By: Provocative Envy
It happens like this.
There are frozen strawberry margaritas and coolers full of electric blue Otter Pops. There's a viciously competitive beer pong tournament out on the deck, a math major home from Cornell taking bets and calculating odds, and a turquoise tear-shaped swimming pool teeming with 'Murica-themed toys—Draco isn't sure where Daphne even found an inflatable shotgun, but Pansy spends fifteen minutes looking really fucking smug when he tries to ask, so he figures he's better off not knowing.
The city-sanctioned fireworks start at ten.
The fireworks of dubious-but-likely-illegal-origin start about an hour later.
Hermione doesn't show up.
Draco stops bothering with his margarita glass and begins to drink straight from the pitcher.
Hermione doesn't answer his texts.
Pansy and Daphne produce a twinkling, glitter-embossed red headband with spring-loaded blue-and-white cat ears, and they recruit Marcus and Theo to assist them in pinning Draco to a deck chair before they use novelty American flag duct-tape to affix the entire fucking monstrosity to the top of his head.
Hermione doesn't take his calls.
He accidentally squeezes the sticky sweet melted remnants of an Otter Pop all over his shredded vintage Sex Pistols tank top and then hazily decides that it's motherfucking summer, shit, and if he wants to lounge around Daphne's backyard in nothing but his pink nylon tennis shorts then he's fucking going to.
Hermione continues to not show up.
Blaise quietly confiscates Draco's phone just as the chemical engineering guys from Georgia Tech begin to bring out homemade sparklers and a box of something they pretty ominously refuse to identify but insist is only a fire hazard if we let it be, man.
Still no Hermione.
The cops knock on the door shortly after midnight. Draco watches Pansy duck into Daphne's weird neighbor's basement and snorts out a laugh as he helps Blaise and Theo roll the keg into the bottom of the pool; it's a fucking stupid idea, and there are enough empty tequila bottles in the kitchen to basically guarantee that it won't work, but Draco has a super jarring moment of clarity as he's bending down to turn off the underwater lights—
Hermione had been a fucking stupid idea, too.
And when Blaise passes him his phone while they're sprawled out in Daphne's game room finishing off a six-pack of IPAs from Draco's emergency stash and lamenting Pansy's pseudo-arrest, he sees the blinking red notification for a single unread text and somehow just knows it's from Hermione.
He swipes his finger across the screen.
(12:56 am) I have work tomorrow. Didn't want to have to make such a long drive in the morning. I'll talk to you soon.
His stomach sort of…clenches, and he immediately feels queasy. He blames the alcohol.
It happens like that.
(4:55 pm) daphne says ur angsting
(4:55 pm) daphne is a liar
(4:55 pm) and she cheats at video games
(4:55 pm) she can't be trusted
(4:55 pm) also she made up that word
(4:56 pm) look
(4:56 pm) i want to talk about ur weird girl problems about as much as u do bro
(4:56 pm) but ur growing a grief beard and its freaking ppl out
(4:57 pm) what girl problems
(4:58 pm) there are no girl problems
(4:58 pm) there's not even really a girl
(4:59 pm) there's a fucking SUCCUBUS
(4:59 pm) who likes TOFU
(4:59 pm) and watches CSPAN
(4:59 pm) and has metaphorically given me one of those super lame rejection hotline numbers after flirtatiously accepting drinks from me all night at the bar
(5:00 pm) except instead of drinks
(5:00 pm) it was EMOTIONS
(5:01 pm) my emotions
(5:02 pm) fucking
(5:02 pm) succubus
(5:02 pm) u done
(5:02 pm) unlikely
(5:03 pm) whatever
(5:03 pm) pack a bag
(5:04 pm) we'll be there in 10
(5:04 pm) who
(5:04 pm) what
(5:04 pm) what kind of bag
(5:05 pm) i don't pack
(5:05 pm) i have a guy for that
(5:05 pm) me and theo and marcus
(5:06 pm) u need a weekend w/ ur bros
(5:06 pm) and theos parents still have that house on the cape
(5:06 pm) i guess everyone forgot about it in the divorce
(5:07 pm) i got alcohol poisoning last time we went there
(5:07 pm) yeah
(5:07 pm) and u swore off vodka
(5:08 pm) and then we went to that microbrewery in portsmouth
(5:08 pm) and u had a religious experience
(5:08 pm) so
(5:09 pm) u got a happy ending bro
(5:09 pm) man up
(5:10 pm) is this like a couples retreat
(5:10 pm) is marcus my date
(5:10 pm) are you and theo sharing a bed
(5:11 pm) will there be cuddling
(5:11 pm) this is why no one does nice things for u
"Wait, so this girl friend-zoned you?" Daphne asks, wincing in sympathy. "After you followed her to, like, the actual bible belt for spring break? Seriously?"
Draco drops the remaining half of his Oreo into a tall glass of milk.
"Don't call it that," he says, automatically. "The term 'friend-zone' implies that platonic male-female friendships are entirely predicated on the notion that men can only be interested in women for sex, not the wholesome, enriching companionship that exists between intellectual equals. It's insulting. And wrong. And a travesty. And…something about patriarchy. Slut-shaming. Et cetera."
Daphne stares at him, unblinking, and continues to gnaw on the stringy end of her celery stick.
He squints across the kitchen island; the stainless steel range built into the grey-and-white granite has twelve tightly coiled burners, which—Jesus fuck, are Daphne's parents even home often enough to remember their goddamn zip code, let alone use all of those—and he can practically physically hear Hermione making a snide, snotty remark about the one-percent and catered dinner parties and he fucking misses her, shit, why is he so pathetic—
"Anyway, no, no friend-zone," he finally says, clearing his throat. "We've been boning since January. I just…it's like this, Daph—we're in a relationship, right? Like, she has a drawer, we spend all our fucking time together, she made me buy her tampons and this weird imported caramel ice cream the time she got her period during midterms and she didn't want to stop studying—"
"—and she refuses to admit she does it, okay, but she definitely bribes me with sex, I don't care if that's somehow anti-feminist, she fucking does it, she gave me a blowjob in the library after I got a ninety-seven on my calc final—"
Abruptly, he cuts himself off and stuffs an Oreo in his mouth.
Daphne's phone buzzes cheerily from where it rests next to the open package of cookies, and she reaches for it slowly, eyes glued to Draco's face, as if she's trying not to startle a wild animal.
"Right, so, like…we'll totally have to address the having sex in public thing soon—because Blaise won't even, like, hit a grounder and slide into second when we go out to dinner, he's a total prude, like, what does he think tablecloths are even for—but Pansy apparently met some people at the puppy palace who go to school with you and she either wants to ruin their lives or become best friends with them, it's super hard to tell with her, fucking love that bitch—so—question, do you know someone named Harry Potter?"
(6:55 pm) my dads such a dictator
(6:55 pm) "our ties have to match, its an election year draco"
(6:56 pm) "why didn't you cut your hair you look like a dirty san francisco hippie draco"
(6:56 pm) "teach me how to change my profile picture on twitter, my publicist is on another xanax bender and is ignoring me draco"
(6:57 pm) hes a dick
(6:57 pm) no
(6:57 pm) wait
(6:58 pm) hes a DICK-tator
(7:04 pm) wow
(7:04 pm) you been saving that one?
(7:04 pm) for like a special occasion
(7:06 pm) half the shit he says doesn't even make sense
(7:06 pm) like
(7:07 pm) we're in tuxedos
(7:07 pm) our ties already match
(7:08 pm) i think pansys got a thing for potter
(7:09 pm) REALLY?
(7:09 pm) TELL ME EVERYTHING
(7:10 pm) um
(7:10 pm) …kind of an overreaction, man
(7:10 pm) but
(7:11 pm) she did that thing she does where she bitches about something for thirty minutes and then says she refuses to talk about it anymore cuz she hates it so much but then whenever i tried to change the subject shed like
(7:11 pm) bring potter back up
(7:12 pm) it was weird
(7:12 pm) classic pansy
(7:12 pm) why express romantic interest like a normal person when you can antagonize them into submission instead
(7:13 pm) yeah
(7:14 pm) and i don't really know him u know
(7:15 pm) so
(7:15 pm) interesting
(7:16 pm) i ate so much gelato with marcus today
(7:17 pm) hazelnut?
(7:17 pm) fuck yeah
(7:20 pm) did u give daph ideas about having sex in public again btw
(7:21 pm) because
(7:21 pm) bro
(7:21 pm) not cool
Draco uses the key Pansy's dad keeps under a potted fichus plant next to the front door and lets himself into the house. It's a little after three in the afternoon. He knows that Pansy's at the animal shelter—with Hermione, he thinks acidly—and that her dad is at work. What he's doing is creepy, possibly, but he's so fucking—he's so fucking overwhelmed by everything that had happened, overwhelmed by the disappointment and the anger and the strange, bone-deep weariness that had taken root in his body once he'd realized that he'd been wrong.
Jesus fuck had he been wrong.
He drags himself up the stairs in Pansy's house, runs his hands across the cool, cast-iron railing—out of habit, he makes his way into her bedroom, collapsing face-first onto her purple satin duvet and then releasing a long, unsteady breath. Because he doesn't want to talk to anyone, doesn't want to listen to Blaise's matter-of-fact 'it'll get better' or Daphne's indignant 'give me her address, I can set the bitch straight' or Theo's wry, uncomprehending 'what did you think was going to happen, man?'
Draco clenches his jaw and balls his right hand into a fist.
Hermione had lied. He isn't sure why he's so shocked; why he's so hurt. Their relationship—and oh, does he fucking hate that word now—it had been painfully one-sided. He'd assumed that what he'd felt for her had been reciprocated, at least a little bit, and that it would only be a matter of time before she came around and admitted that they were together, that he was hers and she was his and fuck whatever Potter had to say about them—he'd get over it, see how happy Draco made her; it would work out.
She was never going to come around. She was never going to admit that they were together. She was never going to call him hers and she was never going to call herself his and Potter had had plenty to say about them—and Draco had watched Hermione flinch at all of it.
That's what she'd said.
She'd let Draco into one small section of her life—isolated and neatly barricaded from everyone and everything else she loved—and she'd kept him there. Permanently.
He punches one of Pansy's ridiculous frilly white throw pillows.
The confrontation at the animal shelter had been…illuminating, honestly—because Hermione had been so infuriatingly fucking defensive, like she'd known that she had something to be guilty about but wasn't quite willing to concede defeat, not yet, and Potter had blustered and bitched and been generally obnoxious while he continued to sneak glances at Pansy's bare legs—which, in retrospect, made a lot of the batshit crazy accusations that had flown around seem much more reasonable, but—
It had sucked.
It had really fucking sucked.
Because Draco isn't used to things not going his way. He hadn't heard 'no' very often before he'd met Hermione—he's bad with girls, yeah, especially ones he likes, but he's a motherfucking Malfoy; he drives a Porsche and he has impeccable table manners and he's tall and blonde and attractive enough that getting laid has never exactly been a problem for him. He knows what his world looks like to outsiders, though, knows what Hermione's initial opinion of him had been—spoiled and selfish, privileged and pandered to, an upper-crust pretty boy with more money than common sense—but he'd thought—
He sighs into the extravagant cushion-top of Pansy's mattress.
He'd thought that Hermione had been something different for him—that he'd been something different for her.
He'd been fucking mistaken. Obviously.
"Oh, my God, are you seriously doing your whole woe-is-me-I-will-never-love-again Romeo routine in my bedroom? Really, Draco? And are you—are you wearing sweatpants? What the fuck? I swear to God, if you put socks on with your sandals—"
He lifts his head and glares at the doorway.
"My sweatpants are cashmere, it's not like I raided a fucking Foot Locker," he retorts. "And—I'm sorry, which one of us is wearing a red leather mini-skirt to our community service hours?"
Draco thinks, kind of smugly, that if Pansy had still been physically capable of blushing she would have been.
"Whatever," she says, dismissively. "Grab your keys. And your wallet."
"Why? I'm brooding."
She rolls her eyes.
"You're such a loser. We're going shopping, okay? There's a totally bitchin' pair of ankle boots at Nordstrom that I want and if you promise not to cry on the suede leather fringe I'll let you talk about Hermione for twenty minutes."
He considers her offer.
"Thirty minutes," he counters, "and we have to stop for gelato."
Her expression turns sly.
He nods grimly.
"Marcus is an equal-opportunity enabler."
"He's also, like, really invested in dairy products. Have you seen what he makes his protein shakes with?"
"He tried to plan a road trip to Vermont for our bro-weekend. For cheese. He mentioned a guided factory tour."
Her lips twitch, and his stomach feels a little less like it's going to implode on itself, and he remembers, suddenly, why Pansy's been his best friend for as long as he's known her.
"Come on," she says, more gently. "You can eat your feelings while I try on shoes."
(2:22 pm) hey
(2:22 pm) where u at
(2:25 pm) im with marcus
(2:26 pm) isn't he at a nationals game right now
(2:27 pm) oh shit
(2:27 pm) u went with him?
(2:27 pm) bro
(2:27 pm) ouch
(2:27 pm) he gets so rowdy during baseball season
(2:27 pm) how r u doing though
(2:27 pm) pansy told us what happened the other day
(2:27 pm) you know how marcus thinks you're all into basketball
(2:27 pm) because you're black
(2:28 pm) we cant prove that
(2:28 pm) he thinks im all into baseball
(2:28 pm) because im white
(2:28 pm) u r pretty white tho
(2:29 pm) like
(2:29 pm) he had skynyrd playing on repeat
(2:30 pm) the whole drive here
(2:30 pm) and has referred to baseball as "america's favorite pastime" three times now
(2:30 pm) THREE TIMES
(2:30 pm) at least he didn't get u a custom jersey
(2:32 pm) do you honestly believe he didn't
(2:32 pm) like
(2:33 pm) really?
(2:33 pm) you really believe that?
(2:35 pm) idk
(2:35 pm) nothing can be worse than z-bone
(2:36 pm) and quit changing the subject
(2:36 pm) daph says ur cocooning urself in a blanket of self-loathing
(2:37 pm) which
(2:37 pm) must be like the turtle thing cuz
(2:37 pm) i don't get it
(2:37 pm) but
(2:40 pm) d-dawg
(2:40 pm) im d-dawg
(2:41 pm) let that sink in
(2:41 pm) just
(2:41 pm) LET IT SINK IN
(2:43 pm) marcus is so out of control
(2:46 pm) they sell margaritas here
(2:47 pm) everyones out of control
(3:05 pm) u know if ud actually done something wrong
(3:06 pm) something that would make what this girl did and said to u okay
(3:06 pm) u know id tell u right
(3:46 pm) why do hot dogs need to be a foot long
(3:46 pm) it seems unnecessary
(3:46 pm) and suggestive
(3:46 pm) sexually suggestive
(3:47 pm) u didn't do anything wrong bro
(3:47 pm) she did
(3:48 pm) okay?
(3:48 pm) peanut shells taste like cardboard
(3:49 pm) fuck that noise
He's digging into a huge bowl of Lucky Charms—drowning in milk and drizzled with stripes of dark chocolate syrup and too-sweet marshmallow fluff—when he hears a tentative knock coming from the open door of his mother's sunroom. He glances over, cheeks puffed up with two mouthfuls of cereal, and sees Hermione standing in the doorway, arms crossed protectively over her chest—she's in cut-off denim shorts and a sleeveless plaid collared shirt. Her hair is swept back from her forehead with a grey cotton headband. He thinks she looks faintly nauseous, and the thought is much less satisfying than he wants it to be.
Jesus fuck is he weak.
"Your—um—your housekeeper let me in," she says haltingly, scratching at the side of her neck. She still hasn't stepped into the room. "I tried to call, but you…"
"I've been ignoring you," he interjects with forced nonchalance. "Figured you did it enough to me that the favor could use some returning, you know?"
Her mouth does something weird, lips tightening and jaw jutting forward, but then she's sniffling and blinking a lot and staring up at the tinted glass ceiling like she's fucking waiting for it to tell her what to do and Draco's eyes widen with unrestrained panic as he realizes that she's about to cry.
"I deserve that," she says, throwing her shoulders back. She finally meets his gaze. He's—confused. This isn't really going how it's supposed to be going. "I—I deserve that."
"Yeah," he says, tone cloudy with suspicion. "You do."
She swallows, and then she swallows again, and then her face just kind of crumples.
"Can you—can you turn around, please? I have—a lot to say to you, and I really—I really—" she breaks off, voice cracking ominously, and Draco's alarm intensifies.
She flaps her hands at him.
"Just—don't look at me!" she wails, nostrils flaring and cheeks wet and oh fuck she's already fucking crying, isn't she? "I refuse—I will not be one of those girls who uses tears like they're—like they're a weapon, okay, I refuse to be, and I know you, Draco, you'll be—nice, or something, if I try to do this while you can see me—so just—move!"
He blanches at her hysteria and immediately spins around.
"Is this another feminist thing?"
He hears her cough out a laugh.
"What, not wanting to manipulate you? No. It's a…decent person thing."
"Crying girls are your kryptonite, right?"
He half-smiles into his cereal bowl before abruptly recalling that he's really fucking mad at her and should absolutely not be finding anything about her current demeanor either amusing or adorable.
"Right," he confirms, biting his tongue.
"Right," she repeats softly. "Right. So—here's the thing. I—I've only had one boyfriend? Ever? And we were together for…almost all of high school, and I thought I loved him—really loved him—and even though we're still friends and our break-up was…mostly cordial, it still—it was hard. And some things that he said—when we were fighting—they stuck with me, and as much as I know that he was lashing out and probably made all of it up and it shouldn't matter—sticks and stones, and all that—it just—it was hard. It was hard when it happened, and it was hard after it happened, and then…and then I met you."
Draco thinks a little bitterly that this is the most he's ever heard her say about her past.
"Okay. You met me. And then you strung me along for eight months for…shits and giggles? An ego boost? Revenge for Potter?"
He hears the door close and her footsteps—light and quick—as she moves further into the room.
"No," she replies wryly. "No. At first…at first I just assumed that you'd lose interest after a while. That you were infatuated with me because of your—fight thing with Harry—and just liked the chase. I'm nothing like your friends. Or any of the girls who hang around your fraternity. I didn't fit into your life, and I thought that was part of what made you want me. All the restrictions I put on our…our relationship—"
"Don't call it that," he interrupts, flatly.
There's a beat of tense, harsh silence.
"Okay," she says, tremulous and uncharacteristically quiet. "I won't call it that. Our…association. All the restrictions I put on our association—they were there to protect me. I liked who I was when I was with you—who I got to be—but I knew it wouldn't last. I tried—I tried so hard, Draco, I tried so hard to not notice how you looked at me, and how I looked at you, and I just—I buried it, and I focused on other things, and I thought that if I didn't acknowledge what was changing, if I…pretended none of it mattered, that it would go away. That it would hurt less in the long run."
"Thanks for including me in these super important decisions you made about our…association."
She doesn't respond for a second.
"I was horrible to you."
"I was your dirty little secret—I get it."
"I was your dirty little secret," he says again, throat tight. "I get it."
"Is that—is that really what you think?"
"What the fuck else does compartmentalizing mean, Hermione? You had all the people who actually mattered to you over…yonder, and then you had me. Separated. Secret. I was the asshole sitting around, like, drawing hearts around your name in my fucking diary—"
He hears her sit down on the far end of the couch.
"You don't have a diary, Draco."
"Smooth deflection, Granger."
"I'm in love with you," she starts, and even as his breath catches—releases—he can't help but notice that for the first time since she'd arrived, she isn't stumbling over her words. "I've been in love with you for months. I didn't want to be. I fought it." She clears her throat. "I fought it. I told myself that there was no way we'd work long-term, that we were too different, that you didn't understand me, and I didn't understand you, and…I kept comparing what you and I had together to what I'd had with my ex, and how upset I'd been when I'd broken up with him, and all I could think about was how much worse it would be with you."
Draco drops his forehead onto the back of the sofa.
"You were literally planning for our break-up before we were even together," he mumbles into the sleek black leather. "Really, Hermione? Just—really?"
She makes a very small, very sad kind of chirping sound. He hates it.
"I knew how stupid I was being," she says. "That fight we had, after the waitress called me your girlfriend—I knew I was being stupid, okay? I knew."
He sighs and turns to place his forgotten bowl of cereal on the reclaimed barn wood coffee table.
"You're not stupid, Hermione."
"I didn't say that I was stupid," she argues sulkily. "Just that my behavior was."
He blindly reaches for her hand and yanks her closer.
"It was also unfair," he drawls. "To me. To you. To us." He pauses. He frowns. "Mostly to me, though."
She falls into his side and curls her legs up under her body and doesn't look up at him as she murmurs—
He slings his arm over the slope of her shoulder, trailing his fingers across her bare skin—he knows that she thinks he needs to hear this, that he needs to hear her apologize and act remorseful and maybe even further explain her insane neurotic reasoning for pushing him away. But he doesn't. He keeps replaying her confession—I'm in love with you—over and over and over again—I'm in love with you—on constant repeat—I'm in love with you—and it's echoing and it's burning and it's like the answer to a question he hadn't even known how to fucking ask because he'd convinced himself that he'd never be allowed to have this and—
Here it is.
Here she is.
"Draco? Will you—say something?"
He would say something, yeah, if he had any idea what the fuck to say.
His brain is nothing but blank space and white noise—I'm in love with you—and while he's vaguely aware that he should probably be contemplating the logistics of how to carry her caveman-style up to his bedroom—he doesn't want to do that.
He wants to make this moment count.
He nudges the underside of her chin and tilts her face up, towards his; their eyes lock, and whatever romantic bullshit he'd thought he'd be able to spew—it shrivels and dies on the tip of his tongue, not good enough, not right enough, and his mouth goes dry and he isn't sure what his hands are doing but he thinks they might be trembling, Jesus fuck, and he brushes his thumb over her lower lip and watches her lashes flutter and her pulse quicken and he can't—
He kisses her.
It's soft, unhurried, deliberate—it's everything she'd never allowed them to be before now, and he wonders if he's imagining how fragile it all feels, the slow slip-slide of their tongues and the lightning-sharp friction of their lips and how the intensity—the intimacy—it's brittle. It could shatter. It could break.
He already knows he won't let it.
Because she's pulling back and exhaling shakily and looking up at him like she finally fucking gets it and—
"Oh," she whispers.
(5:22 pm) hey
(5:23 pm) hey
(5:24 pm) hey
(5:25 pm) z-bone
(5:26 pm) hey
(5:27 pm) blaise
(5:28 pm) blaiseeee
(5:29 pm) hi
(5:30 pm) hola
(5:31 pm) bonjour
(5:32 pm) zabini
(5:33 pm) favorite black guy who isn't charles barkley
(5:34 pm) helloooo
(5:34 pm) goddamn
(5:34 pm) what
(5:36 pm) HERMIONE IS COMING TO PANSYS TONIGHT AND SHES BRINGING POTTER AND A BUNCH OF OTHER PEOPLE WHO ARENT RELEVANT BUT WILL PROBABLY BE BADLY DRESSED
(5:37 pm) oh shit
(5:37 pm) is that why pansys wearing underwear and calling it a dress
(5:38 pm) who cares
(5:38 pm) wait
(5:38 pm) are you already over there
(5:39 pm) yeah
(5:40 pm) are you pregaming
(5:40 pm) yeah
(5:41 pm) that vodka pansy asked for tastes like a muffin
(5:41 pm) its nice
(5:41 pm) oh fuck you guys
(5:42 pm) why wasn't i invited
(5:42 pm) pansy says she texted u
(5:43 pm) and u didn't answer
(5:44 pm) oh
(5:44 pm) no
(5:44 pm) she says u did answer
(5:44 pm) but all u sent was a bunch of exclamation points
(5:44 pm) ?
(5:45 pm) youre all assholes
(5:45 pm) i don't know why we're friends
(5:47 pm) cool
(5:48 pm) u on ur way yet bro
(5:49 pm) obviously
(5:52 pm) can u stop somewhere and get a piñata
(5:54 pm) depends
(5:55 pm) is the piñata daphnes idea
(5:55 pm) yeah
(5:57 pm) then no
(5:58 pm) daphnes ideas always end in bloodshed and criminal records
(5:59 pm) or sex
(6:00 pm) none of those things are mutually exclusive
"Draco! Draco, come inside! Your booty call is here!"
Draco sputters and spits out some of his epic new Belgian-style sour wheat ale—it's a rare seasonal summer brew with notes of malted chicory and tangy-sweet raspberry, and his father had special-ordered it from some hole-in-the-wall backwoods operation in the Appalachians. The bottles don't even have labels. It's like drinking exceptionally delicious FDA-approved moonshine—thrilling and a little dirty.
"Booty call? Is Baby Malfoy all grown up?" Cassius Warrington smirks and takes a leisurely sip of his Malibu-infused pineapple-orange-peach-cranberry-banana juice concoction, a tiny blue toothpick umbrella hanging out of the corner of his mouth. He's a bastard. A smarmy, too-handsome bastard who's second in his class at Harvard Law and has a paid internship with the RNC. Draco has a lot of conflicting emotions about Warrington—he can never decide if he wants to punch him or be him. He's leaning towards the former now.
"Shut up," Draco mutters. "Shouldn't you be at a fucking supper club, or something?"
"Pucey's coming later."
"Literally or figuratively?"
"Both, if I'm lucky."
Draco shakes his head and gulps down the rest of his beer, clapping Warrington on the shoulder as he makes his way into the house; he can hear Daphne shrieking something about body shots, and the low murmur of multiple unfamiliar voices all trying to talk over each other. He tucks his hands into the front pockets of his seersucker shorts and reminds himself that it'll be okay—but he's feeling jittery and anxious and a little off-balance. He's never been out with Hermione in public like this, front and center with all their friends, and he doesn't fucking know what he's allowed to do. Can he kiss her? Hold her hand? Jesus fuck, is he even technically her boyfriend yet?
He chews the inside of his mouth.
He then rolls his neck around and cracks his knuckles and maybe does a few jumping jacks.
I'm in love with you.
He can fucking do this.
He saunters into the living room and sees Potter standing about as close as he can get to Pansy without physically absorbing her body through osmosis. Blaise is sighing as he unzips Daphne's form-fitting navy sheath dress, and Theo is holding up a nearly-full bottle of tequila and a netted green grocery bag full of limes. A pretty red-haired girl is gesticulating wildly as she converses with a group of shirtless guys in sweatpants by the coffee table. Someone who vaguely resembles Neville Longbottom is glancing fearfully in Pansy's general direction, which—is interesting. And sensible.
Hermione is hovering by the front door with an embarrassed look on her face and a bright pink blush staining her cheeks. She's wearing a white chambray sundress that nips in at her waist and floats around the tops of her knees—she's ethereal, and she's sort of awkward, and it's fucking ridiculous, Draco thinks as he flicks his tongue along the cushion of his bottom lip, it's fucking ridiculous how much he still wants her, all these months later.
She smiles when she notices him.
I'm in love with you.
It'll be okay.
(11:45 pm) hey
(11:46 pm) bro
(11:47 pm) daph wants to know if uve seen pansy
(11:47 pm) she disappeared with potter a while ago
(11:48 pm) and
(11:48 pm) even though i think we all know how that's going
(11:48 pm) after he basically fucking went down on her
(11:48 pm) and called it a body shot
(11:48 pm) like chill brother
(11:49 pm) territorial much
(11:49 pm) u kno
(11:49 pm) shit
(11:50 pm) i would rather get locked in pansys dads gun safe with those random water polo guys
(11:50 pm) who no one seems to know
(11:51 pm) than like
(11:51 pm) walk in on pansy and potter doing whatever theyre probably doing
(11:52 pm) u feel me man
(11:59 pm) daph is worried
(12:00 am) bro
(12:05 am) u there
(12:06 am) vince and greg r on their way finally
(12:06 am) with their drug dealer?
(12:07 am) i guess?
(12:08 am) did u know they bought their weed from a chick
(12:09 am) her names millicent
(12:10 am) or mildred
(12:10 am) mindy?
(12:10 am) ?
(12:10 am) ?
(12:10 am) nah
(12:10 am) millicent
(12:10 am) do we know a millicent
(12:12 am) we don't right
(12:13 am) bro?
(12:33 am) do me a solid and don't come out to the hot tub ok
They're outside, sprawled across the crisp green grass that surrounds the fire pit; it's a clear night, the sky an almost jewel-toned blue-black velvet, studded with chaotic clusters of stars, microscopic pinpricks of light that don't make a lot of sense to Draco but seem to form actual comprehensible shapes and patterns to Hermione.
"You have your own constellation and you've never bothered learning about it?" she asks with an incredulous giggle.
He takes a sip of his beer and swishes it around his mouth before he swallows.
"It's a thing on my mother's side of the family," he explains, leaning back to balance on his elbows. "Constellation names. She's Narcissa, I've got an Aunt Andromeda…somewhere—she ran away a long time ago to marry a redneck she met at a NASCAR race, dropped out of Barnard and got disowned and everything, but my cousin totally added me on Facebook a few years ago and I found out my mother's been keeping in touch with them, like, on the sly, she even sends them Christmas baskets every December—anyway—what was I talking—"
"Wait, wait, wait," Hermione interrupts, tucking her hair behind her ears and sloppily putting her drink aside. "Your aunt was disowned—like, disinherited and shunned and forgotten—for getting married? Is this a Jane Austen novel? Did she also have to sew a giant scarlet letter onto her corset, or—"
He bursts out laughing.
"This was, like, twenty-five years ago," he says. "And my grandparents…they were fucking crazy old-school—for real, the number of relatives I have who didn't run away from home and get disowned is probably smaller than the number who did. Aunt Andromeda just did it first. Besides, do you really have any room to be judging them? You thought Potter was going to, like, terminate your friendship like a cell phone contract if he ever found out you were sleeping with me."
She grabs her cup and takes an audibly loud gulp of whatever Pansy and Daphne had poured for her earlier—blueberry vodka and vanilla crème soda, he thinks, but he knows Pansy, and perhaps more importantly he knows Daphne, and he's willing to bet that Hermione's drink is mostly vodka.
"Um, that wasn't…I never actually thought that."
She drinks again.
And then again.
"I mean, I thought he'd be—irritated, and maybe a little upset, but I never thought he'd…terminate our friendship over it." She pauses, and then she shoots Draco a wicked, slightly goofy grin. "He'd have been such a hypocrite if he had, don't y'think?"
He wrinkles his nose.
"Definitely could've done without seeing Potter's tongue that fucking close to Pansy's underwear." He shudders. "Definitely."
Hermione purses her lips.
"Are you…are you worried about what might happen with them? At all?"
He drains his beer.
"Not really," he says truthfully. "Potter's all noble and shit, and Pansy's super difficult—if not completely impossible—to impress, so I figure we have a while until they get bored."
"That's not what I meant."
He gets to his feet and offers her his hand. She pitches forward as soon as she's standing, adversely affected by the alcohol, and he circles his arms around her waist to hold her upright.
"Then what did you mean, princess?"
She flattens her palms against his chest and cocks her head to the side.
"Just…Harry really didn't like her when they first met."
"Pansy used to call him Captain Asshole."
"Is that a Captain America reference?"
Draco swoops down to plant a kiss on her forehead.
"Don't tell anyone," he says, voice low, "but Pansy went through a pretty serious comic book phase in junior high."
Hermione looks nonplussed.
"Why can't I tell anyone?"
He trails his fingertips down the notches of her spine, sweeps his hands over the wings of her shoulder blades, cups the back of her neck and draws her mouth up towards his—
"Because," he breathes out, brushing their lips together, "everyone is entitled to their secrets, and if her identity as a closet ex-nerd is something she doesn't want a lot of people to know about…well, I respect her enough to respect that."
Draco doesn't mention his awareness of one of Hermione's secrets—he'd gleaned enough from the single conversation they'd had about her ex to guess that the asshole had said or done something that had made her feel inadequate, undeserving, insecure—and while Draco would be more than fucking happy to spend the rest of his natural life proving to Hermione that she is none of those things, he knows that she would hate him a little bit if he took away her choice to prove it to herself.
And one day, he thinks, she'll tell him all about. She'll tell him all about the asshole ex and all the stupid shit he'd said and how she hadn't believed it, not really, but hadn't been able to not believe it, either. She'll tell him all about how she'd built herself back up, piece by piece, layer by layer, how she'd continuously tested herself—with in-class debates and mock trial auditions and fucking Saturnalia parties, Jesus fuck—and she'll tell him all about how she'd needed to do it alone, how she'd needed to be alone.
And he'll understand.
He already understands.
Because she isn't the girl he met outside of Starbucks—confident and outspoken and so, so sure of herself; she isn't the girl he put on a fucking pedestal, the girl he chased, the girl who, on the surface, is the antithesis of everything he'd ever thought he'd want.
She'd spent six months pushing him away, and he'd needed her to.
He isn't sure he'd have been patient enough to fall in love with her otherwise.
"—fuck yeah, get some, Malfoy!" Warrington hollers from an upstairs balcony, shattering Draco's reverie.
He wordlessly waves his middle finger at Warrington as Hermione groans and takes a wobbly step away from him, drink still clutched in her hand.
"Such a dick," Draco huffs. "Pucey's taste in men is even shittier than Pansy's."
Hermione hums thoughtfully.
"Harry was pretty terrible to her," she acknowledges. "In fact—that should've been my first clue that he liked her. He lashes out when he's confused, and Pansy really confused him. They were like second graders with a crush. Just—a lot of totally unwarranted hostility and bickering and staring at each other from a distance. They should work on their communication skills."
"Yeah—um, are you forgetting all the unwarranted hostility you threw at me when we first met? Like, literally threw at me. You threw coffee at me. That happened."
"You…deserved it?" she tries.
"You also rejected me under the mistletoe," he goes on, playfully raising his voice. "And I think we bickered about a Vitamix."
"I did not reject you under the mistletoe—"
"You're right, we totally rounded third in Theo's weird zen garden thing in the backyard."
The looks at him askance.
"I don't think what we did counts as rounding third."
"And I think you could've made your point about me leaving Potter alone without pouring coffee all over my awesome new pea coat. We all have opinions, Hermione."
"Yeah, that wasn't—that wasn't really about making my point," she admits.
"No? Then what was it about?"
"Well…" she hedges.
"You were just so—put together," she says, rolling her eyes. "Like—like—the buttons on your jacket were all perfectly aligned, and your stupid designer scarf was all perfectly knotted, and your hair was all perfectly wind-swept—I wanted…to mess you up, I guess. Pouring coffee on you seemed like a good idea."
"Oh, yeah? And what about now?"
"What about now?"
"Still want to mess me up, Granger?"
She peers mischievously into the depths of her cup.
"This tastes like a muffin, you know," she informs him blithely.
He doesn't even have the chance to respond before she's dumping the rest of her drink all over the front of his pale grey John Varvatos v-neck
"Motherfucker," he gasps.
(01:15 am) holy shit man
(01:15 am) wtf was that
(01:17 am) ?
(01:20 am) just fyi
(01:21 am) but the ginger twins r playing beer pong
(01:21 am) and fucking
(01:21 am) just
(01:22 am) killing it
(01:30 am) r twins telepathic
(01:55 am) u ok
(02:01 am) where did u go
(02:02 am) r u moping
(02:10 am) did u leave
(02:15 am) ur officially not the only person I know who has hit potter
(02:20 am) dude
(02:21 am) we should buy some fucking chainmail
(02:25 am) do u think snape would let us get swords
(02:25 am) like
(02:25 am) daphne's weird neighbor has a katana
(02:25 am) i bet pansys dad has one
(02:25 am) that fuckers scary
(02:30 am) why the fuck is ur phone off
(02:40 am) bro
(02:44 am) BRO
(03:00 am) goddamn it draco
"I really can't believe you called your boat the Dragon's Lair."
He rolls over onto his stomach, sheets pooling around his hips, and rests his chin on the flat of her abdomen; she'd kept her bra on—plain white satin with a trio of small pearls sewn into the front clasp—and he can see the way the soft curves of her breasts push up against the cups as she breathes in and out. It's kind of fucking mouthwatering.
"Can you really not believe it, though? Like, really really?" he teases.
She snorts, and he sprinkles a series of wet, purposely sloppy kisses across the sloping valley between her ribs.
"Stop—stop, Draco, that—that tickles—"
He turns his head and runs his hands up her legs and over the hollow of her pelvis, nails gently grazing her navel—he can feel goosebumps erupt, can feel the faint shiver that pulses through her body when the heel of his palm almost-but-not-quite brushes against her clit.
"I mean, I was twelve when I named it, I don't know if that sheds any light on the situation for you—"
She arches her back, lifting her hips off the bed, and tries to wriggle away from him.
"The—the situation—the situation is that you're a—a raging narcissist—" she wheezes, laughter ringing out in the cramped confines of the below-deck cabin; moonlight is streaming in through the porthole, and the ceiling is much too low for either of them to even sit up straight, but he likes the smell of the salty sea breeze and he likes the rhythmic methodical rocking of the waves and he likes the hazy summer heat that lingers in the air. "Oh my—oh my God, Draco, stop—it—it—I'm ticklish—"
She shoves his shoulders and he moves his mouth up along the lower edge of her bra, where the underwire is—she shudders as his tongue drags across her skin, and she squirms as his hand creeps feather-light down towards the warmth of her cunt—and he likes this, too, fuck, likes the contradiction of what he's making her feel and the cut-crystal transparency of how she reacts to him; fractured, yes, nuanced and uneven, absolutely, but so fucking clear despite all the manufactured hiding places—
"Hey," he whispers, halting his movements.
A slow smile spreads across her face.
"Hey," she replies, voice suddenly quiet.
He slides his fingers along the crease at the top of her thigh.
"How do you feel about tattoos?"
(9:24 pm) bro
(9:28 pm) its been almost 24 hours
(9:29 pm) ur dad said ur boats gone
(9:30 pm) did u go up north
(9:30 pm) maine
(9:45 pm) ?
(9:45 pm) u didn't do something crazy right
(9:45 pm) like
(9:45 pm) u didn't kidnap ur girl
(9:46 pm) right
(9:46 pm) ?
(9:59 pm) right?
(10:44 pm) marcus beat the shit out of potter
(10:50 pm) btw
(10:50 pm) pansy saw him today and said there was epic bruising
(11:20 pm) dude
(12:34 am) just
(12:34 am) say rooster if ur safetys been compromised
On the walk up from the private dock to the house, she jumps onto his back, looping her arms around his neck and hitching her legs over his elbows; she claims that she's too tired to move, and he complains that she's too heavy to carry, but he thinks that they're both probably lying.
He doesn't mind.
(01:55 am) oh
(01:56 am) hey
(01:56 am) u know in eighth grade
(01:57 am) when we talked about
(01:57 am) whether or not guys gave better blowjobs than girls
(01:58 am) cuz of like
(01:58 am) u know
(01:59 am) having a dick
(01:59 am) or whatever
(02:00 am) yeah
(02:05 am) goddamn it bro
(02:06 am) talking about theo usually draws u out
(04:33 am) ROOSTER?
(05:00 am) ?
(06:03 am) !111
The Sharpie squeaks a little as it glides across her stomach.
"You're ridiculous," Hermione says, exasperated fondness coloring her tone.
He huffs—the felt-tip of the marker is now circling the sensitive skin beneath her navel, and her bottom lip is clutched between her teeth.
"You're the one who wanted a relationship contract. I'm just following through, princess."
She shifts her hips and laughs shakily when the Sharpie goes lower.
He presses his hand down on her pelvis to hold her still.
"Right, so far we have—"
"—can't even get this notarized—"
"—that we're definitely serious, like, heart-attack levels of serious—"
"—didn't actually put that, did you—"
The Sharpie continues its descent, dragging slightly as it reaches the mound of her cunt.
"—use of traditional relationship terminology—id est, girlfriend, boyfriend, et cetera—is encouraged but not required—"
"—is that all the Latin you remember from prep school, or—"
"—agree that Habit for Humanity trips do not qualify as legitimate vacations—"
"—how are you even fitting all of this—"
He stops writing.
He caps the Sharpie.
He tosses it aside.
He slides his hands around the inner curve of her thighs, thumbs framing her cunt, and uses his shoulders to nudge her knees further apart.
"Are you—are you done?" she manages to ask.
He nods, satisfied.
And then he dives in, nipping at her clit, all scraping teeth and roving tongue and slow, slow, slow suction—he glances up to catch her searching, searing gaze—holds it—and her pupils are fucking blown, and his eyes are greedily tracing the planes of her face, the flush in her cheeks and the light sheen of sweat spread across her chest—and he thinks he wants to come there, shit, can picture it, even, can see how it would coat her skin and drip between her breasts and cling to those tight, perfectly pink nipples—
"Yeah," he says casually, mouth open and hot against her cunt. "Better seal it with a kiss."
(09:42 am) i made pancakes today
(09:42 am) buckwheat
(09:45 am) theyre shaped like mickey mouse
(10:06 am) marcus ate all of them
(11:24 am) fuck this bro
(11:25 am) i miss ur stupid ass
(1:12 pm) hey
(1:13 pm) did u know
(1:14 pm) about pucey and warrington
(1:16 pm) ?
(1:16 pm) like
(1:17 pm) pansy
(1:17 pm) freaked when she heard
(1:17 pm) i guess that was one of her weird pucey sex dreams
(1:18 pm) idk
(1:19 pm) i stopped listening
(1:22 pm) potter was there
(4:30 pm) bro
(4:30 pm) seriously
(4:31 pm) answer
(4:32 pm) me
(4:34 pm) or say rooster
(8:00 pm) I'm fine, man
(8:02 pm) yeah?
(8:02 pm) u sure?
(8:04 pm) yeah
(8:04 pm) everything worked out
(8:04 pm) its
(8:04 pm) you know
(8:05 pm) its good
(8:05 pm) its gonna be good
(8:05 pm) cool
(8:07 pm) can i still say rooster though
(8:08 pm) or nah
(8:09 pm) idk why i thought i missed u