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Fleur has a little game that she plays with herself as she pulls drinks for people. It's the only way to pass the time as her feet ache and go numb, and her fingers pick up tiny speckles of steamed milk (she always has to rub lotion in at break, but even the aloe doesn't really help). The burns are quick and almost never noticeable, but her skin gets dry and cracked all the same.

Each cup has a name on it, but she tags the people differently. The business man always in a hurry is Idiot Speed Boy. The harried secretary (Fleur always sneers at administration assistant, as it's not like it's any better) picking up coffee for the office is Pushover Queen. The men who leer at her tits are Waiting for Jailbait. The list goes on, most of the names not particularly kind. But then, they look down on her, so she thinks it's only fair to be derogatory towards them even if the Customer is Always Right.

She provides them a service and they do nothing but take. They stare at her with lust or derision or confusion, and sometimes she can almost hear their thoughts. What's someone as beautiful as her doing slinging java?

When the new term looms, she thinks about the classes her ex-manager told her she should take. But Fleur's not so sure business and management are her thing.

She might not particularly like people, but being stuck in a back room with ledgers and an ancient desktop for company seems far less enticing.

The deadline for applications passes, and she buys a new bottle of aloe.

-=-

Paying rent is the most important aspect of any job. This is why Fleur takes extra shifts and why she stops listening to her girlfriend whine that she's never ever there.

When said girlfriend moves out, Fleur gives it a week to hurt.

When it doesn't, she shrugs philosophically and offers her sister the spare room. After all, sisters have to stick together. Besides, the perfectly empty room is just crying for a new tenant to help foot the bill of things like electricity, Internet and cable.

She doesn't even mind when Gabrielle brings her friends over and monopolizes the front room and tiny kitchen.

-=-

The new term starts, snowing in Gabrielle and every other young thing with homework and classes. Fleur briefly wishes she hadn't taken a job in a university town.

On Tuesdays, Hog Java (one day, she's going to find the person who named it something so unappealing) has an open mic night, with late closing.

A whole slew of students sticks around for the bloody thing, and Fleur thinks up new labels for each of them. Even the one girl sitting in the corner occasionally wincing at the hideous poetry and so-called music from her fellow students. She's surrounded by books, her laptop half-buried under two open tomes.

When Fleur serves her another black coffee, she smiles her thanks.

They all say thanks, of course. There shouldn't be any reason for this one girl to say it differently.

But there's something in her eyes that stays with Fleur as she cleans the machines that night, having locked the front door after the last of the Britain's Got Talent wannabes have staggered out.

-=-

Bushy-Haired Book-Mad Black Coffee Girl (a mouthful, but Fleur has derogatory and personal standards to maintain) is back on Thursday, her nose buried in three books.

Not that Fleur notices, of course.

She's so busy not-noticing the way the girl's fingers type energetically around her books and notebooks and pens, that she almost forgets to add non-fat milk to someone's latte.

-=-

"You should get out more," Gabrielle whines on Friday night when Fleur puts her foot down. There is no need for what amounts to a dorm-room party with far too much alcohol to be taking place in their flat.

"Some of us have jobs." It's not really rude when it's the truth.

Gabrielle scowls, but acquiesces when one of the redheads grabs her arm and drags her off. There are promises of someone else's flat and a keg.

Fleur locks the door and isn't really sure she cares if her sister remembered her keys.

-=-

Saturday morning dawns far too early for her, and she staggers down to HJ to open, her eyes bloodshot from the red wine she'd made the mistake of drinking. Breakfast doesn't sound in the least appealing, she convinces herself as she reaches the front door; the scents from the nearby bakery are actually making her a little nauseous.

Next Saturday, she's making Ginny open, she swears to herself.

There's someone huddled in front of the glass door, arms around her knees.

It takes a few more steps before Fleur recognizes Bushy-Haired Book-Mad Black Coffee Girl. She looks done in, as though she hasn't slept in a week. Even her book-bag seems wilted.

"We don't open for half an hour."

"I know." She looks up at Fleur, yawning, not even bothering to hide it. Up close, she looks even more tired.

The one thing Fleur has always known is that you don't get to know the customers. That way just leads to them asking for your phone number or thinking you owe them dates just because you smiled at them once. It doesn't stop her from asking, though. "Why are you here?"

One side of the other girl's mouth slides up. Self-deprecating, possibly insane, she answers. "My roommates locked me out last night."

Fleur's eyebrows rise and she absently fishes out her keys, reminded there are such things as machines to clean again and cups to arrange. "Are you serious?"

"Very." Pulling herself to her feet, the girl smothers a yawn. "I don't think they realized--there was this wild party going on a few doors down and I'd been late at the library. I ended up walking over to the theater department and sleeping in the props store. Not terribly comfortable, which is why I'm already up."

There's a moment, where Fleur has the door open and she seriously thinks of being a complete bitch. She could step inside and shut it behind her, locking the girl out. It would be correct, not to mention company policy.

But there's something appealing in the other girl's artlessness over spending the night in a storage locker.

Pushing the door open, Fleur shrugs. "You'd better come in then."

"Thank you."

And there's that smile again.

-=-

On Sunday, Gabrielle and her redheads descend on HJ, and Fleur has the displeasure of seeing them disrupt Book Girl (short and sweet isn't cheating) in the midst of typing something that looks to be longer than most peoples' dissertations.

Apparently, they all know each other, and Fleur tells herself she is not sulking as she pulls a tall latte for some Idiot With Bleached Hair and No Fashion Sense. It's just that she'd almost started to appreciate Book Girl and her steady need of black coffee (she'd fallen asleep Saturday afternoon in her corner, and Fleur had kept an eye out to make sure no one swiped her crap).

"Hermione!" One of the redheads is emphatic as he drags at her, "You've got to come, there's this big--"

"Fred. She doesn't want to," Gabrielle objects. There's jealousy there, and Fleur wants to laugh and laugh at her sister for thinking either of the redheads is serious about anything much less her or Hermione.

Hermione is a better name than Bushy-Haired Book-Mad Black Coffee Girl (or Granger, which Fleur hadn't ever really been enamored of), and at least as ornate as Fleur, so at least she can't object on the grounds that her new obsession isn't named well enough. Besides her last obsession was a Robin, and look how well that turned out.

She isn't obsessed, she tells herself.

That doesn't mean she isn't annoyed when Hermione is cajoled into leaving with The Annoying Redheads and her Idiot Sister.

-=-

"Why do you always say Granger?" Fleur hasn't planned to ask that. But it is a Tuesday again and Hermione is buried in her normal corner, surrounded by books and discarded sugar packets.

One shoulder comes up in a half-shrug. "Do you think your co-workers could say my name correctly without coaching?"

Fair point. Most of them wouldn't even manage it with multiple examples and weeks of coaching. Fleur nods towards Hermione's corner. "How're classes going?"

"I'm swamped, but I'll survive." And Hermione grins, as though she really will survive despite the ink stains on her fingers and the dark circles under her eyes and the mountain of books she seems to have left to get through.

-=-

Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons - it's not a routine Fleur tells herself, even as she makes sure those are the days she's working. The days Hermione Granger buries herself in a corner and works on the classes she's taking, drinking black coffee until she looks wired to the gills.

But she still signs up for those times, she still catches herself watching Hermione from her station. She still has to remind herself that customers are scum.

Luckily, Gabrielle keeps bringing the redheads to the flat, so she has excellent examples to ward herself round with.

-=-

One memorable Wednesday, Hermione stomps in, bringing the dirty snow and fog that had sprung up overnight into the cafe with her. She slumps against the counter and orders a half-skim-cafe-latte with cinnamon, her voice muffled.

Fleur feels her eyebrows rise, but she makes it anyway, efficiently executing the swirl in a counter-clockwise direction and topping with cream and a dusting of cinnamon. Leaning over the counter, she murmurs, "Hermione."

The other girl looks at her, and blinks. "Fleur."

"Your drink, Hermione."

"Oh, right." Clutching hands close around the mug, but Hermione doesn't move away from the counter.

It's a slow day (Wednesdays are always slow, that's why Fleur likes them), and Fleur stays where she is, leaning companionably. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," but the denial is too swift and Hermione blushes, eyes darting away.

"That, is not nothing." Fleur points at the ridiculously frothy drink with its dusting of cinnamon. "Come. I'm a barista, you must tell all."

Hermione has already heard her mutter complaints about how everyone thinks she's their best friend and confidante, and her lips twitch a little at Fleur's sarcasm before she sighs. A sip of the drink seems to be for courage. "I told my Professor he was wrong. In front of the entire class."

"Yes, and?" Fleur is waiting for what has caused the need for a large dose of sugar.

"That's it."

Fleur blinks. "Was he wrong?"

"Yes."

A smirk steals across Fleur's lips. "Then you did the right thing."

"But now he'll never let me back into class. I need this class, Fleur, if I'm going to get into the practical next term." Hermione slumps a little, drinking more of her latte.

Fleur turns away to pour herself a cup of coffee. It's not particularly good, but it's better than nothing. "Then there is only one thing you can do."

"I know," another sigh escapes Hermione, and she groans, one hand coming up to tug at her hair. It's something Fleur has seen her do before when she's agitated or concentrating hard. "I have to apologize."

"Non." Fleur smiles fiercely. "You must write a paper so dazzling so as to prove him entirely in the wrong."

Hermione doesn't look convinced. "Isn't that just asking to be tossed out on my ear even more?"

"Perhaps." With a shrug, Fleur waves her coffee cup, "But there are department heads one can appeal to, yes? And if you are truly in the right of it, then he will be in the wrong to not accept you."

The logic of that slowly makes Hermione straighten. She downs the last of her latte and holds out the mug for Fleur to fill with black coffee. "You're right. I'll do it."

Fleur sees Hermione to her corner and books, and watches as her laptop opens with a spring in its keys. Within minutes, Book Girl has her head buried in her books, nose almost to the keyboard.

At lunch, Fleur brings her one of the sandwiches that no one ever buys, more coffee, and an encouraging word. After all, it would be a shame if Book Girl flunked herself out of university with the help of an irascible professor. And Fleur has always enjoyed superiors getting their comeuppance, even if it is only a silly first-term paper.

-=-

Fleur makes herself go a whole week without asking Book Girl how things went or even thinking of her as anything but Book Girl (she's worn herself down on the handle, it's much easier to think and much more fitting). It's to prove to herself that she doesn't really have a connection with the other girl.

That she finds Book Girl attractive is just one of those things she'll get over. Just like she did with the last half-dozen girls and the three guys who managed not to leer on first seeing her over the counter.

Convincing herself there's nothing special about the way Book Girl smiles at her, even when she's not being nice to her or speaking to her outside of mono-syllables, is easy.

There's nothing between them.

Fleur takes herself off the Tuesday and Thursday schedule and adds in Monday to make up the difference. Trading with Ginny doesn't lead to any questions, though the redhead has a knowing look in her eyes all the same.

By Wednesday, she hasn't seen Book Girl since Sunday, and she has no idea how she is or whether she's happy. Gabrielle isn't any help, muttering about how the redheads want to throw another party but last time they got themselves kicked out of the dorm. Not that her sister would have any interest in Book Girl, since she still sees most women as rivals.

On Thursday, Fleur turns up at HJ and cadges a cup of coffee off a co-worker. Ginny looks a little surprised to see her, but doesn't charge. It's the dregs of the carafe anyway.

Hermione looks up when she approaches, and raises an eyebrow. "You've been avoiding me."

"Not--" Well, she has. Fleur grabs a nearby chair and drops into it gracefully, not spilling a drop of her coffee. A half-dozen things go through her head in explanation, but what she says is, "I hate being a barista."

"I know." Hermione's eyebrow is raising, her head tilting to the side as though Fleur is a complex physics problem she's working to solve.

Fleur slumps a little and drinks her coffee. Hermione returns to her laptop, typing swiftly. The books on the table look a little more ordered than normal, and Fleur absently flips one open.

Despite herself, she finds that reading about Quantum Particles is easy. Most of the words make sense, and the concepts she's unsure about, she is certain Hermione can explain to her. If the other girl is speaking to her. She doesn't put the question to the test until she's read almost an entire chapter and finished her long-cold and gritty coffee.

"How many subjects are you taking?"

"Nine," Hermione answers, her fingers are tugging at her hair again, free hand hovering over the keyboard as though it will provide the answers to all the mysteries of the world.

Fleur reaches across the table without thinking, her fingers tangling with Hermione's and pulling them free of her hair. "You'll damage the roots, doing that."

"So they tell me." Hermione raises her head and her gaze locks with Fleur's.

There is a long moment where they're both utterly still, the sounds of the coffee shop around them distant and swallowed. As though for this second, they're the only two people in the world.

And then Fleur breaks the connection, turning away before she can let herself understand what it is. Yet she doesn't jump and run. She's tells herself she's either too tired for that or not scared enough.

Hermione returns to her reading, head bent. The book in front of Fleur doesn't offer any of its secrets easily, but she perseveres, shifting her chair closer to Hermione's without really thinking about the stretch in her shoulder and wrist.

She's still holding Hermione's hand in hers when Ginny arrives to give them free refills.

-=-

It's not awkward, the next couple of weeks. Or so Fleur tells herself as she takes back her normal days and swears Ginny to silence. The Weasley merely raises her eyebrows and suggests that Fleur do something worth being sworn to silence for, first.

They chat at the counter when Hermione gets her refills. When it's slow, Fleur finds herself taking a seat across from the student and reading a book. Or two.

Slowly, she begins to pick up the concepts--they're mostly over her head, but she's not entirely stupid. And there's math. Her maths are pretty strong, over-all, it was one of the reasons she'd considered night classes in business administration.

Hermione likes to argue about the maths, actually, and one evening they're graphing out algebraic expressions all over the table with the intent of proving the other wrong. She is utterly adorable like this, and Fleur realizes in an instant that it is far too late to walk away from this with her heart whole.

It's not a revelation that Hermione would appreciate, she's sure. Fleur isn't entirely certain the other girl is straight, but it's never a good idea to assume one way or the other.

Still, she lets Hermione win the argument and tells herself that she's going to have to back off again.

-=-

Horrible Coat Man and Smells of Too Much Patchouli and Weed Girl swamp her with idiocy a few days later. It's a Friday, and she's been doing fairly good at not avoiding Hermione while avoiding her. She's still working her normal days, but when it's slow, she busies herself with back office tedium.

Spreadsheets and earnings projections are never particularly interesting, but she forces herself to do them until she knows the take of HJ back to front. The business is actually doing quite badly, if what she's seeing are true. They're breaking even, but there's too much outlay for some of the higher end flavors and fixings. Fleur makes a note to herself to have a chat with their supplier the next time she's in.

After all, Mrs. Tonks has always seemed a reasonable sort. Just because her daughter ran off to join the circus and marry their bearded lady hadn't changed her outlook on life.

Two days after that decision, the half-term break is upon them and the town is thin of company. She enjoys the quiet, immersing herself in checking her options for enrolling in online classes. Night classes would cut into working-time, but with the battered desktop in the back room, she can just manage the Internet on, she figures those might be worth her while.

After all, the spreadsheets hadn't been that difficult, and she didn't want to remain a barista all her life.

And maybe she can squeeze a laptop out of discretionary funds and tag it as a business expense upgrade for HJ. That has excellent possibilities.

-=-

"Did I ever tell you it worked?" Hermione is leaning against Fleur's counter, one foot idly dangling as she watches the people drift past the windows. The street outside is crowded with afternoon holiday-makers, the snow not deterring anyone from whatever their destinations are.

Inside Hog Java, the atmosphere is cozy, the smell of cinnanom over-riding the coffee scent for the moment. The new cinnamon spice latte is a hit with nearly everyone, and Fleur has already had to put in two extra orders through Tonks for more. Having a chat with the matriarch of Tonks Limited had done wonders for their prices, too.

"What worked?" She finally asks, finished with cleaning the entire counter and willing to slack off a little. Occasionally, people look like they might stop in, but it's a prime shopping for Christmas day, and coffee breaks are for people who've finished their shopping six months ago.

Hermione took a long sip of her cinnamon spice latte, and gave a groan of appreciation. "God. Have I told you no one else makes this as well as you?"

"It is my job."

"Ginny can't flavor it right to save her life," Hermione objects. She grins a little as she looks sideways at Fleur. "Yours are practically orgasmic."

Of course, Fleur tells herself, Hermione would never flirt with her. Still, her eyes narrow and she leans towards the student. "You're just too tired when you get one from Ginny."

She will not be jealous if Hermione and Ginny hook up; she tells herself this even as she considers making Ginny work only the days that Hermione never comes into HJ. Then she tells herself she's making far too much of nothing and glances towards the door.

After all, there's no reason to think Hermione means anything at all by her words. Some people toss around orgasms like they're newspapers.

"I've never had an orgasm from Ginny," Hermione says, and then she flushes and looks away.

"Would you like one?"

The bald words are far too direct, but Fleur doesn't try to call them back.

Hermione flushes further, and Fleur idly wonders how far the color goes down. When she realizes her eyes are trying to penetrate jumper, shirt and bra, she jerks her gaze back to Hermione's face.

"I don't really see Ginny that way, Fleur."

Good. "Well, who do you see that way?" Not good. Oh, very not good--Fleur jumps as the bell over the door rings and Idiot Interrupting Asshole walks in, whining about being frozen and does she have hot coffee, the hottest, mind.

Fleur glares at him when he can't even look higher than her tits the entire time she's serving.

-=-

Far too many weeks pass. Fleur is busy applying for her classes, Hermione is busy with papers and assessments and a tutoring job she picked up so that she can save up to get a flat for the next year. She's already told Fleur she hates sharing. Her roommates don't care about studying, and she doesn't have the space she needs for her books that are all in storage with her parents.

Christmas arrives and departs, dragging Boxing Day and New Years' in its wake. Fleur doesn't get Hermione a gift, and the student doesn't give her a gift in return. Maybe they're not really anything but acquaintances.

Suddenly, it's a new term, and Fleur has new staff to train and more marketing strategies to implement and it's so cold she thinks her nose is going to freeze off if her fingers don't.

Hermione's Tuesdays become Mondays, and she convinces herself she's not missing Book Girl on the open mic nights. After all, it isn't as though they'd sat in the corner, quietly mocking every person who opened themselves up to ridicule. Though Fleur wouldn't have minded doing that.

In her opinion, Hermione can be quite sarcastic and pointed, when she needed to. It was one of the reasons Fleur likes her.

As a friend.

Not that Fleur is particularly good at believing that, these days. The thought of Hermione and orgasms being in similar places fuels far too many night-time fantasies for that.

-=-

On Mondays Fleur brings in her own homework. The first few times she usurps the chair across from Hermione, the other young woman merely raises her eyebrows. But once it becomes routine, they begin to talk again, exchanging suggestions for studying habits and random commentary.

Hermione got into her practical, of course. Though she's less enthused about it, since it's with the same professor she bickered with before. He seems willing to be contradicted, at least when she's right.

It's something Fleur finds herself getting used to. The work in HJ was never particularly intellectually-stimulating, and business administration (she's taking a full complement of online classes, with an eye for her certificate in a year and a half) isn't what she'd wanted out of life. But she's got a flair for it now, an idea of the things she can do with it.

"There aren't enough books here," Hermione says one night.

It's half-eleven and Fleur should be closing up, but it would take effort to go over and lock the door. Besides, Ginny is working a double and seems content to take apart the machines and clean them on her own.

"Eh?"

"Books." Leaning back in her chair, Hermione stretches and Fleur can't quite stop herself from following the movement. She swallows a little and blindly reaches for her empty coffee mug.

"What about books?"

Shaking her pen at Fleur, Hermione raises her eyebrows as she notices the line of her gaze. "There should be books in here. Keep people content and reading for a time."

"Everyone does homework in here already."

But it is an idea, one that she'll have to think about. There are multiple book stores with a little cafe inside them these days. But something the other way round? Perhaps it would work. Something she'll look into when she's not distracted by breasts and bushy hair.

"I should go," Hermione says, breaking into her thoughts again. She begins packing up, as though it's a foregone conclusion.

"Door's locked and everything's cleaned and bedded down for the night, I just need you to sign off the cash receipts." The interruption isn't welcome, but Ginny seems to be amused about something as she holds out the ledger.

Fleur grabs it and signs quickly, trying not to let her annoyance show. It isn't as though anything were actually happening, after all.

The redhead is looking between the two of them, her amusement seeming to deepen before she catches the scowl on Fleur's face. "Boss."

"Weasley."

Leaning in, Ginny whispers, "Hermione needs an escort back to her dorm, there's been some muggings recently."

Which is a patent lie, or at least a specious argument. Ginny also has to go back to the dorms, so why she's pretending she doesn't... Then again, Ginny's got half a dozen escorts on a rotating basis, so perhaps she's set for the night. Though why she can't take Hermione, Fleur doesn't know, and she finds she doesn't want to ask, either.

It's confusing and stupid, but she offers to walk Hermione back to her dorm as Ginny locks the ledger into the till and disappears into the back.

Hermione looks confused, but accepts after a far too long silence.

-=-

"Why'd you walk me back the other night?"

It's a Wednesday morning and far too early for this sort of conversation. Besides, Fleur isn't sure she has an answer outside of because I wanted to kiss you senseless under the stars. Especially since she hadn't even attempted to do so.

"Thought you wouldn't mind the company. And you're on my route home." Which is mostly true. Except for the part where her flat is in entirely the opposite direction.

"Mhmm." Hermione leans up against the counter, just enough so that if Fleur isn't careful, she'll get an excellent view down the loose top she's wearing.

Not that Fleur would take advantage of something like that (except there's a practical white bra under there, and that seems so Hermione). She manages to keep her gaze mostly above the neckline.

"Fleur."

"Hermione." Raising her eyebrows, Fleur leans forwards as well, though her top is buttoned normally. She's had enough of men thinking a peek is an offer.

There's a moment where Hermione eyes are clouded, and then she smiles. Her hand reaches out and up, fingertips brushing Fleur's cheek. "You know I'm not straight, right?"

Before Fleur can do more than blink, Hermione pushes up on her toes and leans even further over the counter. And, fuck, Fleur realizes she's leaning, too, because her mouth is now close enough for Hermione to kiss. Which she does, swiftly, gently, just a flutter of lips against lips.

Fleur makes a noise and pushes forwards, catching Hermione by surprise, if her reaction is anything to go by. Not upset, though, as she quickly participates in their second and far longer kiss.

The taste of coffee explodes across her senses, the smell of Hermione's hair products, the aloe she's been sharing when they're studying--all of it makes her want more, but she restrains herself. Gentling the kiss, she slowly draws back and stares at the other woman. "I'd wondered."

"I'd wondered how long it would take you," Ginny says, hip-checking Fleur to set two mugs of coffee down for a startled pair of customers. "Now go on break before you shock more of our clientele."

-=-

"You were flirting with me," Fleur says. It's two days after their first kiss, and they're back at the corner table with homework spread between them.

"Obviously. Not that I'm very good at it."

"You were brilliant."

Hermione snorts, "So brilliant it's taken you three months to be blatant about staring at my breasts."

Blatantly ogling said breasts for a moment, Fleur shrugs. "I've known how annoying it is, so I try to be less obvious."

"At times." Reaching out, Hermione strokes her fingers over Fleur's wrist.

"Speaking of obvious." Following the hint, Fleur leans over and kisses her swiftly.

It's still too new for this, she thinks frantically, trying not to worry about what everyone around them is noticing. Two days of stolen kisses and appreciation and sort of flirting and homework and her fingers not being anywhere near adequate--

"You could do that every ten minutes and I wouldn't object."

"Going to time me?"

Hermione clicks her mouse and turns the laptop, displaying the stop-watch. "Sure."

"Geek."

"Straight-laced businesswoman."

Grinning, Fleur returns to her homework. There are classes to participate in and two business plans to turn in before the weekend. And Hermione to seduce.

Possibly.

-=-

Kissing is not seducing, Fleur convinces herself. She's enjoying the kissing, quite likes it a lot, actually. Especially the little humming noises Hermione makes when their tongues brush against each other or Fleur nips at her lower lip, sucking at it just a little too hard.

They're making out like teenagers in Hermione's dorm room, half-sprawled against the pillows at the head of Hermione's bed. The room is fairly cheerful for a standard dorm room.

Fleur isn't entirely sure how they ended up here. Not that she's objecting to the kissing. It's bloody marvelous, is what it is. Lips and tongues and teeth occasionally clicking (not entirely graceful is her Hermione, and she likes her the more for it).

Kissing like there isn't a tomorrow, like Fleur can eat her from the mouth down.

That thought is enough to break her away, lips trailing down Hermione's cheek to her throat. There are pulse points to suck at, sensitive spots to tease until Hermione is whimpering for more.

She does just that, whining a little herself when Hermione's fingers thread through her hair, nails digging into her scalp.

They slide a little more, and Fleur finds herself falling sideways, then onto her back, dragging Hermione with her. Their legs tangle, and for an instant, Fleur is terrified one of them is going to fall to the floor, dragging the other. Then the world rights itself just enough.

A laugh escapes Hermione, and she takes control for a moment, teeth and lips nipping at the underside of Fleur's jaw.

It's enough to make Fleur arch her back, fingers tugging at the fabric of Hermione's shirt. "Off."

"Not here," Hermione whispers, claiming Fleur's mouth again.

The kiss devours her soul. Fleur decides she's been reading far too many awful novels, and tells herself no one can devour souls as she kisses back with just as much intensity.

Hermione gentles the kiss after a time, pulling back to bury her face in Fleur's shoulder.

They're both panting and flushed.

-=-

Now that Fleur has some real-world experience of Hermione's mouth, her nightly fantasies are far more detailed.

If the other woman agrees to even a third of her ideas, they'll be set for months of hot sex.

-=-

Saturday nights are not Fleur's favorite. Especially not when she's had to kick her sister out with her friends for being too damn loud. The redheads are related to Ginny, she's finally realized (really, she used to be more observant, but it wasn't as though Ginny had ever seemed to want to claim them and Fleur doesn't blame her in the slightest). Wherever they end up, she doesn't particularly care.

When someone bangs on the door at half-one, she's undecided on whether a knife is appropriate to take with her to answer or not.

She decides on the phone, thumb poised to dial if there's a reason to call for help. "What d'you want?"

"It's me, Fleur." Hermione's voice sounds too-loud in the silence of the hall outside her flat.

Tossing the phone to the side, she quickly opens the door, pulling her sort-of-maybe-serious-girlfriend inside and bolting it back up. She puts the chain across for good measure before she looks at Hermione. "You look like shit."

Hermione winces at the bald statement and rubs her hand over her face. "Had another argument with the wonder-twins. Can I crash here tonight?"

The Not Wonderful At All Twins are Hermione's current roommates, though they're not actually twins, just two girls who are similar enough in temperament to clash with Hermione's far more studious outlook on life. "C'mon, lets get you cleaned up."

It makes her angry that they can make Hermione cry, but then again, there's enough stress in the poor girl's life with her mountain of coursework that the tears might just have been a relief.

Fleur makes tea while Hermione takes care of washing her face in the loo. Carefully measuring in the sugar and milk, she reflects that three months ago, she would have jumped the other girl's bones before she'd made it in the door. Or possibly not allowed her in at all. She's not sure which.

When Hermione thanks her and takes a seat on the couch, Fleur takes the precaution of going for the chair.

Making a move on an emotionally-distraught girlfriend is impolite.

And her mother had long ago taught her to never be impolite.

-=-

Fleur wakes with Hermione's hair in her face and her own hand wrapped possessively around one of the most perfect tits she's ever had the fortune to hold. Even through the t-shirt the other woman is wearing, the feel of the breast in her hand is enough to make her breathing quicken and her skin flush.

The night before comes back in a scattered rush as she tries not to move. Hermione's legs are tangled with her, her back to Fleur's front, ass pressed closed.

It's enough to make a grown woman think highly immoral thoughts.

She licks dry lips, wondering if they really had thought passing out together after tea and conversation was the best idea ever. But Fleur hadn't thought Gabrielle would appreciate the appropriation of her bed, and she herself hadn't held another woman in sleep in far too long. And the couch was lumpy. She was sure the couch was lumpy.

And maybe, just maybe, she'd thought about the way Hermione would feel in her arms in the morning. Did she sprawl? Cuddle? Would she be stretched out or closed-in? Would she wake horny?

The latter is completely true in Fleur's case, though she tells herself she really can't be blamed.

As if the morning can't get more awkward, Hermione wriggles and wakes with a yawn. A moment later, she freezes, as though realizing exactly their situation.

Making a decision, Fleur bends and brushes her lips against Hermione's exposed neck. "I'm not going to apologize for my sleeping habits." Her hand slowly moves, palm pressing in against the hardening nipple she can feel.

Hermione arches a little, pushing the breast more firmly into Fleur's hand. "Don't apologize unless you're not planning on following through."

Which seems to answer every question Fleur has for the moment. Her mouth goes for Hermione's neck again. She begins tracing lines and patterns with her teeth and tongue while her hand continues with teasing the nipple. Fingers catch and twist, tightening then releasing as Hermione squirms against her.

It should be awkward, Fleur thinks. But it's a fleeting worry as Hermione catches her wrist and urges her hand down. They should be having halting conversations about speed and penetration and whether they like sex first thing in the morning. They should be kissing and making faces over morning breath. It shouldn't be as easy as sliding her fingers underneath the elastic of Hermione's knickers to find her slippery with desire. She wants to ask what dreams she's been having.

Hermione gasps and murmurs encouragement, rocking her hips, grinding herself against Fleur's hand.

"Too much?" Fleur asks, mouth against Hermione's pulse. She's thinking about marking her, sucking hard enough to leave a mark and wondering if the other woman would object.

"Not enough." The answer is breathless and ragged, and Hermione's fingers tighten on Fleur's wrist. "Harder. Please."

Heat flashes down Fleur's spine, and she can feel the ache between her own legs intensify. She's certain that if Hermione were to touch her right now she'd be lost in an instant, her body thrumming with pleasure.

A curse escapes Hermione, her hips stilling, as though movement would be too much (or not enough), and Fleur sucks hard at the spot behind her ear, teeth digging in ever-so-slightly. The fingers she's using to slide over and around Hermione's clit slow, then speed up.

It's enough, it's too much, Hermione is gasping out again, shaking in her arms.

It's perfect.

Fleur gentles her movements, sliding her mouth down to the juncture of shoulder and neck, nipping and soothing as she goes.

"Fuck," Hermione says, a long, drawn-out word that encompasses everything and nothing. Her hand tugs Fleur's free, and brings it up to her mouth where she kisses each finger individually before sucking the fingers lightly.

A groan escapes Fleur at the swirl of tongue on her damp fingers.

"I hadn't planned to do that," she whispers against Hermione's shoulder.

Pulling Fleur's fingers from her mouth, Hermione chuckles softly. "Neither had I." She wriggles, pressing her ass back against Fleur. "And now I'm boneless, but I bet you're aching and needy back there."

"You don't--"

Hermione shifts and turns around, facing Fleur. Her hand comes up to cup Fleur's cheek and she leans in to kiss her gently, carefully. "Yeah," she breathes, and Fleur thinks that toothpaste should have been their first stop of the day, but can't find it in herself to mention it. "I do. So shut up and enjoy yourself."

Reaching down, Hermione pulls Fleur's leg up and over her waist, sliding her leg between Fleur's until her thigh is pressed up against where Fleur wants it.

Fleur has an instant to think I didn't shave my legs last night and then Hermione's mouth is by her ear whispering incredibly filthy things and her leg is pressed up and Fleur is grinding down against the skin of her thigh, with Hermione's fingers tight on her hip and it's not perfect.

It's bloody awkward and difficult she's sweating and panting and she's never been good at climaxing like this--except apparently when Hermione fucking Granger is involved, because Fleur can feel the sensation clawing up her spine as need and lust steal her breath.

Almost, not quite--and then she's there and crying out and wondering just when the last time she had sex with another woman in her own bed was (too long), and thinking that all of her fantasies were nowhere near realistic enough. Her hip aches with the angle and her cunt feels a little raw from the fabric dragging against it.

But Hermione is smugly kissing her jaw and nose and mouth and then settling back against the pillows.

Fleur winds her arms around the other woman, shifts to relieve the strain on her hip and settles down to enjoy the sensations still rocketing through her body.

Later, they can be awkward.

-=-

They talk. Sort of. Fleur isn't quite sure what they decide on or where they're going, but she decides it doesn't matter because Hermione is stuck in university and nearby for at least another year before she gets all her studying done and the coffee shop isn't going anywhere.

Bushy-Haired Book-Mad Black Coffee Girl still comes in every other day, and they study together at their table. They still argue over algebra and physics and economics (formulas and spreadsheets and business plans are easy compared to physics). Fleur still thinks she's not quite what Hermione is looking for. Any moment now, Hermione will see someone less beautiful and flighty, and find that bookworm lover she's really always wanted.

There are lazy Sunday afternoons spent sprawled on Hermione's bed in her dorm room, early Wednesday morning cram sessions (there are always exams before Hermione's Wednesday practical with Professor Professional Asshole), and far too many late nights with coffee and homework.

When the term ends, and they both have a breather before the summer term starts, Fleur gives serious consideration to asking her girlfriend to move in with her. But then she thinks about how it's only been a few months. The sex is amazing, but that's no basis for moving in together. Especially not when the last time she moved in with someone that someone walked out on her after two months claiming she didn't care enough.

So she doesn't ask and Hermione doesn't seem to expect it.

Perhaps that's good. Moving too fast is a bit like dangling over a cliff with no safety harness and someone standing above with a knife, ready to cut the rope.

Fleur just hopes Hermione will be there at the bottom when she hits the rocks.

-f-

Notes: The future contains a joint venture coffee shop/bookstore wherein Hermione sells All The Obscure Things and Fleur demands they christen the back room and basement and storage areas all in one go. Ginny is their GM, and Mrs. Tonks continues to supply all the Obscure and Desired Flavors.