deep then, with no way out.” Theo sipped his coffee, his hand slightly shaking as he set the cup down on its saucer. “No fucking way out.”

Neville was the first to speak for the Gryffindors.

“My grandmother had two uncles who felt the same way about pure-blood traditions. They were raised in a very strict household but she was the only one who didn’t agree with the doctrine their parents were teaching them so she kept her mouth shut and her eyes open. If she had believed that...that crap, my life could have been very different and I’d be in your position now. We’ve all suffered enough, don’t you all agree?”

He turned to his fellow Gryffindors. Hermione was staring into her coffee, tears slowly sliding down her cheek. Parvati and Lavender were holding hands and softly crying too. The boys were looking at the floor from different angles, the carpet’s pattern looking very appealing in that moment. Luna was now knitting.

Pansy stood up and walked over to where Neville was sitting. Leaning down, she gently kissed his cheek. ‘Thank you.”

He smiled back at the tearful witch, squeezing her hand before she moved away.

Harry spoke next, detailing his life in the cupboard under the stairs. “Most of the rest you know but this is really the only place I know as home. Well, this and the Burrow.” He added, winking at Ginny. “I used to wish I could have the first eleven years of my life Obliviated but, I guess, they helped shape the person I am today. In a way my upbringing was like yours, Draco.”

This was unexpected. Harry Potter looked directly at Draco Malfoy and continued speaking. Breaths were held.

“You were reared in a - I won’t say ‘home’ - a house where Muggles and Muggle-borns were scum of the earth. You heard it constantly and you were brainwashed by ignorance. Most of Slytherin House was, for years.” He glanced at Tracey, nodding slightly. “I was reared in a house where my parents were referred to as freaks because of their magic. The only difference was I fought back and challenged them. It was easy for me to do that as there was no love lost between me and my remaining family but I know it would have been impossible for you.”

“I don’t deserve your forgiveness,” Draco replied, his voice tinged with sadness. “I was weak all along. This is what happened to me when I didn’t stand up for myself so I couldn’t bear the thoughts of being brave. That makes me a coward.”

He stood up abruptly, removing his jumper and slipping off his tie.

“Mate,” Blaise stood up, placing his hand on Draco’s arm. “Don’t.”

“I have to.”

Draco opened the buttons of his shirt, a strained look on his face as he repeated “I have to.”

He remained still for a moment before removing the garment completely and turning around.

Cries and shouts of disgust echoed around the room.

Draco’s back was a mess of scars, crisscrossing in every direction from his neck to the belt of his jeans.

“This was done by my aunt. After you escaped from my...Malfoy Manor.”

He put his shirt back on, throwing his jumper and tie on the back of his chair.

“She was rather...displeased...as you can imagine,” he continued as he turned to face the rest of the group.

His fellow Slytherins knew of his injuries but they were still affected by seeing Draco’s scars again. Around the couches and armchairs, the Gryffindors were visibly upset by the sight. Luna kept knitting but her hands shook slightly as she cast off. Neville leaned over and rubbed her arm gently.

Hermione was the most affected by Draco’s scars. Ron moved over to the arm of her chair, patting her shoulder as she sobbed uncontrollably into her hands. Draco knelt down in front of her. Gently taking her hands in his, he lowered them down to look at her.

“Hey, hey, hush. There’s no need to cry over me. If this was my only punishment for all the years of grief I caused you and your friends, then I got off lightly,” he smiled warmly. “I’ll suffer it all again in a heartbeat, if it meant you could escape. All of you.”

Ron wasn’t easily swayed. “You put her through hell for years! We were on different sides of a war, not just the bloody playground. I heard her screams, Malfoy. What the fuck did you do? You deserve the fucking scars! And more-”

Ron stood, running his hands through his hair in frustration. “I can’t...I can’t do this.”

He went to march out but Lavender stepped in front of him, her hands planted .

“You will not leave, Ronald Weasley. You need to listen. We all need to listen.”

Pushing the stubborn idiot back towards his seat, Lavender turned to Draco who had now stood up but remained right beside Hermione.

“It’s hard...for all of us. It’ll take time.”

Draco nodded before addressing Ron again. “I apologised to Hermione on the train for what happened that night. My mother was going to Greyback if I intervened.”

Ginny gasped, grabbing Harry’s arm. “It makes sense now. We all thought you couldn’t be bothered to help Hermione. We thought the worst of you.”

“I think the worst of myself. As it was, I knew there would be some punishment because Potter, Harry, had my wand. If I helped Hermione, I would have watched my mother get bitten and raped by a rabid psychopath. Because you all escaped, I got these,” he shrugged his shoulders before turning to face Hermione again. “I’m just so, so sorry you got hurt.”

He knelt down in front of her again and reached up to cup her face with both hands, his thumbs gently wiping away her tears. It was a bold move; Draco fully expected Ron, or maybe Harry, to vault across the coffee table and drag him away. Nothing happened, except Hermione reached up and held onto his wrists.

“I told you on the train that I understood and I forgive you.” She smiled tenderly, his gentle touch giving her hope.

“In a heartbeat,” he repeated, whispering so no one else could hear. “Always.”

It wasn’t perfect but it was a start; for all of them. For some it would take longer to forgive although no one would ever forget. And, as the night wore on, barriers and brick walls were slowly broken down between the Gryffindors and the Slytherins. Luna finished the left glove and began work on the right.

Chapter Text

After the tears subsided and friendships forged - albeit reluctantly by one - the students decided to take a look around the rest of their large dormitory.

As Professor McGonagall had indicated, the doors on either side of the fireplace led to the bedrooms and a study. The fourteen bedrooms were all decorated the same; neutral shades of white and pale grey with modern dark grey furniture. Black accent colours for the boys, pale blue for the girls. It seemed the house elves had taken a leaf out of a minimalist interior design magazine and gone to town. Although, after Winky’s appearance earlier, nothing would be a surprise.

There was a double divan bed in each room - causing many an eyebrow to disappear into hairlines - with a pair of side tables, a freestanding bookcase, and a large wardrobe. With no other room for desks or chairs, the general consensus was studying and socialising together would be definitely encouraged.

The study itself was about half the size of the common area and home to fourteen cubicles that took up the centre of the room. Each cubicle housed an oak veneered desk with a set of matching drawers underneath on one side and a metal wastepaper basket on the other. The desk partitions were made of thick fabric, making ideal notice boards. High back rolling office chairs, in charcoal grey leather, with stainless steel legs finished off the look.

The pure-blood witches and wizards were initially surprised by the modernity of the bedrooms but they were rendered speechless by the unfamiliarity and dullness of the study’s layout and contents. The Muggle-born and half-bloods were highly amused, trying desperately to keep in the laughter as they all claimed their study areas in the 1990’s office-style room.

“Only things missing are the vending machines,” Harry quipped. “Plastic-cupped Cappuccino anyone?”

Obviously they didn’t all get the joke.
.

Once the shock of having to study at a veneered desk had passed, Pansy brought up the topic of the bedrooms.

“I assume everyone noticed the double beds?”

“I take it that means we can be more...sociable,” Blaise grinned at Tracey, winking suggestively. His girlfriend rolled her eyes.

“Perhaps it’s like the regular dorms,” Ginny suggested. “You know, the girls can walk into the boys’ rooms but not the other way around.”

“Well, I don’t want my balls hexed off so I’m not volunteering to try it,” Ron interjected.

The rest of the boys nodded emphatically.

“Oh, for Godric’s sake!” Hermione exclaimed. “Ginny turned 17 last month, so-”

Nope, they didn’t get it.

“Seriously?” She looked around at each of their puzzled faces. “No one? Ginny is the youngest. She’s now 17, so-”

“She can have sex!” Luna exclaimed, causing both Harry and Ginny to compete for the ‘Most Embarrassed Expressions of 1998.’ Ron was in a category of his own - ‘Most Likely to Vomit.’

“We’re all adults now,” Hermione continued, drawing everyone’s attention away from the Boy Who Turned Into A Tomato and his girlfriend. “I guess we’re allowed to...em...act like adults.”

“Perhaps we should test out your theory,” Tracey suggested. “Just in case.”

The girls made their way towards the door leading to the bedrooms. The boys stayed put.

“Perhaps, we could...em...ask McGonagall in the morning?” Neville muttered.

Theo got there first. “Hey, Headmistress. Thanks for the timetable, shame about the double Potions. By the way, can the lads shag their girlfriends in their rooms only? Or is it a complete free-for-all?”

Between the howls of laughter, and the slightly reddened cheeks of the normally quiet Slytherin, Draco stepped forward.

“Hermione,” he grinned. “Care to invite me into your bedroom?”
.

Once Draco had stepped over the threshold of her room, and lived to tell the tale (balls intact), everyone decided to retire. For the couples, there was a mad dash for the bathrooms at the end of the hall followed by whispers of “your room or mine?”

That left a few bemused, but slightly embarrassed students, standing in Hermione’s doorway.

Lavender quietly bid them goodnight and walked towards her new room. Ron followed, grabbing her hand as she reached her door.

“Lav, can we talk?”

“Do we have anything to say to each other, Ron? You’re too angry; I can’t deal with that. Please, sort yourself out first.”

He wrinkled his nose, reaching his free hand up to rub the back of his neck as he stared at the carpet.

“Yeah-”

“I’m serious, Ron. What we heard tonight was-,” she sighed, her eyes tinged with sadness. “We all suffered! They’re no different.”

“That’s not-”

“I know. I know what you’re angry about. No one can help you, except yourself now.”

Lavender gently pulled her hand from his grip.

“I’m here when you’re ready. But you’re not ready yet.”

“Yeah, Lav. I’m sorry.”

He turned, shoulders slumped, and returned to the common room. Sitting with his head in his hands by the dying fire, Ron silently wept.
.

Following the departure of Lavender and Ron, Pansy also said goodnight to Hermione, Draco, and Theo, and made her way to the girls’ bathroom.

“Can I have everyone’s attention please?” She drawled as she strolled down the hall. “Can all you undersexed fuckers make sure to put up a Silencio? I’ve no desire to hear creaking headboards and faked orgasms.”

Hermione, Draco, and Theo burst out laughing at Pansy’s announcement.

“She’ll never change,” Theo chuckled, noticing a determined look in Draco’s eye. “Ah, my cue to leave. Goodnight Hermione, Draco.”

Once he was gone, Draco waved his hand towards the door.

“I should-”

“Wait,” Hermione walked over to her trunk, retrieving a wad of parchment. “I have to go to the Owlery with these. Will you walk with me?”

He smiled warmly. “Sure.”
.

They walked in silence along the corridors and up numerous staircases, each lost in their own thoughts. Draco never asked why Hermione had such a thick roll of parchment in her hands and she didn’t offer any explanation. She had managed to write the next four chapters of her Time Wars fan fiction so that would give her some space to compile a schedule for study and writing - colour coded, of course. It would also keep Janice happy for the next month or so.

It was only when they were leaving the Owlery that Draco broke the surprisingly comfortable calmness.

“Thank you, for accepting my apology. You have no idea what it means to me.”

“We have all been victims in this war, regardless of what side we started out on.”

Her words were chosen carefully and they didn’t go unnoticed.

“I don’t deserve-”

“You do, Draco. You deserve forgiveness. You deserve forgiveness and-and a long and happy life with someone who l-loves you and will make you glad to be alive.”

The words had flowed and she was embarrassed by how passionate they sounded.

“I’m sorry, it’s been quite an emotional night.”

Draco took her hand in his. “It has, hasn’t it? I have so much to say to you but I’m afraid if I start now I’ll never stop.”

Hermione felt her heart skip.

“It-it would be nice to get to know you; the real you,” she replied, trying to keep her voice level.”

“I’m a scarred shell,” he began. “A Death Eater’s son with a past full of anger and regret. Perhaps you’d like to get to know the new Draco Malfoy instead; the one who is trying to make amends and pick up the pieces.”

“The old Draco Malfoy was crying out for help,” Hermione smiled as she noticed they were still holding hands. “I saw that. I may have been the only one who did, I don’t know, but I did nothing. I-I was scared to approach you, even though I really wanted to...help you.” She took a deep breath, looking up to search his face for understanding. “I should ask you for forgiveness too - for ignoring your pain.”

Draco couldn’t speak, his mind whirring at what she had just said.

“No one knew what I was going through, no one. How could-”

Hermione guided him over to a window seat, just outside the library, and sat down.

“You called me a Mudblood with such venom in your voice but your eyes were almost...sad when you did. Like you had to say it but you didn’t want to? Am I making sense?”

Draco was leaning against the seat, his hand still firmly holding hers. He nodded gently so Hermione continued.

“You ripped a page from a book at Flourish and Blotts the day your father gave Ginny Tom Riddle’s diary, remember? I saw you do it and I was so outraged that anyone would do such a thing,” she laughed at the memory of her twelve-year-old precocious self. “I found the book and gave it to one of the staff members so no one else would accidently buy a damaged book. It was called Mythological Hybrids in their Actual Environments by Regulus Blewitt.”

Draco bit his lower lip, his gaze now fully focused on a cracked flagstone.

“I found that slip of paper in my bag one evening after you and your friends shoved me into a stack in that room,” she pointed towards the library doors. “Draco, look at me.”

He turned his head slowly, afraid to look to Hermione in the eye. She’d see the truth.

“That page was about Basilisks. It was you who helped us.”

“Hermione-”

She didn’t stop.

“At the Quidditch World Cup, you warned us about what was going to happen - in a typically Malfoy way - but you gave us time to escape. You gave your wand to Harry that night, he didn’t take it. I also...em...I spoke to Moaning Myrtle, she told me how...upset you were during sixth year.”

Hermione felt his grip loosen and she panicked that he might walk away. Hopping down from the window sill, she stood right in front of him and refused to let go of his hand.

“I’m sorry, Draco, I don’t mean to embarrass you. Please believe me. I need to apologise to you for not acknowledging your help; I didn’t tell Harry or Ron, I didn’t go to Dumbledore, I-”

“What about all the other shit, Hermione? What about the-the insults, the torment? What about the fact I left you on the ground and did nothing? NOTHING!”

“You saved your mother! You saved your family! Blood is thicker than water, Draco. Of course, you needed to save your mother!”

Without thinking, Draco pulled Hermione forward into his embrace. His arms drew her in, holding her close as if she’d float away if he let her go. He buried his face in her curls, sighing heavily.

“I wanted to save you.”
.

Hermione Granger was sure of two things in her life. The first was her absolute faith in the power of knowledge and the second was how she felt about Draco Malfoy.

She watched from the sidelines as he endured his years at Hogwarts - miserable, angry, and lashing out. He told her repeatedly he hated her but the force of his convictions did not show in his eyes; behind every slur, every insult, was a tormented soul crying for help. She should have done something - anything - but her typical Gryffindor bravado failed her. Hermione managed to convince herself that she had too much to contend with - the darkest wizard of all time, Harry and Ron, and her studies (although not always in that order).

Saving one Slytherin, who probably wouldn’t thank her, was just too much to handle. For the only time in her life, she was afraid to be strong.

So she watched. At first Hermione thought she was just feeling sorry for him - this angry boy so full of hate and venom - but the incident with his father changed her mind. It was early in their second year; she had borrowed Harry’s invisibility cloak to sneak back to the library after hours when she came across Lucius Malfoy dragging his son down a secluded corridor. Naturally, she followed and observed the older man push the child up against a stone wall.

“Draco, Professor Snape tells me you came second in your Potions examination...again.”

“Yes, Father.”

“And may I ask who was placed...first?”

“Father, I-”

“Answer the question, Draco.”

“Please, Father-”

SMACK! A sob followed as Draco picked himself up from the floor, his head bleeding from the cut caused by Lucius Malfoy’s cane.

“Answer. The. Question.”

“Gr-Granger.”

“The Mudblood came first, Draco,” Lucius gritted his teeth. “Care to explain why?”

“Father, she-she is really clever. She’s brilliant! No one can-”

“You imbecile! You worthless excuse...HOW DARE YOU! A Mudblood, boy! A filthy dirty excuse for a-”

Hermione didn’t hear the rest of the conversation as Lucius quickly cast a Silencio but she witnessed the physical abuse that followed, tears blurring the atrocity in front of her. As Lucius continued his tirade, Draco tried to fend off the blows to his head but his father was too strong.

When Draco fell to the ground again, Lucius grabbed his wand and pointed it at the shaking heap. Hermione didn’t need to hear the curse, she could tell what it was from the agony showing on Draco’s face. It was heartbreaking.

Stepping back, Lucius cancelled the Silencio with a lazy wave of his hand.

“We do not compliment scum, Draco. You will remember that. I have eyes and ears everywhere.” He bent down to the bleeding boy, grabbing his hair savagely. “I expect...better.”

He stood up and walked away, leaving his son crying desperately on the stone floor.

Hermione had cried into her pillow for most of that night. She hadn’t dared approach Draco after his father’s departure but she did follow him as he stumbled towards the dungeons. In the days after, he came at her with more insults - more threats - and she played her part accordingly.

For the rest of the school year, and the years that followed, she played her part.

She also followed, often finding him curled in a ball in that same corridor crying for his mother. Under Harry’s cloak, she would sit near and let the tears join his as he sobbed.

Hermione also witnessed his bravery; the information about the Basilisk, the warning at the Quidditch World Cup, and the refusal to acknowledge Harry at Malfoy Manor. His failure to kill Dumbledore was a sign of his reluctance to follow the orders of a madman, his weak attempts only carried out to keep up appearances.

She kept following, she kept watching; despite all the pressures he was under, he still tried to help.

She watched and followed because Draco Malfoy was as brave as Harry Potter, and she cared.

At time passed, Hermione realised that she watched and followed because she loved.
.

Being held in his arms was a feeling she would take to her grave; Hermione closed her eyes, feeling safe and protected in Draco’s embrace. She slipped her arms around his back and held tight.

Neither of them moved, both holding onto the person they loved.

“Where you at, Missus Norris, eh?” Argus Filch’s voice echoed along the corridor.

“Run,” Draco whispered to Hermione, releasing her and grabbing her hand.

They ran like they hadn’t a care in the world, laughing like the teenagers they should have been.
.

The portraits were silent as they ran by but whispers spread along to Headmistress McGonagall’s office where the late Albus Dumbledore smiled broadly. He had also watched and followed.

Chapter Text

The next morning saw thirteen students sitting around the circular table helping themselves to cereal and toast. The cafetières and teapots were floating around in front of them, tilting to serve automatically as cups emptied.

Shy smiles spread as the couples in love still basked in the morning after glow. No words were spoken but gentle touches and delicate kisses didn’t go unnoticed, especially by Pansy who made a point of thanking them all for their expert use of Silencio as she had never slept so peacefully.

Draco winked at Hermione as he sat down, causing butterflies to erupt and her cheeks to burn violently. She had remained awake for hours after they said goodnight, her body still tingling from his brief embrace.

Always.

I wanted to save you.

In a heartbeat.

She had also cried, reliving the moment over and over again when he had revealed his scars.

I’m a scarred shell.

She wanted so much to tell him he meant everything to her but...what if he didn’t feel the same? Well, she knew without a doubt she would accept his friendship if that was all he had to offer.

In the bedroom next to Hermione’s, Draco had gone through to the same emotions - the same feelings and insecurities. At one stage he had reached out and touched the wall, knowing her bed was directly on the other side although he had no way of knowing that she had done the very same thing.
.

So, the atmosphere around the breakfast table was relaxed and calm; stresses of the previous night put to rest. Only Ron was quiet; he was trying to make eye contact with Lavender but she continued her conversation with Blaise and Tracey, purposefully not looking his way.

“You need to talk it out,” Ginny leaned closer to her brother, turning away from The Boy Who Got Laid.

Ron stared into his tea cup and shook his head.

“I-I can’t, Gin, it’s too-”

“What? Embarrassing? Awkward? Come on, Ron! I think we heard enough last night to realise what you’re feeling is like a drop in the ocean compared to what the Slytherins went through.”

Ron opened his mouth but Ginny raised her hand to stop him, continuing in a most Molly Weasley-like way.

“You had no bloody right to lash out at Mal-Draco; Hermione’s accepted his apology and we all understand now why he didn’t help her. Look at his scars! What have you got? A bruised ego and a shit load of guilt. He,” she waved in Draco’s direction, “has a hell of a lot more guilt on his conscience and he did the right thing - he spoke about it. You should try it and stop feeling sorry for yourself.”

He watched the teapot refill his cup and added a drop of milk before continuing.

“Healer Hubble told me the same; I need to talk to Harry and Hermione about it. I-I just can’t do it, Gin. What I did-”

“Was the result of carrying a cursed locket,” she interrupted. “It wasn’t really you.”

“But it must have been me at some stage for the jealousy and anger to fester in the first place, yeah?”

Ginny drank the last of her coffee, holding out the cup for the cafetière to float over and refill it.

“Perhaps, Ron, but only you can decide if you want to keep that bottled up inside you for the rest of your life.”

She looked over to the other side of the large table where Theo was now chatting with Lavender, his smile widening as she laughed at whatever he had just said.

And Ronald Weasley fucks up again, Ginny thought, biting into her toast.
.

“Parvati, is Dean okay?” Harry enquired. “Has he had breakfast?”

The dark-skinned Gryffindor laughed.

“Oh, he’s perfectly fine,” she replied. “He was up at the crack of dawn acting like a child on Christmas Day, Harry. I have no idea what he’s up to but he said he’d be back before breakfast was over.”

As if by magic, her boyfriend breezed in the door.

“Yep, they’ve officially lost it,” he quipped, grabbing a slice of toast from Parvati’s plate. “The go-go dancers are now practising the harmonies to ‘Drunk at New Year’ and giving it plenty of-”

He proceeded to act out what the go-go dancers were giving it plenty of.

“That song is class!” Blaise burst out laughing. “I love the Hobgoblins!”

“I thought the songs were seasonal,” Hermione looked up from her book. “What’s that got to do with this month?”

Laughter rippled around the table. “Don’t you know the song?” Neville enquired.

“Em, no,” she replied. “I don’t really like wizarding music.”

“But we have the best lyrics, Hermione,” Tracey jumped up and ran over to the door, listening for a moment before joining in with the song that was now playing in the hallway.

Drunk at New Year
Crate loads of beer
You opened your can
Yeah! I took it like a man

You were not shy
Then nine months go by
Drunk at New Year
Thanks for the souvenir

“Give me Celestina Warbeck anyday!” Hermione gasped, amid the howls of laughter. “I rather listen to her ‘I’m Just a Snitch to your Seeker’ on repeat!”
.

Minerva McGonagall took a deep breath before stepping away from her desk.

“Well, I suppose it’s time,” she sighed, taking one more glance at the sleeping portrait of Albus Dumbledore. “Typical of you to leave this all to me. Merlin knows what I’m walking into this morning.”

She gently closed her office door behind her and stepped onto the moving staircase.

Dumbledore cracked an eye.

“Before you ask,” Severus Snape remarked, “she has gone, Albus. And, yes, I do believe you have sent her into a nest of hormonal Hoo-hoos.”

“Ah, Severus,” the old Headmaster smiled as he straightened himself in his wingback chair. “You should have more faith in me. Whilst you were visiting the portrait of a certain Eglantine Price, the portraits around the Owlery and the Library had a lot of interesting news to share. Did you remember to give Miss Price my very best wishes?”

The younger portrait huffed slightly and returned to the book he was reading, his pale cheeks ever so slightly coloured.
.

Rock music threatened to deafen the Headmistress as she approached the door leading to the eighth year common room. Rolling her eyes and praying to Circe for patience, she opened the door.

In all her years - as a student, a Professor, and now a Headmistress - Minerva McGonagall never witnessed anything like the scene before her. Eight Gryffindors, five Slytherins, and one Ravenclaw were sitting or moving around the large dining table, eating breakfast, chatting and laughing as if they hadn’t a care in the world. She stood in the shadows for a moment and observed, the smile on her face growing as she watched.

Theo and Lavender were still chatting and laughing, her hand resting on his arm as she spoke. Luna was showing Parvati and Pansy a knitting pattern and the older witch was sure she heard the Slytherin ask ‘can you do it in emerald green for me?’ Tracey and Dean were laughing so hard, tears were running down their cheeks. Ginny, Harry, and Blaise were having an animated conversation about Quidditch, using charmed knives and forks to demonstrate various defensive positions. Neville was deep in conversation with Ron, the latter looking sheepish and rather ill.

What surprised her the most, however, was Draco Malfoy in deep conversation with Hermione Granger - the pair apparently discussing the book he was waving in his hand.

“Oh, come on, there is no way Creed was a better agent than Lucas, Draco! How can you say that?”

Did Miss Granger just call him-

“He wasn’t as attached to Finn and Andre so he couldn’t be compromised, Hermione. Look what Lucas did in Zenda when she was captured in the moat!”

Did he-

“He was in love with her! They just hadn’t admitted-”

“Ahem.”

The students turned at once, standing as soon as they realised their Headmistress was present.

“Well,” she began. “I suggested you all spend your time wisely last night in the hope there would be no bloodshed. I-I do believe I’m at a loss for words.”

Neville held out a chair for her. “Bit of a surprise, Headmistress?”

“You could say that, Mister Longbottom,” she gratefully sat down. “Would someone care to explain how this-this miracle has occurred?”

“Well,” Pansy began. “We could all spend the coming year ignoring the proverbial hippogriff in the room and live in an atmosphere worthy of Gilles de Rais’ dungeons, but we decided instead to spend the evening pouring our hearts out and having a good ol’ cry. So, like true Hufflepuffs, we hugged it out and sang campfire songs.”

The Headmistress took a moment to compose herself, looking around at the students before her. They had been through so much since they had started at Hogwarts; some more than others but all scarred in different ways.

“I can only commend your maturity and thank Merlin for small mercies,” she announced, wondering how she was going to inform Albus of this...improvement. No doubt the old codger would be insufferable, having predicted the students would find a way to get on with each other. Although, how he came to that conclusion, she would never know!

With a swift flick of her wand, she conjured up timetables and a large roll of parchment; the former floating over to each student, the latter unfurling in the air before her.

“We have a lot to go through before classes so, please sit, and we’ll begin.”

They all sat down at the circular table, the dishes automatically disappearing.

“Firstly, I have decided that prefect and head duties will be allocated to seventh years so you will not have additional tasks this term. Secondly, Professor Dumbledore’s portrait and I had a meeting recently with Edward Crowley, the current Head of the Wizarding Examinations Authority at the Ministry of Magic. It was decided that, in light of the troublesome years you have all experienced here at Hogwarts, you will be subjected to continuous assessment during your final year. Providing your grades in every class are Acceptable or higher, you will not be required to sit your NEWTs as Hogwarts and the Ministry will automatically pass you. Failure to maintain these grades will result in you joining the seventh year curriculum and sitting the exams in June.”

She paused to let that sink in. Nobody spoke.

“You do not, however, have a choice in the subjects that will be taught; you must attend Potions, Charms, Herbology, Transfiguration, Defence Against the Dark Arts, and Muggle Studies. And, before you ask Miss Granger, you may not overload your schedule with extra classes. Professors Slughorn, Flitwick, and Sprout will be teaching their usual subjects. I will, of course, remain your Transfiguration Professor. We have a new Professor for Defence Against the Dark Arts. He was supposed to arrive yesterday but has been delayed and should be here by tomorrow morning at the latest. Finally, Professor Pickles will share Muggle Studies along with Mister Thomas.”

They all looked around at Dean who grinned, his eyes full of mischief.

“Now, that will be all for the moment,” the Headmistress stood. “Your first class should begin shortly so I’d advise you all to prepare. Mister Thomas, will you please remain behind? The elves will be with you shortly. One more thing, spells will be placed to ensure no-one - Mister Weasley - has any help with their work. Do I make myself clear?”

She walked towards to door, pausing and turning back to them.

“I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of you all. You are...exceptional, every one of you.”

Her eyes glistened as she walked away.

Twelve students instantly turned on the thirteenth.

“What the fuck-”

“Seriously, man-”

“Do we have to call you-”

“Muggle-”

“Professor?”

The other student sat with his head in his hands wondering how the fuck he was going to pass every subject.
.

Dean Thomas’ shit-eating grin never left his face. He refused to answer any questions but told them to be back in the common room after lunch.

They all left with confused faces, accompanied by the dulcet tones of Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians singing “September in the Rain.”

“Excuses please! Excuses!”

A dozen house-elves marched by, wearing navy blue overalls, and levitating large boxes in front of them. Another four elves followed behind pushing a trolley with even more packages on top. Winky trotted along beside them, waving her clipboard and issuing instructions.

“Good morning,” Hermione smiled as the elves went by.

They all looked but said nothing. Winky ushered them on with more orders and endless ticks.

“They’re still terrified of you,” Ginny laughed. “You’re officially blacklisted!”

“What did you do, Hermione?” Tracey asked, as they continued walking towards their first class.

“Oh! Oh! Let me, let me!” Ginny bounced up and down, before launching into the history of S.P.E.W. By the time they all reached the Charms classroom, they were all laughing again - including the self-professed Saviour of All House-Elves.

“And I suppose you pure-bloods still have your house-elves?” She enquired.

“Mione,” Harry warned, “please don’t ruin-”

“It’s alright, Harry,” Hermione sighed. “I was...young and ignorant of the traditions associated with house-elves. And...maybe...a little over enthusiastic,” she trailed off.

“Maybe?” He put his arms around her shoulders. “The house-elves refused to clean Gryffindor Tower; it got...dusty!”

Theo was the first pure-blood to comment.

“Our elves were murdered,” he looked down at the floor. “So were the elves at Pansy’s. The-He went on a rampage after Lucius’ elf saved you from Malfoy Manor.”

“My mother has two elves in Italy with her,” Blaise offered. “They have been with us since I was a baby - Mildred and Maud. They’re part of the family.”

“My grandmother has her elf, Foofie, since she got married. He belonged to my grandfather originally,” Neville added. “Although she insisted I learned to do things for myself, he helped rear me.”

Draco looked at Harry. “Dobby belonged to my father before you...set him free. He was...well, we all suffered his loss. My mother and I loved our elves; they were treated well until...the end.”

Silence engulfed them as they each took a moment to consider the cruelty of a madman. The reticence broken when Professor Flitwick opened the door to her classroom.
.

The morning flew by, with Potions and Herbology following Charms. By lunchtime, they were all starving and looking forward to a break in the Great Hall. It would also be their first time to meet the rest of the students so the Gryffindors and Ravenclaw were in particularly joyful moods. The Slytherins held back.

“Maybe we should just head back up to the common room,” Tracey suggested.

“If that’s what Trace wants to do, guys, then-” Blaise started.

Lavender linked arms with Theo. “We’re a team now,” she smiled. “Who cares what they think?”

“We’ll all sit together,” Hermione urged Pansy and Tracey forward. “Anyone who comments will have to answer to the rest of us.”

Draco stalled, walking a little slower than the rest. Luna moved closer to him.

“She’s determined to be strong for you, Draco.”

“You’re all being very supportive of-” he began.

“And you’re not listening. Hermione’s aura is completely pink around you. Isn’t it obvious?”

Before he could answer, Harry had pushed open the large doors leading into the Great Hall.

The Hall still looked the same, despite the many repairs carried out before the end of the summer holidays; four long house tables stretched out before them with the teachers’ table traversing the room. The only addition was another table below that of the teachers’, which the Headmistress was now pointing to.

Hermione led the charge. The lions and eagle walked towards the extra table with their heads high, the snakes followed quietly behind finding the floor tiles and their own shoes particularly fascinating. As they took their seats, Minerva McGonagall’s voice echoed around the room.

“Before we begin our first lunch together, I want you all to listen very carefully. I witnessed an event this morning that I honestly never thought I would see here at Hogwarts. If our eighth year students can put aside their differences, after all they have been through, and vow to begin again, if you like, then I think the rest of you can definitely do the same. As I said in my welcoming speech last night, this is a year of forgiveness and starting over. These students are leading by example, you will all do well to take a leaf from their book.”

Silence ensued, until a few Hufflepuffs stood up and began to clap. The Ravenclaws joined in, followed by the rest of Hufflepuff house. The Gryffindors were next, although it took a little longer before the Slytherins rose to applaud. The fourteen students were in shock, sitting with red faces and tearful expressions. The five Slytherins were visibly shook by the support offered to them by the rest of the school; Blaise held Tracey close, not knowing what to say. Theo held onto Pansy’s hand, neither one able to speak. Draco stared down at his plate, wishing he was back in the comfort of their common room.

Hermione, who was seated beside him, reached across and squeezed his arm briefly; his skin tingling underneath his shirt. Neville leaned in from Draco’s other side, just as the applause was subsiding and lunch appeared in front of the starving students.

“I hate this - being the centre of attention,” he mumbled. “After killing Nagini, the Prophet hounded me for weeks for an interview and Topiaria Today wanted me on their cover for June and July! Honestly, I mean, I hate snakes as much as the next-” Neville’s eyes went wide. “I’m-shit-I’m-”

To everyone’s surprise, Draco threw back his head and laughed out loud.

“I am the next person, Neville! The thing was fucking terrifying!”

“Hey, what did Nagini and Voldemort have in common?” Parvati starting laughing before she could get the punchline out.

“I would imagine you were going to say something about them sharing the same nose,” Luna observed. “Am I right?”

Even at the far end of the Great Hall, the students could hear the raucous laughter coming from the eighth years’ table. Stunned expressions and looks of pure bewilderment spread around the room as lunch continued.
.

Stuffing his mouth with the last of his beef sandwich, Ron nudged Lavender.

“Whassubetnet?”

“Excuse me?”

“He means to ask what subject is next, Lav,” Harry interrupted. “I, unfortunately, happen to be fluent in Ron.”

Lavender couldn’t shift the look of disgust on her face as she informed Ron that an extended Muggle Studies class was next. Theo has impeccable table manners, she thought, before picking up her bag.
.

The go-go dancers were in full flight as they walked by. Luna stopped to observe the dry-humping again, dropping her bag and practising up against Neville who developed a live bout of rigor mortis.

The common room looked no different but various noises could be heard from the study so they all made their way in that direction. There the thirteen students found Dean wolfing down a sandwich. Draco recognised his familiar computer program inspired sweatshirt immediately.

Each oak veneered desk now housed a large screen with a keyboard and mouse in front of it and a hard drive placed on the floor beside the metal waste paper basket.

“Welcome to Muggle Studies class!” Dean hopped off the desk he was sitting on and opened his arms wide. “Lesson one...Windows.”

“Windows?” Pansy looked baffled. “Why do we need to know about windows?”

She paused before her eyes grew wide.

“We-we don’t have to climb those wooden things and...clean them, do we? Like Filch?”

Disgusted expressions spread throughout the group as Hermione and Harry tried to keep in the laughter. Blaise and Theo automatically moved away from the window sills as if Dementors would float out from behind the heavy velvet curtains at any second.

It was Draco who spoke first.

“Windows is a-a program that plays on those-” he struggled for the word before waving at the nearest screens. “Combooters.

Dean struggled for words. Hermione gaped, looking over at the Boy Who Was Desperately Looking For A Paper Bag To Breathe Into. A few seconds passed before the three of them burst into uncontrollable howls of laughter.

Despite spending so much time in the wizarding world, Harry had plenty of experience sneaking into his cousin’s bedroom and figuring out how to use Dudley’s Packard Bell Multimedia System. Hermione’s parents had computerised their dental practise so she had a fair idea of how to use the modern technology. Dean was a wizard, literally and figuratively, thanks to his older stepbrothers who both worked with computers and his Irish friend who had obtained the ones now sitting on the desks around him.

“Mate, they’re computers,” he eventually replied. “How did you-”

Your school has computers I take it.

Computers.

Computers.

Janice.

“Dean!” Draco exclaimed. “How do I send an E-nail?”

Chapter Text

Charlie stepped out of the shower and reached for the dark grey bath towel he had left on the radiator to warm. Shivering slightly from the October chill, he used it to dry himself before wrapping the material around his waist and padding over to the sink unit. The cut on his cheek was long gone and he smiled at the thought of not having to deal with fire-breathing, skin-tearing, shit-dumping dragons for the foreseeable future.

She had made his mind up for him and she didn’t even realise.

After he arrived back, well over a month ago now, he spent his time with Janice at the White Horse helping her run the pub until her parents’ return. When the Bradys decided to extend their holiday, he asked Molly to teach him all the useful housekeeping spells she knew. Less work for Janice means more time with me.

He also played postman for his girlfriend and her favourite cousin. Hermione would send her parchments to the Burrow and he would collect them to bring back to the White Horse. Janice would have her fanfiction updates and notes for Hermione ready to send with him and, from his family home, an owl would deliver them to Hogwarts.

Whilst the patrons were at breakfast, Charlie’s wand tidied their bedrooms and refreshed their linen. When the bar was closed, the shelves were magically stocked, the empty barrels replaced, and the glasses polished. The extra staff only covered the weekends for Janice so he made sure to play the role of dutiful boyfriend then and wash the dishes by hand. Carefully.

It was a quiet evening in the bar when it hit him; he was sitting by the roaring fire with his book on his lap and a pint of Guinness on the table in front of him - he had tried the drink a few weeks before and now considered himself quite adept at pouring the perfect pint. Janice was serving an older couple who were staying at the pub. She wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary, just preparing two Irish Coffees and chatting about local historical sites. Charlie watched as she delicately poured the whipped cream over the back of the spoon, explaining to the couple why it was such an important part of the process.

He observed her grace and mannerisms - her sparkling eyes and quirky smile as she laughed out loud at something the husband said and smirked at the wife’s smart response. She was beautiful, inside and out, and it hit him. He was in love.

Charlie Weasley loved Janice Brady. A muggle. And he was not letting her go.

So he made arrangements to stay. Firstly, he transferred from the Dragon Research and Restraint Bureau (Romanian Division) to the UK office at the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, covering the British Isles. The farthest he’d have to travel would be Out Stack in Scotland, or North Slob in Ireland (but that would only be the odd day trip). The majority of his time would now be spent inducting new handlers at the Ministry, prior to their field training, and he could Floo or Apparate to and from work.

Once his new position was secured, he organised a night off for Janice with one of the staff, booked a table at her favourite restaurant, spent an entire hour practising how to tie a Windsor knot, and completely chickened out of telling her how he felt about her.

They were sleeping together - amongst other things - at the pub, but that was only temporary as he doubted her parents would allow it when they returned. She had turned nineteen at the beginning of the summer but he was twenty-five, twenty-six in a few months. What would the Bradys think of that?

He didn’t think Janice would allow him twiddle with their brains; they still had no idea he was a wizard as she was never able to tell them. Any wizard or witch could approach her but not the other way around so she’d be keeping a massive secret from the two most important people in her life. The doubt had set in - what if her parents didn’t like him? What if she didn’t feel the same way? He knew she liked him, was attracted to him, but what if she didn’t love him? Janice was it for Charlie, he was sure of it. Godric’s dangly bits! What would he do?

So he stood in front of the bathroom mirror, leaning on the cold porcelain sink, and sighed.

You absolute fuckwit-

“HOLY DIVINE FUUUCCCKKK! YOU ARE FUCKING KIDDING ME!!!”

The sound of a chair falling over and Janice screeching like the Bandon Banshee had Charlie racing out of the bathroom and towards the little room she used as an office, the towel lost somewhere between rooms four and five.

“JAY? JAY! What is it? What’s wrong?”

He found her standing in the middle of the room, surrounded by pages of emails and reams of parchment. Her chair was tipped over on its side and the computer keyboard was hanging off the desk, the wire connecting it to the hard drive swinging it back and forth. She looked up at him, her eyes wide with shock.

“D-Daniel.”

“Who?”

“Daniel. Mallory.”

Naked Charlie righted her chair and guided Janice to sit down.

“The the guy who stayed over the summer?”

She could only nod.

“Well, all I know about him is what you told me. What’s happened, love?”

“I-I can’t believe-” she replied, shakily.

“What is it?” Charlie was perplexed by her behaviour. “Is he dead?”

She could only point towards the mess of paper and parchment strewn everywhere. Charlie reached for the parchment first.

“That’s Hermione’s writing. Jay, what the-”

“Daniel Mallory is Draco Malfoy.”
.

It took Charlie a moment to register what exactly Janice had just said. He just stared at her, breathing, until his brain caught up and he could form some sort of intelligent sentence.

“Wh-what?”

Yep. Intelligent.

Janice lifted up the dangling keyboard and placed it back on the desk.

“Daniel Mallory is Draco Malfoy. He’s in love with Hermione and...she’s in love with him.”

“I-I...WHAT?”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake, Charlie!” Janice grabbed her long, thick hair and swung it up into some intricate knot at the top of her head before securing it with a pen. Grabbing the nearest printouts, she handed them over.

“Read the top one.”

She had introduced the Weasleys to computers over the summer and, having spent the past number of weeks helping Janice run the pub, Charlie was now quite used to electronic mail. The twins were already in the early stages of developing wizarding computer games and Arthur was officially addicted to Tomb Raider. He was stuck on level 8 - The Cistern.

Naked Charlie glanced down at the first email; all seemed in order - Daniel’s, or Draco’s, Outlook Express address, Janice’s MSN address, the date (2nd September 1998), a few paragraphs - a standard email by all accounts. As he skimmed through the content, however, he had no way of knowing that those few paragraphs took almost two hours to type. Slowly.
.

Dear

“Dean, where’s the thing for making a space? Great!”

Dear Janice

“Dean! How do I start a new line? Oh, thanks.”

Well

“How do I press in a comma?”

Well, you did ask if my school was in the

“Dean! How do I make a capital letter? Shift where? At the same time?”

Well, you did ask if my school was in the Stone Age

“Dean, where’s the-”

“BESIDE THE FUCKING COMMA!”

Well, you did ask if my school was in the Stone Age. Up until this morning, I would have totally agreed but we arrived back from lunch to discover a whole set of these-

“Harry, how do you spell compooters?”

-computers with the big screens, the boxes on the floor, the alphabet pad, and the rolly thing. I do-

Draco decided not to ask Dean how an apostrophe worked.

-not think the alphabet pads are for the English market, however, as the letters are not in the right sequence.

Charlie looked up at Janice; his girlfriend doing her best Hermione Granger impression and biting her lower lip.

“Seriously, Jay? Seriously? What age is he? Six!”

“I thought he was being sarcastic, Charlie! He has...had...has a wicked sense of humour so I really thought he was messing. The rest of the email is…look, I had no way of knowing anything was off. Read on.”

So this is my very first correspondence via electronic mail. Naturally, I thought of you, and the fact yours is the only address I have. Would Katie have an address, do you think-

“Harry, this makes a slash. I want the question mark. Shift what? Oh...thanks.”

-? Anyway, I am delighted that I have a way to keep in touch with you now.

A lot has happened since I left the other day. The girl I told you about was on the train returning to school. I had an idea she would but nerves got the better of me and I found myself panicking at the station waiting to see her. I almost gave up hope but then, all of a sudden, she was there. As she was entering the carriage, she bumped into me and stumbled. I grabbed her and, for a few brief moments, I held her in my arms. Fuck, Jay, I could have cried. What do I sound like? A bloody Huff-

“Shite! Potter...Harry! How do I fix a mistake? No, you can’t fucking see! Just tell me! How many times do I press it? Oh, fuck! Eh...thanks. I said no! Piss off!”

-girl. I managed to talk with her and briefly explain why I did not try to help when I should have. She accepted my apology and, for a moment, I thought I could live with that. But I am kidding myself. I would give anything to tell her just how much I love her.

We have all ended up in the same common room here which was very unexpected. My four friends from previous years are here with me and, together, we sat with the rest of our fellow students and cleared the air last night. Well, one of her friends is a bit more stubborn than the rest and not as forgiving. I do not blame him.

Later, she asked me to accompany her to the-

“Hermione! What do you call post in Muggle terms? Really? But what do they have instead of owleries?”

Draco was sorry he asked; her explanation lasted ten minutes.

-post room and we had a moment. We agreed to begin again, a new friendship. It will not be enough but I have to hope she sees the real me, the one who loves her with everything he has.

Dinner will be ready here soon so I had better go. Ask Katie for her details, please? And keep in touch.

See you over the Christmas holiday, I hope.

Dra-

“Shit.”

-Daniel

“Dean, how do I post this? Send it where? Oh.”
.

Charlie looked up at Janice.

“Has the fucker no idea what an apostrophe is?”

She rolled her eyes, standing up and taking the papers back. Placing them back on the desk, she turned back to her boyfriend.

“We’ve been emailing back and forth for almost six weeks; every couple of days. I’ve been keeping him up to date with what’s going on here and around the town, you know? I’ve mentioned you many times but I’m guessing I never used your surname.”

She rubbed her face in her hands, sighing loudly.

“His typing has improved,” she smiled. “Check through the emails, Charlie. I never noticed before but he discusses classes in only general terms, teachers without naming them, and he talks about his friends and other students by only using their initials. When he’s discussing Hermione, he only types she, her, or just H. There’s no way I would have guessed!”

Charlie frowned.

“Then, how-”

She pushed some parchments into his hands.

“These are from Hermione. Everything I’ve received from her so far has been on parchment. There was no chat at all in the first post, then a quick note to say she was going to concentrate on the fic in her spare time and catch up with me as soon as possible. But, you know Hermione, she’ll have been up to her neck in books in between all of this.”

She waved towards the parchments.

“Her first email came this morning. Look.”

Hey Jay

I’m terrible! I can’t believe we’re back six weeks already and I’m so sorry for not filling you in on all that’s going on here. You’ve got all the chapters, I take it, and thanks so much for keeping me up to date with all the ff news. I can’t believe I’ve so many followers so far!

Headmistress McGonagall had agreed to look into connecting you to the Floo but was concerned about Auntie Carol and Uncle Mike. Are they still on holiday? Anyway, the day after we arrived, I found out Dean has managed to get computers for us to use! They’re only available to the eighth years and are here in the common room. Everyone’s working on them, and I mean everyone! I wasn’t interested at first because Mum, Dad, and I had taught ourselves how to set up the dental practice, remember? I just didn’t want to be reminded, you know? But, I can’t keep hiding from memories, can I?

I can update my chapters via email from now on, which takes all the pressure off you. You’ll still beta though, pretty please? I can’t do this without you.

Speaking of the common room, we’re all together - the whole gang and the Slytherins. I know! Can you believe it? Luna, the Gryffs, and the Snakes. But we’re getting on brilliantly and all making an effort to keep it that way. Well, except for Ron. He’s still stuck up his own arse about things. Lavender is giving him a wide berth until he sorts himself out but, if he doesn’t do it soon, Theo Nott will be in to sweep her off her feet. They are getting on so well and he is an absolute gentleman. And so is Blaise Zabini, he’s so funny! His girlfriend, Tracey Davis, was the first to reach out to me and I really, really like her.

I know you’ve heard us all talk about Pansy Parkinson and Draco Malfoy. Well, it turns out Pansy is nothing like we imagined and, I have the feeling, she’ll become a good friend.

Janice, something else has happened. I’ve been keeping a secret from everyone, you included, and I’m sorry. I didn’t think this was something I could ever form into words. It’s Draco, Janice. It’s always been Draco, despite all that has gone on between us.

Trust me to pick an untouchable, eh?

I didn’t think he’d come back to school this year and I guess - well, I thought he was gone. My heart nearly burst when I bumped into him on the train, literally. He caught me, holding onto me - I thought I’d die! I hope he didn’t realise.

The only thing is, I’ve always told you he had no time for me. Janice, he apologised for his past behaviour! The night we arrived! I was shocked, so bloody shocked! We spoke on our own for a while and agreed to be friends. What if I can’t do it? What if I can’t be friends because I want so much more. How can I tell him I’m so in love with him, it’s eating away at my heart? Please, give me some idea of what I can do. For once, I don’t have the answers and I can’t find them in a bloody book!

We’ve spent a lot of time together, chatting between classes and finding so much in common. He’s read the Time Wars series, H.G. Wells, and Philip K. Dick - all my favourites. We could talk for hours about Lucas and Andre, arguing about their characters. I love every minute in his company, Janice, but-

Charlie put the page down.

“Okay...you know all about the Malfoys from Ron, Harry, and Hermione. Yeah? So you know the history between Draco and Hermione? And Draco and Harry? You know he’s a complete prick, right?”

Fire burned in Janice’s eyes and she took a step towards him.

“No, Charlie! No, he isn’t.”

“Jay-”

“No! I’m telling you! I know a different person, with-with no history and no idea of all the shite you’ve had going on between you all. I know Daniel Mallory-”

“False by name, false by nature, Jay.”

“No! Charlie, please. Trust me, I know I’m right here. He’s good, he’s funny, he’s-he’s so full of remorse and-and he needs her.”

“He doesn’t fucking deserve her!”

Charlie turned, stalking towards the door.

“I need a bloody drink.”

“Get back here!”

Janice grabbed a stapler and threw it at his back. Growling, Charlie snapped his head around, glaring at her angrily.

“What the-”

Breathing heavily, Janice Brady stood with her hands on her hips à la Hermione Granger, Molly Weasley, Ginevra Weasley etc.

“You, Charlie Weasley, will listen to me. She is everything to me and I will crawl over hot coals to make sure Hermione is happy. He, whatever the fuck his name is, is what she wants. So I will make it happen. And you,” she stabbed a finger in the air towards him, “will help me. Do you understand?”

Charlie’s body, in that moment, decided to remind him that he was bollock naked and extremely turned on by the woman he loved. He closed the door and walked back into the room.

“I'm not sure I do, Jay. Show me.”

Chapter Text

“I'm not sure I do, Jay. Show me.”

“Charlie-” Janice breathed.

He backed her up towards the desk and, leaning forward, reached around with one hand to swipe the keyboard and mouse to the side whilst his other hand brushed away the emails and parchments. Resting on the desk to cage her within his powerful hold, Charlie’s heated gaze caught Janice’s breath.

“You want my help? Ask me nicely.”

“Charlie, please-”

“Please what, Jay?” His face lowered to her neck, licking her pulse point tenderly before working his way up the side of her face. His tongue flicked against her ear. “Please help me unite your cousin with the love of her life regardless of the fact I think he’s an arsehole? Or please, Charlie, fuck me into oblivion here on my desk?”

She closed her eyes; I love you, Hermione, but you’ll have to wait.

“I pick door number two,” she gasped.

“Good girl.”

Charlie’s strong fingers ripped through cotton as her favourite Queensrÿche T-shirt flittered to the ground. Her mind was a mess of emotions - I should care about that, Geoff Tate’s on it...why don’t I care? Janice could just about remember to stand as he popped the three buttons of her low rise jeans before drawing down the small zip. His lips were still tantalizingly close to her ear as his voice sent shivers cascading down her spine.

“Off.”

Stepping back to allow her some room, Charlie palmed his erection, breathing heavily. He watched hungrily as she shimmied out of her jeans and stood before him in her navy bra and pants.

“Don’t rip them,” she whispered. “They’re new.”

He burst out laughing, the sensual tension bursting around them.

“Merlin, I love-”

Fuck.

“Shite. I-fuck, Jay, I-”

Janice’s eyes widened momentarily as she watched the range of emotions flicker across Charlie’s face. She moved towards him, running her fingers tenderly up and down his muscular, tattooed arms before reaching up on her toes to kiss the side of his lips.

“Finish that sentence.”

“Jay-”

“Finish it, Charlie.”

He sighed heavily, placing his hands on either side of Janice’s trim waist, and feeling completely deflated - figuratively and literally. Charlie kept his eyes on the scattered rolls of parchment as he spoke, not daring to look at her.

“I know how I feel about you; I’m sure of it. But, I...there’s age gap between us, Jay; it’s not much but it’s there. I don’t want to cause any problems between you and your parents, you know? And how can they accept me if they don’t know what I am? I-”

Janice placed a finger against his lips, silencing him immediately.

“I don’t want to hear any of that; I asked you to finish the sentence.”

Charlie took a deep breath, reaching up to cup her face. His eyes burned as he spoke, sounding almost desperate as he put his heart on the line.

“I love you. Merlin, I’m so in love with you.”

She didn’t reply.

Instead, she took his hands in hers and pulled him slowly towards the closed door. Stepping out into the hallway, Janice turned to head towards her bedroom. Charlie followed, his heart pounding.

“Jay-”

“Hush.”

When Charlie returned to Janice, all those weeks before, she had assigned a guest room to him. Within two days, he was firmly ensconced in hers and, Merlin, he never wanted to leave it.

Standing at the foot of her bed, Janice released Charlie’s hand. Reaching behind, she unclasped her bra, letting it drop to the floor before shimmying out of her pants. She moved closer, his arms instantly enveloping her.

“I didn’t think it was the right moment to have sex on a desk,” she cooed, placing her hand over his heart. “You have my heart, Charlie. I love you.”

“I-”

“It’ll be alright,” she hushed him with a tender kiss. “I have all the right answers, I promise. Now, please, tell you love me again.”

He closed his eyes briefly, thanking the founders for this woman in front of him. He moved away to settle himself on the bed, reaching out for her. She took his hand and moved to join him, lying in his arms as he held her close.

“I love you, Janice Brady. I’ve tried so many times to tell you but...I was...I’ve never said it before, to anyone. I didn’t expect you to feel the same...so soon.”

Turning in his arms, she looked directly into his eyes.

“Remember the day you came back to the Burrow? The day we met? I knew...I knew when Molly introduced us that you were...it. When you came back early-”

She paused, her eyes widening. “Oh my God!”

“What? What is it?”

“What? Oh! Em...remind me to tell you later,” she grinned. “This is too important.”

“Yes, it is,” Charlie laughed. “So I’m...it?”

“Oh, Charlie, you’re so it! I fell in love when we met but I never thought you’d feel the same. I kept thinking this bubble would burst.”

Charlie rolled over, moving on top of her and grinding into her.

“Every moment I’m with you, I want to do this. That’s the attraction I felt for you when we met. But, a few weeks ago, it hit me like a brick; there was...is...more to us. So much more. That’s when I knew I was in love with you.”

He licked at her lips tenderly, teasing her with his tongue before sliding it over her cheek and biting her earlobe.

“Shall I show you just how much I love you?”

Janice threw back her head and moaned as he stimulated her core just by moving his body over her; his body that had recently remembered it was bollock naked. Still.

“Yes, please,” she moaned.

Charlie plunged into her, his erection filling Janice with levels of pleasure only he could give her.

“I love you, Charlie.”

“Merlin, woman, I love you too.”
.

“Give me the answers, Jay,” he asked afterwards, whispering into her hair as he held her close. Her back was flush to his chest and he had woken to her ‘hair pen’ wedged against his cheek.

“Hmmm?”

“Tell me how this will be alright.”

Janice’s breath hitched. She didn’t think vulnerable would be in Charlie Weasley’s vocabulary yet, here he was, sounding as if he was afraid of her reply. She turned in his arms, lifting her head slightly from the pillow to gather her hair behind her and trying not to laugh at the pen-shaped dent in his cheek. He was worried; she could see the concern etched on his handsome face.

“Mum and Dad called last Tuesday; you’d popped over to the Burrow and I was asleep by the time you got back. Remember I said they’d decided to extend their holiday?” He nodded but remained quiet. “They looked at a few pubs to buy and they were calling to see if I’d be happy to take over here if they went ahead a bought one. Can I sit up?”

He opened his arms and rolled onto his back, placing his hands behind his head. He still felt shaky; she assured him everything would be alright but, for the first time in his life, Charlie Weasley was not confident.

Janice sat up, drawing the deep purple comforter around her.

“We’d already discussed me doing more promotional work here and running events so I knew I’d be here for quite a while. But, I never planned to take over the place! Anyway, they found a pub that they really like and got word two days ago that their bid was accepted. They’ll be back here in two weeks to pack up and...go.”

She looked down at her hands, twirling the comforter’s material around her fingers.

“I never expected to run this place by myself but, Charlie, I really do want to! I have so many ideas, I can’t wait to-”

She paused, smiling to herself.

“You can’t wait to what, love?”

“I can’t wait to share them with you, Charlie. I was so afraid to bring up topics that involved discussing the future, but now? Well, it looks like we have one.”

He smiled, removing one hand from behind his head to reach forward and clasp hers.

“Yes. We do.”

“I told them all about you. As much as I could, anyway. They know you’re six years-”

“Almost seven-”

“Six years older! Mum is actually older than Dad so that doesn’t bother them. When I arrived back from my year ‘studying,’ they commented that I had matured beyond my years. Obviously they think I studied in Scotland and worked at a distillery, hence my qualifications. So they’re confident I can run this place on my own. I’ll need help-”

“Jay-”

“Charlie, please, let me finish.” She sighed. “I was afraid to bring up the subject in case you thought I was putting you under pressure to stay here. When you changed jobs recently, I hoped you were doing it because you wanted - not to stay in England - but to stay...with me. Now, I know you did and I-I’m overwhelmed.”

“I love you. I don’t want to be anywhere but here with you.”

“I know that now.” She leaned over and kissed him tenderly. “The Ministry allows me to speak to Hermione, her parents, and your family about all this wizarding stuff. If a witch or wizard approaches me, I can talk, but only if they speak about it first. I was thinking if Mum and Dad returned, and you wanted to be with me, then we’d have to do something. But, they’re planning to live at their new pub permanently so we don’t have to tell them anything.”

“Yet.”

“What do you mean?”

“Jay, it’s less than three hours since I told you I loved you. But, know this, I’m not letting you go. At some stage in the future, your parents will have to be told.”

Goosebumps broke out over her skin as she digested his words. She suddenly found herself wet for the gorgeous, sexy redhead in front of her, the man who had just claimed her. It was fucking hot.

“Do you think you could remind me what we did three hours ago, Charlie?”
.

Hermione glanced at the time displayed at the corner of the screen. 1.05am. Luckily it was Friday night. Well, Saturday morning now.

She was anxious to finish the chapter she was writing; reviews were coming in thick and fast and she didn’t want to leave her readers waiting too long. BiblioBabe199 had been genuinely touched by the faves and follows she was receiving, both for her and her story. She wasn’t the quickest at typing but she was getting there...slowly. It was a relief, however, that Janice didn’t have the burden of typing up her parchments before posting them on the fanfiction website. At least, this way, Hermione’s cousin only had to read for grammar errors (of which there were hardly any) and continuity issues (which never occurred). If there was one thing about Hermione Granger, her attention to detail was bordering on obsessive. Just ask Harry or Ron.

Standing up to stretch her cramped muscles, Hermione walked over to the coffee machine - as installed by Winky, her clipboard, and an assistant elf who wore a fully-fitted toolbelt. Winky, in a jazzy little two-piece from Woolworths, spent over an hour lecturing the fourteen students on how to make the perfect cappuccino despite Blaise’s protests that he knew how to make them in his sleep! Every time Hermione used the machine, she found herself smiling at the memory of Blaise Zabini towering over the little elf and ranting in fluent Italian that she could shove her flat white up her skinny arse if she thought he was taking a lesson in coffee making from her. (Draco had cast a translation charm so they could all listen.)

Did you know house elves could give detention these days?

She sat back down with her large mug of black coffee and re-read through her chapter.
.

Chapter 15

In A Heartbeat

Hi all! Thank you so much for continuing to read this, I am overwhelmed by the response. Just a brief message to Deckard2019 and Gemini Glam for both commenting on how much you like my portrayals of Lucas and Andre. PurpleBumblebee - Yes, why are the sidekicks always redheads? Haha!

I know my Lucas and Andre are not as described in the Time Wars novels; Lucas is dark and Andre is, well, not exactly feminine with straight hair but, I can’t explain it, this is how I’ve always seen them in my mind.

Yes, you can explain it, Hermione. You know exactly why!

Many thanks to my beloved beta, MrsGeoffTate, I’d be lost without you.

Hope you enjoy everyone!

BiblioBabe199 x

~~~

They came back to HQ exhausted but relieved that Drakov didn’t get away with the warp grenades. They were safely secured now with the all relevant precautions, thanks to Finn’s quick reactions. If he hadn’t thrown himself in front of the arsenal door, Drakov could have clocked out to God-knows-where and God-knows-when with enough weaponry to destroy all of time - past, present, and future. The madman didn’t care if he died, he just wanted to cause chaos; to bring all of humanity to its knees.

After their debriefing, Finn headed straight to the Officers’ Mess with Andre. Lucas remained behind to talk with General Forrester - the Old Man. His superior and mentor. His friend.

“You didn’t fuck up, Lucas.”

“It feels like I did, sir.”

“You did exactly what you should have. An officer in your position knows the rules. Hell, a foot soldier knows the rules!”

“My feelings for her are...affecting me. I left her bleeding while we went after him. It was Finn who stopped him, I...paused. For a split second, all I wanted to do was run back to see if she was alright. I almost jeopardised the mission. That-that’s unacceptable. I should-”

Forrester poured two large glasses of his favourite twelve-year-old Scotch, handing one to his Colonel as he held up his other hand.

“Do not finish that sentence. I will never accept your resignation. I-”

He sat down heavily, his muscular frame filling his chair. He took a sip of his drink before continuing.

“I loved and lost. I lost because I never told her how I felt. What’s wrong here, son, is that you panicked because Andre doesn’t know how you feel about her; that she could have died today without you telling her you love her. It happens, you know - soldiers fall in love, enemies fall in love. Do we try to stop them? My answer is - why the fuck should we? We could all die tomorrow. If you tell her, regardless of what her feelings are, at least she’ll know.”

Lucas drained his glass.

“Will she work with me again if she doesn’t feel the same way? I can’t break up the team.” He sat down on the couch opposite Forrester, rubbing his eyes with the heels of his hands.

“I need to tell her.”

“You do.”

“What if-”

“Not a chance,” the General smiled. “Dismissed, son.”

Lucas found Finn and Andre sitting in the Officers’ Mess. The burly Irishman was starting another round of chess with some poor unsuspecting Lieutenant who was going to be missing an awful lot of his salary by the end of the evening. Andre was reading yet another history book.

“Cross,” Lucas approached her, calling her by her surname. He was the only person who did it, on occasion. “Can I have a word?”

Andre looked up, closing her book and placing it on the coffee table in front of her.

“Sure. Everything okay? You don’t-”

“My quarters, it’s...private,” he pressed, quietly. He didn’t want to be overheard.

“Okay,” she followed him along the corridor to his room. Facial recognition software had the door opening as Lucas approached. He stepped back to let Andre walk in before him, the door sliding shut behind him.

Andre loved the view from this level, so she made her way over to the window and gazed down at Pendleton Base. She’d never get tired of this view.

“How are you feeling?” Lucas walked closer to her. She wasn’t long out of MedLab.

“I’m fine; a little sore but it’s not too bad.”

“Good...good.” He ran a hand through his fine hair.

She turned, her long hair resting around her shoulders. The curls framed her pixie-like face just perfectly and he could only stare, his fingers itching to touch her.

“Lucas, are you alright?”

“Ye-no. No, I’m not.” He turned away and began pacing in front of her. “I’m second-in-command here! You’d think I could do this!”

“Do what? I don’t-”

He stopped abruptly, took a deep breath and moved over to stand in front of his confused Captain. He placed his hands gently on her shoulders, rubbing the tops of her arms delicately as he looked directly into those eyes he dreamed of every night.

“I nearly fucked up today; the mission, everyone...it nearly went tits up because, for a moment, you were all I thought about.”

She frowned. “What-”

“You were injured, Cross, and I wanted to run back to see if you were alright instead of heading to the arsenal with Finn to stop Drakov.”

“But, why would you do that? We know the rules! That would have put everyone in danger and I’m not worth-”

She found herself pulled forward by his strong hands, his lips crashing down on hers and sending her mind whirling with shock and emotion. For a moment, she couldn’t respond but, all too soon, he pulled away.

“That’s why. I wanted to run back to you because I-I’m in love with you...and I couldn’t bear the thoughts of you not knowing.”

He released her from his grip and turned to look at the night sky through the floor-to-ceiling window, his hands ruffling his silky blond hair .

“I don’t know when I fell in love with you but, when you were injured in front of me at Zenda, I knew I felt more than concern. I felt my world shatter at the thoughts of you not being in it.” He smiled at her reflection through the glass. “All these years. I thought I could keep my feelings locked away but...recently...I’m fighting myself. I don’t expect you to feel the same but I need you to know. If anything happened to us in the field, well, at least you would know.”

She didn’t answer and he found himself talking more about how he felt, how the Old Man encouraged him to tell her, how Finn had threatened to tell her himself if it wasn’t done soon. Hearing her laugh, he turned back around.

“Is laughing a good sign? That you don’t hold this against me?”

She smiled, and he felt his heart pound in his chest. “You’ve told the window a lot about how you feel about me. Perhaps you could tell me again, to my face? After you kiss me?”

He reached for her and she found herself in his arms without realising how she got there. Holding her tightly with one arm, his free hand tilted her chin up so he could gaze upon the woman he loved. He smirked boyishly, before lowering his head slowly.

His lips caressed hers with cautious movements, as if he was scared to push the kiss. But the feel of her tongue sliding against his lower lip ignited the fire within him that had been smouldering all these years. He wrapped his other arm around her as she raised both of hers to slide through his silky hair.

She took the initiative, slipping her tongue forward to meet his. He pulled her closer; their lips moving in perfect synchronicity, their tongues dancing. He brought a hand around her shoulder to rest at the bottom of her neck, his fingers delicately tracing patterns across her skin, before sliding his hand down to rest over her heart.

He slowed the kiss and gently pulled away, resting his forehead against hers. Her eyes remained closed, her breathing erratic, as she felt her heart beat heavily enough to pound in her ears. For the first time in her life, she felt safe. Safe in the embrace of the man who almost killed her once, who didn’t accept her when they first met, the man whose ice cold exterior she prayed one day to crack through.

She opened her eyes, moving one of her hands down to rest over his. Caressing his pale cheek with the other, she looked up into his pale grey eyes.

“We didn’t meet under the most ideal circumstances, did we? You - all reserved and telling the team I was a liability,” she grinned. “I didn’t think much of you either. Yet, here we are, finding out just how much we mean to each other now.”

She stepped back, dragging her hands along his outstretched arms until she could grasp his hands.

“Can I show you how much you mean to me? It’s only right that we should make love, if we love each other, don’t you think?”

She let go to raise her fingers to the zip on her one-piece base fatigues. Slowly, she lowered it to reveal her smooth, creamy skin inch by inch. As the small device slipped further down, the folds of material parted to show she didn’t wear a bra - her rigorous exercise regime keeping her breasts pert and perfect. She stopped when the zip had reached its end, just at the top of her pants.

“Help me?” She asked, almost shyly.

He was in front of her in the next moment, his hands slightly shaking as he reached up to the folds of the suit. He slid his fingers under the material and pushed it off her shoulders and down her arms, revealing her breasts to him.

“You’re beautiful. So beautiful.”

She sighed, closing her eyes, as he pulled the suit away from her hands and let all the material flop down on either side of her hips. He barely touched her lips with his own before dropping to his knees. He undid the straps of her boots and held her hands tightly as she stepped out of them, leaving her a little shorter than she was previously. He then turned his attention to the pantyline directly in front of him. Pressing his lips to her exposed skin, he licked at her stomach, kissing and nipping, as he pulled the material down her legs and helped her step out of the futuristic uniform. Before him, stood the woman his heart beat for; her pale skin smooth and supple to his touch as he spread his hands over hips and thighs before sliding his thumbs under the material of her pants and tugging them down her legs, almost too slowly for her liking.

He was instantly aware of her arousal; the sweet smell invading the air in front of him and making his mouth water.

“Let me step out of the pants,” she whispered. “I can’t spread myself for you.”

He groaned at her comment, feeling all the excitement within him rush to his groin. He reached for his zip but she stopped him with her hand.

“I want to.”

He remained on his knees, watching her step out of her pants properly. She kicked the items of clothing to the side and walked around behind him. His breathing deepened, every nerve on fire and pulsing. She was petite next to his muscular form, finding it easy to bend over his shoulder and pull his zip down whilst running her lips over the side of his face, up along his ear, and into the finest, silkiest blond hair she adored.

Her lithe frame leaned further over, a breast now brushing against the side of his face as she manoevered the zip down as far as she could. He turned his face, kissing the exposed breast and reaching up to run his fingers through her thick curly hair but she pulled back, dragging her nails across his chest before peeling the material off his strong shoulders and down his arms. She moved around in front of him, her core still at face level. He couldn’t wait any longer; he grabbed her hips to bring her closer to him. He inhaled deeply, drawing the scent of her arousal to his lungs as if his life depended on it to survive.

“The bed,” he moaned into her skin. “I need you on the bed.”

She turned from his grasp and sauntered over to the large bed on the other side of the room. The walk gave her time to catch her breath but she couldn’t compose herself, the moisture gathering at the top of her legs was a clear indication that she was anything but calm.
The blond officer and gentleman stood shakily and followed her; his fatigues hanging from his waist. He watched with hungry eyes as she crawled onto the bed, the grey sheets creasing underneath her as she moved forward, her arse teasing him before she turned and lay back onto the pillows. She spread her arms out to the side and opened her legs, presenting her sopping core.

She looked at him through hooded eyes, licking her lips hungrily.

“What do you need?”

“To be inside you,” he answered, bending to unstrap his boots and peel off his rest of his uniform.

Stepping out of the tight-fitting material, he stood before her. She gasped at his muscular body, his chest smooth and his cock oozing for her. Biting her lip, she brought her hands back to her body, sliding them slowly over her erect nipples and massaging her aching breasts.

“Make love to me.”

He knelt onto the bed and crawled over her, resting his forearms beside her head. Lowering his head, he gently slid his lips over hers as if testing the waters. Her moan of pure desire assured him of her need as she moved her tongue over his and deepened the kiss. Long legs wrapped around him, rubbing his erection against her soaking folds, her hands grasping at his shoulders and arms.

“Please,” she moaned. “Please-”

He smiled against her lips. “This may be quick,” he gasped as she dug her heels into his arse cheeks, grinding his erection against her. “I want you too much.”

“You have me,” she wailed, throwing her head back. “Please-”

He reached between them to position himself at her entrance. His hand shook slightly from the fire that consumed his whole body, making him gasp with longing. Slowly, he slid the tip of his throbbing cock into her.

Caressing her skin from her pelvis to her breast, he gazed down at her.

“I love you.”

She wrapped her arms around his neck, raising her head so he could do the same. As they held each other tightly, he slid further into her body until the two of them became one. They didn’t move immediately; they stayed perfectly still, just breathing.

Their eyes stayed focused on each other, their breaths combining.

“And I love you,” she smiled shyly. “I just thought I’d be keeping it a secret; that I’d never get to tell you.”

He bent his head to kiss her deeply, his heart swelling with pure adoration for the woman beneath him. And she sighed happily, filled and surrounded by the man she loved more than anything.

“No more secrets,” he whispered, moving slowly over her.

She groaned, raising her hips to move with his. Together, they propelled each other’s bodies into heights of desire and hunger. Their gentle caresses and delicate kisses became more heated, more desperate. He murmured her name over and over again as his lips memorised every inch of her face and neck; she swore her love for him as she gripped him tightly, her body shaking as she climbed to heights she never thought she’d experience with him.

She cried out his name as her orgasm rippled through her, tightening her muscles and surrounding him with her wet release. He gasped, moving erratically as her body’s reaction to him spurred him on.

“My love,” he panted, reaching down to pull her leg over his hip. “I need to-”

“Come,” she whispered. “Come in me.”

A few more thrusts and he claimed her body as his own, marking her whilst swearing she was his for eternity. She blinked back tears as she heard his promise of love and his commitment to her, body and soul. Still united, she reached up to caress the side of his face.

“Don’t let me go.”

“Never, Granger. I’ll find you, in a heartbeat.”
.

She didn’t notice the error.

The chapter needed serious betaing by Janice; Hermione knew she hadn’t used the characters’ names throughout the chapter, desperately wanting to be writing her name and Draco’s. Every word was based on her fantasy of how Draco would admit his feelings before making love to her and claiming her body as his.

What Hermione wouldn’t do to have Draco Malfoy in her bed; he was already in her heart.

She knew she was taking serious liberties with this chapter - the complete story really! Her characters were totally unlike the originals and reviewers had commented on that, according to Janice, although the fic was still being well received. She hadn’t read the reviews yet but planned to go through them over the next few days.

Yawning, she decided it was about time she tried to get some sleep. It was near three in the morning and the caffeine high had definitely come down.
.

Although it was Saturday morning, the fourteen students were all sitting down to an early breakfast. The first trip to Hogsmeade was scheduled for that afternoon so plans for lunch, and shops to be visited, were being arranged and discussed.

A loud hoot indicated the arrival of the post; two eagle owls, six tawny owls, and Errol swooped in through the open window dropping letters and parcels around the table. Small packages, delivered by two distinct grey owls, landed on the table in front of Parvati and Lavender.

“They’re here!” Lavender jumped up, dragging her friend away from her breakfast and rushing towards her room.

Smiling warmly at the sight of Lavender looking so excited, Theo looked around the table.

“What’s all that about?”

Dean grinned. “You’ll have to wait and see, mate.” He turned back to Ron and continued explaining what the Blade Runner logo on his T-shirt was all about.

Theo frowned. “Hmmm...intriguing.”

Suddenly the door burst open and the two laughing girls returned.

“TA-DA!” Parvati exclaimed, throwing her arms out to her sides.

Both girls wore white T-shirts with cartoon characters emblazoned on the front - a blond man with a green top and a dark-haired woman with a red one. In the middle was a small child in a toy dragon outfit, also in green. The three were surrounded by watercolour paint splashes and lying underneath the logo “Sweet Baby Dragons!”

It was the wording at the bottom, however, that caused the sudden coughing fit on the other side of the table.

“It’s a fanfiction thing.”

“What’s a fanfiction?” Harry enquired.

“Guys! Surely you’ve heard of fanfiction?” Dean was shocked.

“Eh…no,” Draco replied. “Care to explain?”

With a flick and swish, a flipchart was conjured up and Dean stood from the table.

“In that case, my friends, let us introduce you. Lesson one-”

“Oh, Hermione!” Luna interrupted. “Your tea! Do you need helping mopping it up?”

Chapter Text

“According to the internet,” Dean began, waving his wand over the flipchart and following the words that were appearing as if they were being typed on an old-fashioned typewriter. “Fanfiction is-”

He continued, with enthusiastic inputs from Parvati and Lavender, for thirty minutes. By the time they stopped for air, ten students were slightly more informed about this new subject. Hermione, of course, had to bite the inside of her cheeks in order to keep quiet. When Dean made the mistake of telling them the term fanfiction was first printed in the 1940s, it took all her strength not to interrupt and correctly inform him it was 1939.

Ron looked confused.

“So it all started with Star Truck.”

Dean grinned; he was so enthusiastic. Bless him. “No, mate, Star Trek.”

“In 1967?”

“Yep.”

“And most fanfiction writers are female?” Neville repeated. “Why?”

“Well,” Lavender chipped in. “It was thought that women prefer written erotica and men prefer visual porn, but a similar culture in Japan disproved that-”

“Porn?” Blaise’s eyebrows shot up. “Fanfiction is porn?”

Tracey sighed. “No, babe, didn’t you listen?”

“I did listen! Lav said ‘porn’.”

“I also said some other words, Blaise.” Lavender laughed, her eyes landing on Theo’s as she held her teacup underneath the tilting teapot. He smiled back, pulling out the chair beside him for her to sit down whilst resting his arm across the back of it.

Dean and Parvati carried on, explaining to the others the differences between canon, fanon, and headcanon. There was now a Venn diagram and several Infographics. Zoning out, Theo leaned towards Lavender, invading her personal space, and breathing her in.

“Tell me about pen names,” he pressed.

“No one uses their real names in the fics, neither the writers nor the readers,” she began, turning her head towards him. “It just allows anonymity within the fandom. Writers of explicit fanfiction may have everyday jobs where their pastime would be frowned upon.”

“So, what you’re saying is, Professor Sprout could be writing some seriously hot greenhouse sex and we’d all be none the wiser.”

Lavender winked, sending hot trails of pure adoration pulsing through Theo’s veins. Merlin, she was something else! He needed to tell her how he felt before Weasley got his head out of his arse but, without that Gryffindor courage, he was going to have to rely on pure Slytherin cunning to get her. Maybe he’d talk to Blaise and the pining blond.

“Do you write?” He wanted to keep up the conversation.

“Oh no! I’m just happy to be a reader. Parvati has written a few one-shots though.”

Theo lost interest at ‘Parvati’.

“And what’s your pen name, Lavender?”

The way he said her name produced shivers so violent, she was sure they’d pop her vertebrae.

“P-purple. Em...PurpleBumbleBee.”

He threw back his head and laughed. “I like it; it’s...cute. Purple, I get. But why bumblebee?”

She bit her lip, causing Theo to rearrange his seating position.

“The lavender plant attracts more bumblebees than honeybees. Bumblebees take an average of one and a half seconds per flower to...em...extract the nectar. H-honeybees take three and a half seconds. Oh Merlin, I could cut myself on his cheekbones. It’s-it’s all because the...em...Bumblebees have-”

She paused, still biting her lip and trying desperately to make herself look away from his eyes. They were hypnotic, so dark brown they bordered on sinful black.

“Have what?” he leaned a little closer; not too much, just enough to smell her apple shampoo. Theo wanted to run his fingers through her dark blonde hair, bring handfuls of it to his face, and inhale all that was good in the world.

Her expressive eyes grew wider as she stumbled over her words.

“L-longer tongues.”

Theo’s grip on the back of her chair tightened. He focused all his attention on her face; deep blue expressive eyes, those wide cheekbones, her lips - Salazar, he wanted those lips on his. He wanted her.

“Lavender, I-”

“Who won’t allow her stories be used in fanfiction, Lav?”

Lavender never moved, her eyes were refusing to look away from Theo’s.

“LAV!”

Parvati flung a piece of toast at her best friend. Theo instantly reached out, batting the bread away to the table before turning to glare at the Gryffintwin.

The action broke the bewitching hold he had on the blonde sitting beside him. Blinking a few times to regain her surroundings, Lavender looked over to Parvati.

“I’m sorry. What did you say?”

The interaction between the quiet Slytherin and the bubbly Gryffindor didn’t go unnoticed by the others in the room, in particular one fiery redheaded male.

“What’s the name of the writer who doesn’t allow her stories be used in fanfiction?” Parvati asked again.

“Oh, the vampire novels - no, Ginny, the novels before those ones,” Lavender commented before turning back to her best friend. “Em...Anna Polenta.”

“That’s it, thanks,” her best friend exclaimed. “There’s a good few famous writers who started off with fanfiction before they hit the big time.”

“What are your pen names?” Luna looked up from her doodling. She told Neville she was drawing a Moon Frog but it could have been a porcupine for all he knew.

“Oh, I’m Gemini Glam, of course!” Parvati laughed, making jazz hands.

“Mine is Deckard2019,” Dean announced, looking around the room proudly before noticing all the blank faces. “Deckard? Rick Deckard? Merlin! Ron, I was only telling you about him a half hour ago!”

Ron looked up from his seventh slice of toast. “What? Oh, yeah. Bear Runner.”

Dean waved away the flipchart and sat down. “I give up,” he sighed, proffering his cup to a floating cafetière. “Hermione, are you alright? You’re a bit pale.”

From the positions they had all assumed to look at Dean’s flipchart and oohh at his Venn Diagram, Draco had had his back to Hermione for the past half hour or so. At Dean’s words of concern, he turned instantly.

“Hermione?” He searched her beautiful face, looking for signs of illness. “Would you like me to escort you to the Hospital Wing? Or can I get you anything?”

“I’m fine, really,” she assured him, trying desperately to keep her voice calm. She had replied to three particular reviews at the beginning of Chapter 15 - Deckard2019, GeminiGlam, and PurpleBumbleBee - the latter commenting on redheaded sidekicks. What if they found out?

“By the way,” Dean continued, turning to the Slytherins. “You guys are all fans of that Time Wars Series, aren’t you? There’s a brilliant fic based on those books out at the moment - the Usher Ultimatum. It mixes characters from Edgar Allen Poe into the story. I haven’t read all of those books yet but the Usher Ultimatum is brilliant.”

“Must check that out,” Tracey replied. “So we just go to the fanfiction website and sign up. Is that all we have to do?”

“Pen names,” Parvati piped up. “You need pen names to open accounts. Then you’re all set to search, download, and read! That Time Wars fic is written by BiblioBabe199, by the way.”

Draco reached over to his bag and retrieved a scrap of parchment. He whipped a self-inking quill from Blaise’s top pocket and scribbled the pen name down.

“BiblioBabe199, I’ll check that out today,” he looked up. “Thanks Parvati.”

“No problem,” she smiled. “It is an amazing fic; the detail is perfection. But, just to warn you, it gets a bit hot.”

Draco laughed. “I might learn something so.”
.

The students broke up for a few hours before heading off to Hogsmeade for the afternoon. Hermione escaped Draco’s concern by grabbing Ginny and dragging her out into the hallway. The pair were instantly deafened by The Time Warp, and the go-go dancers jumping to the left before taking a step to the right.

“Hermione, what’s going on?” Ginny looked worried.

“I need to...Merlin! I need to talk to someone.”

Tears slid down Hermione’s cheeks and her look of pure panic was enough for Ginny to Accio their coats and usher her best friend outside.

“We won’t be overheard,” she assured Hermione as they stepped out into the October sun. “Come on.”

As they walked towards the Quidditch pitch, Hermione began to talk.
.

Some time later, the rest of the eighth years left the castle and made their way towards Hogsmeade. Draco kept looking around for Hermione, concern etched on his face.

“Draco, she’s fine, I’m sure,” Harry piped up. “Mione left the common room with Ginny right after breakfast. Merlin knows where they are but it’s a regular occurrence with them.”

“Why are you so concerned about Hermione, Draco?” Luna enquired, stepping away from Neville to walk beside the blond.

“Em...she looked ill earlier, Luna. I was just wondering if she was alright.”

“Harry’s right, mate,” Neville called over. “Hermione and Ginny could disappear for hours on end. Gin was lost when Hermione was off hunt-”

He trailed off, finding a very interesting loose button on his jacket cuff. Why do I keep mentioning the bloody War!

Luna leaned closer to Draco. “She feels the-”

The rest of her comment was lost when two Hufflepuff first years barrelled into the pair of them, knocking Luna off her feet. Theo lunged forward, catching the little Ravenclaw and saving her from crashing onto the stone path.

Ron cast a Stinging Hex on the two idiots immediately, warning them to be more careful where they’re going. His use of the English language was extremely colourful in contrast to their autumnal surroundings.

As the two terrified boys ran off, Theo cast a Jelly-Legs Jinx before they disappeared along the path.

“Now you know what it’s like to fall over...constantly, you little pricks!” He called, walking up to stand beside Ron and watch the pair stumble and flounder on their way back to the school.

“Nice one,” Ron grinned.

“Fuckers should be more careful,” Theo replied. “Are you alright, Luna?”

“I am, Theodore, thank you. Obviously the Umgubular Slashkilters were hot on their tails. They must have escaped from Gladrags again, I really should talk to Madame Culotte-”

“Luna, come on,” Neville immediately saved the day. “Our table is reserved at Madame Puddifoot’s.”

“Oh, I’d forgotten,” she smiled brightly before skipping over to him and linking his arm. Theo was still staring after her.

“You get used to it,” Ron quipped, walking past.

“Eh, Ron, do you fancy a beer? At the Three Broomsticks?” Theo put the next part of his plan into action.

“Eh, yeah, sure.”

“Draco? Harry?” The Slytherin might need their support, particularly Harry’s.

The two agreed, separating from the rest of the students when they arrived at the little village and making their way towards their favourite pub.
.

Arriving back at Hufflepuff’s Basement, the two wobbling first years found four Galleons on top of a barrel near the door and a note addressed to them:

Tell anyone and you’ll both be eating your balls for breakfast.
T.N.
.

Janice sat at her desktop, changing the odd he and she to Lucas and Andre. It wasn’t like Hermione to make grammatical errors like that, she was usually more attentive to detail. Well, she wouldn’t be Hermione otherwise.

Leaning back into her chair, she sipped her milky tea as she reread over the chapter. The editing was just finished but there was something about that love scene that bothered her. It clicked after a few minutes - Hermione was describing Draco. No wonder she didn’t put the characters’ names in the paragraphs.

“Oh, Hermione,” she blinked away a few stray tears. “I’ll make it right, I promise.”

She was almost finished the chapter when Charlie called up from downstairs.

“Jay, there’s a delivery here from the brewery. They’ve sent the wrong vodka again.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake! On my way!” She shouted, hastily uploading the chapter to the fanfiction website and posting it. She, too, missed the last few lines. Fucking brewery.
.

The unlikely group arrived into the Three Broomsticks and welcomed the heat from the raging fire in the corner. Harry removed his glasses to allow them defog before announcing he’d get the first round in.

He exchanged pleasantries with Madame Rosmerta as she prepared two Firewhiskys and two Butterbeers for him to carry over to the table where the others had chosen to sit.

The four sipped their drinks as silence swept around the table. It wasn’t awkward but it was certainly the first time they had spent together, away from the other eighth years.

“Where’s the rest of the lads?” Ron, for once, took the initiative.

“Blaise and Tracey are shopping for Halloween costumes with Dean and Parvati,” Draco offered.

“Neville and Luna have a date, as you know,” Harry added. “Ginny was supposed to join Pansy and Lavender at that new beauty place that’s opened but I guess that’s out the window.”

Draco bit his lip, keeping his eye on the drink cradled in his hands.

“Do you think Hermione is alright?”

Harry and Ron glanced at each other before the dark-haired Gryffindor replied.

“Normally we’d say she’s taken on too much work and she’s burning herself out with study,” he began. “But, we’ve an easy year - yes, we do, Ron - and she’s already two months ahead in her reading and assignments. So, I’m at a loss.”

Ron agreed. “She had our application forms for the Auror Training Program filled out since the first week of September and produced my colour-coordinated study timetable that she worked out with McGonagall. What has her stressed out now?”

He drained his glass. “Fucked if I know. My round!”

Harry took Ron’s absence as an opportunity to lean towards Theo.

“You don’t need his permission.”

Theo frowned. “I’m not looking for his permission.”

“But you’d like it,” Harry pressed.

Draco had no idea what Theo had planned but the Knut dropped at Harry’s comment. He instantly stood up for his friend.

“We’re just trying to do what’s right. For once we Slytherins are not thinking of ourselves first.”

“How very Hufflepuff of you,” Harry laughed, receiving a few choice words in reply.

Ron returned with their drinks floating beside him and an armful of snacks. Passing them around, he sat down, took a deep breath, an even longer mouthful of Butterbeer, and looked directly at Draco.

“I owe you an apology, mate.”
.

Pansy lay back on the couch and sighed in delight.

“This is bliiisssss,” she cooed. “We’re so doing this again.”

The Beauty Witch standing behind was massaging her neck and shoulders with exotic oils and smoothing away the stresses and strains that no young woman should ever endure. Pansy let her mind wander as her skin was caressed by expert fingers.

She imagined his bright blue eyes; shades of the sky on the most perfect day. His dirty blond hair was usually untidy and swept off his face constantly by his tanned fingers - fingers that now brushed against hers in public and made her scream in private. His skin was darkened by outdoor pursuits, lips paled from the sun. He was regularly seen around the castle grounds on his - what was it called? Bloody plank of wood with wheels.

Hermione swore he looked like a Muggle actor but that was lost on Pansy.

She was in love with him - Matt. Matthew Grey. Professor Matthew Grey. Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor Matthew Grey.
.

Six weeks ago

It had been the second day of classes; she was running late, having helped two first years find Classroom 7B on the seventh floor - whatever was taught in there was anyone’s guess! Leaving the two snivelling wrecks behind her, Pansy dashed back down the corridor only to find the moving staircases were closed off for intensive cleaning (by a team of elves in yellow hazmat suits). In order to reach the third floor, she had to run along abandoned corridors and avoid Peeves twice, before barging through the door of classroom 3C and collapsing in a heap at the foot of the new Professor.

“Miss Parkinson, I presume.”

Hot, flushed, and definitely not looking her best, Pansy stared at the floor and wished for death before squeezing her eyes shut and gritting her teeth as she took a deep breath and looked up.

There he was. The future Mister Pansy Parkinson.

He held out a hand and she reached up, praying to Circe her skin wasn’t clammy. Professor Grey gently pulled her up to stand in front of him.

“Did you hurt yourself?”

Oh! That voice, so cultured and so...so British, despite his studying at Ilvermorny. Pansy’s knees were struggling to hold her up and her knickers - well, they’d need replacing.

“No, no, I’m fine,” she rushed, her hand still in his. She began to babble her excuses - first years, stairs, Peeves, funny little yellow suits - it all came out in a torrent, her cheeks blazing.

He would remember years later that that was the moment he fell in love with her.

“Miss Parkinson, if you let go of my hand, I’ll pick up your books.”

“What? Oh! Oh my...I’m so sorry,” Pansy panicked, stepping back and subsequently falling over her bag. This time he was quicker, reaching out and grabbing her to him. She felt her body collide with his and could hardly breathe as his arms snaked around her.

His heart pounded; she swore hers missed a few beats.

“P-professor?” She asked as they broke apart and he bent to collect her things. “Where is everyone?”

“The rest are in the Library with assignments,” he answered. “You lot know as much as me considering I’m only a year or two older, after all-”

He stopped talking and handed back her belongings. “I’m sorry,” he began. “I went through the curriculum with Headmistress McGonagall and it seems you don’t need instruction in this class, just to sit the assignments. I have them here-”

He walked over to his desk which was piled high with rolls of parchments.

“What are they?” Pansy pointed to the teetering papers.

“Hmm?” He looked up to see what she was pointing at. “Oh, summer essays from first to fourth years. I’ve quite a lot to correct.”

“Can I help?” Pansy immediately asked. What?

Professor Grey looked thoughtful for a moment before scribbling a note and charming it to fly out the door.

“What was that?” She enquired.

“A request.”

“Are you going to enlighten me?” Shit! That was a bit cheeky.

“I am allowed a Teaching Assistant, should I require one,” he replied. “I suddenly find I...require one.”

“What about my assignments?” Pansy’s hands began to shake.

“Should you accept the post of DADA Teaching Assistant, you’ll automatically pass. It is expected, however, that you’d continue on here as a Professor after your schooling is complete. Just like Mister Longbottom and Mister Thomas.”

“I’ve always wanted to teach.” Wait...have I? Shut up, brain! I have now.

Thus began a working relationship; they met most evenings after dinner to correct essays and assignments, and plan classes. Pansy would attend his classes during her free periods to assist with practical demonstrations. The Headmistress was delighted with the results - not only with the students’ grades - but also the positive change in the once-troubled Miss Parkinson.

Six days ago, however, the working relationship changed.

That Sunday evening, Pansy left the Great Hall after dinner and made her way to the DADA classroom. Opening the door, she found the room to be in complete darkness with only a sliver of light escaping from the bottom of the door to his living quarters.

She knew the layout of the classroom by heart, easily navigating the desks and climbing the stone steps to the wooden door. He didn’t answer when she knocked but she could hear the crackling fire within. Gently, she tried the handle.

“Matt? You weren’t at dinner-”

Pansy saw him sitting with his back to her in the large room; his shoulders hunched over with his elbows resting on his knees. Frowning, she looked around the room; the desk they usually worked at was tidy, thanks to them being completely up-to-date. The screen that divided his small bedroom and bathroom from his work space and living area was pulled back, revealing an unmade bed and scattered belongings.

“Matt,” Pansy walked past his chair before turning to drop on her knees and face him. “What’s wrong?”

Slowly, he raised his head. “I’ve crossed the line, Pansy. My first fucking teaching job and I’ve crossed that fucking invisible line.”

His hands were cupped together in front of him and she reached forward with her own to cover his.

“I don’t understand, what’s-”

“Rule one of teaching,” he interrupted, searching her face and smiling wistfully. “Don’t fall in love with a student.”

Her heart plummeted to her knees.

“Oh.”

“Yeah. Oh.”

“Do I know her?”

He looked incredulously at her.

“Him?”

Matthew Grey burst out laughing. Standing up, he looked down to where she was still on her knees.

“We were in these exact positions when we met.”

He reached out his hand and helped Pansy up. This time, he did let her go but only to brush her dark hair away from her shoulders before cupping her face. Shock set her nerves on fire.

“I knew, Pansy. I knew within minutes. It’s getting harder to be around you when you’ve no idea how I feel. I love you.”

He let her go and walked over to the window before she could utter a word. It was too dark to see anything outside, except the faint outlines of the Quidditch hoops in the distance.

“I plan to hand in my resignation to Headmistress McGonagall tomorrow. There’s enough-”

“NO!” She shouted, marching over to him and pulling his arm. He turned his body towards her but kept his head down.

“Look at me.”

“Pansy-”

“Look at me!”

Slowly, Matt raised his glistening eyes to gaze at hers. Light green. Since meeting her, it had become his favourite colour.

“You can’t leave Hogwarts, Matt. You can’t leave me.”

She stepped forward and reached her arms up, sliding them around the back of his neck. His hands automatically spanned her waist.

“I’m in love with you, Matt. I want to be with you, more than anything. We can talk to McGonagall in the morning, see what she says. If you have to leave then I’m going with you...if you-”

His lips found hers in that moment. He pulled her closer, breathing her in, tasting her as one drinks after weeks of thirst. After a few moments they stepped apart, breathing heavily.

“Are you sure?” He asked, guiding her by the hand back to the armchair.

Pansy pulled back, stopping him.

“I’m so sure,” she replied. “If we have to leave, well, that’s what we’ll do. I’m sure McGonagall will ask you to stay and we-we can be discreet, I promise. It’s only till June and there’s Christmas and Easter to spend together-”

He silenced her with a kiss. “You have this all worked out.”

She winced, making him laugh. “I have a rich fantasy life.”

“Hmm? And what else happens in this fantasy life of yours?”

Pansy walked over to the unmade bed, pushing down on the mattress as if to test its resistance. Turning around to sit on the edge, she reached up to her shirt buttons.

“We make love.”

Matt followed her, removing his jumper as he went.
.

“Isn’t this wonderful?” Pansy sighed, thanking the Beauty Witch for making her feel so relaxed.

Lavender, who had opted for the full Gillyweed body wrap, could only blink in response.
.

Back at the Three Broomsticks, eyebrows were raised around the table.

“Why do you owe me an apology?” Draco enquired.

“Because I-I couldn’t forgive as easily as the rest of them,” Ron nodded his head towards Harry. “That first night in the common room; you guys put your stories out there and talked. I was just...numb. You comforted Hermione. You. I couldn’t do it, and I should have. I lashed out because I couldn’t comfort her and-and I haven’t been able to-”

He trailed off, leaning over the table with hunched shoulders. Taking a deep breath, he looked at Harry. “Tell them...please.”

His best friend nodded and, over the next couple of hours, told the story of Voldemort’s Horcruxes and, in particular, Salazar Slytherin’s Locket.

The Slytherins knew about the Horcruxes, everyone did after the fall of Voldemort, but Harry spoke of private successes and failures, of loneliness, betrayal, and anger. He explained how he, Ron, and Hermione, each took turns to wear the piece of jewellery and suffered its horrors as a result - the bitterness and despair. The jealousy.

After Draco’s round, Ron took up the story and admitted he abandoned his best friends.

“The night terrors are the worst; I used to see them - Harry and Mione - back in the Forest of Dean. They’d be burning on the ground and their ghosts would start attacking me screaming I failed them. I went to St. Mungo’s over the summer and saw a counselor. That helped. But I’m so-so fucking angry - at myself, at the War for making me this way, at fucking life!”

“You’ll get there, mate,” Harry assured him. “The counselling sessions are working, I can see that.”

“Yeah, Harry,” Ron sighed. “I just wish they were working a bit faster.”

Theo waved Madam Rosmerta over, ordering more drinks and four Shepherd’s Pies - her speciality.

“We should be living fucking normal lives, not sitting here trading war stories like old soldiers,” Ron muttered, draining his glass. “I can’t forgive myself and, until I do, I can’t...I’ve a long road ahead.”

As the four ate and drank, Theo opened up about his father.

“Like Draco, I was destined to be a Death Eater and follow in his footsteps. He wasn’t as high up in the ranks as Lucius and the bitterness of that drove him to vile extremes. What went on at my home was-”

He put down his fork and rubbed his face with hands, throwing his head back and sighing loudly.

“I haven’t talked about it...to anyone. Blaise and I did all we could to protect Pans from the Carrows but, I swear, we didn’t know about...Yaxley. My father, the fucking beast, did the same to so many girls - trying to prove he was a good little Death Eater. If he was very drunk, he’d bind me to the chair and make me watch.”

Theo sat forward and looked directly at Ron.

“I need you to know I will never be my father.”

Ron smiled, nodding slightly. “She loves you. I can see it when she looks at you.”

“I won’t hurt her, Ron.”

“I know you won’t, mate. She deserves all the happiness I can’t give her, and I didn’t give Hermione.”

“I’m in love with her.”

“Then tell her.”

Chapter Text

Five days ago

“Headmistress,” Matt caught McGonagall’s attention at breakfast. “May I have a word?”

“Certainly, Professor Grey,” she stood up. “I’m returning to my office shortly, if you care to join me.”

“Yes,” he replied instantly, his hand automatically reaching up to rub the back of his neck. “That-that would be fine.”

McGonagall leaned forward.

“Matthew, are you alright?”

“Yes...and no.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Then fetch Miss Parkinson and I’ll see you both in ten minutes.”

Minerva McGonagall marched away before he could comment, her lips pursed as she walked towards her office. She wasn’t blind; she knew exactly how the conversation with Professor Grey and his Teaching Assistant was going to go.
.

“She’ll see us in ten minutes,” Matt leaned over the eighth years’ table in the Great Hall pretending to read through a manuscript with his Teaching Assistant.

Pansy made a show of gathering her bag and books before starting a louder conversation about fourth year assignments. Saying goodbye to the others, she joined the Defence Against the Dark Arts professor and, together, they left the Great Hall. The double doors had barely closed behind them before Matt swept her into the nearest empty classroom and locked the door with a wave.

Pansy dropped her bag, throwing her arms around his neck and kissing him passionately. He held her close - one hand firmly on her back and the other sliding through her long silky hair.

They broke apart, his lips brushing her cheek.

“Merlin, I missed you this morning.”

“It would have been nice to stay-”

Matt stepped back, holding her at arm’s length.

“Nice? Nice? It would have been bloody fantastic!”

She laughed, stepping back into his embrace. His heart swelled as he breathed her in. Merlin, he loved her.

“This weekend, Pansy Parkinson, will you stay with me? If we’re still here.”

“Saturday night,” she promised his chest. “Wherever we are, I want to wake up on Sunday morning with you.”
.

“Professor Grey, Miss Parkinson, come in.”

The Headmistress looked over her reading spectacles at the pair who, despite trying to look professional, were as nervous as a house elf at a S.P.E.W. meeting. She invited them to sit down and, leaning back in her own chair, summoned a large pot of tea.

“You do not have classes yet, am I correct?”

“No, Headmistress,” Matt was the first to speak. “Miss Parkinson and I are free until midday.”

“Very well,” she replied, indicating for Pansy to pour the tea whilst she addressed him directly. “I am aware of why you are both here and - try not to spill the milk, dear, I detest the smell - I do not know if Miss Parkinson has explained the special arrangements that have been made for the eighth years in their common room but, in light of events, Hogwarts finds itself with students whose maturity rivals that of some of my peers. I am happy to treat them as adults. Thank you, my dear.”

She took a sip of tea and waited for the young Slytherin to make herself comfortable. Matt reached over and held Pansy’s hand, smiling at her before turning his attention back to the Headmistress. The look of love in his eyes didn’t go unnoticed.

“Matthew, Pansy, these past years have been...tough, to put it mildly. I have watched you two become close and, as far as I’m concerned and after all I’ve witnessed, life is too short and too precious to-” Minerva looked wistful and a hint of sadness flashed across her aged features. “I will not stand in your way. All I ask is that you both be discreet in front of the younger students, which I know you have been doing so far. You may, should you so wish, inform the other eighth years of your relationship but only if you can be assured of their discretion. Is that clear?”

They both instantly agreed, squeezing each other’s hands, and trying not to smile too much. The relief on their faces was obvious and a pang of regret stabbed at Minerva’s heart.

Where they that worried I’d refuse them - her - a chance at happiness?

“Now that that’s all settled, perhaps the two of you would like to explain what new ideas you both have for the curriculum?”
.

Pansy linked Lavender’s arm as they left the beauty parlour and made their way to the Three Broomsticks.

“You know, Pansy, for a Slytherin you’re practically oozing Ravenclaw quirkiness at the moment,” Lavender held up her hand at the start of Pansy’s obvious attempt at denial. “I’m just saying that far away gaze is so like Luna’s but somehow I don’t think you’re getting all moony over a nargle, or Neville for that matter. Hmm?”

Pansy sighed but the smile never left her face. “I was going to tell you all after this weekend so can you keep it a secret until then?”

“Keep who secret, Pansy?”

“Ha! You’d make a fine Slytherin, bitch,” her friend laughed. “Yes, I’m seeing someone. Well, only in the last few days but we’ve known how we feel about each other for a bit longer. Lav, this is it. I know it.”

“Aw, that’s fantastic, Pans. Is he a seventh year?”

“Em...no.”

“Ha! Cradle snatcher! Sixth?”

“Well-”

“Shit...no!”

Pansy’s eyes sparkled. “Lav, it’s Matt.”

“Matt?”

“Grey. Matthew Grey.”

Lavender stopped in her tracks, staring at Pansy with wide-eyes.

“As in-”

“As in Professor Matthew Grey, who is only two years older than I am so there’s no problem. And we have McGonagall’s consent, provided we act professionally. Oh Lav, I’m so in love with him.”

Tears pricked her eyes and threatened to fall down her freshly massaged cheeks. Instantly, Lavender threw her arms around Pansy and hugged her fiercely, the waterworks looming over her recently Gillyweed-wrapped skin as well.

“I’m so happy for you,” the Gryffindor cried. “You deserve to be happy, Pansy. Oh Merlin! This is wonderful! I’m so happy!”

Pansy hugged her back. “Do you realise how many times you’ve said ‘happy’ just now?”

“Just because you Slytherins can’t spell the word,” Lavender scoffed light-heartedly, taking Pansy’s arm again. “Well, with the exception of Blaise and Tracey.”

“Well, they do get a little ‘puffy’ at times all loved up like that,” Pansy agreed. “Now what-”

“Ah! Ah!” Lavender interrupted her. “I want to know everything! In the next five minutes.”
.

The two girls fell through the doors of the Three Broomsticks laughing hysterically as Pansy retold the part of her story where she thought Matt was in love with a male student.

“Oh, you didn’t,” Lavender gasped, wiping more tears from her eyes. “This is priceless! What happened then?”

“What happened then will have to wait,” Pansy winked. “I’m not talking about that in front of them.”

She nodded towards a table in the corner where two dark heads were leaning towards a blond and a redhead, their faces shrouded in misery. The girls could hear Harry’s voice cracking as they walked towards them.

“...she struggles onto the deck and walks in her bare feet towards the railing. Then-then she climbs up-”

“But she’s like a hundred...how did she do that?”

“I dunno, mate. Anyway, what does she do? She drops the bloody Heart of the Ocean into the...er...ocean.”

“She had it-”

“All along?”

“Fuck me!”

Lavender turned around, pulling Pansy with her.

“I’ll walk you back up to the castle, Pans.”
.

As the drunken male bonding continued over the torture that was Aunt Petunia’s Leonardo DiCaprio’s DVD boxset, and happy tears were shed at Pansy’s first glimpse of a happy future, the atmosphere surrounding a particular bench in the Gryffindor Quidditch stands was positively heartbreaking.

Hermione was lying across her best friend’s knee, having sobbed herself to sleep. Ginny conjured a couple of blankets to wrap around the two of them and sat deep in thought as she soothingly brushed through Hermione’s hair with her hand.

The troubled bookworm had started talking as soon as they stepped outside the castle doors, her hands waving in panic with a hysterical hitch to her voice.

“I’m in so much trouble. I never thought-”

Ginny linked Hermione’s arm, if only to calm her down slightly.

“Mione, stop! Please, take a deep breath. You’ll work yourself into a heap! Deep breath, come on-”

Hermione closed her eyes and let herself be guided by Ginny as they walked along. After a few long inhales and exhales, she opened them again and nodded.

“I’m okay.”

“Now, what’s happened?”

“It’s Draco, Ginny.”

“What about him?”

“I’m in love with him.”
.

Sitting on the bench, Ginny thought back to the story that followed; Hermione watching Draco from under Harry’s cloak, crying alongside him in secret, writing to rid herself of the nightmares of war, and using her characters to mimic what she wanted with the remorseful Slytherin. She now knew Hermione had also confided in her cousin and wondered if she should also have a talk with Janice.

Ginny let her mind revert back to the first night in the common room where Draco revealed his scars to them. They were all visibly upset and shaken by the sight of his wounds but, thinking back, she remembered Hermione being distraught, more so than the rest of them. She also recalled how Draco had comforted her friend, wiping her tears, and soothing her with whispers. Why hadn’t she noticed it before? That was more than an apology from Draco; that was...something else.

Was it possible Hermione’s feelings were reciprocated? Should she let nature take its course and hope they would find each other in time? Or should she contact Janice and interfere?

Hermione’s stirring brought Ginny back from her thoughts.

“Gin?”

“Hey, sleepyhead. This writing is taking its toll, you’re worn out.”

“I think-” Hermione began, sitting up slowly. “I think I’ve gotten myself into a complete mess.”

“A Draco-shaped mess? Or a fanfiction-shaped one?”

“Both.”

“Well,” Ginny sighed. “You can’t do anything about the fanfiction - unless you abandon the story and give it all-”

“Are you mad? Of course, I’m not going to do that! Abandon a story? Me?” Hermione looked aghast at the suggestion.

Her clever redheaded friend grinned. “Correct answer.”

Hermione bit her lip, her eyes watering slightly. “And Draco?”

Ginny pulled her best friend into a hug. “One thing at a time, Mione. I won’t tell you that ‘if it’s meant to be shite’ but let’s see what happens. Hmm?”

She could feel Hermione nodding against her shoulder.

“Let’s get back, yeah? I feel hot chocolates with marshmallows coming on.”

“Gin?” Hermione turned to her friend as they both stood up.

“I really do love him.”

“I know.”
.

Not all the eighth years made it back to the common room for dinner and Lavender and Pansy took great delight in repeating what they’d overheard in the Three Broomsticks.

“Oh shit!” Ginny moaned. “Not Petunia’s boxset. That means-”

She looked over to Hermione, her painful expression saying it all.

“My Heart Will Go On,” they both groaned in unison.

“Fuck.” Hermione put her head in her hands.

Parvati reached for another bread roll. “What does that mean?”

Hermione turned to address her. “It means Harry is well and truly pissed.”

“So Ron isn’t too far behind,” Ginny added.

“I think we can safely say they’re all pissed,” Pansy stood up from the table. “So it’s going to be a wonderfully quiet evening here for you all. Enjoy!”

With that, she winked at Lavender and skipped out the door.

“Is everything okay with Pans?” Tracey enquired.

“Nothing to worry about,” Lavender smiled back.

Neville looked over at Dean and Blaise. “Think we should go back down to the pub and see if they’re alright?”

“Good idea, mate,” Dean stood up.

Blaise agreed, waving his wand to summon his jacket. “Rescue mission.”

“We won’t be long, guys,” Neville turned to the girls. “See you in a bit. Will you have four Sober Up Potions ready?”

They waited until the boys had left the room before Parvati looked around at the others.

“Seven?”

“Fuck, yeah,” Ginny agreed.
.

Several hours later, Hermione, Ginny, Lavender, Parvati, Tracey, and Luna were sitting around the fireplace in the common room sharing a couple of bottles of Elderflower Wine and playing a cross between the Magical Symbols Game from the Daily Prophet and the Muggle game Pictionary. It may have got quite “raunchy” at one stage, thanks to Ginny “Just Call Me Kinky” Weasley. Amid howls of laughter, a bang was heard coming from outside the door.

“NO! NO! NO! You’re fucking useless twats! Listen to me.”

“Oh, shit,” Ginny moaned, recognising Harry’s voice. “Here we go.”

The girls stood, vanishing the games and glasses. Tracey looked around the room, a slight look of panic on her face.

“We’re one short! Where’s Pansy?”

Quick-thinking Ginny came to the rescue. “Mione, you take Draco. Fuck Ron.”

Luna crept over to the door and peeked out.

“I wouldn’t advise doing anything right now but taking a ringside seat,” she quipped. “This looks like fun.”

Hermione waved her wand at the wall separating the common room from the hall outside, her spell instantly turning the wall into a one-way window. The girls took their seats again and Luna conjured up bowls of popcorn; this was going to be worth watching.

Harry was standing in front of the portraits, trying to convince the go-go dancers - in full Rocky Horror costumes - to sing backing vocals as he serenaded ‘these pricks’ and taught them ‘what decent fucking music is.’ Eventually agreeing to his request, the scene in the portraits was magically changed to the deck of the famous ship with two dancers taking on the roles of Jack and Rose. Harry swayed to the introduction that magically filled the air, his arms open wide, glasses askew, and a beermat sticking out the top of his shirt. Gripping the microphone stand that appeared in front of him, he closed his eyes.

Everynight in my dreams

I see you, I feel you

That is how I know you go on...

By now, Jack and Rose were standing at the bow of the ship which protruded from the frame like a three dimensional object, their arms spread out and a magical wind blowing them to bits.

Neville was teary-eyed as he conjured up theatre chairs for each of them and considerately handed around tissues before taking his seat.

“He sings like an angel,” Ron gasped.

“That’s not singing, Ron,” Dean replied sagely. “That’s performing.”

Draco was sitting in between Theo and Blaise. The Slytherin Trio were so mesmerized by the Boy Who Actually Could Hold A Note that they held hands and looked agog at the showstopper as he belted out the emotions.

Near, far, wherever you are

I believe that the heart does go on

Once more you open the door

And you're here in my heart

And my heart will go on and on

Tears of another kind flowed without mercy on the other side of the wall as the six girls were bent over and frantically crossing their legs, trying desperately to hold it all in.

By now, Jack and Rose were acting out the scene in the cargo hold - steamy windows and the handprint - but they were completely ignored as Harry gave the song his all.

As he sang the final notes, his audience struggled drunkenly to their feet and applauded him with ‘bravos’ and ‘encores’. Draco expressed his approval in fluent French.

A single rose landed at Harry’s feet.

“You’re a wonderful audience,” Harry whispered, clutching the rose to his breast. “Thank you.”

Cries of ‘more’ came from both the small gathering in front of him and the dancers in the portraits (except for Jack and Rose who were still in the car).

Hermione went to stand up, determined to put an end to the ridiculous scene in front of them, but was instantly dragged back into her seat by Parvati on one side and Lavender on the other.

“This is too good,” Lavender commented.

“I-I want to dedicate this next number to the love of my life,” Harry’s voice hitched slightly as he lifted the microphone from its stand. “Gentlemen, Miss Ginevra Weasley.”

Polite applause echoed around as he sashayed through his audience, shaking hands. Blaise asked him for his autograph.

And I love you so

The people ask me how

How I’ve lived till now

I tell them I don’t know

I guess they understand

How lonely life has been

But life began again

The day you took my hand

A hush fell across the common room, the portraits, and Harry’s captive audience. Tears silently flowed as the girls now gripped each other for emotional support. Ginny’s heart threatened to burst as she listened to the lyrics; it meant so much more to hear them compared to a trivial ‘I love you’.

And yes, I know how lonely life can be

The shadows follow me

And the night won't set me free

But I don't let the evening get me down

Now that you're around me

Ginny walked like a zombie towards the door. Turning around as it opened, Harry held his hand out to her as he continued to sing.

And you love me too

Your thoughts are just for me

You set my spirit free

I'm happy that you do

The book of life is brief

And once a page is read

All but love is dead

That is my belief

“I love you, Gin,” Harry whispered during the musical interlude.

“I love you,” she smiled back, moving into his embrace.

As the music continued around them, they swayed to its gentle air. All too soon, Harry had to pull back in order to belt out the final verse.

And yes, I know how lonely life can be

“I want my Tracey,” Blaise whispered, letting go of Draco’s hand and clutching Harry’s autograph to his chest. “Trace,” he mumbled, stumbling towards the common room door. She was waiting for him on the inside as he fell flat on his face.

The shadows follow me

And the night won’t set me free

“I going to marry Luna,” Neville turned to Ron. “She’s a brilliant knitter, Ron.”

“I know, mate,” Ron patted his hand. “I know.”

The redhead promptly passed out in his chair.

But I don’t let the evening get me down

Now that you’re around me

“Parvati is it for me,” Dean informed Jack and Rose, who were leaning out the car window. “She’s my world, my...my...she’s Rachael to my Deckard. Do you guys know Blade Runner?”

He promptly slid down the wall and remained there.

And I love you so

The people ask me how

How I’ve lived till now

I tell them I don’t know

Harry and Ginny kissed as the song came to an end. The portraits and go-go dancers were the only ones who applauded as the real audience were slowly passing out around them.
.

Hermione and Lavender watched as the girls levitated or supported their boyfriends to bed, each collecting a Sober Up Potion on their way.

That left the two of them inside the common room with Draco and Theo holding each other in the hallway and wailing like Moaning Myrtle.

“How do I tell her?” Theo cried. “What’ll I do, Draaaaco? She’s...she’s...my bumblebee.”

“Just tell her, man,” Draco wobbled away from his friend. “Tell her what’s in here.” He pounded on his chest with his fist. “Just like I’m going to-”

“Okay, guys,” Hermione stepped out into the corridor. “Time for bed.”

“Granger,” Draco turned around, and kept turning.

Hermione reached out and grabbed his arms. “This way, Draco,” she smiled. “Time for bed.”

“Granger,” he repeated, gazing down at her like a lovestruck idiot. “Granger.”

“I thought we’d all agreed to use each other’s given names,” she pointed out, guiding him towards the common room door.

“Ah, but you’re my Andre,” he pointed out. “Lucas calls her ‘Cross’ so I’m calling you Granger. It’s got less syl - less syl-syl...it’s shorter.”

“Okay, then,” Hermione tried to keep in the laughter as she attempted to steer him in the direction of the bedrooms.

After a few bounces off various walls, they arrived at his door. Draco stared at it for a moment and didn’t move.

“What’s wrong, Draco?” Hermione looked up at him, her arm still linked in his to keep him steady.

He didn’t answer.

“Draco? What’s your password? Can you remember?”

“Em…”

“Have you forgotten it?”

“No.”

“Then, what...is it private? Will I step away?”

“Y-yes, please.”

“Okaaaayyy,” she slipped her arm from his and stepped back. He instantly fell towards the door and remained there, leaning on it for support.

Hermione realised that, as soon as he’d utter the password, the door would open and Draco Malfoy would embark on a one way trip to the floor.

“Em…” she began.

He squashed his face to the wood, keeping his eyes firmly shut so the door would stop wobbling in front of him.

“Gr-Granger,” he gasped, trying to hold it all together. “P-potion-”

“Merlin, yes! I forgot it,” she replied. “Open your door, I’ll get one.”

Hermione, dashed back down the corridor to the common room. Once she was out of hearing range, and the door managed to stay still, Draco whispered his password.

“Cockroach.”
.

Needless to say, Hermione returned with the Sober Up Potion to find Draco prostrate on the floor.

She kneeled down beside him and, pocketing the small vial, used all her strength to roll him over.

“Granger,” he breathed. “Are you going to save me?”

“I’ll try,” she smiled. “Here, lift your head.”

“Can’t, my head is stuck to the floor.”

Hermione sighed. “What’ll I do with you? Hmm? Here, let me.”

She slid her hand under Draco’s neck and raised his head as easily as she could. Feeling the softness of his blond hair reminded her of the first day on the train when she rearranged his hairstyle following Pansy’s practical joke. She bit her lip hard, trying not to cry at the memory.

“Drink this, Draco,” she urged. “Quickly, you’re a dead weight.”

He did as she asked, feeling the back of his head touch the floor as Hermione lowered him back down. She sat back against the doorframe and waited for the potion to take effect. A sigh eventually indicated some progress.

“What the fuck happened?”

“You got drunk.”

“Shit!” Draco moaned, rubbing his hands over his face. “What did I do?”

“Nothing, you’re as pure as the driven snow,” Hermione laughed. “A captive audience to Harry’s singing, that’s all.”

“There was a boat-”

“There was.”

“I was holding hands...did I hold your hand?”

“No, you held Blaise’s and Theo’s. I wasn’t there.”

“Fuck! Did- no, no! Don’t tell me anymore. Let me die here in ignorance.”

He rolled over and slowly stood up, with the grace of a newborn deer. Moving away from the doorframe allowed the door to swing closed and Hermione caught it as she stood as well.

“I should-”

“Stay, please. I’m-I’m still- shit, my fucking head.”

Draco sat gingerly on the edge of the bed and cradled his head in his hands.

“Would you like some tea, Draco?”

He looked up at Hermione, smiling as she stood nervously by the door.

“A world of yes.”

Hermione was torn between going down to the kitchens herself and calling for a house elf. She didn’t know where Lavender and Theo had gone and, like the others, wasn’t blind to their obvious attraction. Walking back into the common room could interrupt...something.

She chose the less awkward option. The little house elf, dressed as a french maid - without the suspenders - returned quickly carrying a tray. Balancing on top was a large pot of tea and two mugs.

Kneeling down on the floor beside the tray, Hermione stirred the tea bags around for a minute before pouring the tea and handing a mug to Draco. He sat back on his bed, taking a sip, and sighing with content.

“Ah, Yorkshire,” he smiled.

“You know Yorkshire Tea?”

Shit. “Eh, yeah. My mother loves it.”

“I would have thought she’d like Darjeeling or Earl Grey.”

“Oh no, she loves really strong... builders’ tea…” he trailed off.

“It’s my favourite,” Hermione smiled. “The stronger the better. We can make sure the elves serve it at breakfast, if you like.”

“Yeah, I’d like that. Thanks,” he smiled, causing her insides to compete with the tea for consistency.

They drank in silence.

“Granger-”

“You’re not going to call me Hermione anymore?”

“You were always ‘Granger’. Don’t get me wrong; your name is beautiful but I prefer ‘Granger’.”

“Most people complain about my name. Viktor couldn’t even pronounce it. Ron started shortening it to ‘Mione’ which I’m not really fond of but, I mean, how do you tell someone you don’t like what they call you? It’s a bit awkward, isn’t it? Now, Harry and most of the Weasleys call me ‘Mione’ and you’re the first person to ever refer to it as...”

She looked up. He was out cold.

“...beautiful.”

Hermione stood and vanished the tray. She removed Draco’s shoes and covered him with a conjured blanket, running her fingers lightly through his hair before stepping away from the side of the bed. Her head wanted to leave but her heart had her rooted to the spot. She moved back towards him and bent down to kiss his cheek.

“I love you,” she whispered, wiping a tear as she spoke. She turned to the door, taking a look back at him once more before leaving.

Draco stirred in his sleep.

“Love...you,” he sighed.

Chapter Text

Hermione threw herself on top of her bed with a heavy sigh and a heart still hammering from the kiss she had placed on Draco’s cheek.

They were getting on so well; could she take the chance to tell him how she-

NO!

Not going there!

There was no way in hell Draco Malfoy would love Hermione Granger. They were too different; polar opposites, chalk and cheese. He was a Michelin star restaurant to her reheated takeaway. End of.

She needed a miracle, or Draco Malfoy to realise he loved her as much as she loved him.

I’ll bet both my Gringotts and Muggle bank accounts on the former, please.

Curling up, Hermione’s thoughts skipped to Lavender and Theo, having overheard what the very drunk Slytherin had said to Draco in the hall earlier:

“How do I tell her? What’ll I do, Draaaaco? She’s...she’s...my bumblebee.”

“Tell her what’s in here. Just like I’m going to-”

Toeing off her Converse, she pulled the throw from the bed over herself and closed her eyes. What was Draco going to do?
.

Meanwhile, Theo was stretched across the couch waiting for his Sober Up Potion to take effect. Lavender sat in front of him on the edge of the coffee table, holding the empty vial in her hand.

“Is it working?”

“Hmm? I think so. I just wish it would work faster.”

“Well, I’ll leave you to...em...recover,” she said quietly. Theo’s hands shot out and grabbed onto hers.

“Stay here...please.”

They remained in silence, both of them looking at their conjoined hands.

“Did you mean it, Theo?” Lavender looked up after a few minutes.

“Em...what did I say?” He winced. “Was it bad?”

She laughed quietly. “You called me your bumblebee.”

“Did I? Oh, bloody hell,” he closed his eyes. “That’s fucking embarrassing.”

Lavender smiled, trying to bravely conceal the look of heartache she was sure flickered across her face.

“It’s okay,” she stood up, letting her hands relax so he’d let go.

“No, it’s not!” he jumped up, only swaying slightly. “Lav, it’s not alright. That was a ridiculous thing to say!”

“I’m not offended, Theo,” she tried to put on a brave face and remove her hands from his.

“But you’re supposed to be!”

“What?”

“Bollocks! This is all coming out wrong!”

Theo walked around to the back of the couch, leaving a bewildered Lavender standing beside the coffee table. He fisted his hands, rubbing his eyes before turning to look over at her.

“You’re supposed to be insulted if I call you a bumblebee.”

“But you didn’t-”

“You just told me I did!”

“You called me your bumblebee, Theo. And-and I want to know if you think I am.”

“Am what?”

“Your bumblebee.”

“My-” Obviously the Sober Up Potion was taking a little longer to clear Theo’s drunken state.

“Oh, oh, I see. Well,” he looked down at the floor, tapping his boot along the base of the couch. “I would have asked you in a much more appropriate way...if my head wasn’t stuck up my very pissed arse.”

“You would have what, Theo?” She enquired. “Asked me to be your what?”

Theo mumbled something and kept his head down. The back of the couch was being tapped a little harder now.”

“I didn’t hear you.”

The carpet was a fascinating study. “I wanted to ask you...tobemine.”

Theo took a deep breath and waited for Lavender to thank him for his interest but, terribly sorry, she was in love with Ronald Weasley and planning a lifetime of making casseroles and infecting the English countryside with mini Agent Oranges.

“Are you asking the carpet out, Theo?”

“It’s very pretty,” he quipped.

“I agree,” she replied, smiling. “It’s just a pity because, if you were asking me to be yours-”

Lavender burst out laughing.

“Lav?” Theo looked up, completely confused.

He felt his heart sink. She was laughing; why was she laughing? Was it that much of a joke? Right, well, that was that. He was a laughing stock. His heart sank faster than the fucking ship fucking Potter fucking sang about.

“I’m-” he began, moving towards the door to their rooms.

Lavender stepped in front of him, wiping the tears of laughter from her eyes.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, Theo,” she took a breath. “You asked me to be yours, after calling me a bee. It really wasn’t that funny...em...I think I’m just nervous but I don’t know why because I would really love-”

Lavender never finished her sentence. Theo grasped her face in his hands and pressed his lips to hers with such intensity, she forgot all rational thought and just about managed to kiss him back - remembering after a minute or two she had arms that could easily be wrapped around his neck.

He slowed the kiss, eventually. Pulling back, he kept his hands on her cheeks as he gazed into her eyes.

“You are so beautiful,” he whispered.

The look on her face must have indicated she disagreed with him. He didn’t give her a chance to retort, however. Placing a finger on her lips, he hushed her.

“Listen to me, Lavender Brown. You are beautiful; inside and out. You are strong, brave, everything I’m not but want to be. With you, I will be. So this is me being brave-”

He kissed her again; this time his tongue slid against her lower lip as if he could commit her taste to memory. She sighed against him, opening her mouth to draw him closer. Their tongues touched gently - delicately - but causing sparks to flow through them like energy.

“Theo,” Lavender whispered against his lips. “I want to be yours. Make me yours.”
.

As the remaining eighth years slept soundly in their beds, whether peacefully sober or under the influence of too much alcohol, Theo Nott held Lavender Brown tightly in his arms as her body orgasmed around him. As the waves of pleasure coursed through her veins, he whispered she was his. When he came, clinging to her and crying her name, she told him she loved him.

They held onto each other afterwards, as if terrified to let go.

“Lav?” Theo spoke quietly, smashing the silence that surrounded them.

“Hmm?”

“I spoke to Ron.”

She moved in his arms, placing her chin on his chest and and looking up at his handsome face. The dozen or so candles lighting her room gave her a warm glow, one flame in particular reflecting in her eyes. Before she could answer, Theo continued.

“I didn’t want any animosity between you both; you Gryffindors are so united and I was afraid that making a move on you would cause...upset.”

He laughed briefly. “It’s the least Slytherin thing I’ve ever done.”

She frowned slightly. “Why would you speak to him, Theo? Ron and I-”

“Are over, I know,” he cut her off, running his hand through her hair. “I wanted to clear the air; to tell him how I felt about you and that I wanted you - not in a Slytherin-trophy sort of way but in a definite I-love-you-and-I-can’t-imagine-my-life-without-you way.”

“Did this all happen-”

Theo took a deep breath and nodded.

“I was a bit Slytherin at the start,” he began, explaining about setting up the two Hufflepuffs to crash into one of them - It just happened to be Luna, I swear, Lav - in order to strike up a conversation with Ron and mention the Three Broomsticks. That’s how we started drinking and things got a little...emotional. He explained to us how he’s feeling, the treatment he’s getting, and how he noticed...em...how you and I were acting towards each other. Harry knew also so I guess we haven’t been very subtle.”

“No, I guess we haven’t,” Lavender smiled, her lips ghosting across his chest. “So here we are.”

“Here we are,” he agreed. “Ron was the one who told me to tell you how I feel about you.”

“That I’m your bumblebee?”

“You’re more than my bumblebee, Lav. You’re the love of my life.”

“I’m glad,” she smiled, her eyes lighting up with mischief. “Remember I told you bumblebees have really...long...tongues?

“Hmm,” he grinned. “Let’s see it then.”
.

Sunday morning saw Pansy Parkinson waking up to discover Professor Matthew Grey’s fingers sliding across her damp folds and his lips and tongue teasing her hardening nipples. She sighed loudly, her body stretching against his as she wrapped her arms around him.

“Good morning,” she purred.

“Good morning,” he looked up, popping a nipple from his mouth as he moved. “Sleep well?”

“Mm, perfectly,” Pansy smiled. “You?”

“Knowing I was waking up with you? How do you think?” Matt grinned, slipping a finger into her as he leaned forward to kiss her deeply.

“Last night was...Pansy, it was special,” he murmured against her lips. “Waking up with you was something I wanted from the moment I saw you.”

“Really?” She whispered. “Love at first sight? I like the sound-”

He couldn’t wait for her to finish; Matt moved over and slipped into her waiting core, gasping at the warmth of her body and its easy acceptance of him.

Pansy threw back her head and moaned. “Merlin, I love you.”
.

Elsewhere, it was quiet in the common room; a lonely sound came from a sole computer keyboard as Luna typed away, lost in her own world.

The only other eighth year awake was Hermione, who had showered, dressed, and escaped as soon as she woke. Whereabouts currently unknown.

Sober girlfriends woke with comical memories of the night before whilst dead and dying boyfriends, along with the hopefully temporarily single Draco and the I’m-in-no-fit-state-to-have-a-girlfriend Ron, stirred in various states of suffering.
.

“Wh-what happened, Gin?” Harry croaked, picking a beermat out of the shirt he had collapsed in.

“Celine,” she replied, matter-of-factly.

“Oh, bollocks.”
.

“Parv, help...me,” Dean moaned. “My tongue’s like...Ghandi’s flip flop.”

“Oh, so you do remember my name, Dean. Last night you were trying to get me to change it by deed poll to Rachael Tyrell Deckard.”

“Oh, bollocks.”
.

Blaise peeled the small piece of paper away from his mouth, his drool having glued it in place. He peered at it for a moment before recognising Harry Potter’s signature.

“What the-”

“Morning, Sunshine!” Tracey bounced on the bed beside him. “How are we this morning?”

“Sicker than St Mungo’s, Trace,” he buried his head in the drool-soaked pillow. “Why-”

“Harry’s autograph? Well-”

“Oh, bollocks.”
.

Neville rolled over in the bed he shared with Luna and subsequently landed in a heap on top of the floor.

“Oh, bollocks.”
.

Ron was still draped across the theatre chairs in the hallway outside the common room, snoring loudly, as the go-go dancers started clearing away the remnants of the iceberg. As advocates for ‘Sing While You Work,’ they were in the throes of Marilyn Manson’s ‘This is Halloween’ when one over-enthusiastic go-go dancer slipped on the wet floor and landed on top of Ron’s mini-Weasley maker.

“OH, BOLLOCKS!”
.

Theo opened his eyes to catch the morning sun highlight the blond strands spread out on the pillow beside him.

“Morning!”

Following the golden rays, he smiled warmly at the sight of Lavender lying beside him, her cheeky smirk causing all the blood in his body to move south.

“Good morning,” he leaned forward to kiss her, wincing at the headache that decided to travel with him.

“There’s water on the other side of you,” she grinned, waving a vial of Pepper-Up Potion in front of him.

“You are an angel,” he sighed, reaching out for the vial and popping the cork. “My own beautiful angel.”

A few drops of Pepper-Up Potion later, joined by a large glass of water, and Theo Nott was all set to worship his own miracle from the Gods...again.

“I meant every word last night, Lav,” he whispered against her cheek as he held her close. “I love you so much.”

“I know,” she sighed, relishing the feeling of his skin against hers. “I love you, Theo.”
.

Waking up, it took Draco a few minutes to figure out why he was still in his clothes and spreadeagled on top of his bed.

Tea. He remembered tea...and a vial of something. Oh, Merlin! Sober Up Potion. What state was he in that he needed Sober Up Potion? Maybe it was better he didn’t know.

He felt like shit. First order of the day - a Pepper-Up and a shower - but the thoughts of getting out of the bed had him groaning into his pillow. It occurred to him, after another few minutes of wishing he was dead, that his shoes were off and he was covered up. Hmm…

Slowly, the pieces of the puzzle began to reveal themselves in his mind and start to form into a jigsaw - one that showed pictures of mugs of tea, Hermione, singing, Firewhiskey, more Firewhiskey, Hermione, and a fucking massive ship.

And, please Merlin, please let the image of Harry Potter singing be an aneurism of some kind and not a memory.

Hermione. She was part of last night...but how? Draco couldn’t think straight but, knowing the beautifully kind witch that she was, he began to think she might have helped him to bed.

He’d have to thank her.

Taking a deep breath and pursing his lips together, Draco hauled himself off the bed and staggered over to the door.

Potion. Shower. Thank Hermione. Potion. Shower. Thank Hermione. You can do this, Draco. Potion. Shower. Thank Hermione…

Greeting him on the other side of his bedroom door was a floating tea tray, surrounded by the warm glow of a stasis charm. On it sat a large pot of tea, some toast already melting with heaps of butter - exactly the way he liked it - two bottles of water, and the Elixir of Life for every hungover mess- Pepper-Up Potion.

A note was sitting under his favourite mug - the one with the Edgar Allan Poe quote “The Past Is A Pebble In My Shoe.” Draco smiled; Hermione hated that mug. Drawing the tray back into his room, he set it down before picking up the note.

Draco

Hope you’re feeling alright this morning. Make sure you drink the potion, won’t you? I knocked at your door but you must have been out cold and, since I don’t know your password, I just left the tray outside. Everything should be still warm.

You need a new mug, yeah? This one is too miserable.

Hx

He ran his finger over her handwriting, biting his lip as he thought about some way to thank Hermione for whatever she did for him the night before. He’d have to ask her. But first...toast!
.

The quiet morning continued into early afternoon. Hermione returned around lunchtime, having been in the library finishing off her next chapter in private. Writing it out longhand had been relaxing, giving her less time to think about...well, it just gave her less time to think.

Pansy had peeled herself away from Matt’s arms to finish an assignment for Transfiguration. She was currently seated on the floor, using a coffee table as a desk. The rest of them were stretched across armchairs and couches, snoozing or reading. Theo’s head was resting on Lavender’s lap, his eyes closed as she absentmindedly ran her fingers through his hair. No one commented directly but their smiles said it all.

Ron walked past the couch the couple were on and put all his support into a squeeze of Lavender’s shoulder. Catching her eye as she looked up, he nodded and offered a lopsided smile. His former flame placed her hand on his, smiling warmly and mouthing ‘thank you.’ Theo watched the interaction through hooded eyes, saying nothing but making a mental note to thank Ron later.

Luna eventually tore herself away from her computer station and skipped back into the common room.

“Oh, good,” she beamed. “You’re all here.”

“In body, love,” Neville moaned from under his New Zealand’s national Quidditch team fleece blanket.

“Well, as you all know, the early bird catches the flobberworm so I’ve set up accounts for you all on the fanfiction website the guys mentioned yesterday morning.”

“That’s very thoughtful of you, Luna,” Pansy looked up from her work.

“Luna,” Dean lifted up the cushion that was covering his face. “Does that mean you’ve set everyone’s pen names as well?”

“Yes, of course,” the quirky blonde replied. “I just used the email addresses we set up at the beginning of term. Oh, by the way, you all have the same password. It’s Ex Libris. It can be changed at anytime to whatever you want.”

“Why Ex Libris, Luna?” Ginny looked up from her Quidditch magazine.

“Oh, I just thought Hermione might like it,” Luna quipped, continuing before anyone else could comment. “And I picked each of the pen names based on what I thought of you all.”

She took some small pieces of parchment out of her pocket and started to hand them around. Slightly alarmed faces gazed back at her but Luna was completely oblivious. As usual.

“Harry,” she began. “You are ‘Jily,’ it’s a mix of James and Lily. I thought you might like it.”

He opened his mouth to reply but Luna had already moved onto-

“What?” Ginny exclaimed, staring at the parchment in her hand. “Where the hell did you get ‘Foxy Lady’ from?”

“Well, you forgot to put up a Silencio on your room last week and I happened to be passing by when Harry called you that, Ginny. It sounded as if you enjoyed it as you-”

“Oh, Merlin! Luna!” the redhead now had cheeks the colour of her hair and her boyfriend, The Boy Who Liked To Call Her Sexy Nicknames, looked paler than your average Malfoy.

Dean, Parvati, and Lavender were the only ones who laughed. The rest were now slightly anxious as to what the Ravenclaw had chosen for them. Hermione felt relieved; Luna would give her a pen name and she could just pretend to use it like everyone else. It would make up for her strange behaviour the morning before. She had caught Ginny’s startled expression when Luna had started to hand out the parchments, shaking her head slightly to indicate they would stay quiet.

“Theo, yours is ‘The Lonely Thestral’ because I noticed you’ve been spending a lot of time with them in the Forbidden Forest. It’s very sad, isn’t it? I hope you won’t need to visit them quite so much now you’re not on your own.”

“No, he won’t,” Lavender whispered, bending over to kiss his forehead. Theo blinked away a tear as he looked up at her.

“Thank you.”

Again, the room was quiet. This time it was to acknowledge the light that had found its way through his darkness.

“Ron, you’re next,” Luna smiled brightly, causing him to gulp loudly. “You were easy. Yours is ‘I’m A Keeper’ because-”

“It’s okay, Luna,” he held out his hand for the parchment. “I get it, thanks.”

In one way, Ron was relieved his pen name was not something as embarrassing as his sister’s. But, was he that boring that all Luna could come with was his Quidditch position?

“Neville,” Luna turned to her boyfriend, pulling back his blanket and stuffing his parchment into his collar. “You are ‘Topiarius’ from the Greek topia, plural of topion, meaning ‘ornamental gardening.’ Perfect for you!”

She didn’t even give him a chance to reply, twirling around to catch Tracey’s eye. The Slytherin gripped her tube of hand cream a little harder than necessary, causing the lid to pop and splatter Blaise with a concoction of seaweed and pixie dust.

“I heard you mention before that your Mum’s favourite movie was High Society and that’s why you’re called Tracey. So I took the character’s other names and gave you ‘Samantha Lord.’ Is that alright?”

Tracey smiled. “That’s perfectly alright, thank you.”

“Well, Luna, what did you decide for me?” Blaise winked. “Something exotic and unique, no doubt?”

“I chose ‘Dolcetto,’ Blaise,” she replied instantly, tilting her head slightly. “Sei contento adesso?”

His eyes widened, the surprise on his face quite apparent. Luna was referring to the male version of the nickname he had for Tracey.

“Sì, Luna,” he gaped. “I am very happy with that, grazie.”

“Now, who’s left? Ah, Pansy...I was thinking of something with the word ‘grey’ in it.”

The blood drained from Pansy’s face. Trelawney had nothing on Luna Lovegood!

“Well, I was going-”

“But that would be far too obvious, wouldn’t it?” Luna laughed. “So I decided on ‘nova satus’ as it means ‘fresh start’ and I thought that was-”

She was cut off by Pansy’s arms wrapping around her.

“Thank you,” the tearful Slytherin whispered. “It’s just perfect.”

Raised eyebrows were dotted around the room but everyone kept quiet.

“Draco, your name was a bit unusual as I had to add numbers to it.”

Luna handed him the piece of parchment with his pen name on it - ‘SilverEye56’

“What do the numbers mean, Luna?” Draco frowned, reading the name aloud.

“Honestly, Draco,” she exclaimed. “Don’t you recognise your own birthday?”

“Well-”

“I had decided on SilverEye because - well, even I don’t have to explain it - but there are other fanfiction accounts using SilverEye in the name so I added the numbers to make your name unique. The most obvious numbers were those of your birthday. A lot of accounts are like that.”

“Dean’s number comes from the Blade Runner movie as it’s set in the year 2019,” Parvati added. “But BiblioBabe199’s pen name might mean his or her birthday is the 19th of September.”

“Hey, Mione,” Ron piped up. “That’s your birthday.”

Hermione said nothing; she just nodded and looked down at her book. One more name, then she could escape. Anywhere.

“Luna, you forgot Mione,” Harry noted.

Fuck you, Harry!

“Did I? I was sure she already had a pen name,” Luna replied innocently.

“I’ll sort it myself, Luna,” Hermione stood up, smiling. “Not to worry. I’m going for a walk. See you all later.”

With that, she Accio’d her jacket and was gone.

“Luna?” Ginny piped up quickly. “You didn’t tell us your pen name.”

“Didn’t I?” The blonde girl turned to the redhead, her bright blue eyes wide with surprise. “Oh, it’s KinkyTeabag.”

Silence.

“Anyone hungry?” Ron asked, looking around the room.
.

Draco followed Hermione out of the common room. The look of panic on his face when he realised she was nowhere in sight caught the attention of the go-go dancers who were on a coffee break. Rose was still complaining about the seawater ruining her hair and ignoring Jack’s argument that, if she had moved her fat arse over on the plank of wood, he MIGHT HAVE ACTUALLY SURVIVED!

She turned to Draco, paying absolutely no attention to her ranting lover.

“Miss Granger was heading towards the Great Hall, love.”

Draco nodded his thanks and took off down the corridor.

Rose gazed after him as he ran, eyeing up that shapely, sexy, squeezeable arse.

“Now, there’s a man,” she sighed, picking a fish out of her bodice.
.

“Hermione!”

She winced before turning around to greet him.

“You’re back to my name then?”

“Eh, yeah,” he stopped a few feet away from her, his hand automatically reaching up to run through his hair. She may have whimpered slightly.

“You were so determined to call me ‘Granger’ last night, you know,” she teased. “Apparently, it was because that’s what Lucas calls-”

“No!” He put his hands up to stop her. “No, please. I’m sure it’s terribly embarrassing so please spare me the details.”

Hermione laughed. Draco had to bite his lip hard in order to stop himself grabbing her and- Merlin, help me!

She wasn’t much better.

They stood in silence for a few moments, neither knowing how to proceed. Surprisingly, it was Slytherin courage that saved the day.

“I...em...I wanted to thank you,” Draco started, his cheeks colouring slightly. “For taking care of me last night, and for breakfast this morning. I’d like to - bollocks! - I’d like to...em...buy a new mug - since you don’t like my favourite one - so will you help me choose one?”

For fuck’s sake! Is that the best you can do? Twat!

“You’ll need a jacket,” Hermione cautioned him, smiling. “It’s really cold outside.”

“Hmm? Oh, yeah...hold on.”

Draco transfigured his cashmere jumper into a heavy winter coat; a handkerchief from his pocket turned into a pair of leather gloves with matching scarf.

“All set!”
.

They walked in comfortable silence for a while towards Hogsmeade. Well, it was comfortable on the outside, to anyone who paid them attention. Internally they were like two lovestruck teenagers, each too scared to make the first move.

“Why don’t you like my mug?”

“The mug is fine, Draco,” Hermione laughed. “My issue is the quote that’s printed on it.”

She stopped walking and turned to face him.

“The past is not a pebble in your shoe anymore, Draco. The past is what makes you a better man today, and you should remember that.”

“Hermione-”

“NO!” Her shout took them both by surprise. “You’re a good man, why can’t you believe that?”

Draco stared at the ground. His silence spurred her on.

“You told me the first night we were here that you were a scarred shell. But, Draco, you’ve come out of that shell. Our group...who would ever have thought we’d all get on so well? Who would ever have thought you’d get drunk with Harry and Ron? Or Pansy and Luna would bond over knitting patterns? Look at Lavender and Theo-”

I want that! With you!

“Granger, I’m trying...I just have so much regret. What I want-”

Say the fucking words, Draco!

“-I’m trying.”

Spineless prick!

“I know, Draco,” she sighed, bravely slipping her arm through his and steering them both towards the village.

“Do I have a choice regarding the quote on my new mug?”

Hermione burst out laughing.

“I think, you know me too well,” she quipped. “Of course you don’t.”
.

They returned to the castle a few hours later, having stopped for tea at Madam Puddifoot’s as Draco refused to go near the Three Broomsticks. Over extra strong cups of their favourite blend, and scones covered in clotted cream and strawberry jam, they spent most of their time discussing the Time Wars series and the novels mentioned in each book.

For both of them, literature was a safe subject. For Hermione, she kept to the books already published and prayed to Merlin the subject of fanfiction didn’t arise. The Prince of Enchanters listened.

Arriving back into the common room, Hermione unwrapped their new mugs and placed them on the counter where Winky’s team of kitchen fitters had installed a coffee station - at Blaise’s rather forceful request. She had insisted on a Robert Frost quote for Draco’s mug - ‘In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learning about life: it goes on.’

She really hoped he would take the words to heart. If Draco was in a better place, could there possibly be any hope he would see her as she saw him?

In return, he had chosen her quote. Completely ignoring all the ones she liked and tried to get him to choose, he settled on one that summed her up perfectly in his eyes: ‘There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart.’ It was as if Jane Austen had Hermione Granger in mind when she wrote that.
.

Hermione had arranged to study with Ginny that evening and waited in the library for her best friend to join her. The foxy redhead ran into the cavernous room a little later than their planned time, apologising profusely as she reached into her bag for her books.

“Bloody owlery!” she muttered as a bemused Hermione looked on. “I only wanted to send a note home. Just because it’s Sunday, not one of them wanted to move off their bloody perches. And one shat on me!”
.

“There you are!”

Draco was just entering his bedroom when he heard Luna’s voice behind him.

“What’s up, Luna?”

“Oh, nothing.” She handed him a thick roll of parchment. “Dean showed me the spell that prints out whatever is on the computer screen. When I was sorting out everyone’s pen names earlier, I printed out that story the guys were telling you about. The Usher Ultimatum? Here’s chapters one to fifteen.”

“That’s very kind of you,” he took the proffered roll. “I’ve only a few pages of my book to go then I’ll start this. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome!” She skipped off, calling back to him over her shoulder. “I don’t know when chapter sixteen will be online so I hope you’re not left with a cliffhanger.”

Chapter Text

Naked Charlie stood under the running water that Sunday evening, and fumed.

All plans were set; extra staff were in, the restaurant was booked for Sunday brunch, and his Windsor knot was now perfected. As of Saturday night, everything relating to Operation Please Merlin Make Her Say Yes was a go. It had only been months, but he knew. Heart and soul.

Sunday morning saw it all go tits up.

It began when Charlie was in the kitchen, planning to wake Janice up with a freshly brewed coffee and a rather large hard-on to stir.

“FUUUUCCKK! NO! NO! No, no, no, nononononono-”

Charlie winced. This time he counted to ten before calling out to see if she was alright. The last time he heard her shriek like that, it involved Draco fucking Malfoy and a flying stapler.

Although, what happened afterwards wasn’t so bad.

Putting the coffees on a small tray, and grabbing the book he was currently reading - for afterwards - he went in search of his panicked girlfriend.

“Jay, who is it now? That fucking mad librarian is the evil twin of Irma-”

She rushed by him towards her office, his Kenmare Kestrels T-shirt sliding off her shoulder and revealing tanned skin that he couldn’t bloody touch because his bloody hands were full and she was too fast. Charlie followed her into the small room, placed the tray and book by the door, and walked over to her chair.

Janice was frantically scrolling down through a document on the screen, muttering to herself as the words flew past like some kind of computer code.

“Come on, come on, come on-”

Charlie gathered her long, thick hair in his hands, sweeping it around the back of her neck, before pushing it over her covered shoulder. His lips and tongue began to caress her naked skin but she was oblivious to his attentions as she focused on the error she had noticed whilst reading a hard copy of Hermione’s latest chapter.

Janice’s morning plans had been quite similar to those of her boyfriend. She was rereading the love scene with Lucas and Andre, feeling her arousal tingle as she waited for his deliciously naked body to return with the coffee. Arriving at the end of the chapter, she suddenly noticed a very obvious mistake:

“Don’t let me go.”

“Never, Granger. I’ll find you, in a heartbeat.”

The shrieking had followed.
.

Once Janice had fired up the computer and opened the document on the fanfiction website, the error was corrected and the chapter reposted within minutes. No comments or reviews had been received highlighting the mistake so she could only hope it had either gone unnoticed or the regular followers hadn’t gotten around to reading the chapter yet. Breathing a sigh of relief, she looked at the digital clock on the corner of the screen - 10.14am.

Opening up her email account, Janice then typed a quick email to Hermione explaining what had happened. She didn’t mention what the mistake actually was, however, as that would only upset her cousin. Instead, she hinted at not being too happy with the amount of proper nouns in the chapter and had, as of this morning, corrected some of them. Plausible. Not.
.

Hundreds of miles away, Luna Lovegood had checked the time on her computer screen as she waited for the chapters of The Usher Ultimatum to print. The completed parchment roll tied itself up at 9.57am.
.

Janice’s head was so preoccupied with the error, she didn't even feel Charlie kiss her shoulder. Her mind was whirling at a mile a minute, frantically trying to figure out how she could have missed such an obvious mistake. She needed coffee, and maybe something stronger. And food. She stood up-

- instantly catching Charlie’s nose with her shoulder and breaking it. The shock of the blow to his face caused him to bite his tongue, sending him staggering backwards and flying over a document box containing last year’s accounts for the pub. His head bashed off the small table by the door, knocking the tray over, and covering his rapidly deflating erection in hot coffee. The book survived.

If you thought Janice Brady’s shrieking was loud…
.

Janice’s initial reaction was to burst out laughing as her nerves got the best of her. Seriously wrong move! Charlie roared as he tried to get up, blood pouring from his mouth and nose. He held himself tenderly with one hand whilst grabbing the door handle with the other. The cause of his acute pain could only stand, frozen to the spot, in absolute bewilderment at what had happened. She blinked a few times before gathering her thoughts and making her way to their bedroom.

“Charlie?”

He couldn’t answer properly but his growl-like sound was enough. His tongue was now twice its original size and obstructing his breathing. The blood was still pouring from his nose, and as for his...well, no doubt it hurt.

Charlie glared at Janice, anger radiating off him in waves. The shock of seeing him injured was one thing, but this was something she had never witnessed before - the Weasley temper. Grabbing his wand in one hand, and a pair of jeans in the other, he Disapparated.

All Janice could do was sit down on the edge of the bed and stare at the space he had just vacated.
.

“Oh, my-”

Molly Weasley couldn’t find the words. Charlie appeared in the middle of the kitchen, causing his mother to jump back from her pastry rolling in fright. The sight of all the blood, nevermind the position of one of his hands, sent her stumbling over her chair.

He gasped, shaking, and trying to breathe as best he could. A pair of jeans was dropped to the floor as he frantically waved at his mouth with his free hand.

“He-he-”

“Merlin! I’m sorry, Charlie,” Molly grabbed her wand and pointed it directly at her son’s face.

“Episkey. Reducio. Tergeo.”

Charlie berated himself for never learning wandless magic as his nose snapped back into place and his tongue instantly reduced in size. Molly had also cleaned away the blood, leaving him looking as good as new. Except for…

“Would you care to explain?” His mother asked, pointing her wand toward the rather red skin that was peeking out from behind his cupped hand.

“Hot coffee.”

“Oh, not to worry,” Molly smiled broadly, opening up a cupboard door and retrieving a large jar of burn-healing paste. “Charlie’s Little Charmer will be right as rain in no time.”

Charlie went bright red as his mother attempted to approach him with the paste.

“I’ll do it myself, thanks,” he cautioned her, reaching out for the jar with one hand as the other was still occupied.

“Don’t be silly,” Molly brushed his hand away. “I’ll have it all healed in a jiffy.”

Charlie stepped back as Molly came forward and they found themselves in a chase around the kitchen table just as the back door opened and the twins came in from the garden.

“Well, there’s a sight-” Fred began.

“-you don’t see everyday,” George finished.

“Shall we intervene, George?”

“Not on your life, Fred.”

The twins stood by the back door and observed the sight of their mother chasing her second eldest, and very naked, son around the table.

Arthur chose that moment to walk into the kitchen from the living room. No words came; he just waited for someone to explain.

“We’re none the wiser,” the twins commented in unison before Fred leaned over towards his weary-looking father.

“But we did hear mention of ‘Charlie’s Little Charmer’ so that might give some indication of what-”

“Fred! What if all is not well in the Netherlands!”

“I know, George! And little Prince Everhard can’t-”

“Alright, you two,” Arthur intervened. “That’s enough.”

Sighing loudly, Arthur waited until his wife passed him by on her fourth circuit of the kitchen table.

“Alright, Molly,” he said, placing a hand on her arm and pulled her gently towards him. “Let the lad-”

“But, Arthur,” she protested. “Charlie’s spilled hot coffee on his...on himself. He needs the burn-healing paste.”

“And I’m sure he can put it on himself,” Arthur cooed, taking the jar from her hand and placing it down on the kitchen table. “Now, put the kettle on while we wait for him to sort himself out.”

He expertly stirred his wife towards the kettle and nodded at the twins to fetch the teapot and cups. Keeping Molly and the Terrible Two busy gave Charlie plenty of time of grab the jar and dash out of the room.
.

Janice had no way of knowing where Charlie had gone. If they were travelling to anywhere magical, he brought her by Side-Along. The pub wasn’t connected to the Floo and she didn’t have any access to an owl. There was no one she could call or email so she just had to wait for him to return.

She assumed he went to The Burrow to get healed. At least, that’s where she hoped he went.

Feeling really bad over what had happened, and worried sick about Charlie’s raging departure, she got dressed and went downstairs to work. Seeing the extra bar staff on duty surprised Janice as they weren’t scheduled to work. They could only tell her that Charlie had asked them to work her shift. It was a relief, to be honest, as she really was too upset to think about smiling at the customers.

She went back upstairs and curled up on the couch.
.

Charlie applied the burn-healing paste gingerly to himself, ignoring the smell as much as possible, and waited for it to dry before pulling on his jeans. Grabbing a T-shirt from Molly’s magical self-ironing pile, he made his way back to the kitchen.

The twins had gone at this stage, leaving his parents sitting at the table. Molly poured her son a cup of tea and started to cut some teacake for him.

“Thanks, Mum,” he sighed as he sat down. Carefully.

“Are you in Janice’s bad books, Son?” Arthur enquired. Since introducing him to Lara Croft, Hermione’s cousin could do no wrong in his eyes.

“No, Dad. It was an accident. But-”

Charlie put his head in his hands and sighed.

“-I didn’t react very well.” He muttered to the table. “I fucked it all up.”

“I’m sure you didn’t,” Arthur replied, encouragingly.

“No, I really did, Dad,” Charlie looked up at his father. “Today I was going to ask her to marry me.”

Molly gasped. “But you don’t know her that long, Charlie,” she began, frantically cutting more tea cake.

“I know that she’s the one, Mum,” Charlie answered, accepting more tea cake as it would be rude not to. “And, before you say anything, the fact that she’s a Muggle means nothing to me.”

Molly looked appalled. “We are not the Mal-”

“Molly,” Arthur cautioned his wife before turning back to face his son. “We consider Janice a member of this family already, just as much as Hermione. If she says yes, then the Weasleys will gain a wonderful addition-”

“And if she says no,” Charlie interrupted, running his fingers through his long hair. “I can’t bear the thoughts of it. What’ll I do?”

“We’ll cross that Hippogriff when we come to it,” Arthur replied. “Now, what happened this morning?”

Charlie’s face sampled every shade of red the spectrum had to offer as he described the events that led to his sudden arrival in his parents’ kitchen. By the end of his tale, Molly was trying desperately to keep in the laughter. Arthur failed miserably.

Eventually, Charlie saw the funny side.

“But still, I roared at her in temper! She probably thinks I blame her for what happened but it was all just a bloody accident. I was more annoyed at myself for not mastering wandless magic! What if she thinks we won’t work out because I’m a wizard and she’s a Muggle? What if she leaves me?”

He jumped up and paced the kitchen floor, the panic evident in his face.

“Charlie,” Arthur, the voice of reason, spoke up. “Go back to the pub. Apologise for everything, and I mean everything. It’ll be alright, Son, I promise you. Come back later on and bring your fiancée with you.”

Charlie took a moment to compose himself before nodding at his father.

“Thank you,” he choked before turning on the spot.

Arthur looked over at his wife. She was already baking more cakes.
.

Charlie appeared in the bedroom and walked out onto the landing. The crack of Apparition should have alerted Janice to his return but there was no sound coming from any room. Leaning over the banisters, he caught sight of one of the waitresses walking towards the kitchens.

“Milly!”

The young girl looked up. “Oh, hey, Charlie. You alright?”

“Where’s Jay?”

“Dunno. Said she was going out about an hour ago. No idea where, sorry.”

“No problem,” Charlie called down. “Thanks.”

He walked back into the bedroom, plopped down on the bed, and closed his eyes. This day was turning into a monumental fuck up.
.

The bedroom was in darkness when Charlie opened his eyes again. She obviously wasn’t back. Sighing, he got up and grabbed a towel from the airing cupboard on his way to the bathroom. The central heating was on so the room was cosy when he stepped in but he couldn’t bring himself to care.

He stripped off the T-shirt he had borrowed and peeled his jeans away from his rather sticky privates. Standing under the showerhead, he allowed the running water to soothe away the stress of the day.

Rubbing the soap over his tattooed arms, he thought about how much he loved the woman who shared his life. Cleaning his muscular body, he pictured a future where she stood in white before him. Moving the soap over his powerful thighs, he decided there and then she was going nowhere. Scrubbing the burn-healing paste off his lower abdomen and the tops of his thighs, he imagined making love to her in their bed with both of them wearing silver bands of commitment. Gingerly removing the rest of the paste from his now-enlarged cock, he decided they didn’t need a bed.

“Charlie?”

He swung around, his hand still on his erection.

“Busy?”

“What? No! I was just-”

“Don’t mind me.” Janice turned to leave the room.

“Jay! Please! Come back,” he called after her. “I’m trying to get burn-healing paste off my fucking cock and it won’t come off!”

She turned back around but didn’t say anything. Charlie turned off the shower and stepped out of the cubicle, leaving the water droplets to roll off his tanned and tattooed skin.

“I’m sorry, Jay. I’m so fucking sorry! It was an accident, I know that. I lost my temper, but I was angry at myself because I was panicking and in so much fucking pain! And I never bothered to learn wandless magic and I couldn’t say the spells to repair my nose. I’m so sorry, I’ve ruined everything.”

Janice frowned. “I know it was an accident, Charlie. I laughed from shock, like a knee-jerk reaction. It was just quite funny to see you stumbling over until the coffee landed...em...where it landed. I didn’t mean to laugh, honestly.”

He reached out to place his hands on her shoulders.

“Where did you go?” She asked, looking up at the handsome face she loved so much.

“The Burrow. Mum had me fixed up in no time but we had a slight disagreement over who would apply the burn-healing paste. And you? You weren’t here when I got back. I was worried.”

“I was upset when you left,” Janice replied, moving closer and slipping her arms around his damp neck. “I went for a walk, that’s all. In fact, it was such a long walk I could probably do with a shower.”

“Really?” He quipped, opening the buttons on her jacket. “Now, isn’t that handy? Because I forgot to wash my hair.”

Minutes later, Janice was pushed against the tiles in the shower cubicle with her arms and legs wrapped around her lover. He moved in and out of her, slowly at first before sensing her oncoming orgasm. Hearing her gasp, Charlie picked up speed as her breath hitched and her muscles tightened around him.

“Oh, God, Charlie!” She cried. “I’m-”

“I know,” he panted, his movements erratic as his own orgasm began to build. “Come for me, Jay.”

She threw her head back, exposing her neck to his lips, and crying out as she came. He was seconds behind her, his moan heavy against her skin.

They stayed locked together for a few minutes, gathering their breaths and staring at each other.

“Why did you organise extra staff today?” Janice panted.

“Because I was taking you out to brunch at that restaurant you wanted to try,” he breathed heavily.

“Oh, why?”

“I was going to ask you to marry me.”

“What was I going to answer?”

“You are going to say ‘yes’ to me.”

She smiled. “Yes, I will.”

“The ring is in my jeans.”

“It can wait.”
.

Later that evening, Charlie Weasley and his fiancée, Janice Brady, were seated in the kitchen of The Burrow surrounded by more food than Hogwarts’ Welcoming Feast. Janice kept looking at the Goblin-made engagement ring that now fit snugly on her left ring finger. She had moved the cinnabar ring over to her right hand.

Molly was surreptitiously wiping the tears away with the corner of her apron and Arthur was chatting to his future daughter-in-law about the Tomb Raider level he was still stuck on.

Tapping at the window had Fred opening the backdoor to retrieve an envelope from Hogwarts addressed to him and George. The delivery owl hooted that it would wait for a reply so George fetched some treats whilst Fred opened up the letter inside:

Guys, need help. Don’t ask. I need a liquid Patent Daydream (don’t give a shite what type) but it needs to be given to two people so they’ll have the same hot and sexy daydream. DON’T ASK! Can I use it at night instead? Like drop it in tea or something? Send it back with this owl. Owe you one!

Gin xx
P.S. It’s not for me and Harry so fuck off!

“What’s in stock, Freddy?”

“They’re all at the shop, Georgie, but there’s a few new ones here. We’ve got Love in the Time of the Flatpack Rebellion, Sweden, 1972-74. Stopover with Captain Emmanuel and his Cabin Crew - man, that- sorry, I digress! There’s also the one where the maiden gets lost at a St. Patrick’s Day parade and ends up on the back of a tractor and trailer combo with a rather dashing redheaded sheep farmer.”

“What about the new and improved one?”

“It’s not finished, mate. I haven’t added the elves yet.”

“She wants hot and sexy for two people, let’s send her that one.”

“Alrighty...Accio What’s In Santa’s Sack?”

Within minutes, the small vial and a note listing the instructions, was winging its way back to Hogwarts.
.

Ginny grinned as the owl tapped at the common room window. She jumped up and retrieved the small parcel, unrolling her brothers’ note carefully.

Sis, we’re intrigued so will demand answers at a later date. Six drops in tea will give an entire night’s pleasure to the lucky users. Male partner (or stronger personality if same sex) usually takes the lead. Only that way because we test them ourselves!

F&G
P.S. Charlie and Janice got engaged but don’t tell Mione, Jay wants to surprise her.

Ginny stifled a squeal; she was really fond of her future sister-in-law. She stuffed the small vial in her pocket and skipped over to Bar Zabini as the coffee-making facilities were now known.

“Tea or coffee anyone?” She called out.

Various beverage orders came back at her so she enlisted Harry to help her make the drinks. Hermione asked for her usual - Yorkshire Tea, really strong.

“Draco takes it the same way as you, doesn’t he?” Ginny asked sweetly.

“Yeah,” her best friend replied. “I’ll take it to him, if you like.”

“Yes, you will,” Ginny muttered under her breath, stirring the tea, and squeezing the six recommended drops into each mug.

“What are you doing?” Harry gasped. “Ginny-”

“My civic duty,” she hissed back. “Trust me.”

Ginny walked over to Hermione with the two new mugs on a small tray.

“One for Draco, one for you,” she smiled.

“Thanks, Gin, I’ll drop this with Draco then head to bed,” Hermione kissed Ginny’s cheek before tucking her book under her arm and turning around to wish everyone in the room a warm goodnight.
.

Hermione walked along the corridor to Draco’s room with the tray balancing in one hand so she could easily knock on his door.

“Coming!”

She heard the rustle of clothes from behind the door.

Oh Merlin! Is he taking them off or putting them back on? If he’s putting them back on...is someone in there with him?

Hermione’s hand started to shake as she waited for him to open the great wooden barrier that currently separated her from the love of her life.

He opened the door wearing his old Quidditch T-shirt and a pair of faded denims. He must have dressed in a hurry as the T-shirt was caught in the waistband of the jeans and the top button was undone.

She prayed to every deity up there that she didn’t whimper out loud.

“Hermione, is everything alright?”

No, I’m particularly damp in places I really wish you knew about.

“Oh, yes, everything is grand,” she beamed. “Ginny made tea for everyone and, since I was heading to bed, I brought yours.”

She held out the tray.

“Cool, thank you. I was going to get one after I’d finished reading. Would you like to come in?” He stepped back to reveal his empty room. She sighed in relief, causing Draco to raise an eyebrow at her.

“No, no, no,” she backed away. “I’m exhausted. Busy day and all that. Thanks for the mug and the afternoon tea...night!”

She kept talking as she backed away, arriving at her door just as she spurted out ‘night’ and ran into her room.

This is getting out of hand, Hermione.

Ten minutes later, she was tucked up in bed with her book and sipping her perfectly made tea. On the other side of the wall, Draco was doing the very same thing.

As they finished the drinks and set them down on the bedside lockers, their eyelids grew heavy with tiredness. Putting their books away, they slid down under the warm covers and drifted off to sleep.
.

Hermione woke first, looking around and trying to get her bearings. She was in the middle of a dense forest, snow was falling gently and the trees were topped with snowflakes. The grass under her feet was warm to the touch, despite the scene before her indicating colder temperatures. Deer frolicked past her and little squirrels and badgers hopped over to investigate their forest’s new arrival.

Looking down at herself, Hermione realised she was wearing a long red cloak that covered her head and fell to the ground in a pool around her bared feet. She frowned at the contrast.

In the distance was a log cabin with red and white checked curtains and smoke billowing from its chimney. She walked towards it, smelling homemade apple pie as she approached. Stepping onto the porch, she noticed a sign on the wall right beside the door.

Will you find out what’s in Santa’s sack?

The double meaning wasn’t lost on Hermione.

Since when did I think of sex first before...anything else? Oh yeah, since Draco Malfoy.

She opened the door and walked into a cosy room with a roaring fire and a king size bed. The whole cabin was decorated for Christmas with a large tree in one corner and a pile of presents dotted around the floor. Mistletoe hung from the large wooden beams and garlands of holly were spread across the massive mantelpiece.

All that was very nice, very festive. But what took Hermione’s breath away was the sight of Draco Malfoy standing in front of the fire.

Naked.

“I’m dreaming,” Hermione gasped.

Draco’s surprise was much the same. “No, this is my dream.”

He stepped towards her, his hand around his rather impressive erection. “I’m pretty sure this is my dream, Hermione, because I can tell you exactly what you’re wearing under that cloak.” He closed his eyes as his breath came faster. “Ruby red boy shorts, trimmed with white fur. No crotch. A small halterneck bikini top, also in ruby red, but without the trim. That way I can see the fullness of your breasts and your nipples harden when I touch you. You’re barefoot because I imagine you’d fit right under my chin if I held you. Your hair is long, cascading down your back in waves that I want to run my hands through and grab hold of as I fuck you from behind.”

Hermione’s body tingled with anticipation of his touch.

“You-you’d fuck me?”

“If this was real life, I’d make love to you the first time. It’s what you have and what you deserve; my love and devotion.” He walked around behind her, his hand still palming his erection. “But, this? This is my fantasy. I can...play.”

His hands reached around her neck and untied the bow holding the cloak over her shoulders. She was dressed exactly as he had described.

Draco’s lips slid across her shoulder, his erection pressing into the small of her back and causing her to reach between her legs for release.

“No, no, no,” he purred in her ear. “My rules.”

His left hand spread across her bared stomach, pulling her even tighter to him, as his right began a slow descent to her swollen clit. Hermione let her head fall back against his shoulder and moaned as he skimmed his fingers across her moistened skin.

“So wet for me,” he whispered. “So turned on. Tell me who turns you on, Granger.”

He had reverted back to her surname; it surprised her momentarily but, at this stage, her brain could just fuck off. Her body was in need.

“You,” she gasped as his fingers expertly flicked across her clit before sliding back between her legs and gathering up her arousal. “Only you, Draco, I want...Gods, I want only you.”

“You have me, Granger. I’m yours.”

He slipped two fingers inside her wet core, causing Hermione to wail as the feeling of pure bliss swept through her body. Draco’s other hand moved to her clit, rubbing it with the same speed as his pistoning fingers.

Hermione’s knees were weak as she threw her arms behind her and wrapped them around his neck.

“I’m going to-”

“I know you are, my love. But it’ll only be the first time. Next, I’ll make you come with my tongue, then your fingers, then my-” he bit her earlobe “-cock.”

The most intense feelings of pleasure swept through her, tearing at her skin, and causing her muscles to spasm. Hermione’s breath came in ragged gasps as she relished the delight of being in Draco’s arms. Her legs gave out and she began to crumple to the ground, dragging him with her as her arms were still around his neck.

They collapsed by the fireplace on a rug of pure white fur. If Hermione had been in her right frame of mind, she might have rolled her eyes at the decor but, at this precise moment, she could only focus on the silver eyes gazing down at her.

Draco leaned over her, resting his forearms on either side of her head. His erection was so close to her core, she could have cried with the need for him to be inside her. But she had a feeling that pushing for him to impale her would only lead to his far-too-pleasurable torture. She was desperate for him so would try to obey.

His eyes had her captivated.

“I’m fully convinced this is my dream as I have no scars and neither do you,” he whispered. “In case I wake up, I need you to know this; I love you, Hermione Granger. I love you so much, it tears me apart to see you everyday and not touch you. But why would you want this scarred shell, despite your assurances of our friendship? I want more. If tonight is all I have, then so be it.” He bent his head and kissed her as tenderly as he could, the lust and desire pummeling his system to fuck her into infinity. “I will never love anyone but you.”

She tried to reply but his head dipped again. This time, the kiss was forceful, passionate, full of need and want. Hermione felt every emotion bleed from his lips to hers. It was breathtaking and mind numbing all at once. Tearing her lips away from his, she threw her face to the side and screamed.

“Please, I need you! Draco, please!”

“As I dictated, my love,” he agreed, sliding his tongue down her body before spreading her limp legs and burrowing himself in her folds.

Her body was lighter than a feather, an orchestra of angels were humming against her skin. Hermione felt as if she was floating on a cloud of pure lust. Running her hands across her stomach, she slid them up to her covered breasts and pinched the hardened nipples through the thin material.

Draco hummed against her labia, causing the skin to vibrate and Hermione to cry out as her orgasm, that had been slowly and beautifully building up inside her, crashed down upon her body’s nerves and rendered her temporarily incapacitated.

“I take them first.”

He batted her weakened hand away from her breast and crawled back up her body, nipping at her skin before kissing her fully on the mouth.

“Taste yourself.”

She could hardly hear his words as Hermione tried to focus on his face.

“Draco-”

“Shh, my love,” he cooed, moving over to lie beside her on the rug and pulling a throw from the bed down with him. “Would you like some water?”

She nodded. Bottles of cool, still water appeared beside them on the hearth and Draco helped Hermione sit up so she could drink. One entire bottle later, she collapsed back down on the rug.

“Are you alright?” He caressed her cheek with those long fingers, digits that had been inside her and teasing her only minutes before. Hermione felt herself dampen at the thought.

“Yes,” she looked him right in the eye. “Undress me.”

“That takes too long,” he teased, leaning over to suck her pulse point. Pulling hard with his teeth, then licking the reddened mark, he whispered against her skin. “Evanesco.”

Draco spent the next few minutes casually investigating her hardened nipples and erect breasts. His hands kneaded and squeezed, his fingers ghosted and tickled, his tongue moistened and sucked. It was as she suspected; beautiful torture.

He sat back abruptly, leaving her chest heaving and her core dripping. Moving away from her tempting body, he stretched out his legs and leaned his back against the end of the bed. Hermione waited for instructions. Like a good little Gryffindor.

“Touch yourself, Granger.” A command, not a request. “Show me what you can do when you fantasise about me.”

She didn't need to think about it.

“I start by picturing your eyes,” she closed her own, all too familiar with her many private movements. “They mesmerize me. I can see your soul when you look at me. Your face appears in my dreams every night; you could be smiling or laughing. Sometimes you’re perfectly still, like a calm on the sea.”

Hermione’s hands moved across her chest, lifting her breasts and pushing them together.

“I love your hands; your long fingers that could easily play the piano. I imagine them ghosting across my skin, causing goosebumps to break out wherever they’ve caressed. My skin reacts to your touch; I react to your touch. I can feel myself getting wetter, my core dripping with the arousal only you cause.”

She reached between her legs, scooping up her juices with two fingers and raising them to her lips.

“I’m so wet for you-”

“Make yourself come.”

The authority in his aristocratic accent sped up her need for release. She returned her fingers to her clit and began to rub it in slow, deep circles.

Watching her masturbate at his instruction, and crying his name as her orgasm neared, sent him wild. Draco couldn’t wait any longer.

He struck like a viper, pushing his cock into her waiting body without warning. The weight of his body trapped her hand between them but she was unaware. His roar of arousal pulsated around the walls of the cabin as his body pounded against hers. Draco’s eyes sparkled in the firelight, his magical core pulsating through his aura. He was ethereal.

Hermione felt she was being fucked by a god.

Her screams of pure euphoria joined his cry of release, and together they came crashing back to earth in each other’s arms.

Neither of them wanted to let go.

“I love you,” she whispered after a few moments.

He stood up and proffered a hand for her to join him. Settling themselves into the large bed, Draco held Hermione close and kissed her forehead before she rested her head on his chest.

“I’ll never forget this dream,” he assured her. “The real me wants you so much but I’m so scared to tell you.”

She raised her head and looked at him, tears threatening to escape from her dark eyes.

“I’ll remember this dream, I will. And we can be together tomorrow as soon as we wake up.”

“It won’t happen, Granger. I’ve dictated this dream, not you.”

“Then I don’t want to go asleep!” She cried, allowing the tears to fall.

His tears joined hers.
.

The next morning, two people in adjoining rooms awoke at the same time. Their beds were damp from orgasms, both bodies naked and pleasantly sore. Jumping out of her bed, Hermione dashed over to her mirror to find a massive love bite situated at her pulse point. Draco turned his body away from the mirror to find his scars still there.

Throwing on old clothes, they both gathered their toiletries and opened their bedroom doors. At the same time.

Hermione’s head was down, her long hair covering her neck.

Draco was clutching his toiletry bag like a lifeline.

“Sleep well, Granger?” His voice sounded hoarse, as if he’d been shouting.

“Uh-huh,” she mumbled into her hair, before running off towards the girls’ bathroom and slamming the door behind her.

Chapter Text

Another day, another shower. This time it was Draco, his hands braced against the tiled wall as the steaming water cascaded down his scarred skin. Eyes closed and breathing heavily, every single moment of the previous night’s dream ran through his mind. He was so hard from the images flashing before him, he fully appreciated the phrase ‘pain is so close to pleasure’ as he practically ached.

She was beautiful, alluring, tempting, and so fucking sexy as she stood before him; he gasped at the memory of holding her close and bringing her to orgasm with his fingers.

Draco couldn’t stop himself; the images were so real, so absolute. What brought on such vivid thoughts - the time spent with Hermione buying mugs? Eating scones? Drinking tea? What the fuck? He couldn’t think. All he could do was take a hand away from the wall and stroke himself as he re-lived moments from the night before until he had to muffle his cries with his free hand and brace himself as the strength of his orgasm almost brought him to his knees.

In the girl’s bathroom, Hermione quickly scrubbed away the memories of the night before, wincing as she realised just how tender she was in certain places. She hadn’t been drinking so what the hell happened? Was she drugged? If so, was she-

Oh, sweet Circe!

Sliding down the tiles, she huddled in the corner of her shower cubicle and wept. The jets of warm water washed away her tears but could not soothe her shaking body.
.

Draco took a deep breath as he dried himself before wrapping the towel around his waist. He knew he wouldn’t be able to face her, not today anyway. Making his mind up, he headed back towards his room.

“Morning, Draco,” Tracey smiled as she walked towards him. “How are...Merlin, are you alright? You look like crap!”

“Hmm,” he frowned. “Not a good day.”

“Will I call Madam-”

“No, no, Trace,” Draco shook his head. “It’s just a bad day. I’m heading back to bed for a while. Will you tell McGonagall?”

“Sure, of course. Want some breakfast?”

“I don’t feel like anything, but thanks.” Please go, I need to be on my own.

“Okay, but I’ll check on you in a bit.”

She reached up to kiss his cheek before heading towards the girls’ bathroom.

Draco closed his door behind him and leaned against it, casting a Silencio before exhaling loudly. Images and memories kept flashing before his eyes, making him dizzy and aroused. His body was practically shaking from the mental onslaught and, at this rate, he’d never be able to look at Hermione Granger again.

I wonder what Canada is like? Or...or Belgium! Who goes there anyway? FUCK!

He threw the towel across the room in frustration before walking over to pick it up and drape it across the back of his chair.

That’s it, Draco. In the middle of fucking turmoil and you’re still tidying up. Twat!

Twat! Well, that only brought back images of Hermione’s-

“AARRGGHH! BOLLOCKS! BOLLOCKS! BOLLOCKS!”

He kicked the chair as hard as he could with his bare foot. Clever move. Hopping around the room in agony, he swore until he was blue in the face and panting for breath. Eventually, after he had used every curse word he could think of, along with a few he made up on the spot, the pain subsided into a dull throb which he healed with a quick flick of his wand.

Throwing on a pair of pyjama bottoms, and mentally berating his reflection in the mirror for acting like a younger version of himself, Draco crawled into his bed and called for a house-elf.

“What is its?” Winky appeared instantly, her clipboard tucked under her arm.

Draco took in her appearance, his eyebrow dangerously close to being camouflaged in his hairline; today’s ensemble consisted of a band T-shirt underneath a black cardigan, a short red tartan skirt, thick black tights, and large black shoes that appeared to have bottle tops stuck onto the top of the laces. The part of the T-shirt he could see showed three guys around his own age, one dark-haired and two that looked remarkably like him. Disturbing.

Winky clicked her little fingers in front of his face.

“What is its?” She repeated.

“Oh, sorry,” Draco was slightly weirded out by the elf and her appearance. “I’m not feeling well and I would like some tea and toast, if that’s alright. I, er, didn’t expect an elf as important as yourself to appear, Winky. I’m terribly sorry if you’ve been dragged away from something urgent.”

The very important elf looked rather pleased at his comments.

“The other elfses are having a trades union meeting now. I’m managesment. Miss Hermione asked that you haves Yorkshires Tea from now on. I’ll sends its straight up.”

With that, Winky disappeared. Draco rolled over and groaned into his pillow. Hermione had remembered the conversation about the tea.

Well, of course, she did. She wasn’t fucking drunk.

A slight popping sound announced the arrival of his breakfast tray with a note from the headmistress acknowledging his sick day, reminding him to visit the Hospital Wing at some stage, and wishing him a speedy recovery.

Draco left the tea to stew in the little teapot and reached for some toast. He needed something to occupy his mind for a few hours as the thoughts of going back to sleep were...disturbing, to say the least. He remembered the roll of parchment Luna gave him - the first fifteen chapters of The Usher Ultimatum.

That would have to do.
.

Tracey opened the door to the girls’ bathroom, hearing the sounds of running water but no other movement. Frowning, she searched along the cubicles until she came across Hermione slumped in the corner and shivering violently.

Ignoring the now freezing water, Tracey threw herself forward and turned off the shower. She wrapped her arms around Hermione’s body and held her close, shouting for help as her wand was still in her bedroom. Being early in the morning, however, not everyone was up and her cries were left unanswered.

“Come on, Hermione,” Tracey hauled her shaking friend to her feet, reaching to grab a Gryffindor towel from the nearest hook. “Come on, now.”

Tracey, ignoring her saturated pyjamas, wrapped the towel around Hermione’s shaking frame and held her tight.

“What’s happened, Hermione? You have to tell me,” she pressed. “What’s wrong?”

Hermione took a moment to focus her eyes on Tracey, her tremors causing her to stutter.

“Dr-drugged...think...I...was...dr-drugged.”

“Oh, sweet Salazar,” Tracey cried. “Come on.”

She guided Hermione towards the door. Calling for Madam Pomfrey would be the equivalent of plastering “Heroine on Heroin” across the front page of the Daily Prophet. In typical Slytherin style, Tracey reckoned this should stay amongst themselves until they found out more so, with that in mind, she banged on the door of their unofficial leader.

“Draco,” she hissed, holding Hermione up with both arms. She banged on his door with her slippered foot.

On the other side, Draco cursed as he was rudely interrupted half way through Chapter Three. Whomever this fanfiction writer was, they were bloody brilliant! He already had a few queries, namely why Lucas Priest was described as similar to the two guys on Winky’s T-shirt - or himself for that matter - when the original author portrayed him as dark. Strange that.

Setting the parchment aside, he walked over to the door. The sight before him shocked him to the core - Hermione was leaning weakly against a soaking wet Tracey, her eyes unfocused, and her body trembling.

“What the fuck-”

Draco reached forward and grabbed Hermione. Lifting her into his arms, he turned back towards his bed.

“Trace, the blankets, quick.”

Despite her own shivers, Tracey dodged around him and reefed his covers back.

Thank Salazar, the elves changed the fucking sheets first thing.

“Help me,” he directed at his friend, placing Hermione gently onto the sheet. Tracey understood, pulling the blankets back over the shivering girl as Draco did his best to remove the soaking towel without looking at the now naked Hermione. She continued to shake, her eyes still unfocused.

“Shit,” Draco swore, pulling down his pyjama bottoms and diving under the bedclothes to cover her with his own body heat. Tracey had stepped back, using the discarded towel to wipe her hair from her face.

“I need to get Pomfrey,” she announced, turning to the door. “Draco, Hermione thinks she was drugged last night. That’s all I could get out of her.”

“No.” A whisper.

“Hermione,” Draco’s forehead was pressed against the girl he was holding close, although not in the way he had been dreaming about only hours before. “Can you hear me? You need to-”

“No, n-no h-hospital.” Her shivering was becoming less violent and her eyes were slowly coming back into focus. “Please, D-Draco.”

He searched her eyes for a moment, a frown marring his features, until he was satisfied she was coming around. He nodded.

“Trace, I’ll keep her warm. Get yourself dried up before you catch cold, yeah?” He turned his head slightly to catch his friend’s eye.

“Are you sure, Draco? We-”

“It’s okay, trust me. Any problems, I’ll send a message.”

“Alright,” she understood. Also, the fact that her friend was in bed, naked, with the love of his life was invitation enough for her to make a quick exit. As she reached the door, he called out.

“Tell no one. Not until we know more about what’s happened.”

“I figured. Okay.”

She listened for any noise outside before slipping out the door and closing it gently behind her. Draco wandlessly locked it and cast a Silencio again.

Hermione had stopped shaking, her body warming as a result of Draco’s skin heating her up. Her slightly confused state never offered the opportunity to realise why she was coming around. She closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths.

Draco didn’t move; his arms holding her in a lover’s embrace. He was trying so hard to concentrate on her recovery but feeling her breath against his cheek and her body caressing his-

It was too much.

He moved away, biting his lip hard to ensure his blood stayed north of his threatening erection. Her eyes were still closed so he took the opportunity to slip out of the bed and pull up his pyjama bottoms and grab a T-shirt. When she woke up, he didn’t want her to see his scars. The breakfast tray was now empty so he whispered for another house-elf, hoping not to disturb Winky.

Well, it appears the trade union meeting is over. The elf that appeared was obviously coming straight from the picket lines; a placard stating “clipboards for all” still in its hands.

“What cans Penfold do for-”

The elf trailed off as he spotted Hermione in Draco’s bed, his large eyes bulging dramatically as he stuttered.

“Wha-what’s wrongs with-”

“It’s alright, Penfold,” Draco placed his hand gently on the elf’s tiny shoulder. “Hermione isn’t feeling too well so I’m looking after her. I’ll bring her to Madam Pomfrey when she wakes, I promise. Would you bring some of her favourite tea and some toast for her, please?”

The elf nodded furiously and disappeared with a tiny pop.

Draco sighed, sitting on the side of the bed and looking down at the beautiful girl who was the centre of his erotic dream. Closing his eyes, he recalled his favourite moments - telling her he loved her, watching her come undone in front of him and underneath. His heart clenched as she cried with him at the end, before he woke up.

The second breakfast tray of the morning appeared and he prepared Hermione’s builders’ tea, just the way she liked it. Setting the mug down on the bedside table, he leaned over her.

“Hermione,” he whispered. “Granger, wake up.”

She stirred and moaned, opening her eyes slowly. His silver gaze caused her to panic instantly, the memories of the night before attacking her senses.

“Wh-where...wh-what are y-you doing?”

Draco moved away slightly, cautious of not freaking her out but not really wanting to leave her side.

“You seem to have collapsed in the showers. Tracey found you,” he began. “You were out of it when she brought you here.”

He bit his lip before taking a breath.

“I have to be honest with you, Granger, you were soaking and shaking violently. We got you into the bed and...I...em...got in beside you to warm you up.”

She nodded slowly.

“O-0kay. Thank you.”

It took a moment. Draco just looked at her, waiting for her to continue.

“Merlin! I’m-I’m-”

“I’m sorry! Really sorry,” he stood up, walking away from her. “You were in a bad way, I just acted without thinking.”

He turned back around to face her, his cheeks slightly pink.

“I didn’t look. But-”

She wasn’t called The Brightest Witch Of Her Age for nothing.

“Body heat works when both parties are naked. Were you?”

Whether she realised what she was doing, or not, Hermione pulled the bedclothes up a little higher.

“I stripped in front of Tracey and got in on top of you. I stayed in the one position until you stopped shaking and started to warm up. Tracey left the room as she was soaking wet. I moved off you and got out of the bed. I swear to you, on Salazar’s Grave, that that is all that happened.”

He spoke with medical precision.

She smiled slightly, her heart skipping at his embarrassment and his honesty. Hermione never doubted him for a moment.

“Could I...em...could I borrow a T-shirt? I’d like to sit up.”

He was still facing her, his eyes searching her face. For what, she couldn’t tell.

“Draco?”

“Hmm? Shit! Yes, yes, of course.”

He opened his wardrobe and picked out the first T-shirt he saw. The silhouette of a witch on a broom emblazoned the front, with the quote “I can drive stick!” underneath. Draco winced as she raised an eyebrow at the quote.

“Gift from Blaise.”

She nodded. “That makes sense.”

Without waiting for her to ask, Draco turned his back to her.

“Can you manage?” He called over his shoulder as he heard the bedclothes rustle.

“I can, thanks,” she groaned as she maneuvered the material over her head. “I’m sore all over.”

He squeezed his eyes shut. At least you didn’t wake up like me.

“I’m ready,” Hermione announced. “Thank you for...all you did this morning. I-I really appreciate it.”

Her face flushed as she spoke. Draco didn’t want to make her feel uncomfortable so he pointed at the breakfast tray to change the subject.

“There’s tea and toast there for you,” he nodded. “Your tea should be ready for drinking now.”

She reached over for the mug, taking a long sip, and sighing loudly.

“I needed that, thank you so much,” she smiled.

“It’s no problem,” he pressed his lips together before sitting down again on the side of the bed and facing her. “Hermione, Tracey said you think you were drugged. She found you in a bad way in the bathroom. Do you know what happened?”

There was no way Hermione could explain to Draco what had upset her so much. What upset me, Draco, was the dream I had last night. The one in which I wore crotchless knickers and you fucked the brains out of me until I screamed. No, that wasn’t going to work.

“I didn’t eat very much yesterday-”

Draco just looked at her, his face passive. “I don’t believe that but I can understand why you might not want to talk to me. Maybe-”

“No, Draco-”

“-Ginny or Tracey could help...you.”

He trailed off, suddenly finding the teapot extremely interesting. Hermione inwardly sighed with relief, using the misunderstanding to her advantage and lying accordingly. Well, not necessarily lying, just using the truth from other days to suit this particular one.

“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to embarrass you. Sometimes, I get very emotional around that...time. I took some muggle painkillers on an empty stomach, which was a bit stupid.” She sipped her tea before reaching for a slice of toast. “I’m really sorry for worrying you. I should apologise to Tracey.”

“I’ll tell her,” Draco replied. “You rest.”

He stood up and walked over to the door.

“Keep eating. I’ll be back in a bit,” he turned back to her. “Can I get you anything?”

“Some underwear would be nice,” she mumbled into her mug. “It’s okay, I’ll get up.”

Hermione went to move but her body was still weak.

“Don’t, Granger,” Draco ordered. “I can ask one of the girls to get what you need.”

She nodded her agreement.

“Thank you,” she pulled her hair back away from her shoulders as she laid back on the pillows. “My password is...em...Argentum Oculus.”

But it didn’t register with Draco that her password meant Silver Eye as he was shocked into silence by the sight of the large love bite on Hermione’s neck.
.

How he managed to close the door behind him, he’ll never know. Draco just stood in the middle of the corridor and rubbed his face with his hands.

“Draco?” Ginny walked up and placed a hand on his raised arm. “Are you alright?”

“I don’t think I can answer that at the moment, Ginny,” he sighed loudly, lowering his hands to look at the little redhead. “Actually...can you do me a favour?”

“Of course.”

“Em...right...this will sound weird. Just...please...don’t ask,” he took a deep breath. “Hermione is in my room, with no clothes. Can you come with me to get some stuff from her wardrobe?”

If there was a competition for highest raised eyebrows.

Inwardly, Ginny was sliding on her knees with her Quidditch top pulled over her head. RESULT!

“Did you guys…?” She trailed off, her eyes wide with excitement as she nodded her head in a ‘did you do the bold thing?’ sort of way.

“Ginny,” Draco patiently began, taking her arm to guide her towards Hermione’s room. “She’s not well. Tracey found her collapsed in the showers this morning and brought her to my room as she knew I was awake. That’s all.”

Ginny didn’t believe him for a second, her devious match-making nature now sitting in a high-backed chair as it stroked a white cat.

They reached the bedroom door and he turned to the smaller girl beside him. “Em-”

“Oh, for Merlin’s sake,” she sighed, stepping back and putting her fingers in her ears. “Go ahead, lalalalalala.”

Draco laughed a little at her antics before turning back to the door and whispering the password. Argentum Oculus.

He stepped into Hermione’s room, looking back at the Gryffindor to take control.

“What does she need, Draco?”

“She’s wearing one of my T-shirts but that’s all, so...em...underwear?”

Draco’s cheeks were now competing with Ginny’s hair.

Rolling her eyes, Ginny opened Hermione’s wardrobe and retrieved some pants, a bra (grinning to herself at the thought of her best friend dressing in front of Draco), pyjama bottoms, and socks.

“I don’t see her toiletry bag,” she frowned, looking around the room.

“Hermione had it with her this morning, on the way to the bathroom.”

“Okay, well, you deliver these and I’ll go get her bag.”

Ginny handed him the pile of clothes, Hermione’s bra on top. Draco kept his eyes averted from the garment, his cheeks still flushed - much to the scheming Weasley’s delight.

She skipped out the door and headed towards the bathrooms. Draco took one last look around Hermione’s room, picking up the Edgar Allen Poe book she was currently reading, before walking out and closing the door behind him.

Hermione looked up as he entered and smiled sleepily.

“Hi.”

“Hi,” he walked towards the bed. “Ginny got these for you.”

He handed the pile of clothes over, immediately turning his back to hide his flaming skin.

Hermione observed the baby blue underwear Ginny had selected; delicate white lace adorning the cups of the balconette bra and the waistband of the skimpy panties. Bloody hell! The scarlet pyjama bottoms were figure-hugging and low-waisted. Gods, I hate you right now, Gin! The only decent items were the bloody socks!

A knock at the door revealed a still-grinning Ginger Bitch From Hell holding out Hermione’s toiletry bag and mumbling something about classes. She was gone in seconds.

Draco stood still, his hand remaining on the closed door.

“Can I turn around?”

“What? Oh, oh, yes! Sorry!” Hermione shifted slightly in the bed. “I’m too tired to change, is it alright if I just leave the clothes here and sleep for a bit? Just give me half an hour?”

Draco walked back over to her, settling himself on the other side of the bed and leaning back against the wall.

“Sleep for as long as you want, Granger. We’ll have to visit Pomfrey at some stage but it can wait.”

“I’m really sorry-”

“For what? Don’t apologise,” he smiled, causing her fluttering nerves to shift up a gear. “I told you before I’d be there for you in a heartbeat. I won’t forget that.”

It was Hermione’s turn to blush, those words were etched on her heart. If only he knew.

“Thank you, Draco.”

He looked at her intently for what seemed like a lifetime, before averting his gaze and reaching for the roll of parchment he had put down earlier.

“Snuggle down and sleep, Hermione. I’ll call you in thirty minutes.”
.

That half hour came and went. Draco was so engrossed in The Usher Ultimatum, he had no idea how much time had passed as he devoured word after word of the gripping tale. He was now stretched out on top of the covers beside the still sleeping Hermione. Occasionally, he would find himself glancing over at her, particularly at the times Lucas and Andre shared a moment in the story.

He loved the plot lines and the action scenes; the writing was superb! Detail after detail - the writer must have researched so much - and so much emotion pouring into the sentences. He was definitely getting the guys to read this straight away.

Before long, he was dismayed to find he was about to start the final chapter Luna had printed out for him. Rolling over onto his side, facing Hermione, he continued on.

“My love,” he panted, reaching down to pull her leg over his hip. “I need to-”

“Come,” she whispered. “Come in me.”

Draco was in pieces! He had Accio’d a spare blanket to cover himself when he felt his erection harden as he read the love scene between Lucas and Andre. With the author’s descriptions of both characters, he or she could have been describing himself and Hermione. And, after the previous night’s events, he was finding it difficult to concentrate.

A few more thrusts and he claimed her body as his own, marking her whilst swearing she was his for eternity. She blinked back tears as she heard his promise of love and his commitment to her, body and soul. Still united, she reached up to caress the side of his face.

“Don’t let me go.”

“Never, Granger. I’ll find you, in a heartbeat.”

Draco lowered the parchment slowly, Hermione’s face coming into view. She sighed and moaned gently in her peaceful sleep, causing his heart to race frantically as his mind started to steamroll and take on a pace of its own.

In a heartbeat.

What he said to her: I’ll suffer it all again in a heartbeat, if it meant you could escape.

In a heartbeat.

Always.

The author’s introduction to Chapter fifteen: I know my Lucas and Andre are not as described in the Time Wars novels; Lucas is dark and Andre is, well, not exactly feminine with straight hair but, I can’t explain it, this is how I’ve always seen them in my mind.

Platinum blond hair and silver grey eyes.

Silver grey eyes.

Silver eyes.

SilverEye56.

“Honestly, Draco, don’t you recognise your own birthday?”

5th of June.

“But BiblioBabe199’s pen name might mean his or her birthday is the 19th of September.”

19th of September.

“Hey, Mione. That’s your birthday.”

“Luna, you forgot Mione.”

“Did I? I was sure she already had a pen name.”

Silver eyes.

Argentum Oculus.

“Don’t let me go.”

“Never, Granger. I’ll find you, in a heartbeat.”

The rollercoaster that was Draco’s mind slowly ground to a halt.

“Fuck.”

Chapter Text

Hermione’s rolling stomach woke her up, demanding that tea and toast just wasn’t enough to sustain it. She stretched and opened her eyes, expecting to see Draco sitting on the bed and reading the parchment he had picked up earlier.

Flaming red hair and a Cheshire cat grin met her instead.

“Well?”

Hermione moved to sit up, surprised to see Ginny bouncing on the bed in front of her.

“Hmm? Well what? Where’s Draco?”

“No idea, he asked me to stay with you for a while, and what do you mean ‘well what’? Draco Malfoy meets me this morning and tells me you’re naked in his room! That’s what! So, last night, bitch! Spill!”

Hermione reckoned she was pale from lack of food and the stress of the morning’s events but Ginny’s mention of the previous night caused the remaining blood to drain from her face.

“Gin-”

She covered her face in her hands causing Ginny to recoil in alarm.

“Oh Merlin, Mione, what happened? Did you not enjoy the dream? Was he-?

Hermione’s head shot up, her face stern despite her tears.

“What?”

“Was he no good? Shit, did he hurt you?”

“How exactly do you know about last night?” Hermione hissed, her temper flaring.

“I...em...planned it. But…oh, bollocks, Mione. You don’t look-”

“What. Did. You. Do?”

Ginny blanched.

“It was supposed to bring you and Draco together,” the interfering redhead mumbled. “I asked Fred and George to send me one of their Liquid Patent Daydreams and I put a few drops in your tea-”

“You drugged me? You fucking drugged me?”

“Well, Harry did say-”

“HARRY KNEW? DOES EVERYONE ELSE KNOW?”

Hermione gripped the sheets tightly, her knuckles whitening.

“Mione, I didn’t mean...I wouldn’t!” Ginny cried, jumping up from the bed. This wasn’t going according to plan.

Hermione, despite her weakened state, pushed back the bedclothes and slowly stood up. She grabbed her underwear and started dressing.

“You had better start talking, Ginevra, before I start hitting.”

“Mione, I’m sorry. I-”

“Talk!”

“Okay, okay,” Ginny sighed, sitting down again on the side of the bed and looking sheepishly at her best friend. “After you told me about Draco down at the pitch, I was so upset to see you like that, Mione. I wanted to do something to help. Anything! If it meant you could have what you wanted, Merlin, I’d walk over hot coals.”

Her eyes watered as she continued, running her hands through her long hair.

“What you’ve done for him all these years, like accepting his torments because of what you witnessed under Harry’s cloak, does he know? He should! The first night we were here, I saw your reactions to his injuries, you took that hard. But I also saw him comfort you, there’s something there! I noticed it! And I wanted to help; I wanted to do something.”

By now Hermione had dressed in the skimpy underwear and the figure-hugging bottoms. She put Draco’s T-shirt back on and sat down on the bed beside Ginny to put on her socks.

“Go on.”

“As I said, I called Fred and George. I asked for a LPD that could be given to two people so they’d have the same dream. They explained they test all their products themselves so the male partner takes control of the situation. Whatever you both dreamt last night, it was Draco’s dream and...em...desires. Do you-”

“We...we had sex...well, sort of, I can’t get my head around it,” Hermione kept her head down. “It was...Merlin, Gin, it was perfect. He was perfect. But the shock this morning, I thought I was drugged! The sheets were destroyed, and look!”

She pulled back her hair to reveal the love bite on her neck.

“It seems the participants don’t just fantasize, they actually live the dream. Do Fred and George know that?” she laughed mirthlessly. “I woke up this morning thinking I’d had an erotic dream about Draco Malfoy. Then, when I saw the mark and the sheets, I thought something terrible had happened, Gin. I thought I’d been-”

Ginny burst into tears.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” she cried. “Merlin, forgive me.”

Hermione instantly wrapped her arms around her best friend.

“I could kill you,” she leaned her head against Ginny’s. “I really could. But, I’d walk over hot coals for you too. You know that.”

They stayed quiet for a few moments, both lost in their own thoughts. Hermione was the first to break the silence.

“It was the most amazing night, Gin. He was-”

She jumped up from the side of the bed, frantically wafting her hands in front of her face.

“It was real! Oh, bollocks! Was it? We had sex! Kind of! Didn’t we? Draco and I...oh my God, oh my God! We really had sex. Or did we? Was it real? Like really real! He told-”

She stopped, her eyes wide.

“I thought you’d realise you’re meant to be together last night,” Ginny continued. “Then you’d wake up this morning and everything would be alright because you’d both remember. I didn’t really think about how the LPD would work or the consequences. I fucked it all up, didn’t I?”

Hermione rubbed her face in her hands, her mind frantically whirring.

“I thought it was just a vivid dream I’d had, until I realised the sheets were destroyed and there was a love bite the size of Hogsmeade on my neck. That’s when I realised...I thought I’d-”

She sat down heavily.

“He’s had the same dream,” she closed her eyes. “He has every memory I have. But he’s been taking care of me this morning, thinking he’s had some...lewd...fantasy about us. Merlin, how did he do that? I’d never come out of my room again if I dreamt about a professor or...or one of our friends. I’d better say something, shouldn’t I?”

She kept that fact that they had both said they loved each other to herself for the moment.

“No, I should, Mione. It’s all my fault,” Ginny winced. “Although I wouldn’t mind an erotic dream about Matthew Grey, or that Muggle actor you rave about. What’s his name? Tom?”

Hermione raised a Malfoy-esque eyebrow.

“Have you forgotten Harry? Harry James Potter? Tall, skinny, wears glasses? Went all ‘Chosen One’ on us for a while?”

“Ha bloody ha.”

“It’s okay, Gin. I’ll talk to Draco. I’ll tell him I battered you to pieces with a rolled up copy of Knitter’s Digest until Luna had to pull me off you. Then we’ll see what he says.”

“How did you end up in here anyway, Mione? Draco only said you weren’t well.”

Hermione filled her friend in, skipping over the naked bit.

“I was so tired, I didn’t have the energy to get dressed when he came back with my clothes. So I asked if he’d mind giving me a half hour to close my eyes. He sat on the bed and started to read. I dozed off and, when I woke up, you were here. Where did he go?”

“I honestly don’t know. A house-elf appeared in the library and said Draco needed me. I thought something was wrong with you and I ran back. But he was dressed at the door and just asked me to stay. He walked away before I could say anything. And you’ve slept a lot longer than a half hour; it’s early afternoon.”

“I’d better go and look for him,” Hermione sighed. “I don’t even know what I’m going to say.”

“I love you, Draco, and I want to have little blond babies with you?”

“Knitters’ Digest is quite a thick magazine, Ginevra Weasley.”
.

Draco sat forward on the bench; elbows resting on his knees, head in hands. He walked out of the castle with just a light jumper on and the cold was stinging his scars. Hiding in the Hufflepuff Quidditch stands, he tried to gather his thoughts and process what he had read.

Hermione Granger was BiblioBabe199.

Why? Because all the signs pointed in that direction. Closing his eyes tightly, he tried to figure everything out in his head.

Firstly, the inaccurate descriptions of the main characters; canon had Lucas as dark and distinguished with Andre plain and muscular. Whilst Draco accepted that fanfiction was the writer’s interpretation of an existing story, they were two massive variations. According to Dean’s many lectures on the topic, the characters were usually the same in fanfiction with the only difference being the writer’s plotlines.

Despite what everyone used to think, Draco was never vain. He was told he was good looking many times, before his injuries, but never paid any heed to the compliments. The rumour of the Slytherin Sex God was just that - one massive rumour. He had lost his virginity to Pansy because it suited both of them to use each other - an arrangement that continued for a while until He returned to wreak havoc and destroy lives. Draco had kissed, and slightly groped, one of the Beauxbaton’s girls around the time of the Triwizard Tournament and, from there, the rumour mill had started to churn out the gossip about his looks and his...prowess.

He was, however, very aware that his eyes were unique in their colouring. The Malfoy men had had that distinctive blond hair for generations but his grey eyes, even more so than Lucius or Abraxas, were almost silver in colour. He could easily be mistaken for Fae. The description of Lucas Priest with the same hair and silver grey eyes was just too much of a coincidence to ignore.

Secondly, the numbers in BiblioBabe199’s pen name could easily be the 19th of September, just like Luna had explained that his represented the 5th of June. Draco tried to recall how Hermione had answered Ron when he commented about her birthday but she didn’t pay any heed because… because…

His head snapped up.

She was cleaning up tea that she’d spilled over the table as a result of her violent coughing fit that started when Parvati and Lavender had come into the common room wearing those funny T-shirts.

Didn’t Luna comment that she looked unwell?

Didn’t I comment that she looked unwell?

She had kept her head down when Dean started teaching them about fanfiction; she never said a word, never asked a question. Hermione Granger never asked a question. What alternative reality did he just fall into? She was gone soon after, last seen dragging Ginny out the common room door.

Luna had dropped enough hints, hadn’t she? Ex Libris as a password, for instance. From the library of...

“Oh, I just thought Hermione might like it.”

“Luna, you forgot Mione.”

“Did I? I was sure she already had a pen name.”

He stood and stretched, his muscles sore from tension. The blood had drained from Draco’s face when he read the line that shocked him to his core.

“Never, Granger. I’ll find you, in a heartbeat.”

The strange thing was, he didn’t look back at the parchment to see if he had read the sentence incorrectly. His mind had taken over, ploughing on with a will of its own as it put the jigsaw pieces together.

And, the solved puzzle proved that Hermione Granger was in love with him.
.

Hermione left Draco’s room with Ginny and returned to her own. Her nerves were shattered after the morning’s events, not to mention those of the night before, so she lay on the bed and tried to visualise meadows and unicorns until her best friend returned from the kitchens with lunch.

“It’s mayhem down there,” Ginny walked into the room with a tray of sandwiches and a large pot of tea. “The elves are surrounded by boxes of coloured clipboards and are arguing over which ones match their outfits. I had to make these myself!”

They ate in silence, both girls with too much to dwell over. Ginny was racked with guilt, realising how close she’d come to destroying a friendship by interfering. Not to mention the fact that Fred and George had potentially life-altering potions they were planning to put on the market. She’d have to owl them after lunch to warn them.

Hermione, on the other hand, was still processing and over-thinking.

He loved her. Draco Malfoy loved her.

Every dream, every wish, she had about him was coming true. And he was nowhere to be found when she needed to tell him she loved him back.

What if he’d changed his mind? What if her dream was his nightmare? What if he decided some sixth year with breasts had his heart instead? What if… what if…

“Is it possible The Brightest Witch of Her Age is over analyzing the entire situation and mentally talking herself out of love with Draco Malfoy?”

“What? Oh, yeah, I suppose I am,” Hermione sighed.

“Mione, talk to him. That’s all you can do,” Ginny pressed. “He’s been through hell; more than any of us, I’d say. Although don’t tell Harry I said that. If there’s one thing Draco Malfoy needs it’s some happiness in his life. He probably believes his feelings are one-sided and he’ll definitely be thinking last night was his dream only. You’ll put him back together, Mione. Then you can put me back together when he also tears me apart for interfering.”

The over-exaggerated puppy dog eyes sent Hermione into fits of laughter.

“I’ll get ready and go look for him.”

She smiled and stood up, waving the empty dishes away. Opening her wardrobe, she turned back to her best friend as tears pricked her eyes.

“Draco Malfoy loves me, Gin. I never thought I’d...Merlin, I love him so much.”

She was wrapped in Ginny’s embrace in seconds, both of them crying and smiling.

“You both deserve your happy ending, Mione.”

That eyebrow moved again.

“Shit! I didn’t mean it like that, you sick bitch!”

The laughter continued as Hermione selected some clothes from her wardrobe and began to change.
.

Twenty minutes later, she was sitting on a bed in the hospital wing being fussed over by Madame Pomfrey.

“If you fainted, Miss Granger, you really should be staying here overnight so I may keep an eye on you,” the matron’s stern voice carried around the empty room. “Your vitals are fine, however. Take this Pepper-Up Potion before you leave and try to remember to eat regularly. Honestly, how students think they can spend all their time studying and...socialising...but not eating is beyond me. Now, if Mister Malfoy could get off his backside and-”

Her rant continued as she made her way to her office and shut the door. Downing the potion, a rather bemused Hermione left the vial in the box beside the door - Madame Pomfrey had discovered recycling over the summer.

With a skip in her step, and Draco Malfoy filling her heart, Hermione set off to find him.

Hours later, and her stomach rumbling as dinner approached, he was still nowhere to be found. Hermione was almost frantic, asking everyone she passed if they had seen him.

“You seem quite anxious,” Luna commented in her sing-song voice when Hermione stopped her outside the library. “Is your secret getting too much for you to handle on your own?”

“What?” Hermione spat. “I-I have no idea-”

“Oh, Hermione,” the Ravenclaw smiled. “I know more than I say, I think more than I speak, and I definitely notice more than you realise. I’m observant but I’m quiet; information comes my way easily. I don’t actively look for it so, please, don’t consider my comments as interference. I act out of love.”

Tears filled Hermione’s eyes. “Luna-”

“Let me put it this way,” the blonde continued. “Your pen name suits you. And your interest in a fellow student is reciprocated tenfold.”

“I know,” Hermione smiled, wiping a stray tear away from her cheek. “I know that now.”

“Severus Snape was a double agent, Hermione,” Luna commented, picking up her bag and walking away slowly. “A real situation will always expose a fake friend. Please tell Draco.”

Hermione could only stare as the strange girl made her way down the corridor, humming quietly.
.

By early evening, Hermione was back in the common room with the rest of the eighth years. Draco had all but disappeared, much to her absolute dismay. She curled into her favourite armchair, her book open on her knee with the words melting into one great blob because her watering eyes.

“Any word?” Ginny whispered as she handed Hermione a coffee, adding that nothing was in the mug except instant granules (“don’t tell Blaise”) and a drop of milk.

“No, Gin,” Hermione bit her lip. “I’ve searched, I’ve asked everyone. He’s just disappeared from the school. He’s done a runner, hasn’t he?”

Ginny squeezed her best friend’s hand, about to answer when a familiar tapping was heard at the nearest window.

Parvati leaned over and let the school owl in, along with a blast of cold air. The little creature flew straight for Hermione, dropping a small roll of parchment on top of her book, before circling around the room a few times.

“Come on, little guy,” Parvati cooed. “It’s bloody freezing.”

The owl took the hint and flew out the window, hooting merrily as it went on its way.

“Bloody hell, it’s baltic!” Ron shivered, scooching himself closer the fire and knocking over Harry’s tea in the process.

Ginny and Hermione stared at the parchment, neither one making any attempt to touch it as it sat between the pages of the book.

“Whaamege?” Ron enquired through a mouthful of what used to be a Cauldron Cake.

“The message, Ronald, is none of your business,” Ginny snapped, taking Hermione’s mug away and placing it on the table. The book was next. Before Hermione could think, Ginny had her up and out of the common room with the roll of parchment firmly in her hand.

The go-go dancers were practising Bikram yoga and the heat was unbearable in the corridor, not to mention the smell of sweaty armpits. Ginny kept a firm grip on Hermione’s hand as they ran through the humidity and towards the nearest window. Taking a breath, the redheaded sidekick nodded at the parchment.

“Open it, Mione.”

“It’s probably nothing, Gin-”

“Don’t be ridiculous! It’s from him, I know it.”

“Gin-”

“I’m not Molly Weasley’s daughter for nothing, Hermione Jean Granger. Open it now.”

Hermione couldn’t resist smiling at that. She looked down, her fingers shaking slightly as she unrolled the note.

Please come to the Room of Requirement.

The message was printed so there was no evidence of who sent it. But she knew, and Ginny knew.

“Go, now. He’s obviously waiting, Mione.”

“What if-”

“Go.”
.

Hermione made her way to the seventh floor, her heart hammering in her chest as she climbed the numerous staircases. She wished she had asked Ginny to walk with her but mini-Molly had insisted she go alone.

Before long, she was standing beside the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy, her mouth dry and palms almost stuck to each other. Taking a deep Gryffindor breath, Hermione began to walk forward and back in front of the blank wall opposite.

“I have been invited to the Room of Requirement. I have been invited to the Room of Requirement. I have been invited to the Room of Requirement.”

She stopped and waited. Slowly, a futuristic-style door appeared before her. It was plain white with no markings and a panel on the wall beside it. Walking towards the panel, Hermione noticed a small keypad and a wall plaque. It read Captain Andre Cross.

Before the blood could drain from her face entirely, the door slid open to reveal a bedroom not unlike the one she described in Chapter 15; the one where Lucas and Andre became lovers. It wasn’t the exact same, of course, but the colour scheme was identical and the positioning of the furniture similar. Before her was a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking what was supposed to be Pendleton Base. Futuristic vehicles sped past and covered walkways joined buildings that were easily over one hundred stories high. The brightest neon lights illuminated the scene before her, both inside and out, and Hermione gasped at the realisation that hit her like a brick.

Someone knows who I am.

She stepped inside, allowing the door to slide back over and disappear. A roll of parchment was on the small coffee table in front of her, an inkpot holding it down. Reaching over, Hermione moved the little pot and lifted the parchment. She instantly recognised the text, the last few lines of Chapter 15.

A few more thrusts and he claimed her body as his own, marking her whilst swearing she was his for eternity. She blinked back tears as she heard his promise of love and his commitment to her, body and soul. Still united, she reached up to caress the side of his face.

“Don’t let me go.”

“Never, Granger. I’ll find you, in a heartbeat.”

Hermione stumbled back, dropping the parchment to the floor.

No! I didn’t write-

Familiar arms wrapped around her from behind; arms that had supported her earlier, that had held her in her dream.

“Did you think I couldn't read between the lines, Granger?”

Hermione’s breath caught in her throat. That voice, whispering in her ear, set her nerves on fire. She raised her hands, gripping his arms to support herself.

“I’m the one you want. You don’t have to tell me, I’ve read it.”

“How-”

“Shh,” he whispered, his breath caressing her skin. “So many questions. They can wait.”

Her heart was ready to abandon the safety of her chest and burst into scarlet fireworks.

“Am I your Lucas, Hermione?”

He never moved his arms; she was still held tightly in his embrace. His head was lowered and his lips slid delicately along the side of her neck and the now-glamorised lovebite. His words were whispered gently with a hint of concern, as if he was nervous that he had made a terrible mistake.

“Yes.”

“Did you think of me when you wrote that scene?”

She could hear the relief, his arms relaxing ever so slightly.

“Every word,” Hermione closed her eyes. “I’ve been thinking of you an awful lot longer than that though. I-”

“Shh, not now,” he moved his arms, causing her to let go, and turned her around to face him. The joy, evident in his silver eyes from her admission, caused her heart to soar to heights beyond even her comprehension.

“Not now,” Draco repeated. “Let me-”

He drew her closer before moving his hands from her shoulders to her cheeks. Hermione could hardly breathe as Draco held her still and lowered his lips to join hers. He was tender, gentle, loving; his kiss a promise of so much more to come. They were a perfect fit; softness and light, a first with a token of more. Hermione slowly slid her hands up his chest, her fingers soothing the sides of his neck as she stood on her toes to move her lips even closer to his. As if it were possible.

All too soon, Draco pulled back to gaze into Hermione’s eyes. She didn’t say anything; her hands talking for her; she brought them back down from his face, crossing them in front of her and pulling at the hem of her long-sleeved T-shirt. Draco sucked in a breath as she raised her hands over her head, bringing her top with her and dropping it to the ground.

There was no reason to be shy, or cautious; they had been together the night before. Although Draco didn't know that. Yet.

“Her-”

She raised a finger to his lips.

“Not now.”

The spark within Draco Malfoy ignited.

Hermione stood before him in the baby blue bra he had seen earlier on, the one that Ginny had blatantly taunted him with. She was exquisite; the balconette lifting her breasts as if to tease him. Without thinking, he reached forward to trace a finger from her neck down to the bra’s tiny lace bow. His eyes followed his exploration, tilting his head to the side as he marvelled at her smooth skin and dotted freckles. Draco tugged slightly on the bra, causing Hermione to stumble forward into his arms again. One hand moved around her back and his fingers expertly twisted the bra’s catch, opening it instantly. His other hand pulled at the front of the garment, dragging it forward so the straps slid down her arms and the first piece of underwear joined her T-shirt on the floor.

“My beautiful girl,” he kissed her again, his hands caressing her bare back before moving around to allow his fingers ghost across her pebbled nipples and swollen breasts. Hermione gasped into his mouth, her skin heating up with every stroke of his fingers. She slid her arms around his neck, holding on for support as desire threatened to overcome her.

“Hermione-”

He looked down at her, his silver eyes clouded with hunger.

“Let me love you.”

Her kiss was passionate, her body pressing against his as she poured all her need into him.

“Yes,” she breathed against him. “Please, Draco.”

“My scars-”

“-are mine now to heal,” she soothed.

No other words were spoken. He lifted her tiny frame and carried her towards the bed, her legs wrapping around his waist to ease his movements. Their lips parted briefly as she lay back on the bed and he pulled his jumper over his head, throwing it away to his side.

Draco reached down to untie Hermione’s Converse, placing them on the floor along with her socks. He removed his own footwear, before standing up again and staring down at the beauty stretched out before him.

Her skin was flushed, her breathing erratic as she squeezed her legs together. Draco smiled at her; his face so full of pure, raw emotion; of sheer happiness. He flicked open the button on his jeans, forcing Hermione to bite her lip hard; the pressure between her legs was building, pulsing with need for him to fill her core with his lips, his fingers... with him.

She repeated his actions, opening her jeans and slowly pulling down the zip in time to his own movements. As she shimmied the material down her thighs, lifting herself slightly in the process, he pushed his own clothing down to the floor.

It seemed Draco Malfoy didn’t wear underwear.

He stood before her - naked. Aroused. For her. The idea was overwhelming to Hermione; his body wanted hers. He wanted her. Those deepest desires, hidden for so long under years of acting and playing her part, fought to break their bonds.

She was instantly wetter, the stain spreading across the pale blue material of her underwear; the only barrier between them. Draco leaned forward, crawling up the bed to trap her between his arms and legs. His actions were futile; she was his. She would always be his. He just didn’t realise it yet.

He lowered his body to caress hers, holding himself up on his forearms, before dipping his head to place his cheek next to hers.

“You have me, Hermione. All of me. I-”

He pulled his face back to look at her, alarmed to see tears pooling at the corner of her eyes.

“No,” he whispered, panic shooting across his features. “I can’t be without you, please-”

Hermione closed her eyes, a quiet Evanesco tearing the clothed barrier away from her body.

“I need you, Draco,” she whispered. “I need you now.”

She opened her legs wider, wrapping one around his hip and moving to rub herself against him. He reached down and adjusted himself, stroking her tenderly before slipping into her waiting body.

Draco closed his eyes; his emotions almost getting the better of him. He moved his hips, drawing a breath from the witch he craved beneath him. Her sigh tugged at his heart, the pleasure she could feel from his movements flushing her skin. They moved in harmony, their skin kissing as their fingers explored. Their lips gently brushing as they breathed each other in.

Two people who had overcome years of secrets and lies, torture and torment, had eventually found heaven in each other. They continued to hold on as one holds a lifeline.

As lives were created and destroyed in the reality surrounding them, Draco and Hermione knew only this moment. Together.