It had taken him years to pinpoint the precise aspect of her being which grated most on his nerves. In his naive and impressionable youth the answer to that riddle would have been the simple fact of her existence: her dirty and inferior self attempting to usurp himself and his betters.
Draco Malfoy knew better now. In fact, he rather thought he knew her better now, contrary to what she might have thought on the matter. Granger liked to think of herself as exceptionally complicated, but she was still a female, in spite of one's natural perception that she lacked such feminine qualities. It was easy to forget this fact because of the way she reprimanded everyone in sight, not unlike Madame Pince at the Hogwarts' library. In fact, he rather thought the latter was more in touch with that aspect of nature than Granger was. Time spent around the bumbling fools that were her friends had certainly contributed.
In any case, Draco liked to think of himself as a reader of people, as opposed to the endless tomes in which she sought study and knowledge. This was a wonderful trait to have, and he had put it to great use in his youth. After all, the mocking of others was never as effective as when one could really tap into what would sting the most.
And one of the fundamentals of human nature, he knew, was that exposure to the cause of one's annoyances usually wore one down over time, exhausted one to the point of acceptance. Draco knew this because he had felt that same level of disinterest befall him as regards to other irritating people. Somehow, miraculously, he had learned to be unaffected by them, and even—with certain undesirables like Harry Potter, saviour of the universe—be civil.
So it disturbed him greatly that he was able to put up with someone like Potter—whom he had so detested—albeit in small doses, and yet Granger's ability to get under his skin never ceased. In fact, it increased, swelling up within him like a communicable disease. It seemed that exposure to Hermione Granger over time had only unveiled an entirely new array of irritations for him to deal with. This was precisely why narrowing down the ultimate vexation among an ever-increasing list was rather like a job in and of itself. But Draco was tenacious, and he had expended the necessary mental energy into the solving of said riddle.
And as he leaned back in his Ministry-issued desk-chair and stared across the mountain of paperwork before him, to behold the woman in question, he was struck with realisation.
That's what it was that irked him so. It was her presumption that she knew the answer to any and all questions, that she embodied everything that was right and just in the world, which drove him to the ever-increasing temptation to lock her in a cupboard and personally ingest the key to ensure she'd never escape.
He rather thought this was understandable. Any poor sod who had sat and listened, against his will, to her utterly ignorant and absurd tirades about Elfish Welfare would surely agree with his consensus. He could probably even do a survey around their department to establish just how many people were not annoyed by such incessant and irrelevant babbling.
But it was not simply her overwhelming sense of self-decency which caused his eyes to twitch. It was her presumption, above all else, that she had him pegged, that she had evaluated him as a threat and dismissed him, that she knew what he was thinking. It irked him to no end.
He felt quite certain that there was no conceivable way straight-laced Hermione Granger had any idea what he was thinking. If she had, she certainly would have reconsidered her previous appraisal of him.
Draco's slightly disturbing preoccupation with the aforementioned Muggle-born had started some years before when, after the War, both he and Granger—as well as several other Hogwarts' students from his year level—had sought jobs at the Ministry. They both ended up in the Department of International Magical Co-operation by some unfortunate turn of events: Granger, no doubt due to her renowned ideology that Wizard folk the world over could live in happy harmony, and Draco because he had a point to prove.
Unlike the ever-pristine Granger, Draco Malfoy had a tarnished reputation: the result of a father who valued power too much to consider the implications it would have on his family, and Draco's own naïve illusions of the glory of being a Death Eater. Those illusions had been shattered after his experiences with the Dark Lord during his later years in Hogwarts. Well and truly shattered.
That was how he had come to be here, working a Ministerial job of all things. The irony was not lost on Draco, but he was conscious that although money was no object for the heir of an old fortune, position in society was not so easily attainable. Particularly when one had the reputation of Draco and his forebears. Although he enjoyed the job, which was not what he had expected, he found that above all else he relished the small steps he was taking toward restoring the family name. Though, he had gone a long way in amending previous wrongs, the taste of fear still lingered in the mouths of many who said his name.
His late father had achieved notoriety, if nothing else.
In any case, Draco had, over the five years since the war, managed a co-operative—at best—relationship between himself and those he had so despised at Hogwarts. Potter and Weasley, both Aurors, were as desperately irritating as they had ever been—but fortunately for Draco he rarely had to see them, with the exception of the red-haired buffoon's frequent visitations to one Hermione Granger, his beloved fiancée.
This brought Draco back, with a shuddering jolt, to his original grievance. A grievance, which had, up until a few minutes ago, been smugly adjusting papers on her desk: papers, he knew, which related to yet another one of her infernal schemes that had been approved by the Head of their department. Merlin knew she could be so swotty when she wanted.
A sneer crept upon his features as he surveyed her from his desk. She had that infuriating glow upon her skin, the one which he had noted only ever arose when things had gone entirely her way. Draco was familiar with this expression because, in a post-war Ministry in which she—as a close friend to Potter—had a lot of clout, this was a frustratingly frequent occurrence. And though she thought, no doubt, that she rose above all the less altruistic souls around her, he never missed the gleam of triumph in her eyes when she cast them toward him.
She was still looking at him when the familiar and, dare he say it, attractive pink flush rose upon her cheeks. Draco groaned inwardly because he knew that such a response was not directed at him, but no doubt at her ambling behemoth fiancé, Weasley. This meant that, if he was right, he was about to be confronted with yet another stomach-turning moment of sheer sweetness between the two of them.
It was just like those horrifically saccharine romances that Pansy had collected in their youth: tales about pirates and princes and men from Greece who owned boats, or some such nonsense. What all of that had to do with romance, Draco had never really established. Although, Pansy had assured him quite forthrightly that it was how it had to be.
If this was true, and Pansy had figured out the path to a meaningful relationship at the tender age of 14, then Draco surmised perhaps that was why none of his own relationships had lasted. After all, he'd never put much stock in boats, given their propensity for sinking.
Draco was still watching her as he reflected upon all of these things, and noted, as she gathered her various effects, the soft expression on her face as she bit into her lower lip. It was a fact he had recently come to acknowledge, in the deep recesses of his mind—never to be spoken aloud or acted upon—but there were moments, when Granger was not talking, that she could be, well, attractive.
Caught as he was in such inexplicable musings, he noticed her look up at him inquisitively and he raised a brow in response. She huffed at that—as she was prone to do—and stormed off with the abnormally long-limbed Weasley lagging behind. Her curls danced and her sensible skirt swished about her knees as she stalked off with a click of her heels. And Draco knew that he had yet again been paying far too much attention.
The roaring, clawing, desperate urge to hurl something sharp clear across the office toward a certain unnaturally shiny head overtook her. She quelled the beast within, and with a necessary narrowed-eyed glare at him stormed out of the Ministry offices. In fact, she was so caught up in an internal monologue about the many hateful qualities of one Draco Malfoy, that she entirely forgot that Ron was struggling to walk beside her.
She hoped fervently that the latter had not noticed her rage and preoccupation, because she was not at all in the mood for another argument about how she spent too much time reacting to Malfoy's baiting. In truth, Hermione found such suggestions from her fiancé to be utterly absurd, given his own predisposition toward rising to said man's bait. But she also knew from experience that Ron liked to disregard such hypocrisies when it accommodated him.
In fact, neither of them spoke a word until they had each tumbled through the fireplace of her small house and brushed off the residual soot: an inevitable repercussion of travelling by the Floo network.
Hermione would have hoped that those few moments would have alleviated the particularly aggressive response she felt toward Malfoy this evening. It had not. In fact, she couldn't even pinpoint the reason for her specific grievance with him today. Some people were naturally obnoxious, she knew, and he happened to be one of those special few with an innate ability to enrage the people around him. This was something that she had thought she'd overcome after several years of working in his very near presence. Unfortunately, however, the urge to throw inanimate objects in his direction had only increased overtime.
It sometimes amused her, when she stopped to think, about how he tapped into such an innate anger within her that it caused her to resort to a physically violent response as opposed to the logical application of magic in his direction.
It was a visceral sort of aggravation that he caused in her, and a frequent one at that. This was the primary cause for Ron's increasing visits to her department, and his complaints that she brought up the other man too often. Personally, Hermione thought his objections strange, given how much he detested Malfoy also. And in any case, she didn't really think she brought him up in conversation that often.
Today, by rights, had been no different to any other day in the office; in fact it had been a rather splendid day at that. Wilby Wottlecoff, the Head of her department, had waxed lyrical about her handling of the plans for the impending visit of Romania's Minister of Magic. She had almost floated out of his office, seemingly impervious to all manner of rude and unnecessary comments from her co-worker.
Instead of making one of his usual snide remarks, however, he had sat there staring at her for exactly 11 minutes. She could only begin to imagine the steady stream of insults that cropped up in his his thoughts. Ordinarily she might have thought it better not to hear his insults, but she tended to appreciate knowing what he was thinking at any given time, however unflattering such thoughts inevitably were.
In truth, Hermione knew that such preoccupations were ridiculous. The disdain she and Malfoy felt for one another was ingrained after more than a decade of mutual dislike. She didn't expect him to suddenly like her, or at the very least, treat her with some level of respect. But, for whatever reason, she had always been particularly susceptible to his insults. It wasn't because they were astoundingly witty, whatever he might think on the matter, or even especially innovative. The issue was really that they were pointedly directed at her, and only her.
Every other female, no matter what they were like—old or young, pretty or unattractive, slow or clever —received either appreciative glances, bland looks of curiosity or were outright ignored, based purely on his assessment of them. Hermione, however, was the only one to be singled out quite the way she was.
She told herself repeatedly that she would have delighted in being ignored by him, such a reprieve it would be from the relentless tormenting. It wasn't as though she wanted him to suddenly show an interest in her the way he did with other young women—ones without obvious facial deformities. After all, she had Ron, her fiancé whom she loved and was entirely focused on.
Ron was humble and warm, and she found him very attractive. It didn't matter to her that he didn't look like Draco Malfoy did, because there was a lot of substance beneath Ron's skin, unlike Malfoy. And it wasn't as though she was attracted to Malfoy anyway, so the comparison was absurd.
She flushed a little at that train of thought, unaware of the weary look upon the face of the man before her—the one she ought to be thinking about.
Physically speaking, Malfoy was good-looking, she could admit that because she was a realist, someone who put a lot of stock in truth and in fact. And she had studied how beauty was marked by the symmetry of one's features and what not. But truth be told, he was only really handsome in that whole blond-haired, bright-eyed and wealthy kind of way. It was desperately clichéd, she thought.
She reminded herself of this fact, because on a very rare occasion she tended to be a little distracted by the way he looked, no matter the dubiousness of his charm. This was, of course, the sort of thought which flittered through her mind, only to be immediately dispelled and never actually voiced in public.
"Hermione!" Her name, and the highly offensive imprecation which followed, caught her attention. Ron was looking at her with an expression of exasperation. Honestly, she thought, she'd had enough of brutish males for one lifetime.
"Don't talk to me like that," she huffed, as she tried to recall just what he had been talking about.
"You weren't even listening to me!" His tone was loud and she jumped, startled at the underlying anger there. "It's him again, isn't it? Isn't it, Hermione?"
"I don't know what you—"
"—talking about him… Malfoy this, Malfoy that… Malf—"
"Ron!" She shouted then, entirely unimpressed with the screechy quality his voice had taken on, which she presumed was intended to impersonate her own. She did not talk like that.
She interrupted him quickly, acutely conscious of the direction the conversation would take, based on previous very similar incidents. It was ridiculous that even in his absence Draco Malfoy was managing to ruin her life and her relationships. He would have revelled in that fact. She wouldn't let him, though.
"I know," she said, in her best appeasing tone, which truthfully wasn't all that good. "I'm sorry, Ron. He just… never mind, I won't let him. No more." She nodded her head, resolve forming in her gut.
"Just fix it," he muttered, before giving her a very serious look and storming out the front door.
She would, she decided. She was just going to have to achieve some sort of nirvana, in which she would be entirely impervious to the impact of him. But oh, she thought, how he frustrated her. That she had had the misfortune of landing him as a co-worker was a clear demonstration that the fates were out to get her.
He seemed to relish every opportunity to make her annoyed or uncomfortable. She could recall, with a searing clarity, the many occasions when they had been held back late at the office over some such thing. She would always feel wretched and exhausted after the long day, but not him. Apparently, Draco Malfoy didn't get flustered. He would sit cool as could be in his chair, his heavy gaze upon her, judging her and knowing that he made her twitch.
She would turn a blotchy shade of red, which he always mistook for a blush, and which she knew was in fact a direct result of the inordinate restraint it took not to leap on the git and clobber him with a paperweight.
He had the type of cool and refined appearance that both intrigued people and put them on their guard. He was tall and lithe, and frustratingly comfortable in his own skin, whereas she would pull and tug at her skirt and smooth her stockings, forever ill at ease in his presence. And he knew it, which made it all the worse.
Hermione hated, above all else, to admit the discomfort that he caused her, mostly because she knew that she should really not be conscious of him at all. But somehow she was, for some utterly inexplicable reason he always managed to get a rise or a reaction out of her.
The mere act of thinking about him, and the intent expression on his face today, the blazing quality of his eyes upon her, made her want to claw her way out of her own skin. It wasn't right for a person to have eyes like that. They were disturbing: a molten sort of silver, flecked with shades of dark and ashy grey. They seared right through a person. They seared right through her.
And that, she knew, was part of her problem. She was far too fixated on Malfoy, and it wasn't healthy.
She decided then and there that it would end. She vowed to put her problems with Malfoy behind her. She would be civil; she would be nice, and she would ensure that she never allowed the egotistical prat to get to her again.
He was suspicious. Extraordinarily suspicious. Draco was seated in one of the plush executive chairs that took its place around the department's boardroom table. His thoughts should have been on the discussion of the impending visit from Romania's Minister of Magic. They were not.
They were instead focussed solely on the task of interpreting Hermione Granger's recent personality alteration. Frankly, she was disturbing him greatly. That very morning as she had hurried passed his desk, she had smiled brightly and reminded him of the meeting. And that was it. No smug smile or snotty remarks. No ‘I-know-best' glances of superiority.
He would never say it aloud, but truth be told, he was concerned.
Draco slanted a sideways glance at the woman in question. She was seated to his right and appeared for all intents and purposes, to be utterly enthralled by the topic at hand. If it were any other person alive, he would have found that unusual, but given the boring life she clearly led, such things did appear thrilling. No, he thought, it was all of the more subtle details that had him perturbed. He had been watching her very closely since the meeting had started, waiting to uncover the reason for her strangely civil behaviour. They weren't civil, not to each other. Civility was entirely too… impersonal to really convey his interactions with her.
He could only guess that this was some strange ploy of hers to get one over on him. He narrowed his eyes in her direction at the thought. She wasn't paying him any attention at all. He watched as she nodded her head in silent agreement with whatever was being said. As she did so, her insane curls sprang to life, bouncing in riotous rebellion around the crown of her head. She pulled her hair back then, into a loose bun and as she did so he caught the subtle scent of her perfume.
It was lightly floral and quite lovely actually. It was… well… feminine.
Draco was utterly bewildered. There was a stirring reaction to that scent, and to her, with which he was entirely uncomfortable. He inched away and tugged, subtly he hoped, at his collar. The room, which was in fact rather large and airy, suddenly had the stifling and suffocating quality of a two-by-two cell in Azkaban. It was also very, very warm. He coughed then, turning his gaze from her and toward the plain white walls. He thought about Weasley's ugly mug, about the beast that was Granger's cat. And none of it sufficed. It would have to though, because he could honestly not think of a single thing worse than getting an erection in a meeting, and over Granger's scent no less.
He was male. It was one of the unfortunate aspects of his sex, being aroused by inane things at unexpected times. It had happened to him far too many times to count, and perhaps once or twice with reference to her. Mostly he had put that down to a weird glitch, some accidental reminder from her about something else, something more… appealing. On this occasion, however, he feared that the cause of the tightness of his groin, blessedly concealed by the wooden table and his well-tailored trousers, was not so innocuous.
It was after a few minutes of staring at the whiteness of the wall and tuning back into the mundane flow of words from those asking questions of their Head of department, that he managed to calm the unwanted thrumming in his body.
The relief was short lived, for his attention was called by the squeaking of her seat beneath her, when Granger shifted about. His gaze fell on her lower half as she crossed her legs. He noted the way she was fiddling with the hem of her skirt—which was by no means inappropriately short (inappropriately long actually, if one came down to it)—but now he was looking at her legs. Her legs! It was ridiculous, Granger didn't have legs.
A very concerning, strangled sort of noise was wrenched from his throat, which caused her to turn and look at him inquisitively. Draco rubbed his temple and ignored her. He was ill. He knew it now. He was clearly very, very unwell.
Hermione was flummoxed. She had made extraordinary efforts over the previous few weeks to be civil with Malfoy. She had been pleasant; she had been polite. She had been bloody delightful actually. It wasn't as though she had anticipated a sudden turnaround in his behaviour, or even a return of the gesture. Frankly, it was not in his nature to be polite to the people he so enjoyed tormenting. An inherent flaw in mannerisms taught in his House at school. She felt quite assured that those of Slytherin House dealt better when faced with sneers and hexes than they did smiles and pleasantries.
What she had not anticipated, however, was the sudden change in his own behaviour. She would have expected him to go to even greater lengths to annoy her now that it was clear she intended to rise above his pettiness. He'd done nothing of the sort. In all the years she had known him, despite all the mutual dislike and disdain, he had never, ever, ignored her. But that was exactly what he was doing now.
She hated it.
Hermione could not begin to fathom what his particular problem was now. In fact she much preferred when he was tormenting her incessantly because at least then she had an inkling of what he was thinking.
Now all she could expect from him were dark looks and grunted responses. The sole reason she had changed her attitude—with much difficulty—to him was to prevent him from getting to her. She didn't want to think about him and the many ways he annoyed her. She didn't want to analyse him.
What she wanted above all else was to have her life fall back into place. There seemed to be no one around her that was behaving as expected. She blamed most of this on Malfoy, of course, because if it weren't for her trying to figure out his motives, she wouldn't have been fighting with Ron the way she had been.
Instead she would have spent her free time planning a wedding. The one she had been so certain she wanted. The one that was no longer happening.
Hermione was lying in bed, staring up at the cornices in the ceiling and trying to figure out exactly how everything had fallen apart. She hadn't been aware of how bad things with Ron were getting, until he had lashed out, calling their wedding off. She'd been shocked, unable to fathom why he would do that. Other than their increasing arguments there was no real reason for them to not be together. They had always been together. It was all she knew.
He had gone off on a tangent about how she paid him no attention, was too preoccupied with Malfoy to want to plan their wedding. That was absurd, she knew. She wasn't at all preoccupied; she was annoyed at the other man rudely ignoring her. It wasn't appropriate treatment of a co-worker. Ron had, of course, seen more to it. She had shouted back at him then, suggesting that he was too self-involved for her anyway. She had a life and it didn't have to revolve around him.
He had looked at her then, like the floor had fallen out from under him, and she had realised he was serious. A break, he had said. Time.
At first she had been so angered by the suggestion that she needed time, that she had things to figure out. But that night as she lay staring at the ceiling and thinking about a future that didn't involve marriage, she was disturbed by a very stunning realisation. One that, she feared, no amount of time could fix.
A few weeks had passed since that conversation with Ron. She hadn't seen him around the Ministry the way she usually did. It was obvious that he was avoiding her, which wasn't all that surprising. It saddened her, though. It made her wonder at how she had gone from being by his side to being left out in the middle, and not all that upset about the fact.
Even in spite of her musings, she wasn't entirely convinced that the era of Hermione and Ron was over. The wedding, perhaps, had been a rash plan, but they had so much history. And she would never be able to really work out what she wanted until she resolved the other drama, the one that seemed to be wreaking havoc on her life.
It scared her immensely to think that he had that power, a man she really could not stand… much.
She knew that in reality, she should have revelled in the fact that she no longer bore the brunt of his frustrations. She shouldn't even care that he was ignoring her. She should have been grateful actually, for the reprieve from his mocking tones. But she wasn't. She was angry.
After all, she was the one who had extended the olive branch. She had assumed that, because he seemed able to put aside his differences with people he had hated—like Harry—surely he could do the same with her. Well, she was not going to let the coward get away with it. They had to work together at the very least, and so she was going to let him have it.
One way or another, Hermione would not let another day go by without some sort of a resolution.
Draco stood in the Ministry restrooms gazing, with increasing dissatisfaction, at his reflection. His palms were resting flat on the marbled sink, pressing into the unforgiving surface. He had a problem, a very serious problem.
In the last couple of weeks, his thoughts had been a jumble, and there was absolutely no logical reason as to the cause. Well, that wasn't true. He knew the cause; he just had no understanding of how said cause had come to be quite such a problem. The initial source of his discontent had been the sudden turnaround in Granger's behaviour toward him.
But that was some weeks prior and had been compounded by an entirely larger, less logical problem. Draco had never really stopped to think about how much time and energy he expended on thoughts of Granger. After all, people tended to think about those they didn't like, or who annoyed them. And she was both; she was eternal frustration to him. So he had never been concerned about the presence of her in the back of his mind.
It was only recently, when that presence had taken on a haunting, disturbing quality in his mind that he had clued into the problem. The thoughts which centred on her were not like they had been before. They were altogether more concerning. For these thoughts consisted of flushed cheeks, swollen lips and smooth thighs. Thoughts he should not be having about the girl who had been the very bane of his existence for the last 12 years. But try as he might, she was staining his thoughts and his dreams, so that images of him and her, of them, were etched into his eyelids when he closed them.
Yet, even whilst he was clearly having some sort of a psychological breakdown—for what other explanation could there be?—she appeared to be completely unaware of the effect of her proximity. She continued to smile vacantly and hum to herself as if she was the happiest person in the world. He didn't like to suppose that she was, in fact, the happiest girl in the world. After all, she was due to marry a man who was obviously, to the entire world barring herself, her inferior.
That was, after all, how life had been laid out for her since she was 12. The whole of Hogwarts—and now the Ministry—had known that she and Weasley would end up together, popping out children with red, frizzy hair and a propensity for asking too many questions. He had known. He hadn't cared.
But he did now, when he shouldn't have.
He had taken to noticing things about her that, he supposed, he had known and catalogued before but never really acknowledged. Like the way she ran her fingers through her tumult of hair when she was thinking. Or the way she would nibble on the lush pillow of her lower lip when she was anxious and trying to hide it.
Even her clothes, which had never been nearly provocative enough for his usual tastes, had his thoughts in a riot. He would think about the way her crisp white shirt would look as he released each button, and the soft skin of her legs beneath the matronly skirts. He would imagine how her eyes, which glowed and burned when she was angry or feeling particularly stubborn, would look when he touched her. Her lips pouted and her cheeks flushed.
And he would sit at his desk, hard at the thought of it all. Breathing slowly and deeply to steady himself. In spite of the very physical impact she was suddenly having on him, she would continue to smile as though there was nothing wrong. He hated that she acted like that now, as though he didn't faze her, as though he weren't Draco Malfoy—but some random other that had no meaning to her at all.
He had decided he preferred when they fought. He liked the reaction he got; he thrived on it. He always had.
So he did the only thing that seemed appropriate given the situation. He ignored her. He found that although it didn't seem to stem the effect of her, it certainly made it easier to pretend it wasn't happening. The added advantage was that ignoring her automatically meant that he missed out on hearing her annoying opinions and frustrating comments. It made it so much easier to think when he did so.
He would shrug in response to the words she would say and would look down at the papers on his desk. He would mutter something in reply and wander off in the opposite direction. But even then, the smell of her, which he had never noticed before, would follow him.
And each night when he lay in bed grasping at sleep that evaded him, he would reach his hand down to stroke his length. His naked form would writhe and squirm in silken sheets until he was coated in a thin film of sweat. His palm moving over the hardest part of him, squeezing, pumping, stroking. At first he had been highly perturbed by the thought of wanking to thoughts of her; it had somehow seemed like an admission of something he very much did not want to acknowledge.
But the body had separate motivations to the mind, and his ignored any protestations raised by the latter. Release. That was what he needed. But even after each night when he would shudder and gasp before sleep took him, it would rear its head again.
The worst part of the whole conundrum was that he could not for the life of him understand why she affected him so. It was Hermione Granger! Any thoughts of the sensual woman she had become should, by rights, have been marred by thoughts of the buck teeth and grating voice that she had had when a child. They certainly had not long ago.
The intensity of this physical response to her had come about too quickly. It made him wonder how long it had actually been there, lurking somewhere within and waiting to jump out and catch him unawares. It made him think about the lengths he had gone to in the past to make her angry, and how he had enjoyed the flush across her face in response. He didn't much like the thought of anyone else making her flush with frustration the way he did.
In fact he didn't much like the idea of anyone making her flush at all, which was why he had taking to glaring more than usual at Weasley, who had been rather bewildered by the malice in Draco's gaze.
He was clearly in a downward spiral. It didn't matter that she was a Muggle-born so much as it mattered that she was Granger.
It was on that note that Draco shook his head in disgust at his reflection and composed himself before departing the bathroom. He had only just pushed the door open and, upon peering out into the corridor, noticed the very subject of his musings loitering there. He thought she looked… appealing. Draco felt a sudden and desperate urge to slink back into the sanctuary he had just departed, when her weary gaze fell upon him.
Heaving a sigh, he looked over her shoulder at a distant speck on the wall, uttering a noncommittal sort of noise that would no doubt have irritated her in the past.
"Malfoy, look at me!" She all but barked the directive, and his gaze clashed suddenly with hers. That was… unexpected.
"Merlin, Granger. What do you want?" He glared at her a little too forcefully, he knew, because she started at the tone of his voice. This was swiftly followed by an intake of air so expansive that she seemed to rise up above him, taking on her much practiced authoritative tone. He'd seen her use it with Weasley before, but Draco was no errant puppy to be quelled into submission by her bossiness.
Although, the use of that particular tone did leave him a little hot under the collar, making him wonder at some heretofore unknown proclivities.
"Would it kill you to look at me when I'm talking to you? You are so arrogant!" She shook her head as though in disbelief. Merlin, he thought, she had a distorted view of things.
"You have my full attention," he bit out, spreading his hands expansively. "Now what do you want?"
She narrowed her eyes at him and muttered something that sounded suspiciously like an insult under her breath.
He was fuming. How dare the little wench speak to him like that?
He moved forward. "You want to talk, Granger? Let's talk. Let's bring it all out in the open shall we?" Draco gripped her upper arm and pulled her toward the door behind her: a rarely used file-storage room. It was small, but private, and definitely ideal for this conversation. After all, Draco didn't much like the idea of becoming fodder for office gossips.
Her eyes widened slightly as he thrust her into the darkness, and slammed the door behind her.
"Of all the presumption!" she said in a Victorian sort of a way, as though he had offended her virtue.
"Don't speak to me about presumption."
"Malfoy, what the hell is your problem? You obnoxious, arrogant git."
"Git, am I?" He uttered low under his breath. He stalked forward, so uncomfortably close that he caught the delicate scent of her skin. He lowered his face, considerably given the difference in their heights, so that he was almost level with her. One palm pressed against the door behind her. "Explain that to me," he whispered.
His eyes had adjusted enough that he could make out features: her lips parted on a breath, and her eyes wide with anger and fear and something else.
"I don't like being ignored," she muttered almost petulantly. "You have no right to act as though you're more important than me, as though your time can be better spent. I am your colleague. You work with me. As such you have to deal with me."
"I'm not ignoring you now…" he whispered against her skin, "You have my full attention…"
The air around them was heavy with tension; he felt it permeate his very skin. She really did smell good, he thought.
Awareness danced in her avid gaze and Draco thrived on it. He shouldn't though; he should walk away very quickly before something irreversible happened. But it was that same old argument between one's head and other rampant body parts. In cases such as these, the head never won out. He leaned closer so that a breath of air was all that separated his skin from hers. He chuckled softly then, as her lids grew heavy and closed in expectation. He had her.
Her eyes flew open in horror and she shoved him with surprising strength. "Draco Malfoy, you unmitigated bas—"
"Fuck, Granger, do please shut up. For once in your life, just stop talking." She was thoroughly exasperating, and in all honesty, he felt in that moment the very last thing he wanted to do was argue with her. As enjoyable a pastime as it so often was, he had much more exciting prospects in mind. And thus, with a roll of his eyes, Draco lifted her bodily against him and pushed her into the door.
He grinned in triumph, entirely misinterpreting her reddened cheeks and intense expression for passion rather than anger. Her fist, which pummelled his left shoulder blade, quickly disabused him of this notion.
Arching a brow, he held her squirming body firm as he taunted her. "I never took you for the aggressive type in the bedroom, Granger." He grinned a feral sort of a grin, unutterably lecherous, and he knew she would take it as such.
"We're in a storage room…"
He shrugged. "Semantics…"
She stopped her squirming momentarily, much to his relief, to look him square in the eye. "You know this can't happen… we're colleagues, and we're at work. It's ridiculous. Besides… I don't like you!"
"People like puppies, Granger; this is much less insipid a thing than mere liking."
He smirked in victory. "Ah, I was wondering when you'd recall that particular reason. I note it was the last excuse you thought of… I rather think Weasley would have preferred it be the first."
"Are you suggesting you don’t want me to kiss you? If you stop looking at my mouth like that I might believe you."
"—insufferable! Of course, I don't wa—"
"It's happening, Granger. It's happening." With that simple proclamation, he pressed his forehead against hers. His hand braced her against the door, while the other took comfortable residence upon her hip. She didn't struggle this time and he took it as a sign of acquiescence. It was a strange thing to behold.
"You know… just because I'm… clearly I have some sort of problem," she paused before continuing, as though she weren't completely insulting him. "I mean you're just so—"
"Handsome?" He interrupted, warming to the topic enough to delay his intended… ministrations. "Charming? Sexy…"
Her tone was dry when she responded. "Actually I was going to say obnoxious, self-involved… and just too pretty." She shrugged at him, and he was so busy blanching in horror at that statement and its offensive implications about his masculinity that he didn't pay due attention to the rise of her breasts against him.
"Yes," she nodded, "I like my men… more rugged." She grinned and his was so thrown by the minx-like quality of it that he lost his mental footing for a second.
"Ah," he finally responded. "I see where this is going. By rugged you mean unattractive. I'm too good-looking as compared with your other… dalliances… what with their hook noses and unnaturally long limbs."
He expected a reprimand for that, as was her nature when he offended anyone she knew, and especially because he had just made a direct reference to her fiancé again. Curious.
"Well actually, long limbs generally mean long—"
Draco felt certain that if he had let her finish that sentence, he would forever have been traumatised by the mental image it would conjure. So instead he did the only thing at his disposal to shut her up, and afterwards wondered why he had never done it before, given how effective it was. He pressed his mouth against hers, relishing the plump quality of her lower lip as he caught it between his own. She tasted entirely delicious to him.
Her body was soft and warm against him, a heady kind of welcoming that he was far too indulgent to ignore. His hand tightened on her hip, and her mouth fell open on a gasp. When his tongue brushed hers it made him think of velvet, the soft and luxuriating crush. A mumbled noise caught in his throat when her fingers moved across taught shoulders to card through his hair.
She mumbled words of denial, incongruent with the movement of her hands as they gripped him closer. The small sounds only caused the heat to pool in his blood, his trousers to tighten further. Ignoring her entirely, Draco raked a broad palm up over her hip to the small of her waist, hoisting the fabric of her shirt as he went. He attempted to divest her of the cloth entirely, and with little success. She might as well have been wearing a chastity belt for all the luck he was having, and the shame of feeling like a fumbling fourth year was more than he could bear.
In frustration, he wrenched his mouth from hers and tore at the infernal fabric. He saw the outrage flash in her dark eyes before he lowered his lips to her neck, sucking softly on the fleeting pulse he found there. Deciding they weren't nearly close enough, he lifted her slim body higher against his, one hand curving to hold her up.
Taking her cue, she wrapped slender legs around his hips, her attention apparently divided between the havoc he was causing on her neck and her urge to remove his shirt. He felt a sudden and delirious appreciation for her skirts then; no matter how matronly he may have thought them to be in the past, they were anything but when she had one hitched up around her hips.
He moved his other hand to press against the searing heat of her bare abdomen then, his fingertips brushing over her rib cage and barely touching the lacy confection that concealed her pert breasts from his eager gaze.
He pulled his mouth away from hers again, enjoying the dissatisfied sounds she made, so that he could turn his attention to the task at hand. A pink flush had spread down her neck and across her chest, a rather fetching image, he thought. He lowered his mouth to brush slow open-mouthed kisses against the sensitive skin revealed just at the top of her bra, delighting in the heavy quality of her breathing. Draco grinned at the way the small pink buds tightened up at his touch, barely visible as they were through the lacy fabric.
"Take it off," he whispered, fairly certain that his fingers were far too eager to do a smooth job of it himself. She complied most diligently and Draco knew an entirely too intoxicating prospect. An obedient Granger was a rare and delightful thing.
Within a few seconds they had both successfully removed her bra and his shirt—a concerted effort on both parts. Draco uttered a guttural sort of noise as the velvet tips of her breasts brushed against him. He lowered his mouth, hungry to taste their sweetness and was rewarded with a breathy moan in his left ear. His tongue laved over the sensitive buds, and he rolled his hips against Granger's, causing her to wrap her arms firmly around his neck as she returned the gesture.
Seemingly without conscious thought, she was rolling her hips against his, and he could feel the pressure, exquisite and painful, building and pressing within him. He slid one broad palm over the soft skin of her thighs, it was silkier than he had imagined. As he brushed her inner thigh and stroked gently closer to the centre of her, she keened softly in his ear.
It was all the encouragement he needed.
She squirmed against him, as strong fingers moved against the edge of her knickers, seeking entry. She clutched him tighter and Draco felt a heady rush shoot through him, straight to his groin at the realisation of just how wet she was. Those errant fingers brushed over the delicate nub hidden between her slick folds, stroking the achingly delicate skin they found there.
She bucked her hips against the inquisitive fingers. Both urgent and ardent in her response.
Draco groaned under his breath. She was ready for him.
"Granger," he breathed raggedly. "Granger… it's now or… it's now, alright." He pressed his forehead once more against hers as he tried to reign in control. This wasn't helped by the small hand that reached between them to brush against the top of his trousers.
The zip ticked down slowly, too slowly. She was teasing him. He gasped aloud as the slender hand reached in and freed him from the painful restriction of his pants. Her lips formed a small ‘O' as her fingers stroked over the weeping slit. They traced erotic patterns that he knew he would never forget, but he also knew that if she didn't stop soon he would ruin his hard-earned reputation.
"Now," she whispered, so lowly that he almost didn't hear her. "Now."
She guided him to her entrance. Heart pounding, blood pulsing, he pressed slowly against her slick entrance. "Oh," she breathed before crashing her lips against his.
The feel of her sheathed around him was too hot, too tight to be real. She held firm to his shoulders, and he pressed slowly once more so that he was inside her, right to the hilt. Her legs tightened around him, and he moved both hands along the backs of her thighs to grip the taught skin of her arse. He held her firm as he pulled out, almost entirely, before thrusting back into the delirium ahead of him.
Her lips were urgent against his own, and Draco could feel that rush surging deep within him far too quickly. He couldn't stop it, though. The taste of her, the feel of her around him was all consuming and he revelled in it. A groaned imprecation was torn from his throat when he felt her clenching around him. Too much… not enough. Close, he thought.
She was whispering urgent things into his ear, and the sound of her voice was enough to send him closer. His movements jerked harder, and he knew she was being forcefully thrust against the door, but she didn't seem to care and he couldn't hope to. He released the curved shape of one arse cheek from his grip, sliding his hand up over her hip and back down to meet the moist nub nestled between her thighs. She jolted when his thumb brushed back over the bundle of nerves, and he felt her clenching tighter, tighter, tighter.
"Please… now, I…" her whispered words did it, and he pushed into her, enjoying the way her walls suckled greedily to hold him in place. The quivering started, his thighs and hers, and he knew it was now. His body trembled and the nerve endings seemed disconnected until it was just sensation. He was dimly aware of her coming undone around him, jolting him further. He opened his eyes as she closed hers, her lips parted and her cheeks flushed.
Moments slid from one to the next, and all he knew was the continuing heat of her around him, the smell of sex that hung in the air, and the bone-melting contentment that settled over him.
Eventually he felt the press of her hand against him, and he pulled back to look at her. She was all flushed skin and swollen lips, a perfect picture of debauchery. Gently he lowered her so that she stood before him again, and he could see the uncertainty and embarrassment begin to colour her expression.
She was about to reach for her bra when he pressed a firm hand against the searing heat of her stomach. Wide eyes flashed to him and she was about to say something, before he lowered his mouth to her breast. His lips pressed against the petal-like skin and he noted the catch in her breath. He stood properly then, leaned against her once more and caught her lips with his.
She didn't fight him, and although the urgency was gone, he felt dizzy from the taste of her.
When he pulled away finally, they both set about getting dressed properly, the dim realisation that they were, in fact, at work, settling in.
"Out with it," he said, because he could feel her brain moving a million miles an hour.
She leaned against the wall behind her, breathing deeply and chewing on her swollen lip. "I don't know… I… and that…" She paused. "I didn't mean for that to happen," she whispered.
He clenched his jaw. "Well, it did. I recall you being a rather active participant."
She flushed. "Don't be crude… I just… I've barely split with him and now—"
"What?" his tone was harsh as he stared her down, almost certain he had misheard. "Split with him? Weasley? Forgot that detail, hmm?"
She pushed her shoulders back, taking on that very haughty demeanour of hers which drove him to distraction, a bad distraction.
"Yes… a fortnight ago. It's not… It's not permanent. We're on a break.” She paused before glaring at him. "Actually it's your fault we broke up, you just—"
"Two weeks! Twenty minutes ago you were saying you were still together." He raised a brow, before continuing and moving closer to her. "And let's not forget about it being my fault… explain that to me."
"It's not… Ron just thought that you were—" He cut her off again.
"Let me get this straight, Weasley breaks off his engagement to you because it's fucking obvious to him that you want me, you then go and prove his point by fucking me in a storage closet…" he waved expansive arms to take in the present circumstance. "And then," he continued, "you seem to think that you two are getting back together?"
His tone was incredulous, but it was justifiably so because he wanted to shake her more than anything.
"It's a lot to think about! I'm not just going to throw away a relationship for… for… this, whatever this is."
"That ship has sailed, Granger. That relationship is done. But," he paused, his palm brushing against her collar bone, "I'm not… done, that is."
She swallowed, "I'm… I need to think."
"Must you analyse everything?" She nodded at that. "Fine, come find me when you've made up your mind. But don't take too long. I'm no second fiddle to Weasley."
With that he brushed a quick kiss against her lips, and turned, leaving her to darkness and her thoughts.