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Something about Cormac McLaggen had always pissed her off.

No, not some indefinable something that she couldn't put her finger on. She knew exactly where to put her finger, and what exactly about him pissed her off. He was arrogant, a bully almost as bad as Malfoy, and the most condescending git she'd ever had the misfortune to know. A number of slurs could be thrown at him and stick.

So it was simple to ask him to Slughorn's Christmas party, even simpler to smack herself in the face afterward and wonder what the hell she'd done.

What had come over her?

Maybe it was the sight of Ron getting all cozy with Lavender by the fire, or maybe the pitying glances Harry had been giving her all night long, or even the half-amused, half-disgusted look Ginny had shot her way over her brother's thick head when she came through the portrait that said they would be having a chat later that night. Maybe Peeves had possessed her to go storming to his table in the corner where the seventh year was brooding on the injustices done to him. Maybe Malfoy really was a Death Eater like Harry said and Imperiused her.

Whatever it was, she'd asked out Cormac McLaggen and there was no going back.

For the smartest witch of her age, she sure was stupid.

"I'm touch and go, Healer Granger."

"Were you always this chatty? Oh, yes, yes, you were. If you could stop now, please, so I could get to my job, that would be swell."

"You have a very dirty mouth." Malfoy stretched upward, putting his face in hers. Strain from his injuries showed at the corner of his eyes from lifting his upper body off the cot, but he ignored it to stare gravely into her eyes. "I like it," he whispered and fell back to the bed with a goofy grin.

Hermione rolled her eyes. Cheering Charms. Last time she checked she was the only one licensed to heal, but someone had cast several on him. Probably the so-called Healers the teams employed, all Cheering Charms and Episkeys.

"Did you see what happened? Or, no, you never liked Quidditch, did you." It wasn't a question. "Bloody Gryffindor twat. He got in my way on purpose, I know it."

She tuned him out as soon as she recognized the ranting tone and continued casting slow diagnostic charms over his legs. A collision with another player at a swift 99 mph sent the two players spiraling down from more than a hundred feet up. The Catchers, as she called them, really the Air Hazard Control employed by every professional Quidditch league, had saved every bone in their bodies from breaking, including their necks.

Hermione, as the on call medi-witch for the stand, got to repair the injuries they had sustained from crashing into one another, which were many.

She'd been cursing her supervisor for putting her on Quidditch rotation this month, but no more so than now. She just wasn't cut out to coddle bullheaded boys with Peter Pan syndrome—she'd been quite thrilled to finish that job after the defeat of Voldemort.

But that's what she got for deciding to take St. Mungo's offer of an extended internship so she could have more time to choose her career path. Bloody Quidditch, and bloody prats like Malfoy whinging at her while she examined his bloody nice body. Something in that sentence didn't make sense, but she couldn't pinpoint what. br

The rant continued its way in one ear and out the other while Hermione pressed two fingers to the pulse in his neck and counted the beats in her head. In some things, magic was woefully behind.

She lost count several times and had to start over. Blaming it on Malfoy's irritating voice in her ears and not the collection of three dark freckles around his belly button, one of her favourite spots on a man, and the almost white trail of fine hair leading down underneath his pants like an invitation. She shifted and started again, her eyes somewhere over his shoulder.

"This is going to hurt," Hermione warned, and jabbed her wand into the flesh of his inner thigh.

Malfoy howled and she contained her suddenly merry mood as best she could. It wasn't much.

She wasn't resentful at all.

Something caught her attention and she was suddenly glad that Malfoy had his eyes closed when her face heated. Malfoy's pants had ridden lower in his thrashing and her eyes were riveted on the thatch of golden curls revealed underneath.

A great cavernous pit opened inside her stomach, just waiting for her fall into it. She deftly stepped away from it.

"Bone's set," she declared, backing away from the cot and sheathing her wand. "I'll prescribe some pain potions for the bruising on your face and the sprain. You'll be ready in two days max."

The liberally applied Cheering Charms hadn't lasted through his femur being put back in place, so she attributed that to the glare he gave her.

"Nice seeing you again, Malfoy. Try not to be so clumsy next time." And that was definitely a glare; she left the room with a smug smile.

After noting down Malfoy's prognosis and treatment on the chart outside the door, she opened the door of the adjacent room and stepped inside. It was only the work of a few minutes to sterilize the room. Another spell, this one to lock the door in case rabid fans were roaming the halls (Quidditch , she thought disgustedly), before she turned her attention to the next player.

She paused a half-beat before going forward.

"McLaggen," she greeted reluctantly. Now more than ever she was cursing her supervisor.

Cormac McLaggen was just as she remembered—permanent superiority etched onto his features, light brown curls highlighted from the sun, broad shoulders and toned body that was showed off to advantage since he'd stripped down to his pants. Well, she hadn't exactly seen his toned body before—more like been unwillingly pressed against it under a sprig of mistletoe during that humiliating and disastrous Christmas Party. Last time she had felt more than seen it, which had been more than enough.

She noticed the disgusted look on his face—like something foul was under his nose—she'd become familiar with after that same night, too.

Hermione wondered if it would be ethical to go back to Malfoy's room for a round of insults and leave McLaggen to his team's untrained Healers, who typically only knew basic healing spells.

She sighed, steeling herself against whatever snide comments he would make.

"Lie flat on your back, please," she said, and raised her arm when he reluctantly obliged to do the primary diagnostic.

Unlike Malfoy, Cormac had no broken bones, but had a fractured joint in his knee and quite a lot of bruising. It was easily fixed, but the spell required a few minutes to cast and condition over the joints.

"Still dating Weasley?"

Hermione pursed her lips; reminding herself that glaring was not good bedside manner. Everyone knew about the rather bad public split between her and Ron. It had been publicized for weeks and every time Hermione dared to date, she saw it in the papers the next day. Once, the very same night. The same was true for Ron. She'd known far more than she ever wanted to know about Ron's fast-paced love-life.

"No," she said, her brook tone offering no argument.

Apparently he couldn't hear it—she remembered he'd been shockingly adept at not hearing, or not listening, to social cues—as he said, "Surprise, surprise," in a voice chock full of bitterness.

"Not so surprising, actually," Hermione said, trying to act blasé and not grinding her teeth. "Now, shh. I need to listen to your heart." She didn't really need quiet to hear it, but he didn't need to know that.

She tried not to feel how warm his skin was—how human—under her palm and focused on the signals her wand was giving her. She placed her hand on his chest, over his heart, and placed her wand on the top of her hand. Steady beats, if a little fast, no arterial damage, blood moving normally, no murmurs. All sounded normal. She withdrew her hand, staring at the contrast between his tanned skin and her fairer complexion.

When she looked at his face, Cormac was staring at her intently.

"See something you like?" he said, and his voice was no longer grating.

Despite how his question threw her, she cast him a disparaging look and took up her wand again.

She was still a professional and had to act it, no matter the circumstances. Bloody great prats included, she thought.

"Why isn't it surprising?" he asked.

It took a moment for Hermione to realize the context of the question and to place the gentle tenor of his voice, and when she did she shrugged, unable to look at his face.

"Just isn't," she said. "So I see your dream of professional Quidditch came through."

She didn't particularly care; she just wanted to get off the subject of her personal life.

She knew by intimate experience he could talk for hours about himself. She was prepared to tune out the Tales of a Hundred Brilliant Saves by Cormac McLaggen, but he never opened his mouth; just watched her with unnerving intensity.

"Sorry," he finally said, and her eyes shot to his. He shrugged and didn't explain himself.

Hermione didn't try to start another conversation, and Cormac was silent as he continued staring at her. She was quite glad when the spell took and moved down his body in order to flex his knee and check for signs of further wear.

She had to avert her eyes a second time that day when she saw the outline of Cormac's half-hard cock pressed against the thin cotton of his pants.

She finished in silence, and got out of there as quickly as possible.

Hermione walked into her kitchen and saw Ginny sitting at the table with a copy of Witch Weekly hiding her face.

"Who's the new flavour?" she asked as she set her purse on the counter. Ginny was so predictable.

"Lavender," Ginny said with disgust.

"Isn't she old news—last week, wasn't it?"

"She's been old news since sixth year," Ginny said, putting down the rag and revealing her curled lip. "I don't know what he was thinking."

"Easy shag," Hermione guessed. She swallowed and looked away from the redhead. "Take out? I'm too tired to cook."

"Good," Ginny said, surprising her. Hermione looked back at her, and she raised her eyebrows in a way that reminded her of her mum. "Hopefully that came from romping around all day with the finest specimens the Applebee Arrows and Puddlemere have. Tell me; is Oliver Wood good in the sack? I always thought he would be, with that arse."

"I do not know if Oliver Wood is good in the sack," Hermione said, enunciating very clearly. Her voice rose in pitch. "I do not want to know, arse or not."

"What about Malfoy? I heard he and McLaggen got into it in the air. They likely called in their favourite medi-witch. Tell me you got naughty."

The memory of Malfoy's white blond curls and Cormac's half-hard cock pressing against his pants flashed behind her eyes. Shaken, she realized it was the most sex she'd had in four months.

"They did," Hermione said primly. "But there was nothing of the sort you're suggesting. Those naught nurse fantasies—that's why they're called fantasies. That never happens."

Ginny rolled her eyes, her attitude saying she didn't believe it one whit and that Healers had a reason for issuing those open back paper robes. Easy to rip off.

Hermione had the argument memorized two weeks ago.

"Come on, Hermione." Ginny stood and came to stand in front of her. There was concern and worse than concern—pity—in her eyes. "You're not even trying to get over Ron. He's horrible to you and you're— you're just taking it. Don't try to deny it. When was the last time you went on a date and enjoyed it?"

Eight months ago, when Ron met her for drinks at the Hog's Head, then they strolled around Hogsmeade together, revisiting their old haunts with no goal in mind.

Ginny must have acquired Legilimency skills somewhere, for she read the answer out of her mind, or saw the tears she couldn't let fall. She grabbed her shoulders. The pain of her nails digging into her skin brought her out of the past.

"Hermione, you have got to listen to me. You're making yourself miserable. All you do is work, eat and sleep, and most times you forget to eat. Maybe I should speak in terms you're sure to comprehend: Something has to change or your job performance is going to get hit."

Hermione wrenched herself free from Ginny's grasp. "What do you know about it? You're happy with Harry. Why should you care?"

"Are we?" Ginny asked quietly from behind her. Hermione didn't look back, though she wanted to. "You're not home enough to know or not. How many nights did you spend at St. Mungo's just this week?"

"My job is very important," Hermione defended, but the walls she hadn't known she'd constructed were cracking, splintering around her. "I don't have time to date," she said. Her voice was weaker, and she knew Ginny could eviscerate her argument, but Ginny had already closed the door to her bedroom.

A week later and Hermione was still thinking about what Ginny said. Had she really been ready to pine herself away for Ron Weasley? Work herself to death over the man she had broken up with—for what? Recognition, a heartfelt declaration, a chase through the rain?

It seemed she had.

The realization was startling. On her breaks and the minutes she emptied her mind before sleep, she tried to look it in the eye and it was harder than she thought it would be.

One thing was clear: she couldn't keep up this way. She was unhappy and, more importantly, making others unhappy.

Though Ginny hadn't said anything yet, she thought if she didn't get her act together, if she stayed static in her current situation, their friendship would suffer a major blow at the very least, if not break altogether. Her friendship with Harry was already strained. With his best friends unable to speak without shouting and Ron being his partner in the Auror division, Harry was stretched thin. Breaking from Ginny might be the last straw on the camels back of their friendship.

She had to make a decision.

A patient requested you. Room 15. Non-critical.

Hermione finished with her patient—a child of six hiccupping balloons—before she checked her chart and read the message left by the Welcome Witch.

Once she ascertained that the children's ward could be left for a few minutes, she made her way to the second floor and Room 15. She opened the door, curious to who would have requested her personally, and found Draco Malfoy.

"Malfoy," she said, utterly confused. "What are you doing here?"

He turned at her voice, abandoning the enchanted window, his eyebrows already raised in a familiar mocking way. "It is a hospital, Hermione," he said and his tone was just as mocking.

"Why did you request me?" she demanded. "There are actual sick people here. I don't have time for your jokes."

Malfoy held up his hand. Not to stop her, but to show his swollen thumb. "I've come to give you a second chance."

"Excuse me." She abruptly lost the ability to speak in a tone warmer than Arctic.

"It was a busy day, I understand. You didn't have enough time to properly examine me." Malfoy shrugged off his outer robes and sat down on the patient table. "I decided to give you another chance."

"Your thumb wasn't injured," Hermione said very clearly, because very obviously he'd gone mad and she was calculating how fast Security could be there.

"Of course not," he said, still flippant, still making red bloom brighter and brighter in her vision. "This happened this morning." The innocent look he cast her was just the opposite. "I hope you didn't take it as me impugning your character. Oh, no. I'm speaking of your professionalism."

Oh, she could be professional , she thought. She wondered if they had dental in Killing Draco Malfoy.

"My professionalism."

"What is that term that means a calming, pleasant demeanor for patients experiencing or about to experience extreme pain, and I don't mean a Cheering Charm."

"Bedside manner," she said absently. Her mind flashed to the blond, oh so blond thatch of curls. If Malfoy was complaining about her being terse, he wouldn't want to know what else she could have done while he was drugged on Cheering Charms and at her mercy.

"Bedside manner, that's it." He flashed her a smile—not a grin, malicious or cocky or otherwise, but a genuine honest to God smile.

No wonder he didn't do it very often. Mass rioting would occur.

"So the opportunity to rectify your admittedly honest mistake is in your capable hands," he continued, oblivious to Hermione cataloguing his smile in the number three slot under Dangerous, right behind Voldemort and Ginny's cooking.

Hermione knew she should be insulted, should kick him out, even if his claim was true. Which it wasn't . She'd just been a little cranky that day, nothing more, as she always was when assigned Quidditch rotation.

She couldn't be insulted, though, after that smile and how it transformed his face.

"I suppose there's only one choice, then." Not hostile but not willing to trade friendship bracelets, she approached him and stood in front of him, his knees brushing her robes. Lifting his hand at by the wrist, she turned it to get a better look at his thumb.

She whispered a wandless spell and blue light glowed around his hand before sinking into his flesh. Better than Episkey, it reknitted the bone as if the break had never occurred. It was also used for arthritic patients, so when Malfoy was older, he never need worry about his thumb.

She explained that to him as the spell did its work and when the bone was reknitted and better than new, the blue glow came up out of his hand, spilling to the floor and dissipating before it reached the ground.

"Can you bend it?" she asked, still holding his palm so she could better see his movements.

He wiggled it experimentally and grimaced.

Letting go of his hand, she took out her wand and placed it on the tip of his thumb. Thinking of how she really had Draco Malfoy at her mercy now, she said a minor pain reliever spell.

"Now try." When he tried again, he nodded.

She smiled absently and made a move to back up. Malfoy stopped her. His hand, entirely healed, slid up her wand, lightly tickling her fingers and settled loosely around her wrist. She could get away if she really wanted to, but she didn't—curiosity and the cat.

"My aunt would be horrified by what use her wand's being put to. Healing the sick, saving the downtrodden." He sounded faintly admiring. His eyes dragged away from hers, down her face to settle on her lips. Drag was only word appropriate, since it felt like he'd just stripped her bare and dragged a finger down her naked spine.

Quickly, she stammered, "I should get ba—"

His mouth shut her up. He had half lifted off the examination table to reach her, and his lips were smooth, cool, and calculated to inflame. She gasped, whether from surprise or want, she wasn't sure and wasn't quick to find out.

His legs parted and he pulled her between them, arm sliding around her waist as if he'd done it all his life, and she could feel the heat through their clothes, burning and entirely capable of consuming her. She thought maybe a fever, but, no, it was Them, Malfoy and her, her and Malfoy, Malfoyandher. And it was like someone had used too many Cheering Charms on her this time, because she was dizzy and had to wrap her arms around his neck to steady herself and her mind was a mass of mad jumbled parts, because this was wrong and she shouldn't be doing it, but to stop meant losing the heat coiling in her insides that had been absent for so long.

And even the confused, convoluted sentences in her head sounded breathless.

She pushed at his shoulders. "I should—"

"—get in my lap and snog my brains out? I was just about to suggest it," he finished, lips following hers.

She appeared on his lap as if she'd specifically Apparated there, bum and thighs in his lap and legs off to one side and his lips smothering any protest she could've thought of if she had thought about protesting at all. Still, she was not called Hermione Granger just because of her bushy hair.

"My career," she began.

Frustrated with her, he kissed his way across her cheek and nosed her hair out of his way.

"Will not disintegrate in ten minutes," he said. She was thinking more along the lines of them not being too happy about her snogging the schoolyard bully when she was on duty, but his husky voice right in her ear, his breath hot and heady, making her feel like a brass band had started up under her skin, almost knocked her out.

He made a point, she considered as his teeth tugged at her ear lobe. Ten minutes, and then she could react with the horror appropriate to the situation.

One hand came to the nape of her neck, grabbing hold of her through her thick curls and turning her face toward his. He immediately took advantage. His other hand went on a luxurious journey—over her breasts, squeezing and massaging until she arched, down her stomach, softly caressing a thigh, and there was a needy, urgent thing inside her that came out of her throat and he swallowed. When his hand was at her ankle, he began the journey back up, hiking up her robes along the way.

He got to her thighs before he groaned, sounding as if he'd reached the top of the world and found the gods, deep, throaty and making Hermione very glad it was hospital regulation to allow only undergarments under their Healer's robes.

His fingers, surprisingly callused for a man who acted so posh, rose higher and higher, teased despite his sure hand. Teased and taunted until there were goosebumps on and under her skin.

She jerked at the first light touch on her knickers.

"So hot," he murmured, and groaned as she jutted her hips forward to give him better access and urge him further.

This was what it felt like , she thought, to lose yourself, to not think. This was what Ginny wanted for me. And then even that thought was lost when his hot, hot hand slipped down her knickers, trapping her with that exotic heat.

His fingers moved over her expertly, exploring every crevice, shying away from her clit like a snake playing with its food, and she tore her lips away from his because it was either do that or suffocate. He didn't mind. His other hand, still wrapped in her curls, tugged her head back, and he eagerly began to kiss and lick at her bared neck, fingers still working, still strumming her to fever pitch.

Finally, finally he touched her clit and she gave a ragged moan, the only thing she was capable of, and she felt the curl of his lips against her skin as he grinned.

"Bastard," she hissed and arched in his lap, bum lifting then settling over the hard press of his cock through his trousers. The smile dropped as he gasped. As he begun to rock his hips against her arse, triumphant female pride rose in her—no longer was she the only one being undone.

She could take his teasing digits no longer. Though it was difficult and clumsy, she reached between them and began to rub him through his trousers.

Like the Slytherin he was, he caught onto her game, and like the Malfoy he was, he quickly retaliated. His hand pulled away from her.

"Oh," she breathed, feeling too much disappointment, right before he roughly pushed two fingers inside her. She almost shouted.

His thumb stayed busy on her clit, rubbing and circling and pressing, and all she wanted to do was scream with the pleasure of it all. She wanted more, though. Her little game was over. She just wanted to make him feel as good as her.

But when she started fumbling with the fastenings on his trousers, he said, "No."

Confusion was lost easily when he withdrew his fingers and quickly pushed back in, fingers curling inside her and inciting her blood pressure to skyrocket.

"No," he said again. "I've wanted you wrapped around my finger for so long—and look where we're at now." His voice was just this side of sin.

Hermione moaned, still wanting more, wanting him to stop this bloody teasing, wanting…

Malfoy didn't stop his erotic dialogue. "I'm going to make you come three times, Hermione. Once on my fingers"—his thumb pressed against her nub insistently—"once in my mouth"—he traced his name with his tongue on her neck—"and once on my"—he ground up into her arse—"cock."

His thumb started moving faster on her clit. Her hips were arching helplessly, aching for more. "Then," he said, his voice breathy and dark, like he was on the brink himself, and stars were bursting behind her eyes or maybe she was going blind, "I'm going to make you come some more."

She was there, she was there, and her cunt was clutching at his fingers, and her hands clutching at his shirt, and her legs were trembling, gone numb, and something wild inside her was set free and was shouting pure exultation.

Malfoy slowed, thumb gradually stopping, making the strength of her orgasm ebb until finally she was still in his lap.

Soundlessly, she gasped for breath.

Sensation returned to her legs and she realized how cold it was in the room. In the examination room, where patients were treated.

She closed her eyes.

"I can't believe I just did that."

Malfoy pulled his hand out of her knickers. She felt the loss, then the cold, then her knickers being gently righted.

"Don't worry," he said. "You won't get any complaints on your bedside manner from me."

Instead of getting hostile, which she would have done only an hour before, Hermione smiled at the comment, recognizing it for the tension breaker it was. Gingerly, she got off his lap, her robes falling from her hips to settle how they were supposed to. She turned to him.

She didn't say thank you, though gratitude was foremost in her mind since it hit her how much she had needed that. She said instead, "I'll have to take a rain check on your other promises."

Malfoy grinned. "You're blushing."

She valiantly ignored him. "My supervisor's likely looking for me."

Looking supremely unconcerned, Malfoy raised his sticky fingers to his mouth and began licking them clean, and in his eyes were sex and challenge.

After such a display, Hermione could do nothing but lean forward, pull his fingers out of his mouth, and kiss him. Madness and Malfoy were interchangeable. He groaned as she tasted herself on his tongue.

Despite his hand on her cheek, she pulled back knowing she was flushed and disheveled and could do nothing about it.

"I have to go."

She grabbed her chart and was out the door before madness struck again and she spent the rest of the day—and night—locked in the exam room with him. She started back to fifth level, thinking, He might not believe me, but I will hold him to that promise.

"You're looking chipper," Ginny commented as she walked out of her room. Hermione smiled and flipped another pancake. It was her staple breakfast when she bothered to cook—well, her only one, since it was the only thing she could stand to eat in the morning.

Ginny stared at her as she sat at the table. "Really chipper."

Hearing Ginny's I'm about to check for Imperius voice, Hermione spoke.

"I am. Chipper, I mean. I had a good day yesterday and thought about what you said. It finally got through my thick skull."

"Not thick," Ginny said, sounding as if Hermione had just announced her commitment to becoming a wood nymph, "just stubborn."

"That, too."

"So I don't suppose your good mood will last 'til tonight," Ginny said, having got over her shock while Hermione cooked the last pancakes.

The nonchalance in Ginny's voice warned her. She paused in transferring pancakes to her plate. "Why?" she asked suspiciously.

Ginny shrugged innocently. Hermione didn't believe it one whit, hadn't since the girl was in fifth year. "Harry"—and Ron , her mind automatically supplied—"is finishing a big a case today—finally have the last Death Eaters rounded up—and wanted to celebrate tonight. The D.A. members have mostly all confirmed, and some others from school."

The disgust on Ginny's face when she said others almost made her laugh, distracting her from the topic. Cho Chang would always have Ginny's enmity.

"And you want me to go," Hermione surmised.

"Harry wants you to go," Ginny corrected. "He wants all his friends there to celebrate, especially his best friend who he's barely seen once in two months. Too busy working and feeling sorry for herself, I heard."

Ginny knew her too well. She knew just where to strike to make it hurt the most.

"I suppose I could trouble myself to go," Hermione said slowly, thinking she'd be able to leave easier if it was too uncomfortable with Ron and Lavender with so many friends there. It was a given that he would be there—and her, too. He was Harry's partner, after all, and it was his celebration too.

She'd just have to buck up and wish for the best.

The best seemed very unlikely.

She was both right and wrong. She was ready to leave the party within an hour of arriving at the Leaky, but her quick and unnoticed departure was thwarted by Neville, Susan, Padma, Harry and even Tom behind the bar. It seemed she had given her friends too little credit, believing they would just let her go after, for some, more than five months without a glimpse of her.

Ginny's expression half the night crossed between disgust at Ron's antics with Lavender and amusement at Hermione's predicament.

Seeing that she'd get no help from her unsympathetic friend, Hermione made her way to the bar to get more drinks. She'd need them if she was to survive without casting Unforgivables.

She felt pitiful because this was Ron's third week of dating Lavender, and it had been over four months since her last date. Then she felt pitiful for resenting Ron for his happiness because he'd always been her best friend, long before he became her boyfriend. And then she felt pitiful for being angry with Ginny when Ginny was only trying to help her move on—even if that help included forcing her into ridiculous red dresses—and her legs were cold because of it, and people kept giving her pitiful looks, and then she felt pitiful because it probably looked like she was desperate for Ron's attention, and Hermione felt like the worst human being on Earth.

Desperate for a reprieve from her well-meaning friends and her own sorry self, she sat down at the bar after she ordered her drink instead of going back to her seat.

She didn't want Ron, she knew that much, or thought she didn't. She just wanted… Well, she didn't know what she wanted besides to go back to normal. She wanted to wake up and not feel numb.

Her interlude with Malfoy had helped some, had made her feel desired and made her think about something other than work, but time had faded the feelings along with seeing Ron so happy with someone else and oblivious to her distress.

She did not know how it could get any worse.

Fate, it appeared, was watching and was game for a few more tries.

Tom had just set her drink down in front of her with a wink when Ron showed up beside her.

"Hey," he said after he ordered a drink and sat down in the next seat.

"Hey," she said back, and cringed inwardly at how false her cheer sounded.

"Sorry I haven't got around to talking to you until now," he said, sounding faintly embarrassed. "Lav, you know."

A blind, deaf, and dumb person could see that, she thought, but her heart clinched just the same.

"Still, it's good to see you. Gin said work's kept you busy. Everything okay?"

She signaled for another round. "Work's been good, if hectic. Just a few more weeks until I decide my specialization. Congratulations, by the way. The Lestrange brothers are finally where they belong."

Ron smiled. "Thanks." He glanced over her head at the table full of their friends and back. "So. I heard you were seeing someone."

Hermione resisted the urge to turn around and glare at Ginny. Whether Ginny had made up a complete fabrication or had deduced it from Hermione's mood that morning, she still didn't have the right to play games with people's lives like that. Her life especially, since it was out of the kindness of her heart that she let Ginny move in with her.

Hermione shrugged, suddenly interested in the contents of her drink. "Sort of."

"Who is he?" Ron asked when she said no more. "I know you went on a date with Smith, but that was a long time ago."

Dear Ron, who was always able to stick his foot in his mouth. It would be on his epitaph.

"That would be me, Weasley," someone said to her left, and when she turned in her seat and looked up, Cormac McLaggen pecked her on the lips. When he pulled back, his eyes cut to Ron. "Congrats." He dismissed him just as swiftly. "Sorry I'm late, luv. You look shagtastic."

Heat suffused her cheeks. No longer were the cold legs and wobbly heels not worth it. "Th-thank you," she said, feeling like the damsel, and for once liking it.

Cormac rested his arm around her shoulders and gave a shocked silent Ron a look that was nothing sort of challenging.

That galled Ron into action. He looked from Cormac to Hermione, eyes calculating, and snorted.

"Yeah, right. What kind of ploy is this, Hermione?"

Hermione hadn't known before what she would do besides thank Cormac for getting her out of an embarrassing conversation, but surprise at Cormac's intrusion quickly turned to anger at Ron.

"A ploy, Ronald? To do what—get you back? To my recollection, I broke up with you."

Cormac's eyes went half-lidded and an insolent smile tugged at his mouth.

"The only ploy here is to get her back to my flat and out of that dress as fast as possible."

Cormac's confidence shook Ron's belief how her anger had not, and he looked back and forth between them, unsure. She quite liked that look on his face after his rude insinuation. Even if it did have a basis of truth, she thought with a long glance at Cormac.

"But I thought—obnoxious—"

"We were teenagers, Weasley. Some of us grew out of it." His double meaning was clear as he raised his brows pointedly.

Ron flushed. "Whatever." He snatched his drink barely before Tom set it down and stormed back to the table. Cormac slid into his vacated seat.

"I don't know why you did that," Hermione said quickly. "But thank you."

"Repayment." Cormac shrugged. "I wasn't lying about that dress."

Hermione looked down, smoothing out the skirt nervously, another blush filling her cheeks. "Thanks," she said again. She looked up at him through his lashes. "Repayment for what? I was absolutely horrid to you in school."

"I was an obnoxious little shit and deserved it," he said.

Hermione realized she hadn't known Cormac at all, hadn't grown out of her teenage assumptions either until they were shoved down her throat. She felt the fool, even if Cormac hadn't said that he believed her one.

"'Course," he continued, "you were pretty stuck-up, too. But I was worse."

She laughed and wondered the last time she had done so and meant it.

"I was, wasn't I?" She shook her head, smiling. "I'm still a little stuck-up, but not as horribly as I was then."

"With the company you keep, it calls for it," he said.

Hermione raised her eyebrows. "What do you mean by that?"

Cormac rolled his eyes, and with full seriousness said, "I saw you were miserable here the moment I saw you and I barely know you. Yet, all those so-called friends over there haven't said one word to you, and saw Weasley get you alone and didn't bother to save you when it was obvious you needed it. Some friends."

Hermione looked away. To hear her own thoughts spoken back to her, she was terribly conflicted. They were her friends, and yet Ginny had told Ron lies to encourage him to get her alone, and no one had bothered to intervene.

"Ron and I need to sort things out," she said defensively, glancing at the bar top. "They were just trying to help. Public place, you know. Make us think before we start shouting."

Cormac rolled his eyes. She was really started to get irritated with it. "Maybe you need to sort things out by shouting."

He saw her face, and immediately looked contrite. A little. His voice gentled. "Look, I'm sorry for upsetting you, but any man that you need to use another man to get his attention isn't worth it."

She was back to sixth year all over again. Except now she was an adult, and Cormac was sensitive and shrewd and not an all-over irritating prick, and she was snogging—and more than snogging—Draco Malfoy in exam rooms.

Her life was really fucked up.

"I'm sorry about that, you know," she said softly. At his raised eyebrows, she elaborated. "For using you to make Ron jealous at Slughorn's Christmas Party."

Though Cormac waved her off, his eyes were lit with pleasure and a smile turned up the corners of his lips. "'tis fine. Like I said: teenagers."

She smiled and accepted the brush off. Men. "So did the Arrows win?"

"You didn't stay for the whole game? I'm shocked. I remember you always in the stands at Hogwarts."

"When your best-friend's are boys, it's hard to study when there's Quidditch to be watched."

Cormac's gaze flicked over her head and he smirked in a vaguely Draco Malfoy way. "Either your friends can hear us and are very interested in my answer, or Weasley told them." He grabbed her knee when she began turning in her seat. "Don't look. Just go along."

Hermione predicted what he was going to do, and preempted him by kissing him.

For someone who had been told a number of times by Ron while they were dating that she was married to her job, Hermione had had to talk herself out of taking the day off the next morning and spend the three day weekend visiting her retired parents in Australia and going to her favourite bookshops.

She hadn't felt like taking a day off in over eleven months.

Eventually, she decided she would go to work, if only to be away from Ginny's smug looks and innuendos. She'd had to hear too many of them the night before, and at varying volumes since Ginny had drunk quite a bit.

Walking into the staffroom to pick up her chart before getting down to business, she saw the Daily Prophet on the table, opened to a full-page picture of her and McLaggen, separately and then a picture of them coming out of the Leaky Cauldron together, laughing and kissing. The title claimed their secret love affair was now in the open.

It explained why all her coworkers she had passed on her way in had made kissy noises at her. She snorted and threw the paper down. It was the first time in a long while that she didn't feel too put out about her personal life being read by the whole country.

She picked up the paper again, studying the photo they had put in of Cormac, a shot they must have taken for the sports section since he was fitted in his Quidditch gear.

He really was quite handsome…

He had only been helping her get away from the party, and he had been a little drunk himself. There hadn't been much more than kissing involved—and a little rubbing before Ginny interrupted by wolf whistling—

But it was nothing. Really.

She spent the rest of the morning saying "No comment" to the patients who dared ask her about it, of which there were quite a few, saying it in such a way that her bedside manner could not be besmirched, and taking the gentle teasing of her coworkers with great aplomb. Her mood was in greater spirits than it had been since things had gone sour with Ron; her supervisor noticed and commented on it.

It had nothing to do with Ron, she realized as the day went on, or even Cormac and Draco, but all to do with her.

It was like she had felt the sunlight for the first time when she had spent her entire life being afraid of it, simply looking out from behind the safety of glass. It felt good , but better, because she knew she was finally stepping out of stasis and away from her past, walking into the brilliance of the sun.

She wasn't even worried about the blooming relationships between her, Draco, and Cormac, though normally she would be frantic to plan it to the nth degree. Now, though, she would take Cormac's advice and just go along with it, wherever it may take her. Anything was possible.

Around lunchtime, Hermione received a message on her chart saying that Ginny had floo'd, citing she needed to get to her flat as soon as possible as there was an emergency. Knowing that if it was a real emergency, Ginny would have sent a Patronus, and only after contacting Harry and Ron, Hermione took the time to inform her supervisor and take the rest of the day off before flooing back to her flat.

Since it had taken longer than she expected, she arrived nervous and anxious, wondering if she should have Apparated, calling out, "Gin! What's wrong? What's happened?" as soon as her feet touched the carpet.

"Hermione!" Ginny sounded frantic and Hermione looked across the living room and into the kitchen.

What greeted her was something so absurd she almost turned around and went back to St. Mungo's. The potion fumes had clearly got to her.

Malfoy and Cormac were sitting at her kitchen table, cups of tea in front of them and mouths filled with Ginny's chewy biscuits. Hermione knew exactly what they were eating, since she had spent up to twenty minutes on just one before. Ginny really should have gone into the MLE. As an interrogation technique, her cooking would insure all criminals got justice.

Ginny's cooking couldn't hold her attention forever, though. She had to face the unexpected visitors sometime this century, though a quick Stunner and Obliviate was looking very appealing.

Ginny took it out of her hands by arriving at her side and pulling her in the direction of the kitchen.

"My god, Hermione. When you do something, you do it right ," she whispered. She let go of Hermione when they entered the kitchen.

Hermione tried to think of a way to stall, couldn't, and murmured a polite hello. Clenching her hands into fists, she glared at Ginny's juvenile snickering.

"Can you excuse us for a moment?" she said and didn't wait for an answer. She pulled Ginny out of the kitchen, pausing only to lift the trash bin and set it on the counter. She wouldn't give her worst enemies Ginny's cooking, and Draco and Cormac were far from her enemies, unlikely as it seemed.

After, she pulled Ginny out of the kitchen and the front door, closing it behind them.

Taking a moment to cast a Silencing Charm around them, she said, "You need to leave."

Ginny rolled her eyes, but appeared too excited to get really angry. "Of course, but blimey, Hermione—you have got to tell me how this happened or I'll go mad."

"I will. Later ."

"C'mon," Ginny pleaded. "Give me something . Who're you going to choose?"

Raising her eyebrows, she asked, "Who says I'm going to choose?"

"Uh, those two wizards in there who look like they can barely contain themselves from pissing on the sofa." Ginny kept on at Hermione's blush. "Now, Malfoy's a dish, and I bet you two could work a lot of old anger out, if you know what I mean, but I saw you kiss Cormac and there was a lot of heat there. The burn down buildings type."

"Dish? Who is teaching you all this?"


"I do not even want to know the context around that lesson."

"You have sensitive ears anyway. Now, what in Merlin's soggy beard are you doing out here when there are two fine-looking wizards in your kitchen?"

"I am currently debating the merits of our friendship."

"Get on with it, then, and go shag one of them!" Ginny released the spell and pushed her toward the door. "Go!"

Hermione went.

As soon as she closed the door behind her, she felt the awkwardness filling her normally comfortable flat. She wondered if Ginny was watching the door to make sure she couldn't run. Probably.

Her light-hearted attitude from merely an hour before seemed a lifetime away. Hermione mustered what little she had, and walked into her kitchen like she was walking the plank.

Draco and Cormac had disposed of the biscuits, and someone had even dumped the entire platter. She shrugged. Nothing she wouldn't have done.

As soon as she entered the kitchen proper, Cormac pushed out the chair between him and Malfoy with his foot and said, "Sit down. We need to talk."

"So you made a bet. On me."

Cormac shrugged. Neither of them looked contrite, though they did appear chagrined that they had both won the bet to kiss her—consensual, with tongue—within a week.

Hermione was not very happy with this turn of events.

"Why would you make a bet in the first place?"

"It gets pretty dull sitting on the bench, and since we both were there after our collision, and we're both attracted to you…" Malfoy shrugged. Next time one of them did it, she was going to Body-Bind them. "It was a given."

"And why should I not kick you both out after cursing you asexual?"

Draco flinched. Cormac didn't.

"You could," he agreed in a conciliatory tone, "or you could try us both out."

"Could," she said, the only thing she could say in the face of the overwhelming arousal that had assaulted her. She experimentally licked her lips and watched both men drop their gazes to it. She shifted, rubbing her thighs together to ease the ache the simple act ignited. Things had suddenly taken a turn for that burn down buildings type of heat that Ginny spoke of.

"Do you mean separately?" Draco asked, looking at Hermione in a way that she knew he didn't care about the answer he received.

That insolent smile tugged at Cormac's mouth again. "She'll need more than you can give her alone, Malfoy."

Draco stood slowly, eyes capturing hers until he walked out of her vision. Hands came down on her shoulders, cold fingers brushing against her neck. "You just know she's too much to handle alone," he said, his mouth next to her ear. How Malfoy had noticed her fixation with his voice, she didn't know, didn't care as long as he didn't shut up. "Isn't that right, Hermione?" he whispered, breath tickling her ear.

"Yes," she answered in a whisper and didn't remember the question he asked.

Cormac leaned back in his chair, watching them like a big jungle cat with prey. "Why don't you help her out of those bulky robes, Malfoy, and show us what I can't manage alone?"

"I don't know, Hermione, do you think he can handle it?"

Hermione didn't know is she could handle it. She was a girl used to vanilla sex, liked vanilla sex even. It was safe, it was predictable, and it was not with—not one but two —men who activated her flight-or-fight instincts. Her heart told her that she knew these men, could trust them right now if not forever, but her mind was telling her that she knew what these men were like as boys and they had not been exemplary examples of human beings. She was always a woman who followed her mind.

Hermione made a decision.

She stood and Draco moved the chair out the way before his arms went around her body from behind and he began unbuttoning her robes, stroking each expanse of skin as it appeared. So, so slowly, and Cormac was watching her with eyes like a thunderstorm.

She didn't know which she enjoyed more, but knew that twenty years from now she would look back and call this memory the most erotic moment of her life. Draco's fingers ghosting over the tops of her breasts as he pulled her robes off; the very stillness of Cormac, belying his fear of the sight disappearing if he blinked as her robes fluttered to the ground. Both of them, all of them, focused on her , Hermione Granger.

She was boyish, she knew it, with only a handful for breasts and no hips to speak of, not like Ginny and nowhere near Lavender, but both men were looking at her as if she'd just transformed into Fleur.

Nervousness fled; Hermione said, "A bed would be preferable if this is going to happen."

"Later," Cormac said, and his voice was a growl. "C'mere."

With a gentle push, she went and Cormac's hands grabbed her hips before she knew exactly what was happening—and she thought maybe his lap like Draco had, but no, he was hoisting her onto the table, and moving his chair so he was situated between her spread legs.

She tried frantically to remember if she shaved that morning. Cormac ran his hand up her shin and nuzzled her knee. She had. Thank Merlin.

His hand caressed her thigh, tickling behind her knee until he lifted her left leg and slowly slipped off her heel. He repeated the process with the other shoe, and Hermione had to close her eyes to savour the intensity. The shoes dropped to the floor with a clatter as loud as her heart. She was sure they could hear it; it made such an almighty sound.

She leaned back on her hands, pushing something out of her way. She heard something crash, and she was about to turn around and see what she had broke but Cormac was looking up at her from between her legs, eyes blacker than a demon's, and Draco was behind him, his gaze locked on her as he shucked his robes and started on the clothes underneath.

She could have come right then.

Maybe this wasn't what Ginny had meant about moving on with her life, but Hermione was going to take it as it came. She tangled her fingers in Cormac's light brown hair as he leaned forward, and the first open-mouthed kiss on her sensible cotton knickers made her arch from the heat of it.

She'd never be able to eat at this table again.

"Gods," she murmured as Cormac pushed her knickers aside and breathed on her clit.

"Glad you think so," Draco said, and she realized she had let her eyes fall shut and Draco was now beside her, fingers tickling up her ribs.

"She wasn't talking about you, you ponce. All you've done is undress her and rub off."

Cormac's lips brushed her sensitive flesh with every word, and Hermione knew the real meaning of making love to words.

Draco cupped her breasts in his palms, and his eyes gleamed with greed as he watched Cormac in the v of her legs.

"Oh, I've shown my worth," he said, his voice raw. "How does she taste, McLaggen?"

"Sweet, rich." He spread her legs further, putting them over his shoulders, and—she could think no other word for it—dived for her cunt. "Brilliant."

"You always were a perfectionist." Draco cupped the back of her head and kissed her. Tenderly, gently, not like Cormac's frantic possession between her legs. His tongue swept across her lips, touched her tongue, and he tasted like peppermint. She almost giggled—to know that he had freshened his breath after Ginny's disgusting biscuits, but she couldn't, because his hand tugged at her hair and her curls were spilling out of the prim bun she'd put it in that morning. And then his other hand, fanning across her chest and sliding under her bra to cup her.

His fingers were like a gentle wind as he pinched and pulled her nipple, and she moaned. The roughness of Cormac; Draco's calm possession—she wanted more, one or the other, because there was only so much teasing she could take in three days.

She arched again, pressing her mouth hard against Draco's, and their teeth clashed together and finally he gave her what she wanted.

She ran a hand down his chest and learned that his nipples were just as sensitive as hers. She pulled away from his mouth to further study this new piece of information. He hissed at first touch of tongue, and her mouth was guided by the noises he made, entirely vulgar and delicious.

The table was too tall for her to reach anything other than his chest, and Hermione had to stop and gasp as Cormac did something particularly interesting with his tongue anyway, so it was an easy segue into reaching down and wrapping her hand around Draco's cock.

She remembered Ron telling her he liked her to spread around his pre-come, so her hand wouldn't chafe him—she also decided that that was the last time she would think about Ron that day.

Draco's hand tightened in her hair and his other hand came down to wrap around hers, showing her the long, steady strokes he liked best, her thumb rolling around the smooth skin of the head with every upstroke.

Draco pushed her head away from his cheat with a rueful smirk and suddenly cold air was hitting her formerly trapped breasts. He pushed her bra up and out of the way before leaning down and taking a nipple into his mouth.

Entranced with the blond hair falling over his face, she was watching when his cheeks hollowed out, sucking hard at her breasts. Then, she felt is again, only this time between her legs.

She went to scream, but couldn't say a word, just babble soundlessly.

She looked over Draco and saw him, his eyes lust-glazed and wicked as he looked back. An insistent, hard tapping on her clit with the flat on his tongue, she was arching, coming, with such force both Draco and Cormac had to hold down her hips.

"Easy girl," Cormac murmured before returning to his task—she blushed to realize that he was avoiding her too-sensitive clit to Iclean her down there.

"Relax," Draco whispered and thrust lightly. Hermione realized that somewhere along the way her hand had stopped moving. She looked up at him through thick lashes, and her blush deepened at the strain she could see in his face.

Draco chuckled lowly. "Look how pretty, McLaggen. Spread out on a table with a star Quidditch player between her legs and another in her hand and still she blushes."

"Very pretty," he murmured against her clit, and his eyes were as dark as coal. "But I see only one star player here."

Exasperated with them, Hermione said, "If you two want to fuck, go ahead. I'll wait."

Draco and Cormac exchanged looks and then Draco's hand was going down her stomach, past Cormac's mouth and then long, wicked fingers were pushing into her.

Hermione cried out, suddenly on the brink again, Cormac now sucking at her still-sensitive clit and now Draco's fingers curling and rubbing something that eased the ache and incited it both.

"What do you say, McLaggen?" he asked, his voice as dark as the best chocolate. "You think this is punishment enough?"

"It's not punishment if she likes it," Cormac pointed out with a long slow lick. Hermione moaned, slow heat building inside her, slow but steady until it was like holding back a tsunami. Just a little more and she would—Cormac pulled away along with Draco and they came to stand beside each other next to the table.

She was spread out on the kitchen table, bra pushed up and knickers pushed aside, and they were staring at her with identical shuttered looks.

"Oh, please," Hermione said without thinking, her thighs rubbing together without conscious consent.

"Please what?"

"What do you want us to do?"

"Please, please let me come." Despite her mortification, her hands were traveling down her body, intent on getting her own pleasure if they wouldn't.

Cormac was watching shamelessly, so Draco was the one to catch hold of her hands in a tight grip. Somewhere along the way they had switched spots—Draco near her legs and Cormac by her side. Both were still hard, though Cormac—had been too busy, her mind supplied, and she averted her eyes—hadn't yet undressed.

They exchanged another inscrutable look and her heart sped double time when Draco slipped between her legs. He tugged at her hands and she thought how utterly debauched she must looked, lying back on the table with legs open wide.

"Take your bra off," he ordered, dropping her hands as soon as she sat up.

"A bed—"

"—would be preferred," he finished. Obliging him, she lifted her hips at his impatient tugging. "But it's too late for that now."Hermione bit her lip and watched as he pulled her knickers off and unceremoniously dropped them on the floor. After another moment, she reached behind her and unclasped her bra. Letting it fall to the table, she heard a noise to the side and realized she had almost—almost—forgotten Cormac.

"Yeah," he said, and yeah again, sounding as if someone had just hit him with a brick.

Then she felt warmth in her womb and what she assumed was Draco's wand dropped to the floor as he pushed into her.

It hurt at first, and her beginning orgasm had fled log ago, but she could feel her sheath clutching at the skin of his cock. Pushing and pushing, relentless as the sea, until finally that blond thatch of curls she'd seen what seemed just yesterday was rubbing against her clit.

There was a light sheen of sweat about his upper lip. Hermione licked it off. He threw her an arrogant smirk before bending and lifting her legs over his elbows. The new angle sent her spinning and she wondered how her orgasm could come back so fast, but she realized that it had always been there, just simmering and waiting for them to catch up to her. It was a slow burning through her cunt, and her legs jerked over his elbows and she was doubly glad her flat was soundproof, because she could have broken through the Silencing Charms thought sheer force of will.

"Shit," Draco panted, his face scrunched up in pain, and, "shit, shit, shit," until he was slamming into her, his bullocks slapping against her ass with vulgar sounds that made her orgasm all the longer.

Gasping for breath, holding onto Draco tightly, she looked around for Cormac, not wanting to leave him out. He was sitting in her former chair, slowly fisting his cock while he watched them. She moaned and her cunt further tightened around Draco until he slowed his frantic thrusting.

"Fuck," he ground out. "You're just begging for it, aren't you?"

She didn't think it was medically possible, to have so many orgasms in suck quick succession. She clenched her eyes shut, her mouth dropping open as Draco tilted his hips and it was almost painful inside her, but she didn't care, couldn't care, wouldn't care. It felt too good to care.

It shifted something inside of her, or broke something, and Hermione clutched at his neck, leaving crescent-shaped marks, and her mind was blank to everything but her own body until he jerked once, hard, and she heard a ragged half-whimper before wet and warmth filled her.

It trickled down her thighs as Draco released her legs, and then he was picking her up and sitting her in Cormac's lap, legs to either side, aligned with his cock and she was filled again and Malfoy fell to his knees in front of them, and his mouth, oh Merlin, his mouth was against her clit and Cormac was pushing up, pulling her down, and, and, and…

They did make it to her bedroom by the time night arrived, but only just.

Her bed was on fire, or she was, she didn't know, and Draco's eloquence was lost to grunts and moans, and Cormac was reduced to fucks .

And it was good there was a Silencing Charm surrounding her flat.

With all the wonders of advanced technology, Cormac took one look at her microwave, snorted, and started opening cupboards looking for the teapot.

"Be a lot faster in the microwave," Hermione called out from the sofa.

"You're English, woman. You're supposed to be proud of your tea, not degrading it with fancy contraptions."

Hermione thought he was just too proud to admit he didn't know how to use it. She wondered at that—she had occasionally wished that Ron was more like Harry; proud of his accomplishments, but never boastful, always humble—and now she had just had a day—and half a night—of amazing sex with two of the most prideful men she had ever met, and it was exciting rather than tiring. She wondered if that feeling would last, then discarded it. One day at a time.

Ginny opened her door next, disheveled as always in the morning. Tiredness left her, however, and her eyes opened wide to see Cormac, dressed only in his pants, puttering around the kitchen. Hermione repressed the insane urge to grin and merely turned to the classified section of the Daily Prophet with feigned disinterest.

Ginny, instead of going for her morning digestive biscuit, sat slowly down beside Hermione, her mouth open unattractively.

"Damn, I see why you chose him," she said in awe, her eyes on the tight lines of his stomach.

Hermione repeated her line from the day before. "Who says I chose?" Ginny rolled her eyes.

"Granger!" came an indignant shout from her bedroom. Draco opened the door, pulling his shirt on as he distractedly said, "You better have coffee in his infernal place and not made by the same person who made those torture devices mistakenly named biscuits yesterday."

"In the kitchen, top cupboard on the left," Hermione said, and smirked when Ginny began to rub her eyes. "What were you saying, Ginny?"

"Nothing," she said, very faintly. "Nothing at all."

Hermione cried the entire way through the wedding. It was a beautiful service, with ice blue flowers everywhere, the frost magicked on them reflecting the candles and making it look as if Lavender and Ron were being heralded into matrimony by a plethora of stars.

Cormac had his arm around her from the beginning, his arm a comforting weight, but when Draco saw her dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief, he issued a long-suffering sigh and spared her an irritated glance.

A moment later, a discreet hand made its way to her knee and squeezed.

When the ceremony was over, instead of talking to her friends and congratulating the bride and groom like she planned, she was maneuvered to the bar.

"I hate these things," Cormac said as he took a flute of champagne off the bar. "Don't they have anything stronger?"

"As uncivilized as Weasley is—there it is." Draco plucked up a bottle of Ogden's like a stork plucking a fish, and looked at the label. "Not bad, though nothing near my father's collection."

"You didn't have to come if you didn't want to," Hermione pointed out, watching them with a, she thought, patient smile.

Ginny was the only one of her friends that knew about her relationship with the two wizards, and still didn't believe it half the time. Her parents knew, since Hermione was done keeping secrets from them—and she might have exaggerated how common that type of relationship was in the wizarding world—but no one else.

They had their fights, lots of them, and sometimes the occasional separation—they were three very proud people, after all, but they somehow always came back together (usually after she insinuated that their heterosexuality was not set in stone like they claimed) and the make-up sex lasted for weeks. They shared her with grudging respect, but she knew there was love there too.

Hermione sometimes wondered if she should tell them how she felt, but thought they already knew. It'd just make them uncomfortable, anyway, and likely to avoid her for hours.

"Oh, stop looking so besotted, Granger."

"Can't help it," Hermione said. "You know how much I love champagne." She took a sip to justify her point and smirked at Draco.

While Cormac was still busy choosing his poison, Draco came to stand in front of her, his eyes holding hers with an intensity they weren't supposed to show in public. He leaned down, and to others it might have looked like friendly teasing, but Hermione knew the truth.

"Next one's ours," he said. "And it's going to be way better than this."

Cormac had become attuned to Draco's murmuring over the years, and said from her side, "What, your mum's going to plan it?"

Draco shot him a glare with no heat and said, "Anyway. It'll certainly be better than this…"—he paused and looked around the celebration with a sneer—"shindig."

Cormac rolled his eyes and slugged down his firewhiskey without comment.

"I think it's quite pretty," Hermione said. "The orange dishware is a little overboard, I'll admit, but the fairy lights are… very romantic."

"There's more romance in my big toe."

"You have no soul," Hermione said.

"Too right. Heavy, those things."

Hermione smiled and leaned against Cormac, and when she took Draco's with both of hers, she didn't care who was watching.

It had been twenty-nine months, forty weeks, and two days since that fateful Quidditch match that created everything, and Hermione was still taking things one day at a time.