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The infirmary was filled to the rafters the morning after the ball. An endless stream of older students filtered through, practically begging for hangover charms to ease their pounding headaches. Hermione surmised that most of her class had an exhilarating night, even if hers left something to be desired.

Her hands grew clammy at the memory of unwittingly getting high on an unknown substance. All thanks to Pansy Parkinson. That girl had always had it out for her and she never knew why. What she had done went above and beyond her petty hatred of muggleborns. It felt malicious in a personal way. And not for the first time, she wondered if Malfoy had something to do with it. 

The night before, she drew such comfort from his presence. He brought her back to her room unscathed, tucked her into bed like she was a little girl. In those moments, she had trusted him. That much she knew. But when she woke that morning, nearly puking from her own kind of hangover, the day’s light seemed to burn away that trust like fog. And now, the terrible thought came to her, unwelcome as a thorn in her side. What if he was involved?

It wouldn’t be a stretch. He had known Pansy for a long time. He had the cruelty required for such a prank. She chilled to think that they could have discussed it in the room next to hers, some kind of twisted, Slytherin pillow talk right after he fucked her brains out against the wall that separated them. Sure, he had helped her, but maybe he just had a guilty conscience. It didn’t exclude him.

But she couldn’t accept the possibility with much certainty. It just didn’t feel right. Because he knew . He knew all her issues with control. He was the only one who knew the depth of her trauma. And he didn’t seem to revel in it. If anything, she felt safer with him than she thought she could. That seemed like such a victory in her struggle with anxiety and post traumatic stress. To be able to feel safe with anyone. Merlin, don’t take that victory away .

She would be confronting him. That much she knew. To know for certain. And then she would be scouring the library to find out what exactly she was dosed with. Because she knew that knowledge would make her feel like she had some semblance of power over it.

She administered what seemed like the hundredth pepper up potion and wiped her hands on her apron. There were three students lingering in the vestibule, all older girls, and Hermione was willing to bet that they were waiting for an opportune moment to ask for an emergency contraceptive potion. 

Moving towards them, she nearly bumped into a boy she hadn’t seen waiting by the door. It wasn’t until he smiled warmly that she was able to place him. It was Kevin. Kevin Entwhistle. The Hufflepuff boy who prevented her untimely death by staircase the other day.

“Kevin, hi,” she greeted him with a smile in return. He seemed pleased that she remembered him. Had known his name. 

“Good morning, Hermione. I didn’t realize you were working in the infirmary,” he gestured to her apron and cap. “It suits you.”

“Just getting a headstart on the healer track. What can I do for you? Let me guess. Hangover cure?”

He laughed, and it was a rich, friendly sound. “Oh no. I’m not much of a drinker. Can’t quite handle it,” he said sheepishly. “I don’t require your healing services today. I’m actually here to help.”

Her eyebrows quirked in surprise. Madam Pomfrey hadn’t mentioned another student joining her in her internship. “I’m interning with Slughorn. A potions apprenticeship. But I think he might’ve just wanted to get me out of his hair because he sent me here to brew up medicinals.”

“Oh, well come on in. I’ll show you to the apothecary cabinets.” She wrung her hands in her skirt. It would be nice having the company during the down time, but in the same breath, she enjoyed having complete domain over the infirmary. She worked better independently and always had. 

She swung open the glass doors of the apothecary cabinets, revealing rows of potions and raw ingredients. At least Kevin would be unobtrusive in his corner of the large room. And he wasn’t hard to look at if she was honest with herself. Plus, he had a warm and inviting demeanor that made him easy to talk to.

“Here you are. You’ll have to look through what ingredients we have left. I’ve been trying to keep up with the demand, but it’s hard brewing and treating patients.”

“Well, we have a mortar and pestle.” He pulled down a heavy stone bowl and it’s pestle off a high shelf, setting it on the table next to him. “That’s a start.”

 




Only the faintest of cobwebs persisted in Hermione’s head by the time she strode into the library that evening. She had spent the rest of the morning in Kevin’s company, listening to the soft sounds of him grinding herbs in a stone mortar, occasionally mumbling to himself. Every once in a while, she felt his gaze on the side of his face, warm and attentive. She would glance up to find him already looking away, cheeks turning an endearing shade of pink.

She didn’t mind. It felt nice to have an admirer, even if she was a bit too preoccupied to nurture a flirtation at the moment. But it was innocent and she found she didn’t mind Kevin’s presence much at all.

 It was just after dinner, and only the most diligent students remained in the library. Well, the most diligent students and Malfoy. The Slytherin already sat at their usual desk, slouching back in his seat arrogantly. 

She had been looking for him all day with no luck. He was absent from their shared classes and had only made a brief appearance in the great hall, flanked by Nott and Zabini the entire time. She had the distinct feeling that he was avoiding her and she was nervous to find out why. The longer the day dragged on, the louder the little voice in her head got. Telling her that she couldn’t trust Malfoy. That he tricked her, tried to humiliate her.

He watched her approach, cold eyes flitting over her like an assessment. She thunked her books down on the table next to him and pulled out a chair. 

“Malfoy.”

“Granger.”

“Where were you all day?”

He rubbed a hand across his jaw, not taking his eyes off her. “Keeping tabs on me?”

“You missed arithmancy and potions. And the prefect’s meeting this afternoon. That’s irresponsible, don’t you think?” She unrolled her arithmancy scroll while waiting for his response. 

“I had things to take care of.”

She scoffed. “What, like covering your tracks? Making sure no one knows you and Pansy Parkinson drugged the head girl,” she muttered, trying to keep the note of hurt out of her tone. She failed. It shone through, making her voice waver. 

“Excuse me?” She didn’t answer, busying herself with uncapping her inkwell. “Look at me,” he growled.

 She didn’t want to look at him. His gaze was too intense. Too cold. She would freeze in it. But his tone left no room for refusal. She turned, meeting his harsh eyes. Anger. And something else. Something that tugged at her, tinged with desperation.

“I didn’t know about it. I wouldn’t have let it happen if I did,” he said seriously, and she wanted to believe him. Wanted to trust. She felt like she was in the dark, trying to hold out a shaking hand. Hoping for an ally but too cautious to reach into the shadows. It was how she felt since sixth year.

“Why should I believe you?” This was the impasse they would always hit. Because there was no good answer to her question. And yet...and yet.

“I would never do something like that to you.” He squeezed his eyes shut, like he was debating how much more to say. “I would never hurt you.”

Then she realized. The desperation she felt. He was begging her to believe him. And she did. Her hand reached out into the dark. “Okay.”

They worked on their arithmancy project for hours. After she accepted his innocence, Malfoy reverted back to his usual self. They sniped at each other. Prodded at old wounds and complained about being forced to work together, live together. But he was a little softer. Gentler. Didn’t lean on each little cut as hard as usual. Like he knew that she was still a bit fragile today. Not up to sparring at their usual level of brutality. It wasn’t until after the library closed that he reapproached the elephant in the room. 

“What do you remember?”

“What do you mean?” She fiddled with her quill, avoiding his gaze.

“You know what I mean, Granger. You were pretty fucked up from what I could tell. It was bone white mushroom powder, by the way. What happened?”

The answer to what poisoned her settled into her skeleton. He couldn’t know how badly she needed to know what she took, but she was grateful all the same. That particular powder was tasteless, colorless, and dangerously potent. The ministry had tried to outlaw the substance, but it could be found easily in Knockturn alley for the right price. She ignored the question of how he came by that information.

“Um, I started to feel dizzy, out of it, while I was dancing. I went to the bathroom and splashed water on my face. Pansy came in. I was so lost at that point that I let her take me back to the great hall. It was like I couldn’t really think for myself anymore. Like I was just a spectator,” she trailed off into a whisper.

He tapped his fingers against the wood of their desk, his eyes burning a hole into the side of her head. “Where are the fucking wonder twins when you need them?” he scoffed. She didn’t immediately reply, so he opened up another line of questioning. 

“Weasley got in your face. What did he say to you?” She could hear the anger in his voice and she debated with herself about how much to tell him about Ron. But the urge to just talk wouldn’t let her go. It was so lonely, not having someone she could really talk to. Everything was piling up and he was right there.

“He just...he gets jealous sometimes.” She realized how bad that sounded and tried to explain Ron’s behavior. To make Malfoy understand. “Not just when it comes to me. When someone has something he doesn’t. It’s understandable,” she rushed out.

Malfoy raised his eyebrows, unconvinced. “It’s just that, he’s always had to compete with his siblings. And he feels like Harry’s sidekick. It’s hard on his self esteem and I really shouldn’t be telling you this.”

“No, keep going. I’m loving this analysis of Weasley’s psyche.” She smirked despite herself.

“Absolutely not. You’ll just use it to tease him.”

He rolled his shoulders and smiled a cruel smile. “You haven’t said anything I didn’t already assume. Poor Weasel. It’s so obvious how bad it bothers him that you didn’t fall at his feet the second the war was over.”

“I did though. I led him on. And then I backed out.” The guilt over it was still sharp. 

“I don’t get why you think you owe him something.” 

“I don’t. Think I owe him something, I mean.” But maybe that wasn’t entirely true. Maybe she did feel that way subconsciously. 

“Yes, you do. You just said it. You think it’s your job to coddle his self esteem. Make him happy. Let him take out his jealousy and insecurities on you. You just said that.”

“That’s not what I said.”

“It’s what I heard.” A strange revelation came to her then. Malfoy was frighteningly perceptive. How hadn’t she noticed that before?

And what he said. It planted a seed inside her brain that was already taking root. She let Ron take out his negative emotions on her. On her mind. On her body. It confirmed that way she had felt after she ran from Malfoy in the great hall. After she was startled by his dark mark. 

She let Ron use her. He didn’t do it on purpose, she knew that. He didn’t mean to hurt her. But she had poured all her selflessness and energy into someone who didn’t know what to do with it. She swallowed hard. The thought was painful. But it also answered the questions that echoed inside her for years. 

“Wow, I’ve never seen you keep your mouth shut for so long.”

“Shut up, Malfoy.”

 




Ginny’s flame of hair was the first thing she spotted on her way back to her dorm after her shower. Her best friend stood in front of the entrance portrait with her hands on her hips, a floppy little bag dangling from her wrist. She was dressed in pink pajama pants and a Gryffindor quidditch t-shirt. Uh oh.

“Hermione Granger. Unlock this portrait so we can go inside and I can yell at you.”

“For what?”

The ginger threw up her hands in frustration. “For not coming to me this morning to tell me you were okay. I had to find out from Romilda Vane that you had some kind of a panic attack in the ballroom. In. Sixth . Period.”

“I’m sorry, Ginny. Really. But it’s really not as bad as it seems. I’m fine now.” Ginny didn’t look convinced. She debated telling her friend the whole story but honestly didn’t have the energy.

“What happened?” she pushed as Hermione whispered the password to Eve. Ginny followed her into her dorm.

“Nothing. It was just the crowd. It freaked me out a bit and I accidentally drank something spiked. It’s not a big deal.” The lie ate at her, but it was easier than the truth. That Pansy had drugged her. She had a meltdown. And Malfoy carried her to bed.

“I’m so sorry, Hermione. I should have been there.”

“It’s fine. Please don’t be worried about me.”

“Okay. But as your friend, I am calling a mandatory sleepover.” She swung her bag up onto the arm of the sofa and started pulling out slumber party paraphernalia. Butterbeer, snacks, blankets and pillows, a few issues of Witch Weekly.

“It’s a school night.”

“I don’t care.” The brunette quickly realized there was no way she was winning this one and soon they were curled up in front of the fire, reading magazines and eating junk food, Crookshanks supervising the entire affair. It was one of the girliest and most juvenile things she had indulged in in a long while. She almost felt like a teenage witch again. 

Around midnight, Malfoy’s bedroom door opened. He paused at the bottom of his stairs and crossed his arms. She knew he didn’t sleep much, but still found it odd that he was still in his school uniform, sans tie. It made her feel even more naked, in her Gryffindor sweatshirt and tiny shorts, her legs completely bare but for crimson and gold socks. 

“What is this, Granger?” he asked seriously.

“It’s a sleepover, Malfoy. Surely you’ve heard of them.” 

He rolled his eyes and glared down at their little campsite. Ginny remained unbothered, skimming her magazine with on her belly, her feet crossed in the air behind her. “There’s a lot of red and gold in my common room right now. It’s giving me a headache.”

Our common room, Malfoy. And you can handle it for one night.” She uncrossed her legs and rose to her feet, padding up the stairs to her bedroom for another blanket, the chill of the castle starting to seep through her skin. 

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Malfoy turn his lip up at the sight of Ginny in front of their hearth, before following her up the stairs. Her bedroom door clicked open and Crookshanks darted past her legs immediately, kept from his preferred napping spot for too long. She busied herself gathering up her duvet, studiously ignoring Malfoy even though she could feel him a few steps behind her. 

It wasn’t lost on her that this was the second time he found himself in her bedroom in about as many days. “What do you want?” she demanded, whirling around to face him. His hovering made her neck prickle. He stood there with his arms crossed and studied her face for a moment, eyes unreadable. 

He rubbed a hand across his jaw and made a rough sound in his throat. “Nothing.”

“Nothing?”

“That’s right.”

“Then why exactly did you follow me up here?”

He didn’t answer, instead stalking towards her slowly, like a panther approaching its prey. He reached out an arm and hooked a finger under the hem of her overly large sweater, using it to drag her the last foot towards him. She stumbled, dropping the blanket and tilting her head back, back, back to look up at his face. 

“You didn’t tell me earlier.” His tone was hard but his breath was soft and warm on the side of her neck. She could smell him, feel the warmth of his body. It felt familiar now that she had been in his arms, against his chest far more times than she should have been. 

“Tell you what?”

“If you believed me.” His knuckles brushed her bare belly and she nearly gasped. He kept his hold on her shirt, tying her to the spot. So close to him she could count his eyelashes.“When I told you that I didn’t know about Pansy’s little prank.” 

“It’s so important to you that I believe you?” He nodded, just once, eyes glinting in the low light. Something tightened in her chest, something she was too afraid to explore. It felt like attachment.

“I believed you,” she whispered after a moment, because why not tell the truth at this point? If he was going to be honest, so would she. He ran his tongue over his teeth, looking over her shoulder at the bedroom door for a moment. Then his warm hands settled on her waist. Slid lower, over the dips and hollows of her body to her hips and then around to the flesh of her ass. He pulled her against him fully and she nearly moaned at the contact, pressing her hands against his chest. 

He was hard against her belly and when his lips pressed hot and wet against her neck she had  to bite her lip to contain her whimper. “Good,” he growled into her skin. It happened so fast, the needy ache ratcheting up in her core. One of his hands dipped down and cupped her right between the legs. Her shorts separated them, but it didn’t matter. Heat licked up her legs, tensing the muscles of her thighs and making her feel unsteady on her feet. She settled onto his hand without thinking about why this was a bad idea, rocking against it the way her body demanded. 

“Yes,” he murmured. “Fuck my hand, Granger. Make yourself feel good.” 

She bit down on his shoulder through his shirt trying to keep herself quiet. “Malfoy,” she whined softly in his ear, “we’re not alone.”

“I don’t give a fuck.”

The pressure grew hotter, and she couldn’t stop her hips from moving in desperate little circles. He pushed his hand into her harder, caressing her throbbing clit through the thin cotton of her shorts. “We can’t.” Ginny could come up the stairs to find her any moment.

“Then stop grinding yourself on me, Granger,” he huffed in a nearly annoyed tone. “If you can.”

Bastard. She didn’t want to stop. It felt too good. It was too hot, muddling her brain and lighting her nerve endings on fire. Sweat pricked her skin, the earlier chill forgotten. The flat of his tongue dragged up her neck and she almost came right then and there.

“Mione?” Ginny’s voice called from downstairs. Hermione jumped away from Malfoy, breathing hard and flushed from head to toe. 

“Oh my god,” she whispered, tucking her hair behind her ears. “Be right there!” What kind of friend was she? If only Ginny knew what she had been doing a moment before, with Malfoy no less.

She whispered a charm to put herself back together before looking at her roommate. He smirked, decidedly amused at the whole situation. And as mad as she was, there wasn’t a single part of her that didn’t still long for his touch.