She tossed and turned, her long brown hair quietly striking the pillows as she tried vainly to fall asleep. She huffed, rolled onto her back and stared at the ceiling. She counted the cracks and stains above her. She needed to sleep more often. She knew that her ceiling had four long cracks, with a few dimples from water damage and a dark grey blotch tainting the upper left corner of the room.
She fleetingly wondered why no one had redone the paint. It could be a simple fix with the right spell. She twiddled her thumbs and let her head drop to the right side to stare at the boxes stacked by the door.
"Are you sure you don't need anything else, kitten?" Sirius asked, carrying a heavy box filled to the brim with books. He didn't think that there was any way that she would bring more books to his house, as he already had a large library with an extensive selection, but he should have known better.
Hermione walked in after him, carrying a lamp and plugged it into the socket beside her bed. She tucked her hair behind her ear and pulled down the edge of her t-shirt that had ridden up during her trek through the house.
Sirius knew his eyes lingered on the strip of skin a moment too long, but when Hermione met his eyes questioningly, he did not falter. He confidently gave her a lopsided smile and put down the box. She tried not to notice the way his tan, muscular arms flexed with the movement.
Hermione had yet to touch the boxes, settling on a night of restless sleep instead of facing her issues head on. She frowned, turned her head back to face the ceiling and closed her eyes. She was not the sort to run away from her problems.
She could do this.
Hermione sighed loudly and rolled to the edge of the bed, swung her legs around and stood up. She tugged her shirt down and pulled on a small pair of striped cotton shorts. She padded over to the boxes by the door and took a deep breath.
She reached in and grabbed her first book.
"Sweet Salazar, Granger, did you bring anything other than books?" Draco grumbled, bringing another large box of books into the room. "I don't think I've seen anything remotely resembling clothing or toiletries or anything resembling personal effects."
Draco Malfoy stood tall at 6'3'', taller than Sirius' 6'2'' and Hermione's 5'8''. He had grown much broader since his days at Hogwarts and his skin was no longer sallow, but a graceful fair.
They were now friends, but he still loved to get under her skin. He did whatever possible to make Hermione feel tiny and uncomfortable when he could. He stepped into the room, gently nudging Hermione aside to place his box on top of Sirius'.
"I don't know how you're expecting to live a normal life when you failed to bring a single suitcase of clothes." He teased, his words seemingly pointed, but they lacked the trademark venom.
He pulled a book from the box in front of him and leisurely flipped through the pages.
"I don't suppose you're going to fashion a dress out of these?" He smirked, winking at Hermione over the print.
Hermione moved silently as the bookcases beside her bed were gradually filled. She organized them several times, unable to decide whether to arrange them by author, subject matter or title. She ultimately settled on subject matter.
She sighed again after another hour had passed, stepping back to admire her work. The bookshelves were full and one box stubbornly remained. She would put those books in the library down the hall.
"It is slightly concerning that we found no clothes while unpacking you car, Hermione." Remus smiled at her when he entered the room, "But I know that you're capable of taking care of yourself, and unlike these brooding, argumentative men, I know not to poke the lioness."
Remus dropped the box to rest atop the other two and then placed a hand on Hermione's lower back and kissed her cheek warmly. He was definitely the most diplomatic of her three new roommates, with his studious and temperate nature. She hoped that he would become the voice of reason in this unavoidably tempestuous household.
"We're happy to have you here with us. Is there anything else that we can get for you to help you get settled in?" Remus asked. He looked down at her with the other men, all of them standing quite formidably with their arms crossed.
Hermione smiled and thanked them for their efforts, but politely refused their offers of dinner and housewarming. She wished to be alone to sort her things and didn't come out of her room for the rest of the evening.
"Do we know why she moved out of the Weasel's house?" Draco asked, swirling his firewhiskey of the tumbler in his hand.
He sat on the couch in the sitting room next to Remus, the room filled with a content silence up until this point. Remus sighed and ran his fingers through his hair, leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees.
"No, we don't. All Harry said is that she broke things off with Ron and gathered her things. He offered her a place to stay for a few nights, but she wanted somewhere more permanent and he pushed her towards moving in here with us." Remus took a sip of his drink, looking up at the ceiling briefly when he heard the quiet sounds of her feet padding on the creaky floorboards above them. "I don't think anyone knows why she left. Harry is very concerned."
Sirius sat quietly, listening to Hermione as well. He took a deep swig from the bottle in his lap, happy to refuse an elegant glass. His tattooed fingers hung around the bottle's neck loosely.
"They were together for what, six years?" Draco asked, "You don't just end something like that for no reason."
Six years ago, Draco would not have been caught dead batting an eyelash towards the brunette, unless it was to throw a slur. Following the Battle of Hogwarts and the end of the Second Wizarding War, he faced rehabilitation and house arrest, being forced to move in with his only free living relative, Sirius Black.
As he was revealed to be a spy along with Severus Snape following their trials, Draco was released from the charges after six months. He was already settled into Grimmauld Place with Sirius and Remus by the time he was let off. He found them amusing and enjoyable roommates, so he stayed. Six years of family and Order gatherings later, he was firmly wound into the social circle of his old enemies and ensconced in their lives.
To everyone's surprise, he and Harry got along rather famously when house and family rivalries were absent. Harry facilitated the restoration of Draco's reputation in the Wizarding World, and he successfully convinced him to become an Auror with him and Ron. Sirius entered the Auror training program with Draco, happy to funnel his rebelliousness and restlessness into a productive activity. He and Draco became partners upon graduating and resolved to bring honor and pride to the Black family name again.
Remus was extremely content with his career, having bought a bookstore in Diagon Alley with Hermione a few years earlier. He ran day-to-day operations while she managed the finances and handled the procurement of rare books. She spent the majority of her time at her job in the depths of the Ministry, her head dug deep into ancient tomes and artifacts. He took care of the store while she worked and owned a third of the business, with Hermione also owned a third and Sirius owned the remaining third.
Remus sighed and ran his hands over his face when Hermione stopped moving upstairs. He hoped that she was finally able to fall asleep.
"I have no idea why she left, but I'm sure she has a good reason. We've all noticed her becoming increasingly withdrawn over the past few months and I don't think I've seen her look at him once during the last several Weasley dinners." He leaned back on the couch and drank from his tumbler.
The three men sat in silence, took the occasional drink from their whiskey and contemplated the woman upstairs.
"Hermione, come on! We can talk about this!" Ron shouted at her, storming into their bedroom to prevent her from throwing the rest of her belongings into the boxes on the bed. He reached in quickly and started removing texts from the box and threw them onto the carpet with solid thick thuds.
Hermione refused to look at the books on the floor or her now ex-lover. She simply tried to put things into boxes at a faster rate than Ron could confiscate them and settled with successfully only removing three quarters of her books.
Ron was growing increasingly desperate and he moved around the bed, rushing to her side. He grabbed her arm unforgivingly, yanking on her soft skin and swinging her around to face him. He pushed her into the wall behind them and hissed at her in a bitter snarl.
"What, do you think you're better than me or something?" He growled, bringing his hand up to her face and she flinched. She continued to refuse to meet his eyes, grimacing when his grip on her chin grew tight and harsh. She wrenched her face out of his grasp and made to slip by him, but he grabbed her hips and ground himself into her.
"You know you miss me, sweetheart." He whispered into her ear and she shuddered in disgust. "It's been months since we've been together, all because of your stupid job. You know that you want to feel my touch again, and you know that I can't stand being without your softness." He clenched his fingers on her hips and dug his fingertips into her flesh. Hermione let out a quiet hiss when his nails punctured her. He assumed that her hiss was of pleasure, while she was, in reality, repulsed and in pain.
Hermione slid her hands up his chest to rest on his shoulders and shoved him away from her. She grabbed the edges of her boxes and apparated outside of her flat, leaning against her car to take a breath. She swiftly brought her wand up to heal the red marks on her chin and the small welts on her hips.
She then loaded her boxes into the car and drove to Harry's house.
Draco blinked awake groggily, raised his head from between his arms and ruffled his hair sleepily. He could almost swear that he could smell food cooking in the kitchen.
He smirked at the impossibility of that notion, knowing full well that their kitchen was left unused except in the presence of the Weasley matriarch. Neither Sirius nor Draco could cook an edible meal as they had been raised with House Elves, and Remus was worthless at cooking anything that did not contain chocolate.
He let his head fall back into his pillow, inhaling the scent of sleep and relaxed again.
A few minutes later, he was certain that he heard the soft clatter of a pan below him. He decided to satisfy his curiosity.
Draco walked quietly down the stairs, savoring the steady stream of delicious smells. The closer he got, the more he heard the rustling of pots and pans and even the sizzle of food on the stove. He pulled his wand from the back of his pajama bottoms, ready to extinguish any fire that Sirius may have lit.
Just about to enter the kitchen, he spotted Remus and Sirius hovering by the doorway. He frowned when he noticed them, only just then remembering the newest member of their household. Remus and Sirius turned when they heard him approach and they nodded in greeting.
Draco finally got a look at the woman in their kitchen and his mouth went dry.
Soft jazz was emitting from the yellow radio on the counter and Hermione's hips swayed mildly to the beat while she flipped what looked like perfectly edible toast in the skillet. He wasn't even sure when they had gotten plates, let alone a pan or pot. She was making eggs, French toast and bacon, dancing in her bare feet and sipping tea from the mug in her right hand, a spatula in her left. Her long dark hair fell down her back, riotous curls slightly frizzed from what they were all sure was rather turbulent and short sleep.
The men all met eyes with mouths watering from both the food and the chef. They grinned at each other, not having considered this benefit of having a mature female roommate. They were going to turn back from the room and avoid disturbing her, but she called out to them.
"Boys, if you're done hovering, I made breakfast." She didn't turn around, but placed four plates on the table and loaded them all up with food. The men sheepishly came to the table and sat down. "I made French toast, eggs and bacon. I also added some chocolate chips to yours, Remus." She dropped a light kiss on the top of his head before returning to the counter to grab the syrup and teapot.
She joined them at the table and pulled her unruly hair into a messy bun. They thanked her vehemently and began shoveling food into their mouths.
She smiled at the familiar sight, happy to have one thing that never changed over the years.
Over the next few weeks, the three men were more pleased with their living arrangement than they had ever been.
Remus lived for the complex and riveting conversations he and Hermione held in the library late at night. They would pull books from the shelves to back up their arguments and discuss muggle and wizard authors alike. He loved the way she would leave chocolate bars by his door when he'd had a bad day and how she managed to sneak chocolate into his breakfast and coffee throughout the day.
She was an excellent roommate and friend and he found that Moony quite liked her as well. He often found himself tucking her into his side when she fell asleep on the couch, letting his hand rest on her lower back to lead her into rooms and switching her tea to decaf when she didn't notice, hoping to improve her sleep patterns. He would let himself smell her when she sat close to him and she smelled like comfort, home and happiness.
Sirius found himself reveling in the presence of their new roommate too. She often found herself resting against him late at night, while he grew used to keeping an arm around her when they were seated adjacent to one another. He often found himself watching her across the house, whether she was cooking in the kitchen, reading in the den or researching in the library.
He loved bickering with her over mundane things, doing his best to draw her out of her shell that had somehow grown around her over the past few years. He never noticed it developing, but her walls were now so thick he was surprised that anyone could see her at all. Her wariness and tension was palpable, and he spent most of his time away from work in her presence. Whether soothing her or agitating her, he was always close by.
Their last roommate, the Slytherin, observed the two Marauders close in on Hermione. He watched the heated glances and lingering brushes of Sirius and the familiarity and comfort she drew from Remus. He did his best to avoid her company as he had over the past six years, not eager to start a fight with his former rival.
He knew she was hiding the reason behind her and Ron's split, and he knew that Sirius and Remus were too close to her to force her to confront it. While he was not losing sleep over the love life of his roommate, he was still fairly certain that Ron had done something that warranted abuse and he ached for a good reason to carry it out. He had not been able to harm the Weasel for many years due to his friendship with Harry and the Weasley twins, but he had the nagging suspicion that Ron had done something irrevocably immoral to cause Hermione's complete abandonment of him. The woman was always fiercely loyal.
Draco watched her chat with Remus and Sirius over his morning tea. She lifted an arm to lightly swat Sirius on the shoulder when he whispered something clearly inappropriate into her ear and Draco spotted a shimmer on her wrist. He frowned, focusing hard on the area before dropping his fork with a subtle clink against the plate.
He wiped his mouth with his napkin and excused himself.
Harry and Ron sat at the familiar dark bar of the Leaky Cauldron, drinking from tall mugs of butterbeer and sharing a plate of fries. They discussed their most recent case, determined not to discuss the elephant in the room: Hermione.
Although Ron tried to persuade him otherwise, Harry had resolved to be neutral in the split of his best friends. He knew that Ron was missing Hermione desperately, but he trusted her to have a genuine reason for leaving. He would be lying if he said he had not wondered, at times, why she stayed with Ron for so long. Ron was an exceptional friend and Auror partner, but he had seen him become a complacent and possessive man and he believed that Hermione deserved better. He only hoped that Hermione's reason for leaving was that she had stopped loving him, and not that Ron had done anything inexcusable.
Sirius, Remus and Draco, soon joined them they moved to a table placed in the corner of the room. They ordered butterbeer and food as well as shots of firewhiskey for each of them. It was tradition on Tuesday nights for the men to share whiskey and discuss their lives, and although Draco had been coming for the entirety of the tradition, Ron always found a way to slip insults and petty jabs at him throughout the evening.
Draco passed out the whiskey glasses and poured for each of them. They all raised their glasses in a silent toast and drank.
"So how about a game, lads?" Draco asked, "I'm sure Remus is getting tired of hearing Auror stories week after week, and it's not as if Potter or Weasel are able to keep up in a debate about books." He smirked at Harry as he glared back at him, ignoring the snarl on Ron's face.
Remus jumped into the conversation, hoping to postpone the inevitable Weasley-Malfoy spat.
"I would love to play a game, Draco. What will it be?" Remus asked, looking to Sirius and Harry for assistance as they watched Ron glare at Draco heatedly.
Sirius watched his cousin carefully, unsettled by the manner in which Draco was watching Ron. Normally, Draco would poke and prod Ron until he predictably blew up in a fit of juvenile rage, but tonight Draco seemed much more measured. Purposeful. Focused. He was intrigued and wanted to see where this went.
By living with Draco for several years and bringing him into the fold of the light, Sirius learned many things about his cousin. He knew that Draco was a well-meaning man with honor and principle, but that he also possessed a wickedly vindictive side when provoked. Sirius and Draco had been on many adventures together as Auror partners, and over the years Sirius had grown to trust Draco's malevolent episodes. They were rarely undeserved, and while Ron and Draco were always squabbling, Sirius had never seen Draco watch Ron with the dark eyes unexceptionally reserved for dark wizards. His fingers tightened around his glass as he contemplated what Draco's ire could possibly mean.
Sirius met Remus' eyes across the table with a hard look, and Remus returned it with confusion.
"I think we should play 'Never Have I Ever'." Draco smirked, clinking his glass with Harry's. Harry and Remus cheered happily while Ron smiled uneasily and Sirius kept a cool expression on his face. Draco and Sirius made eye contact and Sirius quirked his head in question. Draco simply nodded to him.
"Yes, definitely." Sirius replied, letting his lips stretch into an effortless smile and raised his glass. "I'll go first."
The men all sat, watching Sirius contemplate for a moment. He pulled his wand out and tapped all of the glasses in the circle, muttering under his breath.
"A simple truth spell to keep us honest." Sirius made eye contact with Ron easily, making sure to keep his rising malice out of his gaze. "I've never had sex at the Burrow." He smirked at Harry, laughing when his and Ron's hands automatically rose from the table. The men around the table chuckled as the two men drank.
"Alright," Harry wiped the foam from his mouth, "I've never been unable to get it up for a woman." They laughed good-naturedly when Ron's hand rose and his face flushed crimson.
"I was drunk, it wasn't my fault." Ron mumbled, ducking his head to avoid meeting anyone's eyes. "I've never fallen asleep on the job." He laughed when Harry's hand shot up and his face flushed.
"It was a 72 hour shift, I don't know what you expected when you left me to carry out the stakeout alone, mate." Harry grumbled, drinking deep from his mug.
"I've never been struck by Hermione Granger." Remus grinned, watching every other man at the table's hands shoot up and they all laughed and drank.
"She's a fiery one." Sirius laughed, "Although I'm fairly certain she's only hit Draco, here, across the face. Aside from The War, that is." Sirius smirked at Draco's glare.
About thirty minutes later, the men were on their third and fourth butterbeers, laughing heartily at Harry's tale about a rather unfortunate encounter with Cho Chang in a broom closet.
"I can't believe you dropped her, mate." Sirius laughed, slapping his leg and drinking deeply from his mug. "I think it's Draco's turn, now." He nodded to him.
Draco waited until they stopped laughing, wanting his words to have the maximum effect. He made eye contact with Ron and let his smile drop down into a vindictive snarl.
"I have never struck Hermione Granger."
Ron's hand shot up.
Harry and Remus froze as they watched Ron's face turn white. Ron's eyes were locked on Draco's and he realized, in that moment, that he was completely and irrevocably fucked. Sirius's dark eyes locked on Ron with fire, and he went to lunge across the table, but Draco immobilized the men around the table.
Draco stood up slowly, leaning heavily on the table in front of him to meet Ron's eyes with surety.
"I have never cheated on Hermione Granger."
Ron's hand shot up again, disregarding the spell keeping the rest of him stuck in place. His eyes held absolute fear as he watched Harry and Remus turn red and shake with rage.
"I have never taken Hermione without her consent."
Harry, Remus and Sirius' eyes were locked on Ron's hand, their breath held. Ron's hand lay stubbornly on the table and they all sighed with relief. Ron looked up at Draco with absolute fear, trying to guess his next move.
Draco grabbed the bottle of firewhiskey left on a nearby table and took a deep gulp. He walked back over to their table and took a deep breath.
"Well, at least you're not a rapist." He sighed, drinking again from the bottle and cracked his neck. He returned the bottle to the table next to them and cracked his knuckles. "That's a rather low bar to set, Weasel." Ron's face reddened with the usage of that hated nickname.
"Here's what's going to happen." He paused, watching the terrified redhead in front of him. "I'm going to immobilize them in a few seconds, but I claim the first shot. Ready?" He smirked cruelly at Ron and flexed his hand in preparation.
A muffled shout leaked through the charm keeping Ron still, and Malfoy grinned.
Hermione stood in the kitchen making dinner, reading from the book she held open with her left hand while stirring with her right. She swayed side-to-side and hummed quietly, dark curly tendrils framing her face.
She heard the door open behind her and she heard Draco call out for her. She called back that she was in the kitchen and waiting for him to join her.
Draco strode into the kitchen silently and watched her at the stove for a moment. She heard him enter and put down the book to greet him.
"Oh my god, Malfoy! What the hell happened to your hand?" She cried, dropping the wooden spoon to grab his hand and examine his bloody and bruised knuckles. "Are you alright? I thought you were going out with the boys tonight?" She lightly ran her fingers across his hand and flexed the fingers, checking for breaks.
Draco stood mute and watched her, a pensive expression on his face.
After he failed to respond to her many questions, Hermione went to grab her wand and heal his hand. She stepped away to get it from the counter, but Draco grabbed her arm softly and kept her from moving away.
He felt his stomach turn when she flinched away.
Her head shot up and her mouth dropped open, trying to think of a way to laugh off the response but his sober expression terminated her thoughts. She looked up at him in silence and he brought up a hand to stroke her cheek delicately.
"I'm sorry, but the others know."
Her heart stopped.
"What are you talking about?" She tried to step away, but he kept her close. His presence was not oppressive or threatening, but firm and sure.
He reached down to grasp her hand smoothly and stroked the dark bruises he knew she hid behind her glamor.
"I enjoy harming the Weasel, but I no longer enjoy harming you. They needed to know and I am not sorry that they are aware, but I do regret any pain their awareness may cause you. The others will likely storm into this house soon in a blaze of Gryffindor glory and bravery, and you should prepare yourself." He stroked her cheek again and kissed the top of her head in a move of quiet affection.
He released her and they stood in silence. Hermione stared at the floor and Draco observed her unobtrusively. They breathed together.
This moment seemed to go on forever, with palpable borders that kept Hermione and Draco suspended. He allowed her this ceasefire, as he knew that her life was about to be turned upside down.
Suddenly, a loud bang broke the silence.