The first time it happens they have both had a lot of alcohol.
She swore she wasn't going to get drunk. Last time she got drunk she suffered from a three day hangover and her throat burnt whenever she smelled Firewhiskey anywhere from that day on.
It is a messy but nonetheless satisfying encounter that is a bleary and vague recollection the following morning. When she wakes with the worst headache ever recorded on a human being, she assumes she is laying next to Ron.
It is only when she notices the lashings of blonde hair on the pillow next to her that she realises that it's not Ron.
He seems just as disgusted with her as she is with him, and they agree to say no more on the subject.
Office Christmas parties are often better best forgotten.
She arrives back at her flat a pale and clammy mess. She only bothers to remove her shoes before she falls into bed feeling incredibly sorry for herself.
She hasn't even considered the consequences yet, and when Ron comes round later with home made chicken soup courtesy of Mrs Weasley she feels guiltier than she has ever felt in her life.
The second time it happens there is not nearly as much alcohol involved. She had considered not turning up to the Christmas party, but thought it would show signs of weakness. Malfoy would smirk at her the following Monday and silently brag about it for the rest of time.
Her fate is decided when halfway through the evening he offers her a glass of Firewhiskey. She eyes it carefully and accepts, not breaking eye contact until she tips the glass back to drink it.
They both leave the party early and unnoticed. They apparate straight back to his and before she's even taken that first refreshing breath after the crushing darkness of apparition he's kissing her forcefully and greedily.
The path to his bedroom is paved with hastily removed clothes and he has her once, twice, three times before they finally succumb to sleep.
Her last conscious thought is that he's better than Ron.
Her sleep that night is troubled and guilt filled.
When she returns home the following day, having been thoroughly seen to twice more that morning, she makes a solemn promise to not go to the Christmas party next year, and if it comes to it, quit her job, because Ron loves her and she can't carry on hurting him like this, even if he doesn't know she's doing it.
It doesn't matter whether she goes to the Christmas party or not. She lasts until February 15th. Ron is away with Harry rounding up a couple of Death Eaters who were tracked down in Bulgaria and Malfoy knows this when she enters the office that morning.
He brings lunch back to the office for her, just as it's coming up to her normal time to leave for her break. He brings her the same sandwich that she buys everyday from the same café and he brings her the same bar of chocolate that she always munches on throughout the afternoon.
She hates this small gesture, because lunch doesn't just mean lunch, it means going back to his flat tonight instead of her own. It means stabbing Ron in the back again and it means enjoying every second of it when she shouldn't be.
As the rest of the wizards and witches flock from the office to get their own lunch, Malfoy pulls up a chair, puts his feet up on Ursula's desk and unwraps his own sandwich.
Hermione watches him shrewdly.
"I haven't poisoned it, Granger."
"You're still calling me Granger even after -" somebody walks down the corridor and she stops talking abruptly.
"Even after I've fucked you six times, Hermione?" he whispers as he leans forward, adding her first name on the end of the sentence pointedly.
Hermione blushes and Malfoy leans back in his chair, a smirk forming on his lips. He finishes his sandwich and then waves his wand, causing the office door to shut.
"That door's going to be closed for the next forty five minutes."
That was all he had to say.
She wakes early the following morning, and notices he's not sleeping next to her. She summons his dressing gown and puts it on, shivering as the cold air stabs at her skin like frozen needles.
He's sitting in the lounge. It is large, lacking in any sort of homely feel but has a great comfy black leather sofa (she knows it well enough to know just how comfy it is) pushed against one wall. She sits down next to him and he spares her the most casual of glances.
"You okay?" she asks. He looks troubled, paler than usual (although that might be the moonlight pouring through the gap in the curtains) and he appears to be deep in thought.
He spares her another casual glance.
He stands up, takes her hand and leads her back to bed. She knows there is something wrong as he kisses her. He is gentle, caring, almost loving in the way that he does it and the fact that it's not just another meaningless fuck troubles her, because it blows her mind more than ever before. It blows her mind because there is something other than lust and that troubles her when she thinks of Ron.
Luckily for Hermione, she doesn't often think of Ron when she's with Draco. She doesn't find herself able to think of much at all.
When Ron returns from Bulgaria, successful and hyped up, Hermione finds herself unable to respond to his touch. She finds him clammy and suffocating. His clumsiness is no longer cute but tiresome and the freckles on his chest seem to make her feel ill.
As he kisses her neck, her mind wanders to Draco and she finds herself a lot more willing to cooperate. Her imagination isn't vivid enough to make it as good as those few stolen nights she'd had with Draco, but it is more bearable than it would have been had she kept her thoughts on Ron.
She can't help but start to resent him. She wants him to be as good as Draco so she can forget about Draco and stay with Ron. It's not Ron's fault of course, it's her own, but she finds herself unable to settle for second best in the bedroom, especially when the better man is around her nine hours a day for five days of the week in the office.
Ron being Ron, he notices no difference in Hermione's attitude towards him. He notices that Hermione's headaches are becoming incredibly frequent but he puts that down to stress at work. When he tells Harry about it he tells him that 'the poor girl's bitten off more than she can chew again'.
They've started having conversations at lunchtime now and the more she talks to him, the more she realises that Draco isn't just a nasty little Slytherin. He makes her laugh with his sarcasm and spends his time making up problems for every single one of their colleagues. One of them is addicted to Doxycide while Saskia, the heavily pregnant secretary has three men who could possibly be the father of her child, and she's still seeing all of them. He never asks her about Ron and Hermione never mentions him. It is as though they have come to an unspoken agreement about such things.
Things start to go wrong one morning when she's sleeping next to him, peaceful and content. There is a loud bang and a crash as the door is forced open. Draco is on his feet and dressed faster than Hermione can hurriedly grab her wand from the bedside cabinet.
She waves her wand and her clothes are on just as three figures come bursting through the door of Draco's bedroom.
The light from Draco's shield charm illuminates three faces. Three faces that Hermione recognises. One sports round glasses and a lightening shaped scar, another has red hair and a crooked nose and the third, less familiar but still known, belongs to Harry and Ron's fellow Auror Matthew Cribbins.
All three of them turn to look at Hermione. She stutters and stammers and Ron lets out an angry roar of hurt and betrayal. He throws himself at Draco but Harry drags him back, thinking more clearly than Ron. Draco stands there and says nothing. Hermione prays he doesn't come up with some quip that will just add fuel to the fire but he stands there looking towards her as though expecting her to deal with the situation. When she says nothing to answer Ron's rages, he steps forward.
"Right, ignoring all this, what the fuck do you think you are doing breaking into my flat?"
"Ignoring all this?" Ron practically screams at him. "Ignoring all this?"
"We were doing a raid. We've had reports that you've been up to no good," Harry answers apparently honestly and quite calmly, not looking towards Hermione. It was obvious whose side he would chose after this argument; the side he always chose.
"Have you?" Hermione asks quietly, for she cannot believe that anyone would have reason to suspect Draco four years after his name has been cleared. Hermione knows him to be innocent and she wonders whether schoolboy grudges have come into play just a little.
"Yes." Harry keeps a firm grip on Ron, who is struggling erratically, trying to get at Draco.
"Clearly he has been up to no good!" Ron snarls, "He's imperiused you and that's a lifetime Azkaban sentence right there!"
"Oh Ron don't be ridiculous!" Hermione snaps. "He hasn't imperiused me or confunded me. I'm sorry, but he hasn't, that's the way it is."
"Well Potter, you and Cribbins may search the place but I don't think Weasley is in any fit state to be going through my possessions, considering I want them put back exactly as they were and preferably in one piece."
Ron tries to wrestle free from Harry but he fails.
"Ron come home with me," Hermione says gently. "Please."
"Who you gonna choose?" he demands. "Me or him? Bear in mind he's the one that called you Mudblood all those years at school."
"And what about all your misdemeanours over the years? What about the time when you were making fun of me after charms? What about the time when you ruined the Yule ball? What about when you blamed me for everything in third year, hmm?" She opts not to mention the time he walked out on them during the hunt for the Horcruxes, fearing that would be crossing the line.
Ron doesn't answer, but finally stills in Harry's arms. He tugs himself free, walks over to Hermione, grabs her arm and disapparates with her.
When Hermione arrives at work the following morning, bleary eyed and gloomy, there is a cup of strong coffee sitting on her desk. He is avoiding her and she appreciates it, because he's still unsure of who she has chosen.
The thoughtfulness of the coffee and the warming charm placed upon it gives her a little more assurance that she has made the right choice.
Later, when talking to Harry, she finds out that no one had reported Draco, but that someone in Hermione and Draco's office had tipped Ron off.
"Are you mad with me?" Hermione asks over drinks in the Leaky Cauldron.
Harry shakes his head and relief settles over her. "You shouldn't have hurt him like you did though."
"I know. D'you think he'll ever be able to forgive me?" She downs the last of her drink in preparation of hearing the answer.
"Just as long as you're sorry."