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Ugh. I can’t believe I’m getting fat, he thought to himself as he took in his appearance in the mirror.

Who would have thought?

Draco Malfoy: Slytherin’s prince, Witch Weekly’s most eligible bachelor and renounced sex-God - now known as “Tub of Lard”.

Well...to him, that is.

It’s not so much that he was obese - far from it. He was more like uncomfortably chunky.

If you looked at him, you wouldn’t even notice. His clothes, albeit a bit snugger, still framed him well. His robes hid his mid-section, so if he stretched his arms over his head, he actually looked in shape.

But it was another story when his arms came down and stilled by his sides. There was no hiding it: he had a gut. Though it was slight, it was there.

He pouted as he flexed his stomach out, moving around this way and that.

He knew that there were worse things to be worrying about. But in his eyes, this was the end for him.

It was only a matter of time before the public noticed it and began to take the mickey.

Well...

Actually, Blaise had already begun that torture. Stupid bastard.

Just last night after their pick-up game of Quidditch, when they were changing their shirts out in the field, Blaise had thrown him a comment that had their friends roaring with laughter at his expense.

“Nice keg, Drake! Drinks are on you, eh?”

Fucking git. Blaise was lucky that he didn’t have a real keg to toss over his head.

He should have, though, because he now felt very self-conscious of his body and was getting depressed at what he saw.

Don’t get him wrong. He’d constantly seen his appearance in front of a mirror daily. In fact, he still looked pretty good. At twenty-six years old, his hair was just as thick, he had nice skin and his other body parts were still shapely. He also didn’t have any trouble getting together with the ladies.

Case in point: he’d recently snagged himself the Gryffindor princess, Hermione Granger. Though they had a rough start, they had been together for almost six months.

Nevertheless, it made him nervous. If Granger noticed his recent weight gain, would she say something? Would she feel disgusted if she felt he was a little too soft in some places?

He smirked. That would be the day: Hermione Granger dumping him because there was more of him to love.

No, Granger wouldn’t be that way. She wasn’t shallow. If she were, then the apocalypse was right at his front door. And maybe a third wizarding war would be coming soon.

Still, he was strongly considering having her avoid touching that area whilst trying to get rid of the inconvenient physical feature right away. It was actually a miracle that she hadn’t mentioned anything about his appearance yet.

Hmm....

As he was grabbing his stomach to pinch it, he felt the wards of his flat activate as someone Apparated into his living room.

Speak of the devil. Damn.

In a panic, he made to grab his shirt from his bed.

“Draco?” she called.

“Yeah!” he yelled back, quickly pulling down his shirt. There was no way in hell that anyone was going to catch him whining about his image, least of all her.

“Where are you?”

“In here.”

Slowly, the footsteps arrived at his door and Granger walked in with an annoyed look on her face.

“There you are! I’ve been looking for you everywhere!” she said, making her way towards him.

“Have you? Well, you mustn’t been looking hard enough,” he teased, caging her in his arms.

She smacked his chest playfully, getting him to release her, and then sat down on his bed.

But before she could say anything, she frowned at what she saw on the nightstand.

“What’s this?” she asked, slicing a piece of the pie with a fork and brought it to her lips.

“It’s my mid-afternoon snack,” he said with a shrug. He turned back to the mirror he was in front of, pretending to preen his hair.

“Strawberry cheesecake?” she asked with a sceptical note.

“Yes…something wrong with my choice?”

“No… I just – I didn’t think you were big on sweets.”

He turned around to face her and an eyebrow arched up.

“Really? And how did you come to that conclusion?”

“Well…you don’t have any around this place. I should know, I checked.”

“You snooped?” he asked in mock-bewilderment. In reality, he could care less.

“Yes,” she said without shame. Instead, she focused on getting another piece.

“Hey, who said you can have my slice?”

Hermione laughed at that. “Oh, please. I’m just getting another small piece.”

“Yeah, well. Get your own,” he huffed, picking up the plate while snatching the fork away from her.

“Fine. Maybe I will,” she sniffed as she got up from the bed, heading towards the door.

“Wait, why the big rush to find me?” he asked her.

“Oh, right. I just ran into Harry and Ginny and get this: they have invited us to go to the beach.”

“The beach?”

“Yes, the beach. You know? Sand, salty water, palm trees-”

“I know what a beach is,” he grumbled, scowling at her.

“Just making sure,” she replied with a smirk. “Anyway, since we haven’t had a chance to celebrate Harry’s or Ginny’s birthdays properly and mine is next, Ginny suggested that we should all go celebrate on Ibiza for three days next month. Isn’t that great?”

The beach? Where he had to be shirtless? With him and his pooch? Draco made a face.

And who did she mean by all?

“Oh you know, the usual gang: me, you, Luna, Ron. And Harry and Ginny of course.”

Ugh. “No.”

“Draco-”

“Seriously? You expect me to jump for joy at the thought of mingling with Potty and Weaselbee for three whole days?”

“Oh, stop it. Ibiza is a very beautiful place and I know for a fact that you are fond of the boys.”

He snorted.

“Snort all you like. But I know it to be true. Harry told me the last time you boys had a poker night that you called them both your mates.”

He sniffed as he tried to suppress a blush. That wasn’t meant to be common knowledge. And he had been drunk off his rocker.

Stupid Potter and his big mouth.

“Irrelevant,” he said with a wave. “I’m not going.”

“But why not?”

“Because I, unlike you lazy slags, can’t just bugger off from my family’s business.”

“We are not lazy slags,” she said with a frown, crossing her arms.

“Fine, lazy fucks. I can’t take days off.”

“Yes you can,” she argued. “It’s only three days and I’m letting you know way in advance. I’m sure your company can survive without you. We can even go from Friday till Sunday and make it a three-day weekend.”

He shrugged, trying to look unimpressed. “I’ve already been to Ibiza.”

Hermione’s face lit in surprise. “Really? When?”

Draco raised an eyebrow. “Is it really that surprising? My family does have properties and investments all over the European continent. Both wizarding and others.”

“Hmm. I hadn’t thought of that.”

With a nod, he turned back to his mirror to preen at himself some more, hoping he had ended the discussion.

He actually could take those days off, even offer the group his family’s summer home on that isle. But just the thought of him being out there on the beach, with a pair of trunk shorts, his gut out there for the public to see…

No, he couldn’t allow it.

Suddenly, he felt warm arms go around his waist softly and a forehead press into his back. Though it felt lovely, his heart sped up as his mind kept chanting please don’t feel my gut over and over again.

“Please, Draco?” she whispered.

No.”

“I’ll make it worth your while.”

“Doubtful.”

“Don’t be so sure.”

“But I am.”

“What if I decide to wear a sexy frilly pink bikini?”

He paused as he imagined it. Hermione in a hot pink, tiny, frilly bikini. Hmm…that would be a pleasant sight indeed.

No, he thought as he shook his head. That wasn’t enough incentive.

When she realized that her suggestion didn’t work, she tried another tactic. “If you go... I’ll wear that other outfit you suggested last summer.”

His eyes widened as he perked up. “That tiny one, with the dangling strings on the bikini bottom?”

Hermione’s face smiled into the mirror, taking in his sudden hopeful expression.

“The very one,” she replied while rubbing his midsection with her hands slowly.

Draco bit back a grimace as he reached up to still them. Why was she suddenly groping his stomach so much?

But as he did so, an idea took root in his head. If she was willing to go as far as dressing so provocatively, then his other suggestion shouldn’t sound so far-fetched.

Right?

And he knew for a fact that she would shoot it down, thereby ending the discussion indefinitely.

He turned to face her with a wicked grin. “Okay. But I have an added compromise. If I do go and you do wear that delicious outfit, then you will also have to have sex with me on the seashore with that bikini on.”

“Done.”

His eyebrows shot up at her reply. “You wouldn’t.”

“No, I’ll do it. As long as it gets you to come with me.”

He chuckled in spite of himself. “Oh, I’m sure I will be able to make you come.” He then went ahead and pinched one of her butt cheeks playfully.

She smacked his arm, causing him to pout.

“Must you be such a pervert?”

“Hey, you’re the one that just agreed to have sex with me on a public beach.” He was already getting giddy at the thought.

She stuck out her tongue.

“Alright. So it’s settled then,” she confirmed. “You are going to come with us and we are going to have a great time together.”

“Correction: I will be going so long as you wear that teeny tiny bikini whilst we have sex on the beach. I don’t know about the others, unless you’re into that kind of kink.”

“You’re never going to change, are you?” she asked with a resigned air.

“You know you wouldn’t have it any other way.”

She gave a small chuckle as she looked down at her watch.

“Oh, god!” she cried out. “I have to go. I’m late for a meeting with a potential client.”

She leaned up to his face and gave him a chaste kiss. “Please do try to behave yourself while I am gone.”

He rolled his eyes when she smiled sweetly at him but he smiled back as he saw her walk out of the room.

Once she’d Apparated away, he turned back to the mirror while releasing a small sigh.

Fucking great.

Now he really had to try to get into shape. There was no way he was going to be running around shirtless on a beach with a gut hanging over of his board shorts. Or be naked in public where Hermione could see all his imperfections vividly.

He needed to get rid of that gut and he had a little over month - six weeks to be exact - to do it. And he didn’t want to use potions, charms or spells. Sadly, they were only temporary fixes and still wouldn’t get rid of the evidence once they wore off.

He needed something more permanent. Something that made him burn those extra pounds off. Something that made him work much harder than Quidditch.

But what could he do?

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It was actually a half-baked idea that led him to the Muggle gym. After dropping off Hermione at her parents’ house for dinner, claiming he had a lot of work to do, he walked in to the first place he spotted once he had walked out of the Leaky Cauldron. He hadn’t had a damn clue what a gym was until last night when he saw a commercial on the telly in passing.

“Come one, come all,” the man had said while flexing one of his arms. Meanwhile, the people in the background were working various kinds of machines as they grinned throughout the commercial.

“Here at our facilities, we guarantee you success. So get off your lazy bum and give your body a wake-up call!”

In truth, he actually found the man on the screen a ponce. For a Muggle, he looked double the size of an average one, so that was a bit off-putting. But then, when the commercial had spotlighted a testimony of a lady that looked more slender, he decided it couldn’t hurt to try it. Not only that, but the lady actually had looked content and happy. He wanted to have that contentment too.

He just hoped he didn’t end up looking like that overgrown gorilla from the TV.

So with a deep breath, he stepped into the first gym he found. It had been intimating (as were all things Muggle) but he decided to give it a chance. He spotted a burly-looking individual by the entrance who then ushered him into an office (honestly, what was it with gyms and oversized men?). Draco then proceeded to nod his head to whatever it was that was being explained, handed over some of his Muggle notes he brought with him for the deposit and shook hands to complete the transaction whilst getting a plastic card slapped into his other hand.

Afterwards, he walked out of the room and stood around for a few minutes watching people around him pulling at a bar with weights, picking up a small hand weight or jumping around in what seemed to be a structured class. He didn’t have damn clue what the machines were or what he had to do next. The burly man that had signed him up just gave him a big greedy-like smile and waved him out without further ceremony.

Muggles, he thought with a shake of his head.

However, as he watched on, he noticed that some of the people working out didn’t seem to really enjoy what they were doing. Meanwhile others, much to his chagrin, were sweating so profusely he was glad to see that they had their own towels and were whipping themselves off for the most part.

He just hoped he didn’t contract any type of Muggle disease because of it.

After watching for another five minutes, he finally decided to give the locker room a look and change his clothes to something more appropriate.

When he was ready, he went to the first apparatus he spotted open. He had seen someone using it beforehand and thought that it couldn’t be that difficult to use. The whole point of the machine was to pull the two opposing vertical bars to his chest and back, and the man who’d used it last made it look easy. So he settled himself on the seat and made to pull the bars in.

But unknown to him, the last person that used it had left it with heavy weights on. Draco groaned and strained until finally conceding defeat.

What the fuck? Why couldn’t he budge the damn thing?

He got up to inspect the machinery. He couldn’t have broken it. He hadn’t even moved it yet!

Ignoring the stares from the people around him, he finally realized that he had to adjust the weights on it and dug in his hand between them to lift.

Since he didn’t know that all he had to do was to move a little metal key to the weight he desired, he almost got his hand caught up within two weight blocks if he hadn’t been pulled back with a jerk.

“What the bloody hell are you doing?!” the stranger reprimanded.

“What does it look like I’m doing?” Draco replied with a frown.

“Honestly? It looked like you were about to get your hand crushed up by that weight.”

Draco sniffed as he pretended to dust his shirt-sleeve off. He was trying very hard to repress a slight blush.

“For your information, gym guy, I was trying to adjust the weight setting so I could get it to work.”

“Okay, well for future reference, all you have to do is adjust the weight like this.” And the stranger proceeded to show him how to move the little key from between the weights.

Draco’s blush finally broke through as he tried to look dignified. “I knew that.”

“Right,” the man replied, rolling his eyes.

As the man began to turn away, Draco groaned to himself but decided to get his help before he disappeared.

“Alright, gym bloke. I didn’t know what I was doing.”

The man turned back and looked at him with an amused look. “Thought so.”

“If you must know, this is my first time at a gym,” Draco said with a snarky tone.

“Honestly?”

“Yes,” he grumbled.

“And none of the trainers gave you a tour?”

“Obviously not.”

“Huh,” the Muggle said. He then shrugged. “Well, come on then. Might as well show you round. Don’t want you to get into another accident. And by the way, the name’s Finn.” And he proceeded to walk away.

Draco glared at him. The nerve of the Muggle.

But he didn’t have room to complain when he was about to get some much-needed help.

Holding in his annoyance, he followed Finn around the place.

After thirty minutes of getting explained how the machines worked, Draco grunted his thanks before leaving to look for a machine he needed and found one empty. It was supposed to be one that focused on his upper abs. So with a determined mindset, he got on and began his workout for the night.

He better be shelling out results, he thought as he puffed, so help him Merlin.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

As Draco Apparated home later that night, he thought he would indulge a bit. He had given himself a rather hard work out for his first time so he reasoned he deserved to give himself a treat.

Dropping his gym bag, he made a beeline to the icebox and popped out his much coveted cheesecake.

Taking a knife from a drawer, he began to cut off a big piece and placed it on a napkin.

So what if he’s eating a rather big slice? He’d just burn off the calories tomorrow with extra work. That’s what the gym is supposed to be for, right?

Without further ado, he brought the cake to his mouth and took a bite. He emitted a loud moan of pleasure.

Strawberry cheesecake had never tasted so good.

“Draco? Is that you?”

Shite! he thought to himself as he scrambled to hide the cake in his hand.

Bugger, bugger, bugger! Where the fuck could he put it? And what the hell was she doing here?!

Just as Hermione stepped in, he pulled open a drawer and tossed it in without a glance. He then slammed it shut and posed by the drawer with his hand on the table while trying to discreetly finish off his bite.

“Are you alright?” she asked with a look of puzzlement.

“I’m fine,” he replied in a rather high pitch. “What are you doing here?”

She furrowed her eyebrows. “Just thought I would stop by to see how you’re doing since you didn’t go to dinner with me... Are those running shorts?”

“Yeah, so?”

“Oh. Did you go out for a run?”

“No. Just had a pick-up game with the boys.”

“But you have no Quidditch gear on.”

Bugger. He should have just said yes to running.

He shrugged. “It was an impromptu game. No one was prepared.”

Hermione gave him a look over, as if she was trying to decipher what the hell he was trying to hide.

Please let it go, he thought to himself as he tried to keep from fidgeting. The last thing he needed was to have her catch on to his gym endeavours.

Though he didn’t really know why he didn’t want her to know, he just didn’t. He wanted to keep that bit to himself at the mo.

After a few more seconds of inspection, she finally shrugged and gave up. Thank goodness.

“Anyway, like I said, I just wanted to make sure you were alright. You were acting rather odd all day.”

“I’m fine. Just had a lot on my mind.”

“Okay then. Mum and dad say hello.”

He snorted at that while crossing his arms. “Right.”

“They do,” she insisted.

“Your father hates me, remember?”

“Oh, rubbish. He does not.”

“Oh, yes he does,” he argued while giving her a pointed look.

Hermione grimaced. “Alright fine, he does. But can you blame him? I mean, my poor father did walk in on us that one time you came over to their house.”

Draco wrinkled his nose at the memory. Yet another reason he didn’t like setting foot in the Granger household.

“My mother, on the other hand, did send her love.”

“Oh. Well, thanks for that.”

The stood there for a few more minutes until Draco finally pretended to stretch out and yawn.

“Guess I best be going for a shower,” he said, making his way towards the kitchen exit.

“Draco...” she said, making him stop in his tracks.

“Yeah?”

“What were you doing....just a minute ago?” she asked carefully.

His eyes widened before looking a bit embarrassed by the question. “Nothing. Why?”

“Well, you were rather flushed and then there was a loud bang before I walked in.”

Draco slapped a hand to his face before running it down. Fuck.

When he looked back at her, she was looking at him with a wary glance.

“Really, it’s nothing,” he reassured.

“Okay.”

“No, really. I just... well...it-” Instead of stumbling over an explanation, he opened the drawer where he’d tossed the slice so she could see.

Hermione’s eyes widened as she saw the mess. It seemed like the cake had exploded in the drawer.

“But...why were you trying to hide that from me?”

“Honestly? I don’t know.”

She released a small chuckle at that reply. “You’re weird and officially off-kilter. Must be a pure-blood thing.”

“Hey!”

“You are! You toss slices into drawers, moan at their taste-”

“You heard that?”

She chuckled. “Kind of hard not to when you were being loud in here.”

When he blinked, she shrugged again. “It’s no big deal. So you enjoy your cake...”

He gave her a small smile.

So she’d caught him in a moment of embarrassment. No big deal.

“Alright. Enough fun at my expense. I’m going to have my bath.”

“You do that. You’re starting to stink.”

Draco made a cross-eyed face at her while sticking his tongue out and walked out of the kitchen as she laughed.

It was amazing how easy their repartee was nowadays, despite their tumultuous history. It had taken a lot of work but he was glad that he had come to his senses and put those old grudges aside.

Because the truth of the matter was that she was, in a word, perfect.

That didn’t mean that things were one hundred percent peachy, though. They still fought like cats and dogs on occasion, mostly due to petty things. They both were rather stubborn in nature and would fight their stances tooth and nail. But the grudges didn’t last long. If anything, they got over them rather quickly and then moved on to more pleasant physical solutions.

Draco couldn’t help the grin that spread over his face at that thought as he turned on the shower key, letting the water and steam cloud his senses.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

After four weeks of continuing his regime, Draco began to notice that his body was gradually changing. Though he still weighed the same, his arms were getting slightly defined, his thighs and legs felt stronger, and he even noticed that his upper chest was beginning to form into slight pecs.

It didn’t slip his notice that the protein foods he had included into his diet were helping move along the process, for which he was thankful. Though he knew that it was mostly for muscle building, it was also helping him get toned. At first, he had been sceptical to follow that Muggle Finn’s suggestion. But now he was glad he had listened to him.

Nevertheless, despite having those positive notable changes, when it came to his midsection, he couldn’t help but frown.

Why wasn’t that area also getting better? Why couldn’t he start seeing the difference there?

He almost felt like giving up. The one thing he wanted to work on toning wasn’t happening. So why keep on trying?

No, he thought as he grunted from his continued regime of sit-ups. He needed to see it through. Don’t give up yet!

If anything, the only other thing he was happy about, besides the physical evidence, was that he was able to take some pain relieving potions after his work-outs. He had a rather low tolerance for pain and often wondered just how those Muggles even coped. Those damn exercise contraptions really were torture. He now understood why some of them made faces of almost pure agony while using them.

Especially those Muggles that were frequenting the gym five days a week just like him.

He knew he was being a little obsessive about it. But the holiday trip was only two weeks away and he wanted to get into the best shape he could.

Just the thought of him being on that beach, having Hermione and her friends gawk at his pudgy body was enough motivation to keep him going.

Therefore, he made the time and excuses to seclude himself to the gym.

It hadn’t been easy, however. Hermione had been at his heels, wanting to know what is it that was so important for him to do.

He still had not opened up about this venture. He actually didn’t even know how to anymore.

He just got the feeling that if he ever opened himself up about it, she would laugh at him.

It was actually very ridiculous if you thought about it. Here he was, a pure-blooded wizard, reducing himself to Muggle means for weight loss.

How fucking pathetic.

Draco sat up from the floor to rest his elbows on his knees, trying to catch his breath.

Just last night they had had an argument about this very issue and it hadn’t ended well. He scrunched up his face as he recalled the worst of it.

“You hardly spend any time with me anymore,” she had said, with a sullen look.

“For fuck’s sake, Granger. I’ve already told you. I have a temporary commitment that’s cutting into my evenings.”

“But what is it, exactly?”

“I also told you this: I. Can’t. Tell. You.”

“Bollocks! You’re just hiding something from me.”

“I am not!”

“You are! Don’t you think I’ve noticed your odd attire? Muggle attire, to be precise. And I know for a fact that you and the boys have not been having the intense Quidditch pick-up games you’ve been claiming. Just last night, I ran into Blaise who you said you would be with and he had no idea where you-”

“Enough!” he said, slamming down one of his fists on his desk.

“No, not enough! And don’t try those intimidating acts on me! You will not succeed.”

“I wasn’t trying to,” he snapped grumpily.

“Could have fooled me,” she said, sending him a pointed look.

“Granger, we have been over this for the last week now.”

“And still, you haven’t explained anything to me. Why can’t you just be honest with me?”

“I haven’t been lying to you!”

“Yes you have! Why can’t you just share what’s going on?”

“Because I don’t have to share everything with you!” he yelled. “So butt out of my fucking business!”

After he shouted his reply, he instantly regretted it. The look on Hermione’s face made him feel terrible, as if he had just pulled back his hand and slapped her.

“Okay,” she said in a small voice.

Without another word, she had picked up her things and walked out of his work office, shutting his door gently. That act had made him feel even worse.

Usually, she wasn’t one to act clingy and she hadn’t been. She was just worried since he hardly seemed to be around her as often as he used to be and had been withdrawn. Furthermore, all she had wanted that night was spend some time with him. But instead of turning her down gently, he ended up hurting her feelings.

Stupid, stupid arsehole.

With a sigh, Draco got up from the floor and made his way to one of the machines to work on his abdomen some more.

Couldn’t she see that all this work was being done for both their sakes? So she wouldn’t be embarrassed about him?

He shook his head as he adjusted the weight and sat on the seat.

Well, of course she couldn’t. She didn’t even know what the hell he was doing because he didn’t allow her to.

But soon enough she will, he thought as he pulled on the bars. But not just yet.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Draco was a bundle of anxiety as he waited for his owl to return. He just hoped that this time, he’d get an actual response instead of another unopened scorched up envelope.

It had been a week since his row with Hermione and she had yet to see him at all. This was by far the longest time in their relationship that they’d kept at odds.

The day after the fight, he had tried to apologize by means he’d known to work in the past. But to his dismay, they all had resulted in disaster.

His flowers had come back to him without petals, as if she had thrashed them before returning them. His letters had been scorched without being opened. He had also tried to speak with her at her flat but once he got near it, he broke out in hives in some not-so-nice places that couldn’t be dealt with publicly.

His last attempt at bribery had been yesterday with a box of chocolate. But just like everything else he had sent her, it returned back to him squashed so badly that the items inside were now inedible.

Not that he would have opened the box to eat them anyway. He wouldn’t put it past her to have altered them to cause some unfortunate results.

With a groan, he popped open the mini icebox under his desk and reached for the strawberry cheesecake slice he had saved in there.

Somehow, just eating that piece seemed to make things slightly better. It took the edge off.

Which was why he had been indulging in the treat during the week and had neglected to go back to the gym.

Fuck the regime, fuck the protein diet, and fuck his abs.

At this rate, he doubted that he was even considered to take part of the holiday trip anymore, which was next week.

He scoffed at that.

Big deal. So Hermione would go by herself, then. She would have a much better time without his sourpuss self. She’d get to hang out with Potter and his pathetic sidekick along with the rest of the motley crew. Furthermore, she would be able to get a bit of sun in that pink bikini she mentioned. Or would she wear the other one he had insisted she take along? Either way, she would be delectable in whichever outfit, making the men around her drool and then possibly follow her around like lovesick puppies... Fuck. He hadn’t even considered her running into other men while she was away on the trip.

He groaned while taking another bite almost violently.

Oh, why did he have to be such an arsehole?

And as if to add more insult to injury, his stomach hadn’t budged - literally.

Though it had somewhat started to form more solidly, it hadn’t completely toned to what he had hoped. It was still a noticeable gut, though now it didn’t seem to be so jello-like.

He sighed.

In a way, he knew he was at fault for the lack of formidability. Despite having been strict with his regime, he still indulged with his favourite cake when he arrived home.

Just like he was right now. He doubted that he was helping himself anyhow.

Oh well.

At least he’d tried. And he no longer felt as if he were obligated to return to that smelly, sweaty gym. Or face that wanker Finn.

Actually, now that he thought that over, he couldn’t really be an arse about Finn. Despite his misgivings due to his origin, the man had been rather helpful in forming his workout regime and diet, even a good work-out mate on occasion. In fact, he had actually become someone that Draco could consider a friend of sorts.

Well, maybe not a friend but a great acquaintance.

Anyway, it didn’t really matter – his opinion of the man was moot. Because today he was going to that place to close down his membership and never see him again.

He just hoped that burly man at the entrance didn’t decide to squish his skull into the size of a snitch for terminating early.

Oh well. If all else failed, he could Obliviate the man and delete his information from the gym’s files. No fuss, no muss.

Suddenly, an insistent tapping sound at his window pulled him out of his reverie. He got up quickly, dropping the fork with a loud clatter without caring if it ended up on the floor.

His owl Bootes hooted at him in annoyance. It seemed that the animal had been waiting for a few minutes for him to be acknowledged. Oops.

Once it flew in, Draco noticed that there was a note attached to its leg and, by some miracle, it actually looked like a real response.

Quickly, he untied it and without a second thought, waved away Bootes with his hand without offering him a treat. Bootes hooted insulted. So, with a flap of its wings that hit Draco’s arm hard, he flew back out. But Draco didn’t care.

Hermione had finally answered.

Tentatively, he opened the note...

...and laughed out right as he read the contents inside of it.

The cancelling of his gym membership would have to wait.

This new venture was going to take priority for once.

 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It took seven hours, a stiff bum and countless glares from a secretary when Draco finally saw Hermione leave her office.

After reading the note that specified where his apology could go (shoved right up his arse) as well as mentions of a busy schedule and a late night date with her cat, he decided that it was time to make another attempt at a physical appearance.

But of course, once he got there, the blasted secretary denied him an audience and wouldn’t even mention that he was there.

Blasted witch. It was a shame he never got along with her beforehand. He could only imagine what Hermione had told her about him now.

After trying his hardest to be charming in order to get into her good graces, he reached his patience’s end.

Look, I just want to have a quick word.”

“Miss Granger is very busy today,” she quipped in a snobby tone. “She will not be available to see you in an impromptu meeting. She is currently on a conference call with an important client.”

“Fine,” he bit out. “Then I’ll just stay.”

“Mr. Malfoy, you are being unreasonable. Please, leave the premises.”

“No, no. I’ll go ahead and wait. She has to come out some time. In fact, this spot looks pretty comfortable.”

Before the secretary could say anything else, he conjured a love seat across from Hermione’s office door and plopped himself down.

“Mr. Malfoy! You’re being childish!”

“Talk about calling the kettle black. You’re the one refusing to announce me. So unless you are going to notify her, I’ll just wait here.”

Without further ado, he pulled out a book from his robe pocket and proceeded to read.

Throughout his time in the office, he heard the secretary continue to grumble to herself while being obnoxiously loud on purpose.

When five o’ clock hit, he heard the secretary give a final indignant huff while locking up her things with her wand and possible sending him a dirty look (he could only imagine) before stomping off towards the lifts.

About fucking time that cow left. Only took five hours, he thought in frustrated annoyance. He would finally be in blessed peace.

It was getting close to seven in the evening when he finally heard the office door unlock and saw Hermione appear with a sour look on her face.

He stood up without further ado, Vanishing the couch and book in the process.

“Granger.”

Malfoy.”

“Finally decided to emerge from your cave?”

Hermione glared. “Oh, I’m sorry. I had no idea that I had to share my presence with you.”

Draco made a face at her tone.

“Can we talk?”

“Whatever for?”

“Just - can we talk?”

“No stopping you anyway, even if I tried,” she grumbled in a mutter, crossing her arms and looking at the wall behind him.

He cleared his throat. “Granger, I know I’ve been a right prat.”

She scoffed but he ignored it.

“What I said that night...it was completely out of line. I didn’t mean it.”

“Yes, you did. And I know for fact you believe it. That’s why I’ve decided to butt out of your business completely.”

“C’mon, Granger...”

“No seriously. It makes me wonder why we are even together. You don’t really trust me.”

“That’s not-”

“It’s true,” she said in vehemence.

“Granger, I was only upset. You kept pressuring me to share something I wasn’t ready to discuss.”

“I was worried!”

“I know and I-”

“And you know what I got? For being caring and concerned?” she cut in. “A verbal slap in the face.”

He cringed. “I know. And I’m very sorry. But you don’t understand.”

“Well of course I don’t understand! You haven’t been letting me in!”

At that comment, Hermione glowered at him, making Draco feel uncomfortable. He could hardly blame her for the hurt tone in her words. He really had been a self-absorbed jerk where she was concerned.

Closing his eyes, he began his confession.

“It’s my gut,” he muttered.

“What?”

“My gut,” he repeated.

“What about it?”

He shuffled his feet, trying to avoid looking at her. “I’ve been busy trying to get rid of it. Even began working out at a Muggle gym.”

She stared at him, shocked.

“But...why?”

“Because I felt fat.”

At that, Hermione released a mirthless laugh. “You’re serious.”

“Yes.”

“But...honestly? You’re worried about your stomach?”

Draco grumbled. “See, this is why I didn’t want to tell you.”

“No, wait. I’m not trying to make fun of you. You’re telling me that the reason you’ve been ditching me and wearing Muggle clothes is because you’ve been having an image crisis that made you resort to frequenting a gym?”

At her incredulous tone, Draco finally snapped.

“Well, how would you feel if you all of a sudden had an area that was noticeably disgusting? You’ve no idea how disconcerting it is to have shirts that strain or having your friends tease you about your looks. Especially when you’ve been someone that’s been fit for almost all of their life. And then having to resort to Muggle means to get fit again. I hate it!”

“Draco,” she began with a smile. “I couldn’t care less if you weighed 16 stone or if you all of a sudden got a bit wider all over.”

At that, he blinked at her.

She continued, “Though physical attributes can be lovely, I love you. Your laughter, your intelligence, your sense of loyalty, even that warped humour of yours. I like and want you, just as you are.”

“But I just – I thought-”

“Our physical appearances are going to change, whether we want them to or not. I’m sorry to say but our bodies’ metabolism isn’t going to help keep us looking this way. I mean, are you going to break up with me if I gain a few inches here and there?”

“Of course not!” he yelled, insulted.

“Then you understand,” she said in a tone of finality.

Huh. He never thought of that before. Although, a somewhat chunkier Granger wouldn’t be a bad thing. Especially if that weight ended up in her boobs and arse.

He gave her a quick look-over on her assests discreetly.

Definitely more weight in the arse region.

“Now,” she continued, unaware of where his thoughts had led, “if you want to continue with this regime, I’m not going to stop you. It has been said that doing physical exercise is good for the body. So if it’s making you feel better, do it. But don’t do it if it’s only to maintain your appearance in the public because honestly, who the heck cares what they think? And if you want, I’ll even join you. I have no qualms about going.”

He gave her a lopsided grin. Why had he been so worried about her knowing this before? All of it had been for naught.

“Besides,” she continued, approaching him with a sultry look. “In case you didn’t know, there is another more pleasant way of burning unwanted calories.”

“Oh?”

“Oh yes,” she replied, placing her hands behind his neck. “It’s been known to burn at least a hundred calories.”

“Huh,” he said, wrapping his arms around her waist. “I never thought of that before.”

“I thought not. Though...if you want quicker results, you’re going to have to lay off the cheesecake.”

He pouted at that, causing her to laugh.

“Fine,” he said in mock-exasperation.

FIN