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Mercury Rising

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Scorpius Malfoy's timid knock set Hermione's teeth on edge. Her office door was open for a reason, but there he stood, bland and bespectacled as ever, hovering until he received explicit permission to enter.

Everything was on her nerves this morning, from the temperature of her office to the piece of hair that wouldn't stay put in her bun. The survey on her desk mocked her with its promise of a £5 discount upon completion. She never even used her mobile phone, but if her mum had a fall... or worse...

She sighed. None of this justified being testy with an innocent eighteen-year-old boy.

"Delivery?" she said, motioning Scorpius inside.

He stepped forward and held out a thick manila envelope. He always insisted on handing his deliveries to her, and that got on her nerves, too. She supposed it was a sign of respect, as in I'm not going to just toss this anywhere on your desk. But it always felt like a sly bid for attention.

"Urgent," Scorpius said in his usual deadpan voice. "From Mr Percy Weasley."

Usually, Hermione would thank him and break eye contact, giving him his cue to leave. Today, however, the corner of her lip twitched because when was anything from Percy not urgent? "I'll bet Percy Weasley runs you ragged, doesn't he?" she muttered as she took the envelope.

Scorpius blinked at her.

Hermione felt sweat beading around her hairline. What was wrong with her cooling charms today? She tossed the envelope into her overflowing inbox, immediately regretting her errant remark. "Sorry, that was—"

"I like to stay busy," Scorpius replied. There was a pause, a rare flicker of a smile, and then he added, "You're more than welcome to run me ragged, too. If you like."

Hermione's eyes darted up to meet his. She must be going mental, because it almost sounded like a lame advance. But that would be ridiculous. Scorpius Malfoy flirt? With her? She felt an embarrassing blush creep into her already warm face.

He stared at her, cocking his head to the side, which only made the blush intensify. "Everything all right?"

"I'm fine," Hermione gritted out, wiping her forehead with the back of her hand. "Is it hot in here to you?"

"Maybe a little."

The charmed pager on his belt gave a low hiss. She jumped. Scorpius had never lingered long enough for Hermione to see him paged.

He glanced down. "Better run," he said. "Is there anything I can do for you, Mrs Granger?"

Mrs. It was always Mrs with these young people. Hermione looked down, her quill hovering over the only survey box she had not checked. 45-54, it said. It was not in the middle of the list. It was a little over the middle.

With a huff, she checked the box, folded the survey, and stuffed it in the envelope with the cheque and remittance form, checking that the return address was clearly visible through the window. She gave the envelope flap a cursory lick, pressed it down, and held it out to Scorpius.

"You can get that in the Muggle Post for me before one-thirty," she said.

"You got it." He left without saying another word. As Hermione watched him go, she felt a little anxious that she had just trusted a Malfoy with personal business on the Ministry's Sickle.

***

You're more than welcome to run me ragged, too. If you like.

Hermione replayed the words over and over.

When the timid knock came again, she wondered why she found it so grating in the first place. It was Scorpius's job to interrupt people and to be interrupted in return. She could understand why he would try to do it as unobtrusively as possible.

Actually, no, she couldn't understand it. That's what Malfoys did. They obtruded. Maybe that's why Scorpius's behavior had irked her in the first place. She expected one thing and got the opposite. She should have been the last to judge someone based on their parentage, but a Malfoy working at the Ministry? A Malfoy running errands for anyone? A Malfoy doing all of it politely, efficiently, and without complaint?

Hermione had not motioned him inside, so he stood in the doorway of her office, waiting. The sleeves of his white shirt were rolled up, and he held a stack of files at his side. She wondered how long he would stand there if she didn't give him permission to enter. She wondered how long it would take before he shifted the files to his other arm. She registered how tall he was — so tall and thin, but his forearms were corded with muscle.

"Mrs Granger?" Scorpius prompted her at last. With his free hand, he pushed his wire-rimmed glasses up the bridge of his nose.

"Yes, come in," Hermione said, taking a sip of tea. "Are all those files for me?"

"Yes. From the Goblin Liaison Office."

"You can set them on the credenza," she instructed him. He obeyed at once, placing them in a neat stack, and then went to leave. But curiously, Hermione didn't want him to leave. "Scorpius?” she called.

He stopped and looked over his shoulder, his long fingers curling around the door jamb. "Did you need something else?"

"No. I just...." She felt silly. She tried to think of anything to say, only to realize that any attempt at small talk would undoubtedly make her sound forty-five. "How do you like working for the Ministry?" she asked at last.

Scorpius turned and leaned against her doorway, sliding his hands into his pockets. "It has its perks," he said. He was silent for a moment before he added with a smirk, "It pisses my father off."

She bet it did.

"You, er... don't get on well with your father?"

His jaw worked for a moment. "I got on great with my mother."

Hermione shifted uncomfortably in her seat. How had she managed to put her foot in it so quickly? How old had Scorpius been when Astoria passed away? Was it Rose's second year? Third year? Astoria Greengrass had always been sickly, even at Hogwarts. It was remarkable she had risked the hardship of pregnancy and delivery.

Hermione's mouth opened and closed a few times. Scorpius just stared, completely unwilling to rescue her from the awkward moment. She supposed she deserved that, for asking such a personal question in the first place.

"I'm sorry about your mother," she said at last. It was a canned offering, even if she meant it.

"Thank you," he replied. A canned response.

"I lost my father a while back." She idly swirled her tea. "It's not the same, I know, but—"

"I'm sorry about your father," Scorpius said.

"Thank you."

She really wished he would leave now, but it seemed terribly rude to dismiss him after such an uncomfortable exchange. "Well, I—"

"Do you like working here, Mrs Granger?"

Hermione glanced over the stacks of files and parchment scattered about her office. Did she? It was all she had ever known. She enjoyed the intellectual challenge of Magical Law, and she hoped she made a difference, but twenty-plus years was a long time to battle red tape. Sometimes it wore on her.

If she were honest, it likely played no small part in her long separation and ultimate divorce from Ron.

"Yes," she replied. A litte more defensively, she replied, "Of course."

There was another brief silence, in which Scorpius stared at her unfalteringly. "There's word that Minister Shacklebolt is planning to retire."

Hermione hummed, running her fingers over the long feather of her quill. "He would be a tough act to follow, wouldn't he?"

Scorpius shrugged slightly. "Might be nice to have a woman in charge."

Hermione leaned back in her chair, eyes narrowed. Scorpius had not seemed like the sort to dig for gossip, though he had the perfect job for it, nor had he ever seemed prone to flattery. "You think so?"

He held her gaze for several heartbeats. Then his eyes dropped, unmistakably, to her front. "Certainly works for me." They slowly drifted back up. "Either way, really."

There was no question: that was an advance. It had been so long since Hermione had experienced physical arousal that the sensation was almost painful. She could actually feel blood seeping into her loins. It felt like a million pin pricks, like she was suddenly being pecked back to life.

"Well," Scorpius said, patting his pager. "Probably shouldn't linger."

"Right." Her voice seemed far away to her.

His hand went back to the door jamb, supporting his weight. Part of his shirttail had come untucked, and the edge pointed to a subtle bulge in his trousers.

"Mrs Granger?"

It was her turn to lift her gaze. "Yes?"

"Is there anything I can do for you?"

Hermione swallowed heavily. "You can call me Hermione."

"All right." Scorpius softly drummed against the door jamb with the flat of his palm, his eyes making another brief journey up and down her front. "Hermione."

***

Hermione didn't see Scorpius again for over a week. She only received one express delivery during that time, and Kirk Pritchard delivered it. Kirk was a twenty-something who was supposedly biding his time until a position came open in the Department of Mysteries. He could be downright surly. When he tossed the thick envelope onto her desk, it sent several neat stacks of parchment flying.

Hermione wondered how she had ever been annoyed with Scorpius.

After a week, she began to notice small things for which she could use the courier service. She even dug the call pin from the back of her junk drawer, running the small winged sandal over in her fingers.

What was wrong with her, that she felt this sudden desire to interact with a boy her daughter's age? Well, technically he was a man, but still. She felt sick at the thought of a forty-five-year-old woman seeking out her son's company. At that, she firmly decided to put the courier service out of mind.

Just as she resolved to let it go, Scorpius reappeared. The sound of his timid knock had her blood racing before she even looked up. He stood in her doorway, hesitant as ever, a single file clutched in his hand.

He looked marvelous. How had Hermione never noticed how handsome he was? The Greengrass blood had softened some of the sharp Malfoy features. His blond hair was thicker than Draco's had ever been, and he wore it longish, the ends curling just above his wide shoulders. He always looked a little disheveled, no doubt from racing about. The look suited him.

She couldn't believe she was checking out Draco Malfoy's son.

"Good morning," she greeted him. "Come in."

Unusually, his lips curved into a small smile. "You'll never believe what I found," he said.

Hermione held out her hand, and he placed the file in it. For the briefest moment, their fingers touched. When she looked down at the file label, she almost dropped it.

Defendant: Buckbeak, Hippogriff.
Plaintiff: Malfoy, Lucius.

"You're right," Hermione said. "I... " She eagerly opened the file. "I can't believe it." She looked up to find his smile had grown. "Where did you find it?"

"Archives," Scorpius replied. "Someone sent me to the B-Us for a file the other day. By the way, Kirk and I switched routes for a week. That's why I haven't been here."

Hermione felt her face go red. Why would he mention that? Why would he think she would care? And... was that the defense she had prepared for Hagrid? It obviously hadn't helped at the time, but the document, written in her 13-year-old hand, had been diligently added to the record.

"Anyway," he continued, "I saw a file with my grandfather’s name on it. So of course I took a peek." He paused. "Strictly speaking, I'm not supposed to do that, but..."

"I won't tell," she said with a small huff of laughter.

"Then I saw a parchment inside with your name on it."

And there it was.

Respectfully submitted for the defense by Hermione J. Granger on behalf of Rubeus Hagrid, 11 February 1994

1994. Thirty years. Where on earth did they go?

"I can't believe this." She turned the parchment over in her hand. "I wrote this for Hagrid, third year. It's..." She skimmed a few lines. "...terrible." She laughed outright at her youthful ignorance. But she also felt a swell of pride, even a renewed sense of life purpose. Somehow she had always known this was what she wanted to do — fight injustice for those without a voice.

"I'm sure it's not that bad."

"We lost."

"Oh. Well, the plaintiff had some sway with the court, I would imagine."

Hermione could still see Buckbeak attacking Draco. She could still remember the anger she felt when he tried to manipulate the situation at the expense of the innocent. They had all changed so much in thirty years — Draco, too. She harbored no ill will towards him now, but she vividly remembered that anger. "You know," she said, shaking her head, "I slapped your father across the face that year."

A full, radiant smile lit up Scorpius's face. "No. Way."

"Don't tell me he never mentioned it," Hermione said with a chuckle, closing the file. "Yeah, I did. Quite hard, I'm afraid."

Scorpius pointed over his shoulder with his thumb. "Shall I go find a Pensieve?"

"No," she replied. "I'd rather not relive it. That was a tough year. I was dealing with a lot of stress, and... well, I didn't always make the best decisions." When Scorpius's smile faded, Hermione added, "Though I'll admit it felt good at the time."

He drew closer to her desk, and Hermione sat up straighter. He usually kept his distance. The approach didn't feel like an intrusion, but it did feel... intimate. His hands went to his pockets, stretching the fabric of his trousers taut. His voice dropped, almost conspiratorial. "Are you dealing with a lot of stress right now?"

Hermione fidgeted, running her finger over the curled edge of the file. "That's life, isn't it?" she replied evasively, silently taking account of the past few years. Signing her divorce papers. Helping to get her mother's house sold. Putting her baby on the train for his final year at Hogwarts.

Going home late most evenings to an empty home.

"Well, if you ever need to slap a Malfoy around..."

Hermione laughed nervously, but Scorpius's smile was gone. This time there was no question he was checking her out. His gaze lingered on the spot where her shirt opened. Hermione knew this particular shirt stretched sometimes when she was seated, gaped a bit over her breasts. She would be a fool now to adjust it. Or maybe she would be a fool not to.

When he raised his eyes, she saw a hint of Lucius Malfoy in his steely gray irises — deceptive coolness, tinged with greed. "I could probably even give you a reason," he said. "If that would help."

"No," Hermione said reflexively. But that look... she felt it through every nerve in her body. "You know, you're quite unlike your father."

"I'll take that as a compliment."

Hermione cleared her throat. "Well. This is amazing, Scorpius," she said, patting the file. "Thank you for bringing it in."

He lingered. Hermione knew what was coming. The thought of it already had her dampening her knickers.

"Is there anything I can do for you, Hermione?"

She sat back in her chair, blowing out a heavy breath through pursed lips. "You can tell me to take the rest of the day off."

Scorpius raised one blond eyebrow. "Why don’t you take the rest of the day off?"

She did.

***

Hermione spent the afternoon in a Muggle hair salon with her Muggle mobile turned off and Buckbeak's file tucked in her bag. It had been years since she had her hair done by a Muggle. She went for it all — color, trim, conditioning treatment.

And then, since she was already out and about in Muggle London, and since there was no chance of running into anyone she knew, she breezed into a lingerie shoppe.

She stopped in front of a plastic torso wearing what looked like a cropped lace halter top. Maybe this wasn't the right store for her.

"May I help you, madam?" said a young woman with pink-tinted hair.

"Oh! No. No, I'm just..." Just what? She didn't even know what size she was.

"That's a popular style," the clerk said, following Hermione's eyes. "Pretty but comfortable."

"Yes, well, I..." She glanced at the clerk, feeling her face redden. "I'd probably be looking for something..."

The clerk waited patiently for her to finish.

"...with a little more support," Hermione mumbled, adjusting her bag on her shoulder.

"We have a variety of styles," the clerk said in a soft, friendly voice that was clearly meant to soothe and disarm - a vital tactic in a shoppe like this. "Do you prefer an underwire, then?"

"Yes."

"Would you care to look at some other options?"

Hermione's eyes darted around the store. "If you think you have anything that might fit me."

The clerk briefly looked her up and down. "That shouldn't be a problem. Would you care for a fitting? Complimentary, of course."

Hermione didn't even pause to consider. "Why not?"

Once the ice was broken and Hermione realized the clerk cared far more about her commission than Hermione's age, taste, or shame — or lack thereof — she went all out.

The girl had earned a generous commission, indeed, Hermione thought as she sipped a rare glass of red wine and looked over the items spread out on her bed.

They were white because there was no reason they shouldn't be. And because she fancied the idea of getting them dirty.

She ran her fingers over the satiny plunge bra, the lacy balconette one. She sifted through the generous pile of matching knickers, carefully removing the tags with the tip of her wand. She dangled the suspenders from their bow-trimmed waistband, curiously examining the delicate hardware.

Only the stockings were black, the same color and denier as the practical tights she usually wore.

No one would ever guess that, beneath her clothing, everything else was different.

Everything was different, full stop.

***

Hermione overslept by a half hour the next morning. Of course she overslept, now that she had a new hairdo and meant to get up early and spend extra time getting ready. She didn’t even have time for a shower and had to throw her hair into a messy bun rather than the carefully coifed French roll she had intended.

No one at the office commented on her sudden lack of gray hair. Granted, she had gone for a subtle approach to avoid such comment. And of course there was the general invisibility that came with being a woman over forty.

She only wanted one person to notice.

He didn't notice.

***

There had been something going on between Scorpius and her. Hermione was sure of it. But he had done a one-eighty since the day he delivered Buckbeak's file. He only made a few deliveries, and when he did, he was all business.

That was a good thing, right?

Of course that was a good thing. There was no harm in a bit of flirting, but she would be crazy to let it escalate beyond that. She couldn't believe how foolish she'd already been — coloring her hair, wearing that new lingerie every day. Pathetic. She couldn't believe how ready she'd been to slip up her skirt if the opportunity arose, to give him a glimpse of the suspenders she'd bought with him in mind...

No, Scorpius had the right idea, pretending nothing had happened, even if Hermione felt disappointed. More than disappointed. She felt lost and empty as she sat at her desk with a cold cup of tea, skimming endless paperwork and having no reason to care if she had any deliveries.

Her disappointment morphed into frustration, and the next time she heard that timid knock, she grinded her teeth, wondering if Scorpius was intentionally trying to cause her distress.

"Delivery?" she snapped, waving him into her office.

"Yes." Scorpius handed her two thick files. "From the Office of Misinformation."

Hermione tossed them into her inbox. "Thank you."

"Is there—"

"No."

He turned towards the door, and Hermione went back to work. But he didn’t leave. From her peripheral vision, she could see him standing in the doorway with his back to her. Fine. He could stand there all day, for all she cared.

After a few moments, he turned back around. She didn’t want to look up. That felt like an enormous concession. "What is it?" she gritted out.

He still didn’t speak.

Hermione threw her quill down at last, pinching the bridge of her nose. "Scorpius, what—"

"Your hair is different."

Her head snapped up. All of her disappointment and irritation dissolved with those four little words. She wondered if he had really just now noticed... but no, she didn’t even care. He had noticed.

"Yeah," Hermione replied. "I..." She didn’t want to say she’d had it colored. "I decided to treat myself."

Scorpius gave her a small nod. "It looks nice."

Heat suffused her face, betraying her excitement. "Thank you."

"Of course, it looked nice before, too."

Scorpius spoke in the same bland, serious voice as ever. But there was a wild gleam in his eyes. "Why don’t you ever wear it down?"

Hermione's blush intensified, but he gave no indication he noticed it. "I don’t think—" Her voice caught. "That just doesn’t seem appropriate for the office. Does it?"

"If you wanted to take it down, just for a minute," Scorpius suggested, "I wouldn't tell anyone."

Where could be the harm in taking her hair down for him? He was all the way across her office. It was just hair.

Hermione considered it logically. If a stranger walked onto this scene and saw her taking her hair down while the courier watched, would that seem out of place? No, she felt she could easily excuse the action. A headache would always work. Of course, if she had to make excuses at all, she probably shouldn’t be doing it.

But she wanted to. She would do almost anything, if Scorpius would only keep looking at her like that. It had been a long time since anyone had looked at her like that. Maybe since Viktor.

She lifted shaky hands to the ball of hair at the back of her head. She eased the hairpins out and tossed them onto her desk. When she had removed all of the pins, she started unwinding the strands. "It's a mess, I'm sure," she said, combing her fingers through it self-consciously.

"I love it." He slowly approached the desk. "I'd love to run my fingers through it."

"Scorpius." Hermione gave a nervous huff of laughter, glancing over his shoulder to the empty hallway beyond. "I don't think that's a good idea."

"It's a terrible idea," he agreed softly. He shoved his hands in his pockets and bent his head. "I've had a lot of those lately. I've tried not to, but..."

Hermione sat motionless in her desk chair, feeling that slow creep of arousal settle low in her belly.

"Is it just me, then?" Scorpius asked, chancing a glance back up at her. "Having terrible ideas?"

She took a deep breath and blew it out slowly. "No," she admitted. "It's not just you."

"You want to hear a really terrible idea?" he asked, turning off his pager.

Hermione could hear her heart pounding in her ears. She did, indeed, want to hear his really terrible idea. "All right."

In a low voice, he said, "I want you to get up and come over here. So I can touch you."

Touch. At the word, her hips made the tiniest motion against her chair.

Hermione's eyes darted to the open door, her heart racing. Her office was at the end of the hall. The hardwood floor quickly announced any footsteps. They would probably hear someone coming well before.... Before what? Before someone happened along and saw the courier with his hand in her hair? "Scorpius, I..." She licked her dry lips.

"I'm sorry," he said. "I should go."

"No, wait." If the alternative was the overly professional behavior he'd shown her over the past week, she didn't think she could take it. But where else could they go from here? There was no middle. Either they were just coworkers, or they were... more. And if they were more, just a little bit more, just this once, there couldn't be too much harm in it. Could there? After all, it was his idea.

She arose as though she were in some surreal trance.

"Touch me how?" she asked, rounding her desk.

He wet his lips. "However you like."

Hermione moved as quietly as she could to his side. The whole office was dead quiet. Mid-morning quiet. There was the usual neverending hub-bub down the hall in Investigations, but the Law wing of Level Two was sparsely populated during prime court hours.

Scorpius looked at her expectantly. When she didn't offer guidance, he lifted his hand from his pocket, his fingers hovering above her cheek, just barely brushing it. "How about here?"

That seemed innocent enough. "All right."

He slid his fingertips over her cheek and slowly eased them into her hair, his nails raking gently over her scalp. Hermione hadn't realized until this moment how much she missed touch. Just touch. His fingertips began a light circling motion. She closed her eyes and leaned into it, chasing the touch as it moved towards the back of her head. After a while, he clenched a handful of hair in his fist, testing its weight. It very clearly brought to mind the possessive grasp of a lover.

Her eyes fluttered open. Scorpius had taken off his glasses. They hung unfolded from the fingers of his free hand. She had never seen him without his glasses on. He looked several years older without them and much less innocent.

"I'm not hurting you, am I?"

Her voice came out in a soft rasp. "No."

He briefly tightened his fist and then curled his fingers around the back of her neck, massaging it. "Does it feel good?"

Hermione wanted to sag against him. "Yes."

He toyed with her hair, eventually pushing it behind one ear. Then he leaned down, the tip of his nose brushing over the shell of her ear. "Now I'm having a most dreadful idea," he said.

She grasped a handful of his shirt, but not to stop him. She just didn't know what else to do with the tension building inside her. She watched the doorway even as her neck bent to collect more of his warm breath. "What's that?"

"I want you to open your shirt for me."

Hermione bit into her bottom lip. She could feel her nipples tighten at the mere suggestion. Wouldn't that be something, if she were to unbutton her shirt right there, right in front of her open door, and show Scorpius Malfoy the lacy white bra she had purchased with the fantasy of doing exactly that?

Wouldn't that be something?

His hand returned to the back of her neck, alternately massaging it and dragging his short nails over it. "Is that too terrible?" he whispered.

"You want to see—?"

"Oh yes." He hissed the words against the side of her face.

She wanted to show him. Oh, how she wanted to show him. But there would be no explaining that away if anyone caught them. Hermione listened as hard as she could over the fog of arousal in her ears. She heard nothing, not even a shuffle of papers or the scratching of a quill from any of the nearby offices.

She freed the top two buttons of her shirt and pushed it open far enough for Scorpius to see the rounded curves of her breasts above her bra. Her eyes were glued to the door, but she felt his low hum all the way down her spine.

"Please show me more," he whispered, an eager edge to his voice. "Please."

This was pure insanity. She pressed her legs together, trying to alleviate the ache between them. It was futile. It only got stronger as she slid her hand into her shirt, into her bra cup, and freed one of her breasts. She held her hand over it for a moment, slowly exhaling. Then she slipped her fingers away to reveal her rosy, fully erect nipple.

Scorpius wound his fingers in her hair again and gave it the slightest tug. Her back arched, pushing her chest out. "More. Please, more," he begged in a ragged voice.

She pulled the other one out more quickly. Her squished bra pushed them up and together, and Hermione released another shirt button. She pulled her shirt open wider, exposing her hard nipples to the open door in front of her.

"You're killing me," Scorpius said. He pressed himself closer against her side. She could feel his erection against her hip, through their clothes. "Hermione, I want to taste them. I want to taste them so bad."

Hermione's hips rolled at the thought of Scorpius dipping his head right there, his tongue laving her sensitive skin. Suckling. She could imagine him working his hand beneath her skirt, feeling exactly how much she wanted it, too. She wanted it so badly that her soaked knickers clung to her.

"Should I close the door?" he whispered.

Just like that, the spell was broken. If that door closed, there would be no stopping. She had let things go way too far already.

Hermione stepped back, adjusting her bra. "No. I... we can't. I can't believe..." She quickly buttoned her shirt, looking anywhere but Scorpius. "I don't know what I was thinking. I'm sorry, Scorpius."

Why was she apologizing?

She chanced a glimpse at him. His eyes narrowed as though he wasn't quite sure what to make of the situation. That made two of them. "Don't be." His voice was as gentle as it could be, considering.

She was stupid, stupid.

Hermione’s hands went to her hair, twisting it back into her routine bun as she retreated behind her desk. She stabbed the pins back into her hair haphazardly. "You should turn your pager back on," she said.

He did, immediately. He was slower to put his glasses back on. Hermione guiltily eyed the evident bulge in his trousers. Scorpius gave her one last, long, unreadable look and then turned and walked away.

***

Nothing good was going to come of this dalliance. That much was certain. What were they going to do? Date? Wouldn't that look great if she ever decided to go for Minister? More, what could they possibly have in common?

Was she supposed to invite him over for dinner — for sex — at the house where her daughter might stop by any time? Were they supposed to meet in some seedy inn for a tryst? Ridiculous.

There was only one way to get rid of the temptation. Hermione had to completely remove Scorpius Malfoy from her life.

In fact, by eleven o’clock the following morning, she convinced herself she had every right to file a complaint about him. Never mind that a few days prior she was frustrated by his professionalism. Never mind that he had every right to file a complaint against her. Probably even more of a right.

By eleven-thirty, she was on the elevator down to Level Six. Twice she almost stopped the elevator. She just wanted to get Scorpius put on another route. She didn’t want to divulge too much information. She definitely didn't want to get him fired. But what excuse could she possibly give for her request?

Level Six. Magical Transportation, the elevator voice announced. Hermione paused briefly and stepped out of the elevator. The air seemed to thrum with energy. Everyone here conducted business in a steady murmur, punctuated by the click of quick footsteps, the incessant fluttering of memos, and the occasional pop of someone taking an Apparition test.

Hermione followed the signs to the Courier Office. She would just say that Scorpius had been slow with his deliveries. After all, he had lingered in her office more than once. Yes, that was good. In fact, she was willing to bet she wouldn’t be the first to do so.

This was so messed up.

The office was deserted except for a short, black-haired thirtysomething witch who worked the paging desk. She wore a pin in the shape of a winged sandal on her lapel and was busy speaking to no one in particular and sifting through a series of rolling index files with her wand. "Yes, I understand. Twenty minutes, please. Courier Services. Goblin archives will add ten minutes to delivery time. Fine, then. May I help you?" She was silent a moment. "Hello! May I help you?" she added more urgently.

It took Hermione a few seconds to realize the woman was speaking to her. "Oh!" she replied. "Yes, I’m not sure exactly who to speak to about this, but I wanted to—"

"Courier Services," the woman said, holding up her hand for Hermione to be silent. "I’m sorry, I don’t have anyone working the Muggle Ministry today. I can have the parcel transferred to reception if you want to take it yourself. No, I’m sorry, that’s the best I can do... yes, I understand, but I'm afraid we're short-staffed as is..."

This was impossible. "Is there someone I can speak to about a courier?" Hermione asked with exaggerated lip movements, as though that would allow the woman to understand more than two conversations at once.

"Hold for a moment, please." She bent forward, hand over her pin, and hissed, "I am quite busy. Please be quick."

Hermione’s heart raced. She thought she would have more time to mosey around a faux explanation. "I was just wondering if there was any chance you might be able to... temporarily reassign Scorpius Malfoy. You see, it’s just—"

"Are you from Level Two?" the woman asked, exasperated.

Had there been more complaints from Level Two? Had there been complaints from other women? "Yes," Hermione responded. "Yes, I am."

"Is this about the allergy, then?"

Hermione blinked. "The... what?"

"The allergy," the woman repeated. "Doxy spray. Mr Malfoy said he would be unable to continue working on that floor for at least two weeks, until the spray had settled."

"Oh. Right." Hermione was glad she didn't have to formulate an excuse. At the same time, she couldn't believe Scorpius had lied about doxy spray.

The woman gave her a look that clearly said, Are we done here?

"Yes, all right, then," Hermione said. "Thank you."

"Thank you for holding. Yes, of course. Give us fifteen minutes. Courier Services. Let me check. That file is out to Games and Sports. If you like..."

Hermione walked away, dumbfounded. Problem solved. Scorpius would definitely be out of her system in two weeks.

***

She had gotten exactly what she wanted. She should have been relieved. Instead, Hermione felt cheated. There had been something intoxicating — something life-affirming — about being pursued. She had come to rely on the rush it gave her.

She did what she always did. She busied her mind, threw herself into her caseload. Still, Scorpius haunted her. They had barely said two hundred words to each other in total, but Hermione replayed them over and over. Some of them cropped up more frequently than others.

You're welcome to run me ragged. If you like.

She should have never interpreted it as an advance. But she'd wanted to. And oh, how many times she'd pondered what it would take to exhaust him... if it would even be possible...

Might be nice to have a woman in charge.

The way he delivered that one still sent sparks straight between her legs. She wasn't even into that sort of thing, but the way he'd said it... she could be.

Rather, she could have been into it.

She could have directed his mouth all over her body, directed his cock into every orifice... She could have directed him to take charge, to take his pleasure as ruthlessly as he liked, and those steely eyes had hinted at a ruthless streak, indeed...

More than once, she ended up in the Level Two loo, where she leaned against the stall door and got herself off to the idea of what could have been.

***

Two weeks with no timid knock.

Kirk was making a wreck of Hermione’s desk with his deliveries.

Hermione’s call pin sat on top of her desk now. She didn’t use it, but it was there.

***

Two weeks and one day.

She was still wearing the lingerie every day. She didn't know why.

***

Two weeks and two days.

No deliveries at all.

Scorpius definitely should have been out of her system by now. She shouldn't want him more.

Did he not feel the same disappointment and emptiness that she felt, the same unbearable longing? It didn't get easier. It just got worse.

Was this it? Had she been so easy to give up on?

***

Two weeks and three days.

If she had known that Scorpius would honor her wishes, she wouldn't have been so honorable herself.

If she had known that was her only chance, she wouldn't have stopped.

***

Two weeks and four days.

She would wait until Friday. If he hadn’t shown up by Friday, she would use that call pin. She would request his services by name.

***

Friday.

There was no way Hermione could request Scorpius’s services by name.

So instead, she left her office at 3:00pm and made her way to the Courier Services break room. As the elevator ticked off the floors, she decided she would wait there for him all afternoon if she had to. She had no idea what she would do when she found him. She just wanted to find him.

***

The break room was deserted. One wall was lined with lockers, just like the break rooms on her wing. When she spotted the locker bearing the initials S.M., her heart started pounding.

What did Scorpius keep in his locker? Hermione’s eyes darted to the door and then back to the locker. She knew it was probably locked, but nonetheless, she slipped two fingers under the handle and pulled.

It opened.

She eyed the door again and assessed the likelihood of being caught. How often did couriers take breaks, anyway? Wasn’t this more a place for them to store their things while they ran all over the Ministry? The city? The country?

Hermione stood frozen for a moment. What was she thinking, invading Scorpius's privacy like this? She took a tiny peek inside, just to see if it was worth the moral leap backwards.

A cloak hung from the hook. She pressed the soft wool to her nose and inhaled, smelling the light scent of him. A small, solitary book lay on the shelf. She was curious enough about the book to open the door the rest of the way.

There was a photo on the inside of the door. Astoria Greengrass — Malfoy, rather — looked pale and drawn but very happy as she hugged a tiny Scorpius to her side. He buried his face bashfully against her, only glancing at the camera when she gave him a gentle nudge. A man’s arm was around her — Draco’s, presumably — but the photo had been sliced in two so that only Astoria and Scorpius were visible.

She definitely shouldn't be doing this.

After another glance at the break room door, Hermione picked up the book. Refuge by Hengist of Woodcroft. She knew the author as the founder of Hogsmeade but had never read the book. She opened it, flipping randomly through the yellowed pages.

A piece of folded parchment fell to her feet.

Hermione bent to retrieve it. She could see spots where the ink had bled through. She returned the book to the shelf, holding the folded parchment between her thumb and middle fingertip.

It was an old book, she told herself. The parchment might not even belong to Scorpius. It might be nothing at all. That was how she justified carefully unfolding it...

Dear Hermione,

I shouldn’t be writing this letter to you, but I wanted to apologize for that day in your office, when you took your hair down. My behavior was inappropriate and unprofessional, and I regret it. I’m sorry that I don’t have the courage to apologize in person, but at this point, I think it’s best if I stay away from you. I can’t stop thinking about you. I feel like I can’t control myself when I’m around you, and I know it’s only a matter of time until I do something we both regret. I never meant for this to happen.

It ended there, unsigned. Hermione stared down at the parchment, blood roaring in her ears.

She raced to read it again.

"Hermione?"

She whirled around, crushing the parchment in her fist, but the locker stood open beside her. If that didn't give her away, she felt sure the stunned expression on her face did.

Scorpius took a single step forward and then seemed to think better of it.

He bolted.

"Scorpius!" Hermione followed him, leaving his locker door open. "Wait."

He wasn’t running, but his stride was so long that Hermione had to jog inconspicuously to keep up with him, and still he was losing her. "Stop," she hissed at his retreating back.

He ignored her, rounding one corner and then another. He passed a group of chatting witches, forcing Hermione to halt with a muffled curse. She strained her ears to follow his footsteps, hearing a nearby door sling open and slam shut. Looking down at her watch nonchalantly, she paced past the witches and found the door. It was the stairwell.

He was a half-flight ahead of her, going up. Of course he was going up. He thought the old woman couldn't keep up with him, was that it? "Stop!" she yelled, giving chase as quickly as she could in her dress shoes. "STOP!"

"What do you want?" Scorpius called, rounding the landing above.

"What do I want? How about an explanation?"

She passed Level Five, catching up to him. When she hit the Level Four landing, she'd had quite enough. She drew her wand and cast a barrier at the mid-landing leading to Level Three.

"Are you serious?" Scorpius said, whirling to face her.

Yeah, she was serious. She approached him out of breath, wand still drawn. "You take one more step, and I swear to Godric, I'll hex you."

"You're threatening me?" His fists curled and uncurled at his sides. "You just broke into my locker."

"It was unlocked." He gave her an incredulous look, which she countered with the crumpled parchment. "What is this?" she demanded, waving it.

Scorpius narrowed his eyes. "You weren't supposed to see that."

"No? What was I supposed to do? Forget the whole thing?" Sparks shot from the tip of her wand. "What were you going to do? Find something to be allergic to for the rest of your illustrious career?"

It was a low blow, but he looked curious rather than insulted. "How did you know about that?"

"I—" She averted her eyes. "I asked after you, of course."

"You asked after me?" He looked taken back, even a bit touched, which sent a tsunami of guilt washing over Hermione for ever thinking of reporting him.

She lowered her wand. She was absolutely burning up. She wasn't terribly out of shape. Why on earth was this stairwell so hot? She brushed back sweaty tendrils of her hair that had come loose.

"I'm sorry, okay?" Scorpius said, a pleading edge to his voice.

That only made her angry again. "You're sorry?" She wasn't sorry. If anything, she was sorry she had stopped.

"Of course I'm bloody sorry!" She had never heard Scorpius raise his voice. It boomed ominously off the stone walls of the stairwell. "There are rules against this sort of thing, aren't there? And even if there aren't—" He motioned between them wordlessly.

Hermione clenched her teeth. "Funny how that never occurred to you when you were having all those terrible ideas."

Color shot to his cheeks. His nostrils flared, and when he spoke again, it was in a low, slow drawl, very much like his father's. "Didn't seem to be an issue for you, either."

"No, no, no," she spat, shaking her head. "You started this whole thing."

"I started it?" He took a few slow steps towards her. "Maybe, but you played right along. I tried to fight it. I saw you getting flustered and realized I'd made a mistake. Why do you think I switched routes with Kirk that first time?"

Hermione's wand arm dropped. She was the one backing away now, defeated.

"I meant to stay away from you, but then I found the Buckbeak file, and of course I had to bring it to you. But something changed between us that day." He drew closer. "You changed your hair." His gaze shot to the white lace that was vaguely visible under her white shirt. "You changed everything. I tried to ignore it. But I couldn’t."

Hermione's back hit the wall, and Scorpius caged her in.

His voice dropped. "And you didn't want me to stop."

"That's..." Absolutely true, and it would be ludicrous to deny it.

"You needed it. Admit it."

"Don't turn this around on me," Hermione said, pushing him backwards a few feet. "I didn't need anything. My life was just fine."

"Bollocks." He stayed where she had pushed him, but he kept running his mouth. She had never heard so many words come from Scorpius Malfoy's mouth at once, and there was nothing equivocal about a single one of them now. "If your life was so great, you never would have let this go as far as it did. If your life was so great, you wouldn't have gotten your tits out for me right in front of your open office door."

"That's not fair—"

"You wouldn't have chased me up this filthy stairwell. And you definitely wouldn't be standing there right now with that look in your eye—"

"—look in my eye?—"

"—no doubt soaking your knickers—"

"—that's enough—"

"—hoping I'll make the first move here so you can blame me for what you want." He closed in again, crowding her. "You'd like that, wouldn't you? To pretend you don't want it, you never wanted it, it's all my fault, you're better than all that." He slammed one open palm against the wall over her head. "Don't insult me! I know it's not true, and you know it's not true, and I'm not going to play that game with you. If you don't want it, fine, let me go and forget about it. But if you do want it—" His lip curled. "—then act your age and take it."

Act her age? She went to shove him again but instead ended up with a handful of his shirt. Sweat tingled at the back of her neck.

Scorpius looked down at the fist balled in his shirt and back up at her. He took off his glasses. They were nearly nose to nose. "What do you want, Hermione? Tell me."

She clenched her fist harder. What was she supposed to do? Just shag him right here, a flight of stairs from the floor where her esteemed colleagues were wrapping up business for the week? Yes, her body answered.

"Tell me," Scorpius demanded through his teeth.

"I want to kiss you, all right?" she cried, defeated. "I want to—"

Scorpius crushed his mouth against hers. He grabbed her head between both large hands, his fingers splayed awkwardly. For a moment, there was just dry pressure, but then, with a low growl, he worked her mouth open in a hot, messy rhythm, urging her tongue against his. He shoved his fingers into her hair, destroying her updo. It had been years since she'd kissed like this - hard, desperate, sloppy.

Hermione threw her head back, and he went for her neck, half panting and half kissing his way to her ear. "What else do you want?"

There were so many things, but she had wanted one so desperately since that day in her office that the command burst from her at once. "Open my shirt."

Scorpius urgently worked her shirt buttons free. He jerked the shirttail out of her skirt and ripped the rest of the way down. "What else? Show me."

She grabbed his hand and cupped it around her breast. With a low groan, he squeezed it and then tugged at her bra, blindly digging for her nipple. When he found it, he rubbed mercilessly, working it to painful tenderness.

"More," Hermione demanded breathlessly. "Your mouth."

Scorpius jerked her bra cups down, observing the rock-hard peak he'd made. His eyes met hers, and he pulled it between his lips, suckling hard enough to bend her spine in two. He massaged the other nipple with his thumb and then subjected it to the same hard, wet torture.

The effects of that torture shot straight between her legs. Hermione didn't think she'd ever felt such an acute imperative for friction. She hooked her heel over Scorpius's leg and pulled him as close as she could. She futilely grinded against him in the confines of her skirt.

Scorpius pulled off her nipple. He looked up at her from under long, pale eyelashes and then down to where she shamelessly rubbed herself against him. "More?" he asked.

Hermione squeezed her eyes shut. She was already standing there with her shirt wide open, her breasts bare and glistening in the low lamplight, her hair a wreck. Was there any use in fighting at this point? "Yes."

In one rough motion, Scorpius yanked her skirt up over her hips and shoved his knee between her legs. She took it with abandon, swallowing a shout of pleasure when her soaked crotch finally made contact with the hard mass of his thigh. She crushed his head to her chest and rocked against him. Scorpius grabbed her exposed arse and rocked back, shoving his fingers under her suspenders and knickers, kneading the soft flesh beneath.

He kissed his way to the crook of her neck. "I want you so bad, so bad," he said, needlessly. Hermione could feel how hard he was. "Please, will you touch me," he panted.

The stairwell was eerily silent except for the sound of their ragged breaths and rustling clothes. They had been lucky so far, but luck could change at any second. Already, the smell of sex hung faintly in the air, over the musty odor of the dirty, enclosed space.

She blindly searched for the opening to his trousers. Scorpius reached down and eagerly unfastened them, and she fished inside for what she'd felt against her hip. When her hand closed around it, he let out a rattling breath.

Hermione finally freed him, staring down in awe. How long had it been since she had held a cock in her hand? Five years? Six? She slowly stroked the full length of it. It was thick and steely and leaking with anticipation. Her own flesh clenched instinctively at the sight and feel of it. She looked up, continuing to stroke him. "Just..." She swallowed. "Rub it against me. I want to feel it against me."

Scorpius pushed her knickers down as far as they would go in the suspenders and shifted his weight. The moment he slid against her wet, bare flesh, they let out a simultaneous groan. Hermione closed her thighs around his cock, and he thrust between them, mimicking sex. Every slippery motion echoed obscenely off the stone, and every thrust rubbed her right where she needed it most. It didn't take long before tension started building in her.

Scorpius, on the other hand, bared his teeth, looking tortured. "I can't..." Hermione could feel his legs shaking. "I can't go on like this," he said, shoving his fingers into her loosened hair. "Please, I need you."

Hermione clamped her thighs tighter around him. It had been a long time since someone needed her like that. Scorpius was right. She needed it, too, badly enough to go for it right there against the wall in that Ministry stairwell, badly enough to claw one set of suspenders free and work one leg out of her knickers. They hung absurdly from the other set of suspenders, but now she could spread her legs. She could angle her hips up, and she did, wrapping one leg around Scorpius's hips. She guided his cock back into place, but now when she pumped her hips, it nudged him shallowly inside her.

Scorpius looked down between them and back up, his eyelids drooping heavily. He shifted his weight, hiking her further up his hip and lodging himself marginally deeper inside her. She rocked on the tip of his cock.

"Hermione..."

She arched her back and moved her fingers up to stimulate herself. "Push yourself inside me," she whispered.

In one slow, smooth motion, he was sheathed. His eyes went glassy. He thrust in and out of her very slowly. Perhaps he was relishing the sensation, or perhaps he was trying to keep himself under control. Hermione let him move at his own pace, but she countered it above with her hand, working hard and fast. He felt huge inside her, and that slow, steady stretch fed the growing tension under her fingers. She quickly slipped into that agonizing crescendo of strife, watching Scorpius's face light up in greedy fascination a moment before her eyes lost focus. She was so close, right there...

A door slammed open somewhere below them.

Lightning-fast, Scorpius closed his hand over her mouth. Footsteps echoed closer, but there was no holding it back. Hermione's whole body convulsed with silent release, completely beyond her control or concern. Spasm after spasm slammed through her. The footsteps approached their landing, but she could barely hear them over the dreadful, irregular, deafening thump of blood in her head, her chest, everywhere.

Scorpius drew his wand. There was silence. Then another door creaked open, and they were gone.

Scorpius went feral. He slammed his mouth against hers, teeth clacking, his hot tongue thrusting against hers to the rhythmic hammering of blood in her ears. He pounded into her, fucking his way through the aftershocks that left her swollen tight around him. He broke the kiss and hoisted her up against the wall. Hermione had to wrap her legs around him, but there was no risk of falling. He had her pinned firmly between the hard stone and the ruthless battering of his cock.

She only thought he felt huge before.

Scorpius nosed her head to the side and ravaged her neck with wet kisses mixed with the scraping of teeth. His fingertips dug into her thighs and arse, immobilizing her as his hips snapped faster. If a door opened at any level now, there would be no doubt what was happening. The sounds filled the whole stairwell - his labored panting, the unmistakable wet slap of striving flesh, and then a dry shout.

He drove into her one last time and stopped, buried to the hilt, spending himself in a long series of spasms inside her. As they waned, he roughly jerked her against him a few more times, wringing out every possible bit of relief he could get from her body. Gradually his grip loosened, and he thrust lazily inside her, their combined release dribbling out around him.

What a mess it all was, in every possible way.

His chest heaving, Scorpius finally raised his eyes to hers. He slowly eased her down on both her legs. "Will you—" His voice caught, his face a sudden landscape of vulnerability. "Will you hold me?"

"Oh goodness, of course," Hermione said, pulling him against her exposed breasts. "Of course." He kissed them as she stroked his sweat-damp hair.

"Will you just keep holding me? Please?"

Oh dear.

"Scorpius. This is a one-time thing."

The moment she said it, her mind raced through dozens of places they could be together... closets, loo stalls, that locker room... her office, first thing thing the morning, right before people started trickling in....

The latter idea sent a fresh rush of arousal to her stretched and dripping slit. She could imagine pushing his head between her legs, coating his whole young, eager face with her slickness. She could imagine bending over her desk for him, taking the onslaught of his lust in any way he wanted to unleash it on her...

At some point, she had started moving her hips again. "We can't do this again," she whispered.

Against her sticky leg, she could feel him hardening again, too. "It would be a terrible idea," he agreed.