The rows of shelves were packed with books, some slid horizontally into crevices. Stacked into piles on the floor, precarious towers atop shelves, and covering the small tables intended to show off newer, popular titles. Each aisle was made more narrow as a result, and reshelving was a feat that he mostly saved for after hours. If even one other person was in the shop it made navigation tricky. He spent most of his day behind the desk, perched on a stool, book in hand. Reading glasses on his nose. He’d needed them since he was a teenager but refused to put them on at school.
It smelled of old parchment and worn leather. Wisteria wafting in whenever the door opened. Freshly brewed coffee, from the pot behind the register. The metallic hint of Muggle money. And dust, too. But Draco rather liked the perfume that resulted. Like his amortentia.
It was slow for a Saturday. Rainy in a way it hadn’t rained in weeks. Giving a soothing soundtrack to the day. Draco flipped the page in his book of fairytales. It was one of Bernard’s favorites. He’d kept it on the shelf above the till, next to a faded, grainy photo of the bookshop in its first year. Bernard’s grandfather Bertram stood beside the door, not moving because it was a Muggle photograph. Clipped from a newspaper. Holding the book in front of his face, he smiled at the lessons Muggle children were meant to absorb from these short stories. They weren’t all that different from Beedle the Bard and the illustrations were quite good. Though the drawing of a chimera wasn’t accurate.
His coffee had gone lukewarm but he didn’t mind. The chipped I’m a Book Dragon, Not a Worm mug never held the heat. Most wizards would cast a stasis charm to keep their drinks hot but Draco wasn’t most wizards these days.
Instead of spending his time at the empty Manor, with its pristine white marble library with a cataloguing system and dust-free white shelves with gilded coronets and a painted ceiling, he worked in a used Muggle bookshop. Selling tattered paperbacks to the occasional patron from cramped wooded shelves. Instead of a luxurious four-poster from the 17th century, with French linens and a goose feather mattress, he slept on a flimsy double bed above the shop. Beneath a knit blanket from Merlin knew when and cotton sheets. Instead of seven course dinners with his mother he cooked mediocre meals on an old hob that even magic couldn’t fix some days. It was quiet. And it was his.
The bell tinkled and a customer entered, or a passerby stopped in to get out of the rain. Either way Draco kept his book in place. “Welcome,” he called over the top, immediately engrossed in his story once more. Whoever it was must have merely smiled and stepped further into the shop. That’s what he liked about bookshop customers. They didn’t need idle chit chat.
It was an hour before closing, and the chances of another customer were slim, so he leaned back against the shelf behind him and rested his foot on the counter. Placing his forearm on his knee. April was still cold this far north, and he wore a thick green jumper to beat the chill whenever the door opened. But the door hadn’t been opening today, so his sleeves were rolled. Exposing a faded tattoo of a skull and snake, covered partly by newer inks. His mother’s namesake flowers, scattered around the top of the skull like a crown, petals dripping over the eye sockets. The snake writhing from the mouth had little adornments to its scales reminiscent of his family crest and the tiles along the fireplace of the Slytherin common room. Along the pale skin on the top of his forearm was the dragon constellation he was named for, with its binary stars. Little clouds and stardust around it. Filling in the space.
He hadn’t expected to like it — the feeling of the needle on his skin. The buzzing of the machine the Muggle tattoo artist used to mark him. But it was nothing like receiving the Dark Mark. There was no incantation. No burning pain. No pledge of loyalty from his lips. Just an artist, creating something beautiful on his skin. Hiding the ugliness of his past. Not all of it. That had been purposeful. He wanted to still see the skull and snake beneath it all. Beneath the pretty flowers and stars and shading of the sleeve. A reminder that he’d made a choice he could never take back. And he should see it every day for the rest of his life.
Occasionally customers would comment on the tattoos. To them they were just art. Unexpected on someone who looked like him, he supposed. A hand knit sweater couldn’t hide a lifetime of etiquette lessons —he was what the Muggles called posh. It was longer and held less product but he was still a Malfoy, with hair so blonde it was like moonlight. A few asked him if he dyed it and which salon he recommended. Bloody ridiculous.
Bertram Bottlebrook was a Muggleborn Scottish wizard who loved books. So he opened Bertram’s Books and catered to the Muggle community in the small, harborside village of Stratham in the outer Hebrides. And for over eighty years his family maintained operations. Until his last living relative, Bernard, died eight months ago. Leaving Draco to run the place.
It wasn’t hard to find the magic here, if you knew where to look. There was a small dragon sanctuary tucked into a quiet cove, mainly for the Hebridean Black that was native to the islands. He could floo home to the Manor whenever he wished, though he rarely wished. With permission from the Ministry he could secure an international portkey and visit his mother at the château in France, though he hated to contact the Ministry. There was a wizarding pub in a neighboring town, and he could borrow their owl, Phoebe, to keep in contact with his mother. She wrote weekly then biweekly and now only monthly.
But after five years at Bertram’s he was content. Pretty girls on holiday flirted with him over the counter until he could close the shop and pull them upstairs. Then they’d leave with a smile and a story to tell their friends and he could drink an old bottle of Ogden’s without having to share it. And he could read in peace.
Relative peace. He flicked the page. “Yes?”
“Sorry, I’m— is that the only copy you have of Goldberg’s compilation?”
Draco rolled his eyes. “You might try the shelf at the back left, ‘Myth and Folklore.’ If I have another that’s where it will be.”
“Yes I’ve looked there. Do you not have some sort of cataloguing system? Or maybe a ledger you could check?”
For a moment he was fourteen again, at the Hogwarts library. Listening to a swotty know-it-all ask Madam Pince about books while he was trying to study.
“No ledger, love, sorry.”
Whoever she was she huffed a breath. He smirked at his book, wondering when she’d march away to check the shelves again. If he’d like the view of her walking away. She sounded about his age and it had been a while since his last tourist tryst. Or maybe she’d leave and he could close a few minutes early.
“It’s just that I was hoping to take a look at it, if you don’t mind. I had a copy as a child but it was lost.”
He sighed and snapped the book shut, bringing him face to face with Hermione Granger, the swotty know-it-all herself. It had been at least five — or was it six? — years since he’d see her. The years looked good on her. The tangled mess that was her hair at school was tamer and shorter, some of the curls pulled back from her face while the rest touched her collarbone. Long, dark lashes blinked over her wide eyes. Her full mouth tinted rose with lip balm.
“This is a cosmic joke,” he said, dropping the book on the counter as if it burned. “What the bloody hell are you doing here, Granger? Come to check up on me?”
“What? Malfoy, you’re the one in a Muggle bookshop. If anything I should be asking what the bloody hell you’re doing here!”
Oh, this would be fun. It’d been ages since he’d sparred with someone. And he knew just how to rile her. “This is my bookshop.”
“It’s called Bertram’s, not Malfoy’s,” she said. Arms crossed over her middle. One hip slightly out of alignment.
“Bertram has been dead for well over sixty years.”
She looked at him and pursed her lips. “Well, the guide in my magazine said it was run by his grandson, Bernard, not by the likes of you.”
“Sorry to be the one to tell you this, Granger, but Bernard passed on last year and left the shop in my care. So yes, it is run by the likes of me.” He pushed his glasses up his nose. Shit, his glasses. He hastily removed them and tucked them behind the register.
“I guess I just don’t understand.”
“It’s quite simple. This is a shop that sells books. Customers purchase the books from me. And at six o’clock I lock that door,” he pointed, “and go on with my evening. As it is now four minutes til, I suggest you wrap up all of your browsing.”
Granger sighed and touched her fingers to her lower lip, brushing it just hard enough for it to pull downward and back into place. “Why are you running a Muggle bookshop?” She asked, and the sincerity in her voice made him give a sincere answer.
“I took the six-six-six deal, at my sentencing. You probably read about it in the papers since I was the only Death Eater to do it. Six months in Azkaban, six months living as a Muggle,” he gestured around them, “and capped off with six months probation. Bernard was a Squib and on the list of approved sponsors for my time as a Muggle. I liked it here, so I stayed for the probationary period.”
“That was five years ago,” she said.
“Ten points to Gryffindor,” he drawled, and shifted his legs to stand. Stretching and letting his fingers graze the ceiling. “Still haven’t answered my question.”
“And what question was that?” She looked away from him and fidgeted with her sleeve. Tugging it down on all sides.
“Why are you in my shop?”
The rain persisted, and the pavement outside was empty. They were alone.
“You ask as if it’s an accusation. Can’t a woman take a holiday?”
“I’ve lived here for five years and I can tell you that not many holiday in the outer Hebrides. Weather’s awful, for one,” he nodded at the front door, to the wet and miserable street.
While Granger fumbled for something else to say he strode from behind the counter and did a sweep of the aisles, picking up misplaced books and shoving them onto shelves at random. He really needed to develop a system but there were thousands of books and though he had the time he hadn’t the patience for it.
“It wouldn’t have been my first choice vacation but Bertram’s was listed as one of the hidden gems of Scotland’s bookstores. Not a lot of customers to pick over the shelves so you’re more likely to find rarer books.” She followed him as he did his checks. Keeping up with his long strides down each of the four narrow aisles. “At least, that’s what The Title Page claimed. It also mentioned that this was one of the only shops to carry magical and Muggle texts but I couldn’t find the former. Bit of a maze in here. You know, you should consider reorganizing. How is anyone supposed to find anything?”
She was rambling, and he rolled his eyes. “Bernard stopped carrying magical books nearly twenty-five years ago, during the Dark Lord’s first attempt at war. Preferred to lay low. And The Title Page hasn’t been in print in at least half that time. How old is your information, Granger? Shocked you didn’t conduct further research. Not very Brightest Witch of you. Losing your title to a new generation?”
A huff of breath released behind him and he smiled to himself, turning back to the front of the store.
“I suppose it was a bit out of date,” she admitted, grumbling.
He opened the door, snatching the bell from the top and placing it on the counter. It was cool outside, and the rain left a fine mist off the pavement. Holding the door open he said, “Thanks for stopping in. Afraid we’re closed. See you in another five years, Granger.”
She blinked at him, then frowned, turning towards the precipitation. Gripping the strap of her bag she took tentative steps outside and he closed the door behind her. Locking it with a wave of his hand.
Then he went about his closing routine, starting with the ledger book. There was only one purchase early in the day. An old cookbook that he’d used on occasion and was a little miffed to part with. Just as he started to wonder where Granger was staying, and if she’d come back tomorrow, he glanced up to find her rooted to the spot in front of the door. Her hands were in her pockets and she looked down the road one way, then the other. Trapped beneath the wisteria’s canopy.
And he realized that maybe she didn’t have anywhere else to go in Stratham. Surely she could get to the lone apparition point. Or the Grumpy Grindylow to use their floo. Did she not have a portkey? When another minute passed and she still hadn’t made any moves to leave he sighed. “Fuck’s sake.”
He pulled the door open, startling her.
“Granger, come on,” he said, biting his tongue so he didn’t say something rude.
“Thought you closed?” She said, shivering a little, like she’d forgotten to cast a basic warming charm when she got outside.
This time he let her see him roll his eyes. “Get inside before your hair is declared a new isle and taxed by the commonwealth.”
She scoffed and pushed in. Draco locked the door once more and switched the sign to closed. Then he snagged his mug from the counter and headed for the back of the shop.
“C’mon,” he said again.
The shelves along the back wall contained an amalgamation of textbooks on various subjects. Some were interesting, like the medical books and astronomy books. And others were quite strange to Draco. Texts about fixing an automobile and how to sew a quilt. On the third shelf was a rather large book with a faded green spine. Succulents and Sundials was one of Bernard’s favorites. He pulled it from the shelf and tapped the wall behind it with his wand.
The shelf began to move, sliding behind the adjacent bit of wall to reveal a narrow set of stairs. Some days it felt like climbing a ladder, the steps were so steep. Today he trudged upwards, hearing the more dainty steps behind him. At the top of the stairs he unlocked his door and opened the wards, then went to his cabinets for a bottle of wine. Leaving her in the little sitting area.
“Bordeaux alright?” He called, flitting about the tiny kitchen to get glasses and set the wine to pour. He wanted it to breathe for a bit. It wasn’t the nicest vintage but he ordered it by the case anyway. It was easier to pop into the off license than order things by owl, which he kept to the occasional bottle of firewhiskey or sweets he couldn’t find a replacement for.
“Oh, uhm, sure. That’s fine.”
From the fridge he pulled carrots and celery, butter, and a container of broth. From the pantry, onion and garlic and lentils and a tin of tomatoes and some spices. And while Granger watched him with pursed lips he began to make the lentil soup he’d grown fond of on cold, rainy days.
“Just get it out, Granger, I can hear your brain throbbing.” Draco diced the vegetables and melted the butter in a pot on the hob.
“No house elves?” She said, and he almost heard the unspoken accusation behind the words.
“One, I’m not allowed them here, as this is technically a Muggle building. Two, they were freed after the war, as you bloody well know since you helped champion that particular bit of legislature. And three, the ones my mother was able to hire back went with her to France. So no, there are no house elves in my two-room flat.” He scraped the vegetables into the pot and salted them, adding a few other spices.
“I didn’t mean—it’s just…” She trailed off and at last removed her coat and hung it behind the door next to his own. “Well, for Godric’s sake, Malfoy, can you cut me a little slack here? The last time I saw you in person you were on the opposite side of a particularly gruesome battle and now you’re cooking the Muggle way and dressed like…well like that, and—”
He dumped the tomatoes in the pot and spun to face her. “Dressed like what?”
“Oh, come off it, the last time I saw you the only things you bothered with were expensive suits and robes. Now you’re wearing what looks like my Granddad’s jumper and trousers and trainers! It’s going to take me a minute to understand that I’m not in some alternate reality, Twilight Zone scenario.”
He laughed. And he stirred in the lentils, coating everything together before adding the broth and the lid to let it all simmer together. Marrying the flavors, the book had called it.
“Point taken, I suppose. This is what the cool Muggle men wear, Granger. I’d stand out in a way I don’t wish to if I still dressed like some investment banker. Especially in a town like this, full of fisherman and the like.” Not to mention he found it all surprisingly comfortable.
While the soup was on they had some wine — quite a bit of wine, to relax — and caught up on the last five years. Like they’d been friends before. But they weren’t. In fact, Draco couldn’t remember a conversation with Granger before today. A few barbed insults here and there. But they’d never been partners on a school project and obviously weren’t in the same social circles, her being Muggleborn and he being a self-righteous prat for the vast majority of his life.
But after a few hours, dinner, and several glasses, he learned a little more about the witch he’d always envied — for her marks and her friendships and ability to blend into the magical world despite the prejudices. Or at least, he learned more about the books she was reading and the bookshops she’d been to this year. They glossed over many topics. He learned that she was much prettier than he remembered. And he remembered that he wasn’t supposed to find her attractive at all, which only made her more beautiful. Forbidden fruit, or whatever. Shaped like that.
“So, what about you? Is this your Walden?” She asked and he scoffed.
“I do my own laundry and cooking, thank you. I’m not playing at living deliberately or whatever transcendental shite he was on about while his mother made him biscuits.” When she raised a brow and quirked a smile he added, “Couldn’t finish it. Bloody boring.”
Granger laughed and poured another glass. “What made you do it?”
“I told you, it was part of the six-six-six deal—”
“No, not living here, I understand that. I meant actually reading the Muggle books. It’s just—I wouldn’t think you’d be interested in that sort of thing.”
“Six months with no magic, living in a bookshop, what else was I to do with all that time? Sit with my thoughts? Pass.” He refilled their wine glasses and drank nearly half of his own in one go. “Bernard loved to put books in my hands, even the first day, before we knew each other all that well. He was always going on about how much I’d love this or that. He was usually right.”
“Except for the Transcendentalists?”
“No, that was Genevieve’s recommendation. She used to come in on Wednesdays to trade books. Wore these earrings shaped like tea cups,” he huffed a laugh at the memory.
Nothing escaped Granger. “She used to come on Wednesdays?”
“Moved back to the mainland to care for her husband. He got sick and they needed to be closer to the hospital there for treatments.”
And that lead to more questions about all the regulars Draco had seen over the years.
“So you just…befriend them?”
“They go to the trouble to pop in the shop, it’s only polite to engage in conversation. Didn’t you learn basic manners? I’d have thought that obvious.”
“Yes, well spotted, Granger.”
“Since when do you bother with Muggles?” She was asking more than just that, he knew.
Draco ran a hand through his hair, letting it stand on end. “Since I learnt that branding myself and pledging loyalty to a halfblood lunatic wouldn’t be enough to protect my family and I would have to survive each day on the hope that Scarhead would succeed in his chosen one quest. Turns out that all it took for me was exposure therapy.”
“Exposure therapy.” She repeated. And he let the wine pull the honesty from his veins.
“It was always just…loud. Listening to it all. Sounds that the Dark Lord and people like my aunt reveled in but I couldn’t ever manage to find quiet. With all the screaming and—It’s quiet here. Muggles are quiet. I don’t have to hear it as much.”
She rubbed at her forearm, and he knew what lie beneath her sleeve. “Have you been to see the dragons?” she asked, and he let her change the subject. Talking about the small amount of tourism on the island until a second bottle was drained and their eyes were heavy.
“It’s quite late I think,” she said, standing. “I suppose I should find an inn or something.”
“Closest inn is too far to walk this late at night and you can’t apparate after all that wine,” he replied. For some reason he didn’t want to tell her that the fireplace was connected to the floo, with a glamour over it to disguise its true size. A pot of floo powder on the mantle, untouched. “Stay here.”
“Malfoy, that’s nice of you but your flat seems awfully small and I don’t want to put you out or anything,” she stammered her words, wringing her hands all the while. It was almost endearing.
“Are you a bloody witch or not?” He said, and with a flourish of his wand he transfigured the settee into a small bed. “Top of our class, cushy Ministry job—”
“I quit, actually.”
He looked at her and raised a brow. “Quit? You?”
“Why would you quit? You never quit anything.”
“I quit piano when I was nine,” she countered. And he scoffed at her gall.
“Why did you quit your job, Granger?”
She clutched her handbag then opened it and began pulling things out of what was clearly an extension charm. Last Draco knew those weren’t exactly legal. Touché.
“Because it seemed pointless to go to work every day after my mother died.”
The air left the room. While she organized her toothbrush and toothpaste Draco swallowed. “I’m sorry,” he said. Words he rarely said aloud but thought often. “How did—no, sorry. That’s not my business.”
“It was a heart attack. They’re less common in women and the signs are different so by the time my father knew what was happening it was too late. And now he’s gone back to Australia. Took almost four years to get their memories back and then I had less than half of that time with them. All while they flinched in my presence. I don’t blame him for leaving but it was sort of the catalyst.”
“Catalyst for what?”
“Hmmm, blowing up my life?” She laughed, and it was surprisingly joyous. “Isn’t that what a catalyst is? Quit my job, put all of my things in storage, moved out of my flat, and began a predictable tour of self discovery.”
“In the most Hermione Granger way imaginable, eh? A literal tour of bookshops?”
“Follow your bliss or whatever.”
He smirked at her wry humor. It was late, and he had to open the shop in the morning. Plus, if he didn’t get to the bakery before nine all of the good pastries would be gone.
“Right. Well, the loo’s just here. I’ll go first, make sure the ghoul’s not out.”
“A ghoul in your shower?”
“Only joking. The toilet’s old as Merlin knows. Best if I make sure it’s running properly before you trouble yourself.” He slammed the door behind him, mentally chastising himself for whatever the fuck that exchange was. A joke? And not a good one? Giving Weasley a run for money he didn’t have. He saw to his business and brushed his teeth. Making sure all of his products were tucked away and the potions he relied on to avoid nightmares were out of sight. Then he cast a few cleaning charms, even though he was neurotic about his cleaning schedule. By the time he refolded the towels he’d been gone a lot longer than was necessary.
Granger wore pale blue cotton pajamas that looked soft, and he was staring at her neck, exposed for a change as she pulled her hair back. They were the kind with a little top that buttoned and trousers that skimmed her bare feet.
“Thank you,” she said, and he moved his gaze to her face. “For dinner—for letting me stay.”
“Of course.” He reached for the door to his cramped bedroom. “I’ll see you. Tomorrow. In the morning.”
He shut the door and changed for bed, slipping on his own cotton trousers. On a normal day he’d crawl under his blanket and read a book, but this hadn’t been a normal day. It had been fucking surreal, if he was being honest and he was only honest to himself when he was alone. Which was a majority of the time.
Growing up there were a lot of things expected of him and therefore a lot of things he expected. To be top of his class and quidditch captain and popular, sure. Those were in his blood. To leave Hogwarts with a dozen job offers and at least as many betrothal agreements. He was expected to marry and sire heirs and drink expensive brandy with his father while their wives planned social events and whatever other drivel occupied a pureblood witch’s time. A rose garden?
He didn’t expect to join the ranks of the Death Eaters. Didn’t expect his father to go to prison and lose his mind, thus needing to be moved to a smaller facility with a staff of mind healers. Where he didn’t know he had a son, let alone a son he’d condemned. Didn’t expect his mother to flee to the continent after all of that. And he certainly didn’t expect to spend days writing a letter of apology to Hermione Granger from his own damp cell in Azkaban. Agonizing over the wording and the cheap ink he’d been given.
Living as a Muggle wasn’t part of his plans. He hadn’t expected to like it. To make tentative friends with the people in Stratham. To grow fond of Bernard, with his wild beard and the colorful waistcoats he wore every day. Reading Muggle literature and making his own fucking soup.
And he certainly didn’t expect to ever see Hermione Granger again, let alone find himself thinking about the creamy skin of her throat while lying in bed with a hand on his bare stomach. The way she held her wine glass using both hands most of the time. The ring of gold at the center of her brown eyes, like honey drizzling into a cup of tea — Fuck.
Beneath his bed was a small wooden box. He snatched it up and tossed it on the blanket, then enlarged it. He threw aside a few photographs from his childhood. A potion’s essay he’d received top marks on. His certification of rehabilitation from the Ministry liaison, after he’d finished his six-six-six sentence and the required therapy. Finally he found it. A thin piece of parchment, folded in thirds. The wax seal long crumbled into nothing but a faint burgundy smudge at the edge.
I appreciate the letter you sent to me expressing your apologies.
Know that I accept it and hope that you continue to learn and grow beyond what was expected of you.
I know you’re capable of more.
Hermione Jean Granger
‘Do as the heavens have done, forget your evil; with them, forgive yourself.’
Had he forgiven himself? Who could say. He’d certainly stopped the self-loathing that marked his first month at the shop. No more nights drowning in firewhiskey chased with dreamless sleep. He could have used a bit of one or the other now, as he stared at the cracked ceiling. Contemplating the witch on the other side of the wall until he fell asleep.
It was another rainy day, and thus another quieter day in the shop. Or it would have been, if Granger hadn’t spent it reading and offering to help. She spent an hour exploring the town and came back with lunch for them both, correctly guessing that he liked salt and vinegar crisps and a Wensleydale cheese sandwich. She met Gordon, a septuagenarian who always browsed, never bought. And sometimes when he looked over the top of his book she was staring at him, and would fumble for something to do to hide it.
When it was time to close the shop they were mid conversation, discussing the thriller Draco had read three days ago and Granger had just finished. So he invited her up and let her help with dinner. Talked about summers in France and winters building igloos with Theo and getting in snowball fights. She spoke of Muggle plays in the West End and making jammie dodgers with her grandmother. They laughed about Gilderoy Lockhart and skirted around their other professors. He opened a second bottle. She told him that Longbottom had married and was apprenticing with Professor Sprout, taking over her first and second year classes. And she shared some of the stresses of her (former) job at the Ministry.
“It’s like my brain can’t focus anymore. The things I used to excel at are still there but they’re behind a layer of film I can’t quite clear.”
“Sounds like you could use a six-six-six plea deal.”
“You think I should spend six months in Azkaban? What crimes have I committed?”
Having the audacity to grow out of being a bucktoothed, bushy haired know-it-all Muggleborn with scrawny arms and an annoying voice. Looking like that. Daring to look at him when he was at the register, at his glasses that he kept forgetting to remove, and bite her lip warranted at least a month.
“Merlin, no. Your hair would become sentient. It’s always damp there and—” he shivered, and shook the memories from his thoughts. It was the wine talking. “But you seem to like a routine. And quiet. And books.”
“Well, you’ve got me there,” she said, smiling. “It’s a sweet little town, isn’t it?”
He agreed, but he didn’t want to give her the satisfaction, so instead he said, “Could use an ice cream parlor. Maybe a better curry takeaway. Merlin knows they could use a nicer bookshop.”
The smile she gave him was bright, and he couldn’t remember the last time anyone smiled at him that way. Like he was worth the effort.
“Where was the quote from?” He asked softly, stretching his legs out across the small room. Touching the very edge of her socks.
Draco gulped his wine and sent the glass to the sink before he could open another bottle. “From your letter.”
She blinked at him. “My letter? Gosh, it was years ago I’m afraid I don’t remember what I wrote.”
“It was ‘Do as the heavens have done, forget your evil; with them, forgive yourself.’”
“Oh,” she blushed and crossed the flat to bring her glass to the sink. Busying her hands by washing them both by hand. “It’s from The Winter’s Tale. William Shakespeare.”
He summoned the copy of the complete works he kept at his bedside and began thumbing through the pages, skipping over his various bookmarks and little scraps of paper he’d written on while reading. It was an exceedingly old copy, with yellowed pages and infinitesimal text. The letters so tiny he knew he needed his glasses to read it. Leaving the book open on the table he left Granger in the flat and crept down to the shop to retrieve them from behind the counter.
When he returned, glasses perched on his nose she blushed again from where she stood over his book. “Have you been reading many of his plays?”
“Yes, they’re in alphabetical order so I just started at the front,” he said, stupidly. Of course he started at the front, that was how one was supposed to read a book written in English. Next he’d tell her he read the words left to right.
“That’s quite strange actually,” she said, and he snapped his eyes to hers. “Most of the complete works are published chronologically, so that you see his progression as a writer. Or else they’re grouped by genre. Alphabetical is a little more obscure. Kind of silly, actually, that the most logical form of organization for written words would be strange.” She cleared her throat and looked back to the open page. The Winter’s Tale, with the list of characters in three cramped columns.
“Your namesake?” He pointed, and she nodded.
“My father read it in school and liked the name. My mother chose my middle name, Jean, for an American actress,” she chuckled, “and I grew up to be a book worm. Or should I say book dragon?”
Draco followed her gaze to his chipped coffee mug on the counter. “Yes very funny, Granger. Bernard found it a hilarious gift for my birthday the first year I was here.”
“It’s quite cute.” He glared at her. “Well, anyway, that line is from this play,” she tapped the page. “It’s not really one of his better works, if I’m being honest. But I remember I had been reading it when I got your letter and it just seemed like something I should pass on to you.”
“Because I know what it’s like to carry burdens that only you can absolve yourself for.”
She looked at him with a gentleness he didn’t deserve, and when he leaned closer she didn’t lean away. He grazed her lower lip with his own, and in some act of Muggle gods or cruel twist of fate or whatever the fuck you believed in, the security alarm went off before he could get close enough to taste her.
Draco was up in an instant, barreling down the stairs with his wand in hand. But he knew it wasn’t a burglar. And as the light of his lumos illuminated the front door, he saw a grey, fluffy monstrosity pawing at the wood.
“Knew it would be you. Are you jealous? Have to fuck things up for me?” He cancelled the alarm, hoping the cat buggered off to its own home, two doors down. The shop was as he left it, so he trudged back upstairs.
“Everything alright?” Granger asked.
“Just the cat. Happens at least once a week.”
She reached for her bag. “Right. We should probably go to sleep, it’s pretty late.”
Before he could wonder if she’d meant sleep in his bed she transfigured her settee again. Taking extra care to make the pillow fluffy and turning the blanket into a plush duvet. Who was the posh one now?
“Night, then.” He retreated to his bedroom. Punching his pillow and kicking at the sheets. Too proud to transfigure them into something nicer, like he should have years ago.
Sleep eluded him for a long while. Too many sounds and noises. When he woke, he felt like he’d played hours of quidditch. His muscles ached and he wasn’t rested. Granger was gone, and he shouldn’t have been surprised. After he half kissed her then bolted from the room like she’d shocked him. With a groan he turned the knobs of the shower as hot as they’d go, which wasn’t near hot enough to wash the strangeness of the last two days from his skin. Like the ink on his arm it wasn’t that easily removed.
Tugging his trousers on he stepped back into the living room with his jumper in hand. And there she was, sat at the little table with a plate of pastries from the bakery. Two steaming cups of coffee.
“Good morning,” she said, then immediately sipped her drink. “I—I wasn’t sure what you liked.”
The blush on her neck ripened like summer berries. He took a bite of a croissant and a swig of coffee to wash it down. “Cheers,” he said, and if he flexed a little bit while pulling his jumper on and mussing his hair, well, it wasn’t on purpose.
Granger sat in the armchair by the window of the shop for most of the day, making notes in a leather journal and gazing at the grey sky. Sometimes she asked him questions about Bernard and the town.
Draco brought his bedside copy of the complete works to the counter, then scanned the ‘Drama’ shelves for another version. They had several, and duplicates of each play. At least a dozen copies of Romeo and Juliet, which he had yet to read. A thick navy spine held what he was looking for. The complete works, chronologically. He took it to the counter and while Granger alternated between her armchair by the window and the armchair in the back corner, he moved all of his notes and bookmarks to the other book. When he was finished he brought the alphabetized version to the shelves where it would sit, untouched, like so many other volumes.
When it was time to close the shop for the day she swept the aisle, returning fallen books to the top of their towers and back between other spines. Like she did it every day while he sorted the ledger book and locked the register.
Over roast chicken and potatoes their wine-fueled conversation ebbed and flowed. The topics varied from impersonal to very personal, the later it got.
“Not Weasley?” Draco’s eyes were wide and he laughed in disbelief.
“No, and he wasn’t thrilled when he found out. But Viktor invited me to one of his quidditch matches before sixth year and—”
“You parents let you travel to another country and shack up with your boyfriend for a weekend?”
Granger blushed. “We were just friends so it wasn’t—they didn’t—well, it wasn’t something I’d planned. It felt right in the moment and he was nice.”
Just friends with Krum and friends to lovers with the weasel. It made him ask, “Did you and Potter ever?”
“God, no. No. Never. The thought makes me want to vomit. Intense sibling dynamic but no, despite what Rita Skeeter claimed we were never romantic. Who was yours? Parkinson?”
He refilled his wine glass and took a sip. “A gentleman never tells.”
“Oh, please, you don’t get to play coy. Not after I shared.”
“Astute of you to have noticed the way Pansy draped herself on me for the majority of our school years but she wasn’t the first.”
“That implies she was an eventual second. Or third. Or whatever.”
“Second, yes. Daphne Greengrass had the honor of deflowering the Malfoy heir. Fifth year. Greenhouse 3.”
“Isn’t she Pansy’s best friend? How did you manage to leave with your head?”
“Pansy, as far as I’m aware, doesn’t know. And never will because Daphne is rightfully terrified of the witch and I’m certainly not going to tell her. The pair of them are married now. Not to each other,” he laughed, “though that wouldn’t surprise me either. What’s the opposite of an intense sibling dynamic? Sapphic?”
Granger sipped her wine, cradled in her hands. “Strange to see people our age getting married.”
“Most pureblood betrothal contracts are signed right after Hogwarts. It’s not that abnormal. Especially now.” They were in their early twenties. His own parents had been married for three years and had a two-year-old by the time they were his age. And his mother loved to remind him of that.
“Harry and Ginny are getting married very soon. Just a small binding ceremony and party at the Burrow, the Weasley’s home.”
“A secret wedding, yeah? Why are you telling me about it?”
She laughed and sent the dishes to the sink with a wave of her wand, getting them to wash themselves. “Who would you even tell? The neighborhood cat?”
“Oh, she thinks she’s funny,” he said, but wouldn’t admit that she was, even when she grinned back at him.
The conversation moved, and soon they argued on the transfigured sofa. It was the most alive he’d felt in months. All of the loudness had settled and he could think again.
“There’s no way he was a Muggle.”
“He was, why is that so hard to believe?”
“Have you read any of the biographies on Shakespeare? So many missing details I don’t know where to start.”
“Malfoy, records weren’t as extensive in his time. And it was hundreds of years ago, things get lost and—”
“There are detailed accounts of all of my ancestors tracing back to William the bloody Conqueror. The man had too many secrets to be Muggle.”
“Yes, accounts preserved by magic. There’s lots we don’t know about how people used to live and what we do know is full of bias,” she tutted and he watched an annoyed blush paint her throat.
“Elaborate,” he said.
She twisted her hands, and he wondered if it was a nervous habit of twirling her wand. “Well, history is written by the supposed winner, right? And how often do you read about how war affected those who were a part of it? Trauma makes for a good story but healing doesn’t. I imagine there’s a lot of it on both sides that we don’t…we don’t hear about. Especially the younger generations.”
For the first few months in Azkaban he read the Prophet, hoping to learn more about a post Dark Lord world and instead he was greeted with near daily letters to the editor about all the horrible things that should happen to the likes of him. Some of them were quite eloquent. When he began his next six months of the plea, he would borrow the Sunday edition, as that was what Bernard subscribed to. Much of the same, really. And as the years went on there was the endless parade of happy endings for his peers, front page news, while the details of the other side were relegated to little blurbs about which former Death Eater had “gone mad” in Azkaban (his father, most notably) and which had died at last. Good riddance.
And what about the younger generation? Letters from Pansy he left unanswered, until she married and stopped writing. Theo had emptied his vaults and moved to America with barely a goodbye. Blaise absconded to his family vineyards. And Goyle had been cursed so foul outside of the Leaky Cauldron he had a permanent residence at St. Mungo’s. Trauma and healing, a laughable wish for the likes of them.
He was lost in thought when Granger whispered, “I get it now.”
“That Shakespeare was at the very least a halfblood?”
She laughed, a husky chuckle so unlike the trilling giggles he was used to from flirtatious customers. “Agree to disagree there.”
“Enlighten me, Granger,” he murmured.
“It’s quiet here.”
When she didn’t continue he raised a brow. “That’s it? That’s the revelation?”
“Sometimes I want to turn down the volume of my life, is all. So many people think they know me and know what my life is like. It just gets…loud.” She sighed and flipped her curls. Letting them fall over the opposite side. “Like you said the other day.”
He’d spent the day actively trying not to stare at her mouth. The full lips and pink tongue that darted out to wet them. The straight teeth that ran over her lower lip when she was thinking. And now he didn’t bother to hide it, flicking his eyes to hers.
“You’ll have to tell me to stop,” he breathed. Their faces pulled together, like magnets. Her long lashes fluttered and she curled a hand around his neck. Letting his hair slip through her fingers. It was a welcomed touch.
“Alright,” she said, closing her eyes. And he took the last bit of space between them.
She tasted like wine and smelled like spring rain and old books. Their kisses were languid and heated. He snaked a hand up her thigh and teased her tongue with his own. She scratched his scalp and he groaned, leaning over her. She pulled him until he’d settled between her legs, her chest pressed against his. The night absorbed the little whimpers she made when he tugged her lip between his teeth and brushed the bare skin of her stomach with his knuckles. He couldn’t move from her mouth. From the warmth of her lips and the slide of her tongue. The way she would swallow him whole if he let her. And he would let her.
“Wait,” she said, pushing at his shoulder. “We should…We should stop.”
He sat up, taking in the sight of her, pressed into the cushions with swollen lips and her top askew. Breathing in little pants as she righted herself.
“I thought you wanted—”
“I did! I do. We just…should stop,” she climbed around him, crossed the few steps to the bathroom, and closed the door behind her.
And he knew exactly why she wanted to stop. It looked up at him from his arm. He took a deep breath and tugged at his hair, then went to his room and shut the door. It was suddenly too loud.
When he woke she was gone, and he wasn’t surprised. Better for her to make a quick and easy exit before the sun came up and he had to face that look in her eyes again.
He wasn’t hungry. Coffee was all he needed anyway, so he brewed a large pot. And stared at the ledger then at the book of fairytales then out the window. Until his eyes glazed and he couldn’t tune out the noise in his head. The howlers he’d received almost daily in Azkaban. His father, the last time he saw him, speaking swiftly about preserving the family reputation as the aurors descended on the Manor. We should stop. The crash of the windows in the Great Hall during that final battle. His mother’s screams at the end of his aunt’s wand. We should stop. A frail old man, offering him help when it was too late.
All of the sounds he learned to let go. Drowning them out with the rustle of pages. The drip of the coffee maker. The creak of his stool behind the counter. A customer, announcing themself with the bell and a “hullo” before the door snapped shut. Occlumency was the one bit of magic he relied on every day. Simple spells were like breathing. Clearing his mind took work, even though he was a skilled Occlumens.
When the clock struck nine, Draco unlocked the door and placed the bell. Content in the quiet once more.
But only a few minutes later she came back. Through the door, the bell tinkling. Her curls a wild racket around her flushed face. In her hands a bakery bag and two large coffees.
“Sorry,” she breathed, “I wanted to get breakfast before you woke up but then Charlotte at the café recognized me from yesterday and started asking me all of these questions and I only just managed to get away.”
He blinked at her. Why was she still here? “Charlotte is a bit of a gossip. I’m sure you gave her plenty of material.” And the next time Draco went to the Bonnie Biscuit he would face an inquisition.
“Well, she was quite nice. Gave us an extra scone. She…she said the cinnamon was your favorite.” Granger held the pastry bag out to him until he took it. Cinnamon scones, a subtle manipulation on Charlotte’s part.
“What are you still doing here, Granger?” He placed the bag on the counter and crossed his arms, leaning against the shelves behind him.
“I’m on holiday,” she said simply.
“I meant why are you still in my bookshop. Thought you’d left. After…” he didn’t finish his sentence, just drank some of the coffee she’d brought. It wasn’t hot anymore, but he didn’t mind.
She looked away and tugged at her sleeves. The nervous habit all too familiar to him, for a few years. Now he pushed his sleeves up without a thought. Or he did, before last night.
“It’s fine,” he said. The thought of her attempt at an explanation rattling around in his skull for the next days weeks months was not something he wished to make permanent. “I may have been the Dark Lord’s worst Death Eater but I am self-aware, you know.”
She sighed. “You need to understand that it was entirely me, not you.”
Merlin, here we go, he thought. It was just like the breakups he overheard in the café or at the pub.
“You have a life here, and you seem…maybe not happy but content. And I’m neither of those things. I can’t walk down a street without clutching my wand in my pocket and looking over my shoulder. Sometimes I cry out in my sleep. I don’t—I didn’t want to burden you with all that. Maybe that’s presumptuous of me to think that a kiss would lead to…Nevermind.”
She drank her own coffee and grimaced. Before he spoke he cast a warming charm on the beverage, looking to make sure no one was walking by before he did.
“We’re consenting adults, Granger. I obviously find you attractive and I’ve seen the way you ogle me—”
“I do not ogle!”
He shoved his sleeves up, her eyes darting to his forearm. “And if you want to turn down the volume on your trauma, a good shag will do it.”
He strode from the counter, coffee in hand, to get a book from the stacks. It wasn’t something he needed to do — he had a book already and was looking forward to being absorbed in its pages for a few hours, but he knew she would follow him, sputtering, if he walked away from her.
“What do you mean obviously? It’s not obvious at all!”
“I kissed your mouth, Granger, that should be obvious even to you. And I would have done it the day before, too, if the alarm hadn’t gone off. You can’t be that dense.”
“Even to me? A clueless Muggleborn with frizzy hair?”
“No, even to you, a witch who never noticed her peers marveling at how she grew out of her awkward stage and into a beautiful swot.” He scanned the shelves, searching for the green spine. Was it green? “And if you’re going to make some grand statement about how you’re a Muggleborn and I was raised to think you scum, take a look around and ask if I held onto any of that rot.”
There, near the top of the shelf, was the book he sought. It was a more recent novel about a war between people with a unique system of magic. Thought it was fiction and Muggle at that, the themes were familiar to him. It was one of Bernard’s favorites, and he’d made Draco read it within the first few weeks.
He pushed the book into her hands. “I’ve got things to do. If you’re staying, that’ll keep you busy.”
And then he went back to the front of the shop, to his own book. He’d needed to write a few letters and transfer some of his funds to his Muggle account. His mother was expecting an owl. The day passed much in the same way as the last few days. They had lunch separately. She popped out for half an hour and he had leftover soup, cold from the refrigerator and tasteless. Draco did his minimal amounts of work in the shop while reading his fairytale book and Granger occasionally asked him questions and engaged him in conversation. But mostly she read, hunched over the novel like she used to hunch over their textbooks. Absorbing every word and making notes as she went. In school it was on a long stretch of parchment with a quill. Now she used a small blue notebook and ballpoint pen.
He kept his own reading journal but found that he reached for whatever scrap of paper was closest. The books he kept in the flat above the shop were full of little slips of them. Lines he didn’t want to forget or questions he had while reading but didn’t want to stop to look up the answers.
Three customers the entire day. A photography book, a collection of mysteries, and a few children’s books. He swept a few abandoned books under his arm, locked the door, and went to reshelve them. Shoving them wherever they fit haphazard.
“Did you close the shop?” Granger asked softly. It was narrow in the ‘Drama’ section, and though they stood on opposite sides of the aisle their legs brushed.
“Friday night isn’t exactly busy so a few minutes early won’t matter,” he replied. Trying to avoid looking at the bare skin of her leg, from where her skirt — from where she pulled her hem higher. When he met her eyes they were molten.
“Do it again.”
He looked at her mouth and she wet her lips. “Do…what?”
“Kiss me again,” she said. And the witch dimmed the fucking lights.
Merlin, she was bold, and if she kept it up he wouldn’t be able to resist. But he’d felt the sting of rejection before, and he wouldn’t offer himself up for it again so soon. “If you want to quiet all the noise, Granger, you’ll have to be the one to—”
Her lips crashed against his, and he pulled her body closer, until they were flush. Hitting the shelf behind him in the process. Everything he touched was soft — the skin of her thigh, the curls at her nape, her lips on his. Clever hands sliding under his jumper to run lines down his back and down his ribs.
The hand at her neck traced a path to squeeze her breast, small enough to fit in his hand and round and ripe as an apple. She sucked on his lower lip and parted them when she released it, just enough to slip her tongue inside. And the little moan she made when his tangled with hers went straight to his already insistent cock.
“Touch me,” she said, the words trapped between their lips. Neither of them wanted to stop kissing. They’d talked enough, Draco thought, and there was something intoxicating about snogging Hermione Granger against a bookshelf. Of all the places. Of all the witches. And she wanted more. Wanted to reach the place he sought, too. Where the nightmares turned quiet. He ran his hand along her thigh, savoring the feel of her skin as he went. The shiver tasted sweet, and he wanted to feel every inch of her unravel with his touch. Lace knickers, a floral pattern he traced with his fingertip. Starting atop her thigh and moving towards the center. Until her legs parted and he brushed her softly over the damp fabric. She gasped, and he did it again, with more pressure. He kissed her neck and repeated the movement. When he was satisfied with her sighs he dipped inside her knickers. Sliding through where she was wettest and back to her clit, circling it.
‘Yes,” she breathed, and he pulled back from where he’d attached to her neck. Leaving little marks she’d struggle to glamour later. Slowing the ministrations of his fingers, he had a longstanding thought — a fantasy, really, about the library. And he wanted to act it out.
As he touched her he met her heated gaze and whispered, so that his lips ghosted over hers with each syllable, “Can you be quiet?”
He pulled away before she could kiss him. When she nodded he pressed a bruising kiss against her lips and she tried to pull him closer, to buck against his hand. But he kept his slow pace and mouthed down her throat and between her pert little breasts, which he’d see to later. Or now, he thought, and moved his other hand along her side, stepping over her ribs to palm her again. Letting the pad of his thumb slide over her hardened nipple while his other hand copied the movement between her thighs.
She made a needy little sound and he looked up from where he’d been kissing her belly, over the cotton of her blouse. Eyes closed, one hand gripping the shelf behind her, the other on his shoulder. Her lips were twisting, trying not to make a sound. He knelt in front of her and turned his hand to pull her knickers down, leaving them just below her knees. They’d fall the rest of the way eventually. He flipped her skirt, briefly hypnotized by the sight of her, and tucked the hem into the waistband. Out of the way. So he could watch.
Her fingers pressed into his shoulder, and he leaned forward, letting his mouth take over what his fingers started. Gentle kisses first, while her breathing skittered. A swipe of his tongue and she whimpered. Fuck, he wanted to hear it again. He took a breath and closed his mouth on her, sucking for a moment and then releasing and teasing with his tongue. The second time he did it she grabbed his hair, but not nearly tight enough. So he dragged through her and dipped inside, lapping at her while she canted her hips against his face. Bumping his nose against her clit. The shelf rattled behind her, the books packed so tightly they hardly moved.
When he pulled back to breathe, letting his exhales cool her, her own breathing clicked. He slid a finger into her heat and out, adding a second and pumping them while she inhaled in three sharp successive gasps. And when he sucked her clit, humming against it, she tightened her grip on his head. Pulling at his scalp hard while she whined. With one hand squeezing her backside and the other curled inside of her he needed to ease some of the tension building, wished he had another hand he could wrap around himself. Because he wouldn’t let her go until she came.
Every subtle noise she made spurred him on. He drew runes with his tongue, for devotion and fire and passion. At least, he thought that’s what those shapes meant. He hadn’t kept up with runes after school. Why was he thinking of school when his tongue was inside of her? He renewed his focus, curling his fingers and pressing the flat of his tongue against her. Swiping up and down, in figure eights and with different pressures.
A muffled sound above him. He slowed but kept moving, watching her. She’d pressed the crook of her elbow against her mouth and her eyes were squeeze shut, head thrown back against the wood. And then he felt her walls flutter, and the slick of her come coated his hand while she rode out her release against the flesh of her arm. Jealous that he wasn’t the one to swallow the sounds. He pulled his wand from his back pocket and cleaned his hand and her thighs, watching her chest rise and fall. A tooth cleansing charm. Little bits of magic he couldn’t use with the Muggle girls that seemed a basic courtesy to Draco. When she dropped her arm she smiled at him, and brushed his hair back.
“Look at you,” she said, laughing. And he let his eyes rake over her, from the knickers at her ankles to the quiver in her thighs, the way her tits rose with her breaths.
“Bit busy right now,” he said, pressing his body against hers, letting his thigh slip between hers. Feeling the warm heat of her core on his leg. Between lazy kisses she held him against her, fingers dancing under his jumper and the waistband of his trousers. Anywhere she could touch skin.
“Can I?” She asked, her hand at his hip. At first he thought she was asking permission to touch his cock, which was an enthusiastic yes. But she wanted to borrow his wand. He’d never willingly let anyone else use it but he nodded. She performed a contraceptive charm and returned it to his pocket. “Sorry if that was presumptuous but it just seemed like the sensible—”
He captured her words and kissed her breathless, snaking a hand between them to unbutton his trousers. Then he moved across her jaw, sucking beneath her ear. Running little tongue kisses down her throat, turning her so that she faced the shelf as he mouthed at the nape of her neck. Curls tickling his face. He reached for her hands and gave them a squeeze before placing them on the shelf, just high enough that she understood what he wanted. He massaged her perfect little tits, plucking her nipples while she pressed the curve of her arse against him. Rocking against her he smoothed her dress down her sides until he could lift it, bunching the fabric at her waist and holding it there with one hand. Stroking her with the other and grinning into her shoulder at the wetness there.
“Good?” He asked, taking time to work her.
The moan from her lips was encouragement, then she reach a hand behind her, grazing the front of the trousers he’d meant to push down by now. But he was transfixed by the sounds — her panting breaths, the creak of the shelf beneath her hands, his own heartbeat in his ears. At last he pulled his cock from his trunks, giving it a few pumps, and lined himself at her entrance. Again he asked, “Good?”
“Yes, please,” she gasped, and tilted her hips back. And he watched himself slip inside of her, until every inch was met with sweet heat.
He set a slow rhythm at first, marveling at the tight fit and the way their bodies seemed to meld together. The slap of her cheeks against his thighs. A book, falling from atop the adjacent shelf with a thump. Faster and harder, one hand kneading her breast and the other keeping a tight grip on her hip, no longer needing to pull her back against him — she met his thrusts eagerly. Pushing her chest into his hand and her arse against him.
The angle was exquisite and so were her words. Little scraps of things that tumbled from her mouth. He folded over her to kiss her neck and hear them. The praise and sighs and more and yes and oh oh oh. Her hand reaching back for his face, twisting to kiss him. Hips snapping faster, until her walls tightened around him, pulling him closer and deeper. He let go of her breast, determined to memorize its size and shape later, perhaps with his mouth, and trailed down to stroke her clit. Rubbing circles as he pounded into her. Giving her the last bit of friction she needed. She screamed, the sound sharp until it went silent, her lips pulled back slightly from her teeth and her nose scrunched.
His fingers dug into her hips until he rode out his pleasure with his nose beneath her ear, breathing hot against her neck. Gasping together until the rhythm of their inhales and exhales was a gentle wave after a storm. He pulled out of her and righted his clothes, casting the cleansing charms and helping her pull her knickers back on. Smoothing the lace band over her hips.
“Now why are you laughing?” He asked, making a vain attempt to get his hair back in his preferred casually tousled style.
“I’m laughing at myself,” she said, her cheeks pink and legs still a little unsteady. He gripped her elbows and slid his hands down her forearms, lacing their fingers.
“Think you’re funny, then?”
“Think I’m a cliché, actually.”
He raised a brow and smirked at her. “Seducing a bloke in a bookshop on your to do list? Is that why you wore this flirty skirt?”
“Technically it was having sex in a library, against the shelves.” She grinned at him and squeezed his knuckles. “Do you think this counts?”
“Partial credit,” he said, and kissed her smile.
“Are you hungry?” She asked, and he grinned at her. “I meant for food!”
When she smacked his arm he laughed. “Come on, I’ll cook,” he said, tugging her upstairs. He thought maybe it could be like this every day. Quiet mornings with coffee and croissants. Quiet days with barely a customer and reading. Quiet evenings, fucking her against the books. Dinner afterwards. And no more noise between his ears, slithering in his thoughts like a great snake on his dining room table. Replaced with soft sounds and sighs.
They laughed together and ate pasta and drank wine and she kissed him in between. She talked about her father, and how she dreaded visiting him because of the guilt. He admitted the same about his mother. He asked if she knew any Muggle card games and could she teach him. When she won every round he yanked her off the sofa and into his bedroom, stealing her rational “I’ve played my whole life, you can’t expect to be good at it the first time,” from her mouth.
She liked to win and she liked to be in charge. Always the smartest in the room. And he let her be all of those things, straddling his hips. He’d let her take whatever she wanted when she was poised above him, hands flipping her hair out of her face and holding her breasts. Riding him until she couldn’t keep the pace and he took over, turning her so her back hit the mattress.
It wasn’t quiet — he was wrong about that. But it wasn’t loud either, not in the way the horrors of war were loud. It was like hearing someone play piano in another room during a thunderstorm. Soothing and captivating. The kind of sound you wanted at the ready whenever you needed comfort. And even though he’d felt content on his own, he liked the look of her in his bed. With her curls in a halo and her heels pressing into him, asking for deeper and harder thrusts.
As he came, groaning into her neck, he thought he liked the sound of her, too. The breathy sighs and needy moans and the fucking whimpers. And her laugh, husky and unguarded. The way her voice would almost drop an octave when she discussed her theories and raise higher when she read something she wanted to share with him. It wasn’t just the sight and sound of her in his bed that he liked. It was her, in his bookshop and his flat and his life. Maybe—
He rolled off of her, and she nuzzled into his side. Making sated little hums while scratching her nails over his chest. And he liked that too much. It silenced the rest and he fell into a deep sleep.
The next morning he left Granger sleeping in his bed, mouth slightly open. He went to the bakery and purchased his morning croissants and an extra pain au chocolate for her. Brewed a double pot of coffee. Flipped the sign to open and placed the bell over the door.
The first hour didn’t see any visitors, and he spent his time smugly wondering if he’d tired his witch out so much that she’d slept hours later than she had the last few days. Not his—whatever. He was still smug about it. The fairytale book called to him, and he read through a few of the stories while sipping his endless coffee.
Granger finally emerged, and he greeted her from behind his book. Hoping for a casual air.
“Morning,” he said, “although it’s getting late to qualify as morning. Shall I order lunch?”
“If you want something, for you, then you should. But…”
He looked at her, waiting for her to finish her thought, and she chewed her lip. Coat on, bag slung across her body.
“Oh.” He didn’t mean to say it aloud. To say it aloud announced his disappointment.
“Malfoy, I have to go,” she said. Shifting her weight like she wanted to stay. He wanted her to stay.
“Right. Well, you’re not my first one-night stand. Though I suppose maybe you’re a four-night stand, if you count the nights in my living room. Not sure if I do, considering.”
She exhaled sharply. “That’s not it. My portkey—Please don’t do that.”
“Not doing anything. Travel safe. If you’re ever in the neighborhood…” he trailed off and opened his book.
“On the remote coast of a Scottish island with next to no magical presence?”
For once he didn’t feel like sparring with her. Flirting would only make it worse, and he felt needy enough as it was. “Whatever, Granger. If you ever decide you could use more quiet…I wouldn’t turn you away.”
He didn’t look at her, just stared and stared at the lines on the page. They blurred. Probably because he wasn’t wearing his glasses. It wasn’t because he was trying so hard not to look at her that his eyes hurt. Eventually she murmured a goodbye and the bell above the door signaled her exit. And Draco released a heavy breath and reached for his glasses.
Things went back to his quiet little normal within an hour. All the routines that kept his mind clear. Henry came by on Thursday to check out the biographies, leaving with a new one and taking one of the peppermints from the dish at the register. Draco did his grocery shopping on Sunday morning, refilling the coffee beans and planning what recipe to try from one of the cookbooks in the stacks. Harry Potter got married the following Saturday, announcing it in the Sunday Prophet with a simple statement and photograph of the happy couple smiling in a garden. On Monday night the cat set off the alarm.
And as the weeks went by he kept the box beneath his bed. Reading through the works of William Shakespeare before sleep took him. Granger was right. The Winter’s Tale wasn’t the bard’s best. He’d related too much to Hamlet and kept picturing a curly haired witch as Juliet to his pale Romeo. Ridiculous. Pathetic. He wished it was summer and Muggle girls on holiday could distract him.
He tried to settle back into the quiet but at the back of his mind was a faint whisper. Always when he least expected it. In the shower, scrubbing his scalp. At the register, when the bell above the door moved. And in the stacks. Always in the stacks. He avoided the ‘Drama’ shelf entirely.
Spring blossomed and summer beaconed, and the wisteria gave the shop a certain level of enchantment. People stopped to photograph it, the cracked white paint and blue door framed by amethyst flowers. The lone window barely operational as such, with the towers of books all along its sill.
Draco sipped cold coffee from his chipped mug and buried his nose in his book. The bell chimed, and he muttered a hello, flipping the page. He had ten minutes until closing and was hoping that after Dougal had left no other customers would come in. Now he’d have to get up, find this person, and tell them they had to wrap things up and get the fuck out of his shop. Only nicer.
It was a voice he knew from his daydreams but would deny knowing, if asked. His heart skittered. Embarrassing. “Yes?”
“I’m hoping you can help me track down a copy of The Tales of the Faerie. The Goldberg edition. The last time I was here someone else was reading it.”
She slid a book across the counter, until he could read the title. It was the novel he gave her a few weeks before. The cheeky thing took it with her. And now a dozen bits of paper stuck out at odd angles between the pages.
"Someone else was reading it?” He said from behind his book. “Probably sold it, love.”
If one could hear a smile, hers was loud. “Perhaps you could show me where it might be?”
When at last he lowered the book he painted a smirk on his face. “You want ‘Myth and Folklore,’” he said, stepping out from behind the counter. There was a suitcase beside her.
“I had a portkey I couldn’t cancel and then it was Harry’s wedding. The next week I was visiting my dad and I should have written, I know that, but if we can just talk—”
“Think I have what you’re looking for,” he said, cutting off her explanations. She’d come back and the rest was noise. He had no need for noise. He locked the door and turned the sign, then moved through the aisle to the back of the shop, turning left to the right shelf. There, on the middle shelf, stacked horizontally, was her book. He pulled it and handed it to her.
Clutching it to her chest, she leaned back against the shelf, assessing him with her gaze. “Are you sure I can have your only copy?”
With one hand on the shelf above her he caged her in. “Well this is a bookshop. Have to let things go when they need to.” He tilted his face toward hers. “But sometimes they come back.”
Her throat bobbed. “They do,” she managed, just before he kissed her. Pressing her against the books until she removed the one from her hands and brought them to his neck.
“I was in the neighborhood,” she said against his mouth.
“Yes—” he moved across her jaw to nip at her ear, tracing the shell of it greedily. “I thought I’d see if you were hiring. Might be nice to have someone help you shelve the books properly. Bit of a mess in here.”
He pulled back just long enough to murmur, “I can put in a word with the owner but no promises, Granger. You’ll have to do things by the book just like everyone else.”
And while he grinned at her, she pushed him against the ‘Biographies’ shelf. Rattling the books. “That’s a shame. I always liked breaking the rules.” She tangled their fingers and kissed him deeply, until his other hand held her hip and his tongue slid against hers. For minutes or maybe hours. “And I’m good at it, you know.” She was too good at it, he thought.
“Careful, Granger. You wouldn’t want to get caught.”
It was her turn to grin. “That’s the thing about breaking the rules. You have to have read the book first if you want to get away with it.”
And if anyone had read the book, it was her.