Hermione was a grown woman; she could 100% make sure she bought all her groceries at the correct time and in the right amounts.
Which is why she currently was rummaging through her cupboards looking for anything other than salad dressing, a jar of pickle juice (the pickles having long been eaten), salt and pepper, a container of cinnamon, and the smallest package of biscuits to ever exist in all of Britain.
So maybe she hadn't quite caught up on all the grocery shopping just yet.
She leaned against the kitchen counter and sighed loudly; her stomach rumbling its disappointment all the way to her toes. Her eyes darted to the clock next to the fridge. 1:30 AM. She raised a hand to rub at her weary face. She had stayed up a little too late tonight trying to finish a project due next Wednesday for her department's unveiling. It was Saturday now technically but the stress of the project flooded her brain as she wanted everything to go perfectly. She did work for the Ministry, for Gods sake. Someone had to keep it all together.
She didn't want to order food at this moment. First off, nothing would be open and secondly, it would take too long to be delivered. She ran through all the options in her head as she tapped her fingers on the countertop.
That's right! Down her street one block and then up Waylan Crossing, there was a 24 hour store.
Hermione made up her mind then. To the store she goes, because there was no way in hell her stomach would let her go to bed feeling this empty.
She went back into her bedroom and grabbed her wallet from the bedside table, slipped off her keys from where they hung on their designated hook, and glanced in her mirror. The glance had her pausing to look back. Surely no one she knew would be out at this hour, right? There was no reason why she couldn't go out in her pajamas and bedhead. With one last furitive glance at her hair, she shrugged and started towards her front door. . .
. . .and almost tripped over the lanky legs of her coworker and neighbor, who lay sprawled out in the hallway, as she exited her flat.
"Malfoy? What the bloody-" As the blonde groaned and grunted his way back to life, Hermione tried her best to flatten out the curls she knew were sticking every which way. Of course she had to run into him, of all people, looking like this!
He was sitting up now, eyes squinted tightly in her direction and hand massaging the back of his neck loosely.
"What are you doing, Granger?" She blinked, mouth agape and fingers pointing half heartedly at him.
"What am-what am I doing? Malfoy, I-but you, hold on. Did you just ask me what I'm doing when you're the one laying in the middle of the hallway?" His mouth opened but then quickly shut as he tried to refocus himself.
"Right. Okay. Yes. I am. I am laying in the hallway."
"Uh, could I ask why?" The two stared at each other as a moment passed in silence. Then, Draco stood slowly and leaned back against the wall next to his door.
"Pansy's spending the night," he said, pinching at the bridge of his nose and scrunching his eyes shut for just a second.
"Right." She turned to face the lift before looking back at him. "So, uh, what's that got to do with you laying in the hallway?"
"Well, I was trying to sleep."
"In the middle of the hallway."
"Yes, in the middle of the-Granger, for Gods sake, you're a semi-intelligent woman, put it together yourself!" He threw his hands in the air before crossing them tightly across his chest. She then noticed his own appearance and tried to catch the giggle in her throat before it slipped out.
He looked, well, ridiculous, honestly. She never knew he owned a shirt from New York, and most definitely not one that had the Empire State Building on it with the saying, 'Become King Kong and conquer me'. His sweatpants were much too baggy for his slim hips and he had the ties knotted permanently in order to keep them in place. A hand ran through his hair and she recognized the disheveled mess as one of sleeplessness; matching her own raggedy updo.
"I'm sorry, is something funny to you?" Draco drawled out as his temper rose. When Hermione gently nodded and then burst out in laughter, his cheeks flushed. "Well, what the bloody hell is it?"
"I just, I've never-" Another fit of laughter bubbled from her lips as she clutched her chest. "You always wear crisp, clean-cut suits to work. This is-well, I, wow." She paused, with one more giggle breaching her clamped lips. The softest grin was alit on her face and Draco watched her carefully, still not quite understanding. "You're wearing a shirt from America with a naughty innuendo on it, pants that don't fit, your hair is an absolute mess, and you're sleeping in the hallway instead of your flat!"
"That's not my bloody fault now, is it? And don't even start with how I look right now because you cannot be one to judge." He let his eyes do a sweep of her own nighttime apparel and she blushed under his gaze. "C'mere!" He swung his head in the direction of his door and went to open it quietly. She moved to stand by him as the door slowly creaked open. Not a second later, did she finally hear the loud moaning of Draco's flatmate, Blaise, and his fiancee. Her face twisted in disgust and, pleased by her reaction, Draco closed the door.
"Okay, I understand now. That was disgusting."
"You're telling me! I can't stand it," he bemoaned before dropping back down to sit on the floor. He caught his head from banging back against the wall as he slumped. "Leave me to sleep on the floor like a dog, Granger. I'm exhausted."
She wrung her hands together as she thought. Draco had closed his eyes, head tilted against his left shoulder and hands settled loosely in his lap. He looked ridiculous. . .but, also quite pathetic. Knowing that he had work tomorrow, since he was working with their boss to head the event for Wednesday, only made her feel a little more pity than she should've given her own current situation.
But, she also understood that flatmates-especially those in relationships-could be terrible at times, even when you're the best of friends. She'd had her fair share of hearing Ginny having a go with Harry in the wee hours of the night.
Now that she thought about it, Ginny was actually spending the night at Harry's for once. Surely she wouldn't mind if Draco borrowed her bed for a few hours? Hermione would promise to change the sheets.
Her stomach grumbled, causing Draco to pop open an eye to look at her.
"What's up with you, then? Why are you awake and outside your flat?" He muttered.
"I forgot to do the shopping and I'm starving."
"Pretty sure you're not starving, Granger. Just a bit peckish, perhaps."
"To what? Your complaining stomach?"
"Oh, shut it for once, will you?" She threw her hands in the air, firmly agitated. "I was going to suggest that you could spend the night in Gin's room and even come with me to get some food, but if you're going to act like the usual prick you are, you can just forget about it!"
Draco stared at her, both eyes now opened wide.
"You, you what?"
"I'm trying to help you, you prat."
"I-uh, okay, then."
"So will you finally shut it and get up?" He didn't respond but gathered himself to rise to his feet. She gave a solid nod in response to his questioning look and headed off for the lift. Draco followed quietly, eyes watching her movements carefully.
"So. . ."
"What is it, Malfoy?"
"Where are we headed?" They entered the empty lift and Hermione pressed the button for the lobby floor.
"That 24 hour store on Waylan."
"Okay." The silence was suffocating. They hadn't been left alone in a private setting since their school days, which had been about a decade ago. Both of their parents being in the upper class spectrum, they had ended up at the same boarding school and graduated together. It had been a shock when, almost five years later, she had walked into her building's lobby to see Draco and Blaise trying to fit a dresser into the lift. Then, of course, it had been even more shocking for her to walk into the Ministry for a job a year after that and end up being interviewed by Draco since Kingsley Shacklebolt (their head of department and the recently appointed Prime Minister) was out in France working on a different program for the week. Their interactions had only grown more stilted unfortunately. The rivalry between them in school over academics had now petered out into a strange tension whenever they were left alone.
They stepped off the lift, Draco waving Hermione ahead of him and she nodded her thanks. She certainly was thankful because now, walking ahead of him, he couldn't see the blush that tried to darken her cheeks.
"You're going to the wedding, right?" Draco's question caught her off guard and she turned to look at him with a confused expression.
"Blaise and Pansy. He did invite you to the wedding, didn't he?"
"Well, yes, he did."
"So you're going," he stated as if it weren't a question.
"Well, I hope to. I just have to, well, I need to find a date." Her hands wrung together as they walked. The sidewalk was dimly lit by the streetlamps and Hermione hoped he couldn't see the blush still staining her cheeks as she thought about the wedding. It had been a while since her last relationship and Draco had been there to see the entire thing fizzle out. Finding a date wouldn't have been particularly difficult if it weren't for the fact that Ron would be at the wedding as one of the groomsmen. He and Blaise worked together in law enforcement and had grown close, especially when Harry had left the precinct to try his hand at being a professor.
"I understand that," Draco said, casting a quick glance at her as they turned onto Waylan Crossing. "I haven't quite found a date myself, really. Too many women; so little time. You understand, Granger."
"Oh, yes, of course. I one hundred percent understand the struggle of finding a good woman in this city, Malfoy, because I'm quite gay," she drawled. He paused.
"So, that's the real reason why you and Weasley broke up. You were both too gay for each other." Hermione stopped and stared at him, eyes open wide.
"First off - Ron's bisexual, not gay. And, just because he's dating Cedric, doesn't mean I've miraculously become a lesbian."
"That's good to hear. I was about to be worried."
"Why would you be worried?" Draco's mouth opened, but he had no response. He simply pointed at the sign for the 24 hour store and started for the door. Hermione shook her head in confusion but followed nonetheless. The two strolled the aisles in silence. When they met up at the register with their finds, Draco insisted on paying for it all.
"You're lending me a bed for the night, Granger, it's the least I can do."
"These are my groceries, Malfoy. I can pay for my own groceries!"
"Oi," the older gentleman manning the counter called out over the two's argument. "Could someone just pay? It doesn't matter who; I'll take it from either of you." As Hermione opened her mouth to continue, Draco shoved his card into the man's hand. The swipe, chime, and click of the transaction being completed left Hermione speechless. After having his card returned to him, Draco clasped their two bags in his right hand and grabbed Hermione's hand with his left.
"Have a good night, sir. Thank you," he said, nodding his head at the man, who nodded back in acknowledgement, before dragging Hermione out to the street.
"What was that?"
"What do you mean, Granger?"
"You just took over everything!"
"I apologize then for buying you food."
"No, no, no. You can't be nice." Draco stopped them from walking. His fingers were tightly interlocked with her own and she looked down at them before bringing her eyes up to his face.
"Why can't I be nice?" He seemed genuinely confused and she almost ended the conversation there because she didn't feel like getting into another argument around two in the morning.
"You just, you can't."
"What's your solid reasoning behind this?"
"I, I don't have any."
"So, you're basing this assumption on no logic, no fact, no evidence. Is that what I'm hearing? If so, you have a lousy case in front of you, Granger." The two stared at each other for a minute before Hermione decided to take initiative. With all the strength she had, she turned towards their street and dragged him along with her. After a second of hesitation, he let himself be pulled along by the shorter woman.
When they had finally made it onto their floor, Draco seemed to turn towards his own door before remembering what he was doing. With a quick yank from their clasped hands - courtesy of Hermione -, he faced her door instead as she turned the key in the lock.
"Don't mess with anything in her room and everything's good, yeah?" Hermione closed and locked the door behind the two as their hands separated.
"Right, yeah, won't be a problem," Draco said as he set down the bags on the countertop. He took a look around the small kitchen and smiled at the photographs taped to the fridge. Hermione, Ginny, Harry, and Ron were all bundled up in their school uniforms by the frozen lake from back in their sixth year. There was a clipping from the newspaper highlighting Ginny's wondrous sports career and a photo booth strip of Hermione and Harry when they were about twelve or thirteen. Another photo from their school days was off to the side - their fall dance, fourth year.
Draco sucked in a breath as his eyes dropped to see Hermione holding a small bouquet of pink marigolds that somehow matched perfectly to her periwinkle dress. She was laughing, eyes directed to the left somewhere behind the camera. Her date stood at her side, one arm linked through her own and his free hand fiddled with the boutonnière pinned to his lapel. His own shy smile was pointed down at her. Dark eyes were framed with thick eyebrows that scrunched up in contentment. Draco recognized him as a highly popular athlete from a neighboring school - Viktor Krum. Draco had admired the man in youth even though they were only three years apart in age. He had a fleeting thought of how Hermione had managed to capture him as her date before his thoughts were interrupted.
"Would you like a sandwich or some crisps?" Hermione spoke from behind him and he turned to see her slathering butter onto a slice of bread and already munching on a few crisps. A smile started to creep across his face and he looked down.
"Sure, that sounds nice, thanks." Hermione grunted in response and continued making the sandwiches. Draco slipped into the living room. There were even more photographs in here and he found it amusing that quite a few of them were of just Ginny and Harry. On the coffee table however, there was a large frame showcasing a photo of Hermione and Ginny together. The two girls were at a pub, their arms thrown over each other's shoulders. Ginny's lip was curled up as if she were making a crude joke and Hermione was doubled over in laughter, hair pulled back which made it easier to tell just how hard she was really laughing. Her teeth shone pearl white, crinkles dotted along her scrunched nose and forehead, eyes shut tightly. Her fingers were clamped around a beer bottle which was almost entirely tilted 90 degrees. Draco didn't think he had ever seen her laugh so hard before in the entire time he had known her.
"Here you go." Hermione had entered the room, plates in her hands piled high with food. He smiled and leaned back. "Were you looking at my photos?"
"Well, yeah. I've never seen you look this happy before," he explained, pointing at the photo as he accepted the plate. She sat down on the couch behind him and motioned for him to join her.
"I was also totally drunk out of my mind and recently graduated, so of course I was happy." She shrugged, taking a large bite out of her sandwich. He followed suit, chewing for a minute.
"So, you were really excited to get out of there, huh?"
"That photo-" she pointed to the one he had been looking at. "-was actually from my university graduation. The one over there-" her finger pointed at a frame hanging next to the doorway. "-was from Hogwarts." Draco moved to go look at it before stopping to look back at her. She shrugged and motioned him towards it, taking another bite. He stood and made his way towards the smaller photo with his sandwich still in hand.
"But, yeah. I was excited to get out. I loved school, really loved school, but I just couldn't handle everything going on there." Hermione sighed, pulling her legs up onto the cushions as she watched Draco lean over to look at the photo. It was of her and Ron, dressed for the graduation party his mother had thrown for the three of them. He had his arms wrapped around her waist and lips pressed to her cheek, mouth curled up in a smile as he did so. She had her eyes closed with a soft smile gracing her lips as she laid a hand on his chest and had her other arm snaked around his neck. A banner hung behind them and sparkled with an immense amount of golden glitter. Bright red lettering spelled out 'Congratulations'.
"Everything?" Draco questioned as he straightened up and looked back at her. She was watching him, fingers curled around her half-eaten sandwich tightly.
"I, I was struggling to finish off the year with my usual grades-"
"I remember that. I would gloat every day because I was, like, two points away from being the top of the class."
"Yes, well, I was struggling because my family life had taken a rough turn." Hermione's face was stony. Draco immediately flushed.
"What, what happened, if I may ask?" He had moved to sit back down on the sofa with her. She adjusted her position to turn towards him and set down her sandwich.
"I. . .I had to move in with my grandmother for a few months because my parents left for a business trip in Australia. Some sort of dental convention thing, I don't remember, but they were really excited for all the opportunities that would come with it. My grandmother ended up passing away in her sleep from health complications - something was wrong with her heart -, so when my parents tried to come back home early, they ended up passing away as well when, when their plane. . .it crashed. I moved in with the Weasley's about a month and a half before graduation," she choked out quickly. Draco's hand subconsciously reached up to land on her shoulder. His fingers rubbed gently, causing shivers to spiral through the thick fabric of her sweater down into the base layer of her skin. They both paused, each looking at the other. Hermione cleared her throat as she shuffled slightly in her seat and Draco removed his hand sharply.
"I, I'm really sorry. Like, about all that. I'm sorry. I was an ass to you during that time as well, I'm so sorry. I don't really understand the pain, but I can understand that feeling of loss."
"Th-thank you. And, it's fine. Life moves forward." She chanced a glance at him but his eyes were focused on his hands in his lap. "I. . .I heard about your dad. I'm sorry to have heard it."
"It's fine, I appreciate the sentiment though." He sighed. "But, it's just prison. He's not gone forever, but he fucked up and he has to own up to it. He knows that, I know that, we're working through it."
"How's your mum taking it?"
"Mother? She's. . .she's getting used to it." He didn't continue and Hermione knew not to press.
"We should get to bed, it's-" she raised her eyes to the clock on the wall. "Shit, it's almost three AM. Don't you have work at like eight?"
"I think I'm scheduled for nine actually, but you have a point. Sleep would be a really good idea right about now." The two stood at the same time and began cleaning up the mess they had made. Hermione showed Draco the door to Ginny's room and disappeared behind her own after mumbling a 'good night' in his direction. He simply nodded as her door shut and entered Ginny's room.
The girl seriously loved yellow. Yellow comforter, yellow curtains, sunflower decorations, and fifty million golden banners bearing the crest of her football team. Draco shook his head. Dear God, how did she get to sleep? It seemed like the room exploded in light. He made his way over to the bathroom and used it before coming back into the room to see a large orange cat perched on the bed. Draco blinked twice, looking from the slightly open bedroom door to the cat which had taken up the center of Ginny's bed.
"Uh, hello?" He took a step towards the bed. The cat gazed up at him lazily and let out a sly 'mreow' before it began to lick its paw. Draco was very confused. Since when did the girls own a cat?
He made his way over to the bed and held his hand out, letting the cat smell him. However, the cat seemed to have no interest whatsoever. It continued to bathe itself and Draco stood there for a moment thinking.
There was no room for him to lay with where the cat had lain itself. The couch in the main room was not made up for anyone to sleep on and it would be hard to explain to Hermione why he had chosen the couch over the bed in the morning. He could just ask her to move the cat herself since he didn't seem to get anywhere with it, and he didn't quite feel like getting himself bitten or scratched.
His fingers tapped against his thigh as he thought about the last option. It had only been about ten minutes. Surely, she couldn't be asleep already.
The cat let out a yawn, stretching out even more and closing its eyes contentedly. Okay, Draco was going to get Hermione.
The first time he knocked on her door, it was much too quiet. After a few more louder knocks, he heard a grumble before the door was wrenched open.
"Y'know, just because I don't have work tomorrow, doesn't mean I don't absolutely adore sleeping, Malfoy." Hermione's hair was even messier than before and it took Draco only a second to realize she had taken off her sweatpants. He forced his eyes to look up at the top of the door frame as his mouth worked to form a sentence.
"Uh, right, yeah, well, I love sleeping as well, Granger, and I do have work in the morning. Only problem is, you see, there's this chubby cat taking up the whole bed and-"
"Oh, fuck, Crookshanks!" Hermione pushed past him to run into Ginny's room. Draco exhaled as he listened to Hermione chastising the cat. It had taken him by surprise to see her so undone. This whole night was a huge surprise he couldn't seem to get away from for even a second.
"Don't give me that look; I know this is your spot when Ginny's out but, right now, this needs to be Draco's spot, okay?" Hermione's voice carried out of the room as she tried to make the cat budge. A buzz filled Draco's head and slowly leaked down his body upon hearing Hermione say his first name for the first time. It wasn't a bad feeling. "Crookshanks, please!" There was a loud hiss and an angry 'mreow' before Hermione exited the room with a glare.
"He's being stubborn."
"I see that." Draco raised an eyebrow at her mutinous expression.
"One day, one really bad day, I'm going to just lock him in his crate for the night. Teach him a lesson he'll never forget. God, I spoil him so much sometimes that it's just gotten so bad now trying to get him to do anything."
"I'd hate to see what kind of spoiling you'd do to a child," Draco joked.
"Oh, shut it, Malfoy," Hermione retorted, rolling her eyes, but she still let out a small laugh. "C'mon, you can crash in mine."
"I-what?" Draco froze. Was she. . .?
"We're building a wall of pillows between us because I do not need to deal with a sleeper like Ginny; she kicks something ferocious. And, if you talk like Ron does or snore like Harry, you're going to get a mouthful of pillow," she warned, waving a finger in his face before opening her door farther and motioning him inside. "C'mon now, we don't have all morning."
"Look, I could just take the couch-"
"What? No way; that thing is not the best to sleep on, especially when you've got to go to work and put up with those blithering idiots. Been there, done that and I'm not going to put you through that terrible ordeal. Now, will you hurry it up? My eyes are shutting here!"
"O-okay, if you're one hundred percent certain. . .?"
"I am, Malfoy, it's fine. I wouldn't allow it if I wasn't." He shut the door as he entered and watched as she began to build the pillow barricade. As she readied the bed to her liking, he let his eyes wander.
Hermione's room was much darker than Ginny's. The walls were a brilliant maroon shade and the furniture was all mahogany wood. There were strands of christmas lights around the perimeter of the room that were the current light source and the desk in front of the window was scattered in an organized mess of paperwork, pens and pencils, sticky notes slapped onto bare surfaces, and her laptop front and center. In one corner of the room stood an ornate full length mirror and the wall surrounding it was covered in photographs.
From where Draco stood, he saw more photos of Hermione and Harry in their younger years, Ron and Hermione holding hands as they laughed at the camera, Hermione and Ginny at more pubs and various parties, then the four of them gathered for quirky group photos. A few people he didn't recognize had a photo with her pinned haphazardly in any openings it seemed she could find. There were two or three photos of Hermione with Viktor that were much more recent and Draco felt a heat drop into his stomach and a quiet jolt of jealousy.
He shook his head, trying to rid the feeling, and turned to see Hermione finally crawling back into her bed on one side of the barrier.
"Let's go then; lots of sleep to catch up on." Hermione snuggled into her personal pillow and patted the bunched up pile beside her. Draco moved slowly, careful not to do anything that might make her uncomfortable. As he pulled the blanket up to his chin, he inhaled deeply and sunk into the bed farther. The scent of clean linen, honeycomb, and a soft hint of vanilla quickly doused Draco into a deep sleep.
Hermione woke up to an odd feeling in her stomach. It was as if there was a force sitting on her belly, pushing down just so slightly that it wasn't painful but not altogether pleasant either. She turned her head to the side, keeping her eyes closed, and stretched out her legs. Reaching a hand up to grab whatever was on her, she paused.
That was an arm. It was a very nice arm. She let her fingers skim across the light dusting of hair on said arm. Huh. Smooth.
Wait a minute.
Why was there an arm across her stomach?
Her eyes immediately flew open to find Draco's face mere inches from her own. In an instant, her body tensed and she held her breath. The pillow barricade she had built was dismantled. There was a pillow on the floor next to her and she assumed the others were either kicked to the end of the bed or thrown off from his side.
His face was currently smushed against her own pillow; mouth agape and eyelids fluttering as he dreamed. She allowed herself to stare. His top lip was thin and the cupid's bow was deeply enunciated while his bottom lip dropped into a deep pout. To her surprise, his eyelashes weren't as pale as his hair, which was currently matted against his forehead. They were long and curled against his cheeks with a soft straw color that matched his eyebrows.
Hermione let herself exhale slowly through her nose after realizing that she had been holding her breath for quite some time. Draco's eyelids squeezed tighter shut and the arm around Hermione's middle tightened its grip. He breathed out and Hermione turned her face away, nose scrunching at the onslaught of morning breath.
"Hrm. . ." Hermione turned back to see Draco finally forcing his eyes to open. "Oh, oh my God!" When he saw how he had unconsciously positioned himself in the middle of the night, he flew back away from her and toppled off the bed.
"Are you okay?" She was leaning over the bed to look at him only a second later and he grunted in response.
"I'm sorry about that. I didn't realize that I was-"
"Malfoy, it's fine, don't worry about it. You didn't keep me up all night so consider it forgotten." He nodded, hands rubbing at his face. She turned to look at the clock on her nightstand. "What time did you need to be there by?"
"What time is it?"
"You've gotta go, Kingsley is going to kill you." Draco's face drained of color as he thought about the last time he was late to work.
"Damn it, I'm gonna be stuck on filing duty for weeks. I'm sorry to just rush out of here, Granger, but you understand." He scrambled to his feet and rushed out of her room. Hermione sighed before pressing her fingertips to her temples, trying to massage away the strange feeling that currently rested in her chest. She climbed out of bed and set about remaking it.
"Hey, uh, oh. . ." Draco had peeked his head through the doorway, eyes falling on Hermione bent over grabbing at all the pillows scattered across her floor. He had forgotten that she wasn't wearing pants and the reminder flooded his brain with static. She stood back upright and turned to see Draco staring at her legs.
"Uh, right, yeah," he muttered, shaking his head and meeting her gaze. "I was going to ask: would you like to be my date to the wedding?"
"Are you serious?" A pillow dropped from her arms and she clutched the other two tighter to her chest.
"Why would I joke about that? I just figured - I need a date, you need a date, people are stupid and annoying to deal with, and I think we've reached past the awkward 'we-went-to-secondary-school together-and-hated-each-other' phase."
"You've got a point."
"Sure, yeah, let's do it."
"Alright, yeah, great." The two stared at each other for a moment. A loud 'mreow' shattered the silence as Crookshanks made his arrival, whining for breakfast to be served.
"Ah, yeah, I should probably get going. Kingsley'll have my head."
"Don't get yourself murdered," she called out as he left once more. "I'd like to have a date to that wedding!"