Demolition Lovers 1/3
Author: Empath Apathique
Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to J K Rowling. No profit is being made.
Warnings: Very bad language that girls are supposedly not supposed to use, and allusions to lots and lots of hot monkey sex.
Summary: Words didn't mean anything. Only a man who was absolutely sure of what he wanted—or was far too comfortable where he was—could tell a woman that she was the only woman he'd ever love then run off to bed another.
Note: Edited and reposted 1/15/08. Don't worry, this story is finished. I'm working to get it to a place where I'm not embarrassed that people read it.
- - - - - - - -
She really shouldn't have stayed the night with him.
He wasn't awake yet. She could tell by the even, measured breaths that danced against her forehead. But Draco had never been an exceptionally hard sleeper, and given that she wasn't one for keeping still—no matter how comfortable she was—all her shifting was bound to wake him sooner or later.
She was lying as close to him as possible without being completely atop of him. She stretched, extending her arms and legs as far as she could for a few seconds before sighing contentedly. She ran her fingers up his arms as she brought them back to their previous place, giggling a bit when she felt him shiver. He grumbled in his sleep, and the arm he had wrapped around her waist tightened reflexively.
Correction: Draco was a very light sleeper. It took very little to wake him, and he rarely got very good sleep because of it. At work, she often heard him grumbling about the damn Muggle cars alarms out on the street or Orion, his cat, scratching at the door, his face the picture of tired annoyance as he poured more sugar into his morning brew. Hermione had learned better than to tease him about it. Draco didn't develop a sense of humor until half past two. At least.
She never woke him up on purpose. As she'd said, Draco had the temperament of Blast-ended skrewt before noon; no one wanted to talk to that. She woke him up because of a variety of reasons, from her fidgeting to her lack of ability to smoothly remove herself from the bed without making enough noise to wake the entire building. She couldn't help either; she'd always been a helpless fidgeter, and something about spending the night with Draco Malfoy always made her bleary-eyed and uncoordinated—completely unsuited for stealth operations such as sneaking out unnoticed by one's sleeping lover.
Hermione sighed again, closing her eyes to escape the angry glare of the sun. She should get up, she thought. Judging by the amount of light entering the room, it was pretty late. They would both be late for work, and she told herself that she needed to run back to her flat for a new set of robes before she went in.
Well, that wasn't completely true. Draco kept a set for her in his closet, washed and pressed and ready to wear for situations such as these. She just wanted to get the hell out of there before he woke up and started in on her with his usual 'morning after' questions—'Is this it? Are you finally ready?' —fixing her with one of his accusatory stares when she said exactly what he didn't want to hear.
Not that running away would do her much good. They worked at the same office—he on the fifth floor and she on the tenth—and they were bound to see each other sooner or later. He would usually make the first move, despite how out of character it was for him. He was tired, he would say, and he just wanted all this fooling around to end so they could actually be in a real freaking relationship with one another.
That didn't mean that he was nice about it.
He would stomp into her office at around nine to glare at her and call her the same name he'd been calling her for the past year: a self-righteous Gryffindor tease who was scared of commitment.
And—as usual—she'd point out to him that his statement was a bit of an oxymoron; 'scared' wasn't a typical adjective one would use to describe a former Gryffindor. If she was feeling particularly daring—or angry, for the matter—she'd bring up the fact that she had been married before; when had he ever committed himself to another person completely?
If she said the former, he'd simply roll his eyes at her. If she said the latter, however, he'd give her this look that said she knew quite clearly when he'd dedicated himself to another person completely. She wouldn't say anything, and he'd get this look that plainly said he wanted to strangle her. He wouldn't.
After either, he'd march away from her in the same petulant manner he did whenever he didn't get his way. He'd been doing it since he was five.
Then she'd see him later.
The Walk was supposed to make her go after him, though Hermione never did. Not at first, at least. She'd let him sit in his office, scribbling angrily away at his reports as he cursed her to the pits of hell for her stubbornness for a few hours before she went to see him. She'd show up at his office at about noon, bringing takeaway from his favorite restaurant—which was a Muggle place, something she teased him endlessly about—for the both of them and easily clear his desk for lunch. He'd glare and answer her questions snippily, but at the end of the hour, they'd always be laughing and joking as if nothing had happened at all.
And they'd be cool for a few days, weeks. They'd smile, laugh, joke together; take lunch, visit gallery openings, and see shows—all the while behaving as if nothing were wrong at all. Nothing would be wrong—not yet. But then he'd seduce her, or she'd seduce him, and she'd find herself in the same exact situation another morning—lying twisted around him in his bed and wishing that she hadn't gone home with him.
Nothing ever changed.
It was a bit of a show they both put on, she thought, something that made them both feel comfortable. They were at a point in their lives where they'd literally already gone through hell together. They were trying something safe now, something new. She knew that the last thing he wanted to do on those 'mornings after' was walk away from her. He wanted to yell at her, scream at her—shake her until he forced a bit of his logic in her head. But he had done that already. It had been more than a year ago, way, way back in the beginning when they first decided to try this 'new' thing and he'd realized that he didn't want to try it at all. He'd finally realized what he wanted from her—with her. It was too late though, and now he had to wait on her.
It drove him positively insane, the waiting, and Hermione knew it.
She had no doubt that he was authentically upset those times he walked away from her; however, she believed that falling into an old, familiar behavior pattern made things easier for him. Made the waiting less painful.
She had always made a point of always doing exactly what he hadn't want her to do. He knew it, and she knew it. It was one of the many predictable things about their relationship—her need to defy him. But for once, in this tiny, big thing called their relationship, she made sure she did exactly as he'd said. Time be damned—a contract was a contract. What he'd said over ten years ago when they'd signed it back in sixth year was still the rule. The one time Hermione had given Draco Malfoy his shot, he had missed the hoop completely. He was going to have to steal the ball from her in order to get another chance.
And Hermione wasn't going to be releasing that ball any time soon. He'd have to wait until she took her shot and try to grab the rebound. Quite frankly, she liked having control over their relationship. She had bled and sweat and cried for this control; she'd earned it.
Besides, he owed this to her—whether he knew it or not. Screw the fact that he wasn't eating and wasn't sleeping and couldn't function. She'd do what she wanted, when she wanted. She wasn't ready yet, and he was just going to have to deal with her evil doings until she was.
- - - - - - - -
Hermione pressed her face against his neck. He smelled like sweat and sex and him, and she relished it. She'd rest for just a little while longer, she told herself. She closed her eyes, shifting a bit to find the comfortable position she'd been in before she awoke.
The arm around her waist tightened again suddenly, and Hermione's movements stilled. Ah, so he was awake already. Blast.
He was saying something, though she couldn't hear him. He was talking into her hair, and if Hermione couldn't comb through it, she was pretty sure she couldn't hear his muffled words through it either. She smiled.
"Not to interrupt you or anything, sweetheart, but you do know that I can't hear you, right?"
He grumbled tiredly, shifting his face away from her hair. "I said that you couldn't stay still if your life depended on it."
"Go back to sleep," he told her.
She moved her face from his neck. Entirely too much light was entering the room for them to have time for another doze. "It's late…"
"Go back to sleep."
So, of course, she didn't go back to sleep.
- - - - - - - -
Draco Malfoy was an opinionated clot, and had a lot to say about the goings on in Hermione's life. He was the only person she knew that she could be herself around and get intelligent conversation out of, and he knew it. Thus, the cocky bastard felt she should listen to him. And really, Hermione did. She listened to every single thing that Draco told her; took notes sometimes even. She just rarely did as he said.
She always did what he didn't want her to do. Well, not always—she wasn't that predictable—but still. These rebellions usually happened after especially heated arguments—which were plentiful between them—and could be for reasons as inconsequential as matching an argyle print top with a plaid skirt, to advocating that informational seminars about the Wizarding world be made available to the families of Muggleborn children.
They argued about a lot of things—her defiant attitude included. He said that when he told her not to do something, it was for her own good—not because he wanted to 'rule over' her, as she claimed. She argued that she was a grown woman and could darn well decide what was 'good' for her on her own.
She'd remind him that nothing bad had come out of her mismatching the patterns on her skirt and top.
He'd give her a dry look and tell her that something had when she'd advocated for the stupid seminars. She'd received hate mail and threats from pushy purebloods for months. Her nearly deadly dance with a Mister Stephen Rosier—who'd tried most ardently to strangle her to death a few days after the Ministry had approved her proposal—went unmentioned. Draco didn't like to talk about that.
Hermione would roll her eyes and remind him that things had turned out fine in the end; that was all that mattered.
He'd get snippy and bring up Terry Boot—tell her how right he'd been about that git, and how she'd ignored him and married him anyway. Granted, his biggest formal opposition to their union for the longest time had been that her name would be "Hermione Boot." It was only later, when he realized that she was serious about the relationship, that he had warned her that she would regret it later. On every applicable occasion, he made a point of telling her he'd given her ample warning; that she had completely ignored his observations about Boot's character—or, rather, lack of it—and had gone through with the union because she was a disagreeable chit who went against him every chance she could. She'd spent nearly a year of her life emotionally miserable as a result.
Hermione wouldn't reply. She didn't like talking about Terry Boot. At all.
They'd argue for awhile longer, call each other names—possibly throw things or cast hexes. It was a constant battle to get the other to scream 'uncle'—or, better yet, 'you're right.' She'd bring up this, he'd bring up that. A surefire way to get her riled up was to bring up her failed marriage. And to get his knickers in a twist… well. All she had to do was bring up that night she'd touched in him in that very dark place that all men said they never wanted to be touched—but squealed like a girl and came like a horse when they were. He'd thrown a slipper at her head the last time she'd brought that up. She'd had to duck behind his couch so it wouldn't hit her in the head.
Things would always be okay by the end of the day, though. The bed was an excellent mediator.
Hermione acted on the belief that he usually told her not to do something because he thought her too rash and impulsive—too Gryffindor—to make intelligent decisions. But he was wrong. She wanted what she wanted, and she tried her damndest to make sure she got it. She didn't know why he complained, anyway. He usually enjoyed the fruits of her labor.
Like with the poorly matched outfit; she'd felt like such a kinky schoolgirl when she'd put it on that she had forgone knickers. There was no way in hell he'd be able to say that he hadn't had a blast that afternoon. She'd gone to his office, sat on his desk, and started to diddle herself right there in front of him.
Or when the bill for the seminars for Muggleborn parents was passed—they hadn't left his bed the entire weekend.
She was woman enough to admit that he'd been right about Terry Boot—Mrs. Boot was a name she'd never go by again—but still, Hermione didn't like to talk about that. Besides, as far as she could tell, Draco had profited greatly from her unhappy marriage. It'd made him realize that she was what he wanted.
And really, she didn't have to explain the whole finger-in-Draco's-special-place thing, did she? He'd shagged her so hard that night she hadn't been able to walk straight for days.
- - - - - - - -
Ten minutes passed.
"Why are you still awake?" Draco asked, his voice garbled by sleep.
"I'm thinking," she said.
"Sweet Merlin, no."
She poked him in the ribs, and he grunted. "Why don't you go back to sleep?"
"I can't go back to sleep until you do."
"And why not?"
"Because the only time you stop bloody fidgeting is when you're asleep."
Well, he had her there. She artfully changed the subject. "Isn't it time for us to get up? It must be fairly late." She made to sit up but he pulled her back down onto his chest.
"It's not time to get up."
"How do you know?"
"Because I can see the bleeding clock, Granger. Now go back to sleep."
"Yes, you can. Just close your eyes and think happy thoughts. Or sleepy thoughts. Or whatever. Just go to sleep. Please."
"How about this: you go back to sleep—"
"I told you already, I can't go back to sleep until you—"
"You're not listening to me."
"I don't have to. I know what you're going to say."
"I thought we'd established long ago that assumptions are bad for the soul."
He grunted, tightening his hold on her. "Well, then speak, woman."
"Don't cut me off this time."
"As I was saying," she said smartly, knowing that he was probably rolling his eyes, "I think that you should go back to sleep. I promise I'll be still. And then you'll be asleep and I'll be awake and we'll both be happy."
He snorted. "Hardly."
"You know what'll make me happy."
Hermione didn't respond.
- - - - - - - -
So she was a little commitment-phobic. Could anyone blame her? Her relationships with men didn't go well. She already had one failed marriage under her belt, and her friendships with Harry and Ron had dissolved into nothingness over the years. The only male childhood friend she addressed now without awkwardness was Neville. But Nevy was queer, so Hermione didn't think he counted.
She didn't need another ruined relationship.
At least that's what she told herself. She and Draco had already pushed each other to their limits—farther, even. Things had been broken in places that she didn't even know they had places, but they were still here now. Just barely, but they were here. Together, in a sense, and yet apart in so many more.
But they were trying something now. It was something different, something new—something good for them. They had agreed to get out of that tormenting cycle they'd been in before, and their efforts hadn't been in vain. In a sense. They were out of that old cycle, though this new, unfamiliar one they were in now held startling similarities to the one they'd been in before.
They were still sleeping with each other, and they both still wanted something more. Only, now Draco was admitting it openly, while she sometimes let it slip that she did as well. She hadn't exactly been open with it back before the Big Muck Up either, but they'd both known how she felt back then, what she'd wanted.
She wanted to tell him how she felt, and, sometimes, she did. It was just hard to always be open with someone who had broken your heart. Besides, it was all about timing. Rushing into something would mess everything up completely. She was doing this for both of their good.
She and Draco had been shagging each other off and on since their sixth year at Hogwarts, and they'd decided that it wouldn't be serious from the very beginning. Granted, their relationship had developed greatly since then, and Hermione could now quite honestly say that Draco was the most important thing in her life and had been for years. But still. They'd signed a contract back then, and with all the ways they'd messed everything up by not sticking to it over the years, Hermione thought it was about time that they did.
Because that's how they came to their original agreement; with a contract. Before the very first time they'd slept together, Hermione had drawn up a contract using clear, explicit language describing what they could do and could not do. She'd made Draco sign it in blood. And honestly, she hadn't gotten any new contracts from him. Only loaded questions and looks that clearly said she should know what was going on without him having to say it. Because to him, the loaded questions said it all. She was a smart girl. He expected her to get it.
And of course she knew what he meant, what he wanted. But as she'd said before, she was commitment-phobic. She didn't want to destroy a perfectly good friendship and quite convenient—and pleasurable—fuckship with a man who meant the world to her just because he wanted her to be the first thing he saw when he woke up in the morning.
Okay, okay, that was bullshit. She was commitment-phobic, but really, she was just fucking with him. A little, at least. And she'd earned this. She'd given Draco his chance, and he'd bungled it completely. Her deepest apologies if she wasn't willing to place her heart on a platter for him to stomp on it yet again. And it sounded so callous to say it that way, but in the end, that's what it came down to. She loved him—God help her, she loved him—but she couldn't just forget the past in exchange for the life with him he was offering her now. It didn't work like that.
The whole heart-breaking thing was something else thing Draco didn't like to talk about, and Hermione didn't bring it up often, because she didn't like to talk about it either. It bothered him to talk about it, and she wasn't so much of a bitch to constantly shove it in his face whenever he asked her why they couldn't be together now.
But he was trying, and Hermione knew that alone counted for a lot. He did constantly ask her when, and why not, and when the hell she'd be ready to be with him, but still. He was being as patient as she'd ever seen—as patient as a Malfoy could be—and she deeply appreciated his effort. They had promised each other that they would try being friends—real, honest, true friends whose relationship didn't revolve around sex. And that had gone astonishingly well for awhile. They had been close before, but things went shockingly well between the two of them now. But Draco wanted more. Not just sex more, either. They went weeks without sleeping together sometimes, and while they both tended to get a little cranky when they were deprived, they didn't do it just because anymore. They meant more to each other than that, and Draco was intent on proving to her that his love for her was based on something entirely different then her skills in the sack.
What made the situation so ridiculous was the fact that he'd actually had her before, and he'd completely thrown her away. And now that she was completely commitment-phobic, he wanted her back. It was actually quite funny—in that depraved, sardonic way that Hermione found things funny.
Things could never be easy with them.
She wasn't sure why he wanted to jump into anything with her anyway. Well, duh, he loved her, but still. She'd hurt him before, too. He said she was romanticizing the situation when she said that she had broken his heart as well, but she knew that she had. In a different way than he'd broken hers, but she had. He should've been wanting to take his time, too.
She and Draco had known each other for more than fifteen years, had been in someway intimate for the past ten. They were compadres, partners in arm. He understood her in a way that no one—Harry, Ron, Ginny, Terry—ever had. It was apparent to her that this should be more than enough reason for her to jump head first into a relationship with him. She gave this man near every single part of her heart and soul—loved him more than she could properly express with words regardless of her extensive vocabulary in four different languages.
He wanted her—loved her—too. And it wasn't one of those things that she had to turn her head to the side and squint to see. He told her—not often, but he did.
And that was where things could have been easy. She loved him, he loved her. But of course things couldn't flow in the natural, easy way that Hermione had expected. It had been a rollercoaster ride completely.
Draco had never been the kind of guy who said those three words often. Even now, when he knew unquestioningly of exactly how he felt and what exactly he wanted—her—he didn't say it often. He knew it earned him extra points when he said it, and that it completely made her day when he did, but he also knew better than to think that burying her under exclamations of his undying love would win her over. It was more than that, and they both knew it.
Words didn't mean anything. He'd proven that. In good ways—as he expressed how he felt about her with looks and touches and the way he said her name as he released inside of her—and, unfortunately, in bad ways. Only a man who was absolutely sure of what he wanted—or was far too comfortable where he was—could tell a woman that she was the only woman he'd ever love then run off to bed another.
As she'd said, he'd fucked it up completely.
Hermione knew that he loved her, and that things—him included—were different now. They were better. Still, a part of her couldn't commit to their relationship entirely until she knew without a shadow of a doubt that she was what he wanted—for forever. She didn't care how long it took to find out, and if he loved her as he said he did, he wouldn't care either.
More than a year had passed since they'd come to the resolution to try and work things out between them. He'd given her space at first, sticking solely to the "friend" things, but the magnetic attraction between them could not be ignored forever.
Nevertheless, they had a contract, damnet; signed it on a warm spring day in sixth year when they decided that they wanted each other that way. She'd thought about breaking it before only to have it completely blow up in her face, and she wasn't going to even contemplate breaking it again until she was absolutely sure of where they both stood. And he could tell her until he turned blue in the face that she was the only one he wanted, but after all they had gone through together, Hermione wouldn't dare allow herself to just give in to him. It would be as if the pain had never existed at all.
Besides, in the contract that they'd signed that day in sixth year, it had been written in clear and concise terms that their association was not—and would not be—one of the romantic sort. Draco had reminded her of this fact for years afterwards. Even when they'd become friends—good friends—years later, he'd still reminded her.
She realized now that he'd been trying to remind himself—as if saying the words aloud to her would stop him from breaking the contract in his own mind.
- - - - - - - -
His hands were beautiful. They were large and rough and strong, and created the most delicious friction as they slid across her skin. Hermione sighed happily, refusing the urge to mew in contentment as Draco's hands stroked up and down her back. If he continued doing that, then she was bound to fall back to sleep. Only… "Why are you still awake?" she asked him suddenly.
"Because you're horrible at keeping promises." He seemed fully awake now, though his voice still held that morning gruffness that made her insides flutter.
"What are you talking about?" she said drowsily. "I've been perfectly still this entire time."
"That's the problem—you actually kept the promise."
"What are you—" She rolled her eyes when she realized what he was saying. "You're an idiot."
"No, you're an idiot."
"Shut up." She tried to poke him again, but the effort was halfhearted, and he grabbed her hand before she could get away with it.
"Now, now, dear," he said mockingly. "You know what the doctor said. Violence isn't the way to solve your problems."
"Oh, be quiet."
She began tracing patterns on his bare chest with her fingers. "Why are you still awake?"
"What are you thinking about?" he asked as he watched her.
"Are you avoiding my question?"
"Are you avoiding mine?"
"I asked you first."
She sighed. "I'm just… thinking."
"The good things, I hope."
She snorted. "Of course not."
"That's rather pessimistic of you."
She laughed. "Are there any good things about us?" she asked jokingly.
He was quiet for a long moment. "There's now."
- - - - - - - -
It wasn't until that night in their third year at Uni that he'd stopped saying it—stopped telling her that there were to be no feelings involved. It had been late—very late—and she'd gone to his room for a quick romp in the sheets. Things had been strained between them for the past month or so, and she hadn't talked to him in over a week, ever since they'd had another big fight. She was always grouchy and irritable when they weren't talking, and that carried over into her other relationships. Case in point, she'd broken up with her latest boyfriend only a few hours before knocking on his door.
She was so frustrated—mentally, emotionally, sexually—that she hadn't even cared that they weren't on good terms. She wanted him, and she was going to have him. She hadn't been able to admit yet that she needed him to keep her balanced, but after that night, it hit her, and hit her hard.
He opened the door for her without a word. The only indication of his surprise at her being there was the lift of his brows. She didn't know what to say to him so she didn't say anything at all; simply began unbuttoning her blouse and taking off her shoes. He stopped her then, his hand applying gentle yet firm pressure to her wrist as he leveled her with a look she'd never seen from him before. Hermione didn't wasted time thinking about it. She was in one of her 'moods,' as Draco liked to call them, and she could be shockingly obtuse then, focused only on what she wanted and nothing else. What she wanted at that moment was Draco, and Merlin be damned if she allowed herself to become distracted by the stupid look on his stupidly pretty face.
It had gone over her head completely.
If she were able to see it now, she'd probably describe it as uncertainty with a mix of reluctance, and fear. But that was all speculation.
She merely looked back at him, her own expression angry and defiant as she asked him what was wrong.
He asked her why she was there.
She told him that he already knew.
He stared at her.
She told him that she needed to be fucked into unconsciousness.
He looked at her sourly, and then told her that she had a boyfriend for that.
She got angry then. She was frustrated and upset and in one of her moods and didn't need this shit from him. She continued taking off her shirt. He grabbed her again, angry now himself. She released all her fury in the glare she sent him.
She asked him what his problem was.
He told her that she—they—couldn't continue what they were doing when they both had people they were seeing.
She laughed at him then, bitter. She told him that who they were seeing didn't matter. She quoted—word for word—the line he'd said to her that very first night they'd shagged—'Our relationship isn't one of the romantic sort. Let's keep it that way.'
And, before she knew it, he was on her, kissing, biting, and licking with a ferocity previously nonexistent. Their couplings had always been exciting, but that night… that night had been frightening.
He told her that he loved her, and she fell asleep crying in his arms. She whispered the sentiments back to him over and over in her sleep.
He had said it first, and he never failed to remind her of that fact now. He liked to gloat about the fact that she loved him so much that she told him when she was unconscious. Hermione never responded.
He never mentioned the stupid contract again.
- - - - - - - -
"I don't think we're all that bad."
Hermione blinked, startled awake but his sudden comment. "Pardon?"
"I don't think we're all that bad," he repeated. "I mean, we have our moments when we completely hate each other, and the fights can get pretty violent, but—" He stopped abruptly when he heard her chuckling. "What?"
"Nothing," she said quickly, still laughing.
"Come on, Draco, this is us—you and me. Of course you don't think we're that bad."
Hermione smiled. "I know."
"I think that we're great."
She laughed again. "We are."
"Better than most of the couples we know."
"But we aren't a couple."
"No, we aren't. But still."
"Do you think we're that bad?" he asked quietly. She stiffened in his arms, and there was a very long pause. "Granger."
As custom, she dutifully avoided the question. "I think we're going to be late to work."
- - - - - - - -
After that night, everything changed. Not in obvious, open ways, but they both knew that things were different. They both knew that they loved each other.
Nevertheless, they went on for a year after Uni without getting together. Neither dated much in the time following the night; however, they didn't sat down and actually discussed them being together, either. They weren't ready yet.
She had been studying overbroad in a specialization school in France when it happened. He'd shown up at her flat three months in and told her that he'd taken an apprenticeship under a veteran French curse-breaker and needed a place to stay.
She hadn't commented on how fortuitous it was that he'd found a six month apprenticeship that started exactly three months after she began what was to be a nine month stint in the school. Which, by the way, put them returning to England at the exact same time. She also hadn't commented on the fact that Draco had never expressed any inclination towards the field of curse breaking whatsoever, or the fact that he had no aptitude for it either.
She'd simply smiled at him and said that she only had one bedroom. He'd given her the sexiest grin ever and told her that arrangements could be made. Hermione counted the six months that followed as some of the best in her life. They were filled with good food, good company, and good sex. She'd been with the love of her life—the man of her dreams—and it'd actually seemed as if they were going somewhere together. They hadn't given each other official terms or anything, but they'd both known what they were, what they meant to one another. They had lived, breathed and grown together those months. Hermione had thought it was just the beginning of what they'd be doing for the rest of their lives.
- - - - - - - - -
"What time is it?"
"I'm not telling you."
"Because you'll never let me go back to sleep if you know."
"Is it that late?" She tried to get up, but he stopped her again. "Draco…"
"Shh… You promised you'd spend the day with me last night, remember?"
She lifted her head to look him in the face. The firm hold he had around her back only allowed her to see the planes of his cheeks. "When?"
"Oh, I can recall quite a few occasions. First, when I was on top. Then, when you're leg was—"
She fell back down onto his chest with a huff. "Ha, ha," she said, "very funny."
"You're lying to me."
"I know. I meant to ask you, though. Got a little preoccupied with more… pressing issues, you see. Besides, I hardly think you would've approved me stopping in the middle of our activities in order to ask you if you'd be willing to spend the day with me. But my apologies, milady, for the inconvenience."
Hermione smiled. "We're still late for work."
"Then we'll be late."
"Do you not want to spend the day with me?"
She was taken aback for a moment by the question. He'd never asked her that before, and she got a feeling he wasn't just talking about the day. "Don't you have an important meeting with that big shot American today?" she said quickly, changing the subject yet again.
"Shouldn't you be getting ready for it?"
"You know he won't."
"Well, then, I'll be ever spared the torture that is his company."
"You'll be fired!" she exclaimed.
"I won't," he told her. He bent his head and kissed her hair. "I want to spend the day with you."
- - - - - - - -
It was so easy to call it stupid. To call her—what she was doing—stupid.
Everyone whispered about them at work—the men and women alike. It was a well-known fact that they were good friends, and equally as known that they were sleeping with one another. He was a good man; she was a good woman. Why they hadn't run to the alter already was a question on everyone's lips.
He promised her the world, the sun and the moon and all the stars in the sky. He promised her that he couldn't promise her that he would never hurt her again, but that he would never hurt her in the way he had before. He wouldn't cheat.
But it just wasn't that simple.
A few months ago, Draco had taken her out to lunch at a little side restaurant in Diagon Alley. It had been one of their days; she was lonely and desperate for human touch—his touch—and he had been happy to accommodate. She told herself that she never expected anything of him, however deep down, she knew she did. And it was wrong—so very, very wrong. She knew he got his hopes up when she was like that, that every time, he thought that day could finally be the day she came home with him for good. It never was, and she always felt terrible afterwards. She was leading him on and she knew it. But that would be her mistake, her sin. It bothered her, but she needed what she needed, and it was something he was willing to give.
Being with Draco had Hermione in a constant battle with herself. One side of her wanted to live solely in the moment, while the other only thought of protecting herself for the future, knowing what had happened last time when she hadn't.
That hadn't been overly touchy that afternoon. Only, her hand had never left his, and her foot was busy caressing his leg under the table the entire meal. They had been making eyes at each other, and sexual tension was high, and—
Okay, okay, it had been bad. They'd even planned to rush back to the Ministry for a quick shag on his desk.
Draco had gotten up to take a quick trip to the restroom after the meal, whispering into her ear that he didn't need anything impeding his performance before brushing a kiss against her cheek and rushing to the wash. Hermione had been so busy grinning to herself—and rubbing her thighs together—that she hadn't even noticed someone come up to her until they called her name.
She'd blinked a few times to focus, a shocked oh escaping her lips before she plastered on a polite smile for Molly Weasley.
She hadn't seen Mrs. Weasley in over a year. She was older, and quite a few pounds heavier, but still had the same shock red hair—now with a bit of gray in the front—and open, happy face that had been a unwavering presence in Hermione's childhood.
The last time she had seen Molly Weasley had been a few weeks after her wedding, when they had bumped into each other at the Wednesday farmer's market held off a side street of Diagon Alley. They'd only chatted briefly then, asking of each other's health and what was new before claiming of other engagements and rushing off their separate ways. It was now the norm for them now. The end of her relations with Ron had brought a slow yet steady end to those with the rest of the family. She hardly knew how to behave around the woman any longer.
"Good day, Mrs. Weasley. It's a… pleasure seeing you here." Hermione blushed at her hesitation.
Molly smiled at her kindly. "It's a shock, I know. May I?" She looked pointedly at Draco's vacant seat.
"Oh, of course. Go ahead."
The stout woman took a moment to get situated in the seat, then looked at Hermione and smiled again. "So, dear, how are you?"
"Well," Hermione answered, relaxing as the conversation continued. She mentally breathed a sigh of relief that the conversation wasn't half as painful as she initially expected it to be. "And yourself?"
"Oh, you know me, 'Mione. I'm fine as long as there are children around."
Hermione nodded. "You must be doing wonderfully, then." It was a well-known fact that the Weasley clan had a lot of little ones.
"Yes. With Ron's two boys, and Bill's five, and Charlie's four, and oh! There's a complete Quidditch team between the twins! Ginny and Harry have three of their own and have you heard? Ginny's expecting again. Her first set of twins."
"It is. We were out shopping together this afternoon. Dropped in here for a quick bite."
"Oh? I didn't notice you."
"We're seated a bit to the back of the place. I saw you when you came in, but I didn't realize it was you. As soon as I did, though, I came right over to say hello."
"Thank you," Hermione said earnestly. "I haven't seen you in ages."
"Yes, dear. It's been entirely too long. You should pop by the house sometime. You know we still hold our weekly family dinner on Sunday evenings—six sharp!"
Hermione only smiled. She wouldn't be attending, and they both knew it.
"Is Ginny still here?"
Mrs. Weasley pursed her lips, obviously annoyed. "The silly girl. Said she was too 'tired' to walk over here. The nerve! As if she hasn't known you for—"
"Oh, it's okay, Mrs. Weasley!" she quickly assured the woman. "That's just… that's just the way things are now."
"A bunch of foolishness, if you ask me. You kids have known each other for far too long to be behaving like this!"
Again, Hermione only smiled.
"Ron tells me it's none of my business. I looked after the whole lot of you while you were back at school; I find everything to do with you my business."
"Are they all well?"
"As fine as can be expected with the full litters they have."
Hermione giggled. "I'm glad."
"But what about you, Missy?" she asked then, quickly changing the topic of discussion to Hermione's personal life. The brunette was a bit startled at first, then berated herself for forgetting about Molly Weasley's forwardness. "When are you going to settle down? Twenty-seven is a smidgen too old to still be single."
"I already have," she said jokingly. "It just didn't end well."
Mrs. Weasley rolled her eyes. "Really, Hermione. I search through the post everyday for a wedding invitation from you. Even read the gossip section in the Prophet, hoping they'll have some sort of informal announcement there. You know how those women of the gossip pages love to discuss you."
Hermione silently agreed. She was a constant topic of discussion in the Prophet's gossip pages. But announcement? "What announcement?" Hermione looked at her as if she'd grown a second head right before her eyes. "Mrs. Weasley, who on earth am I supposed to be getting married to now?"
"Why, Draco Malfoy, of course."
Hermione had been taking a sip of her drink when the redhead said this, and she nearly choked in surprise. "What?"
"Oh, don't you play coy with me, Hermione. If I was a betting woman, I'd have put my money on the two of you settling down together years ago."
"You'd have been wrong."
"Perhaps then, but not now, dear. Everyone knows about the two of you. Ron still grumbles about it when there are stories about the two of you in the paper. Besides, I do have eyes, duckie. I saw the two of you here this afternoon."
Hermione blushed again.
"I-it's nothing like that," she said quickly. "We're just friends."
The woman snorted. "And I'm a petite woman." Hermione didn't respond, and Mrs. Weasley gave her a long, searching look. "What's the problem, dear?" she asked, openly concerned. "He hasn't asked you to marry him yet?"
"Mrs. Weasley, we aren't even dating. I think it's safe to assume that marriage is pretty much out of the question."
The redhead pursed her lips again, a scowl coming over her aging features. "Darling, if it's one of those kinds of relationships, I hardly think it's healthy for you to stay. If he doesn't even want to commit with you to begin with—" She huffed. "He's not one to stick around with at all."
"Oh, it's nothing like that, Mrs. Weasley," Hermione assured her.
"Oh?" She arched a graying red brow in question.
Hermione smiled, looking down at the tablecloth. "It's not him, it's me."
She looked confused for a moment, but then— "Oh."
They were both quiet for a moment.
Hermione looked up when Mrs. Weasley patted her hand. "I'd snatch him up quick if I were you, dearie."
"I know. It's… it's complicated, Mrs. Weasley."
"Men don't wait forever."
"He won't wait forever."
Just then, Draco returned to the table. He greeted Mrs. Weasley cordially, and the two chatted for a few moments before the woman excused herself, giving Hermione a pointed look before bidding them both a good day.
"What was that all about?" Draco asked once he was seated again.
Hermione wouldn't look up at him. "Just some catching up."
That day, they did not go back to his office for a quick shag on his desk. She told him she wasn't feeling well right after they left the restaurant, and said that she would be returning home early. He didn't ask any questions; merely hugged her extra tight and long before releasing her and telling her to feel better.
Mrs. Weasley's words haunted Hermione for the rest of the day.
"Everyone knows about the two of you."
"He hasn't asked you to marry him yet?"
"I'd snatch him up quick if I were you, dearie."
"He won't wait forever."
Draco showed up at her flat that evening bearing ice cream, Scrabble, and a smile that cheered her up as soon as she saw him at the door.
He stayed the night. They didn't have sex.
What she'd said to Mrs. Weasley hadn't been a lie. It was complicated; a weird twist of lies and lives that went back for years.
Essentially, it all came down to this:
Draco Malfoy at twenty-two had not wanted to settle down.
- - - - - - - -