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A gentle tap, tap, tap on the window next to the desk pulled Hermione's focus away from the weighty brief she'd been reading for the past several hours. It was dense stuff, even for her, but she knew the Minister would expect Hermione to be fully up to date on its contents before breakfast tomorrow and the long day of meetings that would follow. As per usual, negotiations were moving slow as treacle at the annual International European Summit of Magical Leaders, and opposition for Hermione's proposed "Commitment to the Fair and Equal Treatment of Magical Beings" was disappointingly strong. It wasn't exactly unexpected but it was exhausting.

She'd been doing this kind of work for over twenty years now and was well used to tedious political machinations and the inevitable travel that accompanied the various international summits and conferences she was required to attend if she wanted to bring her "pro-Being" agenda to the global stage. Hermione was accustomed to sleeping in hotel beds and living out of her (thankfully expandable) suitcase, but being used to something wasn't the same as enjoying it. She already missed her own bed and the creature comforts of home… not to mention a certain somebody who always knew exactly how best to help Hermione unwind after a long day at the office.

Another set of taps against the glass, more insistent this time, made Hermione's heart leap, and she rushed to the window, sliding it open and letting the familiar tawny owl inside. While most owls would be annoyed at the wait, this particular beauty was well used to Hermione's absorption in her work, and he took the proffered treat with a pleased coo as he obediently held out his talon. Hermione quickly untied the letter, the swoop of her stomach mimicking the graceful curls of calligraphy on the envelope.

Without being instructed, Ewan glided over towards the perch in the corner, fluffing out his feathers and settling down for a nap. He'd done this enough times before to know not to leave until Hermione had a chance to write a reply.

She grinned, giddy as a schoolgirl, as she looked down at the envelope in her hands, taking in the heavy, expensive paper and the precise penmanship. Hermione knew when she opened it she'd be hit with the rich fragrance of her favourite cologne, the one Millicent had worn on their first "date", the one that had filled Hermione's nostrils as she'd buried her nose in Millicents neck and came apart on her talented fingers. Hermione wondered what else she'd find inside the innocuous envelope, other than Millicent's evocative prose and pages of expertly crafted sentences. The letters seemed specifically designed to drive Hermione mad, with Millicent being so sadly out of reach. Sometimes Millicent liked to weave spells into her letters so that when Hermione read over a specific word or phrase she'd be overcome with some sensory delight: the feel of Mililcent's lips ghosting across the nape of her neck, the sound of Millicent's rumbling laugh of amusement, the taste of Millicent, salty-sweet on her tongue. It was a clever bit of magic, which only made Hermione all the hotter, made her miss Millicent all the more.

Hermione never realised she could feel like this about another person.

She'd had relationships before, of course, but at the end of the day she'd wanted autonomy and independence more than she'd wanted them, had been unwilling to compromise for the sake of the relationship. Even with Ron—the only person she'd ever considered marrying, one of the people she loved most in the world—she hadn't been able to make it work, though Godric knew that she'd tried, and for far longer than had been healthy for either of them. They'd survived the break-up, thankfully, and had both moved on and were the happier for it, but though Ron had eventually found somebody to marry and raise a family with, Hermione had never been struck with that particular desire.

Hermione thought she was one of those people that was meant to be alone, a fact that filled her with quiet contentment instead of the horror her happily married friends assumed she must be overcome with. She might not have a long-term partner, but she was far from lonely; she had amazing friends who were more than happy to host her at a moment's notice, a career she loved, colleagues she only wanted to strangle fifty percent of the time, and no shortage of lovers with whom she had brief, passionate relationships before moving on when things had run their course. It was a good life, one that allowed her the freedom to take off at a moment's notice to Tokyo or Buenos Aires, one that let her cuddle and spoil her godchildren and then go home to a blessedly child-free home. It enabled her to spend her hard-earned money and decorate her flat and do whatever the hell she wanted whenever the hell she wanted without input from anybody else.

And then Millicent came along.

It started the way Hermione's many other romances had: casual, intense, a flashpaper flare that she was certain would quickly burn itself out. Like her, Millicent was fiercely independent and set in her ways, used to making her own rules and setting her own schedule, her profession as a writer leading her to hole up on her own for weeks at a time as she worked tirelessly on her latest manuscript. That suited Hermione fine. They'd meet up whenever they both were in town and available, appreciative of one another's company and the fact that they both knew the score, that they didn't have to worry about the other becoming too attached. It was nice to have another person—let alone somebody so gorgeously witty and stimulating—that Hermionne could call on to take out for dinner or drinks or to see the latest exhibition on 14th century goblin-made artefacts, and then take home afterwards for a round (or three) of toe-curling sex.

Hermione still wasn't quite sure when their arrangement shifted. When they stopped fucking other people. When they started cross-pollinating one another's flats with clothes and personal effects. When long absences began to fill with letters instead of silence. When Hermione's every thought began to carry an undercurrent of Millicent.

What she did know was that she liked it, this thing she had going with Millicent. It was different from the relationships around her, unconventional—they still had their own flats, they spent almost as much time apart as together, there was no talk of bonding or marriage, no plans to merge Gringotts accounts or adopt a Kneazle together—but it worked for them. The time they spent apart meant that they both enjoyed their days (and nights) together all the more, never felt sick of one another's company or desperate for some much-needed space. The exchange of letters was the perfect compromise, a way to stay connected without feeling claustrophobic, a way to ramp up the tension between them so that their inevitable reunions were passionate and explosive, never failing to leave Hermione a wrung-out, shivering mess of pleasure. They were compatible: physically, intellectually, in the things they valued and the way they saw the world and what they wanted in a partner. Hermione hadn't ever thought she could find somebody who so perfectly complimented her, who could give her the space she needed to be her own person and still be there when she was ready for them.

Hermione looked down at the letter still clutched in her hands and shuddered as she sliced open the envelope with a concentrated burst of magic. She eased the luxurious expensive paper from its casing, the expected fragrance wafting out as she breathed in deep. Millicent. So potent it was as if she was in the room.

Hermione walked over to the bed, shrugging off her dressing gown as she went, skin pebbling and nipples hardening in the slight chill of the room. Absently, she cast a wandless Warming Charm before settling back against the mountain of pillows, already breathless and aching with anticipation. Millicent's letters were intrinsicly erotic, even the less explicit ones, and as stressed out as Hermione had been the past few days, she could use a good orgasm. Almost as much as she could use the mental balm that always came with hearing about what Millicent had been up to since they last spoke. Hermione had to get through the rest of that brief before she fell asleep, but it would still be there when she was finished.

First, she had a letter to read.