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Little, Fragile Toys

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Little, Fragile Toys


I'm a heroine addict. I need to have sex with women who have saved someone's life.

- Mitch Hedburg


She thought back to the first time they'd fucked.

And that was the only appropriate word for what they'd done: fucked.

Fucked like teenagers in the midst of an apocalypse. Fucked like animals in heat. Fucked like they hated each other and wanted to cause as much damage as possible with their teeth and nails.



She blamed Harry to some extent. It had been his idea to have Draco work at the Ministry for six months, supplying her with the necessary finances and potion ingredients she'd needed to work on a cure for the outbreak of a mysterious virus that had been systematically killing off House-elves.

She'd refused at first, of course, and so had Draco, but part of Draco's punishment for his part in the War had been Ministry-regulated restrictions on the Malfoy fortune and assets for ten years, and he'd had little choice in the matter. Harry literally had to beg her to agree to take part, and a few guilt-trip comments about the welfare of House-elves had pretty much sealed her fate.

So for six months, she'd put up with his presence in her office, with his snarky remarks, his cold eyes, his compulsive need to start an argument every bloody day and drive her insane, to the point where she'd had to leave the room several times to avoid hexing him. She'd always considered herself to be a patient person having spent the better half of her teenage years playing surrogate mother to Ron, Harry, Neville, and Luna, but Draco had broken her self-control after just a few hours, and every day after that had been hell.

Whether it was a rude statement about her appearance, or behaviour, or general existence, or simply one of his stretched out silences, in which he simply glared at her until she wanted to scream, he always found a way to get under her skin. A particular favourite of his had been turning up to her office before she arrived, rearranging all her work into a disorganised mess, and often sitting in her chair with his feet propped up on her desk like he owned the place.

Whatever he did, she would always return home in the afternoon, ranting to herself about what a spiteful and unbearable bastard he was, and how she detested him. She'd always go to bed dreading the morning because it meant another day in his infuriating presence.

But she gave as good she got, and after the first day, she'd abandoned her initial plan to be the bigger person and ignore him. No, she'd met him blow for blow, ready with her witty comebacks and icy looks. She would admit that watching him throw up his arms, roar in frustration, and charge out of the room gave her a sick sense of satisfaction. It was pacifying to know she could make him just as furious as he made her.

Even now, she couldn't for the life of her figure out how their petty, daily squabbles had led to them fucking.

She remembered on that particular day, only two weeks before Draco's contract would come to an end and she'd have finally been rid of him, she hadn't been in a particularly good mood. It 'd been the middle of May, one of those wet and warm days when the humidity crawls across your skin, and she'd spent the majority of the day fanning herself with her documents, feeling flustered and hot all over. Combine that with Draco grating on her nerves since nine in the morning, and by late afternoon, she was ready to snap.

"Dammit, Malfoy," she'd hissed. "I don't want to work overtime tonight!"

"And you think I enjoy sitting in this fucking office and listening to you bitch?"

She remembered the wisps of her hair had been clinging to the nape of her neck with sweat, itching for hours, and that the sweat on her thighs had kept causing her skirt to ride up. Draco was sat in his chair, nonchalantly leaning back with his sleeves rolled up to his elbows, and his hair a little mussed from the humidity. She remembered she'd wanted to undo the top button of her blouse, but his unyielding stare had put her off, leaving her to tug at her collar and huff her fringe out of her eyes.

"If you would just sign these papers-"

"I'm not signing anything," he'd said stubbornly. "You have completely exhausted my supply of Aconite, so you can piss off! Do you have any idea how hard it is to get a hold of?"

"Of course I know how rare it is, I did a bloody survey on it for the Ministry last year!"

"Then read my lips when I say NO! It's not doing you any good anyway! You're no closer to finding an antidote for the sodding House-elves now than when we started this pointless operation-"

"I will have you know that I am close to finding an antidote-"

"Bullshit!" he'd shouted, jumping out of his chair. "All you have been doing is wasting my time and my money!"

"Oh, piss off, Malfoy!" she'd spat at him, fanning herself with the paperwork again. "You know damn well I've been working my arse off on this while you've just been sat there doing nothing!"

"Nothing? Every time I suggest something to you, you ignore me!"

"Because you haven't got a clue what you're on about! You think you know everything!"

"think I know everything? Are you fucking serious? Do you know who you are?"

"I'm the person who has done extensive research on House-elf anatomy!" She'd tugged at her collar. "I'm the one who has carried out countless trials on potential potion ingredients!" She'd huffed her fringe out of her eyes. "I'm the person who has been working on this from day one! And I am the person who knows the details of this operation back to front! And I am the person — Merlin's grave, why is it so BLOODY HOT IN HERE?"

Giving in, she'd practically ripped away her top button and raked her hair out of her face with her shaking fingers, and Draco had studied her with hooded eyes. Feeling even more uncomfortable in his presence, all the irritation she'd felt for the last five and a half months had seemed to explode inside of her, and she'd marched closer to him, chucking the documents at his chest.

"Sign. Those. Papers."

He hadn't flinched. "No."

"I refuse to stay here arguing with you all night! I want to go home and have a bath! Preferably in ice!"

"Don't tell me about your pathetic nights alone at home, Granger, I couldn't give a fuck."

"Sign the papers, Malfoy!"


"I am NOT asking you, I am TELLING you!"

"Blow me, Granger."

And just like that, she'd been fourteen again: angry, agitated, and scowling at Draco Sodding Malfoy with narrowed eyes and clenched teeth, practically spitting with outrage.

Now, the next thirty or so seconds were a little blurry in her usually well-organised mind, but what she did know is that she'd balled her hand into a tight fist, reared it back, and then swung it with all the strength she'd possessed at his mouth. Yes, definitely his mouth. She remembered staring at his mouth, or rather his smirk. She remembered that her fist had never actually collided with his face (unfortunately), and she remembered his fingers cuffing her wrist, almost painfully so, and that was the point where things got a bit distorted.

To this day, Draco would swear on his questionable soul that she had been the one to, as he put it, 'pounce on him', but Hermione was adamant that such a bold act was far too out of character for her, and she was fairly convinced that he had been the one to slam into her, like a tornado, tearing apart her mouth.

That incident, their first kiss, always reminded her of a car crash; people often described how they could recall every moment before and every moment after, but the impact itself was lost or hazy, like when you find a new bruise and can't remember where it came from.

And Hermione could genuinely remember every detail that followed the impact.

Every detail.

The kiss had been more teeth and breath than lips; biting and scraping and pinching, and Draco had latched onto her bottom lip, sucking until it'd hurt. After hearing her own muffled whimper and feeling annoyed at herself for letting it slip, she'd bitten him back just as hard, until she'd tasted blood, and then she'd swept her tongue across his, almost to prove a point, to know that he would taste it too.

His hands had been clamped onto her upper arms so tight that the blue marks remained on her skin for a week, like perfect navy fingerprints; but that was fine because the scratches her nails had made from cutting into his neck and shoulders would stay carved into him for a fortnight. She had practically clawed at him during the kiss, tugging at his hair, his collar, and anything else she could get a good grip on, chipping two of her nails in the process.

He'd shoved her against the wall then, pinning her against it so roughly that she'd struggled to breathe, and then he'd started fumbling with the buttons of her blouse. Needless to say, they hadn't lasted long, and he'd peeled her blouse away from her sweat-sticky skin so fast that she'd barely managed to get her arms out of the sleeves. Feeling the need to match him move for move, she'd seized his shirt, too impatient to work his buttons, so she'd simply yanked it over his head, breaking the kiss for less than two seconds, and then her bra was gone five seconds later. To give Draco credit, her bra was on the floor before she'd even realised he'd unhooked the clasp.

She remembered his broad chest had felt damp against her breasts, sweat sliding between them, and they'd both been so fucking hot. Her skin had been scorching, and the heat radiating from him had been like steam, and it'd just made them feel like this burning mass of heat and speed and energy, the pair of them practically throbbing with the intensity of it.

His mouth had been on her throat then, licking at her salty skin and nibbling at the sensitive spot below her ear. It hadn't been enough, and she would admit that she had been the one to grind her pelvis into his, just to feel that friction in the place she was tingling most, and she would also admit to feeling a bizarre sense of triumph when she'd felt how hard he was, like warm steel between her thighs.

He'd made a noise against her neck the first time she'd swayed her hips to meet his, a wonderful little sound somewhere between a sigh and a grunt. She'd grazed her teeth across the ridge of his jaw, running her hands up his sinewy arms before losing them in his hair again.

His next move had been inevitable really.

He'd lifted her off the floor, and her legs had snaked around his waist like instinct, and she'd taken a second to kick off her shoes before digging her ankles into his backside, finding that friction again. Bunching her skirt around her hips and returning his lips to her bruised ones, he'd began bucking and gyrating, and Hermione's moan had spilled into his mouth before she could catch it. She'd felt his smirk then. That fucking smirk.

The rotating pressure of his cock against her clit had already began stirring that ache in her gut, and she'd reached for his belt with desperate fingers, itching to have what the whole situation promised: him, inside of her, skin on skin, heat on heat. But he'd stopped her.

"Easy, Granger," he'd murmured. She hadn't really had a chance to consider his actions before he was slipping his hand between them.

She'd broken the kiss with a long and shuddering breath when he'd began to flick his thumb with fast swipes across her clit, over her wet underwear, his mouth falling to her collarbone. He'd toyed with her like that for a while, rubbing her through the damp cotton until she was swollen, and it had only been when she'd released a proper, solid moan that he'd finally breached the barrier and slowly slipped his hand inside her underwear, and then two of his fingers inside her.

She remembered tilting her head back to fall against the wall and arching her back, thanking a deity she didn't believe in that he knew what he was doing, that he knew to curl his fingers back and prod at her spot with a fast pace while still stroking his thumb over her clit. She remembered him kissing her chest, scratching his teeth over her nipples and sucking at the sensitive underside of her breasts as they heaved with her laboured breaths. She remembered curling her toes as short but strong sparks of pleasure fluttered in her stomach, and she was fairly certain he'd chuckled against her skin when she'd released an uninhibited whine.

During all of this, she'd been able to feel the hot, hard length of him pressed against her inner-thigh, and between her gasps of bliss, she'd thought about how it would feel, to have him fill her up. Lifting her head and meeting his eyes, she'd watched him watching her, his eyes dark, and she'd wondered what he would look like on top of her, wondered if he would groan into her ear, wondered if that cool facade of his would falter as he came undone. And Merlin, forgive her, she'd craved that, to have such power over him, and she'd become even more aroused with the prospect of it.

Apparently, he'd been able to read the eagerness in her eyes because he'd removed his hand from underwear, and they'd started to move. His mouth had returned to battering hers, and as he'd grabbed her waist and started walking, she'd reached between them to finally reach his belt buckle, clumsily unfastening it before making quick work of his zip.

She'd barely managed to push his trousers past the defined ridges of his hipbones before he'd slammed her body down onto the desk. Literally, slammed. So hard that her head had bounced and all the blood had rushed to her brain, although in hindsight, that may have had nothing to do with it. Biting back the urge to grunt as pain swam around her skull, she'd pulled herself up to sit at the edge of the desk as Draco had heeled off his shoes and removed his trousers, never taking his heavy eyes off her the entire time. He'd looked like a predator, his movements fluid and precise, and she'd gripped the desk with anticipation until her knuckles had turned white.

Stepping into the space between her legs, he'd grabbed her head and crushed her lips again, licking his way around her mouth like he was giving her a taster, and then he'd snatched a fistful of her hair and yanked her head back, planting his other hand on her stomach to shove her back against the desk. He'd held her there, with his palm flat and firm against her belly, for what had felt like an hour, just staring at her.

"Beg for it, Granger."

Her eyes had widened, but the shock had passed quickly, and she'd sneered at him, clenching her legs around his waist and intentionally angling her hips so his cock had been pressed against the hot and wet heat between her thighs. She'd watched his Adam's apple bob and his jaw clench, and she'd felt empowered.

"You beg for it, Malfoy."

His lips had twitched and she'd thought his breaths had become a little shallow before he'd removed his hand from her stomach, and she'd bolted upright, clamping her teeth down on his throat before finding his mouth again. Then it'd all got fast and messy again, all hands and teeth, touching and biting, just trying to leave as many marks and scars as possible. He'd made his first sound at that point, and his low growl had vibrated against her tongue and then down her spine, and then he'd somehow made the kiss more forceful, more demanding, and she'd tasted blood again. Whether it had been his or hers, she'd never figured out.

With his fingers digging painfully into her backside, he'd dragged her closer to him, until she'd been perched at the desk's edge, and the tip of his cock had been prodding at her clit. She remembered thinking fuck this before she'd reached for him, wrapping her hand around his length and pumping her fist up and down, and she'd pulled away so she could watch his reaction, his brow furrowed and his teeth clenched. She'd liked how he'd felt in her hand: hard as bone and soft as silk, and she'd wanted to keep touching him for a moment longer, but he'd gripped the backs of her knees and pushed her further back on the desk.

Another growl had been rumbling in his chest as he'd crawled up onto the desk, bracing himself above her and grabbing one of her legs, hiking it up by his hip. She remembered he'd given her a measured look of lust, and she'd sucked in a deep breath when she'd felt him position his cock at her entrance, and a moment later he'd been pushing inside of her, stretching her, and going all the way in to hit that spot at the back that's so tender it pushes the boundaries of pleasure and pain.

He'd sucked the air in through his teeth and clenched his eyes shut, and she'd choked on a moan, stabbing her fingernails into his shoulders. For some reason, she'd thought he'd take those first few thrusts slow, but he hadn't, and she was grateful he hadn't. After the first careful plunge, the haste had rushed back to him, and the second, third, and fourth drives had been hard and fast. They went back to frantic and chaotic instinct after that. His hips had smacked against hers with such force that she'd struggled to sit down for a few days afterwards, not that she'd cared about it then. She'd bucked her hips back, belting her legs around him and pushing her pelvis up so she could take him deeper, which he'd seemed to appreciate if his shuddering groan had been anything to go by.

The sweat had been coating them then, drops of it falling from his fringe into her eyes. It had still been so fucking hot, and with her heartbeat hammering in her ribcage, she'd felt on fire. They'd felt on fire. And he'd felt so amazing inside of her, pounding her with reckless abandon. They were both panting like teenagers, running their hands over each other to try and touch as much damp skin as they could.

"Fuck," he'd said against her lips. "I knew you'd feel like this."

She barely managed a syllable to respond, so she'd sunk her teeth into his throat again, scraping her nails down his back and across his shoulder blades. Her gut had been starting to throb, and her breathing had become strained, her breasts pressing up against his chest as she tried to get enough air in her lungs, but she hadn't been close enough. She'd been able to feel it building though, the tingles inside of her swarming and getting ready for the climax.

He'd slowed for a moment and snaked his arm around her waist, tugging her upright to straddle him and holding her a little higher so he could ram into her from underneath, and that alteration had worked perfectly. The tingling had turned into a steady burn in this new position, and every time he thrust his cock into her at this angle, his stomach would thump against her clit, her moans now coming out in one long purr, and Merlin, it had just felt incredible, like pins and needles everywhere. And seeing Draco's face scrunched up with the effort to retain his composure had just made it that much better.

They'd been sweltering by that point, but it'd just made her feel that much more sensitive, like the pressure of every touch lingered on her skin, and the orgasm that had gradually been building in her gut felt so there now, and her muscles began to tense up.

"Tell me when you're close," he'd said, nibbling at her jaw.

"I am close."

And then he'd stopped.

As he'd torn himself away from her and stood beside the desk, she'd just sat there, her body still tingling. Frozen, speechless, and dizzy with sex. She'd been convinced that it'd all been a sick joke of his, that he'd planned to take her to the brink at then leave her hanging off the edge, unfinished and humiliated. Even when she'd heard him speak, nothing had registered.

"Granger, come here. Now."

Too muddled and gobsmacked, she'd simply looked at him, preparing herself for a cruel taunt, completely oblivious to his true intentions.

"For fuck's sake," he'd snarled impatiently, reaching out to grasp her hips and flip her over onto her front. "Come here."

She'd caught on then, and she'd allowed him to drag her backwards, until the tips of toes could touch the floor, and she was bent over the desk, willingly spreading her legs, thanking that imaginary deity again that it wasn't over. Far from over if Draco's frantic hands gripping her sides had been anything to go by, and then he'd been filling her up again, sliding all the way up inside of her from behind, and she'd stuttered out a cry as all the sensations came rushing back, like static. Instantly adapting, she'd pushed herself up so her spine had been curved and her hips a little higher, and he'd had his hand in her hair again, firmly holding her damp curls to one side and harassing her the crook of her neck with his mouth.

She remembered feeling his pronounced hipbones slapping against her backside with every pound of his body, but that position had been so fucking excellent she'd barely noticed, especially when he'd reached his other hand around to rub his fingers roughly against her clit, and the combination of him teasing those two spots had almost been too much. Almost. Everything between her navel and her thighs had been burning within minutes, and the noises that had been leaving her swollen lips at that point had just been a jumbled and loud string of vowels.

But her favourite thing about that position had been being able to hear and feel his grunts against her ear, his raspy moans, and every now and then, he'd hiss fuck. He'd tugged a little harder on her hair and accelerated the pace of his thrusts, twisting her head so she could seen him in the corner of her eye.

"T-tell me when you're about to come," he'd panted, fingering her clit harder and faster. "Just before you're about to come, tell me, okay?"

She'd barely managed a nod because she'd been reaching that stage where her fingers and toes had felt numb, and her blood had rushed down, leaving her light-headed. The only that had felt real had been the growing, throbbing heat in the pit of her stomach, sitting there, just waiting to burst.

"Now," she'd managed to spit out.

He'd pulled out of her again, barely giving her a moment to notice before he'd tossed her back onto her back, and re-entered her, driving himself in as far as he could go as he grabbed her chin. She would never forget his face; flushed, intense, and so raw that he'd looked breathtaking, and even with his cock still pumping into her and her orgasm pulsating in her stomach, she'd refused to look anywhere but his wild eyes.

"You look at me when you come," he'd demanded, his breathing erratic. "You don't look anywhere else, you look me dead in the eye when you come."

Then he'd dropped his hand from her chin back to her clit, stroking it with the perfect amount of pressure as he bucked into her one, two, three, four more times, and the painful knot of tension inside of her had finally come undone.

Looking him dead in the eye, just as he'd said, her mouth had hung open in a silent cry, and her back had arched off the desk, all her limbs seizing up and stretching out to accommodate the heat buzzing around her insides. Resisting the urge to clench her eyes shut, she'd stared at Draco as her whole body had turned into a trembling mess without control, and the way he'd looked at her had been so strange and wonderful, like he'd been captivated by her, unable to keep his eyes away from hers. A drawn-out and shaky moan had left her lips as the heat had simmered and dispersed, the aftermath of its still buzzing as the feeling in her fingers and toes had slowly returned.

Draco had still been driving into her at a fast pace, the muscles in his arms spasming and his lips twitching as his breathing got heavier, and his movements more urgent. Even now, she had no idea where her sudden boldness had come from, but she'd wrapped her legs back around him and snatched his chin in her fingers, just like he'd done to her.

"Now, you only look at me when you come."

His eyes had widened a fraction, but then he'd smirked approvingly at her, and that had been the first time the cocky quick of his lips hadn't pissed her off. He'd smothered her mouth with his then, ramming into her harder, deeper, faster, his hands clutching her sides so tight that she'd had to bite down on his lip to stop herself from whimpering.

He'd had to break the kiss when his breathing had become too strained, and it was then that she'd realised he'd been pacing himself for her benefit, to ensure she'd come first. His actions had gotten frenzied and his moans louder, but he kept the eye contact as his back straightened and his biceps bulged, and with one final jab of his cock, she'd felt him come apart and seen it in his eyes, his pupils dilating and his lids fluttering. The noise that he'd made had been animalistic, and then his shoulders had started to quiver as he'd slowly thrust into her savour the last of it.

Then he'd sighed, resting his forehead against her collarbone as he'd allowed his orgasm to subside.

And that had been the end of it.

About a minute later, just when she'd been wondering what she should say to break the silence, he'd lifted his head and given her a dull look. "Just so we're clear," he'd said. "I'm still not signing those fucking papers."

She'd remembered who they were then. It had hit her like wall, and she'd scowled at him, feeling embarrassed, furious, and far too exposed.

"Get the hell off me," she'd snapped, shoving him away and getting to her wobbly feet. "Shit, what the hell have I done?"

"Well, me, to state the obvious."

"Shut up!" she'd yelled, summoning her wand. "This...this is not appropriate! This is not acceptable!"

"Calm the hell down, Granger, it was inevitable," he'd said casually. "You've been giving me fuck-me-eyes for months-

"What? How could...what the hell is wrong with you?"

Without waiting for a response, she'd flicked her wand to dress herself, and then ran her fingers through her knotted curls, trying to make sense of the bizarre situation she'd landed herself in. As if to wind her up even more, Draco had strolled across the office, still naked, and nonchalantly collapsed in his chair, eyeing her with amusement.

"Granger, calm down. Have a drink or something-

"I don't want a bloody drink!"

"A sedative then, perhaps?"

She'd growled and spun around to glare at him. "I know this all some sick joke to you-

"On the contrary, I had a spiffing time. I am merely-

"But this is not professional!" she'd cut him off, marching over to her desk to gather her files before heading for the door. "I expect you to be in work on Monday, and this...incident will not be mentioned again!"

Then she'd slammed the door and practically sprinted down the corridors to the Floo, grateful that it was at least a Friday, and she'd have the weekend to try and forget the whole thing, not that she did. For those two days, she'd immersed herself in her work, and on the Sunday night she'd had a breakthrough that had managed to successfully distract her for all of two hours.

When she'd returned to work on the Monday with a persistent mass of nerves in her stomach, Draco had predictably been there already, sat in her chair with a smug grin plastered across his face, but she'd been prepared. Striding confidently into the room, she'd slammed her documents down on the desk in front of him, fighting the blush that had threatened to warm her cheeks when she'd remembered the last time she'd been touching said desk. Keeping her expression blank, she'd waited as he'd scanned her work, feeling slightly pleased with herself when his eyebrow had arched with intrigue.

"You found the cure?"

"It hasn't been tested yet, and I've forwarded my findings to the Department for the Care of Magical Creatures so they can begin trials, but I'm confident that it will work."

He'd tapped his finger against his lips with thought. "And the Aconite-

"Was the main ingredient, yes," she'd finished for him, smugly tilting her head. "I just needed to tweak the quantities, but as you can see, I was right, and you were wrong."

Now, she'd never exactly expected an apology from him, but maybe she'd been hoping for some indication of mortification or humility, but instead, he'd simply narrowed his eyes at her, licking his teeth.

"How the hell did you obtain the extra Aconite without my authorisation?" he'd questioned sharply.

She'd shrugged and studied her nails. "I did what was necessary. I knew I was right-"

"How did you get it authorised, Granger?"

"I forged your signature."

His nostrils had flared. "You forged my fucking signature?"

"That's what I said-

"You sly bitch! I made it quite clear that I was not going to approve that-"

"Hence why I had to forge your signature, genius!"

"You do realise that I could get you sacked for that?" he'd threatened, rising to his feet and walking around the desk to stand in front of her. "You do know that a with quick word with my solicitor, I could have you and your department sued?"

"Oh, don't be so bloody dramatic, Malfoy!" she'd retorted. "I've saved us weeks, if not months of extra work! Had you just signed the sodding thing in the first place-"

"You don't know that potion will even work!"

"Oh, please! Look at my findings! It WILL work, and you know it!"

"All I know is that you illegally forged my signature, and that if that potion doesn't work, you will have cost me thousands, you stupid bitch!"

"Call me a bitch one more time, Malfoy, and see what happens!"

"You're a BITCH, Granger!"

She'd clenched her hand into a fist before he'd even finished the sentence, but he'd been ready for her, and what'd followed had been similar to their activities on Friday, only this time they'd fucked in her chair and somehow finished up on the floor.



A year later, she was still trying to land a punch and ending up with him between her thighs in the process.

A year of secretly screwing Draco Malfoy, and as she looked at him now, she still for the life of her couldn't figure

Shaking her head and reaching for her clothes, she tried not to think about the hows and whys of their dysfunctional routine because she never reached a conclusion. All she knew was that their...arrangement, as twisted as it was, would continue. It was a vicious circle, but one they'd perfected to the point that it was comfortable and satisfying, and it simply worked for their needs. But all she wanted to do now was crawl into her own bed and sleep off the qualms that had been haunting her since it'd all began.

"What are you doing?"

She glanced at him and frowned. Still naked and leaning back on the bed with a cigarette tucked between his lips, and she couldn't decide if he looked sexy or vile.

"I'm going home."

"You're not going anywhere," he said, nodding to the clock. "It's past midnight. Remember, the Floo Network's under maintenance until six in the morning. They sent us letters weeks ago."

"Shit, I completely forgot. Well, I'll Apparate then-

"Granger, we've been over this. The Wards cover all the grounds of my house. You'd have to walk five miles to Apparate, and there's a blizzard out there. A bad one."

Sighing and massaging her forehead, she ignored his amused look. "Well, I can't stay here-"

"You've stayed here before."

It was true, but it had only happened three times, and all had been accidental. Draco's home was a large country house just outside of Bournemouth, approximately one fifth of the size of Malfoy Manor, but with enough grounds to allow him all the privacy she knew he desired. That was why they always came here, because they knew they wouldn't be interrupted, or rather discovered, unlike at her townhouse where colleagues and friends showed up unannounced often enough for it to be an issue.

Of the three times she'd spent the night here, two had happened by her falling asleep without intending to, and then waking up feeling far too vulnerable and anxious. It wasn't that she didn't trust Draco. On the contrary, she thought he was the most unapologetically honest person she knew, but there were unvoiced terms to their situation, and staying the night was something she wasn't comfortable with, or lingering at all for that matter. It just...wasn't practical, and it implied all sorts of complicated things. She would admit, she was far from an expert on the whole 'fucking for fun' principle, but she knew that keeping their encounters short and simple was a necessity.

The third time she'd spent the night here...well, the circumstances had been problematical to say the least. It'd happened recently, around a month ago, and perhaps that was really why she'd started to analyse the intricate knots of their arrangement: because she could sense that that recent event had affected the status quo, even if she was the only one who seemed to realise it.

That was why she couldn't stay. If she did, she knew she'd have to bring it up because it had been niggling at her for weeks.

"Malfoy, I can't spend the night here."

"You don't really have a choice," he shrugged, exhaling smoke. "Calm yourself, Granger, it's only one night."

"But I could-

"Granger," he breathed out impatiently. "You are stuck here. End of. Drop it. You're giving me a headache."

Sighing with frustration and sitting back on the bed, she tried desperately to distract herself. "So, now what?"

"Merlin's balls, Granger, if you're that fucking arsey about it, you can have one of the spare bedrooms."

"I'm not being arsey, I just...this is rather inconvenient."

He exhaled the smoke slowly this time. "Yeah, well, life's a bitch and then you die. Get over it."

"And do you have to smoke in bed?" she asked, fanning the gray cloud by her face. "Honestly, it's bad enough you had to take up that habit, but smoking where you sleep is just horrid."

"I thought you of all people would be pleased with me showing more interest in Muggle habits."

"They're addictive, you know, and they kill you."

"Living kills you," he mumbled, slanting his eyes at her. "Anyway, I have other addictions that are less fucked up than this one."

That caught her off guard, and she mulled over his words in silence, wondering about the intent behind them. It dragged her back to her previous thoughts, and she could feel the question that had been pestering her for eighteen months fight its way into her mouth before she could stop it.

"Malfoy, why do you think know?"



Stubbing his cigarette out in the ashtray, he turned to face her fully, his expression bored, like he'd been expecting her question for a while. "Why not? It's fun, it's harmless, and hell, we're fucking good at it."

"And that's it?" she asked. "It's as simple as that?"

"Things are as simple as you make them," he said. "Not everyone has an incessant need to over-analyse things, Granger."

"I'm sorry, but I refuse to believe it's that straightforward. Every action has a catalyst."

He cocked an eyebrow and sighed. "Why are you asking this now, Granger? We've been shagging, what? Over a year?"

"Which means you've had over a year to consider it," she said. "I am merely curious about your reasoning. Plus, I need a way to the pass the time until six."

"We usually pass the time in far more interesting ways-"

"Not right now," she frowned. "Just amuse me, Malfoy."

Rolling his eyes, he pulled out another cigarette, lighting it with his wand, and he sucked down a long and exasperated drag. "You wish to end it? Us fucking?"

"No," she said, she realised too quickly. "What gave you that impression?"

"You've been acting all fidgety for weeks. It's been fucking irritating. And now, with these questions-

"Come on, Malfoy, you can't tell me that our situation is normal. You must've at least questioned how you and I ended up like this."

"Not particularly."

"And there are plenty of other girls you could... shag who don't share a complex history with you."

"And who's to say they'd know what do with my dick, like you do, Granger?" he grinned. "Besides, there's hardly a queue to hop on my cock. Ex-Death Eater, remember?"

"You expect me to believe that you and I have sex because it's convenient?"

He scoffed. "Convenient? You could not be more inconvenient."

"Then why the hell do we do it?"

"Because I enjoy fucking you, Granger!" he blurted. "If I believed in that kind of shit, I would go as far as to say you and I were specifically designed to fuck, and do nothing but fuck until one of us died from dehydration. We slot together like a pornographic jigsaw. We just work. Why do you have to question it? Why can't you just enjoy it like a normal person?"

"Well, I've just been thinking recently that there might be a genuine reason-

"Do you have any complaints?"

"No, but-

"Have you ever left my home unsatisfied, or frustrated?"

"Well, not exactly-"

"Then what the hell is your problem?" he frowned, clicking his tongue. "I mean, really, Granger. Have I ever pestered you with personal shit and ridiculous questions like this?"

Her lips smacked shut and her eyes fell to her hands, clutched tightly together in her lap. She didn't want to mention that problematic third time she'd stayed the night here, in his bed. She didn't want to bring up the night he'd sent her an owl asking her to come over, almost begging her. The night they hadn't talked about or even acknowledged.

She didn't want to discuss the day Lucius had died.



She remembered reading The Prophet's headline: Lucius Malfoy Found Dead at 51, and then the subheading: Just Desserts of Just Tragic? She'd contemplated contacting Draco, mulling over the dynamics of their relationship and wondering if it would be appropriate to offer her condolences, but he'd made that decision for her, and his elegant Eagle Owl had delivered his letter just after sunset.

To say she'd felt uncomfortable turning up at his home was an understatement, and the swarm of nerves that had smacked into her stomach as she'd walked out of his fireplace had almost made her vomit. She'd found him in his study, one hand grasping a half-empty tumbler of Firewhiskey, the other holding a dying cigarette to his downturned lips. In front of him on his desk, there'd been the Firewhiskey bottle, an overflowing ashtray, and a copy of The Prophet opened at the page dedicated to Lucius' death. But his'd been his eyes that had caught her; so empty and lifeless, tracking nothing but shadows. Hesitating in the doorframe, she'd been tempted to pivot on her heel and return home, convinced she could do nothing to soothe him, but his voice had stopped her before she'd even had a chance to blink at the pathetic sight of him.

"You took your time."

"I'm sorry," she'd mumbled, and then she'd grimaced at the anxiety in her tone. " wasn't sure I should come."

"I asked you to come."

"I know, but I thought you would have...things to sort out, or want some privacy-"

"Is there a reason you're loitering by the door, Granger?" he'd asked slowly, the words a little slurred. "You look like a First Year who's been called to the Headmaster's office."

Crossing her arms, she'd taken a couple of tentative steps into his office, wrinkling her nose as the scent of bitter tobacco mingled with stale alcohol reached her nostrils. "Malfoy, why did you ask me to come here?"

"Why do I always ask you to come here?" he'd replied, stubbing out his cigarette and blowing out the final mouthful of smoke. "We're going to fuck."

She'd flinched. "Draco, I'm not sure that's a good idea-"

"I don't give a shit. I need a fuck, and that's what we do-"

"But you're clearly-"

"I am clearly what? Confused? Shaken? Upset?" Scoffing, he'd taken a slow sip of the Firewhiskey, and she remembered wondering if it burned him the way it burned her. "Don't be an idiot, Granger. You knew Lucius. You know all the things he did. No one's going to miss him, are they? Certainly not me."

"Draco, Lucius was still your-"

"I'm done talking about him," he'd rasped out, shaking his head and waving his hand for her approach him. "Come here, Granger." When she hadn't moved, he'd shot her an agitated look. "Granger, come here."

Sighing and trying not to nervously nibble her lip, she'd approached him slowly, wondering with each step if she should just turn on her heel and bolt for the fireplace. When she'd been in reaching distance, Draco had flung his arm out and grabbed her wrist, yanking her into his lap like she was a fragile ragdoll. When he'd slammed his lips onto hers, she'd tried not to choke as his harsh, whiskey breath had invaded her mouth, scratching at the back of her throat.

Despite the fact that Draco had been rough with her countless times before, that time been different: too desperate and clumsy that it didn't feel like him at all. He'd groped her breasts like an inexperienced teen, digging his nails into them and twisting them this and way that like he was to rip them off, and she'd whimpered several times when he'd taken it too far. His teeth had been on her jaw, her chin, her cheeks, not nibbling, but biting with enough strength to draw blood in several places, and she'd tried to angle her face away from him.

"Draco," she'd tried. "Draco, just calm down."

But he hadn't relented. If anything, he'd seemed to get more brutal, gripping her waist and ribs with enough power to bruise, denting her skin with teeth-shaped grooves.

And then, in a flash, he'd torn his mouth and hands away from her and released a roar of pure rage, ramming his fist into the desk behind her, before slamming it down onto the tumbler. The abruptness of it had made her jump, and her heartbeat hammered in her chest and eardrums so loud that she'd struggled to hear when Draco had began to speak. So she'd just watched him for a few moments, staring at the way his features had scrunched up with frustration, his brow furrowed and his lips set in a silent snarl.

"For fuck's sake, I can't get hard," he'd hissed. "I can't even fucking get hard!"

Like a timid schoolgirl, she'd glanced down at his crotch, searching for the telltale bulge, but he was right. He hadn't been hard. Not even close. Tucking her hair behind her ear, she'd resisted the urge to look at him as she'd fixed her blouse, still sat in his lap with blood sliding along her jaw line. She'd been about to excuse herself and make a quick exit, but then she'd seen the state of his hand: glass shards and splinters stabbing into his skin.

"Bloody hell, Draco. Your hand-

"You should go."

"No," she'd said, carefully reaching for his wrist. "I'll heal this-

"Granger, leave."

"Let me just-

"Fuck off, Granger!"

He'd tried to shove her away, but she'd clenched her legs to keep herself fixed. She remembered she'd gritted her teeth and defiantly straightened her back as a sudden burst of anger had hit her.

"Hey!" she'd snapped. "Don't you dare talk to me like that!"


"I mean it, Malfoy!"

Snatching his wrist and holding it with enough force to make him suck the air in through his teeth, she'd examined his injured hand quickly, squinting through the dull light in his study to assess the damage. Focussing on a particularly nasty gash near the ball of his palm, she'd frowned and released his wrist, then removing herself from his lap and standing over him like she was the Headmistress now, and he the petulant pupil.

"Right, get up. I'll heal it in the bedroom."

He'd growled, scowling at her from beneath his eyelashes. "What the hell-"

"I won't tell you again, Draco. Get up," she'd said. "I'll heal your hand, and then I'll go, and that's the end of it."

Hesitating at first, he'd rolled his eyes and huffed out an irate breath before he'd risen to his feet, trying to hide a wince when he'd accidentally knocked his hand on chair's arm. He'd stumbled a little, evidently affected by the Firewhiskey, but she'd resisted the urge to help him, knowing he'd only brush her off and get himself more riled up. She'd walked behind him as he'd made his way to the bedroom, swaying and scuffing his shoulder into the wall a few times, swearing under his breath between collisions.

Gracelessly dropping down onto his bed, he'd glared at her as she'd sat opposite him, pulling her wand out of her pocket. She'd grabbed his hand again, gently turning it over and bringing her wand to his skin, skilfully plucking out the shards of glass and splinters and healing each cut as she went.

"Honestly," she'd mumbled under her breath. "What is it about men having tantrums and taking it out on glass and furniture? The amount of men I see with scarred knuckles is ridiculous. What do you think it's going to achieve? All you do is hurt yourself and destroy something that costs money, and then-

"I bet your father fucking loves you, doesn't he?" he'd said suddenly. "I bet you father worships you."

When she'd looked up at his face, the calmness of his expression had caught her off guard. "I...what?"

"I bet if you asked your father for the world, he'd die trying to get it for you, wouldn't he?"

She'd bowed her head, almost ashamed. "Yes, he would."

"But then, you'd never ask for the world, would you, Granger?"


"No, of course you wouldn't. And that's probably why he loves you so much."

She remembered she'd stroked her thumb across his knuckles, feeling like it might somehow soothe him. "Draco, it's going to be okay."

He'd scoffed, shaking his head furiously. "Do you have any idea how fucked up it is to feel relieved that your father is finally dead? No, of course you don't. And you never will. When your father dies, you'll cry for hours and bask in memories, like people are supposed to do when the lose their parents. I'm half-tempted to throw a fucking party instead of attending Lucius' funeral!"

"Then...why are you so angry if you're relieved?"

"Because I would've liked to have a parent who I could miss and mourn!"

"Your mother-

"My mother," he'd cut her off, grinding his teeth. "I haven't seen my mother in over a year. She moved to Paris after she was cleared of all her charges for the War. She sends me an owl every week and last I heard she'd shacked up with some hotel owner, a widower with two kids who she adores. In a few years, I bet you her owls will only come monthly."

She'd stopped healing his hand, but she kept it in hers. "I...I don't understand. Your mother seemed to think the world of you."

"Oh, she loves me. She loves me to death, but I remind her too much of Lucius and she can barely stand to look at me now."

Nibbling her lower lip, she'd given his hand a soft squeeze. "For what it's worth, I don't think you're like Lucius."

He'd tensed his jaw until it'd clicked, studying her like he was hunting her face for any indication of deception, and she'd held her breath for those long moments. When he'd pulled his hand out of hers, she'd presumed he would get all defensive, perhaps telling her to leave again, but he'd lifted his fingers to her chin, tilting her head back.

"Shit, I messed up your face pretty bad," he'd said quietly. "Let me get my wand, I'll fix it."

"It's okay, you can use mine."

A brief flash of surprise had stolen his eyes, and she'd realised just how easily she'd offered her wand for him to use. It wasn't something she'd been oblivious too. She'd known full well that in the world of wizarding etiquette, handing over your wand to someone demonstrated the highest level of trust, but then she'd trusted him for a while, she just hadn't allowed him to know that. Pushing her wand into his hand, she'd smiled at him, bringing her face a little closer to reaffirm that she was content for him erase he damage he'd caused, and when the tingling warmth of the healing spell had began to whisper across her skin, she'd shut her eyes.

She remembered wondering if he'd ever been this tender with her at any point during their unusual relationship, or even if he'd been this gentle with anyone in his life. His fingertips had grazed her chin, angling her face every now and then, and she'd tried to figure out just how bad she looked, guessing she had a few bite-sized bruises and maybe a scratch or two.

And then at some point, his lips had replaced the tip of her wand, and she'd sighed into his hair as he'd feathered sweet little kisses across her jawline. When his mouth had softly pressed against hers without any hint of teeth or tongue, she'd thought it was perfect. Never had he kissed her like this; his mouth was always hot and frantic, whereas this was almost innocent, like a first kiss, one year too late.

Moving his hand to the back of her neck with the same gentleness, he'd twisted them around, easing her down until her back had been flat on the bed, his body hovering over hers, their chests touching. Slowly peeling off each other's clothes, they'd moved like waves, only breaking their kiss to pull their shirts over their heads, and when they'd both been nude, Draco had peppered her breasts and stomach with delicate and lazy open-mouthed kisses.

And when he'd finally pushed himself into her, he'd done it carefully, smoothly, cupping her face and pecking her cheeks, lips, eyelids, nose, anywhere he could. It had been the first time she hadn't cried out or groaned because he'd been pumping at that pleasure/pain spot. No, it had felt completely different, all ticklish and warm, and she'd gasped and sighed, maybe moaned a couple of times, but they'd been quiet, rocking into each other with a steady pace that seemed to make the experience last so much longer, and everything had felt so much more significant and sensitive.

"Stay here tonight," he'd whispered by her ear, seconds before she'd come.

She'd nodded her head, smiling to herself as she'd felt the tension in her gut snap, and she'd shuddered it out of her system, flinging her arms around his back and clutching him tight until it had fallen away.

He'd fallen asleep with his head on her chest, and she'd drawn random patterns with her fingertips across his shoulders and spine, grinning with contentment as she'd drifted off herself.

She'd woken up alone, finding him in his study at ten in the morning, one hand clutching a glass of Firewhiskey and the other a cigarette, like nothing had ever happened. Without a word, she'd left his home, and they'd never mentioned it, like that night had been the most shameful part of their secret affair.

But she'd thought about it practically every day since, wondering if he even remembered it at all, or if it had been distorted in a Firewhiskey haze.



"Don't you dare bring that up," warned Draco, because apparently it was written all over her face. "Don't you dare bring up the day Lucius-

"I wasn't going to," she said quickly. "I just...look, I need to understand why we do this. I think there's more to it than just a mutual attraction-

"And I'm sure you believe it's something profound and significant," he drawled cynically. "Something to do with the War, perhaps? Or my upbringing? You probably believe that me screwing you is my subconscious trying to purify my soul for all my hatred towards Muggle-borns when I was a kid, or something as equally ridiculous."

Hermione chewed her bottom lip and watched the snow twirling outside his window in dramatic loops and pirouettes. "The War affected everyone in different ways-

"Oh, for fuck's sake, Granger, I was taking the piss. Did you ever consider the possibility that you are concerned about your reasons? And you're simply trying to deflect?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, if you ask any of the morons we went to school with, I'm sure they'd say that they expected you and Weasley to be married with a small herd of freckled, ginger kids by now," he said, wrinkling his nose with disgust. "You know, a house in the country, a couple of dogs, and tea parties every weekend with Potter and Weaslette."

"I still don't see your point."

"You don't? Look, what we're doing is completely in character for me. If you told half your friends that I'd been fucking girl for a year without getting into a relationship, they'd barely bat an eyelid, but have conventional romance plot written all over you, and always have. So, why no Weasley wedding?"

Hermione lowered her eyes, drumming her fingers against her knee with thought. "As I said, the War affected everyone," she murmured. "Ron and I tried to maintain a relationship but...every time he looked at me, he saw the War. He saw death, and it got to the stage where he couldn't even touch me."

"That's sad," he said sarcastically.

"It is sad!" she bit back, glaring at him. "You know, we all came out of the War damaged in some way! We all have scars that never bled!"

Draco's expression hardened a little, almost like he regretted his previous comment, and he nodded his head once, watching her curiously. "Carry on."

She hesitated, wondering if the information she was about to spill was hers to even divulge, but it poured out of her anyway, because she needed him to understand.

"Ron drinks too."

"We're all partial to a tipple, Granger. That's hardly-"

"No, he um...he has a bottle of Firewhiskey every night before bed to knock himself out, sometimes two," she explained. "It's the only way he can sleep. If he keeps carrying on like this, he'll be dead before he's forty with a shrivelled up liver. He's completely dependant on it. The worst thing is, Ron's not even that bad when I think of the others."

Draco arched an eyebrow. "Others?"

Clenching her eyes shut, Hermione continued.

"George can't have any mirrors in his home because he knows he'll sit in front of it for days, talking to it like it's Fred. A few times he's caught his reflection in a window or something and he's had to be sedated and removed because when someone tries to tell him it's not his brother, he turns violent. One day it got really bad and he um...he attacked Molly..."

She raised her head in time to catch Draco's eyebrows lift with surprise, but he stayed silent, focussing solely on her with a look that felt oddly reassuring.

"George spent a month in an institution in Edinburgh, which we managed to keep from the press...Draco, you can't tell-"

"I won't," he said, and she believed him.

"George is dependent on potions now that treat schizophrenia, psychosis, post-traumatic stress...everything. When he takes the potions, he's stable and fine, and since he and Angela became a couple, he's seemed better, but he has episodes every now and then. And then there's Neville..."


She licked her dry lips and cleared her throat. "Yes, Neville has OCD. He has this...routine he has to do, like tying and retying his shoelaces several times, dressing and undressing, checking all the windows and doors are closed a few times, and if something interrupts him, he's convinced he and everyone he loves will die. He has frequent panic attacks, he's had bulimia, and he's had problems with illegal potions and substances, although he seems to be getting better...possibly...I don't know, it's hard to tell. He might just be learning to hide it better. And then there's Luna...well, I guess if you didn't know her, you wouldn't really notice. I know she's always been a little odd and eccentric, but she was always...sane."

She paused and waited for Draco to mutter a snarky comment, but he didn't, so she went on.

"Luna used to talk to herself all the time in Hogwarts, but now she talks to people who... aren't there. People who died in the War, like Tonks, Remus, Colin...even Death Eaters like Bellatrix, and sometimes even Voldemort. For a long time, none of us really paid it any attention. We just assumed it was another one of her quirks, but she started pulling out her hair and scratching herself, and she was convinced that everyone who died in the War was...haunting her. They'd sit by her bed, bleeding, or with limbs missing, or holes in their chests, and she told me once that it was so real to her, to the point where she could see maggots crawling out of their wounds."

A shiver clawed its way down her spine with that thought, and she sucked down a deep breath, shutting her eyes and wrapping her arms around herself to fight the sudden chill in the room.

"And Potter?" asked Draco.

Her eyes snapped open, and she studied him intently, exploring his sharp features for any indication that he wanted information on Harry for personal gain or amusement, but all she found was curiosity and a calmness that she'd never seen on his face before.

"Harry...," she started hesitantly. "Harry is a twenty-four-year-old man who wets the bed and wakes up screaming almost every night, like a little boy. If a loud noise wakes him, he turns hysterical, punching and kicking the air. Ginny's told me she's woken up to an empty bed and found him under the stairs so many times, rocking back and forth, holding these toys he had when he was younger. He talks to them, pretending they're Remus, or Sirius, or Dumbledore, and he just cries, saying he's sorry over and over again."

She swallowed hard, scolding herself for carrying on.

"And he has these figurines for us too. Me, Ron, Ginny, Neville, probably even you. He re-enacts the War with these little, fragile toys, and when he's finished, he breaks the one that represented him in half, or burns its face off, or stamps on it until it shatters."

Her eyes burned a little, but she fought the tears.

"During the day, Harry is a brilliant, hard-working man who loves his family and friends more than anything. But at night, Harry is a child trapped in a hero's body, and I have no idea which one is the real Harry anymore."

Sighing and shaking her head, she pulled her knees up to her chest, watching Draco expectantly as he leaned forward so their eyes were level, wondering what he could be thinking after hearing all the disturbing details of her friends' trauma.

"And what about you?" asked Draco


"Yes. What's your vice?" He gave her a knowing look. "Fucking me?"

Anxiously rubbing her lips together, she averted her eyes to the floor. "I thought it was you, but...I don't think it is anymore."


"No. You see, I know that winning the War was the best thing that ever happened. In the long run, we saved millions of lives, individuals, none of us came out of it as better people. We were all affected in negative ways...except for you."

"Me?" he frowned, evidently confused. "What are you talking about?"

"You came out of that War with a new perspective," she explained. "I mean, look at you. You don't have blood prejudices any more. I haven't heard you say 'Mudblood' in years, and the fact that we're having this very conversation shows that you learned something from it all. You might be arrogant, and cold, and selfish, but you were all those things before the War. It changed you for the better."

He squinted at her like she'd told him he was a Muggle girl with pigtails. "You think I'm better than I was?"

"You are," she told him firmly. "And I think...I think that's why I enjoy...spending time with you. Because I like who you are now, and you give me...hope."

Her cheeks were warm by the time she'd finished, and she found herself holding her breath, waiting for him to respond. She was tempted to slap him when he removed another cigarette from his pack, and he brought it his lips so slowly, igniting with his wand before he turned back to her heavy eyes.

"Then that makes you the most fucked up of us all, Granger."

And in an instant, she was furious, half at herself for her confession, and half at him for his cruel reply, and she knew it was written all over her face. Swallowing down the urge to scream at him until her throat was sore, she rose from the bed as fluidly as she could, determined to retain some dignity.

"You know what?" she spat. "I think I will walk the five miles and Apparate. I'd rather brave that blizzard than sit here with you."

Then she turned on her heel, and left.

"Granger!" called Draco. "Granger, get back here!"

But she ignored him, marching through the corridors of his home, fuming and muttering stupid, arrogant, arsehole under her breath several times. She could hear him moving around behind her, his footsteps catching up to hers, so she quickened her pace, reaching the front door and managing to pull it open a few inches, enough to let in a blast of wind and snow. But then Draco's hand appeared out of nowhere, slamming the door shut, and she spun around to face him. She took a second to note that he'd donned a pair of trousers, but his chest was still bare, so she smacked her palms against it, shoving him away from her and hoping his skin was stinging.

"Don't you dare-

"Have you lost your fucking mind?" yelled Draco. "Have you seen how crazy the weather is?"

"I am more than capable of casting a sufficient Shield Charm, thank you very bloody much!"

"I don't give a shit, you are NOT going out in that-

"Yes, I am!"

"Dammit, Granger, I was joking!"

"No, no you weren't!" she shouted, fisting her hands in her hair with frustration. "I can't do this with you anymore!"


"This! Us! I can't do this fuck buddy crap with you! I might not be a pro like you, but I know the fundamental rule of arrangements like these, and I have broken it, so I am calling it off!"

He took a step backwards, his features creased up with confusion. "What the hell are you talking-"

"You can't have a fuck buddy when there are feelings involved, and I obviously do," she said, sighing with resignation. "I just told you I did, that I liked you, so we can't do this anymore. It's done. It's finished."

She twisted around and grabbed the doorknob, but again, he braced his hand against the door to stop her.

"It's not fucking finished until I say it is," he growled by her ear. "I might not be your vice, Granger, but you are mine."

She met his eyes over his shoulder. "Then consider this cold turkey."

"What the hell do you want from me, Granger? A relationship?"

"Yes!" she admitted boldly. "Or at least the option!"

"I would break your fucking heart!"

"I am a big girl, Malfoy, I can handle myself."

"I have nothing to offer you!" he blurted, and she gasped at the raw ferocity in his voice. "I have no money! No reputation! Nothing, but a faded Dark Mark on my arm, a bunch of bad memories, and, as you've seen, some serious parent issues! I am the walking fuck up, and I will disappoint you, and I refuse to disappoint another person in my life!"

She let go of the breath that had been burning her lungs. "Draco..."

"You've had all of me, Granger," he continued, pointing a finger to his chest. "This is all I am. I'm a selfish, arrogant, cold bastard, and refusing to be in a relationship with you is the kindest thing I can do for you."

"Then why does it hurt?" she mumbled, folding her arms around herself. "You know, everyone carries their own world on their shoulders. It's easier to bear the weight when there are people to help you carry it." She paused. "I'll help you carry yours if you help me carry mine."

He didn't say anything, simply watched her.

"Look, all it comes down to you like me, or not?"

He stayed silent but his features softened, and then he bent his head to press a chaste and gentle kiss against her mouth, just like he had the night Lucius had died. When he pulled back, she thought he looked conflicted, almost troubled with his eyebrows drawn together and his lips pursed. She wanted to touch him, to stroke away the hard creases in his expression, but she resisted, waiting until all the uncertainty fell away from his face like rain.

"Come on, Granger. Let's go back to bed."

"Wait, are we-

"I want you to spend the night in my bed," he said bluntly, turning around and heading back to his bedroom. "And not just tonight."

She followed him, quickening her strides until she was at his side. "'re saying yes?"

"I'm saying maybe," he mumbled reluctantly. "We can discuss it in the morning after I've had some sleep."

Nodding absently, she accepted that it was all he would give her for now, but she decided to push her luck anyway. Her heartbeat hummed in her throat as she reached for his hand, looping her fingers around his and pretending she didn't notice his head jerk in her direction. She could only imagine the look on his face, certain he'd be halfway between bemused and outraged.

But then she felt him give her hand a slight squeeze, and she smiled to herself, bracing her shoulders for his world.