Warning: Rated M for explicit language, violence, and sexual content. This story is Canon Divergent. For further disclaimers and warnings, make sure to read my profile. This story will also soon be uploaded to Archive of Our Own. As the Ao3 version is uploaded, the corresponding chapter here on FFN will be edited to reflect an adherence to FFN's rules for explicit content. As of this moment, the FFN version is complete and unedited for content. [Updated June 2017.]
Beta Love: Fluffpanda, mlg6504
Tying the Nott
Hermione looked up at Draco sitting across the table as he addressed her, noticing the way he squared his shoulders and adjusted his posture. It was something she had caught him doing in meetings at the Ministry when he knew he needed to prepare himself for an argument, especially a difficult one. That kind of posturing directed at her was never a good sign, but she did not vocalise her observations, allowing him to say what he needed to say.
"Do you remember the life debt you owe me? I'm collecting on it."
She slowly tilted her head to the side, staring at him incredulously as she wondered what the hell he was talking about. She refused to break eye contact with him. He had told her once, years ago, that breaking eye contact was a sign of weakness. "I don't owe you a life debt, Malfoy."
They had each only been working in the Department of Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures for six months—he in the Beasts Division; her in the Being Division—when Remus, the new Head of the department, paired them together for a case involving a werewolf who had been suspected of keeping a chimaera as a pet.
Malfoy had insisted that eye contact and posturing was the way to go, but all that landed him was a slammed door in his face and a threat involving the next full moon. When the Lycanthrope reopened his door to address Hermione, she lowered her gaze and tilted her head to the side, exposing her neck and submitting to the man on his own territory. Suddenly. they had been let through the door.
Beings were her speciality.
The chimaera on the other hand . . .
She shuddered at the memory; one that was never to be brought up in front of Malfoy because he had a terrible habit of gloating. It was, in fact, the first time he had saved her life and not the last—though, she saved him just as many times. It became a game over the years. It was something that Harry and Ginny found entertaining. Ron could not grasp why Hermione refused to call in the debt immediately and make Draco do something mortifying. It was hard to explain to a man married to Pansy Parkinson that being under the thumb of a Slytherin was not something she was looking forward to—something he had clearly grown numb to over the years.
Hermione tapped her index finger on the side of her paper coffee cup where the barista had incorrectly written her name on the side in black marker. "The last time you saved my life was three years ago when I fell off that broom on the dragon case in Berwickshire. I repaid that a month later when Dolohov escaped Azkaban and showed up at your house."
Draco waved his hand in the air impatiently in that smug way that had her nose twitching, brushing off her words. Shaking his head, he sighed and rhetorically asked, "Honestly, what kind of witch can't ride a broom?"
She held back the growl in her throat knowing that he was purposely provoking her.
"I don't understand how you can be friends with him," Ron would often say.
"At least life isn't boring."
Her two best friends would laugh at her, and Harry would inevitably ask, "When have our lives ever been boring, Hermione?"
She was glad to note that her adventures these days consisted of the occasional meetup for coffee with former Death Eaters as opposed to fighting them off in the middle of battle. Then again, the spare fugitive would show up once every few years, as Dolohov had done three years earlier when Hermione had stopped by Malfoy Manor to deal with a case that crossed her desk.
"Don't you remember?" she asked him. "I was there investigating the disappearance of another one of your wife's invisible pets because you, being the giant pain in my arse you are, filed an actual report just to spite me."
Draco rolled his eyes. "I was just being a loving and supportive husband, and I couldn't investigate my own house."
"Your wife is mental when it comes to those things, and you know it! Diggory didn't even know what nargles were. And since it was your bloody house, he made me look into it. It was embarrassing trying to explain the situation without making any of us look out of our minds for indulging Luna."
"You're dating Malfoy?!" Ginny screamed when Luna was caught outside of Honeydukes holding the Draco's hand as they strolled through the village during the first Hogsmeade Weekend following the return for their final year of Hogwarts. Most, like Harry and Ron, had opted out of going back to school, but Hermione was adamant about returning, especially since Professor McGonagall had given her the position of Head Girl.
Unfortunately, she had to share a common room with the Head Boy—Draco Malfoy—who started dating Luna two weeks into the term.
"His family held you captive in their home!" Ginny said as Hermione tried to figure out when, exactly, the pair had hashed out their obvious differences and found enough similarities to build a relationship upon.
Luna—bless her—smiled at them both, told them that when she was in the dungeons of Malfoy Manor, Draco had brought her cake. Cake!
"Must have been some cake," Hermione voiced quietly, and both Draco and Luna smiled in a way that she prayed to God was not a sexual inside joke between the two.
"She's eccentric," Draco said, defending his wife of two years. "And yes, I do remember you saving my bloody life then, thank you."
When Hermione had shown up at the Manor, Draco directed her away from the drawing room to the spot where Luna had last seen the nargles when the wards alerted him that someone else had arrived. Despite trying to fix the wards after Lucius had been sent to Azkaban and Narcissa relocated to France, Antonin Dolohov made his way into Malfoy Manor only to be put down with a Stunning Spell from Hermione when his back was turned. He had been too focused on trying to use the Cruciatus Curse on Draco to hear her footsteps.
"I had to have a Curse-Breaker come and reset the wards around the Manor after that incident. Speaking of which and, more importantly, back to my original point, I saved your life six months ago when we were called on that thing with the Muggles in London. You were attacked, and I saved your life," Draco said, adding emphasis to the "saving of the life" portion of his song and dance.
She furrowed her brows in confusion. "What thing in London? Wait. Are you talking about Hyde Park?" she asked, chuckling at the memory. "Where a flock of ducks waddled over, you screamed at the sight of them, and then shoved me into the pond?"
Draco's jaw ticked. "Wereducks."
Hermione threw her head back and laughed. "There's no such thing as wereducks. You're afraid of quacking birds, you prat."
Even though she had been knee deep and wet in a dirty pond, the memory of Draco Malfoy running away from a few small birds looking for spare bits of bread had been set aside in a phial, ready for a Pensieve anytime she had a bad day and needed some cheering up.
"How are you afraid of harmless birds? I've had misplaced complaints come across my desk about that wretched eagle owl of yours trying to hunt hippogriffs, which you are also afraid of, and—"
"First," Draco interrupted, his tone bitter, "Malfoys aren't afraid of things. Second, you leave Bubo alone. Third, we both know that if Malfoys were afraid of things—which we're not—I would have a bloody good reason to be afraid of hippogriffs." He unconsciously scratched at a small scar on his arm from where Buckbeak had attacked him in third year. "And my loyal familiar has every right to hunt them. You're missing the point. The point is: wereducks exists, one tried to attack you, I saved your life, and now you owe me a life debt."
Hermione smiled but rolled her eyes, tempted to indulge him if only to find out what he wanted. "Well, despite you being your typical irritating self, I'm actually intrigued that you'd go through this much effort to secure a favour from me. Even though you can't actually call it a favour."
He glowered at her. A look that had not been intimidating in school and had not changed over the years.
"It's not," he insisted.
She took a sip of her drink and grimaced as the taste of cold coffee swept across her tongue. She quickly swallowed it as a thought occurred to her. "Wait, what do you mean speaking of which?'"
"Speaking of what?"
"You said 'speaking of which' when we were talking about Dolohov breaking through your wards. You said, 'speaking of which' and then started babbling about the pretend life debt I owe you."
Hermione groaned as she felt her patience running thin. She was regretting taking a long lunch, but he had asked nicely for once—that should have been an indicator at the time that he wanted something from her, and she'd gone along with it. A part of her had been wondering if he was planning on asking her to be the godmother to his and Luna's firstborn child. The idea that she would be picked over Pansy had her giddy enough to accept the idea of tying herself to a Malfoy for the rest of her life in such a way.
"What does it have to do with Dolohov?"
"Nothing," Draco said and looked at her like she was stupid for not keeping up with him. "It has to do with the Curse-Breaker."
"Weasley?" he scoffed. "Why would I hire a Weasley to come and fuck with my wards? They were already broken, I didn't need them third-rate as well. Weasleys are terrible at almost everything they do."
"I should tell Ginny you said that."
Draco, smart man that he was, had the grace to respect the threat. "Fine, not everything they do. Red's talented with balls and a bit of wood between her thighs. She's earned me a great deal of Galleons over the years. I also hear she plays Quidditch."
Hermione made a gagging noise. "I should tell Blaise you said that."
"By all means." Draco shrugged, clearly not threatened in the slightest. "It's a borrowed joke from his repertoire. The point is though, Ginny plays Quidditch like a pro—which is helpful since she happens to be one—but Blaise says he can't eat anything the witch cooks for fear of food poisoning. Weasels are naturally good at one thing, and everything else is a potential cluster fuck."
Hermione smirked. "You're admitting that Ron's good at something?"
"Knocking up Pansy seems to be something he's skilled at. Then again, he's also accident prone, so . . ."
The two shared an uncomfortable laugh.
When the war was over and Hermione and Ron decided to give a relationship a shot, it was less than two months later that they awkwardly parted ways to save their friendship. Three months and a full bottle of firewhisky later, Ron had woken up in a room at the Leaky Cauldron next to Pansy Parkinson. Near December, when she showed up at the Burrow with a prenatal confirmation report from St Mungo's, Molly hit Ron over the head with the morning's Daily Prophet and invited Pansy in for lunch to plan a wedding.
"Back to your point—or my point," Hermione said. "Bill's the best Curse-Breaker that Gringott's has. He put up the wards around my flat. And the Burrow. And Ron and Pansy's place. And Harry and Daphne's!"
"Did you know that Blaise and Daphne dated at Hogwarts?" Ginny asked Harry.
They had all gotten together to help move Daphne into Grimmauld Place, and while the boys were all out back taking a break with a couple of butterbeers and Daphne was upstairs showing Pansy how she planned to redecorate the bedroom, Hermione and Ginny sat down with Harry in the dining room to look through the old china cupboard to see if space could be made for Daphne's heirlooms.
"Did they?" Harry asked. "That's weird."
"That our significant others slept together probably the same year that we were sleeping together?" Ginny asked with a smirk. "Yeah, a little weird."
"It's weird that you two are so open about this in front of me," Hermione commented as she threw out an old platter that had the words of House Black engraved in the centre of it, watching with amusement as it shattered in the metal bin.
It was not weird at all, though. An hour later, when all of the boxes had been put away, Bill stopped in to set up the wards around the house and, once he left, everyone sat down around the large dining room table for dinner. Draco with Luna sitting on his lap, Blaise and Ginny in the same position on the other side of the table, Ron trying to wrangle his four-year-old son, Artie, into his chair between him and a pregnant Pansy, and Harry and Daphne at the other end, looking besotted with one another.
And Hermione. Hermione was always there too.
"And should I ever purchase a lovely hovel of my own, I will hire the were-Weasley immediately," Draco smirked as he spoke. "But I have a manor and a very pretty and pregnant wife to keep protected. If my wards fail, I stand to actually lose something because, as you so sweetly put it, Luna is mental. Her invisible friends won't stand guard should Death Eaters come knocking. No one wants to break into the giant Weasel coop, Daphne has the Chosen One at her beck and call for protection, and Pansy's shrill voice is better than any Caterwauling Charm I've ever heard. Fuck . . ." Draco growled impatiently. "What was my point?"
"Speaking of which."
"Yes!" He snapped his fingers. "Speaking of which! Curse-Breakers! Yes, I hired Theo to fix my wards."
Hermione stared at him, having no idea what point he was trying to make. "Theo? Theodore Nott? I didn't know he was a Curse-Breaker," she said thoughtfully. "I'm not sure I knew he was still—." She paused abruptly when she looked up and saw Draco suddenly tense at her words. "Are you okay?"
He cleared his throat and gave a curt nod, his posture still stiff. "Theo's not just any Curse-Breaker. He's the best. He does freelance work because he's so expensive; even Gringott's won't hire him unless their onstaff servants, like Weasley, can't crack the codes."
"This has to do with your fake life debt because . . . ?"
Draco smirked, clearly pleased with himself for breaking her resolve. "Did you know that Theo graduated top of our class?" he asked casually, glancing down into his half-empty drink and swirling the contents with the thin, red straw. "He's very intelligent."
Hermione narrowed her eyes. "I graduated top of our class," she said, correcting him, "and Nott didn't even come back for our eighth year."
"He took his N.E.W.T.s through correspondence," Draco said, shrugging. "He's also very rich. And handsome. Or so I'm told. Luna says she took a fancy. He has dark hair and blue eyes, and she says that since he's taller than me and . . ." He said the words in a mocking tone and then, when he caught Hermione chuckling at him, he cleared his throat. "I don't have a complex about it. Witches think he's fit, leave it at that."
She sighed and leant forward, putting her elbows on the table and lacing her fingers. "What are you doing? Why does this feel like a precursor to a blind date? Why do I feel like you're channelling your inner Pansy?"
"I'm calling in your life debt."
"I don't owe you a bloody life debt, Malfoy!"
"I need you to marry Theo."
Hermione's mouth fell open. Did she hear that correctly?
"What?" she said, staring across the table at him, regretting—and not for the first time—ever making a truce with the Slytherin after the war ended. Surely, she could be friends with people less high maintenance and much more stable than Draco Malfoy. "Did someone Confund you? Has Luna been brewing that strange fermented tea again? You know she shouldn't be allowed around a cauldron, especially when she's pregnant. The fumes alone could cause a number of prenatal problems that—"
"Granger," he said again, reaching across the table and actually taking her arm to grab her attention, effectively cutting her words right off.
The physical gesture had her panicking. Draco did not touch people. Correction—Draco touched Luna affectionately, touched his Slytherin friends every so often with a pat on the back or a punch to the shoulder and, when it bothered Ron, he would hug Artie. But unless he was saving her life by catching her from falling off of a broom or pushing her into a pond to escape wereducks, Draco never touched Hermione.
She glanced down at the place where his hand held her. She was sure he had not noticed it at first, but his fingers accidentally brushed against the raised scar on her forearm, and she watched him tense at the realisation. This was why Draco never touched her. It reminded him.
He quickly pulled away.
"You're kind of scaring me here, Malfoy," Hermione whispered at the look of genuine concern in his eyes.
He took a breath and then finally said, "I need you to marry my best friend because if you don't, he's going to die."