By: Provocative Envy
-Fall – Winter – Spring-
It all starts at Horace Slughorn's annual Halloween dinner party.
That's when Draco meets Harry Potter, at least.
(9:23 pm) i cant believe my father made me come to this
(9:23 pm) fucking
(9:23 pm) bullshit
(9:25 pm) its bullshit blaise
(9:27 pm) didnt he bribe u though
(9:27 pm) he bought u a brewery dude
(9:28 pm) an actual functioning brewery
(9:28 pm) hes even letting u call it something to do w/ dragons
(9:28 pm) because ur a nerd
(9:28 pm) and have a weird boner for game of thrones
(9:29 pm) or
(9:29 pm) alternatively
(9:30 pm) my name is latin for dragon
(9:30 pm) and in other news
(9:30 pm) youre a fucking idiot
(9:31 pm) no shit
(9:31 pm) ?
(9:31 pm) huh
(9:33 pm) anyway
(9:33 pm) nine courses
(9:33 pm) NINE COURSES
(9:34 pm) and im seated next to some asshole from the soccer team who keeps monopolizing slughorn
(9:34 pm) he hasnt left him alone for the past 30 minutes
(9:34 pm) my dads gonna be pissed
(9:35 pm) lol
(9:35 pm) are they serving those tiny little individual chickens
(9:35 pm) the
(9:36 pm) what are they called
(9:37 pm) ?
(9:38 pm) like who the fuck is harry potter
(9:38 pm) he wears glasses for fucks sake
(9:38 pm) i bet theyre not even prescription
(9:38 pm) i bet theyre fake
(9:38 pm) i bet he just wears them so people think hes smart
(9:39 pm) cornish game hens
(9:39 pm) thats what theyre called
(9:39 pm) his jokes aren't even funny
(9:39 pm) what the fuck
(9:39 pm) why are people laughing
(9:44 pm) his name comes up with a bunch of voldemort articles
(9:44 pm) and a coffee table book
(9:44 pm) wow
(9:44 pm) his life SUCKS
(9:45 pm) like
(9:45 pm) damn
(9:45 pm) brother needs a hug
(9:47 pm) im not drnk enough for this bullshit
(9:48 pm) im wearing a $600 shirt
(9:48 pm) this fucker has MUD on his jeans
(9:50 pm) maybe he got dirty when he was running for his life
(9:52 pm) but yeah sure dean mcgonagall i didnt want that special invite to your standing room only lecture on third world nationalism
(9:52 pm) give it to the kid with fucking bedhead
(9:52 pm) who spit out his fucking wine and then asked for a can of sprite
(9:52 pm) didn't someone get poisoned last year at one of slughorns parties
(9:52 pm) maybe the sprites a good call
(9:54 pm) hes a real winner
(9:54 pm) my dads senate seat is absolutely in his future
(9:54 pm) its not like ive been groomed sicne birth for it or anything
(9:55 pm) that would be ridiculous
(9:59 pm) daphne says hi
(9:59 pm) and pansy says to stop sending marcus to pick her up from cheer practice
(10:00 pm) have u really been doing that
(10:01 pm) not cool bro
(10:01 pm) marcus actually likes her
(10:01 pm) but she calls him the hulk
(10:02 pm) and not in a good way
(10:02 pm) daph says its never gonna happen
(10:06 pm) this is a fucking abomination
(10:06 pm) i asked potter who invited him
(10:06 pm) and you know what he said
(10:06 pm) do you blaise
(10:06 pm) DO YOU
(10:06 pm) he said
(10:06 pm) and i quote
(10:07 pm) "i wasn't technically invited, slughorn just kind of cornered me after class and begged me to come and I didn't know how to say no"
(10:09 pm) FUCK MY LIFE
(10:15 pm) are you ever like
(10:15 pm) low key attracted to other guys
(10:15 pm) not in a gay way
(10:15 pm) well
(10:15 pm) maybe in a bi way
(10:15 pm) ?
(10:20 pm) this guy is a fucking moron
(10:21 pm) take theo for example
(10:22 pm) he isn't big on wearing shirts
(10:22 pm) u know what im saying
(10:24 pm) he just asked me what a regatta was
(10:24 pm) is this real
(10:25 pm) and im man enough to appreciate another mans six pack
(10:29 pm) i hate everything
(10:29 pm) which
(10:29 pm) thats normal right
(10:30 pm) he just spilled his fucking sprite on my tie
(10:30 pm) no way was that an accident
(10:34 pm) u do it too right
(10:34 pm) of course u do u live in a frat house
(10:39 pm) im about to lose my shit
(10:39 pm) LOSE
(10:39 pm) MY
(10:39 pm) SHIT
(10:42 pm) bro
(10:42 pm) ur being really dramatic
Draco's nose isn't technically broken.
He feels like it's important to make that distinction.
Grainy camera-phone footage of The Fight makes its way to YouTube, and then a twenty-second clip makes its way onto a locally broadcasted late-night show on Fox News. His father does the thin-lipped imperious nostril-flare thing for the entirety of their weekly Skype call, and his mother fusses and wails piteously for fifteen minutes before briskly making Draco an appointment with her second-favorite plastic surgeon. His professors are mostly bemused by his new configuration of pseudo-celebrity—there's a lot of head-shaking and dogged determination to not acknowledge it—and his academic adviser gapes with unabashed, wide-eyed bewilderment at the tassels on Draco's Italian leather loafers, as if she's trying, and failing miserably, to reconcile the 2280-on-his-SATs-with-no-available-ACT-scores-but-five-kick-ass-personal-recommendations-from-a-variety-of-important-elected-officials version of him that she knows so well with the petty, spoiled, rules-have-obviously-never-applied-and-obviously-never-will hoodlum—thanks for that, Nancy Grace—she watched pour a tureen of butternut squash soup down the back of Harry Potter's sweatshirt.
Draco's frat brothers vacillate between hardcore self-righteous indignation on his behalf and outright mockery depending on how much they've had to drink—Marcus kills half a thirty-rack of Coors Light and has a pair of baby pink boxing gloves shipped to Draco overnight via Amazon Prime, while Vince and Greg bake him an aluminum sheet tray of pot brownies with 'SORRY ABOUT THE ICE PACK' spelled out in neon green icing across the center. Blaise brings him a brown paper bag full of cheap plastic novelty glasses from the Halloween store, and Theo wordlessly hands Draco a heavy, paint-splattered hammer with which to obliterate them.
It's okay for a while.
And then a bunch of assholes on an Internet forum for superheroes write an algorithm that assigns a point value to every punch, slap, and kick of The Fight and unanimously declare Potter the winner and Draco's life gets exponentially shittier.
(3:22 pm) draco
(3:22 pm) srsly man
(3:22 pm) the stairs?
(3:22 pm) u tripped him down the stairs
(3:22 pm) what the fuck
(3:22 pm) ur not regina george
(3:23 pm) u know that right
(3:23 pm) OKAY BUT WAIT
(3:23 pm) he started it
(3:24 pm) goddamn it
(3:24 pm) he took the last copy of utopia
(3:24 pm) which you know i needed for my debate on amnesty for illegal immigrants
(3:25 pm) and he fucking SMILED as he did it blaise
(3:25 pm) smiled
(3:26 pm) and now the illegal immigrants wont get their amnesty
(3:26 pm) ?
(3:26 pm) ur a republican
(3:26 pm) and its all his fault
(3:28 pm) so really he tripped himself down the library stairs
(3:28 pm) i was dispensing justice
(3:29 pm) bro
(3:29 pm) u havent been this crazy since u took pansy to homecoming and her dad made u go to the shooting range w/ him
(3:29 pm) fuck off
(3:30 pm) did u know he has like six crossbows hidden in his car
(3:31 pm) and a knife
(3:31 pm) and a sniper rifle
(3:31 pm) at all times
(3:32 pm) whenever we got to a stop sign hed very casually tell me about all the pressure points on the human body that he knew how to kill people with
(3:32 pm) he offered to demonstrate
(3:32 pm) how did a man that terrifying spawn PANSY
(3:33 pm) 2 be fair
(3:33 pm) pansys kinda scary when shes mad
(3:33 pm) remember wut she did 2 that girl
(3:33 pm) lavender whatever her name was
(3:33 pm) after that whole thing with daph and finnigan and the locker room
(3:34 pm) haha
(3:34 pm) yeah
(3:35 pm) girls are fucking vicious
(3:38 pm) preach
"You!" a shrill, unfamiliar female voice calls after him as he's leaving the upper campus Starbucks with a venti quad caramel macchiato and a sugar cookie shaped like a snowman. "Are you Draco Malfoy?"
He grimaces into his cup—generally speaking, being recognized hasn't been a particularly Good Thing for him lately; Harry Potter, it turns out, has an actual motherfucking fan base.
"Maybe," Draco replies warily, breath misting in the cold December air; his ears are pretty much numb at this point, and he thinks longingly of the rabbit-fur Burberry earmuffs he'd left sitting on his desk. "Who are you?"
The girl stomps over from the opposite side of the courtyard, footsteps quick and angry; she's short and thin—willowy, his brain supplies stupidly—and has a face that would probably be pretty if it wasn't twisted in such a harsh, unforgiving scowl. She has on dark-wash skinny jeans tucked into scuffed brown riding boots and a hideous, puffy white nylon Northface jacket. Her crocheted wool scarf is both purple and blue and looks like it might be handmade. Her lips, he notices as she gets closer, are full and pouty and pink—dry and a little flaky, too, like she has absolutely no idea what Chapstick is.
He doesn't have a type—not exactly—but if he did…
This girl wouldn't be it.
He cannot stop fucking staring at her.
"Hermione Granger," she announces, flashing big brown eyes—pretty, he thinks again, very faintly—and appraising him with an impressively impatient sneer. "You don't know me."
He arches a brow and takes a long, measured gulp of his coffee, swallowing as slowly as he possibly can—this girl reminds him of every single high-strung, stressed-out, overworked grad student on the verge of a panic attack that he's ever seen, and something about the way she's glaring at him makes him really want to annoy her.
"Then why are you talking to me?" he asks bluntly.
She heaves the strap of her army-green canvas laptop bag farther up her shoulder; a trio of aluminum pins are stuck to the outer flap, and he's horrified to see that one of them is a spangled red, white, and blue endorsement for the ACLU.
"Because this ridiculous pissing contest you've got going on with Harry is officially interfering with my life," she snaps, gritting her teeth. "That idiotic prank you pulled last weekend—with the lawn mower and the—the sheep, which, what, where did you even get a sheep, I'm sure it couldn't have been legal—anyway—Harry broke his wrist when he jumped off the bleachers and now can't type, which means that I have to help him, which means that my argument for my mock trial audition isn't getting nearly enough of my attention, which—upsets me. I am upset, and it is your fault, and I will ruin you if you don't start leaving Harry alone."
Draco's mouth falls open.
He clutches his cookie and ignores the shower of crumbs littering his grey cashmere fingerless gloves.
He can't decide if he wants to fuck this girl or fight with her. Maybe both? Maybe at the same time?
"So—you're upset," he says with a nonchalant nod and discreet adjustment of his slightly too-tight khaki corduroys.
She blinks at him, her expression alternating between indignation and incredulity and flat-out fury.
He had been right about her being pretty beneath the intimidation tactics.
"What are you drinking?" she suddenly asks, pointing at his to-go cup.
He frowns and cocks his head to the side.
"A caramel macchiato," he answers, skepticism evident. "But it's mostly espresso. I have a paper on the overwhelming benefits of bipartisanship due tomorrow morning and I haven't even referenced the Cold War yet."
She visibly winces.
"Of course you do," she mutters, pinching the bridge of her nose. "Anyway—is it still hot? Your…caramel macchiato?"
"How hot?" she presses. "Third-degree burns hot? Lukewarm tea hot? Somewhere in between, maybe?"
He considers his cup again and shrugs.
"Somewhere in between, probably. Why?"
He narrows his eyes.
She leans forward, her chest brushing his, and snatches his cup out of his hand.
He clears his throat.
She smiles sweetly.
An incredibly confusing blend of arousal and unease swirls in the pit of his stomach. Is he turned on? Is he frightened? Does it matter?
"I'm only going to say this once more," she says, tone nonthreatening and vaguely conversational; she plucks off the top of his coffee cup and takes a small, hesitant sip, as if to test the temperature.
"What are you—" he tries to ask.
Her smile disappears.
His dick actually twitches.
"Stay away from Harry," she hisses, and then—
She upends his venti quad caramel macchiato all over the front of his navy wool pea coat.
"Motherfucker," he gasps.
(9:52 pm) im staying with you for christmas
(10:05 pm) uh
(10:05 pm) k
(10:05 pm) ?
(10:06 pm) my dad wants to take me to maine
(10:06 pm) for "bonding"
(10:07 pm) and im not fucking falling for that again
(10:08 pm) ur really paranoid
(10:08 pm) would YOU want to be alone on a beach with lucius malfoy and a lobster trap
(10:10 pm) is that a trick question
(10:11 pm) besides
(10:11 pm) he always wants to take pictures of us wearing matching cable knit sweaters and holding footballs by the lighthouse
(10:12 pm) for his instagram
(10:12 pm) and its an election year blaise
(10:12 pm) he might try to hug me
(10:12 pm) or
(10:13 pm) ruffle my hair
(10:13 pm) u look good w/ the black and white filter tho
(10:13 pm) …thank you? i think?
(10:13 pm) save that shit for theo man
(10:13 pm) oh fuck off
(10:13 pm) whatever
(10:14 pm) i dont know why you havent hit that yet
(10:15 pm) stop talking pls
(10:15 pm) he watches the bachelor with you and daphne
(10:15 pm) youre basically all already dating
(10:17 pm) you need to tell marcus that pansy isnt coming on saturday btw
(10:18 pm) BRO
(10:18 pm) no
(10:18 pm) u do it
(10:18 pm) hes too excited
(10:18 pm) it'll be like kicking a puppy
(10:18 pm) a really enormous steroid infused puppy
(10:20 pm) he put mistletoe everywhere
(10:20 pm) like i found some in the lucky charms box
(10:21 pm) he said it was for "the morning after"
(10:22 pm) that level of optimism is somehow both admirable and incredibly depressing
(10:22 pm) idk
(10:22 pm) i thought it was nice
(10:23 pm) shes been turning him down for two and a half years
(10:23 pm) i fucking hate quoting snape
(10:23 pm) but
(10:24 pm) no means no
(10:26 pm) when was the last time snape was even here
(10:26 pm) rush week?
(10:26 pm) when he gave us that speech about hazing
(10:28 pm) fuck if i know
(10:28 pm) wait
(10:28 pm) was that the "literally dont ever contact me unless someones hospitalized" speech
(10:29 pm) or was that a different one
(10:30 pm) yeah no that was like the whole thing
(10:31 pm) thats all he said
(10:31 pm) then he just gave us those printouts about how to do cpr
(10:32 pm) and taught us how to tell if someone needed stitches or not
(10:32 pm) hes kind of bad at his job
(10:33 pm) yeah
(10:34 pm) absolutely
(10:55 pm) hey
(10:55 pm) unrelated question
(10:56 pm) if a girl pours a drink on you
(10:56 pm) can that be considered flirting
(10:59 pm) no means no bro
Draco is phenomenally wasted when he sees Hermione Granger again.
"Holy shit!" he shouts, tugging at the sleeve of Marcus's green velvet elf costume. "What the fuck is she doing here?"
Marcus frowns glumly into the depths of his dented red Solo cup.
"Potter's friend," he answers, clumsily gesturing across the crowded living room; a Sisqo song is blaring from the mismatched speakers set up on either side of the eighty-inch flat-screen, and a sorority girl dressed as a pin-up version of Mrs. Claus is dancing—wobbling?—on top of the cheap plywood coffee table. It's from Ikea. Draco suspects that there will be an injury soon. "The brunette in the red dress—wow, she looks really mad, I wonder—"
"You!" Hermione Granger screeches when she finally notices him, and he wastes a few precious seconds dumbly admiring the almost graceful way she ducks around a highly unpredictable cluster of wasted upperclassmen trying to wrestle and then throws an elbow into the jugular of a communications major Draco doesn't remember the name of who reaches out to grab her ass. "I told you to leave Harry alone!"
He flounders for a socially acceptable response that isn't you're scarier than my father or please touch my penis because it likes you a lot or I lent my legendary econ notes to the captain of the mock trial team in exchange for information about your whereabouts and/or study habits.
"Is this about the pizza?" he blurts out before inwardly chastising himself for his woeful lack of a verbal filter because plausible deniability, shit, he is a terrible drunk, he's usually so much smoother than this—
"The pizza," she echoes, her lips continuing to move even though she isn't, he's pretty sure, still actually talking. "The pizza."
Next to him, Marcus pouts at the sight of Daphne, Blaise, and Theo playing an awkwardly flirtatious, not-at-all street legal game of Spin the Bottle.
Meanwhile, Draco's vision is admittedly a little unfocused as he gazes at Hermione's mouth because she's wearing lipstick, Jesus fuck, and it's shiny and glossy and dark red and he wants to see it smeared all over his cock more than he wants to pass his organic chemistry final next week and that—that's ridiculous. She's ridiculous. His dick is ridiculous. Being repeatedly berated in a public setting by a strangely enthralling left-wing harpy shouldn't give him a semi—especially not when his BAC is more than likely on the absolute wrong side of the decimal point.
"I'm just gonna go to bed," Marcus says, scrunching up his elf hat in one big, meaty hand. "Or maybe to the gym. Weight racks never let you down, you know? Weight racks don't lead you on and lie."
"Fucking right they don't," Draco slurs, turning to fist-bump Marcus. "I'll make you a protein shake before you go, bro—and then when you get back we can drunk dial the shit out of Pansy, it'll be epic, we can pretend to be Pucey and confront her about those crazy sex dreams she thinks none of us know about."
Hermione chokes again.
"Cookies and cream?" Marcus asks hopefully, expression decidedly morose as he glances around the house; every available surface has been draped in freshly cut garlands of Western Red Cedar and strands of twinkling multicolored lights because ever since they'd let Marcus decorate it's sort of been like living in the trailer-park edition of a Crate & Barrel. "With half—"
"Half whole milk, half almond, my man," Draco confirms, clapping a supportive hand against Marcus's shoulder and propelling him towards the staircase. "I've got you. Just go get changed so you can go make that bench press your bitch. I'll be in the kitchen."
Hermione doesn't choke this time, but Draco isn't positive that the speculative look on her face is a much better reaction. He thinks it's probably not.
"That was nice of you," she remarks, voice only slightly stilted.
"Not really," he sniffs. "He just doesn't know how to use the Vitamix. Snape would have us cleaning that shit out of the grout with our toothbrushes if we let Marcus loose in there."
Her lips twitch and her tongue curls around the ridge of her front teeth like she's trying to stave off a smile. Or maybe a grimace. She's incredibly difficult to read.
"Vitamix, huh?" she drawls. "How very one-percent of you."
Her tone is dry enough that he can't quite tell if she's joking or not. He doesn't think she is. The thought makes him bristle, which is—dangerous, honestly, considering his current state of mind, but also kind of relieving, too, because it means that this girl hasn't rendered him completely fucking useless; just mostly. He decides that he can work with that.
"Yeah," he says seriously, "it's great—my dad's accountant even said I could deduct it as a moving expense when he does my taxes next year. Fucking wicked cool, right?"
Her cheeks flush an intriguing shade of pink.
"It's wicked something, certainly."
He offers her his most exaggerated shit-eating grin.
"Tell me, princess—what does that upper middle class hypocrisy of yours actually taste like?" he asks, chugging the last of his beer and taking an unsteady step towards the swinging kitchen door. "Is it sweet? Sour? Umami?"
She takes a deep, ostensibly calming breath and follows him into the kitchen.
"I'm beginning to understand why Harry wanted to break your nose," she says flatly. "I don't normally condone violence, but I think I could be persuaded to alter my stance on that if you happened to be involved."
He sways on his feet as he searches for Marcus's gigantic tub of protein powder.
"Way to stand firm on the important issues and not let your personal feelings cloud your professional judgment," he returns easily, sneering at the tiny plastic cap covering the three-pronged plug of the Vitamix; it just seems so unnecessary. "I'm beginning to understand why you didn't get a call-back for mock trial."
"How did you—no, you know what? It doesn't matter, I don't care, I'm not going to—to debase myself and argue with a—with a close-minded, conservative caricature of every last amoral, disgusting, stereotypical good ol' frat boy since Animal House, okay? I'm just not. So—if you could just—"
He cuts her off with the roaring whir of the blender.
"What was that, princess?" he yells, feigning ignorance. "You want to watch Animal House? American classic, right?"
He flicks the speed up on the Vitamix.
She stretches so that her lips are practically touching his ear.
And he thinks about her lipstick and then he thinks about her lipstick on his skin and then he thinks, again, about her lipstick on his cock and—
By sheer force of his iron Malfoy will, he manages not to shiver.
"Cancel the pizza orders," she snarls. "All of them. Harry isn't even home this weekend, and since we live together and I'm supposed to be hosting my Latin study group's Saturnalia party tonight, I can't very well let the doorbell ring every fifteen minutes and expect anyone to remember their declensions, so—just—fucking—cancel them."
He switches the blender off.
He turns to face her.
He opens his mouth to respond wittily and scathingly and awesomely but ultimately gets distracted by how soft and creamy her skin looks in the flickering kitchen light because he's pathetic, Jesus fuck, and then—
"Mistletoe!" Marcus hollers from the doorway.
Hermione makes a high-pitched sound in the back of her throat that reminds Draco a little of his mother's extensive stable of Bavarian Warmbloods during breeding season.
"Did someone say mistletoe?!" the pin-up Mrs. Claus shrieks, stumbling into the kitchen with what looks like half her goddamn sorority and that same fucking communications major whose eyes are still superglued to Hermione's ass, seriously, who the fuck does he think he—
"Make them stop," Hermione whispers anxiously, grabbing the lapel of Draco's Marc Jacobs reindeer cardigan.
"Um," he says. "What."
"Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!" Marcus bellows over the chorus of the N*SYNC Christmas album; a really incomprehensibly large crowd has gathered, squeezing themselves into the narrow space around the kitchen island, and Draco can feel every inch of Hermione's body—lithe and small and warm and pliant and fuck fuck fuck—pressed into his side as she stares out at the writhing mass of sorority girls with thinly veiled alarm.
"Malfoy, I swear to God—"
"Mistletoe!" the girls are chanting.
"It's just a kiss," he interjects, because despite his rapidly clearing head and newfound desperate need for more alcohol, he legitimately doesn't see the big deal about a fucking kiss under the fucking mistletoe.
"I don't want—I don't want to!" she insists, a shrill note of panic entering her voice.
And he has to glance down at her, then, because he's an asshole at the best of times, sure, but he's not that kind of asshole and he isn't about to force this girl into anything she's this uncomfortable doing, especially not when she's apparently frozen with—his stomach curls in on itself—either fear or apprehension, it doesn't really matter which, and she's clenching her hands into white-knuckled fists around the fabric of his cardigan and he hasn't ever been anyone's hero, hasn't ever cared to be, but he thinks about what he'd do if she was Pansy or Daphne or Astoria and he's wrapping an arm around her waist and hauling her through the crowd and out of the kitchen and they're standing in the shadows of the empty backyard veranda before he even realizes he's moved and—
"Your friends are terrible," she seethes, crossing her arms over her abdomen and inadvertently pushing her breasts together and really, he thinks in despair, just—really? He goes out of his goddamn way to sort of rescue the figurative distressed damsel and actual torture is his reward?
"Yeah," he agrees, belatedly. He pauses. "You're not going to, like…freak out, are you? Do I need to call someone? Potter?"
She eyes him with confusion and blatant distrust and it occurs to him somewhat vaguely that maybe it's for the best that he has a snowball's chance in hell with this girl—she seems like her inherent super-type-A personality issues even have issues, and that's…a lot of fucking issues. He has his own brand of crazy to work through. He doesn't have the energy to deal with hers, too.
"You'd do that? Call Harry? Even though you—I mean, the two of you—you have your thing? Your fight thing?"
He furrows his brow.
She studies his face for several moments—like she's memorizing his features and cataloguing his micro-expressions and searching for meaning or order or chaos or who the fuck knows and he usually despises being looked at so intently, so earnestly, usually doesn't allow anyone close enough to even get the chance to try—but—
He's a little drunk and a little wrecked and a little stupid and she's fucking beautiful.
"And you're not going to ask me what that—what happened? What that was all about in there?"
He lazily half-smiles at her question, crooked and genuine—because sometimes he forgets how open and honest and direct other people can be. They say what they think as they think it and they equate masking their feelings with weakness rather than self-preservation and it's always so bizarre to be confronted like this—upfront and fucking personal—by their unwavering belief that honesty is a foregone conclusion.
"No," he replies, amused. "I'm not going to ask."
He tucks his hands into the pockets of his jeans and thinks wistfully about lying to her. He already knows he isn't going to.
"Because…well, two reasons, I guess," he muses, kicking at the sharp-edged gravel paving the yard around the veranda; he remembers that there used to be a rake for it, once upon a time, and absently wonders where it went. He guesses it's hidden with the stolen street signs in Theo's bathroom. "First—I don't really want to ask. It's fifty-fifty, I figure, on whether or not you'll cry if I do, and crying girls are basically my kryptonite, so—thanks, but no thanks, right?"
Her lips curve up just the tiniest bit.
"And the second reason?"
"That seems like a dangerous proposition with you."
He ducks his head and looks away to hide his grin because Jesus fuck does this girl not need to know how much he likes this—likes her.
"The second reason," he says, drawing the words out and trying not to stall too obviously, "is that if I was you…and you were me…and this was all reversed…"
"You could ask," he shrugs, "but I wouldn't tell you the truth. I save the harrowing emotional bullshit for one-night-stands whose numbers I conveniently lose the next morning, you know?"
Her eyes widen with surprise and understanding and wonder and—resignation?
"Damn it," she sighs.
"What?" he blurts out.
She just sighs again.
And then she's shaking her head and yanking his face down and into hers and she's kissing him fast and firm and fierce and he really isn't sure what's going on but her tongue is involved and his hand is two-thirds of the way up the skirt of her dress and she's moaning into his mouth loud enough that he can feel the vibration of it in his fucking tonsils, shit, and her hips are rocking and his dick is hard and it's like every embarrassing wet dream he's had since the day he met her because he's brushing the tips of his fingers around and against and under the scalloped lace edge of her panties and she isn't stopping him and he processes damp cotton and slick, swollen flesh and a small, fine-boned hand massaging the head of his cock and he can't—
His brain short-circuits.
His vision whites out.
(9:22 am) its been like a week since uve done anything stupid to potter
(9:22 am) r u sick
(9:24 am) im literally in your guest room
(9:24 am) we just had breakfast together
(9:24 am) i made those disgusting buckwheat pancakes
(9:24 am) that you and your new stepdad think taste good
(9:24 am) chip off the old block there buddy
(9:25 am) yeah
(9:25 am) but u whistled
(9:25 am) while u did it
(9:25 am) so
(9:25 am) i'll ask again bro
(9:25 am) r u sick
(9:27 am) ?
(9:28 am) do handjobs count as sex
(9:28 am) what the fuck
(9:28 am) it's a valid question
(9:29 am) is this about the porn vince and greg downloaded on ur ipad
(9:29 am) no of course not
(9:29 am) wait what
(9:29 am) ?
(9:30 am) nvm
(9:30 am) handjobs aren't sex
(9:31 am) daphne says
(9:33 am) daphne is here?
(9:33 am) do you keep her in your closet or something jesus christ
(9:34 am) why would i keep her in my closet
(9:34 am) thats creepy
(9:34 am) shes always with you but shes somehow also always with pansy
(9:35 am) THAT'S creepy
(9:36 am) whtever man
(9:36 am) she says shes gonna own ur ass in black ops later
(9:36 am) ?
(9:36 am) u play call of duty together
(9:36 am) ?
(9:36 am) when did that start
(9:36 am) and how come u didn't invite me
(9:36 am) low blow dude
(9:37 am) what do u guys even talk about
(9:37 am) marcus and pansy?
(9:37 am) me?
(9:37 am) ?
(9:37 am) you come up yeah
(9:37 am) occasionally
(9:37 am) like
(9:37 am) in what context
(9:39 am) let me put it this way
(9:39 am) i know way too fucking much about your sex life
(9:39 am) and i can never figure out if daphnes bragging or trying to scare me
(9:40 am) bragging probably
(9:40 am) has she mentioned roleplaying at all
(9:40 am) ?
(9:40 am) jesus fuck
(9:40 am) so handjobs aren't sex
(9:40 am) whats the logic in that
(9:40 am) bro
(9:40 am) pay attention
(9:41 am) is it the lack of penetration
(9:41 am) that's it isn't it
(9:41 am) what about threesomes
(9:41 am) did she mention those
(9:42 am) blowjobs though
(9:44 am) blowjobs have to count
(9:45 am) wait
(9:45 am) did someone give u a handjob
(9:45 am) ?
(9:45 am) that sucks bro
(9:46 am) seriously
(9:46 am) seriously blaise
(9:47 am) last time u talked about handjobs
(9:48 am) we were in eighth grade
(9:48 am) u took up like a whole page in the back of my yearbook
(9:48 am) exactly
(9:49 am) im basking in the exquisite warmth of my memories of our glory days
(9:49 am) lol
(9:49 am) glory days
(9:49 am) what
(9:50 am) im just thinking about all the hair gel u used to go through
He asks her to meet him for coffee two days before Christmas.
She says no.
He asks her to go see the new Mission Impossible movie with him the day after Christmas because fuck anyone who thinks that Tom Cruise isn't still a badass.
She says no.
He asks her to dinner on the twenty-ninth, and he asks her to brunch on the thirtieth, and he asks her to come to Pansy's New Year's party with him on the thirty-first.
She says no.
She doesn't offer any flimsy excuses or attempt to lie to him about being busy—her rejections are polite and perfunctory, and the calm, collected, apathetic voice she uses when he calls her—
That shit stings.
(11:45 am) u awake
(11:50 am) ?
(11:52 am) no
(11:54 am) ur freaking everyone out
(11:55 am) daph says u spent all of last night doing shots in the kitchen w/ that weird communications major
(11:55 am) mclaggen
(11:55 am) u kept telling him u were 'comrades in the battlefield of love'
(11:56 am) and fist bumping
(12:04 pm) draco
(12:10 pm) ?
(12:11 pm) seriously bro
(12:19 pm) we're worried
(12:25 pm) how did you get daphne to agree to date you
(12:26 pm) this is about a girl?
(12:27 pm) what the hell
(12:27 pm) who?
(12:29 pm) do u even know girls who aren't daphne and pansy
(12:30 pm) fuck off
(12:31 pm) i know tons of girls
(12:31 pm) i live in a fucking frat house
(12:32 pm) as you like to point out ALL THE TIME when youre trying to justify your gigantic bisexual boner for theo
(12:33 pm) bro
(12:33 pm) u used to hyperventilate when u talked to girls at parties
(12:34 pm) and literally miss ur mouth if u tried to take a sip of ur drink
(12:35 pm) u took pansy to all our formals in high school because u knew u wouldnt have to make out w/ her at the end of the night
(12:35 pm) ur like the worst with girls
(12:36 pm) daph calls u an awkward turtle
(12:36 pm) and i don't really get that reference
(12:37 pm) but
(12:38 pm) i got to third base with potters hot best friend
(12:38 pm) at the christmas party
(12:38 pm) POTTERS BEST FRIEND
(12:39 pm) shes hot
(12:39 pm) that's important
(12:40 pm) but not as important as the part where shes POTTERS BEST FRIEND and therefore despises me on principle which makes hooking up with her even more impressive
(12:44 pm) handjob girl?
(12:44 pm) i don't think that counts as third base bro
(12:50 pm) you tricked daphne into dating you though
(12:50 pm) right
(12:51 pm) like she said no at first
(12:51 pm) and you had to really wear her down for awhile
(12:51 pm) right
(12:52 pm) what the fuck
(12:52 pm) you probably had to buy her a lot of presents
(12:53 pm) um
(12:53 pm) maybe show up at her window with a boombox
(12:53 pm) u have a boombox?
(12:53 pm) where did u find that
(12:54 pm) call her a few times a day
(12:54 pm) sometimes she called me
(12:55 pm) hack her twitter to triangulate her gps coordinates
(12:55 pm) how do u even know how to do that
(12:55 pm) wait
(12:55 pm) no
(12:56 pm) nevermind
(12:56 pm) bro
(12:56 pm) remember what snape said about restraining orders
(1:10 pm) false alarm
(1:10 pm) she doesnt have a twitter
He's leaving Dean & Deluca when he sees Hermione Granger again.
It's the Saturday before the new semester starts and there's a thin layer of frost covering the asphalt in the parking lot; he's stocking up on burlap sacks of imported Bolivian coffee beans, crumbling wedges of Stilton bleu, and freshly emulsified blocks of quince paste. She's standing outside of Petco in a heather grey ASPCA sweatshirt and smiling kindly at a group of Girl Scouts asking to play with one of the Doberman puppies yipping from the inside of a gigantic cardboard crate—a flapping nylon banner above her head reads 'PET ADOPTIONS' in obnoxious red Comic Sans.
He gapes at her, crushes the keys to his Cayenne in a white-knuckled fist, and fucking dithers.
Because it's been sixteen days since he'd last attempted to contact her—or coerce her into dating him, whatever—and he doesn't know if he's supposed to leave her alone in all future social situations or if it's okay to casually approach her and pretend that he wants to adopt a Doberman.
His thumb bumps against a button on his keys.
It's mostly an accident.
The honking abrasive wail of his car alarm echoes around the parking lot, triggering a panicked miasma of barking from the puppies at Hermione's feet. She's quick to glance over her shoulder and search for the culprit as she coos soothingly at the dogs, and he offers her a sheepish, plaintive wave when she notices him wincing at the noise his car is making.
"Seriously?" she calls out, jerking her chin at his keys and scratching one of the puppies around the ears with practiced efficiency. "Turn it off!"
He fumbles to press the unlock button. The ensuing silence is weirdly fucking loud.
"Sorry about that," he says, sauntering over to her with his left hand tucked into the pocket of his fleece-lined black hoodie; he hasn't shaved since Monday, and he has on the same grey skinny jeans he'd worn the day before, but there's a promising pink flush on her cheeks as she watches him move closer and he thinks a little smugly that she might not be as immune to him as she wants him to believe she is.
"It's fine," she replies tersely, bringing the puppy up to her chest. Her eyes flick down, and then to the side, and then away from him altogether. "They're just startled."
He nods and crosses his arms over his lower abdomen.
"Yeah," he says. He clears his throat. "They're—cute. How old?"
Her brow furrows slightly and he can't really blame her because it's looking a lot like Blaise and Daphne were actually right about him being legitimately fucking terrible with girls.
Jesus fuck, he might as well suit up and join the fucking Girl Scout troop that just left.
"Nine weeks," she answers, shaking her head. "Um—what are you doing here, Draco?"
He jiggles the handle of his white paper grocery bag.
"Coffee?" she guesses.
The dog rears up to lick her cheek.
"Cheese," Hermione says carefully. "Cheese is…school supplies."
"And cheese accoutrements, yes."
"You're ridiculous," she says, sounding dazed.
He flashes her a sly half-smile, which seems to fluster her, which is fucking fantastic.
"And I'm pretty sure you're going to strangle that dog if you hold onto it any tighter," he drawls. "So. You know. No one's perfect, right?"
She immediately loosens her grip on the puppy and turns around to put it back in the cardboard pen. She fusses with something he can't see for a minute. Her posture is visibly stiff.
"Right," she says, still not facing him. "Well, I'm sure you have tons of stuff to do—"
"—classes to register for—"
"Yeah, definitely did that in November."
"—high school friends to hang out with—"
"Kind of sick of them at this point, to be honest."
"—errands to run—"
"Nope, just the one."
"—laundry to do—"
"—packing to finish—"
"I have a guy for that."
"—textbooks to buy—"
"—trying to be nice, but, look, we have nothing to talk about, so can you just—go? Please?"
He pauses at the 'please' and it occurs to him that maybe he's been reading this whole situation wrong all along—maybe she really doesn't like him. Maybe he's been unwittingly playing the bumbling Marcus to her less-bitchy Pansy since the night of the Christmas party when he'd rescued her from the mistletoe and Jesus fuck had she given him some kind of thank-you handjob? Did those exist?
"I could go, yeah," he replies slowly. "Just—I don't think it's all that accurate to say that we have nothing to talk about, do you?"
She bends down to pet another puppy, and he cocks his head to the side as he rakes his eyes over the pronounced, heart-shaped curve of her ass; he doesn't stare, not exactly, but he doesn't not stare, either—there's a fine line between creepy and opportunistic and he gives approximately zero fucks about skating it.
"You're right," she says, straightening her back and turning to look at him. "That isn't accurate. We have plenty to talk about—I just don't want to talk about it."
He licks his lips.
"Shouldn't I be the one trying to avoid this conversation?" he asks curiously. "You know, because of—"
Her face darkens.
"Why?" she demands, cutting him off. "Because I'm a girl and therefore emotionally incapable of appreciating the merits of no-strings-attached sex? That's it, isn't it? I swear to God, this absurd double standard women have to endure about what they can and cannot do with their own bodies while running the risk of—of being slut-shamed—"
"What? No, I didn't mean—" he interjects weakly.
"—and for what, so I can be deemed good enough for some—some asshole ex-frat-boy investment banker to agree to eventually marry? Two-point-five kids and a white picket fence in the suburbs, living the dream, but only if I publicly act like my hymen reattaches itself as a reward for every blowjob I give—"
"I really didn't mean it like—"
"—disgusting objectification of our sexualities, like we're—we're Pokémon, or something, have to catch us all, triple points for a flexible blonde virgin without a gag reflex—"
"No! What are you—I meant—I meant shouldn't I be trying to avoid this conversation because of Potter!" Draco finally whisper-shouts, dropping his forgotten Dean & Deluca bag and taking an exasperated step forward.
She wrinkles her nose.
"Because of my—fight thing with him!" Draco explains, waving his arms. "He's your best friend! He's probably crazy fucking protective of you, and the last time he saw me in person I literally pushed him down a spiral staircase! A metal one! And before you go on another tirade about how you can take care of yourself and don't need him to interfere, I mostly—I meant—look, two of my best friends are girls, okay, and I'm fucking terrified of them ninety percent of the time because they are terrifying and cunningand terrifying—but I'd still want to run Potter over with a fucking eighteen-wheeler if he ever looked twice at them, let alone did—what you and I did. It isn't a commentary on their gender, or mine, or yours, or—whatever—it's a commentary on how much I love them and hate Potter, and I'm going to go out on a fucking limb, here, and assume it'd be the same for him with you. And me. Okay?"
She lets her mouth hang open for a long, long moment and then snaps it shut.
Her expression softens, and then hardens, and then crumples with doubt and fear and frustration and defeat, which—shouldn't be attractive.
And it isn't.
But Jesus fuck she's still the prettiest girl he's ever seen.
"Damn it," she sighs, just like she had at the Christmas party.
"What?" he asks cautiously, mostly because it had worked for him last time.
She just sighs again.
"This doesn't mean anything," she says, closing off the distance between them and winding the black woven laces of his hoodie around her fingers. "I don't want to date you. I don't have time for a relationship. This isn't—it's not serious. We're not serious. No one can find out what we're doing, either, especially not—especially not Harry."
"And what is it we're doing, princess?"
She flattens her palms against his chest and scowls up at him and he's taken aback by how fucking tiny she is, the top of her head barely skimming the point of his chin. It fits her, though, he decides suddenly—he likes that she's dainty and feminine and fragile on the outside, likes that she's searing and sharp and volatile on the inside—she's unpredictable in all the ways that make him nervous, and he kind of wants to keep her.
"You're ridiculous," she grits out, repeating her own words from earlier.
He curls his arms around her waist, folds her body into his, places his hands on her hips and squeezes just so he can watch her gasp and arch her back and press in a little closer.
"Yeah," he agrees solemnly, "I really am."
(2:00 pm) hey
(2:02 pm) what do u want
(2:02 pm) im in class
(2:02 pm) guess what
(2:03 pm) no
(2:03 pm) come on
(2:03 pm) one guess
(2:04 pm) no
(2:05 pm) im learning
(2:05 pm) bullshit
(2:05 pm) fifty bucks says you don't even know what class youre in right now
(2:07 pm) fuck u
(2:07 pm) just guess goddamn it
(2:07 pm) NO
(2:08 pm) please
(2:08 pm) i'll do you a solid and go to that wizards game with marcus next week
(2:09 pm) u and i aren't interchangeable u know
(2:09 pm) hes going to eventually notice im not there
(2:09 pm) esp when u put on the CUSTOM FUCKING JERSEY he bought me
(2:10 pm) idk why he thinks i like basketball
(2:10 pm) he didn't
(2:10 pm) did he really?
(2:10 pm) is it because im black
(2:10 pm) hold on
(2:11 pm) i need to see this
(2:15 pm) oh my god
(2:15 pm) i know bro
(2:15 pm) like i love the guy
(2:16 pm) but
(2:17 pm) oh my god
(2:17 pm) sometimes i wish he wasnt so sensitive u know
(2:17 pm) have you actually seen it
(2:17 pm) the jersey
(2:18 pm) ?
(2:18 pm) nah
(2:18 pm) why
(2:18 pm) oh no reason
(2:18 pm) Z-BONE
(2:20 pm) pls tell me this is one of ur really shitty jokes
(2:20 pm) that hurts
(2:20 pm) z-bone
(2:20 pm) that hurts a lot
(2:20 pm) ur such an asshole
(2:20 pm) almost enough to distract me from the fact that you haven't guessed yet
(2:21 pm) ur so annoying when ur in a good mood
(2:22 pm) just take a guess z-bone
(2:23 pm) idk
(2:23 pm) did u get another handjob
(2:23 pm) ha
(2:23 pm) ive upgraded actually
(2:23 pm) but
(2:23 pm) no
(2:23 pm) incorrect
(2:24 pm) did u finally manage to get potters name on the no fly list
(2:25 pm) ugh
(2:25 pm) no
(2:26 pm) the tsa is literally run by fascists
(2:26 pm) probably not
(2:28 pm) anyway
(2:28 pm) z-bone
(2:28 pm) what you failed to guess
(2:29 pm) srsly stop calling me that
(2:30 pm) is that
(2:30 pm) i'll tell snape u let marcus use the vitamix
(2:30 pm) IT'S MAN CRUSH MONDAY
(2:30 pm) oh fuck off
(2:30 pm) and do you know what that means
(2:31 pm) DO YOU BLAISE
(2:31 pm) why am i still friends w/ u
(2:32 pm) OF COURSE YOU DO
(2:32 pm) no
(2:32 pm) IT MEANS THAT YOU CAN FINALLY ACT ON THE EPIC HOMOEROTIC SUBTEXT OF YOUR FRIENDSHIP WITH THEO
(2:32 pm) stop
(2:32 pm) #mcm
(2:32 pm) seriously
(2:32 pm) #thlaise
(2:33 pm) really bro?
(2:33 pm) #bleo
(2:33 pm) no
(2:33 pm) YES
(2:35 pm) i don't know what your hang up about him is
(2:36 pm) daphnes on board
(2:39 pm) like
(2:39 pm) REALLY on board
(2:39 pm) like im uncomfortable talking about it with her shes so on board
(2:44 pm) anyway
(2:46 pm) what the fuck is matlab
(2:47 pm) and do we rlly have an engineering school
(2:49 pm) ?
(2:50 pm) youre a moron
(2:51 pm) this is why you dont wake and bake with vince and greg before your registration appointments
(2:51 pm) z-bone
(2:52 pm) yeah
(2:53 pm) that was a bad call
(2:54 pm) and you owe me fifty bucks
(2:54 pm) dipshit
(2:54 pm) i fucking knew you didnt know what class you were in
Draco readily agrees to Hermione's weird relationship rules—one of which is to never, ever, ever refer to their relationship as an actual relationship because were aren't serious, Draco and I don't have time for that, Draco and Harry would castrate you, Draco—and she starts to use his bedroom as a secondary-library-slash-storage-unit for the admittedly pretty fearsome hoard of reference books she's always carrying around. She doesn't like PDA, often refuses to let him pay for dinner, and won't follow him on any of her social media accounts on the off-chance that Potter sees and throws a temper tantrum. Draco occasionally wonders why he isn't more offended by her attitude towards him—towards them—but realizes at the end of January that he gets it, gets why she's so adamant about keeping whatever's between them surface-deep and casual—because he isn't all that sure he knows what label he'd put on it—on them—even if she gave him the opportunity to try.
She vehemently denies being his girlfriend, but can't seem to stop doing things that he recognizes from all the romantic comedies Pansy's made him watch over the years as very, very girlfriend-y.
She replaces Draco's organic no-stir peanut butter with something in a mason jar that's grainy and free-trade and gross and apparently comes from a farmer's market. She installs an ugly blue plastic recycling bin in the kitchen when she notices the trash bags full of beer cans stacked in the corner of the living room. She smacks sloppy kisses on his cheek and his neck and his forehead when her alarm goes off in the mornings—way earlier than she technically needs to be awake, but her neuroses are both widely varied and incredibly persistent so he stops complaining about them sometime in the beginning of February—and she proofreads his paper on the contemporary political symbolism that can be found in the incestuous relationships depicted in Game of Thrones—you're totally a Stark, he tells her fondly, all that 'death before dishonor' shit—and she begins sorting his laundry for him after she witnesses him ball up a cherry-red Lacoste polo and chuck it in the washing machine with his white socks and undershirts.
He goes down on her for the first time on Valentine's Day—she had just summarily rejected the sterling silver sapphire-pendant necklace he'd presented her with over dinner at a vegan steakhouse, and he had been pissed and maybe a little petulant because there is not enough salt in the world to make chargrilled tempeh and chickpea oil taste even remotely like anything he actually wants to eat—and he takes a somewhat frightening amount of pleasure in watching her come and come and come with his teeth around her clit and three of his fingers curled up inside her cunt.
He can acknowledge, even if it's only to himself, that there's an odd, almost competitive edge to the sex they have; it's always aggressive, always exhausting, and always fueled by something complicated and mysterious that makes his blood run burning and rampant and violent in his veins because she's gorgeous, yeah, gorgeous and intriguing and so, so smart—but she's also really fucking irritating.
She religiously watches the Daily Show and she leaves an astonishing number of flannel shirts in the drawer he clears out for her in his dresser and she maintains a blog that she claims is about feminism but seems to be mostly made up of cat memes and ferociously mean jokes about the French prime minister. She listens to shitty underground indie bands, her favorite movie is a toss-up between Titanic and Apocalypse Now, and she loyally attends all of Potter's soccer games despite her obvious disdain for organized sports and what they represent in a large-scale societal context.
It's a conundrum.
She's a conundrum.
Draco wonders what, exactly, it is about her that has him acting like a belligerent lovelorn idiot—he wants to dismiss his infatuation as purely physical, a helpless chemical reaction to her legs or her ass or her eyes, to the softness of her skin beneath his lips or the fever-hot clutch of her cunt around his cock. It would be easier, he thinks, if their not-a-relationship-but-kind-of-still-a-relationship…thing was only about sex. He could deal with her cagey, awkward evasiveness when he brings up her other friends—a family of tall, obnoxious redheads he's never met—and her strangely desperate attempts to change the subject when he brings up her plans for the summer—receptionist duties for her parents' dental practice in Alexandria—and her knee-jerk instinctive annoyance when he brings up Potter and what Potter might say once he inevitably finds out about Draco and Hermione's not-a-relationship-but-kind-of-still-a-relationship…thing.
He could deal with all of that if it was only about sex, but—
It isn't only about sex, and it's a big fucking problem.
In April, he surprises her with tickets to a resort in Ibiza for an epic spring break sex-cation; she bites her lip—more fucking kryptonite, Jesus fuck—and then dryly informs him that she's already signed on for a Habitat for Humanity project in Alabama. He isn't sure how it happens—shameless manipulation and exaggerated pouting and fucking sorcery, no doubt—but he winds up sharing a lumpy queen-sized bed with her in a shitty airport Marriott in Mobile and getting motherfucking blisters from lugging around power tools and impossibly enormous sheets of plywood. It isn't really worth the sunburn or the splinters or the sweat—at least, it isn't until he glances at his own reflection in the shiny new windowpane he's installing and catches the expression on her face when she looks at him—when she thinks he can't see her—and it's soft and it's wistful and it hits him like a fucking sucker punch to the kidney because he wants more.
They have a Serious Fight in mid-May—a cheerful, middle-aged waitress at an off-campus diner famous for its cinnamon French toast and hollandaise calls Hermione his girlfriend as she's dropping off the check and Draco doesn't bother correcting her because hashing out the bizarre complexities of the not-a-relationship-but-kind-of-still-a-relationship…thing that he has going on with Hermione seems a little preposterous, honestly, especially when they're not around anyone they legitimately have to explain themselves to. So—he just smiles and extracts two twenties from his wallet and doesn't notice how quiet Hermione's gotten until they're sitting in his car and he's turning on the air conditioning and absently reaching for her hand like he always does and she—she pulls away, which is weird, but then the next fifteen minutes are jam-packed with we agreed it wasn't like that, Draco and you should've said something, Draco, and stop thinking this is something that it isn't, Draco and it's like the worst, mostly viciously timed wake-up call he's ever had because I don't understand what the big deal is, Hermione and you could have just as easily said something back there, Hermione and sorry if someone thinking you're my girlfriend is such an offense to your fucking superiority complex, Hermione—
They don't talk for two weeks.
He wants to fix it, fix them, wants to apologize, even if he doesn't mean it, wants to chase her like he's been chasing her for months, since the night they met, since the night she poured coffee down the front of his coat and stole his breath and his voice and his sanity, Jesus fuck, but he isn't stupid. He can't fix it, he can't apologize, and he's fucking tired of chasing her. Maybe, he thinks bitterly, she should have to fix it; maybe she should have to apologize.
She doesn't, of course, but she does show up at the end of the month with her textbooks and a binder full of color-coded notes and a shaky, miserable-looking half-smile that makes him wonder if she hadn't missed him almost as much as he'd missed her; he hesitates before he lets her into his room, though, and he watches her fidget guiltily with the edge of a pillowcase—her pillowcase, her side of the bed, hers hers hers because she'd carved a place into his life that had felt really fucking empty when she hadn't been there and he doesn't know how to tell her that, doesn't know how to articulate all the ways that his feelings for her have spiraled out of control—but then he's striding towards her and dragging her to her feet and kissing her and neither of them have actually said anything and—he doesn't care about talking, not just yet, not when he has something else to prove, something else to remind her of.
He bends her over the front of his dresser, bunches her sundress up around her hips, fucks her from behind—keep your eyes open, he murmurs, mirror's right there, baby, come on, watch yourself come, just like that—and he can pinpoint the precise moment she realizes what he's doing; what he's making her see.
And when finals roll around in early June, he's pretty sure she stops sleeping—she drinks all of his Bolivian coffee, goes through four-packs of Red Bull with an efficiency that would be alarming if it wasn't so impressive, and randomly bursts into tears if he tries to gently direct her to a bed or a couch or a bottle of Nyquil, Jesus fuck. She passes out on his chest the night before her formal debate for her economic policies class and wakes up in a small puddle of her own drool, frantic and pink-cheeked and fretful and there's something about the trembling in her fingers as she does up the zipper on her pencil skirt that reminds him of the Christmas party, of her wild-eyed panic underneath the mistletoe—so he kisses her goodbye, suffers through the written portion of his international relations exam, and resolves to surprise her with a half-dozen of those disgusting red bean paste mochi she likes so much when she's done with her debate. Except she isn't done when he gets there and it's fucking hot outside, hot and humid and awful, so he sneaks into the back of the lecture hall to watch her, really hoping she might make someone cry—winning arguments always makes her horny and fuck yeah he is here for that—but that isn't what's happening.
His eyebrows climb up and up and up, and his hands tighten around the Japanese bakery box, and he can't do anything but stare as Hermione completely falls apart.
Stage fright, he thinks clinically. Fear of crowds—singular attention—public speaking. Bombed her mock trial audition. Hyperventilated when confronted by a swarm of sorority girls. Heightened distress reflex and debilitating insomnia triggered by nerves and anxiety and—
He slinks out of the auditorium and leans against the wall next to the double doors and considers what to do with this unexpected new piece of the puzzle that is his not-a-relationship-but-kind-of-still-a-relationship…thing with Hermione. She didn't confide in him, didn't willingly disclose her vulnerability, and that leads him to conclude that there is a Story, here, probably about her Past, and he'd be a fucking idiot to push her into sharing it with him before she's ready to. He's a politician's son, after all—he understands secrets, understands the value of keeping an emotional ledger, of liability checks and balances, of leveraging strength and camouflaging weakness. So. No. He won't push her, not about this.
Other things, though—
He's going to push those, he decides abruptly.
(03:22 am) so
(03:22 am) you know how i've been MIA all semester
(03:23 am) what
(03:24 am) and i'm always busy when you want to come over
(03:25 am) so you have to hang out with theo or marcus or vince and greg instead
(03:25 am) uh
(03:25 am) sure
(03:25 am) yeah
(03:25 am) super lame bro
(03:25 am) well
(03:26 am) theres a reason for that
(03:26 am) i know
(03:26 am) ur boning handjob girl
(03:26 am) props
(03:27 am) ur eighth grade self would be proud of ur progress
(03:28 am) oh fuck you
(03:28 am) nah
(03:28 am) theos more my type
(03:28 am) …and daphnes
(03:28 am) FINALLY
(03:29 am) yeah
(03:29 am) finally
(03:33 am) i want to introduce her to you guys
(03:33 am) ur girl?
(03:33 am) didnt u say it wasnt serious
(03:34 am) ?
(03:34 am) it wasn't
(03:34 am) it isn't
(03:34 am) technically
(03:34 am) but it SHOULD be
(03:34 am) oh god
(03:34 am) and she KNOWS that
(03:35 am) she probably doesnt
(03:35 am) shes just fucking stubborn
(03:35 am) draco
(03:35 am) so im taking matters into my own hands
(03:35 am) pls dont
(03:36 am) and since she finds my devotion to all of you assholes endearing
(03:38 am) devotion?
(03:39 am) what the fuck
(03:39 am) she'll probably fucking SWOON if she sees us in our natural habitat
(03:39 am) of togetherness
(03:40 am) or whatever
(03:40 am) bro
(03:40 am) no
(03:41 am) its a solid plan
(03:41 am) this is a bad plan
(03:42 am) i just need to figure out a way to neutralize pansy
(03:42 am) oh my god
(03:42 am) she can be a little much at first you know
(03:43 am) this is not going to go how u think its going to go
(03:43 am) i also need to find potter a fucking girlfriend
(03:43 am) bro
(03:44 am) he dumped his old one apparently
(03:44 am) and hes like the neediest platonic friend ever
(03:44 am) what are u even talking about
(03:45 am) swear to god
(03:46 am) pls stop
(03:47 am) do you think pansy would go for him
(03:48 am) y r u always throwing pansy at people
(03:48 am) it would be convenient if she did
(03:48 am) her dad has so many weapons
(03:49 am) this is gonna be the best summer ever man
(03:49 am) im fucking PUMPED
(03:50 am) no
On the last day of June, Draco invites Hermione to Daphne's annual Fourth of July party.
That is, it turns out, a really fucking colossal mistake.