AN: Written for the Twin Exchange January Challenge.

Pairing: Draco/Hermione

Prompt: A Rickety Staircase

Quote: "Sweet Merlin's funny little toe"

Theme: Severus Snape, born January 9 1960


He was, without a doubt, the most insufferable man she had ever known.

Looking back on her history of insufferable men, she even came to the conclusion that he was far worse than Ron, who made it his life's mission to do the exact opposite of whatever she said and twice as bad as Viktor, who had been convinced that physical contact cured all ails.

No, Draco Malfoy was insufferable because he fought her reasoning with his own brand of logic and intelligence, and by the gods, sometimes he actually made sense. She wondered idly who she had offended in a past life to deserve being saddled with so many bad examples of the opposite sex.

Glaring at him through the dim light he gave her the smirk she had been dying to wipe off of his face for months. He had been right, and for one of the few times in her life, she had been woefully wrong.

"I was right you know," he said smugly, voicing her thoughts.

"Just because you were right, doesn't mean we are any better off now," she snapped back, folding her arms over her chest. She turned away from his gloating expression with a huff of pure annoyance.

"Oh it's not so bad, rather cosy actually," he replied. Without looking at him she could tell he still had that smirk on his face.

"Personally, I find it to be cramped and uncomfortable."

"Maybe it's because you aren't used to being in such close proximity to a living breathing male," he retorted.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

She felt him shrug before he replied, "I just didn't think you were the type of girl to play 'seven seconds in heaven' back at Hogwarts."

"Oh for crying out loud, are you ever serious?" she exclaimed, throwing her hands up in the small space, knocking his shoulder in the process. She gave her own smirk of satisfaction when he grunted in pain.

"When the occasion calls for it," he practically wheezed.

"And what would you call this?" she hissed, feeling more and more furious.

"A series of unfortunate events, that I fortunately predicted, and that you chose to completely disregard under the guise that you are always right and I, of course, am always wrong," he replied smoothly, examining his nails in the dark with practiced flair.

Hermione closed her eyes and counted to ten, focussing on her breathing in an effort not to throttle the pureblood. It had been a simple assignment, so simple it was originally offered to the rookie Auror's; but for some inexplicable reason Draco had insisted they it was a job for a more experienced team - meaning he and his always reluctant partner Hermione.

It had started as a rumour, told to a man in a pub, who mentioned it to his friend on the street that passed it on to a young boy who went home and told his mother whose husband then contacted the Ministry in a panic. Whether there was any truth to the rumour was another matter altogether, but like good little Auror's on their last warning do, Hermione and Draco set out on the fools errand to discover if indeed Voldemort would be raised on this very eve.

"You know, I sometimes think you only ever became an Auror to get some sick revenge for all the times I beat you at school," she mused out loud.

"Is that so? Well, did you know that I often wonder if you yourself joined the Auror team for the very same reason; it is that, or when the war was over you had absolutely no sense of self and blindly followed Potter and Weasley straight into this occupation." His tone was one of sarcastic pleasure and she felt her mouth tighten in anger again.

"You think I'm not good at my job?" she growled breathing deeply through her nose.

"I didn't say that, I was merely pointing out that we wouldn't be on our last warning if you were a bit more compatible to these kinds of situations."

"This situation is all your fault!" she shouted, standing up in the cramped space and trying the door knob again. Her voice echoed around them and they both fell silent, holding their breaths to see if someone had heard them. The rickety staircase creaked above them, but no footsteps followed.

"I would hardly say all mine," his harsh whisper sounded from behind her.

Hermione grudgingly had to admit that he was right again. Whilst he could take the majority of the blame for their current tight spot, it was her initial judgment that had started the evening's events. She dropped her head heavily against the broom cupboard door and listened carefully to any more sound from the dilapidated home that had once belonged to Severus Snape.

The rumour had stated that a meeting of rogue Death Eaters was to take place, exactly five years after the death of the spy, turned traitor, turned hero, Severus Snape. Naturally, the Auror department had been put on high alert and each team was assigned a location. Draco had become so excited when Spinner's End was listed that he immediately signed them up for it. Hermione was certain that if any kind of resurrection was to take place, then the Potion Masters childhood home was the last place it would occur.

When they had arrived at the poorly kept home in the long abandoned neighbourhood Hermione had been less convinced. This was the perfect location, she realized. The Potion's Master would have left behind scores of old elixir's, illegal brews and restricted spell books; his knowledge of the dark arts and the Dark Lord's inner workings was legendary to this day. Everything a would be corpse caller would need could be found in the one place.

Draco must have come to this realization at the same time, because he paused on the pavement outside the house and held out an arm to stop her progress. They had immediately fallen into an argument over the best course to take, Draco believing they should summon in another team before progressing, Hermione stating that they at least needed to know a little before making any assumptions.

Of course, Hermione's strong will had overtaken, and in a moment she would look back on with shame, she went charging into the house at the first glimmer of light from the second floor. Draco had no choice but to follow her.

What happened next was all his fault in her opinion. There she had been, ready to charge upstairs to disband whatever illegal activities had been going on when Draco dragged her into the first floor broom cupboard without any warning. She had let out a god awful scream when his arm had wrapped around her waist, but his hand clamped over her mouth cut her off mid vocalization.

The door had slammed shut behind them and they had both fallen to absolute silence. Draco's chest heaved against her back, where he pressed himself intimately against her, his arm resting just beneath her breasts, feeling her heart hammering. They both listened intently to the sound of the creaking staircase above them, but while it made plenty of noise; it was too hard to tell from their position if it was caused by human means.

After another few moments of whispered argument on what to do next, it was decided they would leave as quietly as possible and summon another team from outside. It had been a solid and sensible plan, until they realised that the door could not be opened from the inside, the handle having charmed with a curse not even Hermione could figure out.

"You know, I am beginning to think it was the reflection of the street lamp on those top windows that caught you eye." He scoffed a little louder from behind her, bringing her back to the present.

"I know what I saw."

"Maybe you should have one of your Muggle eye doctors check your vision," he teased and she spun around to glare at him. She was still a little sore after he had laughed for almost twenty minutes when she had revealed both of her parents were Dentists. That anyone could earn a living being an expert on a body part was ludicrous to the pure-blooded snob.

"They are called Optometrists and I have perfect vision thank you very much," she replied primly.

"Could have fooled me," she thought she heard him mutter under his breath.

"Look, it doesn't matter now anyway. We have summoned the other team and they will be here shortly. If there is someone upstairs then they will find them well before we do," she said after a few moments of heated silence, trying to keep the disappointment out of her voice.

Draco just grunted his response, and she heard him sit down on the boxes they had been using as armchairs. Auror training had honed their night vision, but in the still darkness even she had trouble telling her surroundings and lighting a wand for the sake of seeing each others faces was a risk neither was willing to take.

"It's his birthday today you know," Draco said after another few moments of silence.

"Whose?" she asked, falling back to sit beside him, misjudging her distance slightly and almost falling onto the boxes, his arm steadied hers before pulling away abruptly.

"Snape's. Today is his birthday; it's why I was so sure something was happening here. Catching the last of the Death Eaters would have secured my – I mean our – jobs for sure," his voice was full of regret, as if he had decided that the house presented absolutely no danger at all.

"Oh," she breathed, wondering how in the name of Merlin she had missed such a significant fact.

"Now all we will be is the laughing stock of the department." He sighed, leaning back so that he rested against the wall, his thigh still pressed tight against hers as he stretched his long arms above his head.

"We will all be laughing stocks if this turns out to be some wild goose chase. Even you have to admit, the origins of this rumour are a bit sketchy," Hermione tried inject some form of cheer into her voice.

"Getting trapped in a broom cupboard will get us kicked out of the department for sure."

"I suppose there are plenty of other jobs out there," she shrugged, thinking of all the places that would reject a disgraced Auror.

"I'm sure the Madam Pince will be looking to retire sometime soon," he laughed.

Hermione scowled at the image of her becoming an old crone surrounded by books, "Despite popular opinion Draco, I do have a life beyond books. Whilst I like to indulge in good literature, I do not want to live the rest of my very long existence yelling at students to keep quiet."

"Really? I always thought that kind of thing would be your dream job," he said with genuine surprise.

Hermione gave an indelicate snort, "Hardly. I would miss the adventure - the excitement too much. I mean, don't get me wrong, one day I would like to settle down, have children and all of that, but for now I think I would get bored sitting around."

"Ah, so there is a romantic in there after all Granger," he teased, shifting to look at her face in the dark. His leg pressed tighter against hers and she felt her breath catch in her throat for some inexplicable reason.

"Whoever said there wasn't?" she tried to keep her tone light, but she was suddenly affected by the intimate way in which he leaned into her.

"Nobody, I just always saw you surrounded by books and learning in your old age, never grandchildren and knitting."

"Surely you don't want to be chasing bad guys when you are old and shrivelled Malfoy?" she replied, tilting her head to peer at his barley visible features.

"No, I guess I want the same things too." He shrugged, falling back into silence again.

The rickety staircase above them gave a lurch and the creak sounded once again, Hermione, already a bundle of nerves, flinched violently at the sound. Draco seemed to go completely still beside her as he listened intently. The noises of the house seemed to be getting louder, almost restless the more time they spent trapped there.

"I can't wait to get out of here," she whispered when the creaking came to a halt.

"Are you that sick of me already?" he joked just as softly, still staring up at the ceiling.

"You know I don't feel the same way about you that I did at school," she replied, looking at him now. She hadn't missed the sad tone to his voice. Yes they may argue, and get on each others nerves more than any other Auror team, but it didn't mean she hated him, it just meant that he was an infuriating git.

"Really?" she heard that teasing quality return to his voice, and something else, almost a sexual huskiness. She realized that her words could be taken in a number of ways.

"Oh not like that, I just mean I don't hate you like I did. You seem to have grown on me." She blushed furiously at her confession.

"Sure Granger - you know you want me." His smug confidence shone through in his tone and she could tell he was on the verge of laughter.

"Like boils," she scoffed without hesitation.

"Now that's a downright lie. I've seen the way you glance at me, the way you pull away from me every time my hand accidently brushes against yours. I know even now you are blushing because you can't deny it. You, Hermione Granger, want me."

Hermione was speechless. Was she that obvious? Was her physical attraction to a man she used to openly loath so clear to everyone else? In the last year she had learnt to live with Draco, had learnt to accept his irritating habits and learnt to argue with him using reason rather than just pure anger as her driving force. They had come to understanding of sorts, but while theirs was no longer a hate based relationship; there certainly was no true love between them.

She was attracted to him – what woman wouldn't be? He was tall, having at least a head or so on her five foot three frame. He was athletic, his numerous activities, including regular Auror training and frequent Quidditch matches had left with a musculature that other men envied and women sighed over. He was certainly handsome, and knew it too; infact, his looks bordered on beautiful – some said his grandmother had possessed Veela genes, with his platinum blonde hair and high cheekbone, Hermione was willing to look into that fact.

"See you can't even deny it," his smug voice penetrated her thoughts.

"No, I am just not going to inflate your ego anymore than it already is," she lied, putting as much acid in her tone as she could manage.

"Is that so? So if I kissed you now, you would feel absolutely nothing?"

Hermione's went wide at these words. Where had that come from? He was just testing her right? "S-sure, absolutely nothing," she stuttered, "It would be like kissing a-a-a… ferret," her face became, if possible, even redder.

"A ferret huh?" he repeated, his voice dangerously close to her ear now.

"That's what I said, wasn't it?" she breathed with faux bravado.

Shivers chased each other down her spine as his breath washed over her cheek and hair, light fingers came out to shift the heavy mass from her shoulder and she had to bite her lips as that sweet breeze hit the delicate shell of her ear. Without realizing it, she tilted her head to the side, allowing him full access to her neck and jaw line.

She was helpless to deny him as his lips connected with the sensitive skin of her neck, kissing the spot just below her ear before working his way around to her cheek. He used those same fingers that had moved her hair to tip her chin, bringing them face to face. She blinked at him in the dim light, watching as his eyes fell shut and his face closed in on hers. Her own eyelids fell moments before his soft lips connected with hers.

His long lashes brushed against her cheeks as he kissed her closed mouth for a few moments, his movements slow and sensual, as if waiting for her to come to her senses and slap him. She did neither, instead making a small sound of approval in the back of her throat whilst gripping his forearms.

It wasn't like she had ever planned for this to happen, nor was she likely to ever repeat this strange occurrence to anybody else, any time soon; but sweet Merlin's poorly executed comb over, his mouth felt good on hers and she never wanted him to stop.

She couldn't suppress the moan that escaped her, feeling a thrill in her bones as he answered her in kind. That she was able to bring about this reaction in him, and he in her, was almost inconceivable. Even if she did decide to tell somebody that this had happened, they would never believe her.

His hands ran from her wrists, up her arms and beneath the wide sleeves of her standard issue robed. She shivered against him; her soft breasts pressed against the hard planes of his chest as his long fingers traced invisible patterns across her skin, reaching all the way to her shoulders and back down to her wrists.

His tongue traced the plump contours of her lips and she sighed into his touch, letting the thick muscle in to massage her own. If she thought was he was doing to her before was incredible, this was completely in a realm of its own. Never before had a kiss made her so aroused, had a simple touch had her whole body in flames. She shifted until she was pressed fully against him, his arms snaking around her waist, as hers found the soft hairs on the back of his neck.

As his tongue became from insistent and her body more pliant she shifted to straddle his hips, her knees resting on either side of him, her thighs pressed tightly around him. He fingers moved to press and knead her lower back, pulling her hips into his, until she could feel his growing arousal against her. She moaned into his mouth and began a slow gyrating motion, bringing them closer together and causing them both to let out harsh explicits.

The tiny broom cupboard was suddenly flooded with light, they broke apart abruptly, but there was absolutely no hiding what they had been doing.

"Oh my gods," she heard Ron breath behind her.

"Nobody is going to believe this," Harry seconded.

Hermione stared straight into Draco's eyes, but he was staring at her two best friends behind her, "Bout bloody time," he said casually lifting her off him, helping her stand up.

Ron, having gone bright red at discovering them together, was rubbing the back of his neck and looking everywhere but at the couple in front of him. Harry had a goofy sort of grin on his face, as if he had seen this coming all along.

"Looks like a bunch of muggle kids were upstairs having a séance. You must have scared them when you came in, they left their board behind and a heap of candles burning," he explained.

"I told you it wasn't a reflection!" Hermione burst out, hitting Draco in the arm for his earlier accusation.

"Okay, so I was wrong. There is a first for everything," he shrugged, now sporting a grin very similar to Harry's.

"Well you're lucky there was something here. Boss isn't happy six teams sent out distress calls – too many false alarms he said," Ron contributed gruffly.

Hermione took this in, realizing that if they weren't the only ones to get into trouble this night, then they may not loose their jobs as soon as they had imagined. Plus it was unlikely Harry and Ron would cost them their jobs – not when they treasured their friendship with Hermione so much.

"What's in here anyway?" Harry asked, peering into their temporary prison with curiosity, obviously determined to not bring up the interrupted moment. The small roomed contained stacks of cardboard boxes, a few ancient brooms and several fur coats.

Harry stepped in and pulled open the box Hermione had been sitting on, "Sweet Merlin's funny little toe," he breathed before he started to chuckle.

"What? What is it?" Hermione asked as she peered over Draco's shoulder as the three men examined the contents of the box.

"Who would have thought they would stash them here?" Ron observed with a sense of awe, starting to laugh along with his best friend.

"Who would have thought there were any of these left in circulation?" Draco countered, seeming less amused than the two Gryffindor's.

"What?" Hermione asked, standing on her toes to see now.

"Death Eater uniforms. We've found the pot of gold," Harry answered, standing up with a half mask clutched in his hand.

Hermione looked at Draco just as he turned to stare at her, his face lighting up beyond his usual smirk. He knew, they both knew – this discover meant they would keep their jobs. For once they had done something right.

"We better get these back to the office," Ron's gruff voice interrupted their almost private joy.

Harry lifted one box, while Ron got the other and they all began walking down the long foyer toward the front door, the floor boards creaking beneath them. Hermione began to follow them out, Draco close to her side.

They were almost to the door when the blondes arm snaked around her waist in a gesture of affection that took her completely off guard, "Keep your hands to yourself Malfoy, or I won't hesitate to hex them off," she growled.

Draco merely laughed and tightened his hold on her, leaning down to kiss her cheek fondly. Ron, who had stopped at the door to stare at them was looking wide eyed, "I swear nobody will bloody believe this," he muttered before apparating into the cold night.

"You know, I kind of saw this coming," Harry said, that goofy smile returning before he too apparated away.

"You know what Granger, I was right again," Draco said happily, detaining her from following her friends for a moment longer.

"What this time?" she questioned, still attempting to shrug away from him, but not as insistently as before, nobody was around to gawk at them anymore.

"You want me," he practically whispered, leaning in close to her again, his voice gaining that husky edge once more.

Hermione took several deep breaths as her lids became heavy, she even found herself being pulled in by his raw magnetism, "I suppose you're right," she told him glumly, moments before her arms snaked out to tug at his neck, bringing his lips into contact with hers.

"Ferret," he snorted pulling away from her once more. Hermione slapped his arm but let him hug her again, secretly loving the contact.

It had been a long time coming, and people would have trouble believing it, but that day the thin line between love and hate had been crossed, and they were going to have a hard time getting back … not that they minded at all.

Thanks for Reading!