“Next?” called the witch behind the counter while Hermione studied the notice board. Someone was offering piano lessons for a reasonable price, and she made a mental note to consider it. She had no musical ability, that was for certain, but she liked trying new things. It was a busy day in Hogsmeade and Madam Puddifoot’s was packed, which meant she would be waiting a little bit longer for her latte. The kitchens could do almost anything, but they couldn’t quite get lattes right.
“Earl Grey,” a deep voice said, and it was like walking straight through a ghost. Her stomach plunged, her veins turned icy cold, and she made herself count to three before turning around.
It was worse than a ghost. It was him, warm and in the flesh, cheeks slightly flushed from the summer heat outside. Draco hadn’t noticed her yet, too busy paying for his tea, and she inched toward the door. If she could just scoot past the cluster of witches waiting in line, she might be able to—
“Granger?” the barista asked.
Draco’s face went several shades paler. She gave up trying to sneak out and sheepishly wended her way to the counter. Hermione accepted her cup with a meek smile and nodded to Draco like this wasn’t the worst thing that had happened to her in years.
It had been seven years since she had last seen him, standing alone in front of the lake. Everyone else had been crowded into groups, surrounded by their families and loved ones, but Draco was alone.
No one had come to his commencement ceremony, not even his mother.
“Hello,” she said, moving out of the way as the group of witches stepped forward.
“Were you trying to run away?” he asked. Draco always did cut right to the heart of the matter.
“No, I was—” she broke off as he raised an eyebrow. “Can you blame me?” she asked, deciding it wasn’t worth the effort to lie. He always saw straight through her anyway.
“Not really, no,” he agreed, and his voice was steady but his eyes were darting around the tea shop, looking anywhere but her. “You should know, I’m here for an interview.”
Hermione’s stomach sank even further. The potion’s master position was open again, now that Davies had decided to accept a job with Sleekeazy’s in their product development department. It should have occurred to her that Draco might apply for it, but she had spent the better part of seven years pretending he didn’t exist.
The silence between them stretched into something unbearable.
Draco’s order came up and he sipped it immediately, wincing when it burned the roof of his mouth.
He always was impatient.
“Well, don’t worry. I doubt McGonagall will give it to me,” he said with a shrug of one shoulder.
“You never know,” she said before she could second guess herself. The thought of working with him every day— of living on the same grounds as him, seeing him at every meal, running into him in the corridors— brought an ache to her chest that was physically painful, but she shoved it away. “You’re qualified. You’re a good teacher. Could use a little more patience, but that’s something Minerva can relate to.”
A flicker of a smile passed across his face. “Thanks, I think,” he said drily. “I should go. Don’t want to be late.”
Minerva didn’t hold any interviews before eleven in the morning and it was not yet nine, but Hermione decided to do him the courtesy of ignoring the lie. “Good luck, Draco,” she said softly. It had been years since she said his name and it hit her like a freight train, how easily it rolled off her tongue.
He swallowed hard and didn’t say anything in return, just nodded and lifted his cup as he walked out the door.
She didn’t let herself return to the castle until well after lunch.
Draco got the job.
Of course he had; she had meant what she said in Madam Puddifoot’s. He was a talented potioneer and could explain the laborious, subtle process in a way few wizards could. Minerva would have been mad to pass on him, but when Hermione sat down in the all-staff meeting and saw his name on the list of new hires, it made her heart do a feeble, extraneous thump.
He was assigned quarters the floor above her, one door down from Neville. At least she wouldn’t see him every time she returned to her rooms, she reasoned, but she spent enough time in Neville’s sitting room that she knew it would still be awkward.
Neville approached her after the meeting, concern all over his face. “Will you be okay?” he asked, pulling her into a small alcove and letting the rest of the staff pass them by.
“Of course,” she said with a wave of her hand. “That was ages ago.”
Neville wasn’t fooled. He had been there, after all. He had watched them come together and then fall apart spectacularly, and he had been the only one of their friends not outright relieved when things ended. “It’s okay, you know. If you loved him.”
“We were kids, Neville. That’s all.”
He scanned her face and then nodded, accepting her answer even if he didn’t fully believe her. “You sure you’ll be all right?”
“I’m fine,” she insisted.
The lie tasted like cardboard.
Draco moved in two weeks before the start of term, when everyone was buried under the crush of preparations for students. There were classrooms to get in order and schedules to be ironed out, and one new professor with just two trunks and a sleek white cat was easily lost in the shuffle.
Hermione had a speech prepared. She had spent the better part of the summer preparing it, rehearsing it in the mirror until it felt easy and natural. It needed to happen before students arrived and they lost any chance of having a quiet moment alone, and when she saw him standing by a tree near the lake after dinner one night, she took her chance.
She realized too late where they were, but he had already spotted her. He looked back at the lake and the slowly sinking sun, shoulder against a tree trunk, arms crossed. “Welcome back,” she said as she drew to a stop beside him. They had nodded politely at each other during staff events, and once he had reached over her shoulder to grab a mug in the staff room, but otherwise they hadn’t really interacted.
“Already feels like home,” he said sardonically. Both of them avoided looking at each other, like they would see something they didn’t want in the other’s eyes.
Not ten feet away was the spot where he’d kissed her for the first time; the memory as sharp in her mind as the day it happened.
It had been so normal. Nothing in her life had been normal in so long back then. Her first kiss with Ron was on a battlefield, for Merlin’s sake. Their breakup had been in the shadow of his brother’s death, grief and destruction making anything resembling a functional relationship impossible. She went back to school and Ron stayed with his family, and Hermione had vowed that she would have a normal final year if it was the last thing she did.
Draco being back at Hogwarts with her was an unwelcome surprise at first, but after months of hesitant, awkward conversations, one surprisingly sincere apology from him, and two terrible potions grades during spring term from her, she had approached him for help. She found him to be a diligent if harsh tutor, and one day she found herself laughing at one of his not-quite-jokes. That laughter had thawed the remaining ice between them, something approaching friendship rising to take its place.
A month later, on a warm, lazy spring day, they had been sitting on the banks of the lake, Hermione grumbling over a potions essay while he fiddled with some astronomy calculations, and he said her name. That was it, just her name.
But it was the first time she could ever remember him saying Hermione aloud.
She had looked over and he had pressed a brief, chaste kiss to her lips. He pulled back, stammering an apology, and then she was the one who kissed him, pulling his face to hers for a kiss that went on longer than she thought a kiss could.
It was the way she always thought a first kiss should be— romantic, gentle, and sweet. Three words she never would have used to describe Draco Malfoy, and that still didn’t quite fit. He could be those things, of course, but only in rare flashes. Most of the time he had been surly and mercurial, prone to unexpected bouts of anger and sulking.
She hadn’t been much better, back then. Neither of them had really reckoned with what happened during the war, both of them deciding to pretend to be normal until everything exploded in a whirlwind of anger and bitterness and jealousy.
“I wanted to say I’m sorry,” she said, eyes on the surface of the lake. A few lazy ripples wrinkled the surface and then disappeared. “I was unfair to you.”
The younger version of Draco would have sneered, but the adult version just clenched his jaw. “You were right, though. About a lot of it.” His fingers flexed, digging into his biceps. “Especially about Astoria.”
That was a name Hermione had spent the better part of seven years trying to forget. She had been so horribly jealous of the younger girl, with her perfect blonde hair and impeccable manners. Draco had been upfront with Hermione about the betrothal at first, that their families had intended for a marriage eventually but with his father in Azkaban and his mother under house arrest it wasn’t likely to happen. But he had still been friendly with Astoria, and Hermione had suspected there was a part of him that still wanted that life.
“I heard she was married to Terry Boot now,” she said over the sudden thundering of her heart. She hadn’t wanted to be right about that, and even now it felt like a knife to her ribs.
“She is. We didn’t last, obviously. Kind of hard to when you’re— when you’re lying to yourself,” he said. “I was hiding with her, just like I was hiding with you.”
“I was hiding too,” she admitted. She had been trying to prove to everyone she had moved on, and what better way than to show she had forgiven Malfoy. She wasn’t using him, not like he had accused her during that last horrible fight, but she had been holding their relationship up as proof of progress she hadn’t truly made.
A muscle in his jaw flickered. “I suppose this is where we say bygones and move on.” He looked at her fully for the first time since she ran into him in Hogsmeade. “I’m sure you had a whole speech prepared, but it’s okay. I’ve moved on, Granger. Same as you.”
She had the urge to reach out and touch his arm as he walked away, but she curled her nails into her palms instead.
Malfoy’s cat liked Crookshanks, or more accurately liked the treats Hermione had in her rooms for Crookshanks. Orion had taken to lurking outside her door, mewling for attention whenever she was around and Malfoy was stuck in the potions lab or supervising quidditch practice.
That is why he found her sitting cross legged on the third floor of the staff wing one Friday afternoon, both cats clambering over her lap while she held the treats high above her head.
It was the closest he had come to smiling in her presence. “Greedy cat,” he scolded, scooping up Orion’s sleek body in his arms. “Of course you’d prefer the cheap crap Granger has instead of the expensive ones I buy you.”
She grinned at him, unable to stop herself as she watched him let Orion nuzzle his jaw. “Just because something is expensive doesn’t mean it’s better,” she replied.
Draco scratched Orion’s head. “True. But there’s also nothing wrong with a little luxury sometimes. It’s okay to indulge yourself.” The way he said indulge, voice dark and low, made her mouth go dry until she reminded herself to get a grip. He was talking to his cat, for Merlin’s sake.
Draco shifted his attention to her. “Neville sent me to find you. Drinks in his room for everyone; celebrate making it through the first week.” He held out his hand to help her up but flinched minutely when she took it.
“Everyone?” she asked lightly, trying to shift them away from whatever that was. She let Crookshanks hop down and pad back into her room. “Even Binns?”
“McGonagall was about to do a kegstand when I left. Hurry up,” he said, that same almost-smile in his eyes.
Sitting in Neville’s room an hour later with the rest of the younger staff, laughing as Lavender recounted an incident involving a student, a stack of teacups, and a runaway crystal ball, Hermione caught Draco’s eye and he lifted his butterbeer towards her in a silent salute, and she knew they were thinking the same thing.
It almost felt like the childhood they should have had.
“They’re talking about you, you know,” Neville said one day at lunch.
Hermione was distracted by glaring at Seamus’s cousin, who was making a play for the Weasley Twin crown. Mostly Declan just set off a lot of fireworks, but at the moment he was trying to sneak a Canary Cream into a fourth year Ravenclaw’s pudding. “Hmm?” she asked, standing up to make sure Declan could see her.
“You and Draco,” Neville said quietly, and she sat right back down, Finnegan utterly forgotten.
“The students,” Neville clarified. Out on the floor of the Great Hall, a Ravenclaw burst into feathers and Lavender jumped down from the table, Declan Finnegan already sprinting away. “They saw you coming out of the library.”
Earlier that week she had gone to the library to pick up some light reading. Like always, Hermione had gotten a little carried away and ended up with more books than she could physically carry. Draco had happened upon her as she struggled out the door and chuckled, immediately taking four of the heaviest books out of her stack and tucking them under his arm. It was during a free period for fifth year Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs, so quite a few had been milling around the halls, but she didn’t think anything of it at the time.
Just that it was nice to walk with him and talk about nothing in particular.
“What are they saying?”
“The usual. Some think you’re secretly dating, others think you aren’t but should be.”
She nodded, digesting. “Not much different than two years ago when they thought we were together,” she noted. “Students have active imaginations.”
“At least four separate students asked me if I was dating Draco after I helped him move some cauldrons,” Neville confirmed with a smile, and then he sobered. “But I figured you should know. With, you know, everything.”
“Thanks for the heads up,” she said, tucking back into her shepherd’s pie and refusing to look up even though she could feel Draco’s gaze on her from down the staff table. “It’s fine.”
The castle was freezing at the best of times, but after dark in midwinter it was particularly icy. Hermione cast a warming charm on herself as she hurried through the corridors, wishing she had grabbed a jumper instead of the silk robe she had belted around her waist.
She rounded the corner past the empty Ravenclaw tower and lit her wand, picking up the pace. Hogwarts was empty, with students home on break until the next term started, or else she never would have left her rooms dressed like this. Students had a hard enough time running into her in slippers; seeing her in a filmy nightgown and robe would send them straight to the infirmary.
But it was 2am and she couldn’t sleep, which meant she needed to go to the library.
She silenced the intruder alarms Madam Pince insisted on setting with a flick of her wand and headed straight for biographies. If she wasn’t going to sleep, she might as well learn something. Hermione wove through the stacks, past Goblin History and through the Transfiguration section, her feet carrying her on the familiar path.
She rounded the corner and bounced off something hard and warm, dragging a squeak of surprise from her throat as she toppled backwards.
Strong hands caught her by her shoulders just in time. “Where’s the fire, Granger?” Draco said, setting her back on her feet.
“I didn’t see you there,” she said, heart suddenly racing. She frowned. “Wait, why are you here? No one is due back for days.”
Draco turned back to the books he had been perusing. “This may come as a surprise to you, but my mother and I do not do well in the same house for long,” he replied drily. “And I might add, you’re back early as well.”
Hermione had spent the holidays at Grimmauld Place, and as lovely as that was, after a week of families being families, she had started to feel a little lonesome. Harry and Ron never treated her as anything but one of their families, of course, but Harry and Ginny had James and Ron and Padma had Percival and Priya. Everyone was settled now, and so was she, but they were settled with people and she was alone, and sometimes that was lonely. “I wanted some peace and quiet,” she said with a shrug.
“I imagine those are in short supply around the Potter-Weasleys,” Draco said with a smirk. “How many people are in that family now? Two hundred?”
“It feels like that sometimes,” she admitted. Growing up Christmas had been a quiet affair, just her, her parents, and sometimes an aunt and uncle or two. The Weasleys— and now the Potter-Weasleys— were the exact opposite. No matter where you went in Grimmauld Place, there was someone, usually with red hair, already occupying that spot. It was loud and lovely and full of affection, but after awhile she had been worn out. She had lied about needing to get a new curriculum ready for the next term and left a few days early, arriving just that morning to what she thought was an empty castle.
Hermione took to scanning the shelves as well. “I’m sorry you and your mother don’t get on well. I know you were close,” she said carefully.
Narcissa had been the subject of one of their biggest fights. Hermione didn’t understand why Draco didn’t tell his mother he would never go through with the betrothal even if the Greengrasses agreed to proceed with it. Draco, in turn, didn’t understand why she cared so much what he told his mother, so long as he wasn’t unfaithful to her.
In retrospect, she understood that he was barely more than a child, clinging to the only parent he had left. After everything Narcissa had lost in the war— entirely deserved, in Hermione’s opinion— her son hadn’t wanted to take one more thing away. She might not like the woman, but she could understand why a son might want to protect his mother.
“My breakup with Astoria was hard on her,” he said, equally careful. “I think that’s when it finally set in for her, how much of a disappointment I was going to be.” His fingers, long and tapered, skimmed the shelf in front of them. "I had told her not to come, you know. To our ceremony. I didn't think-- that day was for you. You shouldn't have had to see her. Not after what my family did to you."
She blinked, eyes misty. They had been over for weeks by then. It was a rare moment of kindness from him, delivered when she least deserved it. "It was your day too," she said.
He shrugged. There were a hundred things she wanted to say, but none of them seemed adequate. She just smiled at him sadly and he seemed to understand. Her eyes landed on a biography of Amelia Earhart and she reached up, just barely brushing the spine with her fingertips.
Draco moved behind her and plucked it easily from the shelf, his chest brushing her back. “Here,” he said, handing it to her.
“How did you know which one?”
He smirked, and it was almost a real smile. “It’s an enormous book about a woman I’ve never heard of, of course it’s what you want to read.” A grin flickered across her face too.
“Is someone in here?” Madam Pince’s croaky, thin voice floated through the stacks. “No one’s allowed after hours, even professors,” she warned unnecessarily. Everyone knew Madam Pince believed the Hogwarts library to be her own personal collection, loathe to let even the Headmistress borrow when she needed to.
Draco whirled her against the stacks, covering her with his body, and she quickly cast a disillusionment charm over them both. “Did you disable the intruder alarms?” he whispered, breath hot on her ear.
She fought a shiver, but her fingers curled into the front of his cashmere jumper of their own accord. His warmth soaked into her skin, rendering the warming charm obsolete. “Of course I did,” she retorted in the same tiny whisper.
She felt his chest expand and contract with the force of his sigh. “I’d already done that. You turned them back on. When we touched the books—”
“We activated them. Shit,” she said, and Madam Pince’s steps grew closer.
“Peeves?” she called. A long silence echoed as they stayed perfectly still. “Binnsie? Darling, is that you?”
Hermione could barely see Draco’s face through the charm, but she knew he was making the same face of amused shock. “Binnsie?” Hermione mouthed at him silently, and his shoulders trembled with laughter.
The start of a chuckle burst from her lips and Draco had his hand over her mouth in a flash. “Shhh,” he murmured, lips still against her ear. His body was pressed tightly against hers, her backside half-perched on the rail. Her hands crept around his waist, pulling him closer. She felt him shudder, shifting so his thigh was between her knees. Pince’s footsteps moved farther away, but Draco stayed put.
The moment turned. The air thickened, his hand still clamped over her lips. The charm was fading, his face returning to its proper opacity, and the look in his eyes was dangerous
“You need to be quiet, Granger,” he warned, voice suddenly dark and rough. “Although you never were very good at that, were you?”
The whimper that escaped her was tiny but telling. Pince was searching the Restricted Section now, several rows away. Hermione leaned back and let her legs fall open. He pulled slowly at her sash, tucking his hand inside her robe and breathing in sharply when his fingertips met her nightgown.
“That’s all you wear to bed? In this icebox we call a castle?” he breathed. He didn’t move his hand, clearly not looking for an answer. “You must be cold. And lonely.” He ghosted his hand up her side, thumb brushing her pebbled nipple. He scraped his nail against the whisper-thin fabric of her nightgown and she anchored herself with her hand behind his neck.
He gathered the hem of her nightgown into his fist, inching it higher while his lips found the hollow behind her ear. Her limbs turned to liquid and it took every fiber of her being to remind herself she needed to be quiet, lest Madam Pince stumble on them. Draco’s knuckles skimmed the inside of her thigh, his hand finally leaving her mouth to span the side of her neck and tip her chin back. “Remember. Quiet,” he said into her ear.
Hermione stuffed a fist in her mouth and bit down just as his fingers found her center. They brushed lightly over her knickers; gentle, searching, but much more confident than he had been years ago. He nudged the elastic over, seeking out the source of her arousal. There was no more hesitant fumbling, just sure, deliberate strokes.
She barely heard him curse when he pressed his finger inside, his mouth working down her throat with hot, wet suction. His finger was long and deft, sinking into her all the way to the knuckle, but it wasn’t enough.
Distantly, she heard the library door swing closed. Hermione buried her face in his shoulder, her nails digging into his scalp for purchase. “More,” she whimpered, but he was already adding a second finger, exhaling hard across her skin.
“Fuck,” he groaned into her neck. “Fuck, I missed this.” His thumb found her clit and he shifted closer, her spine pressing against the books. He was hard against her thigh and the scent of his cologne filled her lungs, and her world narrowed to him and the way he was making her feel. His finger crooked inside her and she bowed against him. She managed to swallow her wail but only just. He drew tight, rough circles on her clit and brought his mouth to the shell of her ear. “Come for me, please,” he whispered. “Please, I need— I need to feel you come.”
Heat unspooled in her belly at his words and she trembled, falling apart with a gasp that he silenced with his mouth.
It was the first time he had kissed her in seven years, and it felt like coming home. Her tongue sought entrance and he welcomed her eagerly, grasping her face with both hands. It was as if he was drowning and she was his lifeline, and the kiss stretched on, lips and tongue and teeth and hot, shaky breaths. Or maybe she was the one who was drowning, submerged by waves of need and memories she thought she had long since banished.
“Irma?” A ghostly voice called, and they broke apart, identical looks of surprise on their faces. Draco clamped his hand tightly over her mouth again and she sealed her palm against his lips but it was too late; she had already broken and so did he.
A wheezing, gasping snort burst from his throat, too loud to be muffled by her hand. He was shaking and giggles wracked her body. Draco gave up and wrenched himself back, grabbing her hand and pulling her down the stacks.
They ran through the library, doing their best to stifle their laughter, and flew out the door to the east corridor. By the time they reached the Charms department Hermione was shrieking with laughter, collapsed against a suit of armor for support, while Draco doubled over with his hands on his knees.
The tension between them cracked like ice in March. The pain of the past seven years disappeared, replaced by a lightness she hadn’t felt in months. Every time she got herself together she would catch his eye and dissolve into giggles again, tears leaking out the corner of his eyes.
A silvery glow illuminated the far end of the corridor and Draco sprang into action yet again, shoving her back behind the armor into a small alcove, sheltering her from sight with his head ducked down. His grey eyes grew lighter as Binns floated closer, still softly calling for Irma.
Draco put his finger to her lips in an utterly unnecessary reminder to be quiet and she stood stock still, watching him watch her. His gaze was locked on her mouth, entranced. He drew his finger down, gently prying her lips apart and she nipped at his fingertip. Binns had moved on, floating towards the main staircase but still they stayed, hiding like they were sixth years out after curfew.
This was what they had been trying for all those years ago; both of them desperate to create something resembling normalcy, even though normal had evaporated when Harry emerged from the Triwizard Maze clutching their classmate’s body. Back then neither of them wanted to admit the truth, certain they could force a childhood that had been stolen from them both.
It had ended in recriminations and guilt. It had been doomed from the start, their first attempt, but that had never stopped either of them from trying.
But now, with Draco looming over her, lowering his head to capture her lips in an insistent kiss, it felt like a new start. She had long since mourned her lost childhood, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t start again, build something new and carefree with solid foundations.
He broke the kiss, forehead pressed to hers. “Your rooms or mine?” he murmured, and she clutched his jumper with both fists.
“Mine,” she said. It would be easier for him to leave that way, she reasoned. Draco would feel more in control, even if it was her territory. Whatever this was was new and fragile, and she knew all too well what happened if he started feeling pressured or trapped.
He took her hand and they hurried through the halls, not because they were being chased, but because they had a destination.
Draco kicked the door to her room shut with her heel, trapping Crookshanks in the sitting room. He walked her towards the bed, easing her robe off her shoulders and letting it pool at their feet. He once again ran his hand down her side, this time taking in the thin straps at her shoulders and the flash of lace that lined her cleavage. “You’ve changed,” he said softly, and she knew he was thinking of the frumpy flannel pajama sets she used to wear. She still did sometimes, but other times a witch liked the feel of silk on her skin.
“In some ways,” she agreed, slipping her hands under his jumper to feel the heat of his skin. “In other ways, I’m still me.”
He dipped his head and found her lips at that, and for a long time neither of them breathed a word. There was no need, not when his hands were on her breasts, lifting and caressing while she pushed his jumper up and explored the planes of his stomach with her mouth.
It was both unfamiliar and new, like learning a new dance with an old partner. Their movements were slower now, less hurried than in the library, but with an urgency behind them that spoke volumes. They were both naked by the time he laid her out on the bed, covering her with his body. He was broader now, bulkier; his jaw stubbled. But the way he kissed her was the same, demanding but soft; exploratory but confident.
Draco lifted her calf to rest on his shoulder, tilting her hips to meet his cock. He nuzzled her ankle, something like a smile flickering across his face, and sank into her with one smooth thrust. She closed her eyes at first, overwhelmed by the sensation, but then she found she needed to see him. She needed to look into his eyes the way he was looking into hers, to ground herself with the reminder that this was real.
His thrusts were steady, even. Sure. There was no trembling this time, no nerves. She rolled her hips to meet him with each stroke. At that angle he was so deep it took her breath away, but she also wished he were closer, close enough to touch. She needed his weight against her, needed to touch him.
As if he read her mind he shifted her leg down, letting her knee hook around his hip and lowering his chest to hers. She tugged him closer and let his kiss blot out everything else. The heat was building in her again, coiling tighter and tighter until it broke, her cunt clenching around his cock in waves that had him groaning into her ear. His thrusts became uneven, almost rough, and then he was coming too, spilling inside of her in a flood of heat.
He collapsed onto her, breathing hard. After a few moments he stirred, rearranging their bodies so he was on his back and she was tucked into his side. A long silence fell, but for once it wasn’t painful.
It was comfortable. Easy.
Draco’s fingertips spiraled around her back in lazy movements. She lifted her head and wrinkled her nose. “So how long do you think Pince and Binns have been a thing?”
Draco snorted. “Binns is older than dirt and Pince isn’t much younger. I’d say a couple centuries, give or take?”
“Do you think it started right away? Or more of a slow burn sort of thing?”
“Seeing as it takes Binns roughly twice as long to finish a sentence as any being I’ve ever met, alive or dead, I would not put money on fast.”
She giggled, ducking her face into his chest. He was half chuckling, half getting his hand tangled in her hair. Hermione kept her chin down, mouth against his sweat-salt skin before she spoke again. “I’m— I’m glad it didn’t take that long for us,” she said. It felt important to broach it now, before the awkwardness set in, but that didn’t make it easy.
Her heart sank.
He disentangled himself from her and pushed himself up to sit. “I think we should talk,” he said, back against her headboard. She stayed where she was, curled on her side and looking up, waiting. “I kept some things from you. Back then.”
Dread settled in her gut. But then he lifted his hand and carded it through her hair, and a flicker of warmth bloomed in its place. “You were my first,” he said softly.
She blinked, processing that information. Hermione had spent more time than she cared to admit thinking about those brief months, turning the memories over in her mind until they were worn smooth. Their first time had been cautious on both their parts, but she had always assumed that was because of the newness of each other’s bodies. When she had sank down on him the first time he gasped, eyes going wide, and the hands he held to her hips trembled as she moved.
There had been less hesitance on his part after that, more eagerness and confidence, but she had never put together what that meant. “I didn’t know, Draco. I’m sorry, if I had, I would have—” she broke off, not sure what she would have done differently. But she would have remembered it differently, at least. “I wish I’d known,” she finished.
“I know. I didn’t tell you because— because I thought that was part of the appeal.” His fingers were still sifting through her waves, gentle and cautious.
He gave a wry almost-smile. “The bad boy thing.”
She couldn’t help it. She snorted. “Are you serious?”
“Come on, all good girls go through that phase,” he said, looking disgruntled.
“You were not a phase. Besides, my bad boy phase was Viktor,” she said. Hermione pushed herself up, bringing her face even with his.
Draco frowned. “Isn’t Krum actually just a swot who happens to be good with a broomstick?”
“He is. And exceptionally shy. But I thought he was a bad boy when I was fifteen, so it counts.” She moved a lock of hair back off his forehead and softened. “Is that what you thought it was?”
“I never really knew what it was,” he admitted. “I just knew— it was a lot. More than I was ready for.”
She wondered if he was thinking of the same thing; of how hesitant and fumbling they had been at first, but how good it felt anyway. It was a discovery, an exploration. Terrifying and exhilarating in a way she hadn’t known sex could be. He wasn’t her first, but he was the one whose fingers branded her skin, whose touch left traces like tattoos on her body.
“It was too much for me too,” she conceded. Hermione took his face in her hands and he nuzzled a kiss to her palm. “I think we were too early. Too early and not— not far enough from what we were.” She let him draw her to him, her back against his chest. He wrapped his arm around her, pinning her in place, and dropped his mouth to her shoulder. It wasn’t a kiss, exactly, but his lips rested there until she started talking again. “You weren’t a phase, but you were right that I had— other motivations for being with you.”
At one time he would have snapped at her, or snarled that he knew she had an angle. But instead he slotted his fingers into hers, his palm warm on the back of her hand, and waited for her to continue. “I was trying to prove something. To everyone else, but also to myself. Mostly to myself, even.” She turned her arm over, the faint remnants of her scar shining pink against her skin. It wasn’t readable anymore unless you knew what it said, but there was no chance she would ever forget that word.
“I needed to be over it," she explained. "The war, the fights, the hatred. I needed it behind me, but I didn’t want to face what it had changed. How it had changed me. I wanted— I wanted what we should have had. A chance to be kids, to be normal. And you were...proof.”
“That you were normal?” he asked, resting his head on the headboard.
“That I had moved on. That what happened in the war didn’t affect me.”
Draco raised her arm and pressed a kiss to the underside, just above her wrist. He didn’t touch her scar, not quite, but it still made her breath catch. Before, she had hid it under a glamour and he had been careful to never let his eyes rest there, lest they be forced to face what had happened to her while he watched. But now, the way he kissed it— he wasn’t trying to erase it. He was telling her he saw it, and he understood.
“I think I was doing the same, but worse,” he said, fingertip running from her wrist to elbow. “I had so much guilt, Hermione. Still do, as a matter of fact, but I’m better at carrying it now. I had so many chances during the war— and before— and I didn’t take them. Not the ones that counted, anyway.”
He let go of her wrist and she reached out to his arm, resting her palm over the spot where his Mark had been. Like her scar it was mostly faded, leeched away when Voldemort’s power broke, but it would never fully disappear.
That was the way of things, really. You lived through them and they left their mark, and over time the scar would lighten but it would always be there, reminding you of where you had been. Of the things you had done; the things that had been done to you. She knew that now, but back then, she had thought if she tried hard enough the scar never would have existed in the first place.
Draco let out a shaky breath that reverberated through her chest. “I think the only thing I don’t regret is you,” he said. “I’m glad it was you. Not because of what I was trying to prove, but because— it was you. I get that now, in a way I don’t think I did then.”
Hermione blinked against the burning in her eyelids. “I don’t regret you either,” she said, voice thick with emotion. “I never could. We were unfair to each other, but— when we were good, we were good.”
He lowered his mouth to the side of her neck, lips soft and light. “We were,” he agreed. And then a hesitation. “We are?”
She craned her neck to look at him. The angle was wrong for a kiss, but it was messy and perfect all the same. “We are,” she agreed.
They told McGonagall a month later. Hermione was nervous, full of trepidation as they approached the Headmistress’s office. Draco rolled his eyes and grabbed her hand on the revolving staircase, sighing. “She probably already knows, Granger. Let’s just get it over with,” he said, and towed her through the door.
Minerva was sitting at her desk, spectacles low on her nose. It was an achingly familiar sight, and when she looked up, eyes flashing suspiciously, Hermione was suddenly thirteen years old and in terror she was about to lose points for her House. She surreptitiously let go of Draco and took a seat, but when Draco took the chair next to her he pointedly took her hand again.
“We thought it was time to let you know,” Draco said bluntly, lifting their interlocked fingers up above the desk. “Officially.”
They hadn’t been hiding anything, but they weren’t exactly flaunting it either. Hermione was generally uncomfortable with public displays of affection, and while Draco was— surprisingly, she had to admit— quite the opposite, he had acquiesced to her request. Still, she suspected the rest of the staff had noticed he started sitting by her side during meetings, and that some Saturday mornings she would emerge from his rooms for breakfast instead of her own.
McGonagall sighed, taking her glasses off and pinching the bridge of her nose. She pulled over a file already out on her desk and scribbled something into it. “You can breathe now, Miss Granger,” she said drily. “I’m not going to sack you.”
Hermione cleared her throat and disentangled her hand from Draco. “I wasn’t worried about that,” she said, shooting Draco a dirty look. “It’s just— it’s awkward. Having to have this meeting.”
“For all of us,” McGonagall muttered. “Are you planning on letting students know? Or is this going to be a private affair for now?”
“Private,” Hermione and Draco responded simultaneously. That was one thing they had agreed on early on— students were far too nosy for their own good.
“Quite so,” McGonagall said, and then held out a familiar tin. “Biscuit for your way out, then.”
And that was that.
Draco was waiting for her outside her door as she left for the End of Year Feast. He quirked an eyebrow at her, nodding to her red and gold tie. “Letting your true colors show, are we?” he asked, falling into step beside her. They didn’t normally walk together to meals, but Hermione was running late.
“Says the man wearing a Slytherin tie.” She brushed some of Crookshank’s fur off her sleeve. “How do you not have Orion’s hair all over you?” she grumped.
“Loyalty,” he smirked. “Orion understands where he is and isn’t allowed to shed.” He opened a door for her and let her pass through first. They headed down a narrow back corridor that wound past the empty Transfiguration Department and towards a hidden passage that would put them right behind the Great Hall.
The second Hermione ducked under the tapestry into the passage Draco let it drop and pinned her to the cold stone wall. “Make sure you keep that on,” he whispered into her ear, nipping softly at the side of her throat. “Tonight.”
She curled her fist around his tie in turn. “Secret fantasies about making out with the Gryffindor Head Girl?” she teased.
He pulled back to look her in the eye. “Didn’t think it was that much of a secret,” he said, dipping down to kiss her. His lips lingered, tasting her, and she felt a familiar rush of heat in her belly. “Come on, we’ll be late,” he scolded and pulled away.
She frowned at him and he fought a grin, just managing to compose himself as they walked through the staff doors to the Great Hall. The students were already there and she heard a fresh round of whispers break out at their entrance. McGonagall was motioning for everyone to be seated, Hufflepuff’s colors decorating the walls, and Hermione approached the two empty seats to Lavender’s right.
Draco beat her there by two strides, and ostentatiously swept the chair back, holding onto it until she was seated as roughly half the students gaped. Declan Finnegan stood straight up and pointed at them, but Hermione kept her face carefully blank. Lavender snorted into her roast chicken, and down the table Neville was hiding a laugh behind his water goblet,.
Draco leaned down as he pushed her in. “Don’t worry, I did this for Longbottom last week. That should keep them talking all break,” he said into her ear.
Hermione bit her lip until she could look up without grinning. Draco took the remaining seat next to her and McGonagall commenced her speech with a wry look in their direction.
Hermione kept her eyes on Minerva but halfway through she slipped her hand under the table and curled her pinky around Draco’s.
His body went still. He flicked his gaze in her direction, caution mixed with surprise, and then a glimmer of a smile flitted across his features. He let the sleeve of his robe fall down over their hands and took hers fully in his, squeezing gently before letting it drop and returning to watching McGonagall.
It was enough.