The following Monday, Hermione alternated between banging her head on her desk and refreshing the Silencing and Locking Charm she cast on her door. Its purpose was dual: one, the faint residue of its magical presence signaled to would-be visitors that they should walk away, and two, nobody could hear her curse.
And curse, she did.
The reason? At some point during the remainder of the weekend following her disastrous date with Malfoy, she had come to the unfortunate conclusion that she, inexplicably, had a crush on him. A big one.
It made no sense. She had gone over the variables repeatedly and had examined it from every angle. She made a pro/con list that was easily one of the top three best pro/con lists she had made in her lifetime. When that brought her no clarity, she had even made a pie chart representing the makeup of his attributes that made her inner feminist hurl at the knowledge that she still somehow liked this guy. Despite all of this, she still didn't have a satisfactory answer as to why she suddenly fancied the git after he had successfully taken her on the worst date of her life and generally made her existence a living Hell.
She felt gross and foreign in her own skin. She wasn't certain how to be this person. Who was she really now? What other new surprises could Fate throw her way? Did she actually enjoy UFC fights? Perhaps Paul Ryan had some good ideas after all. Who even fucking knew anymore?
Knock, knock, knock.
Whoever it was would sense the Charm and go away.
Knock, knock, knock.
"Granger? Are you in there?"
Shit-shit-shit-shit-shit! She should have known that her little trick would only work on people with normal social skills. It was no match for Draco's preternatural levels of entitlement.
And she definitely wasn't ready to see him yet. She had only just transitioned from the denial stage of her crush to the part where she wanted to murder several boxes of Honeydukes chocolates. Seeing Draco wasn't supposed to happen for another several phases—somewhere between drunken Floo calls and intermittent office-stalking.
"Uh…" She began rifling through several papers of rubbish-bin-level importance to make it seem as though she truly was busy. "Just a second!" She lifted the Charm. "Um…you can come in now."
The door opened, and Hermione stifled a groan as he walked in. His hair resembled Leo circa Titanic, and he looked to be sewn into his trousers. How did she never notice before that he was really, really fucking gorgeous? Again, it made no sense. She had certainly seen him wear those exact same clothes and comb his hair in that precise way dozens of times before. And out of nowhere, today he looked like the last slab of sugar on Earth. She licked her lips. "Hi."
He swallowed. "Hi."
She shifted in her seat. "Um…do you want to sit down or something?"
"Sure." He sat, biting his lip and staring at a spot on her desk. "So, did you get home alright the other night?"
"Yup." She fidgeted with her quill. "Just dandy, thank you."
He nodded. "Good. Good. Um…" He coughed into his hand. "So, I wanted to apologize."
"For everything. The dress, the pet names, the fight. Everything."
She chewed on her bottom lip. "Draco, that's nice of you, but you really don't need to—"
"Please." His eyes met hers for the first time since he'd sat down. He inhaled deeply, preparing himself for what he was about to say. "I liked it, okay."
Hermione narrowed her eyes. "You liked what?"
Not even trying to mask his annoyance, he rubbed his hands on his face. "I liked the date. And not just because I got to rub winning the bet in your face."
She blinked at him, unsure of what to say.
"Okay, maybe a little bit because I got to rub it in your face, but mostly I just liked…" And, exhale. "Spendingtimewithyou."
"I BLOODY LIKE YOU, okay? There. Are you happy? I like you. I. Like. You. I have done for a while. It's the whole reason I made that stupid bet with you in the first place. And even though you had a rotten time and you'll probably never even want to speak to me again, I couldn't let things just sit the way they were without you knowing."
Hermione continued to blink at him, her eyes widening.
He scowled at her silence. "So there. I like you. You hate me. End of story. Now we can go back to being co-workers with a slightly unhealthy sense of competition and the occasional bout of unwelcome sexual tension." He rose out of his seat to leave her office.
Hermione's brain kicked in. "Notendofstory!"
He turned around. "Huh?"
She cleared her throat. "I said…it's not the end of the story."
He blinked. "I'm going to need you to elaborate, Granger."
She rolled her eyes. Even if he was fit, and possibly even kind of sweet, he was still an annoying little plonker. "If you think you can just waltz into my office, tell me you fancy me, and then walk off like we were discussing the fucking weather, then you obviously don't know me at all."
He rolled his eyes. "You want to drag this out? As if this wasn't emasculating enough for me."
"While I note that you have a habit of bolting when you're embarrassed about your feelings, I think I'm owed an explanation."
The tips of his ears pinkened adorably and Hermione couldn't help but smirk. So, she wasn't imagining that about him.
"What do you want to know?"
She scoffed as if the answer should be obvious. "Well, for starters, why are you so bloody awful to me if you fancy me?"
He rolled his eyes. "I'm hardly awful to you, Granger. I may joke around with you a lot, but it's not my fault if you're impervious to humor."
Tap, tap, tap went her quill on her desk. "But you're not funny."
"I'm hilarious, and you're missing the point. Wouldn't you say that due to my debatably arseholish behavior—"
"There's no debate. You're a twat."
"—debatably arseholish behavior, you direct more of your attention towards me?"
She chewed on her lip. "Possibly. But, still. If you fancied me, you could have…oh, I don't know…flirted like a normal person. Complimented my outfit, brought me a coffee in the morning, ask me about my interests."
"Impossible. Your clothes are atrocious. You'd suspect me of poisoning you. And every time I try to chat you up, we end up arguing."
She rubbed her temples. "Fine, but you told me the other night that when you came onto me for real, I'd know. I'm calling bullshit. How the ever-loving fuck was I supposed to know how you felt about me when you flirt like an animal?"
He pinched the top of his nose, squinting his eyes. He could feel a migraine coming on. "I wasn't coming onto you, Granger. I was simply trying to hold your attention. And to be perfectly honest, it's not like I had some grand scheme to woo you or anything. It was more of a half-formed understanding that you were someone of interest to me. I didn't fully realize the nature of this…little…thing I had about you until the other night. And I stand by my statement. When I come onto you for real, you'll know."
She blinked at him. "Well…alright, then. Carry on." She turned her attention back to the fake documents on her desk.
He rolled his eyes. "Granger, what are you doing?"
"I'm dismissing you so I can get some work done."
"I'm not a fucking house elf, Granger. You can't 'dismiss' me."
Her eyes flashed dangerously. "A fucking house elf?Read the room, you little—"
"You like me too. I'm not leaving until I hear you say it."
She really should have stayed home and pigged out on chocolates today. "Uggghh. Why do I like you again?"
Infuriating self-satisfaction saturated his face. "So, you do like me?"
"You don't have to look so smug about it. I'm not even sure that I actually do," she lied.
"But you're…different than I thought you'd be."
He nodded. "Sooo…what exactly does this mean?"
"I don't know."
"Should we…? I think we should…you know. Kiss. Or something."
She raised an eyebrow. "Or something?"
Remembering the feel of her knuckles bruising his flesh, he quickly amended his statement. "Kiss, yes. Definitely going with kiss."
She bit her lip, wanting to take him up on his offer more than anything in the world, but not wanting to appear too eager. Her head moved in a series of staccato nods. "Yes. Good. Alright." She hoped it sounded nonchalant, but her blood was boiling. She stood out of her seat and walked towards him, all the while thinking that she really should have made him come to her, purely as a power play.
He walked a few steps until he met her, looking oddly nervous. Somehow he looked younger without his usual sneer. She liked it.
The two of them licked their lips and leaned in. Unfortunately, they each tilted their heads in the same direction, knocking into each other.
"Bloody hell, Granger. Hold still."
"You hold still, Malfoy."
"Ugh, you are such a pain in the arse." Without another thought, he grabbed her head and kissed her firmly on the lips.
Each of them softened at the impact. Within seconds, they were sighing into each other's mouths, goosebumps erupting over their bodies.
For perhaps the first time in her life, Hermione couldn't think. Her whole world dissolved down to one kiss. Soft lips against lips. His hands on her waist, too shy to move them up or down, but still they seemed to set her whole body on fire. He tasted like sweet coffee and something else. Something male and personal; something she instantly knew she would crave again and again.
When they finally tore their mouths away from one another, they opened their eyes to find that the barriers each of them normally built had been torn down, leaving them completely vulnerable.
Draco smiled with a gentleness and a warmth she had no idea he possessed. He traced one hand up her neck to her chin and cupped her jaw. The tips of his fingers grazed her skin, sending chills down to her toes. The gentleness of his touch, the disarming way he was looking at her; she had never felt so examined. His eyes were open, and she could see that in that moment, to him, she was something fine and rare. She'd never felt that way before. She'd never been so obviously adored by another person. Suddenly it hit her that this is what he meant when he said when he came onto her, she'd know.
"Will you go out with me for real?"
Her heart beat wildly in her chest. "Yes."
He smiled. "Good." His thumb grazed her bottom lip. "Can I kiss you again?"
"Yes," she breathed huskily.
"Can we shag on your couch?"
She narrowed her eyes dangerously. "Don't push it."
He smiled as he leaned in for another kiss. "Bitch."