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Eighth Year



Draco Malfoy was not doing anything to help himself. It was all Hermione could think about from her bench in the Wizengamot chamber. He was slouching in the spike lined cage, eyes heavy lidded, like his own court proceedings were boring him to death. Kingsley would ask a question and his eyes would flick over the newly appointed minister with disinterest only to utter a curt answer and return to looking at the back wall of the room. 

Hermione’s hands clenched and unclenched in her lap. She couldn’t tell if he simply didn’t care what happened to him or if it was his own Malfoy arrogance that kept him from improving his chances at freedom. Probably the latter. Because in what universe would Draco Malfoy beg and grovel for anything?

He was wearing Azkaban prison clothing, shadows under his eyes and a gauntness to his face that made him look sharper, colder. Which was impressive, because he always looked sharp and cold to her. Like she could slice her hands on him.

She hadn’t seen him since the final battle, where he was arrested by Aurors despite the fact that he defected and fought on their side at the end. When Voldemort was dead and all was said and done, he went willingly. Hadn’t apparated away like nearly all the other death eaters. 

And so Hermione and Harry were here at his trial. They had given their testimonies as to what he did for them at Malfoy manor and how they witnessed him turn on the death eaters at Hogwarts. Hermione hadn’t forgiven him, still hated him really. But she had enough of watching lives be ruined. And she didn’t think him evil. Awful and cruel, but not evil.

Kingsley's voice boomed through the chamber to deliver the final verdict. Her breath stuttered. “Draco Malfoy, due to your unwilling participation in death eater affairs, you will be placed on one year of probation in lieu of prison time. You will instead, return to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to complete your education. Your wand will be returned to you upon arrival at the school and its activity monitored by the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Any violence directed towards students or faculty alike will be brought up as violations of your probation and could result in your immediate imprisonment. Are these terms clear?”

Hermione tried not to look at him for what felt like the thousandth time and failed. But this time he was looking back at her. His eyes were unreadable and she felt speared to the spot, unable to look away.

“Yes.”

 


 

“Golden Trio Returns to Hogwarts!”; “Lucius Malfoy’s Son Escapes Dementor’s Kiss”; “Death eater Student Allowed Back to School !” 

Hermione folded up the daily prophet until the headlines were no longer visible and moved her gaze to the Scottish countryside, currently speeding by her train compartment window. She always loved the train ride to Hogwarts. The anticipation, the coziness of settling into a compartment with her two best friends. But this time, the excitement wasn’t enough to ease the ever-present knot of anxiety in her chest. It had taken up residence there the night of Bill and Fleur’s wedding and hadn’t let up since. Not even after Tom Riddle fell and the world went safe again.

“It’s mental is what it is,” Ron grumbled. “Allowing him back.” 

Hermione didn’t have the energy to argue the point with Ron anymore. She had explained to him the need for forgiveness, for normalcy, many times over the Summer, but like with a lot things, they fundamentally disagreed with each other and she was too tired, too anxious, to make her case again.

Instead, she gave him a small shrug of her shoulders and returned to looking out the window. Harry, seemingly relieved to not have to play mediator today, patted Ron on the shoulder and returned to whispering with Ginny. She supposed she and Ron were supposed to be whispering to each other as well, wrapped up in their own little world, but her and Ron didn’t survive the Summer and neither of them were quite sure where to go from there. 

The train whistle sounded, loud and shrill as she caught sight of Hogsmeade in the distance. “We’re here,” she whispered, but she wasn’t sure if anyone heard her.

 


 


“Just ignore her. I do.” 

Malfoy’s voice was lazy and arrogant, so fitting of his personality. Hermione could hear Astoria Greengrass’ tittering laughter respond to the head boy as she closed the portrait behind her. It had been a week since the school year started and a week since she had first been forced to shack up with Malfoy of all people. McGonagall’s offer of the head girl position came as no surprise to her but she never expected Malfoy to be her counterpart. Something about the ministry wanting him to prove himself reformed. She had almost handed the badge right back when she found out. But that would mean she, Hermione Granger, was backing out of something she had always coveted because of one vile man. And she just couldn’t do it.

But the new head boy definitely left something to be desired. Hermione was tired of doing more than her fair share of the work, putting up with his barbed comments, and his constant, endless, stream of female guests in their shared dorm. Apparently, it was Astoria tonight. 

She stepped into the small, round common room to be greeted by the sight of Malfoy lounging on the sofa, tie undone with Astoria straddling his lap. She balled her fists at her sides and tried not to let the scene fluster her. No matter how inappropriate. 

“Malfoy, this is a shared space, could you please entertain your guests in your own room?” 

“You have your friends in our shared space all the time Granger. Am I not allowed to do the same?” She fought the urge to put her hands on her hips, not wanting to look like a schoolmarm, as he taunted many times before. 

“You know that’s not the same thing, Malfoy.” He arched one groomed brow in response. A challenge. And a warning. Astoria smirked, clearly entertained with the whole exchange.

“How is it not the same Granger?” He wanted her to embarrass herself. Wanted her to fumble her words trying to imply him and Astoria were clearly about to have sex without saying anything crude.

“I don’t do this-” she waved an arm at the interlocked couple on the sofa-”with my friends in our common room.” 

“So you’ve fucked Potter and Weasley in other rooms, just not this one. Is that what you’re saying?”

His voice was like acid and she could feel hot frustration bubbling up inside her, the way it always did when he was around. Astoria’s shrill laugh echoed in the room, but Malfoy didn’t even glance at her. No, this exchange wasn’t to impress her. He was already getting what he wanted from the blonde witch. This was purely for Hermione. Because he loved to get a rise out of her.

“You’re disgusting. You know what I meant. Just go do whatever you want to do somewhere else.”

He scoffed out a laugh and shook his head slightly. The fingers of his right hand were wrapped around Astoria’s waste, the fingers of his left sliding up her thigh, brushing just under the hem of her skirt. Astoria didn’t seem to care that Hermione was there, and Hermione promised herself she wouldn’t look at his hands. Her eyes stayed locked with his, with those cool, grey eyes that took everything in and gave nothing away. She felt hot and off balance, the way she always did when they got into a staring match, which was more frequently than she wanted. His head tilted slightly and something like cruel amusement softened his mouth.

 “Come on. Looks like the Gryffindor princess wants to ruin our fun,” he said finally, helping Astoria swing her leg off his lap and stand. She looked confused at his concession but grabbed his hand readily anyway.

Hermione watched the two Slytherins make their way to the spiral staircase leading up to Malfoy’s bedroom for a moment before settling in at the desk in the corner, feeling victorious. It wasn’t always that she walked away from a confrontation with Malfoy having gotten her way.  Why he sometimes gave in and other times fought her tooth and nail she had no idea.

About two seconds after she heard his door slam closed, she cast a silencing spell at the edges of the common room. Over the past week alone, she had learned the hard way that she shouldn’t assume he would cast one himself. And she had no desire to hear Astoria scream her brains out while Malfoy fucked her into the mattress.

With the room properly warded, she settled in to scheduling the prefect rounds for the week, and looked over the possible student morale events Headmistress McGonagall was considering. With the war so fresh in everyone’s minds, the student body, especially the older students, were in desperate need of something to ease the tension. Hermione scanned the options list McGonagall put together and felt the knot of anxiety tighten further the farther she read on. Formal balls, magical competitions, support group sessions. 

Maybe some students would find enjoyment in these activities but she could only see the complications they would bring up for her. Anything resembling the triwizard tournament would only ratchet up the stress already in her life, so a magical competition was out. She had no desire to help Harry narrowly avoid disaster yet again thank you very much. Although the thought of her friend brought nothing but feelings of intense fondness. A support group wouldn’t be a bad idea but that would mean talking about her feelings and she was really no good at that. Nor did she want to hash out her personal demons in front of a crowd. Not when she barely understood them herself. That would be like showing up to an exam with no grasp on the material.

That left a ball. In which she would be expected to attend with Ron. Because while they weren’t exactly dating, everyone knew they walked away from the final battle with an unspoken promise between them. That they would make a go of it. As soon as she was ready. That was what she had told him. Only now, she wasn’t sure if she would ever be ready.

It was a mistake, what they had done over the summer. Maybe if they had waited a little longer it would have been better. But Hermione hadn’t been able to find her voice then. Hadn’t been able to break it to him that it didn’t feel good for her, not in the slightest. Suddenly overwhelmed with memories, Hermione abandoned all her work at the desk and headed straight for her bedroom, trying to make it to her four poster before the dark wave of hurt and fear closed over her head. This is what she had to do when the memories became too much. Pull the covers up over her head and wait to feel okay again. 

It was the events of Malfoy Manor that haunted her the most. She wished she had nightmares more often about the final battle, about her classmates and order members being struck down. At least then she wouldn’t feel so selfish. Because her nightmares were always about what was done to her and Hermione was so uncomfortable with worrying about herself in lieu of others.

Her bed sheets were soft and warm, but she sank into them feeling ice cold and filled with lead anyway. She drew the duvet over her head quickly and let her breath warm up the air around her face. Rain pelted the windows, drowning out the world until she was lost to flashbacks.

They had evaded the snatchers for longer than she hoped, covering quite a bit of ground sprinting through the woods. But they were half starved and exhausted and capture, at that point, was inevitable. She got Harry good with a stinging jinx to face, a measly attempt at disguising their identities, but hey, it worked well enough. On the way to the manor, she was passed off to Greyback and as soon as his rough hand gripped her around the bicep, her blood went cold. 

All the women in the order knew what would happen to them if they were caught by Fenrir Greyback. He was a sadistic monster with a heartbreakingly long list of confirmed casualties. His depraved acts were whispered of, not the kind of things people wanted to talk about. He represented the ugliest parts war. Because while they all knew and understood the fight between good and evil, it was harder to wrap your head around the foot soldiers who simply enjoyed war. Who relished in pain and violence and used war as an excuse to unleash the worst in themselves. 

Greyback had pulled her away from Harry and Ron, away from the other snatchers. And in a moment of absolute stupidity, she had looked to the snatchers for salvation, like they might see the pleading in her eyes and step in. But they were death eaters, and they would never intervene for a mudblood. Harry and Ron had screamed for her and the sound broke her heart. But there was nothing they could do. Nothing she could do. 

She couldn’t stop Greyback from dragging her so far from them that she could no longer hear their cries. Couldn’t stop him from tearing through her clothes with his claws. Couldn’t stop him from forcing his way inside her again and again until she cried, bled. Couldn’t stop it. Couldn’t stop it. Couldn’t control the situation at all. She had stayed in that terrifying, helpless state for what felt like years. Dragged into the manor, thrown to the floor still half dressed. Crucio’d to the limits of her sanity and carved up under a madwoman’s knife. And now, the only thing that could make her feel normal again was maintaining tight control of everything in her life. 

Head girl duties, top marks, micromanaging her friends to ensure they were doing alright, interning with Madame Pomfrey in the infirmary, that was how she coped. Of course, she had always been this person. This type A personality who domineered her way through life, but now it was ten times more intense. And Merlin, was it exhausting being in control all the time.

Crookshanks hopped onto the bed suddenly, startling her out of her own head. She wiped a few stray tears she didn’t remember crying onto the back of her hand and lowered the covers. The room was darker than she expected and it only took a glance out the window to realize that the dreary day had turned into a stormy, dark, night. Her orange kneazle head butted her chin and she stroked a hand down his back. The familiar was highly attuned to her moods and she was grateful for his companionship in moments like this. 

With a flick of her wrist, the candelabras mounted to her walls blazed to life, illuminating the small room, swathed in Gryffindor colors and crammed with her book collection. It was cozy, a mirror image of Malfoy’s albeit a different color scheme, but she couldn’t help but miss having dorm mates. It would have been nice to curl up on Ginny’s bed or even just to hear Lavender gossip to Parvati. Of course, Lavender was dead. Greyback killed her. Not for the first time, Hermione prayed that was all he had done to the blonde witch and climbed off the four poster bed, slipping her feet into warm slippers. 

Her silencing charm would have worn off by now, but there was no noise coming from beyond her door. The common room was empty when she ventured down the stairs, no Malfoy to be found. She turned to the desk to gather up the scrolls she had left there, fully prepared to finish the prefect schedules as there were only a few more spots to fill, but the desktop was bare. Malfoy must have snatched them while she was gone. 

She should have been glad, considering he was supposed to fill out half of it before the prefect meeting tomorrow. This would be the first time he had shown the initiative to do his share of the work without her prodding. But the thought just brought her more anxiety. What if he put Neville and Hannah together? They would likely slip away from their duties for some alone time. Or what if he forgot that the astronomy tower was still off limits, and sent a poor fifth year there only to be hurt by debris still left from the battle? It would be better if she just did it herself. 

Hardening her resolve, she stomped up the stairs to his dorm and raised her fist to knock, but the door was already ajar. She could see into his room, similar to her own in layout, the Slytherin green comforter rucked up at the end of the bed, pillows strewn about. She looked away from the sight, her cheeks warming slightly. She would have to wait until he returned from wherever it was he had gone to get the prefect schedule back from him. Great.

It was now nearing nine in the evening and she had no desire to venture out of her dorm and socialize. Her friends were all in Gryffindor tower and probably having just as much fun without her as they would if she was there. The only real plans she had for the night was finishing the schedule and trying to lose herself in the book she bought at King’s Cross for the train ride to Scotland. With all the excitement and demands of the first week of N.E.W.T level classes, the novel was still page marked half way through on her nightstand. 

Hermione gathered up her shower things and a pair of clean pajamas and swung open the portrait to reveal the quiet, torch lined corridors of Hogwarts at night. The usual head dormitories had a small, attached bathroom, but it was repurposed as a professor’s quarters since parts of Hogwarts were still being restored. That left her and Malfoy relegated to a random castle turret turned dormitory without its own bathroom. 

She closed the portrait, a likeness of Eve in the Garden of Eden from the Renaissance, and started for the nearby prefect's bathroom that McGonagall promised only her and Malfoy had access to. The bathroom was huge, way too big for two people, with a pool sized sunken tub under its wall of stained glass windows, a circle of sinks and mirrors, and separate antechamber lined with shower cubicles.

Opening the heavy, wood door to the bathroom, she immediately realized she wasn’t alone. Steam from a recent shower was already frizzing her hair. She set down her things and peered into the shadows to see Malfoy appear from the shower room, only wearing a pair of low sweatpants, his hair and skin still wet. The water made his hair curl into glossy strands pushed back from his face, his eyelashes were dark and stuck together into little points. It never was fair, how boys always got the prettiest eyelashes. 

His skin was pale and flawless like marble and it didn’t take a genius like herself to see years of quidditch had done wonderful things for his body. They didn’t call it seeker fit for no reason. The only imperfection was a silvery, faded scar slashed across his torso. Sectum sempra. She had almost forgotten. In a ridiculous and completely unfair twist of fate, it somehow made him even more interesting to look at. She dragged her eyes away from his smooth, leanly muscled frame before he noticed her looking (she hoped). 

“Are you done staring, Granger?” 

(fuck) 

“Please, like I would be interested in anything you have to offer, Malfoy.”

The corner of his mouth tugged up. In some men, that expression may have come across as flirtatious, but somehow, Malfoy never failed to convey cruelty and cunning in every one of his looks. She didn’t wait for his next verbal blow to land.

“What did you do with prefect rounding schedule I left on the desk? I need to finish it by tomorrow.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Malfoy, don’t play games with me right now. I left it on the desk and now it’s gone. You obviously have it so why don’t you just give it back.” She couldn’t resist the urge to put her hands on her hips any longer and gave in. His eyes rolled over her slowly and returned to her face. The steam was making her feel sweaty and overheated. She knew she was flushed and had no idea how his complexion was still flawless. The only other person she knew that was as pale as him was Ron, who always had a good natured ruddiness to his cheeks.

“Oh, that prefect schedule. Yeah, I have it.”

“Great, then give it back.”

“No.”

He grabbed a towel from a chaise lounge conveniently located near the sinks and started drying his hair. Hermione took the moment to count to five and regain control of her breathing before speaking again. 

“Why? I need to finish it. We have deadlines you kn-”

“Granger, you do realize that I’m supposed to work on prefect schedules as well, yes? Why would I not take it?” He dropped the towel and turned suddenly, and for the first time, she caught sight of the dark mark on his forearm. It was slightly faded, but it would always be there. Dark, swirling lines on his marble skin. Such a hateful symbol. Panic swelled in her chest until she looked away, back up into his face. His words finally registered and she would have laughed if she wasn’t so annoyed. 

“Wha- Malfoy, you never do the work you’re supposed to do. I always have to do it. Why, all of sudden, do you care enough to finish the prefect’s schedule?”  Her voice was getting louder with each word that left her mouth until it sounded too harsh against the tiles and she dropped it back to something of a normal tone. He narrowed his eyes at her. 

“Well have you ever considered, Granger, that it’s not me who won’t do my share of the work, but you who won’t let anyone else touch your precious assignments? Nothing will ever be up to the perfect little golden girl’s standards isn’t that right? You would just have to redo it anyway.” His tone was biting now and he took two steps towards her. She refused to be cowed. 

“Are you-,” she sputtered “you can’t be-”

“Spit it out, Granger”

“There is no way you just said that. There is absolutely no way you just insinuated that I’m the reason you don’t take your head boy duties seriously.” She threw her hands up in frustration. “If it weren’t for me, nothing would get done. All you do outside of class is whore your way through our entire year and antagonize me and my friends, Malfoy!”

His head tipped back to let out a harsh laugh. He pulled a slytherin quidditch T-shirt over his head before continuing. 

“Let it go Granger. The schedule is taken care of, okay? I’m not Potter or the weasel, I don’t need you to revise my essay.” 

She was still breathing hard when he moved to pass her on his way out. He stopped for a moment and stroked a finger down the folded pair of Gryffindor sleep shorts she left on the counter and tossed his scathing parting statement over his shoulder.

“And if you’re a good girl, I might just let you see it before the prefect’s meeting.

The door slammed behind him before she could come up with a reply to that so she just kicked the door instead. And immediately regretted it because ouch, the door was harder than expected. She collapsed onto the lounge and cradled her foot. 

She was going into tomorrow’s meeting blind, the first real prefect’s meeting of the semester. All because her and stupid, arrogant Malfoy couldn’t see eye to eye. No, he refused to see eye to eye with her. She considered going over his head to the headmistress and telling her he was being uncooperative but she knew she couldn’t do it. McGonagall was under enough stress as it was, with the restoration program, an antsy governor’s board, and a student body coping with a collective case of post traumatic stress disorder. She had to be strong for her. She had to be strong for everyone. She was the golden girl and she would not lose control now. 

In the shower, she traced over the slur etched into her arm as thoughts of burning knives and cold floors circled around and around the drain with her shampoo. The irony wasn’t lost on her, that Malfoy’s dark mark was in nearly the same location. She knew the cruciatus curse would hurt, badly. But the pain of it shocked her nonetheless. She didn’t think anyone could accurately imagine that level of pain. She had laid there and waited for her mind to break from it all. Because the length of time she was tortured surely should have left the lasting effects of madness she saw in other victims.  In the Longbottoms for instance. But she never lost her sanity. Not then and not in the days after. The healers she saw after the war to help with the aftershocks that still plagued her argued with her about the duration. They insisted that her mind must have confabulated how many times the curse was cast. It was just a trauma memory. Because it just wasn’t possible for her to have escaped with her sanity after that much torture. 

Eventually she agreed with them because she was tired of being looked at with pity, or worse, with suspicion, but she knew she wasn’t confabulating anything. She didn’t have chunks of memory missing. She couldn’t forget anything about that day, as much as she tried. She remembered the pain, the awful things said about her, to her. She remembers looking at the glimmering chandelier over her head and she remembered looking at Malfoy’s face. 

About half way through, she locked eyes with him without meaning to and she found she couldn’t look away. His face was expressionless the entire time. No concern, no remorse on his features. His eyes were sharp and cold as always. But still, his presence, looking at him, brought her some comfort. Why, she didn’t know. Maybe because they knew each other. Maybe because he reminded her of Hogwarts, a place that was a safe haven to her for so long. 

And for the second time that day in April, there was a moment where she was just a stupid, stupid, naive girl. Because just like when she looked to the snatcher for salvation, she hoped for a moment that her suffering would convince Draco Malfoy to help her. To stop it. To do something. But he was a death eater... and he would never intervene for a mudblood.

Chapter Text

“Hermione! Hey!” 

Hermione startled on the steps leading up from the dungeons, but it was just Harry. She turned to greet him with a smile and he grinned back at her. It was so nice to see him relaxed and happy. Although she knew grief and trauma plagued him as much as anyone else, he seemed to be coping well. Him and Ginny only grew stronger through the war and it didn’t take much time around them to see how in love they were. She knew they would last, she just knew it in her bones that they were made for eachother. She just wished she held the same convictions where her own relationships were concerned. 

“Harry! Haven’t seen you around as much as usual.” Her friend ran a hand through his messy hair and bent his head to look at her.

“I know, my fault really. I feel like everyone is pulling me in different directions. Quidditch, slug club, aurorship, and the prophet is still hounding me for interviews-”

“I know Harry, it’s fine, really.” And it was. Hermione knew better than anyone what it felt like to be under such pressure to handle everything. Not to mention, that damn Rita Skeeter was pestering her as well, sending owl after owl for a tell all interview on Hermione’s dating life of all things. I mean come on, she did help defeat Lord Voldemort just a few months ago. “Did you look at the books on PTSD I left in the Gryffindor Common Room? I thought they might be helpful for the students. There’s some great new theories on healthy coping mechanisms and guides for finding the right mind healer-”

“I saw it. I don’t know if anyone’s picked it up yet,” Harry said sheepishly. Hermione tried not to be frustrated. After years with Harry and Ron, she was used to her attempts at helping being brushed off or unappreciated. But she couldn’t stop. It was just who she was and how she showed her love.

“I think really, that it’s most important to have friends to talk to, you know? That’s why tonight, you’re coming to see us, all of us.” His tone was playful but insistent and Hermione knew she wasn’t getting out of this. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to see her friends. It was that she didn’t know how to handle the waves of fear, fear that could crop up at any moment, in front of them.

“Harry, I don’t know, I have a lot to do tonight, I-”

“We’ve barely seen you this week! We miss you. I know you’re busy as ever, but can’t you spare an hour and visit our lowly common room, head girl?”

She sighed. When Harry really wanted something from you, it could break your heart. But she never minded because she knew it wasn’t intentional, was never manipulative.

“Yes. Yeah, of course I can. I miss you all too.” He smiled and the relief on her face made her wonder if he actually thought she might say no. She didn’t think that she had been isolating herself, but maybe she had been. “It’s strange isn’t it? For the past year we’ve been attached at the hip and now we go entire days without a conversation.”

“I know. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Come see us. Seamus managed to sneak in a keg of butter beer and some fire whisky, you know.”

“Harry Potter, you cannot tell me these things. As your head girl, I am obligated to confiscate any contraband-” Harry held his hands up in mock surrender and she broke off into laughter. 

“What time?”

“Nine,” he answered.

“Alright, I’ll stop by after rounds with Malfoy.” Harry grimaced.

“And you’ll have to tell me all about that because, wow.”

She managed to cut him off with her goodbyes before a line of conversation opened up on that subject. She definitely didn’t want to spoil a perfectly pleasant conversation with her friend by bringing up that utter prick. 

In the infirmary, Madam Pomfrey greeted her by shoving a bottle of Skelegro and rolls of bandages into her arms and waved her towards a group of Ravenclaw quidditch players clustered around one of the beds. She started interning with Madam Pomfrey on the very first night back at Hogwarts. She needed something to occupy the already small gaps in her schedule. Her classes, while N.E.W.T level, just weren’t challenging enough to distract her whirling brain. After a year on the run, where each day was a challenge, she found that she now needed to keep occupied at all times. If her hands were still for too long, they would start to shake with nerves, memories would creep in at the edges of her vision and she would end up a miserable lump under her bed covers for longer than she wanted to admit to herself. She had aided in triaging and  healing the wounded after the final battle, sticking to Madam Pomfrey’s side, but it still came as a surprise when she received an owl from Poppy over the summer offering her an apprenticeship.

Plus, she discovered she liked healing. And after patching up Harry and Ron enough times over the course of their friendship, she discovered that she was quite good at it. It took skill, magical knowledge and know how. Combined with compassion and the desire to fix things and well, it was an interest that she hoped to make a career out of once she left Hogwarts. 

She patched up the student, a quidditch player who was knocked off her broom during tryouts, quickly and efficiently, shooing away her friends and drawing the curtains around her bed. She was just cleaning up her work station when a flurry of activity in the corridor caught her attention. 

Male voices echoed off the stone walls as a trio of quidditch players rounded the bend in the staircase, coming into view. Malfoy and Blaise Zabini flanked a heavily limping Theodore Nott, his arms around their shoulders. All three of them were wearing Slytherin quidditch uniforms, but Nott’s were torn and spattered with mud. 

“Bring him over here. Set him down on the bed.” She barked out the orders with authority in her tone and was amazed to watch Malfoy for once, follow them without question. 

“I’m dying, Draco,” Nott proclaimed dramatically. He scooted up on the bed Blaise and the blonde Slytherin deposited him on as Hermione gathered up the medical supplies she had just set down not even a minute ago.

“Shut up, you twat. You’re fine.” Malfoy rolled his eyes at the brunette and Blaise snickered behind him, but Hermione could feel tension in the room. She tried to swallow down any personal animosity towards Malfoy and treat the injured man objectively. 

“What happened?” She waved her wand over Theodore Nott slowly and methodically, letting her imaging spell outline his entire skeleton to her eyes only. Zabini answered first, his voice holding a note of anger under feigned nonchalance. 

“Cursed bludger. Got him in the leg.”  

A cursed bludger? Hermione could feel her eyebrows lift. Someone would have had to be intentionally targeting the Slytherin. But sure enough, the hazy outline of the boy’s femur showed a nasty crack that nearly bisected the bone.

“Sweet Salazar, the pain!” Nott wailed. 

“Shut up, Theo!” Malfoy and Zabini snapped at the same time.

“Well, how would you feel if you were lying in the infirmary, with your bones turned to dust by a cursed bludger?

“Your leg is not turned to dust, but it is fractured. You’ll have to stay off it for a few days.” Hermione poured out an appropriate dose of skelegro and handed him the cup. He sipped it gingerly, grimacing. She turned back to his companions. 

“A cursed bludger is a major infraction of the rules. It’s bold for a student. How do you know that’s what it really was?” She simply had a hard time believing anyone would go through the trouble, just to knock Theodore Nott off his broom. The school took quidditch rivalries seriously, it was true, but this just seemed impractical.

“Are you suggesting we’re lying, Granger? That bludger nearly took my chaser’s arm off before it got Theo. You think that’s normal?” Malfoy bit out his words at her. Of course he would meet her questions with defensiveness. 

“That’s not what I said,” she argued back. “I’m just pointing out that it seems highly unlikely. I mean, why would anyone go through the trouble?”

“Oh, it's ‘highly unlikely’ says the head girl. Well I guess we were mistaken. Oops.” He ran a hand through his platinum hair, his eyes hard. “ Because of course, Granger knows exactly what happened even though she wasn’t there, right?”

“Stop it,” she snapped. “You’re being a prick. I’m just trying to think of all the possibilities. Possibilities more likely than someone cursing a bludger in the first week of school.”

“It’s not such an odd occurrence,” Zabini cut in smoothly. “Our classmates are, shall we say, not so welcoming towards those of us from families that were involved with the losing side of the war.” He gripped Nott’s shoulder and drew a chair up to the side of his bed. 

Hermione didn’t know how she felt about that. On one hand, she knew that it wasn’t fair to condemn every student that came from a death eater family for the actions of their relatives. But on the other, she knew the sentiments most of the pureblood students held about blood supremacy during the war. Those views couldn’t have changed just because Tom Riddle fell. So what if some of the other students wanted to take them down a notch? Why would she, a muggleborn who was tormented in school for her heritage, tortured by a madwoman, reduced to something less than human for being muggleborn, be torn up over bullying? Even as she thought it, she knew she didn’t really feel that way. She didn’t want anyone being attacked for being Slytherin. It was wrong and it went against everything she believed in. 

“Then you should go to the Headmistress. If people are really targeting you, then it’s gone too far. McGonagall will-” Malfoy’s bitter laugh cut her off.

“Oh yeah, because I’m sure she’ll be all torn up over it. We’ll handle it ourselves.” He was leaning against the window now. Hermione’s eyes traced over his frame. His quidditch robes fit to his body perfectly, the blacks and greens making his skin and hair and eyes look even paler in the waning, evening light. He was wearing black leather gloves and arm bracers and suddenly she felt too warm despite the infirmary’s chill. She wished his gaze wasn’t pinned on her, but it was.

His words took a moment to register, but once they did, her brows furrowed. Malfoy was on probation. He couldn’t raise his wand or his fists against another student, even if it was in self defense. Not unless he wanted to be sent back to Azkaban. He was lucky so many of the students already feared him. He actually was a death eater, not just related to one. Nott, apparently, wasn’t in the same position.

“We’ll take it under consideration, informing the headmistress,” said Zabini. She noticed that he seemed to be the level headed, diplomatic friend, as opposed to Malfoy’s temper. She nodded at him. She would work on Malfoy later about reporting these incidents. For now, it was nearly dinner time and she was starving.

“Well, thanks for patching me up there, Granger,” Theodore said goodnaturedly. “I didn’t realize you were Hogwart’s new mediwitch. I must say, the uniform suits you.” Hermione’s hand went to her mediwitch cap and apron before she could think.

“Nott, that’s enough,” Malfoy grumbled. Theodore smirked. She tried not to show her confusion at the exchange. “We’ll visit you later. If you think you can make it that long,” Malfoy rolled his eyes.

“Oh, I’ll hang in there just for you two.” Zabini gave her patient’s shoulder one last pat and stood to join Malfoy in exiting the infirmary. “Oh, and someone go back down to the quidditch pitch and get my broom. I don’t care if it’s broken, I still want it.” 

Blaise agreed to look for it and Hermione reiterated her instructions to Nott before leaving as well. She tried to catch up with Malfoy to attempt pressing him into giving her the prefect round schedule back, considering they were supposed to present it together that very night. Her Mary Janes clacked on the floor in her haste but he was already gone. She grumbled to herself about vile, infuriating, death eater Malfoy all the way down to dinner.

 




The great hall was already bursting with students when she got there. She dropped into he usual spot next to Ron, across from Harry and Ginny, who were lost in their own little world. 

“Thank Merlin you’re here, Mione,” Ron intoned. “I was really starting to feel like the third wheel here.” 

Hermione chuckled and started spooning food mashed potatoes onto her dinner plate. She knew exactly how awkward it was being the odd one out when it came to Ginny and Harry’s new and intense relationship. 

“How was your day?” Ron asked. It was still strange, him all of a sudden seeming interested in her day to day activities. He had never shown this kind of attentiveness before in all their years at Hogwarts and it was a bit strange getting used to. 

“It was fine. I had classes-double potions today, and I was working in the infirmary up until a few minutes ago.” Ron took a huge bite of his chicken breast and she tried not to lecture him about table manners. “You?”

“Sinistra’s already gone barmy and scheduled an exam in Astronomy. Next week. To assess our knowledge level and divide us up into groups.” Astronomy was one of the few subjects Hermione wasn’t taking this semester. She figured she should focus on more challenging electives and not to mention, the astronomy tower was not somewhere she liked to be anymore. “I don’t remember anything from sixth year! She’s gonna stick me with the remedials group.”

“But there’s still time to study, Ronald.”

“I wouldn’t even know where to start. You know I’m rubbish at this sort of thing.” He spooned another helping of potatoes onto his plate.

“Well, I can go to the library and find some guide literature that I used for astronomy when I took it in fifth year.” She mentally tallied the time the task would take her and figured she could fit it in, although it would be a tight squeeze.

“You know what would be even better? If you gave me your revision notes. I know you keep all your old parchment.” He worked on her with that jovial smile. Whenever, him or Harry broke out the poor, helpless boy act, Hermione had a hard time resisting. Although she didn’t think they had figured that out yet.

“Ron, those may be at my parents house. You’ll have to make due with the primary resources.” She also made a note to herself to see if her parents wouldn’t mind sending her old notes to her via owl this weekend, knowing that realistically, Ron probably wouldn’t get that far into the reading.

“Prefect meeting tonight,” he mumbled around a mouthful of food.”Any chance you put us together for rounds?” Ron returned as a prefect this year. Harry had been offered, but he declined, wanting to just relax his final year at Hogwarts. 

“You know that I can’t. Malfoy and I are supposed to do them together, as heads.” She picked up her goblet and drank to let that statement land.

“That’s mental. Making you walk around the castle at night with him . I mean, doesn’t McGonagall realize that he’s a death eater. He could kill you and not think twice about it.” His voice was raising and she hoped he wouldn’t make a scene. Thankfully, Harry seemed to notice the change in mood. He had stepped in a lot this summer when talk of Malfoy came up. Ron was not happy with either of them testifying for their former rival, but seemed to feel especially betrayed by Hermione. It had caused more than one argument between them since she stepped down off the witness stand.

“Ron, I’m sure Hermione can handle herself. And if there was ever an issue, she would let us know, right Hermione?” Harry broke in.
“Yes, of course I would. It’s not so bad anyway. I’m sure we can both stay professional for an hour and a half of rounds.”

“Well, you wouldn’t know that since you haven’t been on rounds with him yet. I just don’t like the idea of it, Mione.”

“Ron, please.” Her hands were starting to clench. She hated being told what she could and couldn’t do. “Let it go. I’m coming to Gryffindor tower afterwards to spend some time with everybody. I can’t shirk off my head girl duties all night. I need to do rounds. It will be fine, okay?”

“Fine.” He didn’t look happy, but at least he seemed to be letting the issue go. She couldn’t be mad at him, not really. He was still reeling from Fred’s death and she noticed that sometimes that greif came up in instances where he felt like he was losing her. It was just taking a little while for her to be okay with that.

She walked with him to the prefect’s lounge after dinner arriving well before the meeting started. Since she hadn’t seen Malfoy’s additions to the schedule, she decided she would have to call his bluff and hope that he hadn’t changed anything, only filled in the remaining few slots. If he had reworked the entire schedule without telling her, she was going to be furious. 

Slowly, the prefects started trickling in. Six from each house, until the room was about full. Hermione took her place at the small lectern at the front of the room and glanced at the clock. It was seven on the dot. No Malfoy to be seen. Luckily, she had the portion of the schedule she filled out memorized.

“Okay, everyone settle down. We’ll just go ahead and get started then.” The room quieted at the sound of her voice and she cleared her throat. Malfoy still wasn’t here, but she wasn’t waiting for him any longer. He was late and that wasn’t her problem. No matter how bad it looked that there was clearly no unity between the head boy and head girl. Ron was in the front row and flashed her a thumbs up.

“Right, so, as you probably heard, there’s meant to be a morale boosting activity planned for a few months from now. The headmistress has compiled a list of doable activities based on student submissions. I thought that it would only be fair if we held a vote among the prefects on which activity will be held.”

She enchanted a piece of chalk to float to the board and write down the options as she spoke them aloud and conjured a ballot box to sit at the front of the room. When she announced a formal ball as one of the options, she saw Parvati give a small, sad smile. She knew her and Lavender would have been very excited at the prospect. Suddenly feeling shaken, she took a minute to conjure ballot slips and arrange them neatly next to the box. 

“Please write down your vote on a slip of paper and place it in the box by Sunday night. That’s two days from now.” She walked back to the lectern and started calling out the prefect pairs and routes for the week’s rounds. 

“Hannah Abbot and Terry Boot will take the greenhouses and west wing....” She listed four more pairs before the door slammed open.

Malfoy strolled in as if he was perfectly on time instead of twenty minutes late to the meeting they were supposed to host together. His robes and head boy badge were nowhere to be found and his face was a mask of lazy arrogance. Those arctic grey eyes met hers and she fought the urge to yell at him right then and there.

“Can you repeat that last one Granger?” She gripped the lectern in front of her and repeated the five pairs she had already announced before he had bothered to show up.

“Hmm, I think you must have made a mistake. I have the schedule right here and that’s not the pairs or routes for the week.” His voice stayed flat, not even attempting feigned confusion or even sarcasm. This wasn’t a joke. It was malice.

How did he know how much it would bother her to have her schedule changed last minute. To be made to look a fool in front of all the prefects? To most people, it would have been inconsequential, but to her it felt like the end of the world. Like failing an exam or answering a question massively, totally wrong in front of the entire class. And he knew it would. For some reason, Malfoy had a personal vendetta against her and he always had. War didn’t change that. Her testifying to keep his ass out of Azkaban didn’t change that. And he also always knew just how to get under her skin.

“Maybe I should read off the schedule to the prefects. If that’s alright with you.” He raised his eyebrows in silent challenge. She was backed into a corner. He knew she wouldn’t want a scene in front of the prefects.

“Fine.” She stepped away from the lectern and let him take her place, her cheeks warm in anger and embarrassment. Ron was in the front row looking livid enough for the both of them. He immediately began listing pairs of students and routes that clearly made up himself, without her input. Neville and Hannah together for one. She also noticed he gave Ron and his partner, Parvati, a much larger stretch of the castle to cover. It would take him much longer to complete his rounds than it should’ve. Hermione glanced at Ron just in time to watch him turn a violent shade of magenta. The more he spoke, the angrier Hermione became, until it felt like steam was going to pour out of her ears. 

Control the situation. Control it. She grappled for a way to regain authority. He rolled the scroll closed and she jumped on the opportunity to direct the students again.

“Alright, everyone go complete your rounds and if there’s any trouble, you kno-”

“Dismissed,” he barked. She sputtered and waved her hands at the crowd of dispersing students but they didn’t spare her a second look, already out half way out the door. Only Ron remained. He stormed over to them, cheeks red.

“You know, you’re a real foul git. You slimy death eater,” he ranted at Malfoy. The blonde gave Ron a once over, his disdain for her friend written all over his face.

“Get your dog on a leash, Granger. He’s about to have a meltdown.”

“Shut up. You deserve it, you vile arsehole,” she hissed. 

“Oh, because I interrupted your chance to tell everyone what to do?”

Ron brandished his wand suddenly, holding it up at Malfoy, but the Slytherin only scoffed at him. Hermione held no concern in her heart for Malfoy, but the last thing she wanted was for Ron to get in trouble, especially on her account. She stepped towards her friend and pushed his wand arm down to his side.

“Ron, it’s not worth it. Don’t.” He looked at her quickly before pinning his glare back on Malfoy, who stood there, face blank and arms crossed over his chest, practically begging Ron to hex him. 

“But Mione-”

“I don’t want you to get in trouble, okay? Please.” His face remained twisted up in a sneer, but she could see the tension leave his shoulders. She took a few deep breaths in and out, attempting to cool herself down for both of their sakes. “Parvati is probably waiting for you in the hall. Just go do your rounds and I’ll see you later.”

“I don’t want you with him ,” he grumbled.

“I know, but there’s no choice. Please.”

“Come straight to Gryffindor tower when you’re done.” Hermione tried not to bristle at his tone and agreed. With one last glare at Malfoy, who smirked back at him, he finally headed for the door. The heavy oak slammed behind him, leaving her alone with Malfoy. She had been prepared to yell at him, but now she could feel the fight draining out of her. So instead, she turned for the door and left him there, leaning against the wall without a care in the world.

The corridor was silent, all the other prefects having departed on their rounds. Firelight flickered on the stone walls from the candelabras, stirred by the castle’s unpredictable drafts. She set off on the route Malfoy laid out for the two of them, not bothering to wait and see if he would catch up. She knew he would. Because why not laud his little victory in her face. Really rub it in. 

Sure enough, it was only a moment before she heard his expensive dress shoes hitting the flagstone just behind her. She was wrong before. She did want to yell at him. 

“What the hell was that?” She whirled to face him, finding him only a few feet behind her. 

“What the hell was what, Granger?” He sidestepped her like she was nothing more than a piece of furniture in his way and continued to strut down the corridor. She fought to keep pace with him but his legs were so much longer than hers.

“You know what. Showing up late, ruining my schedule. Undermining me.” She was yelling and she didn’t care.

Undermining you. This isn’t a N.E.W.T, Granger. Don’t strain your vocabulary on my account.” They walked briskly, quicker than she would have preferred through their assigned territory. A garbled sound of frustration slipped out of her mouth before she could stop it. 

“Fuck. I didn’t mean resort to inhuman noises. There is a middle ground, you know?”

“You are vile. Don’t tell me I’m not allowed to be upset.” He shook his head and parted his lips, but she was quick to cut him off. “You gave Ron the worst possible route and you did it on purpose. Because you have a personal vendetta against us and you always have.”

“Oh, I didn’t realize I was supposed to be looking out for Weasley. I thought you had that covered well enough.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” she spat.  Did he know about her and Ron? About their pseudo pre-relationship status? The idea of that made her very uncomfortable. The situation was so delicate, fragile. She didn’t want it exposed to him as a potential weakness. Something for him to blow holes in. They rounded a corner into the library. It was just past closing, and should have been empty of students. Even Madam Pince was no longer at her desk.

“Like you can’t put that one together. You’re always making sure he has an easy ride through everything he does. Potter too. Tell me Granger, have you set a date yet?”

“Excuse me?” She stopped halfway to the restricted section, frozen among the shelves. She hadn’t even been considering marriage yet. Although the way things were going for Harry and Ginny, there might be a wedding and a graduation to attend come June. But there was still so much she wanted to do first.

“I have to admit, I would've thought you’d have a ring by now. Weasley’s a pureblood, for whatever that’s worth anymore. We usually marry out of school.” There was a note of cruel amusement creeping into his tone now, and she fought to keep her fists at her sides as he swaggered towards her. “And a simple-”, his eyebrows arched with that word, “-man like Weasley. Well, I’m sure he has it all planned out already. The ring that you’ll hate, the cozy little home to fill up with screaming ginger babies. But why isn’t it happening yet, hmm?”

He stopped right in front of her, close enough that she could have slapped him if she wanted to. His grey eyes were silver in the blue light of the moon. She could smell his cologne.

“Cold feet, Granger? Or does he just not do it for you like you thought he would?”

His question hit too close to home for her. The whole issue with Ron was just too fresh on her mind already. 

“Shut up. Just shut up. You have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“You have it all figured out, but you just can’t get him to be what you want. Who would have thought Weasley would just continue to disappoint? Has he fucked you yet?”

“You have no right to ask me those sorts of questions, Malfoy!”

“Oh, he must have. I can tell. Probably fucking awful, yeah?”

Her rage was starting to boil over. The heat in her cheeks diffused into her brain, making her feel feverish. His words hurt so bad because she knew there was at least a modicum of truth behind them. “And what about you, Malfoy?”

“What about me?”

“You said purebloods marry after school right? Who are you lined up to marry. Probably some pureblood witch daddy picked for you, isn’t she? Because that’s the only chance you’ll have. Your fortune was forfeit to the ministry. You’re inheritance will run out sooner or later. You have nothing to offer. No one wants a death eater!”

 Her voice broke on the last word but there was no time to be embarrassed. He bridged the gap between them suddenly, and put his face right next to hers.

“Don’t you dare fucking talk to me about my father,” he hissed in her ear. She knew she was in dangerous territory, but she couldn’t seem to make her mouth stop moving. All the rage and grief and confusion of the past few months poured out of her in a way she hadn’t been able to let happen yet. Not even to her closest friends.

“Why? Because he’ll be so disappointed won’t he? If you end up scraping the bottom of the barrel and marrying a mudblood because you fucked up your life so bad.”

He pulled back to look her in the face. His jaw was set hard and his eyes glinted viciously enough that she should have felt a flicker of fear in the pit of her stomach, but if she did, it was no match for the anger still roiling under her skin.

“You fucking bitch. You don’t know anything about me,” he snarled.

“Filthy mudbloods your father wanted to kill, wanted to exterminate. Mudbloods like me. Who have never done anything but exist.” Her eyes felt hot and wet. This was the dark emotion she tried not to feel. That she shoved down with the worst of what was done to her. The pure rage and bitter hurt stemming from the worst night of her life. Funny how it came spilling out in an empty library at the prompting of Draco Malfoy.

And she wanted him to feel it too. Wanted him to get a taste of the black well inside her chest that she walked around with everyday. Because he did nothing. Couldn’t even spare her a look of sympathy. She was on the floor, clothes half shredded to the point it would’ve been enough for him to put two and two together and figure out what Greyback did. Especially when he threatened to eat her. Fucking eat her.

“Did you do it, Malfoy? Did you make daddy proud? Did you kill any mudbloods? No, I forgot you were a shit death eater, just like you’re a shit person.”

“Don’t talk to me about the war. You have no idea.” He broke off to inhale a deep breath. “Fuck you, Granger. You have no fucking idea.” She was done arguing with him. The fight was draining out of her as quickly as it came, leaving her again with that shard of ice in her chest she was starting to get used to. They should have finished rounds by now. Her friends were waiting for her. And she really didn’t want to look at him anymore.

“You can finish the rounds by yourself. I’m leaving,” she said flatly, turning to leave him standing there, breathing harshly in a shaft of moonlight. He didn’t follow her

Chapter Text

She took the moving staircases up to Gryffindor tower, hopping from one to the next with practiced precision. She knew the castle like the back of her hand at this point. It was as old a friend to her as Harry and Ron. Older even, considering the lonely first few months of first year, where she only had the books in the library to keep her company. She still felt that way sometimes, but now that was more her own doing, not her classmates’. 

She saw her mind healer religiously over the summer, and did a ton of reading on trauma psychology. She knew now that she isolated herself from her friends because she didn’t want them to see her weak. Didn’t want them to know that she didn’t have all the answers. But how did she stop feeling this way? 

The fat lady greeted her with surprise, taking the whispered password and swinging open to reveal the comfortingly familiar Gryffindor common room, filled with eighth year students. She had only been up here once since her return to the school, on the very first night back, when Seamus threw a raging party to celebrate the reunion. It was a painstaking night. There was a forced cheerfulness in the atmosphere that made it all feel a bit awkward and sad. Like they were all overcompensating for the melancholy they really felt and everyone knew it.

She hoped tonight would be different, because her night had already been shaken by her fight with Malfoy. She pushed the thoughts of him out of her mind and immediately went to greet Ginny, who was standing by the butterbeer keg, refilling her mug. 

“Hey, Gin.”

“Hermione! Hi,” Ginny greeted her with surprise. “The boys were just talking about where you must have gotten off to.”

Hermione poured herself a half a mug of the nonalcoholic butterbeer and scanned the room for her two friends. “Oh, I just got finished with rounds. It took a little longer than expected.” She didn’t know why she left the real reason she was late, Malfoy, out of her sentence. Maybe she just didn’t want to talk about him. Or maybe her grievances with Malfoy felt more personal and private than the one’s her friends held against him.

“Yeah, I heard about Malfoy sticking Ron with the worst possible duties. He didn’t get done until a minute ago either. Makes me glad I refused to be a prefect this year. And Harry.”

“Yeah, I’m starting to wonder if it was a smart choice as well.”

“Hermione Granger, you did not just say that. Is it Malfoy?”

“I’d rather not talk about him, actually.” She took a deep sip of her butterbeer, hoping the sugar rush would melt her brain enough that she didn’t have to think about him.

“That bad, huh?”

“Worse,” she said hoarsely. “Where are Ron and Harry?”  

“Oh nevermind them, they can wait a few more minutes. I need to talk to you about something.” Ginny grabbed her wrist and towed her through the crowd of students towards the girl’s dormitory staircase.

She caught Neville’s wave but Ginny was too fast for her to give much of a response. She followed the redhead up into what would have been her dormitory if she had turned down McGonagall’s offer of head girl. Ginny dropped onto her bed and Hermione followed, fighting to fold her legs under her school skirt. She wondered how many nights they had sat across from each other just like this, talking about everything from boys, to magic, to war. 

“So, my first question is how angry do you think my mother will be if Harry and I elope after graduation?” Hermione tried to school her expression out of one of shock. Ginny wanting an elopement didn’t surprise her in the least, but she had always assumed Harry’s wedding would be a Weasley affair. The few times she considered it. Ron would be his best man of course, and she would be there. 

“Furious. Ginny, is Harry in on this idea?”

“Oh, there’s no real plans for it, just something I was considering. I do want to marry him though. Sooner rather than later. I already feel like we lost so much time during the war. I don’t want to be apart from him for a moment after Hogwarts. And mum will have kittens if I move in with him before we’re married.” That was true. The Weasley’s were a bit traditional that way. Molly was scandalized when she found out that Her, Ron, and Harry slept in a tent together for the better part of a year. And they had been on the run for Merlin’s sake.

“I get it Gin. I don’t blame you. It just feels a bit fast I guess.” 

Ginny picked up a strand of hair and twisted it around her finger, looking down at her lap for a moment. “You know, that kind of brings me to the other thing I thought we should talk about.” She cleared her throat. Hermione stared at her, breath quickening. During the war, she found she hated the feeling of anticipation. Especially in the case where other people had things to tell you. In her experience, the news wasn’t usually good.

“I was just wondering, well I couldn’t have helped but notice things between you and my brother seemed to have...stalled I guess.” Hermione picked at a loose thread on the crimson comforter, watched it snag and fray for a second before she realized it wasn’t her blanket and she shouldn’t be tearing holes in it.

“Yeah, it’s my fault. I just, I don’t know. Ron has been great, but I have things I think I need to deal with first.” She thought that was the truth. 

“Right, no, of course.” Her tone was kind but Hermione couldn’t tell exactly what Ginny was feeling. This was her brother they were talking about. How much should she share? “It’s just that, he really thinks that things between you will resolve themselves soon. And we’re not rushing you Hermione, really. That’s the last thing anyone wants. It’s just, well, I was starting to wonder if you can see things working with him.”

Hermione raised her head and looked Ginny in the face. Something inside her deflated and cracked at the same time. Because she felt it. The shame and guilt of being caught in a lie. Even though she didn’t know what she was lying about. Tears welled in her eyes before she could stop them. She kept them from spilling over by sheer will. There was a slight panic in Ginny’s eyes now, but there was no turning back anymore. 

“I don’t know, Ginny. I don’t know. It all feels so messed up now.” Her voice was weak and she hated it.

“Oh, Hermione.” Ginny grabbed her hands. “It’s okay. You can tell me. I won’t say anything to Ron. Or Harry.”

“It’s just...I always thought, that if anyone from Hogwarts would be interested in me, it would be Ron. Harry is, quite literally, like my brother. We’ve only ever had a platonic friendship. But it was different with Ron, you know?” She broke off to wipe at the corner of her eye. “I knew he must’ve felt something more for me by the time we got to sixth year. Because it upset him so much that I had been with Victor. And I thought I felt something too, I really did. During the war, everyone’s emotions were just so touch and go. One minute, I thought he must love me and the next, he was leaving us. Which I’ve forgiven him for, but that’s besides the point. And then he was professing his love for me after the final battle and I think maybe, it conflated our emotions a bit. I do love him, I do. I’m just starting to think that maybe that love is not the kind of romantic love we were both hoping for.”

She didn’t tell Ginny the rest of it. How messy things had truly gotten. They had kissed a few times, that much Ginny knew. But she didn’t know that twice they had slept together. And Hermione knew it was a mistake. She knew it was a mistake when he was climbing into her bed. She knew it was a mistake when he was undoing his pajama bottoms. She knew it was a mistake when he pushed into her for the first time, but she let it happen. And then she let it happen again, because she thought it was what she was supposed to want.

The first time was because she had wanted to comfort Ron and she didn’t know how. It was the night following the morning of Fred’s burial. Molly Weasley’s sobs were still echoing in her head when she climbed into bed that night. The bed across from her was empty. She knew Ginny and Harry were walking through the fields like they did most nights and probably wouldn’t be back until dawn. That was if they decided to stay at the burrow and not escape to Grimmauld Place for a little while. When the door creaked open, she knew it was Ron.

He had been crying; she could tell and when he slipped under the covers next to her, she stroked his cheek with the back of her hand. Before she knew what was happening, he was kissing her. And it was familiar, distracting from the grief that permeated through the cracks in the walls.

They kept kissing and she let him take what he wanted from her body. She was shaking with nerves. It wasn’ t her first time, but it was her first time after Greyback, and she desperately wanted to erase the feeling of that monster’s hands on her. Better it be her best friend. There was none of the kind of foreplay that she had read about in witch weekly, but then again, her memory with Viktor’s methods of foreplay didn’t really make her miss it. She wasn’t wet, and it was uncomfortable, but mercifully quick. Ron cried afterwards and she held him to her until the sun rose. 

They had tried one more time after that. It went pretty much the same way, minus the crying. They had a rare moment to themselves while all the Weasley’s were miraculously elsewhere, and she ended up in his bed, on top of the Chudley Cannons quilt he refused to get rid of, even though he was a man now. He tried to make it better for her this time, but after a few minutes of him rubbing too hard in the wrong spot, her leg was starting to cramp and so she just took him out of his pants and let him brace himself over her. It wasn’t as scary this time. More just a feeling of fondness for him and a slight twinge of pain between her legs, because she still wasn’t wet enough. 

When he was finished, he promised they would work on it, that he wanted to please her. She believed him. But imagining a future where the two of them did anything like this with any regularity, kissing, sleeping together, holding hands, exchanging caring words, felt foreign. It was like she planned her way up to this moment and then had no idea what to do now that she had gotten there. Was starting to realize that she didn’t really want to be there.

“Hermione, if you don’t think you’re in love with him, maybe it’s time to tell him,” Ginny said quietly. On top of it all, she worried how turning Ron down would affect her relationship with the girl sitting across from her and of course, her friendship with Harry. They were the golden trio, as the daily prophet called them. Would this fracture them?

“I just don’t know how, Ginny,” she whispered. “ I know it seems like I’m leading him on, but I want you to understand that I was hoping that eventually, I would just start to feel what I’m supposed to be feeling.”

“Hermione, there is no way anyone is supposed to feel when it comes to these kinds of things. And I think...that if you can’t see yourself with him, it’s better to rip off the bandage now, before it gets worse.”

She was right of course. Anyone could see that. But there was still the matter of actually ending things. Ending them before they had even really started. But she needed to. For the sake of her friendship, she needed to. 

“You’re right. Yeah, you’re right.” She took a deep, steadying breath. “I’ll talk to him tomorrow. I just don’t think I can do it tonight. I need to think of what I want to say to him.”

Ginny nodded. There were tears in her eyes too, and Hermione wondered if she was also mourning what could have been. After all, they might have been sisters by marriage in another life. She flicked her hair over her shoulders and looked up at the ceiling. 

“I’m assuming you don’t want to see them tonight then,” Ginny asked.

“No, I- I think I just need to go back to my room.” She didn’t think she could fake being fine in front of everyone. Not right now.

“Wait two minutes, I’ll distract them. Then just leave. I’ll make something up, like you were sick or there was a studying emergency in the library.” That brought a sad smile to Hermione’s lips, but Ginny was already on her way to the door. She did exactly what her friend said, waiting for two minutes before slipping down the stairs and back through the common room, keeping her head down all the while. She didn’t look around for Ron or Harry, not wanting them to spot her face. The fat lady closed behind her and she breathed out a sigh of relief. 

She knew what she had to do now. The hard part was to actually do it. But at least Ginny had bought her a night to prepare what she needed to say to Ron. And it wasn’t as if she was going to get much sleep anyway.


As she crossed the threshold into the head dormitory, she could already pick up on the flirtatious tinkling of female laughter. She rolled her eyes and attempted to mentally prepare herself for another night with Malfoy. The ugly words they spoke to each other were still bouncing around her head, but she wasn’t surprised to see that he moved on with his night quite quickly.

He was just leading Pansy Parkinson up to his room when she rounded the corner into the main living area. They both stopped walking with her arrival and looked at her like she was a lower life form. 

“Oh, I forgot you lived with the...what is it they call you now? The golden mudblood?” Pansy smirked, proud of the insult. Merlin, how she hated that word. She couldn’t escape it. It was cut into her skin. She chose not to dignify it with a response, and instead turned to hang her outer robes up on the hook near their door.

Malfoy’s eyes roamed over her slowly, a slight curl to his upper lip. “Pansy, go wait for me upstairs. I have something I need to ask Granger.”

The raven haired girl turned to him, her brows scrunched in annoyance. “Seriously? Can’t it wait?” she whined.

“No.”

Pansy was brimming with silent irritation as she turned and climbed the stairs to Draco’s room, alone. 

“Well? Out with it Malfoy. It’s been a long day.” 

“Trust me Granger, I’m aware. But it’s your fault we’re having this conversation.” He crossed his arms over his chest and she noticed that his tie was undone and the first few buttons on his shirt were undone. This seemed to be the norm for him. Like the Hogwarts uniform made him claustrophobic. She rarely ever saw him in robes.

“And how is it my fault?” 

He tipped his head back against the wall. The shadows in the room carved his face and body into something even sharper, moonlight glinting off his near white hair.

“You need to tell your little friends that our common room is not their common room.”

“What are you even talking about? I’ve only had friends of mine here twice. And that was just to show them the room the first day and a half we had it.”

“I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about them showing up and trying to get in here when we’re on rounds. Trying to bypass the painting?” She had no idea what he was talking about. Her friends wouldn’t just show up at her dorm and try to get in. They would ask her the password. 

“Bypass the painting?”

“Yes. The frame had clearly been tampered with when I got back tonight.” She didn’t like his accusatory tone. Especially when he was the one that kept bringing people up to their dorm.

“Well, my friends wouldn’t try to break into the head dorm. You should go complain to your friends, because I’d bet everything I own it was one of them.”

He scoffed, but she wasn’t done. “In fact, I’d appreciate it if you stopped bringing visitors into our space every chance you get, Malfoy. Jenny Higgs, both Greengrass sisters, now Pansy Parkinson?”

“Wow. Have you been keeping a guest list? Just because you’ve decided on celibacy doesn’t mean we all have to live that way.”

“Don’t act like this is normal. You’re running from something, Malfoy,” she spat. 

“Don’t try to diagnose me, Granger. I’m not interested.” He turned away from her now, no doubt bored with their conversation.

“You don’t have to worry. The last place I want to be is in your head.” It was true. Malfoy may have defected during the war, but he was still just as rotten as he always was. She had no desire to try to understand him. 

“Then if you don't mind. I have a witch waiting in my bed.” He was nearly to the stairs when he turned back to her. “Oh, and Granger?”

“What?” she growled.

“Mind you’re fucking business, yeah?”

Then Malfoy was gone and she was standing in an empty common room, drained of emotion. As she was climbing into bed, the noises coming from Malfoy’s bedroom were already starting. Despite the fact that the staircases to their respective rooms were on opposite sides of the common room, their bedrooms were nestled right next to each other on the second floor of the head’s suite. She knew his headboard met the wall right behind her own. That meant Pansy’s breathy, feminine moans might as well have been directly in her ear.

She sighed and reached for her wand to put a two way silencing charm around her room, but something stopped her. When she would question her actions the next day, she would try to forget that is was Malfoy’s rough whisper of “fuck” that made her go as still as a rabbit caught in a predator’s gaze. That made her heart beat into her ears and a strange kind of buzzing sensation dance along her nerve endings. Because there was just no way that she, Hermione Granger, was feeling anything but disgust overhearing two of the worst Slytherins she had ever met screw next door.

Not when she had other, bigger things to think about and agonize over. She had to break up with her best friend the next day for Merlin’s sake. But the erotic sound of his voice came again, following Pansy’s long, irritating moan and the low, grittiness of it brought a flush of warmth to her chest. In the low light, she watched the skin of her bare arms prickle with gooseflesh. No, this wasn’t happening. She should just pick up her wand and whisper the silencing charm. But she was frozen.

More moaning and cursing from the woman in the room behind her. Whines of praise and neediness for Malfoy. Draco, fuck. Yes. Oh gods, you’re so big. The words were muffled, but Hermione could make them out, even over the sound of her roaring heart. Then something worse; what she thought was a soft, low groan from her dorm mate. Wet heat pooled in her core. Shame coursed through her. This was Malfoy she was listening to. But for some reason she would never be able to understand or explain, the shame in it brought an even hotter ache to her center. 

At this point, Pansy was screaming bloody murder and she tried to tune her out. It was hard, considering her ears were strained to pick up on any sound Malfoy made. Pansy’s screams went hoarse for a moment, her volume dropping suddenly, and Hermione knew, just knew, that Malfoy had his hand wrapped around her throat or maybe covering her mouth. Thank Merlin , she thought. And then she was rewarded by another groan from Malfoy. 

The mental picture it conjured, him driving into Pansy with his hand clamped over her mouth, brought a vicious need to her core. Her fingers twitched where they sat on her T-shirt clad belly and she nearly gave in to the desire to let them trail lower, over the center of her knickers to relieve the ache. She resisted, pulling her arms tight to her upper body, her fists clenched under her chin. 

She didn’t understand why she was being affected this way. So Malfoy was, conventionally, very attractive. Everyone knew that. He had always been attractive, but Hermione liked to think of herself as someone who wouldn’t lose her head over looks. He was an awful person. He was mean to her and her friends. She didn’t like his arrogance and cruelty and spite. She repeated that mantra to herself until she was interrupted by Pansy’s garbled cry. Fuck Draco, I’m coming again. She broke off into an ear splitting scream that made Hermione wince. Finally, she heard Malfoy curse again, breaking off into a deep groan. The pleasure in his voice brought a hot wave of arousal over her yet again. 

Pansy was still whining softly, but Hermione had no desire to hear any kind of pillow talk from the Slytherins. Although, she knew there wouldn’t be much, since Malfoy always seemed to kick his guests out before they got too comfortable. Regardless, she finally found the strength to reach over to her nightstand for her wand and cast a silencing spell. Now entrenched in a blanket of quiet, she rolled onto her side and curled into a ball. What was wrong with her?


She mercifully did not have to see Malfoy the next morning. He was still asleep when she left the head’s dorm. It was Saturday and he was no doubt sleeping in like every other sane person. Hermoine, by contrast, was already dressed, showered, and in the library before breakfast. Her muscles had been cramping with anxiety since three in the morning, dreading her impending breakup with Ron. Laying in bed, the aftershocks of the cruciatus curse crept up on her, the way they did when she was particularly stressed or upset about something. They were like phantom pains, a less intense version of the torture curse’s sensation. Her muscles would spasm with shooting aches and her head would pound like she had a migraine. Sometimes, all she could do was curl into the fetal position and gasp like a fish until it went away. 

Afterwards, she could either pass out from exhaustion or more rarely, be so keyed up on nerves that sleep was impossible. Last night was the latter. By five she decided to get started on finding Ron study resources for his astronomy exam. It felt like the least she could do.

She had also managed to scrounge up her old astronomy notes tucked away in a random sheaf of papers. All before the castle became alive with students. It alleviated her guilt a bit and served as a distraction from remembering the night before.

What the hell had she been thinking? She felt dirty, like a skeevy voyeur. She had no idea how she was going to sit down at breakfast and look at the head boy without a traitorish blush staining her cheeks. If she had any luck, he would be preoccupied with his own friends this weekend. 

The great hall was nearly full for breakfast and her gut twisted when she spotted Ron’s familiar mop of ginger hair. He was pouring syrup over a stack of pancakes and laughing at something Seamus was saying. He had no idea that she was about to blow his morning to smithereens. Harry was sitting next to him and for a stupid moment, Hermione figured she should include Harry in the conversation. It was so rare that they made any decisions without one of the three of them present in the last year. But she knew that was silly. This was between her and Ron, no matter how deeply her choice would affect all her friendships at Hogwarts.

“Good morning Ron, Harry.” Her voice came out too quiet and she had to repeat herself to get their attention. 

“Morning, Mione,” they chorused together with a smile. She fiddled with the belt loop on her muggle jeans wishing that Harry would turn back around and let her single out Ron without too much fanfare. She was still holding the notes and books she put together for him and the fact only served to make the whole situation more awkward.

“Are you going to sit?” Ron asked her, already clearing her a spot. 

“Um, actually I was hoping I could talk to you maybe. Do you think we could take a walk?” Harry, politefully, turned away from the two of them with feigned nonchalance. 

“Sure. Yeah, sure,” Ron said softly, seeming confused, but hopeful. He stood up and brushed off the front of his jumper. An infamous Molly Weasley made jumper. Merlin, how she would miss those. He followed her out of the great hall, through the courtyard, to a path leading to the lake. They walked in silence for a moment, until she decided to start with the easiest part of the conversation. 

“I found my old astronomy notes. And went to the library for some guide journals. Thought they might be useful.” She shoved the papers and books at him, holding them in front of her like a shield. He took them clumsily, the papers getting smashed against his chest from the way she dumped them into his arms. 

“Blimey, Hermione. This is a lot. I’ll never be able to get through all these notes. You practically rewrote the textbooks,” he said exasperatedly. A quick surge of hurt flashed through her, forcing words out of her mouth before she could stop them. 

“A thank you would be nice. I spent a lot of time putting that together,” she snapped. His cheeks colored. 

“I-thank you. You know I’m grateful for it, Mione. Really.” She knew that. She did. But since the war, negative emotions would pop up with little warning.

“I know you are. I’m sorry, that’s not what-” she winced and broke off. “There’s something I need to say to you. About...about us. He stopped walking. They were at the pebbly beach of the lake now, and he moved to sit on a small boulder near the water’s edge. It was a grey day and the lake looked dark and still. She moved to sit across from him. 

“I figured you had more to talk about than how I’m going to pass my astronomy exam. What is it?”

She picked up a pebble from the beach and ran her thumb over it. “I know that over the summer, we made some insinuations that we would be together when things started to feel normal again.”

“Yeah. I know you need time. After everything that happened. The snatchers, the manor. I get that.” He clasped his hands loosely between his knees, studying her face as if it was the first time he ever saw her. “Do you want that? To be together, I mean.” She met his eyes. They were the clear blue of a sunny day, the same blue they had always been. She would recognize them anywhere. 

“I-” how was she supposed to explain this when she didn’t fully understand it herself? She dropped the pebble in her hand. It clattered on the other stones like a gunshot in the silence. “Have you ever gotten yourself into something that you thought you wanted. And then you realize that maybe you had just tricked yourself into thinking you wanted it. Because everyone else expected you to?” 

“What are you saying, Mione?” Ron grabbed her hands, like he was afraid she might disappear on him. “Is that...is that what you think happened with us? Because it’s not. It can’t be.”

“Ron, I-”

He shook his head in disbelief. “No, we...for years we’ve been leading up to this. Don’t ruin it now.” His face was so open, so honest. Her Ron. And he would always be one of her very best friends. Someone she would go to hell and back for. But he would never be the boyfriend or husband she always wanted for herself. And she would never be the woman he wanted. She couldn’t let them make this mistake. 

“Ron, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life feeling like I need to be someone that I’m not. And I know you don’t want that either. I’ll lecture you too much, and talk about things you have no interest in, and get mad at you for things you can’t help but do. And you’ll resent me for it. I just- I don’t want to go on disappointing each other. I’m not the woman for you. I think...I think we were just wrapped up in too much grief and fear and stress to realize it. 

His mouth pressed into a thin line and she could see the shining of his eyes in the watery light. And oh gods, that killed her. Because she never wanted to hurt him. It was the last thing she wanted, especially after everything they had been through in such a short amount of time. 

“Fine, I get it.”

“You’ll always be one of my best friends, Ron. That will never change. You know that. You know I love you and Harry so, so much.” he pressed her hands to her chest, tears overflowing onto her cheeks now. She had to make him understand. Understand how much he meant to her. How much it meant to her to know his friendship. How much it meant to her to try to move on from her assault with him. It hadn’t been good sex. It was clumsy and dry and a little painful, but she would never forget it. Would never forget the emotion they just couldn’t put into their touches or their words. 

“I know but, I need some time, okay? Fuck. I need time to get over this.” He stood from where he was perched on the boulder and scooped up the books she had handed him what felt like hours ago. Another lifetime. 

“I understand.”

“I don’t think I can be around you all that often right now. Not right now,” he shook his head.

“Okay.” Her voice was small. Ron was looking everywhere but her.

Then he was walking away from her, back towards the castle. She waited until she couldn’t make out the shape of him anymore to make her way back as well. She bypassed all the student gathering spots, avoided any familiar faces, didn’t stop until she had reached the library. She buried her face into an arithmancy textbook and read her assigned chapters until her tears started dripping onto the pages, bleeding the ink. 

Chapter Text

The weekend passed in a blur. She sequestered herself away in the hospital wing when she wasn’t studying in the library, patching up minor injuries and seeing to hexes that she could countercurse in her sleep. Anything to avoid seeing her friends.

She wasn’t quite sure how these things were supposed to go. They were such a tight knit group, the eighth year Gryffindors. Always together. In the common room, the great hall, the courtyard. Harry was always with Ron, and Ginny was always with Harry. Hermione wanted to be respectful of Ron’s wishes and didn’t want to make things awkward for everyone, but that left her by herself. The odd one out as usual. She tried not to let it bother her, that it felt like Harry was choosing Ron over her, or that the one time she passed Ginny in the hall their greetings had been briefer than usual. Even though Ginny knew Hermione was breaking up with Ron, had been on board with it. 

She knew it was just an adjustment period, but that sense of aloneness draped over her shoulders like an icy cloak. Saturday and Sunday night were spent reading by herself in her bedroom and counting the ballots that Malfoy left on her desk. The prefects had voted on the morale booster. They were to have a formal ball, theme not yet decided. At least there would be event planning to keep her busy.

The school week passed as well, and the weekend after that, with no real interaction with her friends. Not outside of the occasional friendly exchange in the hallways. She took to eating her meals in the library, tucked in a quiet alcove, hidden from Madam Pince. Harry sent her an owl on Wednesday to let her know he loved her and was not taking anyone’s side. He assured her that things would go back to normal with Ron eventually and then all would be like it was before. She folded his note three times and tucked it into the pocket of her robes, eyes watering with tears. 

By some strange stroke of fate, she ended up spending more time with Malfoy than anyone else, even if it was against her will. They had rounds together nearly every evening. He would meet her near their shared lavatory with a perfected look of aristocratic boredom before they would set off on their patrol through the castle. He would snipe at her, usually about her swottiness and bossiness and general know it all disposition, and she would challenge herself to come up with a smart remark to defend herself. Over and over again until they had made their way back to the portrait of Eve in the Garden of Eden that marked the entrance to their dorm. She loathed his company, but sometimes it was nice just to hear her voice out loud, not in the context of answering a professor.

She should have known that more was coming. She really should have known, but she was still surprised when she walked into advanced arithmancy on a Monday morning to find her name scrawled next to Malfoy’s on the black board. The word “PARTNERS” was printed above in capital letters, mocking her. 

She could feel his presence approach from behind her, smell his cologne. She knew he must have caught their names on the black board soon after she did, and if his angrily muttered “Fuck,” was anything to go by, he was about as pleased with the partnership as she was. 

“To your seats everyone, to your seats,” called professor Vector over the din. “Next to your partners if you please.” 

Hermione huffed and reluctantly followed Malfoy’s retreating back to a two person table beside an arched window. The afternoon sun had already warmed up the spot, casting light over their seats. He slouched into the aisle seat, forcing her to squeeze past him into the window seat. 

“As if I don’t already see enough of you,” he muttered. 

“I’m not exactly happy with this either, you know.” She started pulling her ink pots and quills out of her bag. She used black ink for her regular notes and dark green ink to underline important points. Purple ink was specifically for recording numerical data and example number charts. 

“But I need an O in this class if I want to be a healer so you better put in the effort on this project,” she continued. She slammed her quills down on the table as she spoke, lining them up in her preferred order. “And I want to get it done soon. I have other things to worry about.”

“I get it Granger. I’m working with the Gryffindor swot extraordinaire and nothing but perfection is acceptable. Noted.”

“Malfoy,” she hissed. He wasn’t taking her seriously. She knew he wouldn’t.

“I need the O too, alright?” For a moment, something like sincerity colored his voice. But then he needed to immediately ruin that little bit of humanity. “ And I’m not a fuck up like Weasley.”

“Will you be civil for a moment? Honestly.”

Before he could answer, professor Vector was taking his usual spot at the board. The balding man introduced their partnered project. They would be using the Agrippan method to attempt to divine the future of their partner. Despite the unpalatable idea of diving into Malfoy’s future, Hermione’s burning love for knowledge and challenge roared to life. The Agrippan method was the most complex approach to numerical divination, rooted in the latin alphabet. It would require quite a bit of research to get the interpretations correct. She was reminded again why arithmancy was her favorite subject at Hogwarts. 

Hermione’s looping script filled page after page of parchment as Vector lectured on arithmantic equations and their uses. Eventually, she paused to roll her shoulders and realign the inkwells on her desk into their proper placement. An amused snort came from her desk mate. 

“What?” she demanded.

He continued to scrawl lazily on his parchment without looking up at her. “Just wondering why you felt the need to bring half of Scrivenshaft’s with you.” She picked up her purple quill. 

“I have a system.”

“You have neuroticism.” She fought the urge to spill his inkwell onto his notes. The professor was preoccupied, waving his hands animatedly. She chanced the whisper back to him.

“I do not. I care about my grades.” He glanced at her discreetly and raised one eyebrow. She knew she had to do better than that. Think of something insulting, Hermione. “You’re just apathetic.” She thought she saw Vector’s gaze land on them for a moment, but then it flitted back to the chalkboard. 

I’m apathetic? Why are you acting like you haven’t been in a miserable little bubble for the past week? Trouble in paradise?”

Her quill nearly scratched through her parchment from the force she was putting on it. “It’s hardly any of your business, Malfoy.”

“Don’t get me wrong, Granger. I literally could not give less of a fuck what’s bothering you. But I have to say, it is getting boring. We haven’t had a proper fight in days because you’re so lost in your own head.”

“You’re twisted,” she snapped. Professor Vector paused his lecturing, and she realized just how loud that last retort was.

“And do you know the answer, Mrs. Granger?” He stared at her expectantly. She could feel the hot gazes of her classmates on her faces. She had no idea what he had asked the class.

“Um, could you repeat the question please.” Her voice sounded timid and mousy. Professor Vector looked disappointed. The class gave what seemed like a collective intake of air. Hermione Granger not paying attention. She hated that. She helped defeat the dark lord but it would never be enough. She would always feel the need to live up to a higher standard than anyone else.

“I was asking who wrote Three Books of Occult Philosophy , the very important source I expect everyone here to reference in their projects.” She racked her mind, trying to think back to the last lecture, shoving her sweating palms under her thighs.

“Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, professor.” And to make up for not paying attention, she threw in an additional fact. “In the sixteenth century.” She sensed her peers look away from her. The golden girl knew the answer. All was right in the world. 

“Yes, that is correct Mrs. Granger,” her professor conceded, turning back to the board. “But do pay more attention next time.” She sat back in her seat, deflated. The scolding felt like having all her inadequacies exposed. She didn’t need to look at Malfoy to know his mouth was twisted in a self satisfied smirk. 

After class was dismissed, Hermione jogged to catch up with him in the corridor. “Malfoy!” She called over the commotion of students rushing off to their next class. The press of bodies was thick and overwhelming and she felt incredibly small. The flicker of a memory, the castle courtyard choked with smoke and soldiers, danced before her eyes for a moment and she nearly stumbled. She fought to keep her eyes locked onto his fair head, thankful his height left him visible over the crush of students clogging the hallway. Was he pretending not to hear her? “Malfoy!” 

She watched as he turned on his heel with what looked to be a sigh of annoyance. The flood of students parted around him and she was forced in close to the Slytherin. She bent to look up at him. “What, Granger?” 

She picked a piece of lint off her shoulder, determined to appear as though she hadn’t felt like she was about to be trampled a minute ago. “Our project?” She drew the words out like he was a small child. Surely he should have seen the importance of getting started right away. “We need to set up a meeting place and schedule.”

He pulled at the knot in his green and silver tie impatiently. “Fine.” The fabric came loose and he left it hanging around his neck. “When and where?”

“Today. And it has to be in the library.” He tipped his head back and barked out a mean laugh. 

“You’ve got to be joking. I have quidditch practice today and we have weeks to do it, Granger.” 

“Malfoy, this is a complex project. It could take a while to get it perfect. I want to start today.”

“Well, we can’t always get what we want.” 

“After dinner if you have quidditch. Please.” She hated pleading, but she couldn’t think of anything else. Malfoy seemed to enjoy her humiliation enough to concede. He rolled his eyes.

“Fine. I’ll meet you in the library.” And then he was turning to leave. The corridor was nearly empty at this point and she still had to make it to the greenhouses for Herbology. 

“Wait, Malfoy!”

“What now?”

“As head boy, you should fix your tie. It’s expected that we adhere to proper dress code during school hours,” she lectured. 

“And who says that?” He tilted his head like a bird of prey, staring her down.

“The student handbook,” she sputtered. “ Honestly. We can’t flaunt the rules.”

He scoffed at her and started off down the corridor. “Then what good is being head boy?” He tossed the remark over his shoulder casually, but she knew he was dead serious.

The rest of day was a blur of answering questions, spilling ink on her hands, and stirring deadly nightshade into her cauldron. The afternoon dragged on until she was finally able to get to the infirmary for her shift. 

Madame Pomfrey waved to her on her way out, now fully trusting Hermione to work without her supervision. In the small receiving office, she took her mediwitch cap and apron out of her cubby absentmindedly. She almost didn’t notice the piece of paper that floated to the ground. It must have been tucked in next to her things. Maybe a note from Poppy. She scooped it up and unfolded it.

To Hermione Granger, 

You are an embarrassment to wizard kind. I never would have expected a girl like you to stoop so low. At first I made excuses for you. But then you had to go and act this way. You’ve disappointed me. 

Sincerely, 

Your former secret admirer 

Her hands shook as she put the note back into her cubby. It was a nasty joke. It had to be. Someone was having a bit of fun with the know-it-all. Since the war ended, she had been thrust into the public eye, right alongside Ron and Harry. She got equal parts fan mail and nasty letters owled to wherever she was staying. Some wizards and witches praising her heroism, others criticizing her every move. From, her actions during the war, to her choice to testify for Malfoy, to the way she dressed. She had stopped reading them, no matter whether they were good or bad. 

Coming back to Hogwarts, she thought she would be able to get away from the press and the fans. And she hadn’t received any letters since the start of term, but now someone in the castle thought it would be funny to rile her up. Well, she wouldn’t let them. She had done nothing wrong, nothing that a stranger should be aggravated over. On impulse, she grabbed the note back up again and incinerated it with her wand. 

She had more important things to worry about. Like her friends, her grades, her head girl duties, and currently, the first year with the bloody nose trying to get her attention. She shook her head and returned to her work.



To her surprise, Malfoy met her at the entrance to the library after dinner, as promised. He hadn’t been at dinner, his seat empty along with Blaise Zabini and Theo Nott’s places in front of the fireplace. She had sat at the end of the Gryffindor table, attempting small talk with Parvati Patil, wondering if he would even bother showing. It briefly crossed her mind that he may have left her that note, but the thought was dismissed as quickly as it came. He had no issue riling her up in person. Creepy notes didn’t seem like his style.

Now they were deep in the stacks, looking for books that might be helpful with their project. The library was quiet but still populated by students at this point in the evening. The lanterns served as their only light, casting a buttery glow over the books, and over the slytherin in front of her.

His hair was damp from what she assumed was an after-quidditch shower, if that was where he was during dinner. Wizards and quidditch. She fought to avoid thinking of Harry and Ron. They would have skipped dinner for extra practice time too. Well, maybe not Ron. His appetite was unmatched. 

“Pay attention, Granger. I’m not doing this all over again.” His voice startled her out of her thoughts. He had two books tucked under his arm, books she had picked out to use as references. “I asked you if you wanted anything from the restricted section.”

“Yeah, I’ll go get it. Just wait here.” She grabbed the grate to enter the gloomy wing of the library, bracing for the chill of the section. 

“Whatever.” 

By the time she exited the restricted section with the book she needed, Malfoy had already wandered off. She found him at a two person table in one of the aisles. There were only a few lone students studying nearby, and it seemed like a nice quiet spot. She placed the book down and planted herself in the chair next to him. She could smell his soap or his cologne, whichever it was. It was becoming familiar to her now and what a sick realization that was. 

“What do you want to start with?” She figured she would extend the olive branch for the sake of their project. 

“I already translated the letters of your name into numbers so just pass me a book on interpretation.” She handed one to him and unrolled her parchment. She had also come prepared with his name already translated to numerical values, but she couldn’t help but be a little impressed. It wasn’t easy and she knew that if she was partnered with anyone else, they would have waited until tonight so she could do the translation for them.

He flipped to the first chapter and slid the book between them. She glanced at the chapter title and internally groaned. Arithmantic Predictions On Matters Of Love. Great. That was just great. Her love life was exactly what she wanted to discuss with Malfoy. Especially considering the sorry state of it as of late. 

“How exciting,” he murmured, sarcasm dripping from his voice. “Just what I wanted to know about the Gryffindor princess.”

“Shut up, Malfoy. It’s not like I want to look into your love life. Considering all you’re interested in is sleeping with every witch that moves.” She was careful to keep her voice near a whisper, considering they were in the library. She was relieved that he seemed to be doing the same.

“Well, what is it they say? You only go to boarding school with a bunch of horny witches once right?” She bristled at his vulgarity and tried not to think about overhearing his night with Pansy. Her cheeks heated anyway.

“That is not what they say. And the fact that you said it only strengthens my point.”

“Fine then. Let’s dig into your romantic life. How is the Weasel these days?” His brow arched in challenge. She felt like a canary caught under a cat’s paw. He must have noticed Ron’s absence in her life lately. It felt like everyone knew. 

“I don’t want to speak to you about Ron,” she settled on.

“Why not?” He didn’t even bother feigning innocence or ignorance. He just stared at her, silver eyes glowing in the lamp light. 

“You know why.” She didn’t want to play his games. He flipped a page in the book between them. 

“It’s fine, I’ll just read it.” His eyes scanned the yellowed pages, dark lashes ticking against his cheekbones. He traced the words with his finger like he was pointing out a juicy piece of evidence. “It says here that witches with three and four in the last half of their names have luck finding partners that are trustworthy, and will always prioritize their wellbeing and safety. Fascinating.” 

She refused to analyze what he said. Ron had been trustworthy, but the rest of it she wasn’t sure. But it didn’t matter, because she knew in her heart they were wrong for eachother. She could only hope that the next man she dated fit the description. Because it sounded nice. Really nice. 

“It also says here that witches with letters that have values that total up to a multiple of five are at risk of falling into relationships that feel comfortable but lack the qualities they really desire. Your letters total to thirty. Does that sound right to you?” He turned to her and she could see the spark of amusement in his eyes.

“It does not say that!” Her voice screeched and she saw a few students’ heads poke up out of their books. One Ravenclaw girl gave her a nasty look. 

“Shhh, Granger. We’re in a library,” he taunted. It didn’t go unnoticed to her that this was the second time today he made her lose her temper in a situation where silence was golden. She dropped her voice back down to a furious whisper.

“You are such an asshole.” 

“Doesn’t change the facts.” He picked up his quill and started writing down his interpretations of her future. She humphed and did the same, focusing on perfecting her part of the project. 

The next time she looked up from her parchment was when she was suddenly disturbed by the creak of his chair as he sat back and stretched his arms behind his head. His quill lay abandoned on the desk. She looked around to find the library completely empty of students, the lamps burning low. 

“It’s time for rounds,” he glanced at her. “The library’s closed.”

“So it is.” She stood and gathered her things. When she turned around, he was leaning against the shelves, his things already shrunk down and tucked into his pockets. She preferred an undetectable extension charm on her bag but his magic skills were impressive. Except she didn’t want to be impressed by any of the things he did. 

“Let’s go then,” she said. He rolled his eyes and started walking. The corridors were empty save for a few stragglers making their way back to their dorms. She watched Malfoy joyfully dock points from a Gryffindor couple making out in an alcove. They scampered away, cheeks red. 

As they were turning the corner near the dungeons, they bumped into Theodore Nott and Blaise Zabini. 

“Fancy seeing you out here, Drakey. You never come see us anymore,” Theo whined. Hermione stood off to the side of the three Slytherin men, feeling slightly out of her element. She was used to gryffindor boys and the trio before her had quite the reputation as Slytherin troublemakers.

“Like I don’t already see enough of you two,” Draco replied.

“Rude,” said Blaise. 

“Ahh, and you have the golden girl with you,” Theo observed jovially. Hermione was starting to hate being called that. “Hey there, Granger.”

“Hi.” She held her hands behind her back. “How is your leg doing?”

“Good as new.”

“Did any of you actually report the incident?” The three of them looked around at each other in a way that reminded her of when Harry and Ron were debating whether they should tell her the truth or try to avoid her lecturing. Blaise opened his mouth to say something but closed it just as quickly. “So that’s a no then,” she mused aloud.

“Haven’t gotten around to it,” Theo lied. 

“We didn’t see the point,” Malfoy spoke up from behind her. 

“What are you talking about, Malfoy? It’s a bold case of rule breaking and the headmistress should be informed. You, the headboy, should know that.”

“There isn’t much she can do about these kinds of things. You should know that. Although I guess you wouldn't. Being a precious little Gryffindor and all.”

“That’s not true.”

“Well let’s go see then,” he bit, already turning. “Come on Theo.”

Theo looked at Blaise for help, clearly not wanting to be caught in an argument. Blaise shook his head. “I don’t have all night, Nott,” Malfoy called to his friend.

“Alright then. I guess.” he followed Malfoy and Hermione stormed after the both of them towards the domain that formerly belonged to Dumbledore. The headmistress’ office was largely unchanged from when it was under the care of the famous wizard. There was a slight feminine touch to some of the decor and tea service settled on a cart in the corner, but that was all Hermione could spot as being different. She wondered what it had looked like under Snape’s headmastership. The former headmaster peered at them from his portrait as they entered the room, arms crossed regally in front of him. His dark eyes met Hermione’s with a barely perceptible nod. Dumbledore’s portrait hung empty.

“Oh, Miss Granger, Mr. Malfoy what a surprise. I was just about to retire for the evening.” McGonagall waved them in from her desk. “And you have Mr. Nott with you, I see. Is everything alright?”

“Good evening professor. Theo has something he needs to report to you,” Hermione spoke up. Theo looked at her awkwardly and then back at McGonagall. 

“Well, what is it Mr. Nott?” She gestured to the seat in front of her desk. 

“Uhh, well something happened during quidditch practice that I probably should have reported to a professor before now,” Theo began. McGonagall nodded for him to continue. Theo told the story of how a cursed bludger had chased most of the team before going after him and bashing into the side of his leg. With Hermione’s prompting, he also revealed that this wasn’t the first prank directed at the Slytherin students who had ties to the losing side of the war. 

The headmistress sat back in her seat when he finished. “Well, this is certainly concerning Theodore. And Mr. Malfoy, you can confirm these instances?” Malfoy nodded from where he stood. “Alright then, I will address the students as a whole and notify the professors but unfortunately, many students are still dealing with the aftermath of the war. Lashing out this way is to be expected. And what’s more, it would be very difficult to narrow down the potential suspects. But I am glad I was informed and I will be vigilant to this issue, I can assure you.”

Hermione was surprised not much more could be done but she still felt like it was the right move to inform the headmistress. She met Malfoy’s eyes to find him observing her with a cooly arched brow. 

“Now if that’s all, I expect that you should be returning to Slytherin house now Mr. Nott.” Minerva peered at the brunette as he stood, holding a bowl of lemon drops out to him in a gesture so reminiscent of Dumbledore that a pang of surprise struck Hermione right in the gut. “If you have a moment, Miss Granger and Mr. Malfoy, there are two things I should mention to you.”

“Of course, professor.” Hermione was quick to oblige. Malfoy gave a quick nod but remained silent. Minerva unraveled a scroll of parchment in front of her.

“I find it curious, Minerva.” The deep, monotone voice came from the far wall. Hermione turned to Snape in surprise. The last time she had heard his voice was right before he died. It was eerie, to have his portrait form interact with them, haunting the castle as much as any of Hogwart’s many ghosts. “The pairing you’ve chosen as head boy and head girl. It seems a volatile match, does it not?”

Snape’s words were directed at the headmistress but his eyes were occupied on someone else. In her periphery, she watched a look pass between the former headmaster and Malfoy. A look that she could not quite identify; one of knowing.

“They are my top students, Severus. And rivalries are something to be put behind us. They are more than mature enough to navigate a partnership.” MgGonagall’s tone was final. Snape nodded but continued to eye her and Malfoy, as if he had information they did not.

“Alright then,” McGonagall continued. “As you would have heard by now, there is to be a ball in a little over a month. As head boy and girl, you will be expected to lead the class in the traditional wizard’s waltz. Now, I am not requiring you to attend with one another but the dance is a necessity.”

The headmistress was still speaking but Hermione couldn’t hear her over the roaring in her ears. She had never heard of the dance. It wasn’t in her textbooks or any of the books she had read on wizarding life. Whenever something like this came up, a facet of magical society that she didn’t grow up knowing and that wasn’t included in the curriculum, she felt a distinct sense of otherness. Like she was caught between the muggle and magical world, not fully belonging in either. How was she to go out onto the dance floor in front of their entire class and perform a dance she had no idea how to do? She would be made a fool of.

“Also, I wanted to remind you of your detention supervision duties,” Minerva continued. That she knew how to do. Sit and watch all the students who had gotten themselves detention write lines on their parchment. “And that is all for tonight. You should both return to your rounds. I’ve kept you too long.”

They bid the headmistress goodnight and exited the office, Snape’s eyes following them out of the room.

Chapter Text

The halls were silent as Malfoy and Hermione finished their patrol for students out past curfew. Hermione turned over the night’s events as she walked, interrupted only by the sound of their combined footsteps on the flagstone. She had more important things to worry about, she knew. Namely, the chapters of her advanced potions text that she hadn’t been able to read yet. But, the prospect of having to dance a dance she had never heard of in front of everyone was at the forefront of her mind. She hated being the center of attention, was much better suited to running things from behind the scenes. Organization and following or giving directions were her strong suits. Not performance. 

And it wasn’t as if she could ask Malfoy about the dance. He would only take the chance to gloat over the fact that she was a muggleborn with a painfully lacking education on old wizarding society. He, on the other hand, probably knew every stuffy pureblood custom from the time he could talk. And she was still waiting for him to inevitably rub it in her face that he was right. McGonagall’s hands were tied where the treatment of Slytherin students was concerned. 

She glanced at him from the corner of her eye. They were in an interior corridor in the belly of the castle where the moonlight could not penetrate. The shadows between each mounted candelabra seemed to get caught on his sharp angles, pooling under his cheekbones and in his eye sockets. She decided to beat him to it.

“Okay, even though the headmistress can’t figure out who cursed that bludger, it was still necessary to inform her of what happened,” she said. 

“I’m sure you would think that, Granger.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

He scoffed. “Everyone scrambles to protect the golden trio isn’t that right?” Hermione fisted her hands at her sides. Yes, they had people try to protect them. They had the order and their professors. But why wouldn’t they? They were on the side of good. 

“You sound very ignorant right now. Harry, Ron, and I suffered a great deal. There wasn’t always someone to protect us. And you could have had protection too. You know that.”

He stopped walking and leaned against the wall. She took a few faltering steps past him before she realized. She turned to face him. He was looking at her with an expression of contempt. 

“And how exactly would I have known that?” His voice was calm, but there was something underneath it that made her palms sweat. She knew they were both thinking of the night he nearly murdered Dumbledore. When the old wizard offered him a way out, a way out that he refused to take. Had spat on and turned his back to. But she didn’t want to talk about that night. Not now. Not with him.

“You had all the same opportunities to do good that we had, and you squandered them. That’s not our fault, Malfoy.” He laughed, short and cruel.

“You seem to think you know a lot about my choices. Have you ever thought that maybe this shit is already decided? We were doing what we were meant to do. All of us. From the start. I was always going to be in the wrong and you were always going to be in the right. And we’ll keep on going that way. That’s why we don’t ask for help from witches like McGonagall.” 

“What are you saying, Malfoy? That you can’t be a good person because you’re not supposed to be? That’s ridiculous.”

“What I’m saying is that we can’t all be the heroes. Some of us have to be bad. And when you grow up like I have, like Nott and Blaise and all of us have, it’s obvious what you’re going to become. We’re not like you. We don’t have bleeding hearts and the idiocy to think that the light always wins.”

That stung. Because her bleeding heart and faith in the light had gotten her into trouble. It had gotten her on the run, starving and bleeding, trying to keep Harry alive long enough for the light to prevail. It had gotten her crucio’d so many times the mind healers considered her a medical anomaly because she hadn’t been mentally and emotionally shattered. But it had been worth it. It was called sacrifice and courage. And how dare he mock it this way.

“Believe me, I know you don’t. I know, maybe better than anyone, just how rotten your heart is.” She lowered her voice to a cold, deadly whisper. Like before, she was struck by the urge to make him hurt. To make him see how bad things got for her. She couldn’t voice these feelings to her friends. But he, her enemy, was fair game. 

“I watched you turn on everyone you knew. I watched you look at me like I was nothing as your aunt tortured me. Like I was nothing .” Her voice ramped up, words tumbling out of her before she could stop them. Not that she wanted to stop them. “You’re a cold, unfeeling bastard.”

“Yeah, that’s it, Granger. Fight me. Fight me like you used to.” He took two steps towards her, nearly breathing the same air she was. “I’m so sick of you walking around like you don’t even see the rest of us,” his words were a snarl now. She could see the ash grey of his eyes, even in the darkness. He was wrong. She saw him all the time. Her enemy, the face that haunted her. She saw its indifference in her nightmares. Her heart was racing, her face was hot. 

“I’m sick of fighting you. I’m sick of living with you. I’m sick of having to prove I’m better than you. When you don’t even have the moral high ground. I do. You’re sick. You’re cruel. You won’t ever have my forgiveness, Malfoy.”

His hand came up between them. His left arm, the marked arm. He grabbed her chin with his cold hand. They were so close. Too close. She froze, staring into his burning eyes. His next words were a hot, angry whisper against her lips. “I don’t fucking want it.”

His mouth pressed to hers the second her lips parted. He was not gentle, not kind. But she hadn’t expected him to be. Didn’t want him to be. She just wanted to feel. She didn’t realize how badly the war robbed her of the intensity of her emotions. Everything had begun to feel muted, lukewarm. But not this. His mouth was hot and urgent against hers. Something cracked in her chest and she grabbed the front of his shirt before she could stop to think. 

She pulled at the collar he was always undoing and brought him closer to her. He didn’t hesitate, his strong hands wrapping around her waist, half tugging her blouse out of her skirt. His mouth moved on hers, slow and practiced now. She gasped into his mouth, overwhelmed. He bit her lip like the snake he was and she tasted blood. The realization struck her then. Who he was and what they were doing.

She was letting Malfoy kiss her. She was returning the kiss. The shock of it was akin to a bucket of ice water dousing her head to toe. Her fist in his shirt went from pulling him closer to pushing him away, violently. He stepped back, face still angry. They were both breathing hard and for a moment, all she could do was stare at him, gooseflesh prickling her skin. He wiped his mouth with the back of his sleeve, eyes still locked on hers.

She drew in a breath. “That was a mistake. I didn’t know what I was doing,” she stuttered.

“You were kissing me back. That’s what you were doing.”

“You kissed me, Malfoy. Don’t forget that.”

He shook his head. “A momentary lapse.” She was confused about what just happened. What led them there. And it wasn’t that she wanted him to have wanted it, but his comment brought a hot flush of shame to her anyway. 

“You must be so disgusted with yourself for kissing a mudblood. Is that it?” 

“Something like that.” His face was unreadable but his voice was cruel. She was disgusted with him. Disgusted with herself.

“I don’t want to speak about it. Ever.” He said absolutely nothing in reply and so she turned her back on him and walked straight back to their dorm.


She climbed into bed that night fully prepared to lie awake, mentally flogging herself for her lack of control. That wasn’t what happened. Instead, she pulled the covers up to her chin and felt a bone deep exhaustion claim her. It was as if the outpouring of anger she felt towards Malfoy served as a kind of catharsis.

The next morning she found herself staring into her porridge, still trying to figure out why she let Malfoy kiss her. And why she returned that kiss. She hated him. She knew that. And he hated her, but still he tipped her chin up and pressed his lips to hers. He said he didn’t want her forgiveness. And in a way, that resolved her from having to decide whether he was worthy of it. 

The mind healer she saw and all the self help books she read said the same thing. That sometimes forgiving the people who wronged you was necessary for your own healing, your own sanity. But what if you didn’t want to forgive? What if those who hurt you didn’t deserve forgiveness? She was so tired of being the bigger person. Lashing out at Malfoy let her release the anger and pain in a way she couldn’t with her friends. Because she could hurt them, but she couldn’t hurt him. He didn’t care if she forgave, if she moved on, if she was their good little, bookish Hermione again. 

“Morning,” a bright voice spoke near her elbow. Hermione turned to find Ginny standing next to her seat. She put down her spoon and let the book she was levitating over her breakfast drift back down to the table.

“Ginny! Hi.” She tried not to show her awkwardness. It had been days since she spoke to Ginny, Ron, or Harry and she wasn’t quite sure where they all stood.

“So they announced the all hallows eve ball. I thought maybe we could go down to Hogsmeade this weekend and buy dresses. Just the two of us.” Ginny smiled and Hermione breathed a sigh of relief. She badly wanted things to get back to normal with her friends. Maybe this could be the start of that. She missed them and she found herself so very lonely without them.

“Yeah, that would be great. I definitely need your help picking something out.”

“Ha, you know that’s not true. You managed just fine without me at the Yule ball. But I will certainly give you my opinion anyway.”

They spoke a little longer about the formal robes shop that just opened in Hogsmeade and what time to meet that Saturday. By the time Ginny left her table, Hermione was feeling more optimistic than she had all week. It didn’t even hurt to look at Harry and Ron talking to their other friends merrily without her. Her mood didn’t sour until her last class of the day when she realized that she was supposed to work on her project in the library with Malfoy that night. 

The library was cozy despite the chill of the first week of October, the lamps burning brightly over the shelves. Hermione narrowly dodged two stacks of floating books as she rounded the corner to the last row of study desks where her and Malfoy had met the last time they worked on their project. He wasn’t there yet and there was really no telling whether he would show up at all. Not with the way they left things the night before. Her cheeks suffused with warmth at the thought of what had transpired. What she had let him do. Her only consolation was that he was surely regretting it as much as she was.

The chair creaked as she sat and dropped her things on the table. Their table was tucked into a corner at the end of an aisle of shelves, right next to one of the huge, gothic windows. A light rain ticked against the glass pain, the foggy night near impossible to see through. She stared out at the grounds anyway. 

She was still staring out at the night when she felt him drop into the seat next to her. Taking a deep breath to steady herself, she turned to face him. His heavy robes were missing as usual, his white hair gleaming in the lamplight. He turned to face her with the same bored look she recognized as his typical expression.

“What?” He snapped.

“Nothing,” she muttered, wanting to maintain a little bit of civility, for the sake of their project. At the end of their last session, they were both about a third of the way through interpreting each other's future based on the arithmantic principles of the spelling of their names. She just wanted to focus on her part and turn in this project. It would be one last thing she had to do with him. “How far have you gotten since last time?”

“How far have you gotten?” He was always so quick to turn the tables back on her. She didn’t like it. 

“I did two more letters but I wanted to cross reference with the latin text. Can I have the book back?”

“I don’t have that book.” 

“Well neither do I.”

“Okay. What the fuck am I supposed to do about that?” He stared at her blankly and she fought the urge to scream. 

“You had it last, so where did it go?” She prompted him. She knew he was being difficult on purpose, probably trying to deflect after last night. That was fine with her.

“I probably put it back then.” He spoke slowly, like she was an idiot.

“Then can you go get it back since I didn’t get to use it yet?”

“Go get it yourself,” he said calmly. She sighed and stood from the table, her chair screeching on the floor. By the time she got back with the book, he was already rolling up his parchment. If he thought he was going to bail on her that fast, he was wrong. So very wrong.

“What are you doing? You can’t be finished,” she demanded.

“I don’t feel like doing this tonight, Granger. There’s really no reason we can’t do this separately. And I have a match tomorrow. So.” He capped his inkwell.

“No, no, no. Malfoy. We were supposed to make progress tonight. You are not leaving me with all the work. We are supposed to collaborate on this.” She squeezed any uncertainty out of her voice, leaving him no room to refuse her.

“Did I say I was leaving you with my share of the work? I’ll do it, just not tonight.This may be hard for you to understand, but not all of us need to use you. In fact, without Potter and Weasley, you’re effectively useless.” He looked right into her eyes when he said it, delivering his little barbed comments with a voice that intended to hurt. 

“You vile-”

“Besides, I’m getting kind of bored looking into your future. It’s not telling me anything I couldn’t already figure out,” he seethed. “A successful career, an overachieving mindset that will lead to a stress related breakdown, et cetera. Who would have guessed?”

“Oh, well that’s rich. Really. Because your future is just fascinating. In fact, the interpretation I wanted to cross reference says that your truth is going to come to light. What could that mean? It sounds nefarious. Which isn’t surprising in the least.”

He laughed humorlessly. “Whatever you say, Granger.” 

“If you leave now, you’ll just have to come back to do rounds anyway. I want to be halfway done by the end of tonight. Our potions exam is coming up and I’ll need to dedicate my free time to it.”

He rolled his eyes and sat back down. “It’s going to be easy. Half of our class are idiots. Slughorn will dumb it down for them.” He stretched his arms behind his head.

“You don’t know that.” He picked his quill back up and flipped the page on the book between them. She made the mistake of looking at his hand. It was pale and smooth, his fingers long and graceful. She found that she had developed a sick preoccupation with them over the last twenty four hours. Remembering what they felt like gripping her chin and her waist, the cold metal of his signet ring pressed to her skin. She shook her head, trying to clear it from her mind.

They worked for nearly an hour longer before setting off on their rounds through the castle. As usual, the halls were empty, leaving her and Malfoy alone in the shadowed corridors. In a lot of ways, it was kind of creepy to wander the corridors at night. It reminded her of Harry and Ron and their midnight escapades over the years. She missed them.

Malfoy had mentioned there was a quidditch match the following night. She was so uninterested in quidditch, she had no idea who was playing. It could be Gryffindor. If it was, she decided, she would go watch. To support her friends from the stands. Just like she always had.

“Who is the match against tomorrow?”

He looked at her funny, like she had done something incredibly out of character. She supposed she had. 

“Didn’t think you were one for quidditch, Granger.”

“I’m not. I wanted to know if...forget it.”

“Gryffindor.”

“I knew that. I was just making conversation,”she lied. She hated that he knew she was on the outs with her friends. 

“No you didn’t. The Gryffindors finally realized you were fucking annoying and dropped you.”

“They didn’t drop me and it’s not all the Gryffindors.” She was trying to convince herself as much as she was trying to convince him. 

“Right, just your little boyfriend. The weasel. I wonder if he’ll be pissed off when you show up to the ball with someone else. Probably, huh?” That was a whole other issue. She hadn’t been asked by anyone and wasn’t sure if she wanted a date. Would Ron consider it another snub? And would she look completely pathetic if showed up alone? 

“Not that it’s any of your business, but I don’t even know if I’m going with anyone yet.”

“So no one’s asked you. What a shame.” The sarcasm dripped from his voice. His observation, while accurate, left her feeling incredibly exposed. 

“And I suppose you have witches falling at your feet already.” She cringed inwardly right after she said it because knowing his reputation, he probably did.

“You’re not wrong.”

“Well don’t forget McGonagall has one request from us. You have to leave your date for the traditional waltz.

“Yeah, I know. I was there too, Granger.”

“I’m just making sure.” She figured now would be a good time to find out if he knew this dance or if they were both in the dark together. “And I hope you know how to do it.”

He scoffed. “Of course I know it. I had ballroom dancing lessons as soon as I could walk. It was drilled into us.”

“Good.” She figured as much. She would have to find a book on old wizarding dances and try to teach herself. They finally reached their dormitory. The end of their rounds. She whispered their weekly password, Hippocampi , to Eve and passed into their dorm. Malfoy was close behind her. Before he could make it to his room, she asked him one more question. One she hadn’t been able to get off her mind.

“Malfoy.”

“What?”

“What does it mean? Your truth will come to light?” He seemed to actually think for a moment. His head slightly tilted as he looked at her. 

“I don’t know, Granger. All my crimes were already bared to the Wizengamot. There’s nothing left.” His eyes were glacial. 

“You were hardly forthcoming about your motivations. What you were thinking.” This was dangerous territory for them. The war. His actions. There was still so much pain there. Volatile.

“And I would hardly share them with you. So don’t fucking bother asking.”

“It was just a question, Mal-“ 

“What about your motivations? You never said why you testified...for me. Just me. Did you need another charitable act on your resume?” She stiffened. They had never spoken about this. She didn’t even like examining her reasons too closely. She set her bag down and focused on Crookshanks winding his way through her legs. 

“I don’t know.” She looked away from his eyes, but she could still feel them boring into her. “I guess I...I never thought you were good. But I also didn’t think you were evil beyond repair. I thought maybe...you could find redemption.” 

She looked at him then. He was still leaning against the wall. What she said was the truth. She thought him rotten to the core, but not too far gone that Azkaban was the only answer left. In her mind, he wasn’t on the same level as most of the other Death Eaters. As Greyback or Yaxley or his father. But that still left a terrifyingly large grey area. And a very dark grey, at that.

He turned to the stairs leading to his room. “Maybe you were wrong.”


The brisk wind of October swept through the quidditch pitch stands, dragging fiery orange leaves along in its wake. Hermione pulled her red and gold scarf tight around her neck, trying to hold onto the potions book half open in her lap. It was the first quidditch match of the season and the first quidditch match she didn’t get to wish Harry and Ron and Ginny good luck at the breakfast table. 

Out on the field, the three of them hovered high above the dying grass, waiting for the sound of the whistle to kick off the action. She spotted Harry, the reigning captain, by his messy dark hair. He sat easy and relaxed on his firebolt over the center of the field. Helpless to stop them, her eyes drifted a few paces farther to the left to find Malfoy lazily leaning back against his dark broom, seemingly unbothered by being meters off the ground. She didn’t for a moment believe he was as tranquil as he first appeared. When she looked closer, she could see the tension in his lean frame, like a viper coiled to strike. 

“I’d be happy to offer you my omnioculars if you would like to get a better look at Draco Malfoy,” said a serene voice near her ear. Hermione startled, whirling around to look at Luna. The Ravenclaw had kindly accompanied Hermione to the game, sporting her giant lion hat in support of the Gryffindors.

 “Oh, no. That’s fine, Luna. Thank you.” Hermione flushed at being caught looking at Malfoy. “I was just trying to see if Harry remembered his goggles to protect his glasses.” 

“Of course, Hermione. I believe Harry is wearing them. Which is a shame, really. It’s so difficult to see the world with goggles over your eyes.”

Hermione refrained from informing Luna that a cracked lens would be even worse. She was grateful to the blonde for being here with her, even if she was peculiar. 

Hooch’s whistle sounded over the music blaring on speakers and she watched as the green and red figures transformed into a blur of movement. Quidditch had always bored her and so she snuck her head into her book and waited for the announcer to declare something important. But the roar of the crowd, starved of quidditch for the past year, was so loud she couldn’t concentrate. She found herself watching as Ginny, marked by her fiery mane of hair, grabbed the quaffle out of the wind and flew with it under her arm all the way to the far side of the pitch. Two Slytherin chasers bullied their way into her space, but she dodged them with a daring maneuver. Harry and Malfoy both circled restlessly, trying to spot the snitch. 

She watched Blaise Zabini dart to defend his ring, but Ginny was too fast, slinging the quaffle through it before he could smack it away. The score bell dinged, and the students around her cheered. She clapped for her friend as Luna exclaimed a delighted “Oh, excellent!”

She searched the field for the other players she knew. Cormac McLaggen swung his beater’s bat at a bludger, spiraling it towards Malfoy. She watched with peeled eyes as he dropped out of its path at the last moment, sneering at McLaggen in return. The bludger continued towards a Slythrin chaser she didn’t know. The boy wasn’t looking, his eyes on the quaffle, but Theodore Nott was there in a flash, his bat sending it back towards the Gryffindors. 

On the other side of the field, Ron guarded his rings, hands clasped tight to his broom. He shouted something at Harry, but it was impossible for her to hear.

The game dragged on until Luna had left her in search of hot cider and Hermione sat shivering on the bench, scarf tucked around her chin. The score sat at forty to forty until she saw Malfoy pause and sharply turn in the opposite direction. Harry was not a moment behind him.

“Potter and Malfoy are locked onto the snitch!” The announcer cried out the observation and both the Gryffindor and Slytherin stands stood and cheered in excitement. Hermione could barely see through the wall of bodies around her, but she was able to keep her eyes on the two young men, enemies for as long as she’d known them. She saw Malfoy knock his shoulder into Harry, sending him careening for a moment. 

She gasped as Harry righted himself, overcorrecting himself into Malfoy with a harsh shove. It wasn’t enough. Malfoy held on to his broom with one hand and grabbed the snitch out the air with his other, right out from under Harry’s nose. 

“Draco Malfoy catches the golden snitch! Slytherin wins the game!” She sighed her disappointment as the Gryffindor section deflated back to their seats. The Slytherin section, on the other hand, went rowdy with excitement. The beginnings of a chant struck up over the howling wind. Something about snakes and victory. Hermione rolled her eyes and stood. For the first time this year, she was glad that she had been distanced from her friends. They could be counted on to be in absolutely rotten moods when they lost a game of quidditch, especially to Slytherin.

She took the stairs down from the bleachers, pushing past grumbling Gryffindors. A boy who had likely ingested the illicit kind of butterbeer bumped into her and she grabbed the railing to keep from falling. Merlin, I hate quidditch .

She waited outside the Slytherin locker rooms for Malfoy, prepared to corner him and berate him into coming to the library after the game. They were nearly finished with their project and she wanted to be rid of him. She saw him more than she saw her own friends and his presence was becoming more familiar than she ever wanted it to be. They couldn’t have a single conversation without arguing. He was exhausting.

Two Slytherin students left the locker rooms before Malfoy and Blaise exited in step with each other. They were carrying their brooms at their sides, hair still wet from the shower.

“Malfoy!” He turned and looked her up and down with a sneer. 

“What?”

“Are we still on for tonight?” He gritted his teeth and she knew this was about to turn into a fight. Blaise snickered to Theo, who had just shown up behind them, dressed in only a Slytherin T-shirt despite the chill. His arms were unmarked, even though she knew the Nott’s were deeply entrenched with the Death Eaters.

“What are you talking about?”

“The library. Our project. We’re almost done and I don’t want to have to wait for you to finish your part.”

“You better do as she says, mate. She’s got crazy eyes,” Theo taunted lightly.

“I have better things to do tonight, Granger. I’m not sitting in the library listening to you whine about how latin isn’t really a dead language while there’s a party celebrating my victory in the dungeons.” 

She put her hands on her hips and prepared herself for the sparring match that was sure to follow. “Gods, you are such an insufferable asshole.”

Blaise interrupted her before she could really get going. “You should come, Granger. We could use a chaperone.” 

She had no interest in attending a Slytherin party, or any party really. But Malfoy decided to insult her before she could decline politely. “I doubt Granger is any fun at parties, Blaise.” He looked at her and she refused to be cowed. “If I had to guess, I would say she probably sits in the corner with her head in a book. Am I right?”

He was right, but she wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction. “Gods, I hate you. Just do your part of the project so we can be done with it. I can’t wait until I don’t have to spend my nights with you in the library.”

He chuckled. “And how will you spend your nights then? In the library by yourself? Unless you have some social life I don’t know about.” It sucked that they lived together and he knew she spent most of her time alone. It really sucked.

“Shut up, Malfoy! Just get your work done before I do it myself and tell our professors you refused to help.”

“Do it, Granger. See if I give a fuck.”

“Fine.”

“Fine.” She stormed away from him ignoring the way she wanted to smack the arrogant look off his face. It was going to be a long night in the library.

Chapter Text

It was past curfew before Hermione got down to the library. She had taken over rounds for two other prefects even though she and Malfoy were supposed to have the night off from head duties. The two students wanted to spend their evening getting ready for the party in the Slytherin dungeons and she knew that if she didn’t take over they would likely abandon their duties and leave the corridors unpatrolled.

Now the library was dark and gloomy, the only light beside the moon the candelabra above her usual desk pressed against the shelves. Pince was nowhere to be seen, having clocked out at the library’s closing. The nice thing about being head girl meant that she couldn’t get in much trouble for being in here after hours.

 She unrolled her parchment, intending to finish the arithmancy project, but another idea struck her as she realized she was alone. She left her things and used her wand light to guide her way to the art and culture section. It took some searching, but not before long she had what she needed and spirited it back to her desk.

The book was old and musty and she took care turning the pages to the index and found what she needed. The wizarding waltz. The page she turned to next included a moving sketch of two people dancing as the writing below explained each step of the waltz. It wasn't terribly complicated, to her relief. But she would have to learn it alone, without a partner. 

She was nearly finished memorizing the steps when a noise startled her to attention. A muffled thumping, as though someone ran into one of the levitating stacks of books and knocked them out of the air, came from her left. She turned to face the noise, but all was silent. She waited for another moment, staring into the gloom.

“Of course you’re here,” came Malfoy’s voice from behind her. He appeared from behind a shelf and put out his wand light.

“I told you I would be.”

“Doesn’t look like you’re working on our project though.” He came closer and peered over her shoulder before she could stop him. She slammed the book closed, but it was too late. He had already seen. His face lit up with twisted mirth, his mouth raising into a smirk.

“Wow, Granger. I guess you don’t know everything.”

“Leave it, Malfoy,” she said hotly. “By the end of tonight I’ll know the steps of this dance as well as you do. Dancing is following instructions and I’m good at following instructions.”

“You do know that you actually have to do the dance and not give an oral report on it right?’

“What are you saying?”

“I’m saying that there are some things you learn by doing, not reading.” She didn’t disagree with him. But she was currently short on people to dance with. 

“I’ll practice with a partner after I study it.”

“With Crookshanks? I don’t think he’s tall enough,” he said in a bland voice.

“Will you just leave if you’re not going to be helpful?”

“Are you asking for my help then?” She raised her eyebrows. Was she? She didn’t want to need his help, but there seemed to be a hush of calm over the library. She knew it was lulling her into a false sense of security. She had screamed at him just that afternoon, but now everything about him looked inviting, if not a little intimidating.

“You knew didn’t you?” She realized it as she said it. “You knew that I had never even heard of the wizarding waltz. How would I have heard of it?”

The corner of his mouth turned up. “I kind of just wanted to see you embarrass yourself. I should have known you would find a fucking library book on dancing. That’s so in character.”

“Wow.” 

“But I’m now realizing that I can’t have you embarrassing me. Making me look like a shitty waltz partner. So come on then, Granger.”

He held out a hand to her. She studied it for a moment. Pale. Elegant and strong. She was really starting to think she had a weird thing for hands. There was a deep, purplish mark in the center of his right palm. The rounded scar of a gash.

She reached out slowly, tentatively. His fingers curved around her hand as he pulled her gently out of her seat, until she was standing in front of him. “Well?”

“Hand on my shoulder. Don’t move it,” he demanded as he placed one of her hands onto his shoulder. She left it resting lightly on the crisp fabric of his button down shirt. He reached down and took her other hand, drawing it up and out to the side of them. He was so tall that she had to tip her head all the way back to see his face. That was a mistake. His eyes were piercing silver this close. Just like when he kissed her. 

“There’s no music,” she blurted. He sighed in annoyance.

“Use your imagination, Granger.”

“When I take a step back, you take a step forward.” She nodded. It sounded simple enough, but when he started to move, she found it hard to coordinate her legs. She had always had what her mother called ‘two left feet’. The last time she had danced was with Ron at Bill and Fleur’s wedding. She had fumbled her way through it but so had he. Before that there was the yule ball, but that had been so long ago at that point. All she could remember was that Viktor had strongarmed her around the ballroom. She hadn’t cared. Still flying high on the romanticism of it all.

This was much different. Malfoy led firmly, but expected her to keep up. He snapped at her when she stepped on his feet. He was tall and lean and made it look easy. “You’re terrible at this.” 

She nearly hissed at him. “You have no patience.” 

He paused and looked down at her feet. “Take off your shoes.”

Her head snapped up, nearly knocking his chin. “Why?”

“Because you’re going to put your feet on top of my feet so I can show you what it’s supposed to feel like.”

“That’s absurd. Malfoy-”

“Shh, listen to teacher. I thought you were good at following instructions.” 

She sighed and kicked off her mary janes. Then she gingerly stepped her stockinged feet onto the tops of his black dress shoes that probably cost more than she could have guessed. He did the steps of the dance slowly, his legs nearly tangled with hers.

She was struck by the absurdity of the situation. Here she was, slow dancing in the empty library with the worst person she knew at Hogwarts by the light of a single candelabra. And for a reason she did not want to explore, she felt...like herself. Like she was in her body. Since the war, it was hard to feel present in her own skin sometimes. Like her brain had come detached from the rest of her to avoid the trauma. Depersonalization is what the mind healer called it.

But kissing Malfoy the other night had slammed her back into herself for those few moments, made her feel raw, but alive. Now, the feel of his strong frame pressed to hers, his hand gripping her waist, made her feel floaty and safe. She wanted to crawl into that feeling and stay there. But it was wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Because her mind was making it up. Logically, it wasn’t real. Made no sense.

“What happened to your party?”

He shifted them forward again. “Boring.”

“So you decided the library would be more fun?”

“Antagonizing you usually is.”

She groaned. “You’re demented. Truly.” He spun them around again. “I don’t get it. Why do you like to upset me? There’s always been other muggleborns to bully.”

He pushed her forward slowly until she could feel the shelves at her back. She looked up at him, heart racing. She could have pulled away. Could have left his grip, packed up her things, put some space between them. She didn’t. She was too curious to see what would happen next. His hands left her waist as his arms came up to bracket her against the bookcase.

“It’s payback,” he whispered harshly in the silence.

“For what?” 

His head dipped then, his breath hot on her neck. “Making it hell.” She had no idea what he was talking about, but the sound of his voice, the feel of his lips ghosting right below her ear made her shiver.

You’re a stupid girl. Such as stupid girl . This was Draco Malfoy. Ex Death Eater. Long time rival. Someone who would leave her to die to save his own skin. She couldn’t be here. Couldn’t do this with him. 

She slipped away from him, the cold air a shock to the front of her body. She took a few steps to where she discarded her shoes and bent to put one on. She reached for the other, but came up with nothing. He was holding her shoe when she turned around, a predatory glint in his eyes. 

“My shoe, please.”

He came towards her until she was standing with her back pressed against the desk she abandoned so long ago. She held her hand out for the shoe but he was already dropping to his knees in front of her. His hand wrapped around her ankle, her sheer stockings doing nothing to blunt the feeling of his skin. It’s just her ankle, but feeling skitters up her leg. Ankles are strange. No one ever touches them. Now it feels intimate, somehow.

He lifted her foot and she lost her balance, her legs going soft and wobbly. Her ass landed on the desktop and he smirked, pleased with the effect he’s having on her. He chuckled under his breath and gently slid her foot into the shoe. 

She expected him to stand but he stayed on his knees, now gripping both ankles in his hands. Her next intake of air was audible as he slowly started to trail his fingers up her calves, looking up at her face the entire time. Heat bloomed under his fingertips and she shivered. 

She kept her eyes locked with his, unable to look away. His hands landed on her knees and he brushed his thumbs over her knee caps, sliding them over the silky, sheer fabric of her tights. That feeling of returning to herself was so close. The nerves under her skin begged for more. One eyebrow quirked up at her. “Well?”

She knew what he was asking. Could he continue. His voice was so casual she could have been fooled into thinking he was bored. But his eyes were heavy with lust under his thick, dark lashes. 

She was wearing thigh high stockings. She had been wearing them since fourth year because they were just so much more convenient and there was really no way for anyone to tell. The Hogwart’s girls’ uniforms dictated traditional stockings but this was one tiny broken rule that she allowed herself. And if his hands traveled much further, he would be the only one besides her to know of her small transgression.

She bit her lip and nodded. His hands continued their ascent as heat pooled in her core. They slid under her the hem of her skirt and she watched as he bit his own lip. She was nearly panting by the time his fingers met the bare skin of her thighs. His eyes darkened and he took in a harsh breath as she watched him come to the realization of what kind of stockings she was wearing. 

He laughed quietly under his breath and her cheeks flamed. Her heart raced. Something about the embarrassment made her even more desperate for his touch. A perversion she didn’t know she had. “Well, now I need to see that, Granger.” His hands wrapped around her thighs and squeezed. She squirmed on the desk. Everything in her wanted to be held tighter, grabbed harder. Her core throbbed in response to his voice. He skimmed his fingers near the crease of her thighs, nearly touching the edge of her knickers. She wondered if he could feel the heat of her. The thought was nerve racking.

“Malfoy, I don’t…” she exhaled, her voice shaking. “I don’t do this.” 

“Do what?”

“Things in public like this. With people like you.” He froze.

“Are you asking to stop?” Another way out, presenting itself to her. She shook her head. He sat back and dragged his hands away from her legs, leaning back on the floor. She was confused, wanted to protest. She had just told him she hadn’t wanted to stop. 

“Then lift up your skirt.” 

You stupid girl , she thought to herself as her hands dropped to her uniform skirt and started inching it up her legs. He watched with rapt attention as she exposed more and more milky skin to his eyes, the cool air of the library pricking her skin. Too soon, her skirt was rucked up around her waist.

“Spread your legs wider.” She did, shifting her weight on the desk to lean back against the bookcase. “Good girl.” 

A hot flush came over her at his words. The praise was unexpected from him and she loved it. Reveled in it. “You’re soaking through your knickers, Granger.” There was a thrill at being caught that way and she gasped. It felt shameful to be wet for him. She both hated and loved that he knew it.

“Take them off.” He was still leaning back on his hands, watching her in the dim light. “Come on, Granger. I don’t have all night.” But she could see the hard length of him through his trousers. The realization gave her the confidence to thumb the waistband of her knickers and pull them off herself, lifting her bottom off the desk to get them around her thighs.

He seemed to lose some of his patience then, leaning forward to drag the damp material off her feet and part her legs. She started to close her knees out of instinct, but he held them open. He took a long look at her, his lips parting slightly. She felt herself getting slicker under his gaze. “Fuck, that’s a pretty cunt.” Her whole body shivered. No one had ever talked to her like this. “You’re so fucking wet,” he whispered. “Can I touch you?”

She called on the logical side of her brain to remind her of all the reasons why she should tell him not to. They flashed through her mind like a radio spinning dials. And over it all, another voice screamed at her to give in. 

So this was desire. She thought of the painting that marked the entrance to their dormitory. It seemed now, to be prophetic. She was Eve and he was the snake in the garden. Tempting her with sinful pleasure that would damn her forever. And just like Eve, she was about to take a bite.

“Yes,” she breathed. 

He wasted no time, dragging his hands back up her thighs. One of his thumbs parted her flesh, holding her open to him. The thumb of his other hand brushed across her clit gently, making her muscles lock up in surprise at the sensation. She had never been touched so directly, so accurately by anyone but herself. He seemed to know exactly what he was doing. The realization was terrifying. He was going to make a mess of her on this desk.

He groaned as she started to moan. His thumb rubbed circles on her clit as he stared at her face. “There you go. Feels good, doesn’t it?” Her cunt spasmed, clenching down on nothing as he teased her. “Come on, Granger. Tell me how good it feels.” Broken sounds left her lips as she tried to tell him. Something in her needed to tell him. Needed to do what he asked. 

“It feels so good,” she whispered raggedly. He groaned again and the sound only ramped up her desire. His thumb kept up its pace, slow and torturous as he stood to be eye level with her. Warmth leaked out of her, onto her thighs and she knew he could feel it. 

He dipped his face towards hers, his lips barely brushing hers. His hand grabbed her chin, just like it had the other night and he whispered against her mouth, “This is what I meant when I said it was hell.” He kissed her deep before she could ask what he meant, before she could even process the words.

His tongue parted her lips and she moaned into his mouth. She pressed herself harder into his thumb, trying to grind into the motions of his hand. There was a coiling in her core that got tighter with every stroke of his thumb, threatening to break her open. Still, she chased the feeling, whining and panting against his lips. He was going so damn slow. It was torture.

“Mal-Malfoy. More,” she slurred, grabbing at the back of his neck with one hand. The circles on her clit stopped and she opened her mouth to protest. But then his palm came down hard on her clit in a vicious smack and she shrieked. The stinging pain shot through her, quickly chased by arousal. Why did that turn her on so much? Every nerve ending in her body stood at attention, both dreading and hoping he would do it again. He held her throat in his hand and pulled back to look at her.

“That’s not how this works, Granger. I’m not here to give you what you want. If you ask me nicely…” He broke off to suck at the side of her neck, then pulled back to look at her face. “I might get you off tonight.” She whimpered. “But right now, I want to feel your cunt around my fingers.”

True to his word, she felt his fingers dip into her wetness. Her legs came up around his waist of their own volition. He let them stay there, leaning in for another open mouthed kiss. His fingers came away from her and her pelvis bucked towards him. He bit her lip in warning and then parted her mouth again, sliding his fingers, covered in her own slick, into the space between their mouths. She felt him suck them, tasting her, before he returned them to her center. 

The desk creaked more as she squirmed, seeking more of his touch. Two of his fingers breached her entrance, pushing into her slit. Slowly. So slowly. Her legs shook as she panted for more. “Please. Please. Oh, gods.”

“That’s it. That’s what I wanted to hear.” His fingers rocked into her deeper, stretching her swollen cunt. He curled them inside her immediately and she contracted around them with a gasp. “So fucking tight, Granger. I should have fucking known.” 

His fingers stroked inside her harder as he sucked a path of bruises down her neck to her collar bone. She shook, the hot ache in her core driving her to curl her legs tighter around him. His fingers dragged in and out, over and over in a steady, practiced rhythm. She murmured against his lips, holding onto his shoulders. There was no escaping the pleasure, no way to slow the throbbing ache in her cunt that was reaching a peak that she was completely unprepared for.

 And then he hit a spot inside her that made her vision go white for a whole second. She had never felt that before, didn’t know she could even feel that way. She lost her breath, her body locking up in his grip. He looked at her with pure arrogance.

“Is that the spot, Granger? Is that how you like it?” She could only nod wordlessly as he stroked it again. Curling his fingers against it mercilessly. Her mouth opened and closed without a sound as she tried to process the way his long, steady fingers rubbed that spot at the front of her pelvis with every inward stroke. She got impossibly wetter, the obscene sound of it bringing a hot flush to her chest.

He dropped his chin to look at his fingers fucking her cunt as she sobbed in pleasure. “You’re making such a fucking mess, you know that? All over the desk.” She whimpered in response, humiliated. He laughed cruelly.

“You’ve always been so perfect,” he snarled. “You have no idea how badly I want to ruin you.” He was succeeding. He had effectively reduced her to a shaking, panting, sweating mess on a study desk in the library, her skirt pulled up to her waist, knickers gone. His thumb stroked her jaw from where his hand gripped her chin. Her thigh muscles burned from where they were wrapped around him. There wasn’t much more of this she could take. 

“Malfoy,” she whimpered.

“What, swot?”

“I need, I need to come. Please. It’s too much.” She sucked in a breath, looking at his face. He hadn’t lost even a little of his composure. 

“You’re lucky, Granger. You’re lucky I want to see you come.” She shivered in anticipation.

He angled his hand so that his thumb could press into her clit as his fingers moved inside her. It only took seconds for her body to go rigid, the first taste of her orgasm overwhelming her. It was almost too intense. “Malfoy, please,” she cried, unsure if she was asking for more or less.

“Come on Granger, come on my fingers. That’s it.” 

She shattered, grasping at his clothes and his shoulders. Her back arched so hard she could almost see the bookshelves behind her. He worked her through her orgasm, his eyes pinned to her, watching every moment of it. Her inner muscles rippled, squeezing his fingers. “Good girl,” he groaned as she went limp, her muscles refusing to obey any longer.

She came down slowly as he removed his fingers from inside her. She attempted to catch her breath, but it stuttered out of her as he brought his fingers to his mouth like before, sucking on them. It was so filthy, so intimate, and she couldn’t imagine why he would want to taste her like that. 

It was hard to meet his eyes as she slid off the desk, fixing her skirt. He gave her space, leaning against the bookcase on the opposite side of the aisle. Her legs wobbled and she had to grab the edge of the desk for balance. He whispered a spell, cleaning her up and her cheeks flamed at the necessity of the charm.

“I think I need to go,” she started awkwardly. His head tipped back against the shelves. His face was unreadable. “That was...I didn’t plan for that to happen.”

He scoffed. “Yeah, I figured.”

Now that clarity was setting back in, she realized the gravity of what they had done. She felt ashamed of herself. Like she had betrayed everyone and everything she stood for. How would she face her friends now? How would she face him? He just gave her the best orgasm of her life. The only orgasm she had ever had with another person. The only pleasure she had ever felt with another person. And he likely knew it.

“Look, Malfoy...I don’t know what came over me. That was a mistake.”

“You don’t have to worry about hurting my feelings, Granger. I already got what I wanted.”

“You wanted to hang this over my head didn’t you?” He didn’t answer. She shook her head. “You will not tell anyone about this, Malfoy.”

“Give me a little more credit. I have a reputation to uphold.” 

She picked up her wand and grabbed the book on ballroom dancing off the floor, realizing she had knocked it off the desk. She looked around for her knickers until she realized he was twirling them in his hand. “Corrupting the head girl sounds just like something that would fit with your reputation.” A laugh bubbled up from her chest and she let it out. “I’m so stupid,” she mumbled. She had always thought herself clever and clear headed. But when he looked up at her with those eyes, hands on her body, she lost all rational thought. And now he had this dirt on her. Something to laugh about with his friends.

She stomped towards him with the last of her composure, pointing to the lacy knickers he held in his hand. “Give me those.”

“No.”

“They’re mine, Malfoy. Give them back.” She remembered punching him in third year and considered resorting to violence once again.

“I think I earned them. Don’t you?” She watched, mouth agape, as he stuffed them into his pocket. She savagely shoved her things into her school bag, including their unfinished project.

“You are a, a-” She gave up, swinging the bag onto her shoulder and stomping past him as he scoffed.

 


 

Hermione swung the door to the heads’ bathroom shut behind her, leaning against it for a moment to gather her bearings. She had left him in the library, standing in the pool of light from her candelabra, watching her go. The past hour didn’t even feel real. 

She stepped into the shower before it had the chance to warm up, still trying to figure out what she was going to do about this development. There was no way to look at Malfoy without remembering this night. Without remembering the way he had so quickly and thoroughly turned her into putty in his hands. He had been authoritative, demanding, kind of mean and she liked it. She didn’t know she wanted it that way until it started happening and now she knew there was no way she could ever be satisfied by mediocre sex with nice boys. Once you bit the apple, there was no going back. He corrupted her, body and mind.

Losing her virginity to Vikter Krum was nothing special, but she knew not to expect a lot for her first time. Even though she hadn’t typically been included in them, the conversations she had overheard in the girls’ dormitory had prepared her for that. She knew what happed to her during the war was not sex, but violence. And her times with Ron were beginning to look even paler in comparison to the acts that Malfoy had performed on her. She had no idea her body could feel that way. Could respond so readily or come so hard. She hadn’t thought that those kinds of things were for her. She was bookish and socially awkward, a good girl who followed the rules. Unpracticed in the art of seduction. She had never tasted the knife’s edge of desire until he had leaned back and commanded her to bare herself to him, promising sensations that felt too good to be real.

He had told her that he got what he wanted. She knew what he was talking about. He wanted her to know just how perverted she liked it. He got high on that control he exerted, on wrecking her. Wanted to be the one to make her beg him to let her come. In public no less. She nearly clapped her hand over mouth thinking about how someone could have caught them. What if Madam Pince returned because she forgot something or if a student had also been out past curfew like the two of them? What would she have said to Filch if had caught her with her skirt up, being fingerfucked by Malfoy for Merlin’s sake? And what if Malfoy told someone? There was no way he wouldn’t be happy to gloat over this to his vile Slytherin friends. 

She was the suds out of her hair and grabbed a towel to dry off, coming to the awful conclusion that there was nothing to be done. She would just have to wait for the other shoe to drop.

Chapter Text

The bells above the shop door tinkled as Hermione hurried across the threshold. October in the highlands was windy and she was glad to be indoors again. Plus, the cozy little formal robes store was a good place to hide from the witches and wizards of Hogsmeade. On her way through the village, someone seemed to recognize her every three feet. 

“Over here, Mione!” The voice came from her left and she turned to see Ginny standing on a pedestal in front of the shop window, already wearing a beautiful gown of yellow tulle. She turned this way and that in the mirror, frowning. The shopkeeper, a plump witch with grey hair and tortoiseshell glasses, stood next to her, fluffing up the skirts of the dress.

“That one looks great on you, Gin. Are you buying it?” It did look perfect on her friend, the cut showing off her lean and toned chaser’s figure.

“Gods, no. It clashes horribly with my hair. I swear to Merlin that’s the worst part about being a redhead.” Hermione laughed and pushed a few dresses around on the rack in front of her. This was a new store, and they had the very latest in wizarding fashions, rare for Hogsmeade. Most of the purebloods had their formal robes shipped in from Diagon Alley or other European designers. But the business boom after the order’s victory led to a few high end stores setting up shop right next to Hogwarts.

The shop owner flurried around them, pulling gowns off racks and draping them over the dressing room stalls. She took a biscuit off a silver tray that had been set to the side and took a look at Ginny’s picks. Ginny hopped off the pedestal and held Hermione by the arms.

“It’s so good to just get a moment with you.” She looked Hermione over, like she was trying to drink in the sight of her. “The boy’s club is getting old.”

“I just don’t want to make things awkward for everyone. Or for me.”

“I know. But Harry asked me to report back to him with how you’re doing. Between you and me, I think he’s getting tired of nursing Ron’s pride back to health. Not that he’ll ever say that.”

Hermione smiled. “How is Ron?”

“He’s coming around. I think he was surprised more than anything. You know when you get your heart set on something so completely that you forget to check if it’s possible?”

“Yeah.” 

“He has a date to the ball anyhow. Parvati Patil.” Hermione tried not to show her surprise. She must have missed a lot more than she thought, being away from the Gryffindor dormitories. Ginny seemed to be watching for her reaction. 

“Oh? Good for him.” She was happy for him. That didn’t change the fact that she did not yet have a date. Ginny turned away from her to undo the buttons on the back of another gown, seemingly relieved by her response.

“Yeah, they’ve gotten close doing rounds together. They both had Lavender in common so…” That was right. How could she have forgotten? Everything she remembered about Lavender had been overshadowed by the last ten seconds of her life that Hermione had witnessed. When Greyback bit her throat open in front of her. A girl she hadn’t liked. Who had been murdered by the same monster that haunted her dreams. She put the biscuit back down on the tray, suddenly sick to her stomach.

The shopkeeper approached them from the back of the store. Arms loaded with gowns. “I have just the dresses for you, both.” She unloaded them onto an ottoman and pulled open the curtain of a dressing room, shoving Hermione in. “Here we are. Blush pink first.” Hermione caught the dress over the top of the stall as she listened to Ginny receive a similar treatment next door. 

She tried to focus on slipping the dress over her hips, but her hands shook. Panic was setting in. She sat on the floor and put her head between her knees, trying to distract her mind. She recalled random facts, did multiplication in her head, anything to avoid being overtaken by memories. 

Ginny left the stall next to hers. She could hear the shopkeeper shower her with compliments and wheel over the mirror. “This one will work. I do look good in it. Did the dress swallow you up in there, Hermione?”

She didn’t want Ginny to know she was on the verge of a panic attack. That little comments and reminders could send her into a tailspin. It took two more deep breaths before she trusted her voice to answer. “Almost done.” 

She finished the laces and opened the door. “Hmm, it’s pretty but I’ve seen you look better.” She forced out a shaky laugh, having not even looked at the dress yet. She stepped onto the pedestal and took a look. 

The dress was a pearlescent rose color. Pretty, but Ginny was right. It didn’t do much for her figure, rounder and less toned than the redhead’s. The only thing she liked was that it had long sleeves, hiding the gruesome scar on her arm.

“Hey, since this is a Halloween ball, shouldn’t we be going in costumes?”

Hermione laughed. “It’s a formal ball. No costumes. Sorry.” 

“Why waste a perfect occasion for a gown by wearing a horrid costume,” the shopkeeper mused as she loaded up Hermione’s arms with another dress. She tried on two more, locals and tourists stopping to look at her through the window. Ginny paid for the sky blue gown she decided on and changed back into her clothes.

“My fall colors are blending in with your hair, my dear. We need to try something else,” the old shopkeeper told her, her wand pressed to her pudgy chin. Then her eyes lit up in revelation. “I know just the dress!” 

She disappeared into the racks of dresses and emerged moments later with something glimmering in her arms. She pushed Hermione into the dressing room and helped her put it on herself. The fabric was molten gold silk. It draped over her body like a second skin.

She stepped in front of the mirror and straightened the capped sleeves. “It’s perfect,” cheered the shopkeeper. “A golden gown for the golden girl. I should have brought it out sooner.”

“It’s beautiful. But are you sure it isn’t a little too much for me?” She felt like her cleavage was spilling out of the bodice, putting so much of her skin on display.

“Hermione, you look great. You need to get that one.” The hem dragged past her feet, made for someone taller than her, but one wave of the shopkeeper’s wand had it adjusted perfectly. She fingered one of the sleeves. They were short, her scar on display.

“I insist you have it. Free of charge.” She protested, but the shopkeeper was steadfast, insisting that the dress was her token of appreciation for her part in the war. Eventually, she lost and found herself leaving the shop with the dress wrapped in tissue paper and tucked safely into a bag. Ginny looped her arm through hers as they made their way back to the castle, passing the peculiar sight of Luna sitting with Blaise Zabini on a bench outside Madam Puddifoot's.

She wondered to herself if the shopkeeper would have given her the dress for free if she knew that she was going to wear it to dance with a former Death Eater.


 

Hermione had managed to avoid Malfoy for a grand total of five days before the universe threw them together again. Every morning, she entered the great hall for breakfast expecting to find everyone staring at her and whispering. She expected to see Harry and Ron look at her with disgust. She had mentally prepared herself to grovel for their forgiveness, but it was never necessary. Life went on as usual. Her dirty little secret remained just that, a secret. But she could sometimes feel Malfoy’s eyes on her from where he sat with his friends, like he was testing for cracks. To see if she would confess to the entire student body out of guilt and paranoia. She didn’t doubt that he was enjoying every moment of it.

Thursday morning potions efficiently put an end to her denial of what had happened between them nearly a week earlier. Because as luck would have it, Slughorn decided it would be a wonderful day to make them brew Amortentia as a pop quiz.

Hermione didn’t even bother looking at the board for her assigned partner. She knew it would be him. They had the best grades in the class, matched evenly enough that Slughorn wouldn’t fear one of them being carried by the other. That, and she had managed to dodge being partnered with him on brewing for far too long. So instead, she sat at her table and didn’t look up until he had thunked a cauldron down next to her, as she suspected. 

He was wearing robes for once, and the blackness of them set off his pale skin. “Are you going to get the ingredients or are you going to sit there?” 

She huffed. “Do you not remember the ingredients for Amortentia?” She used her wand to light the burner, focusing on the flame until it glowed a hot blue under their cauldron.

“For the one hundredth time Granger, I don’t need to peek at your answers.” He leaned over the table to look her in the eyes. He was close enough that she could smell his cologne, could see the different shades of grey in his eyes. “I know how to brew Amortentia just fine.” 

She believed him. He was second in their class for good reason. A fact that she had to eventually come to terms with over the years. “Fine. Tend the flame.” He took her place and she quickly gathered up everything they would need from the dusty storage room, several bewildered students covertly attempting to see what she was choosing. By the time she returned, he had set out their knives, chopping boards and a mortar and pestle. She unloaded the ingredients onto the table and he took a dried lionfish out a jar, prepared to extract one of its spines with forceps. “I usually do that,” she started. Pulling out the lionfish spines was a delicate process, one she only trusted her own hands to accomplish perfectly. “You can grind up the nettles.”

“Granger, are you aware of your control issues?” He carefully plucked out a spine before she could answer. 

“Will you shut up? They’re not issues. It’s just the way I do things.” She weighed out the moonstone powder exactly and added it to the cauldron, watching the river water base turn a midnight blue.

“Yeah, sure. So you won’t mind if I count out the rose petals then.” She bit her lip and feigned nonchalance.

“Go ahead.” He counted them out of her sight and added them to the cauldron. It fizzed into a swirling pink. She could already feel her hair poofing up around her. The cauldron bubbled a steady hum, vapors drifting off the surface.

“We need to call a prefects’ meeting. They’ve sent in a refreshments order for the ball that is way too extravagant. I’m not approving it.” A major consequence of avoiding him was the fact that her head girl duties were suffering. Only so much could get done when they weren’t cooperating. 

“I saw it. It’s just enough for seventy students. Unless you want people to ration the drinks.”

“Then the school should hire an establishment from Hogsmeade to cater! It’s way too much for the kitchen elves to prepare and clean up after, on top of the everyday meal prep and dishes.”

“Oh, that’s right. I almost forgot about your elvish welfare crusade.”

“It’s not a crusade. It’s called activism.”

“Activism the elves didn’t want.”

“They just didn’t feel empowered enough to be onboard with S.P.E.W.” She stirred again. “And that’s all part of the problem.”

“Or maybe, they like doing domestic tasks.”

“You can like your job and still get paid for it. Real wages and benefits and sick time. Otherwise it’s slave labor. It’s unjust.”

“Maybe,” he conceded, clearly annoyed. “But that doesn’t change the fact that they don’t want to be free. Who are you to force them? Face it, Granger. Not everyone wants to be your pity project.”

“It’s not a pity project, Malfoy. They’re creatures of human level intelligence and they deserve the same rights in society that we have!”

She knew how she must look right now. Hair wild from the steam in the room, barely over five feet tall and ranting and raving over house elf rights. Her hands were on her hips. Malfoy was staring down at her like she was an insect.

Slughorn called out from the front of the room. “Remember students! The smell of the Amortentia is different for everyone so don’t expect to agree with your partner on that quality! It should smell like whatever attracts you.”

She had forgotten about that part. The last time she had made Amortentia she had smelled the parchment of old books, mint from her mother’s garden, and something else that was only vaguely familiar to her. A scent that she couldn’t place. She had made up one other scent on the spot, not wanting to sound like she made a poor Amortentia. And then she promptly forgot the smell as soon as she left the potions dungeon.  

Now she leaned over the cauldron to catch a whiff as she stirred and smelled...nothing. It smelled like nothing. “You must have added too many petals! I think it's off.”

Malfoy laughed humorlessly, not looking up from the rose thorns he was crushing with a knife. “It’s not off. It looks fine. Not that I can see much of it past your hair. And even if it was off, how the fuck would you know it was my fault?”

“I don’t smell it. I should smell something by now. And I know it was you because I didn't make a mistake.”

“That’s great logic, Granger.” He slid the last ingredient, the crushed thorns, off the chopping block and into the brew, brushing against her as he did. The rose thorns sank into the potion, giving it a pearlescent sheen. 

She smelled it again, this time picking up notes of mint and parchment. But they weren’t nearly as strong as they should have been and she felt like something was missing. For most people, Amortentia had three distinct notes. She shook her head.

“It’s not right. Something was done wrong.” Her hands shook. This was a review potion. She had learned it years ago. And she had never made an unsuccessful potion before. This could ruin her O in the class. She could end up with an E in potions. The thought was unacceptable. She went over the ingredients left on their table, trying to spot anything she missed.

Malfoy, leaned over the cauldron. “Will you stop with the dramatic self flagellation? It smells fine.”

She turned to him sharply. “You smell it? What does it smell like?”

“The same thing it always smells like.”

Professor Slughorn materialized next to them with a jovial smile. “Ahh. That looks like a splendid Amortentia. Look at the sheen. The color is just right.” He dipped a ladle in and scooped up some of the potion, slowly pouring it back out again. But Hermione knew that it was only a matter of time before he realized that it was defective despite its appearance.

“I’m sorry professor, but I don’t know what went wrong. It doesn’t have much of a smell. It must be low potency.”

“Really? That’s odd. I smell it alright. And Mr. Malfoy, do you smell it?”

“Yes, professor.”

“Well, see there, my dear. No need to fret. It’s an excellent brew.”

“I just. I just think there’s something wrong with it. Can I start over? I’ll do it all myself.”

“There’s no need for that, Miss Granger.”

“I know I added the right amount of moonstone and nettles. I know I did,” she muttered to herself.

Malfoy rolled his eyes. “Gods, you’re such a little swot. Just accept that our potion came out fine even though you didn’t do it all yourself.”

“Then why don’t I smell it?!”

“Smell it again.”

She went to smell the potion again, attempting to elbow him out of the way. “Move over, Malfoy. Merlin, I can’t smell anything over your cologne.”

She realized what she said as soon as he did. One fair eyebrow arched over his otherwise nonplussed expression. She looked away, sputtering as she saw the beginnings of an arrogant smirk curl his lips.

“Yes, well. I think that’s my cue. An O to both of you.” Professor Slughorn drifted away from them, moving on to Seamus and Dean’s smoking cauldron. 

“Look at me, Granger.” She didn’t want to, already able to hear the amused satisfaction in his voice. She turned her head slowly. His face was placid, but right under the surface she could see the cat with a canary. She never really considered the accuracy of that description until now. “I guess you didn’t forget the other night, then.”

Her cheeks burned and she cursed her complexion for ensuring that he could see it. Her mind flashed back to his hands on her. Fingers in her. The way her legs shook afterwards and the deep sleep that took her that night. She hadn’t stopped thinking about it since. Gods help her, she hadn’t stopped wanting it either.

“Don’t let it go to your head, Malfoy.”


 

The halls were packed on the way to arithmancy. The tide of students threatened to overwhelm her and she realized that she was going to have to her mind healer about her newfound problem with crowds. 

On the moving staircases, Hermione spotted Ron and Harry stepping off onto the third floor, the same floor she was headed towards. Harry caught her eye and then turned to say something to Ron. Ron nodded and continued walking while Harry paused against the wall, waiting for her. 

He smiled wistfully as she approached. She barely got his name out of her mouth before he was squeezing her in a bear hug, her cheek pressed to the front of his robes. She laughed and patted his back. 

“Hermione, don’t ever let me take you for granted again. Things are just not the same without you,” he said, finally releasing her.

“I won’t, don’t you worry. How are you sleeping? Are you staying caught up in your classes? Did you read the book on PTSD I recommended? Merlin, that was ages ago, I know.” The questions poured out of her mouth and Harry smiled again, clearly used to her nagging at this point.

“Fine. Yes. And I started it last week. Just for you.”

“Okay. I just worry about you. Both of you.”

“We’re okay. We just miss you. And now we have to actually take our own notes.” She laughed at that. 

“You two are ridiculous,” she said affectionately.

“Hermione. Potter.” Cormac McLaggen stood next to them, tall and imposing. “Do you mind if I cut in for a moment? I wanted to speak to Hermione.”

“Oh, um. Sure. We were just catching up,” Harry answered. “I’ll see you soon, Hermione.”

She waved goodbye to Harry, a bit annoyed at Cormac for interrupting, and confused as to what he could want.

“Cormac, it’s good to see you.” She attempted politeness. She knew that the Gryffindor beater had a thing for her since sixth year. She had gone to Slughorn’s Christmas party with him to piss off Ron, still smarting from his hooking up with Lavender. She was so different now, but he seemed the same. Still cocky and flirtatious. 

“Yeah. Likewise. Listen, this ball on Halloween. I thought maybe we could go together. We’d make one hell of a pair, Granger.” She tried not to flinch. Only Malfoy called her by her last name. It was strange to hear it from Cormac’s mouth.

“Oh. I hadn’t even really thought about the ball. You know I’m required to dance with the head boy at least once, right?”

“Sure, but it’s only one dance. Then you’re all mine,” he joked with a crooked smile. “It’s not like you’re his date.”

“Merlin. No. Not at all.” 

“Great then. So it’s all good.” She turned over his offer. She knew the pressure put on women to have a date for every occasion was archaic and rooted in misogyny. But she had spent so much of her early years ostracized or forgotten about that she didn’t want to go alone. Not when she could have a date. And it seemed like all her friends had paired up. He was the only one that asked.

“Okay. Yeah, it’ll be good. I’ll meet you outside the great hall.” 

He broke into a wide grin. “Perfect. I’ll uh, see you there.” 

She nodded, trying not to look at her watch. She had lost too much time and still needed to get to arithmancy. “Yeah, great.” He finally continued on to class, walking backwards for a moment to flash her one more cocky grin as he went.

She hightailed it to the last staircase she would have to descend, the main staircase, jammed with students. Going down the steps, she felt someone bump her shoulder roughly from behind, sending her stumbling forward. She gasped and swung her arms out in front of her, prepared to topple headfirst down the steps, but a strong arm grabbed her around the waist at the last moment, breaking her fall.

“Oops. I didn’t notice you there, mudblood,” Pansy hissed as she sauntered past her, stepping onto the landing and disappearing into the crowd.

“Watch it, Parkinson,” she yelled after her, righting herself on the flagstone once again. She turned to thank her savior. 

“You alright? That would have been a nasty spill.” She recognized him as someone from the year below hers, now part of her class since she was technically repeating her last year. An attractive, boyish face and golden brown hair.

“I’m fine. Thanks to you,” she shook her head. “I’m so sorry, but I don’t know if we’ve ever spoken. What’s your name?”

He smiled. “No worries. I’m Kevin. Kevin Entwhistle. And no, we’ve never spoken before.”

She held out a hand. “Her-”

“No, no. Let me guess. I think I’ve seen you in the prophet,” he joked. “Hermione Granger.” She laughed and it felt nice to joke about how she was basically famous now. It usually just put a target on her back.

“Yeah, that’s right.”

“Well then, Hermione Granger. I should let you get to class. Try to be more careful on the stairs from now on.”

She waved at him and watched him go. It was strange that she’d never spoken to him before now. She thought she knew most of the students in her year and the year before. He must have flown below the radar, not unusual for a Hufflepuff.

Arithmancy flew by, as did the rest of the school day. She found herself on rounds with Malfoy too soon, wandering the empty halls as dusk turned to night. It had been days since they patrolled together, even though it was meant to be a near nightly occurrence. After what had happened the last time they were alone, Hermione hadn’t wanted to put herself in that position. He was too unpredictable. She was too unpredictable.

The Slytherin pushed open one of the heavy oak doors guarding the great hall. She didn’t think any students had the gall to sneak into the cavernous room, but it was on their list of areas to patrol anyway.

The ceiling swirled above them, all colors of the night sky. They walked down the aisles of tables, occasionally peeking under to make sure no one was hiding beneath them. “I’m asking McGonagall to hire outside catering and that’s final,” she declared, continuing with the argument they had been tossing back and forth for the past ten minutes.

“I told you I do not give a single fuck.”

“Madam Rosemerta can provide the drinks.”

“Whatever.”

“She’ll have to agree,” she muttered, more talking to herself at this point.

“She won’t.” She whirled at him.

“Well she’ll just ha-”

“Right. Because everyone has to do exactly what the Gryffindor princess says.” She decided to let that one go, instead focusing on something more important.

“And, Malfoy? Don’t forget this dance we’re supposed to partner for. If you leave me standing there like an idiot, I swear you’ll regret it. I already told Cormac-”

He laughed under his breath. “McLaggen? That’s who you’re going with? I thought you had higher standards, Granger. Guess not.” Never before had she felt the need to defend Cormac McLaggen.

“There is nothing wrong with Cormac McLaggen.” They finished patrolling at the professor’s table and headed back towards the doors. 

“There is everything wrong with Cormac McLaggen. He’s a little prick. I made him cry once.”

“That doesn’t surprise me. You’re awful. And he’s nothing like you.” They reached the double doors and she reached to open one. His hand pushed against it from behind her, holding it closed. She could feel the heat of him against her back. It licked up her spine, buzzing to her brain. 

“What are you doing?” She hated how her voice betrayed her.

“Turn around.” His voice was low, gritty. It felt like a physical caress on her skin. “Turn around, I want to see your face.”

She moved, only because there really wasn’t anywhere else to go. He was so close, his lips nearly skimmed her cheek. Finally, she was facing him. His brows were pulled together, a mean glint in his eyes. That’s when she realized. He was annoyed. He always seemed at least a little pissed off, but she was getting used to reading his moods.

“What?” She should have broken away from him and left. Or at least made it clear that he couldn’t push her up against walls. But she waited, the same curiosity that had always gotten her into trouble keeping her there now, pinned in place by his gaze. His other hand came up to touch her waist, wrapping around it, holding her there. He was close enough to kiss and she thought of that other night. Her body and mind warring with each other at the thought of a repeat. 

“You think McLaggen can turn you on like this? Do you think he could get you off?” He hand slid up her torso, his thumb brushing the underside of her breast over her blouse. Heat spread outward along her veins, an ache pulsing to life in her core. “No, I don’t think so. You’re right, Granger. I’m nothing like him.”

Her breath stuttered between them. No, he was nothing like Cormac McLaggen. Dealing with him would be a lot easier if he was. Boys like Cormac were simple things. After one thing and used to getting it. The same could be said about Malfoy, but there was a stark difference between them. 

Boys like Cormac didn’t make her palms sweat and her skin prick with anticipation. They fumbled with bra hooks, kissed sloppily, and weren’t interested in paying attention to what their partner's body was responding to. Even in her limited experience, she knew enough to be sure of that. She also knew enough to be sure that Malfoy was not like them. 

He dragged his lips down the side of her neck, light enough that she barely felt them. 

“And you don’t want me to be like him.” His words were hot against her skin, his body caging hers against the door, but oddly, she didn’t feel trapped. At least, not in a way that she didn’t like. There was that sensation of realness pounding in her chest, and she wanted him closer as much as she wanted him to disappear from her life. 

She scoffed, not wanting to give him the satisfaction of hearing what he wanted to. “It’s foolish. To be so full of yourself.”

“That’s really fucking ironic coming from you, isn’t it?”

The hand pressed to the door by her ear slid off the wood and out of view. She felt it reappear on her hip, brushing over the curve of it, landing on her skirt covered thigh. She stayed where she was, staring at his glacial eyes. “The issue with your logic is that you’re wrong.”

He narrowed his eyes, the tip of his nose nearly touching hers. “I think you’re lying.” Her temper flared. He was so sure he had her figured out. She felt her face twist into something like a sneer.

“How do you figure that?”

The hand on her thigh moved lower, until he had to stoop to reach the bottom of her skirt’s hem. She gasped, ready for what came next. He drew up the fabric as his hand skimmed up her leg, over the juncture of her thigh and pelvis. Her breath rushed out of her when he finally pressed two fingers against the gusset of her knickers, hard.

He snickered, making fun of her. “Well, for one, you’re already wet for me. It really turns you on doesn’t it? Knowing how fucked up this is. How wrong we are.”

She tried not to pant as he moved his fingers, rubbing back and forth across her clit over the fabric. “Stop talking. You’re ruining this.” She wanted to feel the pleasure without the guilt of knowing who was providing it. She should have known he wouldn’t allow that.

His fingers left her, taking their warmth with them. Her eyes snapped open right before he grabbed the front of her knickers and pulled them upwards. The material dug into her flesh in a way that was painful but built a similar ache inside her that she was trying to find with his hand. She rose up on her tiptoes to ease the burning, whimpering as she teetered. She grabbed his arm for balance. 

“I don’t like your attitude tonight. I thought you were paying attention in the library. I thought you would know that I’ll give you what you want if you’re good for me. And don’t lie to me, Granger. I already know that you like it when I talk to you like this.” 

The sting of her sensitive skin was starting to make her desperate. Her calves burned with the effort of balancing on her toes. “Malfoy, please.”

“That’s better.” He let go of her underwear, letting her drop back to her heels. Her shoes made a hollow clack against the stone floor. One of his hands worked the buttons of her shirt open, exposing her heated skin to the cold air, while the other found its way back to the seam of her knickers. His fingers skated the edge of the fabric, teasing. She stiffened, oddly self conscious of her bra covered breasts being bared to him. It was silly, considering he had already seen much more of her.

She tipped her head away when he pulled back to look at her, but the dark look in his eyes kept her mesmerized, wondering about his reaction. Her shirt was unbuttoned to the base of her sternum, her sheer bra leaving little to the imagination. She knew her chest was plenty big enough, maybe too big. She didn’t have the willowy figure of the girls she usually saw him with. But she would be damned if she let herself worry whether she had Malfoy’s preferred body type.

“Fuck. Look at you. What are you fucking doing to me, Granger?”

She gasped as he kissed her neck again, his mouth pressing hot down to her clavicle. She moaned aloud when he sucked the skin there, surely leaving bruises. The sound of her reaction was loud in the very public space. Too loud, but she ignored it.

The ache in her clit was nearly unbearable. She wanted, no, needed his touch there again. Like last time. Her legs shook, but she managed to spread them apart a little further, making it clear what she expected from him.

He laughed low in his throat and finally dragged her soaking knickers aside. The air was so cold on her slick skin, but then he pushed his finger inside her. Just one, but it was enough to make her feel stretched open. His fingers were so much longer and thicker than hers. They seemed to caress every spot inside her at once. She whimpered and ground down on his hand.

“That’s it. Just as tight as I remembered,” he said against her throat. The heel of his palm landed on her clit, grinding into it as he worked his finger in and out. She was already close. “Move your hips. Just like that.” 

He slid his hand around the base of her throat, just like last time. “Would you let McLaggen do this to you? Could you come around his fingers in the great hall like this?” 

His lips were close to hers now, and she kissed them instead of answering him. Because she knew the answer. And so did he. He obliged her for a moment, kissing down into her mouth as she whimpered for him. 

His finger hooked inside her, stroking that spot with every movement. “Answer me, Granger.”

She resisted for a moment. Until he quickly found a rhythm that made her feel like her legs were about to fail her. “Tell me the truth. Could he ever get inside you? I don’t think he could. I don’t think you would ever be such a dirty little head girl for that pathetic fuck.”

She caved, squeezing her eyes shut, tipping her head into the crook of his neck as the sensation threatened to crumble her. “No, no I wouldn’t,” she whispered into his shirt.

He braced her body against the door with his arm and that’s when she made a mistake. She grabbed his arm for balance, gripping at his sleeve. The bone white material slid up his forearm, exposing the sinister black lines of his Dark Mark. Just the lower third of it, a snake head peeking out from the cuff of his sleeve. But it was enough to make her blood run cold.

Her whole body locked up, slipping into fight or flight mode before she could get a hold of herself. He seemed to sense it, stilling inside her and looking down into her face. Her heart pounded, and this time it was from panic rather than anticipation. 

“I can’t,” she gasped out. He was already withdrawing his hands from everywhere they held her. He took a step back, still watching her like a hawk. She was breathing hard. Too fast. Just like in the dress shop.

“I can’t do this with you,” she whispered harshly. The mark. It was a stark reminder of who he was. The prejudice that had tainted every interaction they had since starting school together. “I’d be a fool to let someone who feels the way you do about people like me do this. Such a fool.” Her voice came out as a broken whisper, near tears. She wrapped her arms around her chest, her hands shaking too bad to button her shirt. “What’s already happened is bad enough. It’s disgusting.”

He tipped his head back. It was hard to see him in the dim light, his face half in shadow. “Do you think I wanted this to happen, Granger? Doing this with you? Do you think I planned it this way? Because I didn’t,” he snarled. He ran a hand through his hair, frustrated. “But some things are unavoidable. I can’t stop thinking about it. It makes more sense to let it run its course, get it over with. Suck it out like poison.”

She snapped her head back like she had been hit with a physical blow. This is what he thought of her then. Poison in a puncture wound. After the final battle, she had treated classmates suffering from Nagini’s bites. Spelled away the black death crawling up their veins to their hearts. She did not want to be anyone’s poison. “That proves my point. That’s what I am to you. Blood poisoning. Something you have to suffer through to get rid of.”

“I’m not talking about your blood, Granger. This isn’t about your blood. Not anymore.”

She nearly laughed. “How can you say that? It’s always been about blood.” Blood and venom and temptation. She yanked up one sleeve so he could see her matching mark. The slur cut into her skin as he watched. “This is proof enough.”

His head dropped in shame, but she was already on her way out the door, hastily buttoning her shirt as she went. This is what she was good at, running from him. She kept moving until she reached their private bathroom, prepared to scrub the feel of him from her skin. Because it would be better, safer to forget. Forget how good and real and perfect it felt to be pinned against the door by her enemy. 

She didn’t expect to stand under the hot spray of the shower trying to replicate what his finger had felt like inside her, but found herself doing exactly that anyway. Tears threatened to spill over her eyelids as she squeezed her eyes shut, trying to recall that feeling. That feeling of being in her body. Of being perfectly in control despite having her control taken away. He stopped as soon as she had frozen, before she even had to ask. She didn’t realize how important that was to her.  No one she had been with had seemed to care that her body wasn’t responding. That she wasn’t okay. Why hadn’t they stopped? They were supposed to care about her. 

Tears dripped off her chin as she sank to the tile floor. Why hadn’t Ron stopped? The realization Malfoy unknowingly brought her to cracked her in half. No one took care of her. She was sick of taking care of everyone else. She wrapped her arms around her knees, sobbing. 

The world was starting to feel like a lie. Nothing made sense anymore. Because she hated Malfoy. And he hated her. But the things he did to her felt right. And that was one puzzle she couldn’t solve.

Chapter Text

“It’s perfect.” Parvati smoothed out the skirt of Ginny’s dress as the redhead adjusted the neckline in the mirror. Hermione was in Gryffindor tower, perched on an ottoman as Parvati and Ginny got dressed for the All Hallow’s Eve ball. She was already in her pale gold dress, shivering in the drafty air. 

Ginny ran a brush through her hair one last time and turned to Hermione. “Alright then, let’s get out there. The boys are probably getting into trouble as we speak.”

Parvati laughed. She looked beautiful in her burnt orange sari, her dark hair cascading over her shoulders. She was Ron’s date and Hermione wasn’t sure how she was supposed to react to her. There was no jealousy between them. Atleast, not on her end. And it didn’t seem that Parvati had any issue with Hermione’s presence, but she didn’t know how friendly she was supposed to be. Not friendly enough and she would come off as jealous. Too friendly and it might seem forced. So instead, she held back. Let Ginny and the other girl fuss over each other. 

She wasn’t exactly excited about this ball anyway. If she wasn’t head girl and therefore obligated to be there, she might not have gone at all. She wasn’t feeling very social. She was confused about her friendships, uncomfortable with her scar on display, and regretting accepting Cormac McLaggen’s invitation more with each passing minute. 

“Let’s go, Hermione,” Ginny called on her way out of the dorm room. 

“Right behind you!” 

On top of it all, there was a knot of anxiety in her chest due to the fact that she would have to dance with Malfoy within the hour. She had given him the cold shoulder for the past three days, since the night in the great hall. When she nearly had a panic attack at the sight of his Dark Mark as it pressed against her waist. It wasn’t the first time she had seen it, but something about the context shocked her to her senses. Whatever she was doing with him could not continue. Nothing good could come of it. She held onto her anger from the last time they really spoke like armor.

She double checked her neck in the mirror. The charm she used to obscure the red welts he left on her throat with his mouth was a simple one, but she was still paranoid that everyone could see them. They were almost entirely gone at this point days later, but she wasn’t taking any chances.

At least there was one worry she could ease at the moment, she realized looking in the mirror. Her hair was made silky by hair potions, falling down her back in a slightly more tame version of her usual curls. Ginny had convinced her to go with minimal cosmetics, only her lips dabbed with color. The dress the shopkeeper gifted her clung to every curve, revealing much of the upper swells of her breasts and more importantly, her arms.

The mudblood scar shattered the pretty visage with its gruesome, jagged lines. She wasn’t ashamed of it, but having it so visible to anyone who looked felt vulnerable in a way that made her skin crawl. With a wave of her wand, she transfigured two socks from Ginny’s floor into ivory gloves. She doubted her friend would mind. She had seen many other girls leave the dorms wearing elegant gloves and so she didn’t think they would stand out. 

Ginny and Parvati were waiting for her in the common room when emerged. Ginny glanced over her gloves but didn’t say a word. Parvati wiped the corner of her eye and turned away. Had she been crying? She raised an eyebrow at Ginny who shook her head silently. Lavender’s absence hit her then. Parvati lost someone close to her. Someone who lit up at the prospect of balls. Suddenly, she felt guilty for her standoffishness.  

The girls descended the main staircase to the chamber outside of the great hall, where students mingled and met their dates and friends. The autumnal decor spilled out of the makeshift ballroom, a few of Hagrid’s giant pumpkins flanking the doors. She had overseen much of the decorating so none of it was a surprise to her, but she watched several students gasp in wonder as they got their first glimpses of the great hall. 

Harry and Ron were waiting at the bottom of the stairs. Both of them were in a modern cut of formal robes this time around. Ron looked so much more confident without the lace and frills, waiting for Parvati, who smiled shyly down at him. 

Harry’s eyes were transfixed on Ginny, and he pecked her on the cheek as soon as she reached him. Hermione watched her friends unite with their dates, an odd mixture of nostalgia, grief, and joy tumbling around in her gut.

“You look lovely, Hermione.” Harry was the first to greet her. She thanked him and looked at Ron. Parvati clung to his arm and he puffed his chest out in pride. He smiled at her. It was a small, wistful smile, but a smile all the same. She smiled back.

She had thought a lot about him the last few days and realized that he had never treated her very well. Not as a boyfriend. He hadn’t put her first, not even when she really needed him to. She was hurt over it, trying to understand why she seemed to give more than anyone else gave back, but she wanted to move on. She didn’t want to lose the friendship that had cemented its way into her life. It was just going to take time for those wounds to heal. 

Padma and Ernie Macmillan joined their little group as she felt a hand land on her shoulder.

“I thought that was you.” Cormac McLaggen stood before her, giving her an appreciative once over. “You look unbelievably hot, Granger.” She bristled at the use of her last name, but took the arm he offered her anyway and let him lead her away from her friends. 

“Thank you, Cormac. You look great too. Do you want to go inside?”

“Yeah, I already got us a table.” He led them inside and Hermione craned her neck to take in the entire great hall. She knew about the decor but she had to admit that the all together effect was enchanting. Autumn foliage garland was everywhere, hanging from the walls in a way that made her feel like she was in a forest. Pumpkin centerpieces dotted each table and more jack o lanterns floated overhead under the night sky ceiling. Ghosts drifted by, also enjoying the festivities, reminding her of every Halloween she spent at Hogwarts.

Cormac talked about himself the entire time they sat at their table, waiting for the headmistress to kick off the ball. Apparently, he had a job lined up for him at the ministry thanks to his uncle, a cushy position in the finance sector. She nodded along politely, actually relieved that he seemed completely uninterested in her life.

Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted Malfoy enter the great hall with a small group of Slytherins flanking him, hoping to suck up a bit of his attention. Her goblet froze half way to her lips. Because he looked good. Really fucking good. He made the Hogwart’s uniform look high fashion so it was no surprise that he wore the modern cut dress robes well. But it was his lack of effort that had girls staring at him. 

His hair was unruly as usual, his posture relaxed. He knew he looked good. There was no hair gel or heavy aftershave or flashy cufflinks. Not like most of the other boys. It was just Malfoy, and that in itself was hard to look away from. 

Goyle trailed behind him, Millicent Bulstrode on his arm. Astoria Greengrass hovered by Malfoy’s elbow, looking smug. 

“So then I told the recruiter that I wasn’t signing for less than a ten thousand galleon contract,” Cormac finished, swishing his pumpkin juice around his goblet. The poor thing thought she was listening to his quidditch stats the entire time. “But it doesn’t matter, because Puddlemere United is scouting later this year, and my dad is tight with the owners.”

“That’s nice,” she nodded.

“Oh, Miss Granger.” The headmistress appeared next to her. “It’s time for the wizarding waltz. You and Mr. Malfoy and the other prefects should take the center floor now. Come, come.” She waved her arms animatedly, ushering her out of her seat. The other prefects seemed to take notice, many of them standing with their dates. She spotted Theo Nott tip his flask into the pumpkin juice bowl near the Slytherin tables. She caught his eye and frowned, but he just winked like she was in on the secret. 

She was about to storm over to him and deduct points when Malfoy grabbed her arm. His warm fingers wrapped around the bare skin of her bicep, purposefully avoiding her gloves. “Come on, Granger. They’re waiting for us.”

“But-did you see that? Alcohol was explicitly forbidden.” He led her to the center of the great hall. Several other couples, including Ron and Parvati, faced each other in a loose arrangement all around them.

“Don’t get your knickers in a twist over it. It’s just firewhisky.”

“Unbelievable.” She wondered for the thousandth time why McGonagall thought it would be a good idea to make him head boy.

“Take my hand, Granger. People are starting to look at us,” he hissed. There was a hush over the room as the orchestra readied themselves. McGonagall, dressed in formal robes, announced the waltz. She grabbed Malfoy’s hand, sealing her palm to his scarred one. Her other hand took hold of his shoulder, just like when they had practiced. He held her waist, and the contact made her shiver slightly. The material of her dress was so thin, a flimsy barrier.

The first haunting notes of the orchestra sang out around them and he smoothly moved them into step with the other couples. She let him lead her, bending to each push and pull and letting her feet follow. It was easier this time, pretending that she was still standing on the tops of his shoes like a little kid.

In novels, heroines always described dancing with men as if the entire world fell away around them. She had never understood that, had always found it silly. But as she spun around and around under the night sky with the man in front of her, she thought maybe there might be some kind of merit to the sentiment, good or bad.

Malfoy stared at her. At her mouth, her decolletage, the slit in her dress. It was greedy, the way he looked at her. His hand burned on her waist. She couldn’t tell if he liked what he saw, only that he didn’t seem interested in looking away. “You look passable.” 

She scoffed. “But not like a pureblood socialite, right?”

They spun around again, swapping places with Ron and Parvati. “I would never expect that of you, Granger.” She rolled her eyes and shook her head. She should have known he had specific taste in women. And that was pureblooded. Like Pansy, Astoria, Daphne. The kind of girl he would marry one day.

The other night he told her that he couldn’t stop thinking about what they did and she believed him. For some reason, he had a fascination with her. A perversion. He liked to corrupt and she made herself ripe for the picking. But at least she got something out of it.

The song ended on one last melancholy note. He let go of her like she burned him and she stepped away just as quickly. “You should get back to McLaggen. He’ll be missing the sound of his voice by now.”

He departed without her response and so she returned to her table. Everyone was standing now, making their way onto the christened dance floor. She spotted Ron on her way back to Cormac and her stomach sank. She recognized his look. It was the same look he wore the entire night of the Yule Ball, years earlier. Jealousy. 

There was no time to consider it right now. “Now you’re mine, Granger,” Cormac said as he took her arm. But she wasn’t and she wanted him to stop saying it. She belonged to no one. Not Cormac. Not Ron. Not Malfoy, even if they all felt differently. “Let’s dance.”

Another orchestral song was struck up, still too early in the night for the student selected band to come out. Cormac put his hands on her waist and she tried not to stiffen. They swayed like all the other students. He continued his one sided conversation about quidditch and she wondered if it was too early to leave yet.

“So what about you?”

“What?”

“What are you doing after graduation?” The question surprised her, but maybe she judged him too soon.

“Oh. Well, I have a healing apprenticeship set up at St. Mungo’s. I just need to get all O’s this year and it’s a done deal.” His eyebrows raised in interest.

“Wow. A healer. That’s ambitious.” It was a big deal to her and she was pretty proud of it.

“Yeah. I mean, Madam Pomfrey helped me fill out the applications. She vouched for me…”

She trailed off when she realized he wasn’t really listening. His hands were slipping lower and lower on her backside, until it was clear that it was no accident. She reached behind her and grabbed his hands, pulling them back up to safer territory. He didn’t even have the decency to look embarrassed. They finished out the song and then she made a beeline for the refreshments table, claiming thirstiness. 

She made sure to fill her goblet with sparkling cider, not the spiked pumpkin juice. She hated drinking alcohol. Didn’t like the way it made her feel out of control. The headmistress had not heeded her recommendation that catering be arranged from a Hogsmeade business and so the house elves were working double shifts tonight to provide refreshments. She decided to reuse her goblet to cut down on dishes going back to the kitchen and placed it on a side table for later.

She danced with Harry next, Ginny watching from their table, rubbing her sore feet. A quick drink break later and she was back on the dance floor with Cormac. This time, he kept his hands where she preferred them, back to talking about his achievements. Between all the twirls, she started feeling a bit woozy. 

“Alright there, Hermione? You look flushed.” He peered down at her. That’s when she realized her legs were starting to feel wobbly. 

“I’m fine. I just need to sit for a minute.” The great hall was starting to get warm from the press of bodies. She was just thirsty. The lights swam before her as she made her way back to the table where she left her goblet, taking another sip of the cold cider. Her table was empty, but she sat anyway.

Her limbs felt funny and the lights seemed too bright. Was this another panic attack? Was it the crowd? She got up and slipped from the great hall, stumbling slightly. The antechamber was cool and quieter. There were a few couples hiding out away from the prying eyes of professors. Feeling like she was intruding, she rounded the corner to the girls’ lavatory.

It was blessedly empty, everyone jammed into the great hall. The oak door swung shut behind her as she stumbled to the mirror above the sinks. It showed her reflection, but it seemed warped. Something was wrong, but as soon as the thought crossed her mind it was gone again. Like grasping at straws. She couldn’t remember what she was worried about. It was like floating. Drifting away with the tide. Did she do drugs? Is this what drugs were like? She had never touched them before. But if this was their effect she understood why people liked them so much. 

She giggled at her reflection. She was so careful to not touch the spiked juice but she might have accidentally done drugs. The irony wasn’t lost on her. But wait. Why did she not drink the juice? That’s right. Because she needed to be in control. This was bad. This was very bad. It was scary to be out of control. She ran the tap and splashed water from the sink on her face. Wake up . Wake up .

The door swung open, light spilling into the room from the hall. The light winked out as the door slammed shut again. She turned to see Pansy Parkinson in her jeweled dress.

“Flying high, mudblood?” The girl laughed and Hermione wanted to laugh with her but something told her not to. A little corner of her brain that still seemed capable of logic. “We thought you needed something to loosen up that frigid little body.” She approached in the mirror, the reflection of her arm reaching out to fix Hermione’s hair. It was curling back up already, and not neatly. 

“Come on, let’s get you back in there. Everyone is going to want to see you like this,” she giggled.

“Come on, princess. Back to the ball.” The black haired girl tugged on her arm and she followed, trying to keep track of her feet. The great hall was so loud. Too loud. It felt like everyone was roaring around her. Harry and Ginny were still dancing. They seemed so far away. She wanted to go to them.

“Look, Mill. Granger is trashed out of her mind,” Pansy chortled to the big, beefy Slytherin girl. Millicent and Goyle spun in front of her vision as Pansy twirled her around in front of them. “Funny, right. I didn’t think I’d ever see it. But all it took was tasteless bonewhite mushroom powder.” They laughed, their faces blurring. She didn’t want to laugh anymore. She felt scared. Like she wanted to run. But there was no way to do that. Not like this. She was out of her body. 

“Hermione?” Ron’s angry voice came from over her shoulder. She turned to face him. “What the hell are you doing?” His cheeks were pink and his hands fisted at his sides. “Dancing with Malfoy. And now you’re getting wasted with Pansy Parkinson?”

She shook her head. She hadn’t wanted to do those things. “I had to dance with him,” she tried to say. It came out slow, but he heard her. 

“Then what are you doing now? This isn’t like you,” he fumed. “First you dump me, and now you’re partying with Slytherin? I thought you were better than that.” His face was red and there was spit at the corner of his mouth. She hated when he was angry like this. This wasn’t right. They weren’t supposed to hurt each other tonight. She tried to make him see that she didn’t want to be out of it. She didn’t want to be here anymore.

He grabbed her arm, not hard enough to hurt but the location was bad. Right over her scar. It twinged with soreness and fear split right down her whole body. 

“No! No,” she sobbed. A few people turned to look at them. Why were they looking? She could hear the Slytherins laughing behind her. 

“Mione. Why are you acting like this?” Why was she acting like this? It was a good question. She stumbled away from him and hurt crossed his face. Pansy cut across her line of vision again. 

“Come on, mudblood. Dance for us again.” That word. She hated that word. It made her throat constrict. Her heart was beating out of her chest. The room spun, faces flashed in and out. It was hard to breathe. She sucked in air, but it kept getting stuck in her chest. 

Someone shoved her from behind and she stumbled into Goyle’s big barrel chest. He laughed and the sound was too close to her ear. She could see the sweat on his neck and feel his meaty hands around her arms.

“Don’t touch me!” The scream tore out of her throat, chased by fear. There were people staring and whispering, but no one would help her. Ron stood there with a look of shock, confusion, and anger mixing in his face. She pushed Goyle away and stumbled back, trying not to lose her footing. Somebody laughed.

“She’s fine. We were just having fun. Look, she loves it.”

“Granger, let’s go.” A hand wrapped firm around her bicep. It dragged her away from the prying eyes, from the laughing faces, from a glaring Ron. She looked up to see Malfoy’s familiar face, his mouth a tight line as he towed her towards the doors. She just wanted to get out of there. Away from everyone else. Somewhere quiet where she could get her hyperventilating under control.

He was pushing the doors open when Cormac McLaggen caught up to them. He went in to touch her shoulder, but stopped short when his eyes caught on Malfoy beside her. “Hermione. Do you want me to walk you-”

“Cormac?” Malfoy snapped. “ Fuck off.” 

The Gryffindor nodded and turned back the way he came. She stuck to Malfoy’s side and let him guide her out into the corridor, empty of students this time. “What happened, Granger? I left you alone for one hour.”

She wanted to snipe at him that he didn’t need to keep tabs on her, but there wasn’t a lot of supporting evidence to back up her argument at the moment. That, and she was still gasping for air. Little choking noises came out of her throat as she struggled. She wanted to run, but she was still stumbling, her vision blurred. 

“Come on. Sit down.” He led her to the steps and she sank on to one, body wracked with tremors. “Put your head between your knees. There you go.” His hand pressed her upper body down into her lap, folding her over her knees. 

“I’m gonna be sick,” she whined. It came out slurred.

“Fine. Be sick.” The nausea abated, thankfully. She stared at her shoes, the gold satin heels firm on the step as she gulped in air and tried to ground herself. The mind healer told her to focus on stimuli she could identify. See, smell, feel, hear.

She could see her shoes on the step below her. She could hear the muffled sound of a band starting up their set. She could smell Malfoy. He smelled like Amortentia. She could feel his hand making circles on her back. She focused on that until the panic loosened. 

“Okay?” She nodded, the room still spinning. Apparently, grounding techniques didn’t negate the effect of drugs. 

“I’ll admit, I’m surprised. What did you take?” She stood on wobbly legs and tried to remember. She didn’t think she took anything. 

“Nothing. I didn’t even drink the pumpkin juice. I don’t like alcohol.” She stumbled and he wrapped an arm around her torso, holding half her weight as they started up the stairs.

“Did you leave your drink alone?” 

“Maybe. While I was dancing.”

“What does that mean, Granger? Why weren’t you getting new goblets?” It was for the house elves. He wouldn’t understand. They limped along the corridors, towards the changing staircases. “Well?”

“It was one less goblet to be washed. For the elves,” she slurred. She watched understanding settle onto his features. 

“Fucking Salazar. That’s so typical,” he grumbled. The stairs moved and she nearly collapsed, but his arm stayed tight around her waist. Their portrait eyed them suspiciously, but swung open with no comment. 

He kicked open her door and helped her lay down on her bed. The whole room was starting to fade in and out. The realization hit her then. What someone, Pansy, had done to her. All that could have happened. It was terrifying. She didn’t feel her eyes watering until the tears were spilling out of the corner of her eyes, wetting the hair by her temples.

All the laughing and staring faces swam in her memory. Ron’s angry expression. The complete lack of power over herself. She wiped the corner of her eye with the edge of her blanket.

Malfoy sat on the side of her bed and picked up her foot. He deftly undid the buckle on her shoe and pulled it off. It thunked on the ground by her bed. He did the same to the other, not looking at her. She watched him, taking the opportunity to observe him. 

He was being nice. Well, as nice as he could get. It was strange. Stranger still was the relief that coursed through her when she realized he was there, pulling her out of the great hall. And not just relief that someone was helping her. Relief that it was him. Not Ginny or Harry. Him. He was the only person she wanted to be around right now. And she didn’t know why.

He dragged her duvet up to her chin. Her dress was still on but she would have to sleep in it, too disoriented to change into pajamas. His eyes landed on her face and she thought she saw something in his eyes. Empathy or concern, maybe. 

She dragged her arms out from under the blanket and rested them over her middle and his gaze dropped to her gloves. She was still wearing them, the white fabric nearly glowing in the dark. He grabbed the top of one and rolled it down her arm, exposing her skin. It turned back into a sock in his hand, the spell broken. 

He reached for the other and she stiffened. He glanced at her face but removed the glove anyway. Slowly, reverently, watching her arm as her scar came into view. She knew he was thinking about what she said to him three days ago. She meant it. Still meant it. But, what he did for her tonight felt like an apology. 

The scar was red and puckered, even after months of healing. He brushed his thumb over the letters softly and they both watched as goosebumps raised on her skin. “Why did you cover it?”

She sniffed, debating whether she should be completely honest with him. “I don’t like people to see it. It feels vulnerable. Like everyone can see the mess I am inside.” The words tumbled out of her, taking an unexpected weight off her chest. It felt good to say that out loud. To someone who didn’t need her to have it all together for them. He nodded like he understood. Didn’t offer any platitudes or insincere condolences. She didn’t want them anyway. 

A sharp pain tore through her middle, twisting her abdominal muscles and gritting her teeth. Cruciatus. She should have known the aftershocks would have been brought on by the stress of tonight. Her face refused to stay neutral, revealing her pain.

“What’s happening, Granger?” Why couldn’t he have left just a minute earlier?

“It’s phantom pain.” Another twisting cramp in all her muscles punctuated her sentence. “I get them when I’m really stressed or upset. Lasting effects of the cruciatus curse.”

“I didn’t know that could happen,” he said tightly.

“It’s rare. Only happens in cases of prolonged use,” she gasped out. “I just have to wait for them to pass.” She rolled on her side and curled into a ball, clutching her abdomen and breathing through pursed lips. He grumbled something under his breath and then grabbed a small throw blanket she had at the end of her blanket. She watched him roll it up tightly and take out his wand to cast a warming charm over it. He lifted her blanket and placed the warm bundle against her middle. The heat soothed her muscles a bit, calming the spasms. She sighed in relief. 

“Crookshanks!” He called out to her kneazle, who came trotting into her room. He hopped up onto the bed next to Hermione and laid down across her hip. She stroked the kneazles head, glad to have him near. The orange cat eyed Malfoy suspiciously but refrained from hissing. 

“Alright, sleep it off.” He reached over and pressed his thumb to her bottom lip. She didn’t realize what he was doing until he swiped his thumb across her lip, wiping away the last little bit of her lipstick. Miraculously, a tendril of lust bloomed in her belly as he looked at her face. But he simply stood to make his way to the door.

“Why do you cover yours? Your mark.” She didn’t know where the question came from, but it was out there now. He scoffed, looking at Crookshanks, who was kneading into her blanket. 

“I don’t like to see it. It’s a reminder.” He turned his back on her. “Of the mess I am inside.”

He reached for her door, swinging it open before him. He was halfway through when she called out to him once more.

“Malfoy?” He paused, waiting for her question.

“Thank you,” she whispered.

“Just go to sleep, Granger.”

She did.

Chapter Text



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.