Actions

Work Header

Turn Sharp

Work Text:

Hermione had only been and back through the ‘gate one time in her stint at the SGC, mainly because General O’Neill had cuffed her shoulder and told her she had to try it, at least once. It’d felt like free-falling, stomach bottomed out, and thanks, but no thanks. She preferred solid ground under her feet.

Not that she didn’t think the stargate was incredible and that the Ancients were endlessly fascinating – if generally unhelpful - but her work was piled on her desk, stored in her laptops, humming under the thick metal skin of the city herself.

Seamus complained that she wasn’t social enough, but Hermione, technically, didn’t like people. She loved Ron, because Ron was practically family now, and she was mostly stuck with Seamus by proxy – don’t even get her started on Finch-Fletchly – and Boot was more of an enforced charge, but she wasn’t there to be social. She was there to figure out exactly how Atlantis ticked, to coax her into her full potential, and time spent out of the labs was time frivolously wasted.

*

Hermione had always separated her life into phases.

Phase One – successful childhood. Success was relative, of course, especially with bohemian, loose-moraled dentists for parents, but she’d gotten top marks in school, and went on to acquire dual PhDs in mechanical and aerospace engineering, which directly led into Phase Two – successful adulthood. Relative again, and cut short by Phase Three, when she’d gone completely insane and married a notorious flirt with slim hips and a truly dangerous smile.

It was how she’d gotten noticed by the SGC, however, since Blaise Zabini – a captain in the Royal Air Force, as well as a celebrated chemist - not only performed research under the mountain, but often gated off-world with his own team.

It’d been a mad, irresponsible six months and technically she was still married – because Blaise was a stubborn, delusional bastard who refused to sign the papers - but she figured living in different galaxies was a valid separation.

He’d lied to her, for one, since he certainly wasn’t a pharmaceutical consultant for AstraZeneca, and he’d spent their first five weeks married somewhere completely unreachable. Which turned out to be a Goa’uld mothership, where he’d been held hostage by Ba’al and plied with sweets and seductions – oh, he couldn’t argue his way out of that one – and, well. He wouldn’t let her read his file. She wasn’t supposed to read it, no, even with her then newly acquired clearance, but they’d been married. Spouses, thick-and-thin partners. He should’ve been able to trust her, or what was the point?

But then she was stationed in another galaxy with the constant looming threat of space vampires and was almost officially a space explorer, and for an eminently sensible woman, she certainly ended up in the most fantastical situations.

*

Hermione didn’t get along with Malfoy. This was due to factors too numerable to count, but mainly she didn’t get along with Malfoy because he was a patronizing, arrogant arsehole.

“No,” Hermione said, sparing him a fleeting glare.

“I would’ve had Samuels ask, you know, but he’s got a disgustingly shy crush on you, and Lee’s terrified you’ll eat him.”

Hermione growled under her breath, but refused to take the bait.

Malfoy tapped his foot impatiently. “Granger,” he said finally. Then he leant over and snapped his fingers in front of her face until she turned to look up at him. “Granger,” he said again, “we want an engineer, and Finch-Fletchly’s attached at the hip to Finnigan.”

Hermione took a large breath. “No.”

“Fuck.” Malfoy tore a hand through his hair, messing up the fine strands. “I should’ve known,” he murmured.

“Known?” She gazed at him curiously, for once without the intense dislike that’d always roiled in her stomach at the sight of him. He’d changed since Miller had been killed. Quieter, somehow, with less of a bite in his voice.

He crossed his arms over his chest. “I’m not going to grovel.”

Hermione blinked, comprehension dawning. “You need me,” she said, surprised.

“Need is such a strong word,” Malfoy said, sneering half-heartedly. “More like... prefer you over Boot, who’s a certifiable basketcase.”

“Need,” Hermione repeated, getting to her feet and mirroring Malfoy’s stance, arms crossed. It was a novelty, really, but she still wasn’t about to join his off-world team.

She smirked and Malfoy scowled and it was a standoff until Hermione broke and said, “No,” again.

Malfoy’s expression assured her she would rue the day.

*

Everyone was wary around Boot except Hermione, because she was one of the few people he actually spoke to. The occasional babbling in Klingon was as much a nervous tic as anything, since Boot was absolutely terrified of, well, everything. He spent half his day hiding under the desk that bumped up to Hermione’s – folded up like a spider, gangly arms and legs visible, and she thought it had to be uncomfortable, but he’d stay under there for hours at a time. He was a wiz with anything electronic, though, and together they were steadily perfecting all the regulatory systems in Atlantis, as well as making their way through backlogged Ancient devices.

“Hungry, Terry?” she asked absently, digging through her drawers. When he didn’t answer, she tipped sideways and peeked under his desk. Reams of papers were piled around him, the top of his pen cap nearly bitten in half. “Terry?”

He jerked his head up, blinking owlishly, pen dropping forgotten onto his lap. “Yeah?”

“Hungry?” She waggled a powerbar in front of his face.

He grinned and snatched it out of her fingers. “Thanks.”

Boot was tall, sharp and skinny, with a mop of red-brown hair and the prettiest eyes Hermione’d ever seen, long-lashed and ordinary brown, but perfectly set and canted and gorgeous, and Hermione would’ve been jealous if she’d ever been genuinely concerned over her own appearance.

Boot had no idea how he looked, of course, and probably would’ve panicked if he did know, so Hermione never said anything to him about it. Finch-Fletchly occasionally called him princess and sweetheart and bright eyes, but almost half of everything Finch-Fletchly ever said was rot, and Boot was at least aware enough to realize that.

Finch-Fletchly liked to plague their lab with his presence whenever he wasn’t up Seamus’ bum, which added up to about twice daily, and at some point in the afternoon the doors slid open, Finch-Fletchly barreling in. He hopped up onto the lab table behind them. “Here’s what I think—”

Boot squawked and pulled himself deeper into his hole.

“Hullo, my lovely,” Finch-Fletchly greeted him amiably, heels kicking into the metal table legs. He leaned back onto the surface with his elbows, pushing papers out of the way. “So here’s what I think. I think you should put in a good word about me with Hannah.”

Hermione arched an eyebrow. “Why?”

Finch-Fletchly stared at her blankly. Finally, he asked, “Why not?”

“You’re rude, physically and mentally dirty,” she wrinkled her nose, then ticked off her fingers, “foul, tactless, witless, crass, disgusting, chew with your mouth open—”

“What does any of that have to do with anything?” Finch-Fletchly cut in, seemingly genuinely bemused.

Hermione spun back around in her seat. “I’m not talking to Hannah about you.” Not like it would make any sort of difference. Hannah’d known Finch-Fletchly just as long as Hermione had. He didn’t exactly hide his animal nature.

“You,” Finch-Fletchly sniffed, “are not a nice person.”

“Thank you,” Hermione said absently, already deep into her report about the reconstructive holographic unit Ellis had found.

She didn’t even hear him leave.

*

Stuffed shells days were the best days of the month. Hermione hummed happily under her breath, enjoying the pasta and cheese and silently praising Corporal Denning’s deft hand with subtle spices. The sauce was perfect, steaming hot, and she was saving the hunk of sourdough bread for last, to sop up all the extras.

Ron and Seamus were sitting across from her in the mess, arguing about dragons or starfish or something. She wasn’t paying them much mind, except to note that Seamus was sporting the most hideous pair of yellow plaid trousers ever.

All chatter at the table suddenly stopped, though, and Hermione spotted a flash of pale blond out of the corner of her eye.

“Granger.”

“Malfoy.”

“Malfoy,” Ron added darkly, and Hermione snapped her gaze to his, wondering where that enmity had come from. Last thing she knew, they were saving each other’s lives.

“Weasley,” Malfoy greeted with a stiff nod.

“Malfoy,” Seamus said, grinning.

Malfoy’s eyes narrowed, and he growled, “Finnigan.”

“Well, now that everyone’s acknowledged everyone else,” Hermione said dryly.

Malfoy shifted in his seat and pointedly refused to look at Ron again. Instead, he arched slim brows at Hermione.

“No,” she said, a preemptive strike.

His mouth tightened. “Right. You’ll be please to know, Granger, that I’ve had a chat with Dr. McKay.”

And just like that, the decision was taken completely out of her hands.

*

Dr. McKay apparently talked to Colonel Sheppard, who in turn talked to Samuels and Lee, and what it all boiled down to was that Hermione was suddenly part of an off-world team on a trial basis. Dead center in between Daedalus runs, everyone competent was either out of commission or already on a team themselves – or, as was the case with Dr. Zelenka, had enough pull to unequivocally refuse - and they did need Hermione. There wasn’t any protest she could make that’d hold any water with McKay. He went off-world, and he was quite possibly the most important man on Atlantis.

Hermione frowned down at her tac vest, tugging at the jacket bunched under it. Boot danced around her nervously, fingers fluttering.

“Do you. Just. I think.” He stopped and started and stopped again and Hermione’s frown melted as she reached out and caught his arm.

“I’ll be fine,” she said gently. He gave her a tentative smile, but it didn’t quite reach his eyes. He had reason to be upset, of course, given that he hadn’t always been a basketcase, and that he still wouldn’t talk about what’d happened on PX4-M66.

“Out of the way, Boot,” Malfoy snapped, striding forward holding a mess of black straps, which he promptly dropped into Hermione’s hands. “Secure this around your thigh.”

Sergeant Darren Samuels, a huge gorilla of a man, held out a small sidearm, butt first.

“Remember what we practiced,” he said, and Hermione blushed slightly, because there was something incredibly intimate about being taught how to handle a gun, back to front, armory air thick and acrid with spent rounds.

“Just don’t shoot any of us,” Malfoy griped.

Hermione glared at him. “You’re the one who wanted me along so badly, Malfoy. If we’re going to be a team,” she stressed the word, amazed that she was already at ease with the semi-permanence of it all, “you’re going to have to trust me.”

Malfoy’s jaw tensed, muscles jumping, and he bit out, “This isn’t about trust, Granger. This is about you currently being the only fourth we could agree on.”

“What about Ron?” Hermione tossed out, angered by his attitude.

His eyes went wide. “Are you joking? Weasley has the most phenomenally bad luck in the universe, and you think he needs to be on a regular interplanetary team?”

Lee said, “He’s got more lives than a cat.”

“You, shut up,” Malfoy snarled, jabbing a finger at him. Malfoy was soft on Ron. Hermione knew it, saw it, but that didn’t make it any less disturbing.

Samuels grabbed hold of Malfoy’s shoulder and shook him. “All right, campers, let’s try our best to get along here,” he said, tone half-chastising and half-amused.

Malfoy grumbled under his breath, the tops of his cheeks reddening, but he obligingly stepped away from Hermione and strapped on his own holster.

Boot twisted his fingers together fretfully and, really, it was almost like a having a puppy. She strongly considered approaching Dr. Weir about sending him back to Earth, except she wasn’t sure if he’d get on much better without her, even in a marginally less stressful environment.

Next to Boot, Finch-Fletchly rocked back on his heels and called out cheerily, “Have fun.”

Seamus gave her a thumbs up.

Fun. Right.

*

Much to her surprise, Hermione actually enjoyed trading missions. She got used to ‘gate travel, and the array of different cultures was curiously fascinating. On MX3, the natives made them dress in draped bolts of slippery cloth, and they sipped thick liqueurs while lounging on thin, pillow-laden pallets. On P44, what they lacked in luxuries they made up for in rich, hardy foodstuffs, and on P5S, the season left the sun in the sky for mere hours, the stars shining so bright they lit the entire planet with cold blue. They’d helped with the berry harvest there, for a while, and the tips of Hermione’s fingers had been stained black for days.

Malfoy kept trying to sell her, of course.

She couldn’t help but think he wasn’t joking at all – had been caught haggling prices in a serious tone more than once, and she could have sworn she’d heard him heralding her “magnificent breasts” on the planet of the hair-coats - even though Samuels always insisted he was.

Lee took a while to warm up to, and vice versa. He didn’t talk much, picked his teeth with a knife, and had the quietest feet ever. On Atlantis, he particularly liked sneaking up on Boot, and Hermione hadn’t yet decided if it was some sort of misplaced flirtation on his part or just plain meanness, since Boot’s nerves were so frayed he’d disappear for hours afterwards.

Samuels was a little like Ron, big and friendly, only not as depressing. He teased that she was charmed, since they had a string of abnormally smooth missions right after she signed on. No hostile natives, no Genii ambushes, no exploding Ancient devices, no Wraith.

“Honestly, this is starting to get a little creepy,” Malfoy said, staring off into the distant horizon of M56. It was sundown, and the clean lines of Ancient ruins were backlit by red-gold.

“Don’t complain.” Samuels sat on his heels, hands on his thighs as sparks caught and spread over the little pile of kindling.

“I’m not complaining,” Malfoy assured him, turning back to the fire. “I’m not complaining at all, but it’s still creepy. Granger’s some sort of horror repellent. I never would’ve guessed.”

Hermione would’ve narrowed her eyes at him if she didn’t completely agree. The Helgerians had been pleasant and helpful and ate flowers, and offered to let them eat flowers, even though they’d been known in the past to be aggressive and suspicious and reticent towards trade. The only reason they’d been sent there at all was because of the ruins, three clicks south of the ‘gate, just outside the main Helgeri village.

“Lee,” Samuels said, poking him with his foot.

Lee was sprawled on his back in the soft grass, unmoving except for this chest, up and down in slow, rhythmic breaths.

“Maybe he ate the flowers.” Malfoy hunkered down next to him and leaned close, thumbing the corner of a wide-open eye. “Did you eat the flowers, Lee? Look, he’s drooling a bit; I think he ate the flowers.”

The flowers, apparently, were key.

Hermione covered her mouth with a hand, eyes wide, and Samuels asked, “What?”

“I ate a flower,” she said, because she had. It was only polite to take what was offered!

Malfoy snorted. “Perfect.”

And then Lee started giggling, and that was just strange, since Lee was always cool and collected and hardly ever smiled, even, so Hermione started giggling, too.

“Oh my god,” she managed through gasps of laughter. “Oh my god, I’m high.” She’d never been high before. Her stomach felt all fluttery and hollow, tickling her from the inside out.

Then Malfoy arched a slim, mocking eyebrow at her, and that was still annoying, so perhaps she wasn’t very high. Her giggles petered off, and Lee rolled over onto his side, fingers walking towards the fire in marching beats, and Samuels slapped his hand to keep him back, muttering under his breath about goddamn hippies.

The next day, Hermione couldn’t remember exactly what they’d talked about, but she knew they’d all stayed up late, lounging around the fire, and she felt oddly content and rested, and she even gave Malfoy a small smile over breakfast.

“What?” he snapped, tin cup of instant coffee at his lips.

She had a fleeting memory of chatting with him about cats, homesickness in his gray eyes and soft voice, and said, “Nothing,” smiling wider.

*

They’d come out of nowhere, Hermione swore, but she supposed that was the point. One minute they’d been haggling medicine for the tough but tasty gulrug meat on PX7, and the next there was near chaos as shadows started flickering in the dark. The phantoms weren’t real, Hermione knew, but that didn’t really help stave off the blind panic, and then the phantoms gave way for the faceless monsters McKay had warned her were only slightly less like demented catfish than the real thing.

Hermione had never actually seen a Wraith before. The large, hulking drones were somewhat more frightening than Major Lorne’s instructional drawings had implied. Or perhaps it was just their sheer size, mingled with the fearful cries and the thick ashy smoke from the burning village.

She was apparently a crap shot under pressure, too, and Malfoy tackled her into the bushes as a beam of light chased over the grassy field behind them.

The darts screamed above, and Hermione’s heart jumped into her throat. “What—”

“Shut up,” Malfoy hissed, his hand pressing her head to the ground, arm draped over her back, one leg covering hers in the thick brush.

There was a scrabbling of rocks and then Lee slid down next to Hermione, panting. “They’re leaving,” he said, and Malfoy asked, “Where’s Samuels?” his entire body tense along Hermione’s side.

“Fine. He’s holed up on the other side of the clearing.”

The ‘gate dialed, puddle whooshing out, and the two darts disappeared into the event horizon. Hermione let out a breath she hadn’t even realized she’d been holding.

Lee’s radio crackled, and Samuels’ voice echoed tinnily, “Let’s get out of here, kids.”

Hermione was never doing that again.

*

“I’m never doing that again,” Hermione stated grandly, stalking into her lab.

Boot’s head popped out from under his desk. “Are you alright?”

“Fine, yes.” He worried his bottom lip, beautiful eyes watery, and Hermione stressed, “I’m okay, Terry.”

“You’re dirty,” he said, almost an accusation.

“I.” She glanced down at her dirt-streaked BDUs. She should’ve changed first, before seeing Boot, and god, a shower. A shower would’ve been great. She’d needed her lab, though, needed the normalcy, and she just shrugged and dropped down into her seat, opening up her laptop with a soft snick.

Finch-Fletchly strode in minutes later, grinning broadly. “Daedalus is half a day out,” he said.

“Excellent,” Hermione said, scratching at a patch of dried blood on her forearm. The arrival of the Daedalus meant more options for ‘gate teams, and Hermione was definitely looking forward to ending her association with team Malfoy. She really, really was. Honestly. There were only so many times she could handle being almost sold to natives for five pounds of beans.

Then Finch-Fletchly added, “Word is Zabini’s on board,” and Hermione’s mind swept completely blank.

*

The absolute worst part of having Blaise prowling the halls of her city was that he was, and always had been, best mates with Malfoy.

All right, well. Perhaps that wasn’t the worst part. It was fairly bad and highly annoying, watching them pal around and laugh meanly – Blaise at the expense of Malfoy and Malfoy at the expense of everyone else – but the really horrid part was that Blaise acted as if nothing at all was wrong between them. As if she hadn’t skipped the galaxy for the express purpose of getting rid of him.

He’d even managed to insinuate himself into her quarters and requisition a bigger bed, forcing Hermione to camp out in Hannah’s rooms. The nerve of the man.

“The nerve of him!” she exclaimed, pacing Ron’s honestly horrendously smelling lab. She hardly ever went there, but desperate times and all.

Ron very unhelpfully pointed out, “You’re still married to him.” There was a large, duck-billed bird perched on his shoulder, but Hermione wasn’t going to mention it if he didn’t.

“Yes, a very minor technicality, and I can’t believe Dr. Weir just let him, let him,” she fluttered a hand, flustered. Of course, she could very well believe it, because Blaise was charming and lovely when he wanted to be, and had this ability to be honest and completely un-honest at the same exact time.

“Hermione,” Ron said, catching her hand. The bird cocked its head at her, one beady eye staring her down.

“All right, I’ll bite. What’s with the bird?”

“What? Oh, him. Right.” The tops of his cheeks reddened. “There was an egg,” he said slowly, as if carefully choosing his words, “and it hatched.” The bird let out a caw that sounded disturbingly like “mama” and pecked the side of Ron’s head with its round beak.

Hermione eyed them silently. Then she said, “Okay,” in her I-won’t-bring-it-up-again tone. She normally reserved that for conversations about Seamus, but giant imprinted birds were best ignored as well.

Ron nodded his head and said, “I think you should talk to Zabini. You can’t just keep avoiding him.”

“I could,” she countered, only the slightest bit petulantly. It was a big city, and there were lots of places to hide.

That wasn’t exactly the smartest route to take, though, and if there was one thing she’d learned from being married to Blaise, it was that he was tenacious and stubborn and had the patience of a saint.

*

Hermione was never really lonely. She liked being alone, and when she didn’t want to be alone, she could very easily seek out Ron or Hannah or even Seamus. And there was always Boot, alternately clingy and absently distant by turns.

She didn’t need Blaise, dogged in his appeal for her attention.

She didn’t need his pretty words or competent resourcefulness, even when they were both somehow stuck on the far side of the city during a brownout. Crouched down in front of the closest transporter, she tried her best to ignore him. It was unsurprisingly difficult, given that Blaise had always been able to get under her skin.

“You can’t shut me out forever, you know,” he said. She could see him out of the corner of her eye, leaning negligently against the wall, arms crossed.

“Of course I can.” Good crystal, good crystal, another good crystal. There was nothing wrong with the transporter itself. She knew that already, since Dr. McKay had spent several minutes berating Lewiston over the common science channel. Really, all they had to do was wait until everything was back online again, but idle hands plus Blaise plus seclusion had never been a good combination for her.

“At the very least you’ll need a change of clothes,” he reasoned.

Hermione pursed her lips. “I wear the same size as Hannah.” Which was only slightly false. Hannah was a good deal taller than her, but rolling up her trouser legs was hardly a trial.

He nudged her with his thigh. “I’ve given you your space for months, Hermione. I don’t see what else I can do.”

“Space?” She snapped her head up, incredulous. “You think I wanted space? I served you divorce papers!”

Blaise grinned at her. That sharp grin. The one that made her want to punch him in the face and then grab his ears and reel him down for a kiss. The grin that got her to say yes and then I do.

“You were angry,” he said, tone indulgent, and Hermione shot to her feet and shouted, “I’m still angry!” and she thought maybe she imagined his tiny flinch.

But then the corridor lit up and she stomped into the transporter and punched in some random coordinates, and the doors slid shut before he could respond. She pressed her eyes closed and rubbed the heel of her palm against them, but she could still see his behind her lids, dark and disappointed.

*

Hermione held grudges. She was well known for that. Oddly enough, the only person who’d ever wronged her, really wronged her and gotten away with it was Malfoy, and she still wasn’t sure how he’d managed it. It probably had something to do with occasionally saving her life, but he was usually such an arse about it that it still didn’t make a whole lot of sense.

But, whatever the case, Malfoy was exempt from her long-lasting ire. Blaise, of course, wasn’t.

She’d been sneaking in and out of her quarters for clothes and fresh pants for nearly a week before he finally caught her at it.

He – very literally and very ungracefully – sat on her to keep her there.

She squirmed under him, sprawled out on the floor. “What are you doing?” she snapped.

“Inviting you to dinner,” he said calmly, as if he wasn’t pinning her in place with his bum.

“I’ve eaten.”

“No, you haven’t. And besides, it’s stuffed shells night.” He leaned over her and waggled his brows. “Your favorite.”

Blaise waggled his eyebrows a lot. She’d once found it endearing, a quirk he couldn’t help, even though it was more adorably funny than debonair. He was smooth in every other aspect, with his high-cut cheekbones and unblemished dark skin, naturally wicked slanted eyes and mouth a full, perfect curve. His hands were purposeful and fingers long-boned, and he didn’t have an awkward molecule in his entirely too lean body. But his eyebrows had a mind of their own.

She was hard-pressed to resist them.

“Once,” he insisted, obviously scenting her wavering resolve. “Just once, have dinner with me.”

She opened her mouth, closed it again.

He cupped her chin in his palm. “Please,” he whispered, and, “You have no idea how much I missed you,” and, “I’m sorry.”

There was a reason she’d married him in the first place.

*

“So.”

“So,” Hermione said, staring across her desk at Ron. Boot was under his own desk, but he was in a quiet mood, and Hermione was pretending he wasn’t there. Ron was fidgeting in his seat, and he hardly ever hunted her down in her lab, so she wasn’t exactly sure what he wanted. The bird was back, too. She thought maybe the bird was why Ron and Malfoy were giving each other wide, overly polite berths, but she didn’t want to ask. He had black smudges under his eyes, and he’d never really gotten his weight back after that bout of pneumonia, but he seemed a lot happier than he had in a long while.

“You and Zabini?” he asked finally. He sounded pained, as if Seamus had put him up to it.

“Dinner,” she said firmly. “We had dinner, and I’m not opposed to having dinner with him again.”

Ron nodded. “Okay.”

Then Finch-Fletchly poked his head inside the lab with a bright, “Did you ask her?”

“Not yet,” Ron said, rolling his eyes.

Finch-Fletchly flashed a quick grin, then disappeared again.

Hermione arched her brows. “Yes?”

“Just set him up with Hannah, will you? He’s driving everybody mad.” He shoved a hand through his fringe and the bird squawked and hopped from his shoulder to the back of his chair. “He won’t shut up about it, and Hannah’s taken to running the other direction whenever she sees him.”

Well, Hermione knew that. Once Finch-Fletchly got his mind set on something, there wasn’t much anyone could do to dissuade him. “I don’t see why you’d think it would make any difference coming from me.”

“You’re a—”

“If you say it’s because I’m a girl, I will not hesitate to hurt you, Ron Weasley,” she cut in sternly.

“Right. Well.” He sighed and slumped down low. “This was fun.”

She looked at him for a silent moment. Finally, she asked, “How are you?” because Ron had frightened her more times than she could count in the past six months. She didn’t care what anyone said, the galaxy was definitely not out to get him. She just wished he’d be more careful.

“Fine,” he said, reaching out to lace his fingers with hers. “I’m fine.”

He smiled at her, tired but genuine, and she squeezed his hand. “Fine,” she echoed, more an affirmation than a question, and for the moment she was, too.

*

When it came time for their first mission after the Daedalus’ arrival, Hermione found herself tensing up in the briefing. She was waiting for someone to point out how ridiculous it was to make her travel off-world, when the city with brimming with excited new recruits. Specifically, she was waiting for them to replace her with Blaise.

It made sense. He was military and science. He was Malfoy’s very best friend. He got on well with Samuels, though that wasn’t a hard feat, and even Lee, which was.

By the end of the meeting, Hermione’s heart was pounding, her stomach clenched, and she realized that it wasn’t because she was eager to be off the team. She was worried sick. After over three months, she didn’t want to be off the team. She was terribly certain she would miss Malfoy trying to sell her. Miss the oddly cozy overnights by fires, the often strange and wonderful native rituals, the feeling of being integral and important and protected and close, sharing unique experiences with a few people that she would never share with anyone else. That one of those people was Malfoy didn’t seem to matter anymore.

Hermione was actually dizzy with relief when they let her walk into the event horizon with them, but she didn’t like the uncertainty, the wondering if this would be her last time through the ‘gate.

Samuels asked, “What do you think of this energy reading, Hermione?” and Hermione blurted out, “Are you going to get rid of me?”

All three of them paused mid-step.

Samuels glanced up from his datapad. “Huh?”

She blushed hotly. “I mean, I know I never really wanted to do this in the first place, and I’m not very good at handling,” she gestured towards her sidearm, “and it’d be perfectly understandable if you’d prefer Blaise or anyone else instead of me, but I’d just. I’d like to know upfront, if you wouldn’t mind.”

Lee blinked at her blankly. “You—What?”

Samuels echoed his, “What?” and then added on another, “Huh?”

Malfoy rolled his eyes. “What I believe our teammates are trying to express, if I may interpret their grunt-speak, is there’s absolutely no reason why we would replace you, unless for some strange reason you’d prefer to be replaced.”

“Oh, I.” Hermione took a huge breath, palm pressed over her heart, then she threw her arms around Malfoy and squeezed.

“All right, all right.” He squirmed in her grip. “There’s no need to—off, off, get off, you cow!”

She stepped back with a half-scowl and he shooed her away, lip curled into a sneer.

“I’ve probably got diseases now,” he groused, tugging on the hem of his jacket.

“Been contaminated by breasts, Draco?” Lee chuckled.

Hermione’s scowl grew more pronounced. “You can’t just accept thanks gratefully, can you Malfoy?”

“Nothing to be grateful about. In fact, your thanks are best expressed by never touching me again.” He brushed off his trousers and took a giant step further away from her, shooting her suspiciously little glares.

Samuels clapped her shoulder, grinning down at her. “You’re our fourth,” he said simply.

And that was apparently all she’d needed to hear.