Title: Slow

Pairing: Hermione Granger x Draco Malfoy

Rating: PG13ish for pawing.

Setting: After war, not book compliant

Summary: Draco and Hermione are messing around, and what goes down when she calls it off (or tries to). (Challenge writing.)

Words for challenge: Riddle, crystal, twilight, craven, craving, madrigal, salient, valiant. They are underlined for that reason only. :)

It was a strange feeling for Draco Malfoy. It was not often in his adult life that he had felt so cravenly. So cowardly and terrible, so… lowly. Very un-Malfoy like, as far as he was concerned. He ran his hands down his front, smoothing his shirt. It was nice to wake in the morning without his mother crying. He'd moved to the west wing simply to escape her manic cries.

He made his way in a slow manner to the dining area, eating with care and ignoring his still sniffling mother. Ever since father had died, she'd been a wreck. Draco had played the strong son for far too long. He did not care anymore. Why should he have? It wasn't like Lucius gave him much thought after he'd turned his back on Voldemort. Not to mention that he'd almost killed him during the war. Oh yes, he hadn't forgotten that.

Giving the help a valiant smirk, he slipped from the room, making his way out of the house. Of course, he could've taken the floo, but that would've garnered attention from his mother, and he really didn't need that at this time. It was much too early to be paying attention to his mother.

There were better things for Draco to look forward to. Like his day at the office. A smug smirk curled around his lips as he thought it over. It would be delicious, just like every other day. He arrived promptly at 8:45, sat at his desk, and glanced over the papers, seeing them, but not really seeing them. His body craved something else. He licked his lips in anticipation as the hours crept by. Lunch couldn't come slower, he thought to himself as he shuffled more papers around his desk, groaning at the effort it took to keep himself from pacing.

Lunch hour came and went. Somehow he survived. When at least he was free, he swept from his office, his thoughts and attention on something very different from work. Something with honey brown eyes and a velvet laugh. With smooth pale skin and slightly frazzled hair…

It had never ceased to amaze him, the happenings with Granger. At first, it'd been because they'd both gotten a little tipsy at the company party. Or, that's what they told themselves. Perhaps it had been more, a mutual attraction. But Armageddon could come, and neither would dare admit it to each other. She was like a riddle he couldn't solve. One day demanding and lusty, the next blowing him off and 'forgetting' to give him his documents at work. But today was Wednesday, and she wouldn't dare forget him on a Wednesday.

He knocked at the door to her flat, his heart speeding up a little. He heard a muffled 'come in', and obliged, opening the door with a creak as he stepped in. They had been discreet about it, upon Draco's law. He hadn't wanted work to be affected by their little get-togethers, and it wasn't like there was anything real to them… was there?

So he'd admit it'd been a little different lately. Not enough to phase him, or even to prevent him from the pleasure he took in it. They were little things, anyhow. The way she looked at him after sex, that dreamy gaze in her eyes. Those things worried him a little. But, as he'd convinced himself before – it was nothing to worry about. Granger was rather sensible when it came to men. She'd had the sense to drop that Weasley boy, anyhow.

There was music playing. Draco hung his coat by the door and flopped on the couch, watching Hermione. She was dressed casual, looked casual. Her nose was stuck in a book, as usual, a fingernail between her teeth as she absently chewed. When she didn't look at him, Draco made a comment. "Nice music. What is it?"

Startled a bit, though she should have known he would eventually say (or do) something, Hermione glanced up. Her eyes watched him as she shrugged a little. "The style is madrigal. Compilation based on early 17th century…" with that, she glanced to her book again, finishing up the page before calmly closing it. Still curled in her chair like a cat, she watched him with a strangely blank stare.

Wary, but mostly convinced she was playing hard to get, Draco slouched into the couch a little more, raising his eyebrows. "I'm sure you'd be more comfortable over here."

Hermione shifted a bit, but didn't move. Finally, she sighed. That was when Draco started to panic a bit. "We need to talk… Draco." She rarely called him by his first name. Another bad sign. He sat up a little more in his seat, and let his thoughts spin out a bit before clearing his throat.

"What about?" Best to play naïve. Innocent was something he rarely got to be, but he could feign naivety.

Her gaze leveled on him. He swallowed again. When she wanted to, she could be one intimidating woman. It was perhaps one of her most salient characteristics, and one that Draco had rarely had to face. One that he didn't want to, either. "Us."

That was a word he dreaded. He squirmed in his seat a bit. "Uhh… okay." Not graceful, not in the least. But he didn't know what to say.

"This isn't working." He couldn't tell what she was feeling. She was a blank slate, and it drove him nuts. How was he supposed to know what to do when she wasn't even giving him hints? She wasn't even whispering hints. Just staring at him like he was supposed to make it all better, and if he didn't, she was going to rain her fury down on him.

"Any particular reason you think so?"

Hermione set her book on the table, the crystalline top shimmering in the light. "I'm getting too attached."

Draco swallowed a bit at that one. He ran a hand through his pale hair, watching Hermione with an ache growing in the pit of his stomach. "Too attached?" He could barely force the words out, causing them to sound cracked and pained. He licked his lips nervously.

Hermione folded her hands in her lap, staring at them and refusing to look up at Draco. "You've noticed. I've noticed. We've ignored it." She ran her fingertips over the edge of the book, sharply reminding Draco of when she'd done that to him as she continued, "I won't do it anymore." Her voice was so quiet. Like twilight. So quiet and passive that if you didn't watch for it, you'd miss it. And then it was gone...

"Why not?" It was hurting more than he'd thought it would. Miss the sex? Of course. The thrill and the ride and just… everything. But her? He hadn't thought he'd miss Ms. Granger.

"I… I went to part time. I'll have time now… for more." She gave him a small, almost bitter smile, "That was the main reason for this, y'know. No time. Never… any time." Her fingers were still touching the book gently, stroking it for reassurance. A broken smile lined her features. "But now I have time. So you can move to your next conquest." She stood and left him for the kitchen. He could hear her rummaging through things. Draco also had the feeling he could hear his heart breaking a little. Just a little.

He followed her to the kitchen, coming up behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist and holding her, feeling her warmth. He sighed, feeling her tighten, and buried his face in her hair, muttering softly against her, "I don't want another conquest, Granger." His voice, low and soft, made her shiver. He let his hands roam up her side, fingertips tracing lightly, cupping a breast firmly. "I want you… Hermione."

A small gasp escaped her lips as he pinched a nipple playfully. Squirming, she managed to turn around to face him, his arms held tight around her, forcing her hips up against his.

"I'm not in the mood for your games, Malfoy." She sounded resentful.

Draco, wondering what he was getting himself into, leaned in and kissed her, surprised that she responded. Her fists were balled on his chest, pressing against him for only a moment, before they relaxed. One hand slid up to grab his hair, running her fingers through it slowly. "Not a game, dear." He let a hand fall to her rear, squeezing a little as she wiggled in protest.

"What're you getting at?" Thrown off guard by his words more than his hands, she pulled back to eye him.

"I'm already part time." As if that was an answer, he pushed her harder against the counter, lifting her so her butt rested on the edge. Now eye to eye with each other, Hermione studied his silver eyes. There was no laughter in them. A bit of lust, perhaps, but no joke. She frowned a little at him, causing him to kiss her again.

Impulsive, rash – "Move in with me."

Draco pulled back that time, the words whispered against his lips surprising him. He gave her a wide-eyed look, before pouting a little. "Can't we go a little slower than that?"

Hermione was blushing, trying not to look him in the eye. He'd taken that better than she'd thought he would. She thought best case scenario, he'd run out the door and forget his jacket in his haste. She leaned against his chest, letting a hand follow the curve of his jaw line, her thumb tracing his lips.

"Slow. But not too slow, Malfoy."

Draco let a small content sigh come from him as he squeezed her closer, his fingers tangling in her hair as he closed his eyes. "It's a deal."

A/N: If you feel the love, review. Anyhow, yeah. Asked friend for ten words, this is what came of it. Enjoy.

Upon request, I have un-underlined the challenge words. I assure you, they're all there. :) 9/9