The things people do for love...
...were stupid and should probably be banned.
That’s what Hermione Granger would say if anyone happened to ask for her opinion on the matter.
It was time and energy wasted that could be spent on better things, but no, humans were cursed to fritter away the bulk of their emotional energy on an unsolicited crush that they hadn’t wanted in the first place, didn't have any time for, and most certainly never would have agreed to.
It had started eight months earlier, Hermione had been in her office, up to her ears redrafting Britain’s new trade agreement with Denmark, when Malfoy came swanning in wanting to ‘consult’ with her. She’d let him in, assuming that he was there about the trade deal, given that their departments had been working together on it for over a year. That he was there to be useful.
He was not.
If—he’d casually framed the hypothetical, as he seated himself uninvited into an armchair and conjured an elaborate tea service—if someone wanted to try doing something Muggle, how would they go about it?
Hermione had just stared blankly at him, trying to switch gears from a fifty inch-long regulatory report on cauldron thickness, and the previous year’s export rate on spotted newt eyes while Malfoy was making himself at home, inquiring if she preferred biscuits or scones, and handing her a cup and saucer that probably cost a week’s wages.
No one had ever asked her the question before. Most Wizarding folks took no interest in the Muggle world; even if they were accepting of Muggle-borns, they didn’t actually want anything to do with a non-magical world.
Malfoy had taken Muggle Studies during Eighth Year when it became a mandatory subject, but Hermione knew from personal experience that the class was practically useless unless a person happened to possess a secret obsession with pulley systems.
She was blindsided by the question and spouted a few ideas off the top of her head, which had left Malfoy sitting there looking even more confused than before and with no apparent inclination to get out of her office and let her work in peace.
Giving an overt sigh of long-suffering and plastering on her coldest and most insincere smile, Hermione asked a few clarifying questions and then deduced that Malfoy was less interested in doing something Muggle and more interested in doing “someone” Muggle, and very serious about that. Not that he admitted to it in so many words, but it was heavily implied in the subtext of the roundabout conversation.
The idea that Draco Malfoy, of all people, was willing to step out of his comfort zone and do “something Muggle” was surreal. Seeing a pampered pureblood attempting to take the plunge over a crush was—well, that was rather endearing.
Even if Malfoy himself was not endearing but rather irritating and extremely pointy.
Hermione reconsidered her initial aggravation. Feeling generous and ignoring the niggling knowledge that Draco Malfoy was the most prattish of men, she agreed to give him a quick tour of a few popular spots in London, mostly because the offer succeeded in making him stand up.
Nice places, he’d said emphatically as she herded him to the door, impressive but not too formal.
Hermione rolled her eyes, gritted her teeth, and reminded him that she was waiting for a financial report on broom-twig imports and would expect it by Thursday.
Malfoy waved away the reminder as she shoved him out the door.
Places, he lodged his shoe between the door and frame in order to keep talking, where there were things to do but not so much that there wasn’t an opportunity for two people to get to know one another.
And, he started trying to poke his head back into her office, absolutely no more than three bookstores.
She kicked his shoe out of the way and slammed the door in his face.
The London tour involved all of a long afternoon that weekend and no bookstores at all, and then Hermione went on her way, assuming her job was done and if nothing else, at least she’d gotten a financial report back a week early.
Malfoy showed up in her office again after two weeks, wanting to know about other muggle day trips that would be less intimidating and formal than dinner.
He was undeniably putting in a solid effort.
Hermione sighed, feeling herself thaw slightly in the face of his determination, and they went to a public garden. She even took his arm when he claimed the need to know whether the paths were wide enough to accommodate two people walking together.
A few weeks later they tried a museum and a coffee shop, each paying their own way of course. Then it was a bookshop, even though Hermione assured him that they didn’t need to visit a bookstore and that Muggle book shops were the same as the Wizarding ones. Malfoy refused to believe it until verified.
Well, if he wanted to spend an hour or two perusing books with her and then arguing over coffee about whether Wizarding or Muggle philosophers came first, Hermione didn’t mind; it was nicer than going with someone who wandered around behind her sighing and asking whether she was done yet and did she really need more.
Malfoy even bought her a book. As thanks.
He became obsessed with art museums, libraries, and antique bookstores, even though Hermione explained that she was not the ideal Muggle-born to extrapolate hobbies from.
He brushed her off, saying that by visiting all of them, he was able to know which ones were best.
Along the way, he acclimatised to Muggle London, to the transit and currency and credit cards, and the discovery that Muggles had automatic doors, sinks, and toilets. Hermione, on the other hand, discovered that Malfoy was less irritating than she’d believed and considerably more interesting than expected.
It became routine. Draco — she reasoned that at a certain point she could call him by his first name — would show up with something about Muggle culture that he was baffled over or wanted to do a practice run on. Hermione would explain or demonstrate, privately wondering whether she should begin charging a consulting fee and wishing that any of the people she’d dated in the last several months were putting in a fraction of the effort that Draco was willing to.
Gradually it became the only thing she’d think about during the dates. She’d experience a sharp, envious twist inside her chest with every new “trip” that Draco wanted help planning.
When he wanted to know about Muggle restaurants ideal for dinner somewhere discreet and quiet (i.e. romantic ), it felt like a sign because of course, he wanted to go with her first. To try it out.
“I have plans this weekend,” she said.
He didn’t even blink. “It could be next weekend, there’s no rush.”
"I have plans then too."
His jaw twitched, just for an instant. “Lunch then. It doesn’t need to be dinner, we could go earlier.”
Her heart clenched. “They’re all-day plans. I'm not available on weekends anymore.”
“Ah.” There was a beat then. His tongue flicked across his lips. “Would an evening during—”
“No.” She looked down at her desk, trying not to fidget with the piles of paper on her desk and all her scribbled notes. “I’m really very busy, Malfoy. I’m working almost sixty hours a week on this trade deal. I think—“ her throat tightened, feeling as though there was a stone lodged in it. She swallowed hard. “I think I’ve given you more than enough of my time. I’m sure you can manage on your own.”
When he still protested and said that he didn’t know how to get a table at Muggle restaurants, she set her jaw, took him to a payphone and demonstrated, making a reservation for Draco Malfoy, table for one.
She assumed that the dinner went very well for him because Draco, in all his egregiously presumptuous glory, proceeded to vanish entirely from her life after that. Hermione had successfully gotten him a girlfriend. He didn’t need her anymore.
Aside from passing in the lifts, exchanging the most perfunctory of greetings, and the occasional inter-departmental meeting about the trade deal, she didn’t see him again.
Until today. He’d swept into her office, talking a mile a minute, claiming that he needed her, that she was the only person he could turn to. Hermione had been so astonished by his abrupt reappearance and insistence that she found herself agreeing before finding out what he wanted.
She really should have found out first.
She scowled at him and shifted her weight in the snow, feeling it crunch and settle under her shoes as she glanced helplessly around the apple orchard they were standing in. “I just don’t understand, in what set of circumstances would anyone possibly need to know this?”
“The future is unpredictable, full of mystery,” Draco said, gesturing vaguely as if the mystery could be found in the falling snowflakes around them.
She put her hands on her hips. "There is literally no set of circumstances where a person would need to know this. Name one."
He was unphased. "You’re dawdling.”
"I am not—"
"Snow angels." He grinned at her, looking nearly angelic himself aside from the borderline gleeful glint of anticipation in his silver eyes. "You’ve already agreed to demonstrate, that's why we're here. Proceed.”
Hermione shot her most bone-corroding glare and gave a deep sigh of long-suffering, rolling her eyes to the heavens. If he ever told a soul that this was what Hermione Granger, Senior Undersecretary for the Department of Magical Creatures did during her lunch breaks, Merlin help him, they would never find his body.
She inhaled and let herself fall backwards. There was a soft thump as she landed. The snow was thankfully deep enough to catch her.
She stared up at the falling sky rather than looking to see how amused Draco currently was. She’d agreed to this. Why on earth had she agreed to this?
Because she was an idiot.
“After you fall back in the snow,” she said, trying to use her best lecture tone as if she wasn’t currently lying starfished on the ground. “You move your arms up and down.”
She swept her arms through the snow up towards her ears and then down towards her hips several times
“And while you’re making the wings with your arms,” she started sliding her legs apart and together, “You make an angel robe with your feet.”
She sat up gingerly. “Then you get up carefully. Give me a hand.”
She reached towards him, he gripped her hand but started to step forward as he pulled her up.
“Don’t step on it! You’ll ruin the shape!” she shouted, simultaneously trying to pull herself up and shove him back.
Draco tried to step back, but it was too late. She hadn’t recovered her balance, her arms windmilled, and she grabbed hold of his jumper as he teetered, nearly caught himself, and then toppled onto her into the snow, his weight nearly knocking her breath out.
She gasped several times, heart pounding, and then burst out laughing, dropping her head back in the snow. “Now you’ve ruined it.”
Draco lifted his head, grimacing and spitting snow. “You could have mentioned that I couldn’t take a step, and I would have braced myself before helping you up.”
She snorted, trying to ignore the fact that her stomach was flipping as though she were still falling. The weight of his body was bearing down on her, she could feel the angles and hardness of it. One of his hands tangled in her hair where he’d tried to catch himself and as he shifted it sent a shivering warmth right through her chest and stomach.
“It’s a snow pattern, why on earth did you think you could step on it?” she said, trying to feign indifference to their current position.
He had the grace to look abashed, a faint flush rising in his cheeks.
“I really can’t believe I let you talk me into this,” she said, scowling forcefully up at him as her heart continued to pound. “I gave up my lunch break for you and all I’ve gotten in exchange is grievous bodily harm.”
He laughed under his breath. “How can I ever make it up to you? Say the word and it’s yours.”
Her throat hitched and she averted her eyes and shoved at his chest. “Oxygen,” she said quickly not giving herself even a split-second to imagine what it could be like if he meant it. “If you could stop crushing me to death, that would be lovely.”
Instead of getting off of her, Draco leaned into her hands. She could suddenly feel his heart beating under her palm. The world around them was so still she could hear the snow falling.
He was startlingly handsome. Now, in adulthood, he’d mostly stopped sneering and learned to be charming. There was an easy elegance about him that was elusively beguiling.
She studied his face, heart pounding as he smiled at her.
His eyes were dancing, almost silver as they caught the bright light of the snow around them. Then they darkened, the pupils blooming and colour shifting into a storm grey as his head dipped down until his lips brushed against hers in a slow kiss.
Soft and warm. Gentle but it sent an electric jolt through her. She didn’t mean to move, didn’t even think as her hand slipped away from his chest, reaching up until her fingers curved around the nape of his neck.
The kiss deepened and his hand came up to graze her cheek, a fingertip brushing across her cheekbone as their lips lingered together a moment longer.
He drew away.
Hermione stared up at him, eyes wide. There was a smile playing on his lips as he looked down at her, then he pointed overhead.
It took a moment for Hermione to register the word.
Mistletoe. The whole world came crashing down. Her heart was still pounding with elated shock as she tore her eyes from his face, looking up and spotting a large cluster growing on the branch of an apple tree overhead.
He kissed her because of mistletoe.
She blinked several times as her stomach twisted into a series of double knots and her throat closed. Draco pushed himself up and started to stand.
A phantom pain rippled through her chest down into her stomach as she kept lying there frozen.
“Of course.” She managed a dry laugh as she forced herself to sit up. She closed her eyes, inhaling deeply and wishing she’d told him to read a fucking book if he wanted so badly to know about snow angels.
Her cheeks were burning and she pressed her cold fingertips against them, trying to cool the heat and hide how much she was blushing.
When she opened her eyes, Draco was standing, his hand extended to help her up. She swallowed and took it, standing and brushing off all the snow sticking to her clothes. Her stomach had knotted to the point that she felt almost physically ill.
“Are you alright?”
“Malfoy—” she managed to say after opening her several times to speak. “I wish you hadn’t done that.”
The smile lurking in his features instantly vanished and he looked guilty.
He reached towards her. “Granger, I didn’t—mean anything by it.”
Her chest tightened.
“It was just—”
“I know,” she said, cutting him off before she had to hear him call it a joke. “I know you didn’t mean anything by it.”
She drew a deep breath and forced herself to square her shoulders and look at him. “It’s just that I like you. I—more than like you. I’ve”—her eyes dropped and her face felt incendiary—“had feelings for you for a while.”
She glanced up in time to see his hand drop to his side, and he stared at her, expression stunned.
Hermione suddenly felt the cold. A lump welled up in her throat and she looked down at her shoes.
“It’s silly, I know,” she said, keeping her voice quick and light as if it was funny and not something she actually felt seriously about. “When I think about everything that’s happened in the past, during school—and then —and then the war.” She exhaled, and it almost sounded like a convincing laugh. “I know it’s just ridiculous. It’s not—it wouldn’t ever work. I know that. Of course, I know.”
She blinked at her shoes. “Unfortunately, feelings aren’t very rational.”
Her heart was pounding in her chest as if she’d just run a marathon. “I’m not saying this as a confession—” Her words caught and she shook her head, clearing her throat hurriedly. “You don’t need to say anything—sorry. I just want to explain so you understand why I can’t keep doing this. It was nice—helping you. But I—I just can’t anymore.”
She gave a deep sigh and looked up. “Ask your girlfriend when there’s something you don’t know. If she likes you, I’m sure she’d be happy to explain, you shouldn’t feel like you need to know everything.”
Draco’s eyebrows furrowed.
Hermione cleared her throat again, but the lump there wouldn’t seem to go away. “Anyway. I’m not upset.” She wished. “I just need to go. Take care of yourself, alright?”
She turned and slipped her hand into her pocket, finding the smooth handle of her wand. She was a split-second from apparating when Draco lunged forward, his hand closing around her wrist.
“Granger, wait,” he said. He was wide-eyed and somewhat dazed-looking as if he’d been walloped upside the head with a hefty hardback. “What girlfriend are you talking about?”
Hermione stared at him. Was it not a girl?
Oh god, was he gay?
She’d been pining for him and she wasn’t even the right gender. She didn’t know if that made it all more or less embarrassing.
“Well,” she tried to make her voice sound dignified as she attempted to pull her arm free, “maybe not a girlfriend. The Muggle-born you fancy. The one you’ve been trying to impress. Just ask them.”
Draco’s mouth dropped open, jaw slack, his eyes still wide with surprise. Hermione took advantage of his shock to finally get her wrist back.
His hand dropped to his side and he drew a sharp breath, drawing himself up and schooling his expression into something unreadable.
“Granger,” he said slowly, his voice tight, “about how many Muggle-borns do you think I know?”
Hermione shrugged, avoiding his eyes, determined to pretend that she hadn’t devoted a significant amount of time during the last six months identifying all the Muggle-born women in their mutual acquaintance. “I don’t know. There’s Sophee Day in reception, Charlotte Green from Magical Beings, Estelle Laurens and Lucy Draymond in Muggle Relations and”— or it could be a boy — “and Dennis Creevy at The Quibbler, Dirk Creswell in the Goblin Liaison Office, and—”
Draco made a frustrated sound and levelled Hermione with an arctic glare. “It’s you,” his words were clipped and there was an unspoken ‘idiot’ inserted heavily in his tone. “The Muggle-born I’ve been trying to impress is you.”
Hermione’s voice died and she stared at him blinking for several seconds.
“Me?” She finally managed to say.
He inhaled, looking like he wanted to shake her. “Yes, Granger, you.”
He exhaled, and his breath condensed in a thick cloud as if he was about to start breathing fire and rampaging through the orchard. ”I thought you’d be more comfortable if I was the one out of my element and we were both away from work; that it might allow us to get to know one other.”
Hermione stared at him, feeling as if there was an error somewhere in her mental computing. It’s you. I’ve been trying to impress you. It’s you. I’ve been trying to impress you. It’s you...
The words ran around and around in her head like a ticker tape.
“But—but,” she furrowed her eyebrows, “I’ve been dating. Almost this whole time, I’ve been dating other people.”
Draco’s expression tightened and his grey eyes went flat. “Yes, I know, Granger,” he said in a terse voice, “I have been incredibly aware of that fact.”
Hermione felt her cheeks suffuse with heat.
“But—“ she swallowed, rapidly trying to re-examine the last eight months and feeling that even though she should have maybe realised that Draco fancied her, Draco could have done infinitely more to make it clear if he’d ever been so inclined.
She huffed. “How was I supposed to realise it was me you were talking about? When I asked why you wanted to visit London, that first day in my office over tea, you said there was a Muggle-born you knew who’d probably be more comfortable there. Why on earth would I assume you’d arrived in my office to discuss my comfort in the third person?”
Draco threw his hands in the air. “You looked to be about two seconds from having me thrown from your office so you could resume ravishing the trade deal spread across your desk, it was the best I could come up." He scowled, looking sulky. "It may astonish you to hear this, but I was actually rather nervous at the time.”
He ran a hand through his hair. “I thought that after the first ten or so dates that you’d figure it out; then I thought, if it’s dinner she’ll realise this has all been about her, and I assumed you had realised it because you said no.”
Hermione’s stomach dropped.
He released a sharp breath. “So I left you alone after that.”
They stood staring at each other as if neither of them was quite certain about what to do now.
Hermione swallowed as she tried to wrap her mind around the realization that she’d spent the last several months depressed and green with envy at herself. She felt tempted to go bury her face in a snowdrift until she stopped blushing.
She kept opening her mouth and trying to figure out what to say next. “Why did you want me to show you how to make a snow angel?”
Draco exhaled. "I missed bothering you." The hollows of his cheeks turned slightly pink. "You’re like gravity, I can’t seem to stay away. You haven’t glared at me in weeks, and while I wouldn’t call myself a masochist, I am an only child; I can only go so long without any form of attention, so I—“
Hermione didn’t wait to hear whatever monologue he was on the verge of launching into.
She stepped forward, reaching up and catching hold of his shoulders, pulling him down until he was close enough that their faces were nearly touching. His voice faded away as she kissed him. Slowly.
It was more tentative than the first kiss.
Their lips brushed, barely touching, close enough that she could feel the warmth of his skin. She shivered and tilted her jaw up until their lips met again, lingering.
Draco’s arm slid around her waist, drawing her closer and his hand rose to cradle her jaw. His fingertips traced across her cheekbone, thumb tilting her chin back so he could deepen their kiss.
She melted into him with a soft moan and he pulled her closer until she could feel the hard planes of his chest through his jumper. Neither of them was dressed to be out in the snow, but she hardly noticed the cold. His fingers stroked across her cheek, finding the dip of her jaw and nestling there.
A vibrating warmth rushed through Hermione, flooding down over her shoulders into the centre of her chest. She wrapped her arms tightly around his shoulders, running her fingers through that aggravating blond hair of his, bumping her nose against his pointier one.
He gave a low sigh of relief, like the sound of coming home. She didn’t stop kissing him until her lungs were burning.
Draco finally drew back, both hands cradling her face now, warming her frost-nipped cheeks. His hot breath fanned across her face. He swallowed and then relief on his face vanished as he looked at her, his expression suddenly was somewhat apprehensive as he stared at her.
“Not that I’m complaining in any way, but you did say that this wouldn’t work,” he said, his voice slightly rasping. “That we would never work, because of everything in our past." He inhaled. "Shouldn't we talk about that? I feel like we should talk about that “
Hermione shook her head. “I misspoke. I didn’t have all the relevant information at the time,” she said, her fingers twisted tightly in the knit of his jumper to ensure he didn’t suddenly develop some kind of belated sense of nobility and go running off. “If you want to we can go into it more later, but not right now.”
She kissed him again, just for a minute before breaking away, panting a bit as she tried to catch her breath and jutting her chin up. “Besides, there’s mistletoe. Since we’re still standing here, we’re traditionally obligated to continue kissing.”
Draco glanced up.
‘That’s true,” His eyes were dancing as he dipped down and his lips brushed against hers again for another quick kiss. “So, is there a limit on how many times you can kiss under the same mistletoe?”
“No,” she said, her tone resolute. “I’m certain that there isn’t, and I’m an expert on all things Muggle. People even come to me to consult sometimes.”
Draco smirked. “Do they?”
She nodded and went up on her toes, dropping her voice into a whisper. “There’s even one wizard I’ve been working with who used my expertise to charm his way into the life of a very busy Muggle-born witch.”
Draco pulled her close until her back arched. He dipped his head down, a predatory glint in his eyes. “He sounds terribly clever.”
“Yes.” She could feel his smile against her lips as she slid her arms around his neck and her eyes fluttered closed. “I think he is.”