Idle minutes ticked by, marked by the click of the Muggle clock she’d stuck on the wall, counting down slowly - oh so slowly - to the end of the Godric forsaken Friday. Hermione had been at work since well before 6:00 a.m., and yet, a stack of parchment that felt a mile high, but was really closer to a foot, loomed on the corner of her desk.
While in school, lists of assignments and colour-coded times tables were things that had given her academic experience a sense of purpose. As an adult, she was beginning to dread the never ending piles of missives and files sitting in her ‘to do’ pile. At Hogwarts, there had always been an end in sight, a light at the end of the tunnel when the term ended and grades were handed out. Working her arse off to get the final O gave her a rush. In the bowels of the Ministry, however, behind her nondescript desk in the Department of Magical Creatures, there were no grades and even when she put in extra effort and went above and beyond, even a pat on the back was a rare occurrence.
Knowing the Minster personally had some perks, the least of which being the ease in which she landed her current job. There was no lengthy interview process, no panel to approve her or background check to pass. Though she thought she knew what she wanted out of life, sitting in her dorm and dreaming of her future, of making a difference, the reality of the scratched up desk in the back of the department covered in inconsequential memos was hardly what anyone might call a dream.
Heaving a sigh when the clock finally struck five, Hermione pushed her chair back, gathering a few files, and stood to leave, shouldering her bag and smoothing the wrinkles in her skirt from sitting nearly all day long. A quick goodbye to a few coworkers later, she was on the lifts, heading towards the Floo network to escape her own personal hell for a blessed two full days. The doors jolted open, and in walked someone with a shock of white-blond hair she had to crane to see over the people in front of her. Shuffling farther back, she waited patiently as he shouldered his way through the crowd.
This game they played was really quite thrilling.
Keeping her eyes trained on the back of a burly man’s head, studying the way he combed one patch of still growing hair up and over in a poor attempt at masking his bald spot, Hermione let one hand drop to the side. In no time at all, a finger wrapped around her own and she had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep the smile threatening to split across her cheeks at bay.
With a screech, the lift skidded to a halt and she cleared her throat, wrapping her arms back around the stack of folders she’d taken for the weekend, leaving the surrounding crowd none the wiser as she felt a finger toying with the pocket of her robes. Clearing her throat, Hermione exited the lifts and her heels clicked across the polished marble floors to one of the Floos. Mumbling her destination, she stepped into the green flames and disappeared.
“Erm... firewhisky please.” The bartender lifted a messy brow but she was undeterred, brandishing her beaded bag and pulling out a few coins to lay against the bartop. “And keep them coming please.”
One drink turned into two, the roar of the crowd muffled by the haze of her buzz. Thankfully, no one recognized her. Being one-third of the Golden Trio was positively exhausting. Hermione may have helped defeat the darkest wizard of their age, but at the time, she hadn’t expected the infamy to follow her around. When traipsing through dangerous woods with Snatchers on their tails, she hadn’t even considered what fame would follow her for the rest of her life, what little privacy she might have, and what that would mean for any future endeavors—romantic or otherwise.
For that reason, among others, including but not limited to her red-headed ex-boyfriend’s latest girlfriend drunkenly declaring her love for the man just a few feet away, Hermione had nearly fled the establishment as soon as she’d peered inside a little while before. But it had been a hellacious day and Godric be damned, she needed a bloody drink.
Charming her hair a pale shade of blonde and transfiguring a pair of wire-rimmed glasses out of a hairpin, she’d transfigured her facial features to appear unrecognizable. Last but not least, she’d charmed her clothes and altered them a bit before entering the Leaky. There was something soothing about existing amongst people she knew without anyone recognizing her. Back in school, being invisible was hardly a problem for the bushy haired bookworm at first, but as her friendship with The Boy Who Lived developed, so did the mention of her name and the seedy looks shot her way.
Sitting at the bar, surrounded by familiar faces, she took a deep drink of the amber liquid and focused on the burn as it sank into her empty stomach. A warm palm slid across her lower back and Hermione nearly jumped off the barstool before spinning around to meet a pair of silver eyes and a smirk she’d recognize anywhere.
Leaning down, he whispered, “Don’t worry, Granger. I won’t tell anyone. Really, I’m rather impressed with your tolerance and though I much prefer those tamed curls you sport nowadays, I have to say this look is quite fetching.”
Her mouth dropped open as she grasped for a retort. Was her charm wearing off? Were her features rearranging themselves as they spoke? “How did you—”
Tapping twice against the beaded back slung over her shoulder, she sighed. Of all the people in the entire Wizarding World, of course, Draco bloody Malfoy would recognize the one thing she forgot to change. Narrowing her eyes, she didn’t miss the way his fingertips lingered against her lower back, stroking small circles against the curve of her spine. “What do you want, Malfoy?”
“Oh, it’s Malfoy now? I seem to remember you calling me Draco when—”
Reaching up, she clasped a hand over his lips, wobbling slightly on the spinning stool as she felt the pleasant thrum of the alcohol coursing through her body. “We agreed we’d never speak of that again.”
Both pale brows rose as he peeled her hands off his lips, the lingering warmth of his grip on her palm bringing up memories she swore she’d forgotten. “We did and I won’t, but what if I’d like a repeat performance? No words necessary.”
Maybe it was the warmth weighing down her limbs, or the way his touch stoked the fire in her belly from the ill-advised drinks on an empty stomach. Maybe it was simply that it had been so bloody long since she’d felt the reverence of his touch, and even longer since she’d felt the touch of anyone else. Maybe she simply wanted him tonight, a fresh memory to store away and stroke herself to for the next few months. No matter the reason, she smoothed a wobbly palm against the breast pocket of his coat and looked up through thick lashes, muttering her assent.
The next morning, wrapped in nothing but emerald sheets and strong arms, she’d made her first of many, many mistakes.
Worrying her lip between her teeth, Hemione paced in front of her Floo. She’d unfolded the bit of parchment he’d stealthily slipped into her coat pocket, a single digit scrawled against the off-white surface: 8. They’d been doing this long enough that she knew he’d arrive any minute. It was still five minutes til the hour, but she simply couldn’t sit and wait any longer.
While they certainly weren’t a conventional couple, out and about, arm in arm, pictures of their affair plastered across the pages of The Daily Prophet, they’d carved out something between them that was far more than simply shagging. It may have been that at first, a rough shag against the barely closed door of his uptown apartment reminding her of an earlier tryst at the end of their school days. But they’d both been adults that time, and she’d slept in his arms and spent the following day holed up in his room at the mercy of his wicked tongue, and teeth, and well, other parts of him that she found she was quite fond of.
But that’d been months ago, and many days and nights had passed between the ill-advised first shag and the familiarity they now found with each other. Though her stomach still swooped at the mere sight of the man, and the strange fluttering in her chest reached dizzying heights at times, she’d grown accustomed to their weekends alone, basking in each other’s presence and trading joking jabs that lacked any real edge. Truthfully, he kept her on her toes, helped her wade through the mundanity of post-war life, and wholeheartedly supported her endeavors.
She had yet to properly thank him for the Wolfsbane regulation bill that’d passed on the floor of the Wizengamot just the day before. The same one he’d tried to push her to revise early on despite her stubborn insistence that wording was the least of her worries. The same one he’d stayed up nights on end helping her refine and polish until the day it was on the docket. The same one that she truly thought wouldn’t have made it through every stage of criticism if he hadn’t infused it with aristocratic flair.
The green lace itched in places she certainly didn’t want it to, snug against her skin and fitted to her form. It was something she’d picked up on a whim a few months ago and had yet to find the confidence to fill out in front of anyone’s eyes but her own. But tonight called for it, she reasoned, a proper thank you was in order, and she knew exactly who would be on the receiving end of her gratitude. If only he’d bloody arrive already!
Stomping back to her room, the clock mocking her impatient wait with only a minute until his suggested arrival, she grabbed her robes from the back of her desk chair and tossed them over the sheer negligee, giving the appearance she had yet to change after work save for her bare feet. It wasn’t as though she’d never dressed up for him, she had, at least under her clothes, but they never went anywhere public, and more often than not, while he certainly held an appreciation for her sexier undergarments, he preferred her bare beneath him.
The Floo roared to life and the riotous churning of her stomach kicked up several notches. It wasn’t that she thought he wouldn’t like it, quite the opposite, in fact. It was more her own apprehension of the gesture combined with the significance of the date. Exactly one year ago, with charmed blonde hair, she’d fallen into his arms again, and there was a decent possibility she was the only one tracking such ridiculous details. They weren’t in a relationship, at least, not a conventional one. They didn’t even have a label and no one they knew was aware of their affiliation. Placing such significance of a date was mad, but even her rational side couldn’t quell the nervous energy vibrating through her veins.
Padding barefoot out into the hallway, she only made it a few steps before he crashed into her with a force that knocked the breath right from her lungs. Her back hit the wall as he turned them and her fingers threaded through silken strands of fine blond hair as she lost herself to the lilt of his lips.
“You’re late,” she mumbled, pulling back to suck in a breath.
“I know.” The mischievous glint in his silver gaze sent her pulse into overdrive. “Come with me.”
Tugging her along by the hand, Hermione followed Draco’s lead down the narrow hall into her sparsely furnished living room. She’d lived in her apartment long enough to have it properly decorated, she could even afford it if she wanted to, but she found comfort in the mismatched furniture and shelves shoved full of books dotted with pictures of her younger years and those who’d helped form them.
“Okay, close your eyes.”
Arching a brow, she studied the excitement in his movements, the tap of his foot and the way he wrung his hands together, before finally acquiescing and slipping her eyes shut.
“Now hold out your hands.” He sounded like a schoolboy on Christmas morning and a small laugh rose unbidden, spilling from her lips as she complied.
The weight of something placed in her palms surprised her. It was heavy, rigid, and she instantly hoped that he, of all people, would be the first of her friends to give her a gift she truly wanted.
“You can look now.” When she opened her eyes again, a brilliant smile was spread between his pale cheeks and before she even looked at the present she was simply dying to unwrap, she wanted to do something else first. Her fingers slipped up the curve of his jaw, sinking into the baby-fine hairs at the nape of his neck and she dragged him down into a sweet kiss because whatever was currently wrapped in her hands meant something. He’d remembered, too, and that fact alone sent her mind into a tailspin.
“What is it?” She tried to hide her excitement, but the pitch of her voice was a little too high and she was sure with the way her cheeks ached, her smile was a little too broad to mean anything but pure joy.
“Unwrap it and find out.”
Settling on the couch, she felt the dip of his weight on the next cushion over as she slid a finger beneath the ornate bow, tugging it free and setting the gilded adornment on the table. Next, she peeled back the tape at the corners and slowly unveiled a well-worn copy of one of her favorite books: A History of Magic by Bathilda Bagshot.
Breath hitching, Hermione blinked up at him, then back down at the copy of the text in her hands. Upon further inspection, the date scrawled in faded ink made her gasp. “Draco, this isn’t... you didn’t…”
She looked up at him again only to find an amused expression as he slowly nodded his head. “It was her own manuscript. I tried to find a similar version of Hogwarts: A History , but alas, even the Malfoy vault couldn’t procure the tome. I’m late because I sent it off to a cursebreaker to erm... well, let’s just say some of these older texts were soaked in some rather nefarious spells. I hope you—”
“I love it,” she breathed, eyes trained on the faded cover again.
Parted lips pressed against her wild curls and his breath tickled the shell of her ear. “Happy Anniversary, Hermione.”
Two months had passed since the fateful night she’d left the Leaky with Draco. Two months of weekends spent together and coded missives shot off during business hours under the guise of real work and she still felt that familiar flutter deep in her belly any time his messy scrawl would sit atop her desk.
They hadn’t told anyone, and neither of them had broached the subject of going public with their budding romance. Shagging had evolved into late-night conversations wrapped in each other’s arms and shared secrets between silken sheets.
“I drafted the raw version of a bill today for regulating the Wolfsbane potion.” Her fingertips danced along the edges of the jagged scar marring his otherwise perfect chest, scratching at the coarse blond hair dotted between defined pecs.
“Did you now?”
She hummed, lifting her head from his chest and shifting up in his bed until she was eye level with him. “Do you think you could,” she paused, mulling over the rash decision. “Would you consider—”
Pressing a chaste kiss to her lips, he cut her off. “Yes.”
Smiling into the next kiss, she melted into his arms, lifting a knee to hook around his hip and pushing herself into the fold of his arms. “Thank you,” she mumbled between kisses.
“Anything you need, Granger. Anything at all.”
“Happy Anniversary, Draco,” she echoed, placing the book delicately on the table in front of her before turning to face him. “I didn’t know if you’d remember, or if—”
“Underestimating me now, Hermione? Why, it’s so early in our lives to do such a silly thing.” He smirked, but his words set fire to the flames licking her belly. So early in ‘our lives’. Our. Theirs. Together. The idea felt so natural, so right, so perfect it hardly seemed out of place. But a part of her knew it was, because although they’d been doing this for the past year, no one outside of themselves was any the wiser to their stolen hours together. Her friends still bothered her about ‘putting herself out there’ and ‘finding a partner’ like they had all done. Little did they know, she wasn’t planning on putting herself out anywhere, and she truly thought she might have found the partner she didn’t even realize she needed.
“I have a surprise for you, too.” If the lace hadn’t scrunched in exactly the wrong place when she’d turned, she might have forgotten it altogether in favour of marveling at the rare book that would soon find a home on one of her overstuffed shelves—after she’d read it a time or two, or ten, first, of course.
"Mmm,” he hummed, wetting his lips. “You didn’t have to get me anything. Spending the weekend together is present enough.”
“Rubbish.” Lifting off the couch, she extended a hand in invitation. “Come with me?” It sounded like a question, the lilt of her voice ticking up at the end because it kind of was. Her nerves would eat her alive soon if she didn’t just take the bloody robe off, and considering what she hoped would follow, she didn’t exactly want to do that in her living room. Though, she reasoned, they had before—and the kitchen, and up against the hallway wall, and—
“Colour me intrigued.” The lascivious twist of his lips sped up the pitter-patter of her heart as she tugged him down the hallway and back to her bedroom.
Capturing his lips in a sweet kiss, she cupped his cheeks between her palms. “Strip and sit on the bed.”
Firm fingers pressed into the jut of her hip as he pulled her into him. “Mmmm, feeling right bossy tonight, then?”
“Aren’t I always?”
Barking out a laugh, he kissed her once more, but the swipe of his tongue caused her to pull back, palms flush against his chest as she quirked a brow and pushed him back. “Strip. Bed. Now.”
Perfectly straight teeth trapped his lower lip, worrying the reddened flesh as his hands dropped to his hips, but rather than pulling at the buckle of his belt or making a show of the whole thing, he simply slipped his wand from his pocket and muttered a quick spell, leaving him bare. With an intentional sway to his hips, she stared at the firm muscles of his arse as he walked the few short steps to her bed and sat down on the duvet.
She could do this. She could give Draco a striptease and maintain an air of sexiness. She could , because he deserved a reward for all his hard work on the bill and for remembering a date she didn’t realize meant as much to him as it did to her. She could do this, and she would.
Sucking in a deep breath, she summoned every ounce of courage she had as she pulled out her wand. With a quick swish of her wrist, a soft symphony of stringed instruments filled the room and lights dimmed, highlighting the shadowy outline of his bare form. Setting her wand aside, Hermione began to sway back and forth to the music. She may have felt absolutely bloody ridiculous, but with his eyes trained on her moving form, and the heat of his gaze burning through her, a surge of confidence quickly replaced any timidity.
One finger sank into the fastening at her collar, and she slowly pulled it loose, letting the robes flutter open, a sliver of emerald peeking through the thick fabric of her robes. Closing her eyes, she gripped the collar and peeled it off her shoulders, revealing her outfit centimeter by centimeter until the heavy robes fell to the floor. If she had planned it right, she might have worn a set of sharp heels, but she felt ridiculous enough with bare feet grounding her to the wood floor, heels would have only served to amplify her apprehension and Draco clearly didn’t seem to mind if the way his hand reached up to cup his cock was any indication.
He was already hard as she slowly swayed to the music, taking the short journey to her bed one step at a time. Silver eyes studied every movement, drinking in the sight as a low groan rumbled through his chest. With only one more step to the edge of the bed, a strong hand wrapped around the back of her knee and he pulled her into him, placing her knee next to his hip on the bed. Deft fingers danced up the back of her thigh, curling in and teasing the sensitive skin just centimeters from her sex.
“Bloody gorgeous,” he mumbled, eyes skating over her lace clad body. A long finger hooked around the band of her matching knickers and he snapped it against her skin. “Did you buy this for me?”
“Mhm.” Wetting her lips, she carded trembling fingers through fine hair and let out a puff of breath.
The weight of his gaze was intoxicating as he drank in every detail of fine lace, studying, memorizing, taking his time to pay attention to every dip and curve of her body through the veil of flimsy fabric.
It felt silly to ask, but she just had to know. “Do you like it?”
The dip of his Adam’s apple drew her attention to the long line of his throat and she wanted to taste the potent flavor of his flesh. “Mmm... is that even a question?” Flicking his eyes up to meet hers, her breath hitched at the glaze of lust painted over his features. Full lips parted, chest on the verge of heaving from the effort of his laboured breaths, hair mussed from her nails tracing tracks along his scalp, she nearly whispered three little words that had been dancing on her tongue for the better part of the last few months. Gulping around the lump in her throat, she kissed him instead, quieting the thought and surrendering to the carnal desire to shag him senseless and watch him come undone.
“I wasn’t aware you could cook.” A sleepy yawn stretched from her lungs as she padded into the kitchen.
“I’m full of surprises, Granger.”
“That you are,” she mused, taking the last few steps and wrapping her arms around his bare waist from behind. Standing on her tiptoes, Hermione slotted her chin against his shoulder and watched as he moved the fluffy eggs around the pan. Somehow, the same wizard who had never needed to lift a finger to be fed in his life also happened to master the Muggle stove and make eggs more perfect than she had ever been able to.
“What’s on the agenda today?”
Another short yawn racked her body as she pulled herself off of him. “I have some revisions to review for the Wolfsbane bill and I need to brew some more potions for my... erm... my potion.”
Chuckling, Draco shook his head. “No need to be embarrassed, witch.” He set down the spatula and banded an arm around her waist, pulling her flush against his chest. “Taking the potion allows me to have my wicked way with you without having to think of contraception. I’m a big fan.”
He winked as she swatted his chest. “Prat.”
“Breakfast is ready right now and I need you to eat to regain some of the strength I sapped from you last night, but—”
“Sapped me of strength? I think not.”
“Oh really? Is that a challenge?” Gaping, she didn’t quite know what to say. “No matter, I’ll prove it anyway again,” he took one step forward, “and again,” then another, “and again.” The counter dug into her back as Draco loomed over her with every inch he could squeeze of his natural height advantage. “Let me help.”
Her heart rebelled against her ribs, thudding against her chest as he leaned down into a languid kiss. “I can do it on—”
“I never said you couldn’t.” Unless she was entirely daft, it almost sounded like a hint of pride coloured his tone. “I just offered a helping hand. I know you’re a right capable witch, a formidable one at that, but let me help. It does, after all, benefit me immensely. Why without the potion—” Lean fingers traced the curve of her hip, her waist, the underside of her breast. “Needless to say, I’m more than willing.”
That particular batch had been the most perfect shade of pink she had ever seen, and they tested its strength again, and again, and again. Eventually deeming it adequate if not bloody brilliant for its effects.
“I missed you.” The confession slipped past her lips, landing against his collarbone before Hermione sealed it with a kiss.
“I missed you too, love.” There it was again, the thrumming of some all-consuming feeling she wasn’t quite ready to put into words.
The lacy green negligee still sat snug against her skin, although not entirely intact. In his haste to shed her garments, he’d reached for his wand and cut the clasps of her stockings before doing the same to her shoulder straps.
“Draco, I—” She wasn’t even sure what she wanted to say, or rather, how she thought she could say it without scaring him off. “I think it’s time we told people.” It came out in a rush, all jumped together like a single word, but he understood with little effort and she thanked the Gods for the answering smile that crept across his lips.
“Yeah? You ready to claim me for all the world to see? I can see the headlines now: Big Bad Death Eater Gone Soft for the Golden Girl.” Swatting his chest, she laughed as his long fingers wrapped around her wrist, pulling her hand up to press a soft kiss against her knuckles. “What about Death Eater Corrupts Golden Girl, hmm?” He licked his lips and with mere centimeters between them, she watched the surface shine. “Does that sound more accurate?”
“Stop that. You certainly haven’t corrupted me and you’re reformed, Draco. You even joined the Order at the end of the—”
“I was kidding, love.” Shifting, he sat up against the headboard and pulled her into the circle of his arms, tracing lazy circles against her shoulder as he spoke so softly she nearly missed it. “Do you really mean it, Hermione?”
She looked up through thick lashes, taking a deep breath while her eyes skated over his features. “I do. Draco, I’m ready if... if you are. I mean I just—”
“Don’t even think about taking it back now,” he practically growled, tipping her chin up to hover over her lips. “I’m ready.” Their lips met in a chaste kiss, a simple press of swollen lips that soon lead to far more.
“No,” Hermione huffed. “No bloody way am I acquiescing on who is allowed to bid on the contracts.”
Draco dragged a hand across his face, blowing out an exasperated breath. “For Merlin’s sake, don’t you see? If you allow some of the more prominent names access to this contract, you’re more likely to garner support.”
“I don’t need support! I need this to be right, and that means I need to keep control over who manufactures the Wolfsbane!”
Snapping the folio shut, Draco turned on the couch and narrowed his eyes. “We’re done with this for tonight. If you don’t trust me, why am I helping you at all?”
“I didn’t ask—” Her voice rose an octave, nearing that scratchy, squeaky quality reminiscent of her youth.
“I know you didn’t! I offered! And I did so because I know how these things bloody work! I am trying my best here, Hermione, and you’re fighting me at every turn.” Jaw clenching, she watched as he inched closer on the couch. “Good Godric, you drive me absolutely mad, witch.”
Palm pressed against his chest, she pursed her lips. “I drive you mad? Are you bloody kidding me? You drive me—”
Wrapping firm fingers around her wrist, he wrenched it from between them and pressed her back into the cushion of the couch. “Barmy?” he supplied, looming over her. “Wild?” He leaned down, parted lips hovering over her own, puffs of breath mingling as her chest heaved. “Do I drive you wild,” he licked his lips, “Hermione?” The way he said her given name did something to her, a wicked something that most definitely did drive her wild.
In a second, her lips slotted over his, fingers scratching along his scalp as she pulled him into her against the pillowy surface. Laying back, the lean lines of his solid form pressed against every curve of her own. Hands gripping, lips nipping, she felt the flames of her earlier annoyance burn into an all-consuming desire. Sure, they might argue from time to time, butt heads and have words, but the peaks of passion they reached in the moments after were positively explosive.
“What changed?” Muffled against her curls, his words were nearly lost between their panting breaths. Still splayed out and spent beneath him, Hermione ran her nails up the thick cords of muscle on his back, slipping deft fingers between fine blond hair and tilting his face to press a kiss to his parted lips. Rolling off to lay on his side, Draco pulled her against his chest, tangling their legs together as he fixed his gaze on her features.
“I... I don’t know?” It was weak, but true, she hadn’t planned to say it tonight. Truthfully, she hadn’t really planned this conversation at all which was a far cry from the rest of her life. Draco had always fallen into the category alongside her more spontaneous choices. While prepping and planning and colour-coding her tasks in her day to day life was typical, she let that need for control fall to the wayside with him. There was nothing quite like living in the moment with Draco by her side, and she’d learned early on that he was nothing if not unexpected in nearly every way. “Draco, I... I want this— us. I want to go places holding your hand and kiss you on the street. I want... a life outside of this apartment or yours.”
“Mmmm,” he hummed, pressing another kiss into the mass of curls on her head. “Talk dirty to me, love.”
A bark of a laugh worked its way up her throat as she turned to kiss the curve of his jaw. “I’m ready if you are,” she whispered, and the way his lips curled in response told her he was, too.
“I love you.” It was a breath, a wisp of words, so tentative she thought she might have imagined it, but her breath hitched and her eyes flicked to his, watching the way they softened. “You don’t have to say it or anything. I mean, we’ve just had some other revelations tonight, but I couldn't go another day without you knowing. I love you, Hermione Granger, and I have for quite some time. Probably longer than—”
Cutting him off with a kiss, the same three words spilled from her own lips, mumbled between kisses, repeated with each breath. She said them until they no longer sat heavily on her chest, pouring over each syllable and soaking in his response.
They may have started as something to keep secret, co-workers, hardly friends, a tenuous coupling, but over the last few months, she’d well and truly fallen for Draco bloody Malfoy, and though it was slightly surprising, she didn’t have a single regret.