Author's note: No, this isn't my usual. It wasn't quite a writing challenge, but when someone said he didn't like the pairing, something made me want to write it.
He wasn't supposed to be looking at her bum. Frankly speaking, he wasn't even supposed to notice that she had one. That he did and that he'd been admiring said asset for well on five minutes meant one thing: Draco had truly lost his mind. The rumor that he'd gone round the bend had begun when he'd turned in some of his father's things after the senior Malfoy had gone into hiding. Even Narcissa had turned up her nose, refusing to speak to her only child for a week before begging his forgiveness for "not understanding his prudent decision." Right. She'd done a fair job of kissing his arse after she found out he would inherit the family property and money in his father's absence. And on the subject of things that might do with a bit of kissing...
Right. He was truly out of his mind. It had been six years since the war and not one advancement had been made, magical or Muggle, that would allow for Hermione Granger to tame her hair. Even cutting it shorter only emphasized the wild jungle of curls and waves that framed her face. And Draco, fool that he was, couldn't help notice that she wasn't quite the...what was the phrase? The cat vomit-faced gutter queen Pansy had called her. She...well, she was never going to win a beauty contest, but getting away from that freckled leech had brought about a glow she'd never had as an awkward teenage witch.
He must be deeply disturbed—and desperate—to notice any of this. And yet, he couldn't stop staring. It was the Muggle clothes. She was wearing jeans that looked as if they'd been painted on by a master artist and a shirt made of some sort of bouncy material that emphasized and enhanced her modest curves. It was probably an enchantment that made his eyes follow her every movement and wish he could pull out his wand and make that shirt disappear. In her office, of all places. It would serve Granger right for dressing to distract any man who walked through the door.
Finally, she turned, a thick folder of papers in her hand. "Sorry about that. I just hired an assistant who understands nothing about the tickler file system. Honestly! It's not in the least bit complicated and...right. You don't care. Never mind." Grasping the folder, Hermione sat behind the desk and began thumbing through the papers.
Just like that, Draco felt his brief attraction to her die a merciful death. "May I sit?"
Hermione looked up and blinked hard, as if she'd forgotten he was there. Then the polite words rolled off her tongue in a flurry. "Of course. What was I thinking? Do have a seat. Would you like anything? A drink?" She licked her lips.
And just like that, he was wondering if her lips were soft and if Weasley or Krum or anyone else had taught her anything practical to do with them. This was going to be the longest meeting of his life.
Draco shook his head and sat in the soft leather chair before her desk, reminding himself for the hundredth time why he was doing this. The Ministry had told him at his trial that community service was optional since he was so young when he'd been pressure into becoming a Death Eater. Harry's surprising testimony on his behalf had worked in his favor, reducing his sentence to merely contributing to the general fund that paid to rebuild the Muggle and magical structures destroyed in the war. He'd done that, easily doubling the largest contribution made. But something in him made him want to do something more with the money rotting in his vaults in Gringott's. So he'd made an appointment with the newly created Office of Magical Liaisons and the reluctant witch persuaded to lead it. Since Hermione was still thumbing through the papers, Draco took it upon himself to start the discussion.
"I'm not sure how much your assistant told you, but I had a few ideas about what I want to do with my fund," Draco began.
"A private school for younger children orphaned by the war. Hogwarts scholarships for those students who cannot afford to attend school." Hermione nodded. "I've read over the entire list of suggestions and I must say, they all sound promising. But, what is the extent of your committment?"
It didn't take Draco long to respond. "I don't care about any of my family's fortune. I can donate as much as is needed to get things set to rights."
"No amount of money is going to set things to rights," Hermione said quietly. Her eyes traced over his face. He squirmed in his seat, wondering if she could see through him. Draco hadn't been so grateful to have mastered Occlumency in years. "What are you getting out of this?"
"Fulfillment." A bald lie. There were so many feelings warring inside him—guilt over the things he and his family had done and witnessed, anger at his parents for putting him in that situation, shame for what he'd once been proud to call his—Draco could no longer distinguish between the infrequent beatings he took in the press and the beratings he gave himself when he looked in the mirror and saw his father's eyes. Every time another building was erected or another wing was added to St. Mungo's, a small measure of that fathoms deep pain eased. It was only money. While it did nothing but nauseate him to lay eyes on it, if it could heal others in some way, all the better. But if he told anyone he felt this way? There would be the ones who'd readily believe him, take his gold and do the good he couldn't bring himself to do with his own hands. But there were others, like Granger, who knew the person he'd been, and still was in many respects, who would always doubt his sincerity.
They would be right. Whatever his confused feelings towards his family and the rest of the Death Eaters, Draco Malfoy was selfish at heart. He wanted the talk to stop. The snickering and finger pointing when he went out was one thing to endure in the months after the war, but he refused to live the rest of his life as the poster child for villainy, the person parents pointed out to their children in the street as an example of the opposite of everything any decent wizard should be. And if relieving himself of eleven generations worth of wealth would make the difference, Draco would set fire to the money himself.
"I see," Hermione said. Her tone was accepting, but there was a flicker of something in her eyes that said she believed him as much as the Wizengamot had believed he'd been forced to take the Dark Mark. "Well, we're going to go over the list one by one and I'll tell you what is needed at the moment and how much money it will take to get each project off the ground. The initial estimates will be conservative, but as you've stated, you can handle the long-term financial committment."
What he could not handle, he decided two hours later, was the way she worried her bottom lip between her teeth when she was thinking or how that damnable blouse molded to her when she leaned back in the chair. When she finally dismissed him, Draco was grateful she didn't look up as he left. As much as his generosity and seeming sincerity confused her, he was sure she'd be mystified by what she had done to him without really trying.
"All right, you'll have to get me something stronger than tea if you're going to say what I think you are."
Hermione looked up from the papers in front of her, frowning as Ginny stepped out of the Floo and into her living room. Paper littered just about every surface, minus the spot where she sat curled up with Crookshanks curled around her feet and a path to the kitchen. Ginny waved her wand and several stacks of papers floated to a table she'd conjured near the window on the far side of the room. She conjured a cup and poured herself tea from the pot at Hermione's elbow before the other girl had time to process what she'd said.
"I'm afraid I have no idea what you're talking about," she said finally.
"I mean, the last time you missed one of our dinners, you and Ron were finally doing something about that stupid tension between you." Ginny took a sip from her tea. "But I see you're not shagging some bloke until he's too tired to move, so tell me what has you so occupied."
Ginny frowned. "I am going to need a stronger drink."
"It's not like..." Hermione gestured to the papers around the room. "He wants to do quite a lot of charitible work through my office and today was our first meeting. If he has his way, and the obscene financial resources I suspect, it will be the largest financial contribution to charities in Wizarding history."
"Probably thinks he'll get some war widow to shag him."
She shrugged. "It's not like he's doing it out of the goodness of his heart. You know as well as I, Draco has always been the worst sort of self-involved arse. It wouldn't surprise me if a decent fly through some woman's hoops is exactly what he's after. Not too many women looking to get involved with that family now, are there?"
Hermione frowned and sipped her tea.
"Wait...he didn't come on to you, did he?"
"Gods, no!" Hermione laughed. The sound rang hollow even to her ears. "We just had the one business meeting."
"All right, fine. It was the strangest thing. I mean, we spoke like normal. Well, not like normal. We were civil and very mature, not at all like we were as children and he just...the way he looked at me. It was like he could see straight through me. Or through my clothes, rather. It was unnerving."
"Right," Ginny said. "You're blushing because it made you uncomfortable."
"I am not...no! It's not like that."
"You don't have to explain it to me, Hermione. I am well aware of the draw of that thousand-yard stare." Ginny smiled and Hermione was reminded of the time she accidentally walked in on her best friends making up for lost time after the war. There was a side of Harry Potter she never wanted to see again. "What are you going to do about it?"
"Nothing. There's nothing to be done. I'm sure it was just my imagination that he was looking at me like..."
"Like you were the last chocolate cauldron in the shop, he'd been starving for weeks and he had to fight a bunch of equally hungry dragons for you?" Ginny grinned at her outraged expression. "There's something to feeding that kind of appetite, if you can get a man worked up to that state. Since we're all about forgetting the past and civility, are you going to tell him there's an opportunity to get into your knickers or just let the opportunity pass?"
"Ginny, I can't do anything with Draco Malfoy," Hermione hissed. "Besides the fact that I'm working with him, he...I...you know our history as well as anyone. The way he treated me at Hogwarts, I'd be a fool to let him do anything even remotely close to what you're suggesting."
The redhead smiled. "You'd be surprised, but sometimes all that pent up anger and frustration can be quite the aphrodisiac." She paused. "Or maybe you wouldn't be surprised. Anyway, what would be the harm in it? Neither of you would ever tell anyone. You, because you'd be too afraid to sully your reputation and Draco because people would think he'd hexed you into it and he can't afford anyone to hate his family more than they already do." She reached for the tea pot and refilled her cup. "I mean, even if you just let him give you a little hand," she said, wiggling her fingers, "it'd be worth it just to toss one off with him. I know you can see it. Draco, staring at you with those gray eyes, pouting in that way he does, while he holds you against the wall and tells you how rough he's going to give it to you." She let her voice trail off then, and stared at a point above Hermione's shoulder. The older witch gasped and leaned forward, papers forgotten as they slid from her lap to the floor.
"Ginny, you didn't!" At her shout, Crookshanks yowled and took off across the floor, scattering papers in his wake.
The girl laughed and took a long sip from her tea. "It wasn't a big deal. Just the once in fourth year. I was leaving a D.A. meeting and he caught me in the hall. When he pushed me into a corner and started touching me, at first I was so angry I wanted to hex his bollocks off, but then...I started to like it." A small smile tilted her lips. "Of course, I never told him that. He thought he was torturing me. And I could definitely tell he liked it."
Hermione's mouth dropped open. Her tea cup hit the table with a clatter. "You don't really mean he—?"
Ginny nodded. "Could've put a hole in the castle wall with that thing." She tilted her head to the side, studying Hermione. "You know, he might be good for you. Have a little fun. You could use some after um..."
"After being accused of cheating when everyone knows I'd never even consider it, dumped and pretty much left to believe no man would ever want someone who nags and belittles as much as I do?"
Ginny snorted. "That idiot brother of mine is a poet, isnt he?" She sighed. "Even our mum knew the cheating thing was just an excuse. She still refuses to feed him after the way he handled things."
"Really?" Hermione laughed. "It's been almost six months."
Ginny nodded. "Really. He's allowed to come to the house when we do our Sunday thing, but if anyone so much as passes him a roll, we'll have to join him in food deprivation. She'll keep it going until he apologizes to you."
"Oh. No wonder it's been six months. It'll be at least another before he'll have the nerve to talk to me again."
"Let's get back to important matters. Are you going to shag Draco or just run to the loo and touch yourself every time he stares at you that way?"
"I don't think of him and touch myself." She had a toy for that. Nifty little Muggle contraption she'd nearly forgotten she owned until she got home from the office and found that a ten minute cold shower did nothing to dispel what she felt when he'd stared at her just before he left. It was going to take quite a few batteries to get this out of her system if she didn't do something more substantial to rid herself of this curiousity.
"Do you really think I should just...tell him to come and get it?"
"Well, no. You're not a steak dinner." Ginny smiled. "Just hint that you're not going to hex him if he tries anything and he'll take it from there. But play hard to get. Slightly repulsed, even. He'll try even harder to convince you you want it."
"Right. The challenge aspect."
"Precisely," Ginny said. "Ooh, while I'm thinking of it, ask him if he still has that Inquisitorial Squad badge."
"What?" She shrugged. "It was hot."
"You are a bad influence."
Ginny just smiled and finished her tea. Hermione knew she was fooling no one. Not even herself. Some twisted part of her wanted this, from Draco Malfoy of all people. She just hoped she didn't live to regret it.
When Draco received the note, he was tempted to toss it into the fireplace. It wasn't the typical missive from a Ministry employee and all personal letters addressed to him these days tended to be either psychotic fan mail or anonymous death threats. But something had compelled him to break the seal and scan the words. What he found there nearly made his heart stop. Hermione Granger had invited him to her home to "finish what they'd started" the other day. The words seemed to mean a continuation of their business meeting until she mentioned that she had observed a unique sort of behavior from him and wanted to ascertain its full meaning in private. In other words, she could tell she'd aroused him and wanted to hex him in the privacy of her home if he intended to do something about it.
It hadn't taken more than a few seconds of waffling before he decided to write back to her, indicating that he would accept her invitation. Minutes after the owl left Malfoy Manor, Draco realized he had to be a fool. That letter could've been from anyone who'd seen him leave Hermione's office that day. And if he showed up with a hard on and every intention of using it, she would have cause to use every defensive spell she knew. On the other hand, if the letter was from her, it could easily be a trap. It wasn't unheard of, adults getting revenge on childhood bullies years after the abuse had ended. And if Hermione's plan was to get him naked and then torture him—Draco banished the thought. She wasn't Bellatrix by a long stretch. She'd never trick him if she wanted to hurt him, she'd hit him with her bare hands, as he could well attest. This invitation had to be genuine. And he'd given up claim to the last of his sanity accepting it.
When she opened the door, the last thing she expected was flowers. Half the shop down the street from her flat, if the size of the bouquet was any indication. Spying the expensive shoes beneath the vase, Hermione stood back from the doorway and held it wide.
"Come in, Draco." Grabbing her wand, she removed the flowers from his arms and levitated them across the room to dominate the far wall. "They're...beautiful."
"I'm glad you like them. I wasn't sure which ones were your favorite."
"So you bought out half the shop. Good way to cover yourself, I suppose," she said. Hermione took a deep breath. This was hardly the most awkward situation she'd ever been in, but definitely the last person she would've imagined welcoming into her home and bed.
"I'll take your cloak," she said. And any weapons, odd potions or silent spells you could be considering, she thought. To Draco, she presented a soft smile. What should come next? Did she offer him a drink or just strip down and see if he'd dive right in? "Please excuse how cold it is in here. I've barely gotten in from work and just started the fire before you arrived."
"I wasn't sure what to think after that note you sent," Draco began. "I know we were never friends in school, but—"
"It's fine," Hermione said, cutting him off. "We're not children anymore. We don't have to let the past define who we are any more than we have to live up or down to what others expect of us. If we want to do something...to please ourselves, we're mature enough to make that determination on our own."
"You're right," he said after a long moment.
And he was handsome. Well, not quite handsome since pointy features never quite registered with the general public as an accepted facet of traditional attractive features, but there had been a kind of ruggedness to his looks that years of being outside of his father's influence had softened. He wasn't quite the arrogant arse whose expression pinched in disgust as soon as he looked at her. The look he was giving her now was a great example. That expression, the lust that gave his eyes a dark intensity, could only be described as hungry. Voracious. Hermione knew then, she was ready to be devoured.
"How would you feel about...going out to dinner?" Draco asked. "I know someplace really quiet. There's no press and they have a private room in back," he added.
Hermione giggled. "Look, you don't have to keep pretending to be romantic for me. It was sweet, at first, but I know you just want to get into my pants." At Draco's dumbfounded expression she added, "It's all right. That's what I want too."
He blinked hard and motioned to the dozens of flowers rotting against her wall. "So, I didn't have to do that?"
Hermione sighed and lifted her wand. Draco's clothes disappeared. She fought down another giggle. Perhaps she should've come home earlier and lit the fire long before he arrived. The frigidity of the room was having a decidedly unwelcome affect on Draco's person. Unless that was his natural state, in which case, that would go a long way towards explaining his personality at Hogwarts. Either way, she'd work with him. It was the least she'd done for Ron, after all.
Aiming her wand, she tried a Warming Charm. After a few moments, it looked as if she'd done an Engorgement Charm as well. She smiled. This might be worth it, after all.
Draco crossed his arms over his chest as Hermione crossed the room to him. "You have one chance to back out of this. If you're not sure—"
"Oh, shut up, Malfoy," Hermione said, grabbing his hand. She began walking towards her bedroom. "Keep that up and I'll be forced to gag you." She smiled at him over her shoulder. "Maybe I will, if you're into that kind of thing."
An hour or so later, Draco lay in the bed next to her, trying to figure out the best way to escape. He had what he'd come for and then some. They were both satisfied. But he couldn't move out of the bed. He felt like there was something else he should be doing, something he should say, questions he should ask. Why him? Why now? Why didn't she treat him like everyone else when she had every right to, more than most people?
This was one of the people for whom his guilt wasn't misplaced. Draco knew without a doubt that being the kind of boy he'd been, who treated Hermione the way he had, opened the door for her to get sucked into a relationship with someone who treated her as less than she was. Though she'd fought back as much as she could, once she'd gotten used to being a victim, a self-destructive relationship was akin to ignoring the daily insults and hexes he'd thrown her way. She'd never talked about it pubicly, but their breakup had hit every paper from London to Hong Kong and it was obvious to even the most casual of observers she'd been the victim in that last exchange. It was a fucked up cycle and he couldn't help feeling like her involvement with Weasley was somehow partly his fault, on top of everything else.
And there was fuck all he could do about any of it. Not that she'd want his apology. Or believe him if he said it. And it wasn't as if he could tell if his sudden feelings of remorse and guilt for Hermione Granger were sincere or merely the combination of confused hormones and gratefulness that this one person didn't treat him as a pariah. He supposed there was a little of both. But he, arrogant bastard that he was, could at least do her the courtesy of an apology that was too little and many years too late.
He turned to her and stroked a hand along her arm until she turned to him, a lazy smile touching her lips.
"Again?" Hermione asked. "I thought twice would've been enough. Matter of fact, I'm pretty sure I'm going to feel that last move in my back all day tomorrow."
"No, I...I just have to say something," Draco stated. "Then I'll leave it alone."
Her soft smile wavered. "All right."
"Granger. I'm sorry." The words were simple, but years worth of memories seemed to cross her face before her expression evened and she pulled the sheet up to cover her chest.
Hermione stared at him a long moment before laughing softly and running a hand over her messy hair. "Malfoy, get out of my bed. I've got to get up early for work tomorrow."