"Curiosity killed the cat, Granger."
Hermione almost leapt back from the book she'd been eyeing. Narcissa Malfoy had let her into the library to wait, her customary sneer curling her lip. She'd wanted to tell the woman that was likely to create wrinkles, but this meeting was too important and she didn't want to get thrown out before she'd even had a chance to talk to Malfoy.
Not that she really had much hope. Her best prediction was that he'd listen to her, laugh with delight, and tell her he'd send flowers. Then he'd show her the door and she'd go home and see how long potions could stave off the inevitable. Harry swore he could use Snape's old textbook to brew a better remedy than the one she could buy at the apothecary, but she could already feel the itch of her heritage between her shoulders. A better potion might buy her an extra month, but that was all.
She tried not to wring her hands as she faced her schoolyard nemesis. Life after the war had been good to him. The haunted look he'd had their sixth year had faded, and the terrified boy who'd watched his aunt torture her had been replaced by a confident man, albeit one who had on long sleeves despite the heat of the day.
She told herself it was the unusually warm day that made sweat drip down her neck but she knew that was a lie. She'd dreaded this meeting from the moment she'd found out. So much for Gryffindor courage, she thought as she studied him. She'd never thought he was especially handsome in school. Too pointy, too pale, too mean. Handsome is as handsome does her mother had always said, and Hermione had agreed, especially when it came to bullies like Malfoy. Was it her blood that made him seem attractive now, all part of this curse, or had he truly aged into an agreeable looking sort? She doubted she'd ever really know. Everything about Malfoy was subjective now.
"I have a problem," she said.
"So your owl said," he said, and waved her to a chair. "It must be truly diabolical for you to come groveling to me."
She wanted to tell him she wasn't groveling. She wanted to tell him to sod off. She wanted to climb into his lap and sit there like a cat and let him stoke her. Damn this. "How much do you know about Veela?" she asked.
He shrugged. "Magical creatures, breathtakingly beautiful, captivate men with a single look. Why?"
"That's one strain, yes," she said. It would have been nice to have been that strain. She'd talked to Fleur at length and the woman had apologized over and over again as if Hermione's condition were somehow her fault. "There's another."
Draco began to look interested. She handed over the research she'd done and he skimmed it quickly, his eyes widening at one point. He began to laugh when he reached the end and she could feel herself shrivel into the beautiful, antique chair. It had been a long shot and now that he was opening his mouth to tell her hell would freeze first, she wished she hadn't taken it. Dying would be bad. Dying with the knowledge Draco Malfoy would be able to gloat about it was worse. Watching him gloat worse still.
"This has to be a joke," he said. One look at her greying face, though, and he knew it wasn't. "Granger," he said, pain in his voice. Pity, even. She hadn't expected that. Somehow that was worse than scorn. "You must have done the research wrong."
She shook her head. That had been her first thought too. It was absurd. Infected by a magical creature and doomed not to live eternally like a vampire, or even to turn to a wolf like poor Professor Lupin, but to be dependent, utterly dependent, on a mate just to stay alive. Who had even heard of such a thing? It was like some perversion of what Fleur was. Instead of captivating all men, she was captivated by one. She'd pine. She'd wither. She'd die without him. She was already in almost constant pain.
"I double checked everything," she said in a whisper. "Triple."
He stared at her in horror and she shrugged. "It was a last hope," she said. "I know we aren't... but I had to try."
"Of course you did." He said the words automatically. "I would have done the same."
"Now that I'm here, of course, I see my... I see this was ill-advised." She stood to go. She'd try Harry's potion. She'd travel in the time she had left. At least, she thought with bitter humor, I won't need to save for retirement.
She made it halfway to the door only to find him blocking her path. He'd filled out since school and the slender seeker she'd loathed seemed more solid than she remembered. The urge to fling herself into his arms and cry was almost overwhelming and she had to fight it off. "Granger," he said. "If I'm reading that right, you'll have a very short life without me."
"Quite," she said.
She tried to step around him and he blocked her path. "We should at least talk about this over tea," he said.
She began to laugh. "Tea?" she asked giving in at last to the hysterics she'd avoided since she'd learned what was plaguing her. "Could you be any more British? I'm going to die without you and you think we should have tea?"
"I prefer tea to murder," he said with implacable calm as he took her by the elbow and guided her back to the chair she'd perched on nervously before. The touch made her nerves settle and the prickles that had been running along her skin for months fell into silence. She hadn't even realized how much they'd bothered her until they were gone. Even her emotions calmed under his hand. When he released her, she felt the absence at once and she braced against the return of all the pings and whispers of her fate but they remained dormant.
He picked up a bell, quite literally rang for tea, and she watched him. This wasn't what she'd expected at all. She'd hardly dared hope he'd do more than throw her out.
He'd poured her a cup and asked how she took it, adding a single sugar cube with tongs she assumed were silver, before he returned to the subject that mattered. He regarded her over the rim of his cup and asked, "Does Potter know?"
"Yes," she said.
"He must hate it," Draco said. "Not being able to fix you, I mean," he added when she narrowed her eyes at him. "He likes saving people." He took a sip and seemed to think. "It never was my specialty."
"No," she said.
He set the cup down and frowned at her. "Pity you didn't get the strain that makes a woman irresistible, or that there wasn't at least a bit of that in this version."
She had no idea what to say to that. She was quite sure he'd just insulted her, but before she could formulate a response he shrugged and added something that took her breath away. "Well, we can't live here. I've been meaning to get my own flat anyway. I assume anyplace you already have is some kind of hovel, so I won't even bother to look at it, but Mum's estate agent can have us in an acceptable address by nightfall tomorrow if I throw enough galleons at her."
"I live with Harry," she said faintly. She took a sip of the tea and tried to figure out why the edges of the room were going white. Merlin, he was an arrogant bastard. Any place she had wouldn't be good enough indeed.
"Definitely a hovel, then," Draco said. "Are there doxies in the curtains?"
"I... I don't think so?" she said, the words coming out as a question. She couldn't believe what was happening. Harry had told her Draco couldn't possibly be so horrid as to let her die, but she'd been sure that was Harry projecting his own generous nature onto others. Relief from pain, and relief from the fear that had been pressing her down, made her woozy. She managed to set the cup down before she collapsed and the room tilted sideways. When she came to, Draco was kneeling over her, an annoyed look on his face. She was pretty sure he'd slapped her back into consciousness. Gallantry only went so far, apparently.
"It's really very unflattering that you thought I'd let you die," he said. "You were so sure I would, you fainted at the idea I'm not a total bastard." He helped her sit up and she tried not to curl into his shoulder but she was pretty sure he saw the aborted movement because he wrapped an arm around her shoulder with only a faint grimace of distaste. "I've yet to murder anyone, you know, and I don't plan to start with you."
"I don't know how to thank you," she said.
"Lots of fabulous sex?" he suggested. She started to pull away from him and he sighed and tightened his grip on her. "It was a joke, Granger."
That was when she started to cry.
. . . . . . . . . .
A/N - for stackninigi on tumblr. This one I might expand into a short multi-chapter story if people like it enough because I do like veela!Hermione and there aren't a lot.