A/N: I'm sorry this took so long. There is no excuse! I hope you like this chapter, though.
This is unbetaed.
(Andromeda Tonk's P.O.V)
Her sister looked shell-shocked.
Andromeda couldn't blame her.
When she'd read about her sister's return to England, she'd, as Teddy would say, had a "major freak out." Harry had graciously taken in Teddy for a couple days as Andromeda worked through the confusing mess in her brain. Her sister was back. Her sister was back. Her sister was back. No matter how she emphasized that sentence, it didn't change the fact that Narcissa Black-Malfoy had returned.
A few days ago, when Harry had stumbled into her door with a heartbroken expression on his face, she'd learned about the Veela situation. Of course. Andromeda should have expected it. She'd always suspected that Narcissa held the gene like Bella did, but neither sister had spoken to her about it. Narcissa had always been too beautiful, too enchanting, too disinterested in the boys falling over themselves.
Andy had never learned the mates of her sisters, and she didn't know whether she preferred it that way or not. Lucius was obviously not Cissy's mate, but Andy wasn't sure she wanted to know who was. It wasn't worth lingering on the past.
Narcissa straightened her shoulders and smiled at her sister, the two of them standing awkwardly in the foyer, but the smile was plastic and Andy rolled her eyes. Her sister hadn't changed. "It's excellent to see you," Narcissa said, perfectly polite. "How have you been?"
"Cut the shit," Andy sighed, turning her back and walking more into the house. "But, just because you asked so nicely, I've been doing well."
"I'm glad to hear it," Narcissa said. She lingered in the doorway in a manner that would have been awkward for anybody else but, Andy noticed with a bit of annoyance, made Narcissa look perfectly natural. "How is young Theodore?"
"Teddy is doing fine," Andy said, a smile crossing her face at the thought of her grandson. Teddy was a piece of work, all piss and fire and creativity from his mum and reflective thoughtfulness from his daddy. The two of them stood in the middle of the room before Andy rolled her eyes for what had to be at least the third time in the past five minutes and pointed to a chair. "Sit."
Andy sat opposite her. "What did you want to talk about?"
Cissy gave a meaningless smile and said lightly, "Oh, Andy, can't we catch up first? We have much to discuss before we get bogged down by serious topics."
Andy wasn't stupid. Her sister was a master of deflecting and manipulation, one reason why their father had preferred Cissy over Andy. "Stop shitting around," she said bluntly. "Tell me what you wanted to talk about."
Narcissa turned stony in an instant. Oh, how many times had she seen her little sister change moods rapidly as kids? Andromeda wasn't one to consider herself nostalgic, but this visit was bring up all sorts of memories. "As I recall," Narcissa said, "you owled me first."
"Oh, let's not play the blame game," Andy said, shaking her head. "As I recall, you said that 'we have much to discuss.' Start discussing."
Narcissa bit her lip for a second, and even Andy, who had never been as Slytherin as her sisters, caught the movement for what it was: an expression of insecurity. "What do you know about Hermione Granger?"
So Hermione was Draco's mate, then? Andy thought about the Hermione she knew now and mentally concluded that the pairing would never work out. Maybe five years ago, sure, but not now. "She's not suited for Draco," Andy said immediately. "The bond must be wrong."
"Why is she not suited?" Narcissa asked, her tone worried. "From what I remember, she was a fiery enough girl - "
"From what you remember," interrupted Andromeda. "She's changed in the past couple of years, Narcissa. She left for university for a year or so and when she came back, she was an entirely different person. The Hermione you're thinking of is not the Hermione of today."
Narcissa laced her fingers together and flexed them, her eyes fixed on her long fingers. "Andy," Narcissa said, and although her voice was light and airy, Andy could read her sister and knew the anxiety was buried beneath her pretenses. "Do you honestly think those two will ever find happiness? My son?"
Andy hated to say this, but she had always been the older sister who never lied to Narcissa. She had been honest then and was honest now. "Not together," she said and knew in her heart that it was true.
(Draco Malfoy's P.O.V)
He watched the designing wizards maul Malfoy Manor with a detached air.
It was the day before his birthday, and he had done absolutely nothing all morning. Sure, he'd sketched a few things, organized his book collection by cover color and cross-alphabetized it by author's middle name, and counted the number of tiles on his bathroom floor, but he hadn't done anything overly productive.
Granger, the bloody woman, was distracting him. She'd been sending him confusing emotions all morning, and Draco could even swear he heard her voice more than once. About two hours earlier, maybe around noon, he'd felt a spike of anger that was so utterly Granger that it immediately distracted him from his half-hearted floor plans. He had wasted half an hour wondering what - or who - had caused timid little Hermione Granger to come out from her shell, at least momentarily.
Draco found that he didn't quite like the idea of anybody riling up Granger. That was his job. He was the one who could tear down her defenses with a few words, he was the one that forced her to reevaluate herself. It was a bit disheartening to discover that somebody else was doing the same thing.
"Mr. Malfoy," one of the designers said politely, levitating up what looked absurdly like a small volcano. Merlin, what did Daphne plan? "Where should we put this?"
"How should I know?" Draco snapped back, eyeing the small volcano with a healthy amount of trepidation as lava bubbled threateningly inside. "It's your job to take dangerous objects and make them look like decoration."
"You ordered it..." The wizard had the audacity to mumble, but a glare from Draco shut him up. Ducking his head, the wizard mumbled, "I'll go put it in the back garden, shall I?" and beat a hasty retreat.
That's right, Draco thought to himself, rolling his eyes. Run away.
He hated designing wizards. Every time there was a special event, he threw a fuss until Daphne agreed to supervise the band of idiots. Where was Daphne, anyway? Draco quite enjoyed her efforts to worm her way into his good graces. Shouldn't she be here, taking care of everything?
Draco wandered through the gardens, watching the men work. He was sure his mother was holed up somewhere in the Manor, but he hadn't seen her all morning. Had everybody dropped off the face of the Earth? Sure, he was pleased to not have to deal with Daphne and Narcissa in the same morning, but he did not appreciate being ignored.
Sitting down on a bench that was slightly secluded, Draco closed his eyes and sought out Granger. After a moment or so, a picture visualized in his mind. Granger was working on something, scribbling feverishly, but as much as Draco squinted and tried to manipulate the image, he couldn't tell what it was. His first impulse was to go bother her, if only to distract himself, but he held himself back. Maybe she was taking his words to heart and actually trying to accomplish something with her pitiful little life.
Still, he watched her for a while. His thoughts were beginning to wander when, clear as day, he heard her voice in his head.
Blasted letters, she grouched to herself. Why did I ever decide business was a good idea?
I can't help but agree, Draco thought to himself sardonically, but was surprised a second later when the image of her in his head looked up and glance around herself with suspicion.
I'm going crazy, Granger decided, her voice echoing in his head. Now Malfoy's even taken over my bloody head.
He stifled a snort but resolved to control his thoughts from then on. It appeared as if the connection was two way, although he doubted Granger could manipulate it as he was learned to do.
Granger resumed scribbling away, her thoughts and emotions a mixture of aggravation and determination. Draco was amused to note how many times he popped up in her inner thoughts, as she ranted against him in a side commentary at the same time as she wrote letters.
He forgot himself for a few minutes as he relaxed, leaning against the bench and slowing his thoughts. He only listened to Granger keep up a torrent of words both mentally and mumbling aloud, marveling that she could be thinking about so many different trains of thought at once.
Then, he heard her think of his birthday party tonight. I doubt I'm going, Granger told herself, pausing in writing. He doesn't want me there, and I most definitely do not want a confrontation to ruin my weekend.
A couple of images flashed through her mind, of Potty and the Weasel and an overall emotion of agitation, before she sighed. Or maybe I will go. If I avoid him, it likely won't be much of an ordeal.
An ordeal? Oh, Granger. Did she have any idea how many people were clamoring to get into his private party? Sure, she'd been invited last year, if only because he was planning on publicizing the fact that he had especially invited all these war heroes. It was good for business, according to Daphne.
Especially since Theodore Nott will be there, was the next thought out of her head, one that caused him to splutter and sit up straight. Theo? How did Theo even know Granger?
Why are you planning on seeing Theo? He rhetorically asked her, but cursed out loud a second later when a pensive look crossed over her face. Had she heard that? Shit, shit, fuck! She had!
He stayed utterly still, praying his thoughts would not betray him.
Malfoy, I know you're there. I thought I heard you earlier.
He didn't think anything, focusing his mind as his Occlumency lessons taught him. Shit. This was not how he envisioned the link working.
Granger's image dissolved as he broke concentration, but he could still hear her voice as if she were in front of him, shouting. Malfoy, how dare you listen into my thoughts and then ignore me? I know you're there. Answer me, dammit!
It was clear he wasn't going to get away with silence, so he did the next best thing. Shut up, Granger, he answered curtly. I'm trying to figure out how to get you out of my head.
You shut up, she answered quite immaturely. You've been spying on me all afternoon, have you? Well – she paused and closed her eyes for a second. You're not the only one that knows a bit about the bond. You're paying me to research it, remember? And while you were organizing your books, I was practicing what I had learned.
He had been spied on? Hypocrisy aside, this enraged Draco. He hated being spied on. It brought back too many memories of having his life, his mind, invaded as he was too helpless to stop it…
Get the hell out of my head, Granger!
He could just picture her smarmy grin, even as he tried to peer through their connection. The hell! When had she learned to control it, anyway?
(Hermione Granger's P.O.V)
She smiled to herself in satisfaction.
Actually, she hadn't been spying on him, per say, but she had managed to pluck from his mind a stray image of him organizing his books earlier that day. Despite her stress and the amount of work she had, Hermione had been researching the problem before she went to bed, and she was reasonably certain she had as tight a grasp on the bond as he did.
Serves him right. Today, she had spoken briefly to Theodore Nott when Greengrass had gone to the bathroom, and he had leaned in close, looked at her with intensely serious eyes, and told her to "give Draco hell for me."
"Excuse me?" Hermione had answered.
Theo had given her a smirk and shook his head. "Granger," he'd said in a slightly mocking tone, yet one that she didn't find offensive. "You do realize the power the bond has given you, right?"
She had mumbled an affirmative. Yes, she had power, but Draco – as the Veela – appeared to have more.
"It doesn't matter what the books say," Nott had said, displaying a slightly uncanny ability to read her mind. "You have the tools, now use it. Draco's my best friend, but he's thinks he's a peg or two too high, and he needs someone like you to knock him down."
She'd stared at him and stuttered something in reply, but when she got home Hermione had thought over his words and, unaware of the smirk that spread across her face, agreed.
Malfoy, she thought to him, feeling his outrage as if it were her own. You haven't been researching, have you?
Excuse you, was his instant reply. I have enough to do without burying my nose in books.
She batted aside the insult. It was easier to feel confident when he wasn't in front of him, smirking at her and looking both delectably attractive and extraordinarily irritating. It didn't hurt that she could feel his emotions and decipher what he was feeling behind that tough mask.
You do realize that once a connection through the bond is opened, it's difficult to close, right?
Fuck you, Granger, Malfoy mumbled. I'll figure out a way.
Hermione grinned. Finally, it felt like she'd won one.
(Draco Malfoy's P.O.V)
He smirked and greeted more people, keeping an eye on his watch. When it approached 10:45, the party would have officially begun and he could get a drink, finally. Draco hated talking to these people but it was a necessary evil. Besides, Granger hadn't come yet, even though Daphne had said she would. He felt a terrible indecisiveness lurking in the part of his mind reserved for Granger's mood swings. She'd been, dare he say it, almost Slytherin earlier, as he'd been worked up into quite a panicked rage at the idea that Granger was now privy to whatever thoughts slipped by his mental control.
Theo stepped up next to him, looking around him with an impressed air. "Nice turn out, Drake. Reckon it's more than last year?"
He shrugged casually, his eyes traveling over the decorations and the throngs of people inhibiting Malfoy Manor. "Most likely. Have you seen Daphne?" All he could think about was Granger being pleased that Theo was going to be at his party. It was his party, dammit!
"Not since 10, when Blaise arrived," Theo said, pulling a face momentarily before his face shifted into nonchalance.
Draco caught his momentary lapse, however. "Is she really still fawning over Zabini?" Draco asked innocently, giving Theo an opening to rant. When could he mention that he knew that Theo'd met Granger and didn't tell him about it?
Theo did not disappoint. He drew in a long breath, alerting Draco that his friend was preparing to speak, and began in an irritated tone. Draco flicked his wand casually to cast a few privacy cells as a precaution, although he was sure his guests were too busy taking advantage of the bar to notice a conversation.
Then again, with Slytherins, nobody ever knew.
"I don't understand the appeal," said Theo, frowning. "I mean, he was a prat in Hogwarts and he hasn't exactly changed."
"I agree," Draco said, searching around mentally. Where was Granger?
This stupid shoes Ginny gave me don't fit my feet, Granger was grumbling, Who cares if they match? Nobody's going to be looking at my feet!
He stifled a laugh again and listened to Theo.
"I mean," he was continuing, noticing that Draco wasn't listening but not caring. "I was with her all day and she barely even mentioned Zabini!"
"Possibly because you were with Granger all day," Draco drawled, and Theo stopped talking immediately.
Draco watched his friend as his facial expression changed rapidly, smoothing out before he could get a decent read on Theo. Was that amusement he saw? Why was Theo amused? If anything, he should be worried that Draco found out he was lying to him! "That may have had something to do with it," Theo said, shrugging casually. "Although Daph and Granger really hit it off. Don't girls always ask each other about their boyfriends first?"
"Theo!" Draco exclaimed angrily. "This is not a joke. Why did you see Granger?"
His friend shrugged again. "Daph wanted to," he commented airily, as if these events happened daily. "I was curious about her."
Draco grumbled to himself and walked away rudely, ignoring Theo's snicker. Why did his friends insist on torturing him? First Daph was befriending Granger and neglecting her kiss-up duties, then Granger managed to one-up him, and now Theo was being utterly unrepentant about lying to him and even finding it funny -
He was tempted to ring up his father in the deepest depths of hell and ask him if he was ice-skating because the Earth had sure as shit tipped on its side.
(Hermione Granger's P.O.V)
The party was bigger than last year, the entire Manor packed with society's finest young adults. People downed shot after shot and she saw a literal waterfall of money exchange hands. She was arriving quite late, unfashionably late, but she had to give herself three mental pep talks (ones she desperately hoped Malfoy didn't hear) before working up the courage to come.
It was one thing to be sassy and in control when she did not have to actually face Malfoy, and it was quite another to maintain that air of superiority when on his turf, at his birthday party, in front of him.
Which was why, when she saw the glint of blond hair threading its way towards her, she panicked and fled.
"Calm down, Hermione," she muttered to herself, figuring the risk of getting overheard by a random party guest was preferable to Malfoy spying in her head. "Pull it together."
"I agree," a dry voice commented, and Hermione stifled a scream when she looked up to see Theodore Nott looking at her. "Considering the fact that I know Draco was searching for you, either you had a confrontation where he came out on top, or you fled before said confrontation could occur because you were afraid you wouldn't win."
Oh, Slytherins with their fluid, formal speech. She straightened her back and snapped back, "Perhaps I, out of respect, decided to avoid said confrontation as to not ruin his party."
Nott snorted and began walking away. Affronted, she followed after him. Where did he think he was going? She was taken aback when, after they were a bit of a distance from the main crowd of the party, he turned to face her. "Granger, Draco would like nothing more for you to distract him from his party." She was pondering that until he answered, a smirk sliding over his face, "After all, since he can't get laid anymore, parties aren't any fun."
"Men!" Hermione huffed, throwing up her hands and turning to walk away.
He caught her wrist. "I'm just kidding, Granger. Save your fire for Draco. I actually have a proposition for you."
She raised her eyebrows.
"As you know," he said self-importantly, "I am the Head of Public Relations at Sleeping Dragon, as well as the unofficial co-CEO since Draco needs my help more than he'd care to admit."
This startled a laugh out of Hermione. "Is there a point to this?"
"Patience," Nott said gravely before shooting her a teasing smile. "The point is, I'm very experienced and a bit bored at Dragon because I actually have free time. See the problem?"
"Not at all," Hermione said, who rather liked her free time.
He waved his hand to dismiss her comment. "I know you need a bit of help, and since Daph has deemed you approved, I was wondering if you wanted help? I don't come cheap, you know. You'll have to pay me in copious amounts of chocolate."
She laughed again, reeling that Greengrass had apparently 'deemed her approved.' Should she accept? If Hermione was being honest, she knew she was in over her head, but why would she accept Greengrass and Nott's help if she wouldn't accept it from Harry and Padma and the Weasleys?
Hermione wasn't entirely sure why she opened her mouth and said, "Only if you agree to try some Muggle chocolate too."
Nott laughed. "Making conditions, are we?" He shook his head. "Then I'll have to make some of my own. You have to call me by by first name, Hermione."
"Theodore." She tested it out on her tongue.
"Theo," he corrected her.
She found that it wasn't as strange as she thought, calling an old school enemy by his first name. "Theo," she agreed.
(Draco Malfoy's P.O.V)
Why the fuck was she and Theo talking, again?
He tried to maneuver closer to her, but he kept getting cut off by his friends and acquaintances. When that did not work, Draco tried to close his eyes and seek her out, but the music was too loud for him to concentrate.
He resorted to glowering in their direction as she smiled and laughed at him, and he grinned back at her. Theo had met her all of one time, and already they were best buddies. Why Theo? He was socially awkward and -
Well, Draco conceded that point. Theo wasn't socially awkward anymore, hence his position in Dragon. He could be a right manipulative bastard if he wanted to, and then turn around and charm the pants right off the next person he met. Draco supposed Theo's charm was fair, as he hadn't had an ounce of social sense in school.
There! She was leaving, after giving him one last smile. He casually threaded his way through the crowd, managing to bump into her as if he hadn't seen her at all.
"Merlin, Granger," he said, jumping back. "Watch where you are going."
To his surprise, she didn't respond with a snappy retort. Instead, she shrugged and said, "Sorry, Malfoy, I'll get out of your way."
No, dammit! This wasn't how it was supposed to go. She smiled and talked to Theo but he didn't even get an angry remark? "Finally," he drawled, trying to simultaneously piss her off and read her mind. "You've learned your place."
And where would that be? Her voice echoed in his head as she gave him the slightest smile and walked quickly away. Oh, so she didn't want to talk to him in person but she'd talk to him over the link?
Following my orders, he responded snobbishly, gratified to feel a pulse of Granger's irritation lace through him.
Malfoy, I don't follow anybody's orders, Granger thought to him. He saw her sit down at the bar and order a drink, apparently not about to speak to anybody else. Why was she so anti-social?
Some random person came up to him and greeted Draco as if they were best friends. "Dray!" The woman, who looked entirely too scruffy to be any friend of Draco, slurred. "It's been so long!"
"Who the hell are you?" Draco snapped, feeling Granger laughing at him. This new bond was unsettling, and Draco resolved to learn how to control it as soon as possible.
The woman gave him what appeared to be a seductive smile, slithering up his body and whispering wetly in his ear, "Don't tell me you've forgotten me, Dray," she purred, but the stench of alcohol ruined any effect she might have had. "We spent a great couple o'days together in Seville."
An old flame, Malfoy? She seems delightful.
Where had this side of Granger suddenly emerged from? He glanced over at her and caught her staring. When they made eye contact, she raised her glance and downed it. Unbidden, stay emotions flitted through him from Granger, only fragments and random words - drunk, she though decisively and ordered another drink, her feelings a mash of determination and agitation. What was she planning?
At least I had old flames, he thought acidly back at her, untangling the Seville girl from his body. You probably brushed the beaver with your books.
Confused, Brushed the beaver?
He hid a smirk as he moved away from the drunk girl. I figured an euphemism you could relate to would work best, beaver teeth. Don't tell me you're so prude you've never wanked off.
Feeling her blush was one of the strangest experiences Draco had ever felt. It was fiery and quick, drenching his body in her embarrassment before she recovered. Shut up, Malfoy.
He approached the bar where she was sitting and sat two seats down from her, far enough away that they weren't associated but close enough to make her nervous. Don't deny you are a prude, Granger.
"Can I get you anything, Mr. Malfoy?" The bartender asked politely.
He ordered a whiskey on the rocks and, when it came, downed it easily and asked for another.
I am not a prude, Granger protested. His ability to sense her emotions coupled with the fact that Granger's face an open book let him know quite clearly that she was feeling both indignant and uncomfortable talking about this with him.
Draco let the whiskey sit in his mouth as, unbidden, a flash of fucking Granger ran through his mind. Mmm, he supposed that when she tried, she could shed her prudish exterior.
Startled, Draco looked over to where Hermione was beet red and squirming in her seat. Oh. Did she hear/see that?
Draco grinned wickedly. This was perfect.
(Hermione Granger's P.O.V)
She supposed she was drunk.
It wasn't her fault, honestly. It was that bloody Malfoy's fault. Hermione had liked their mental communication at first - until Malfoy got bored and decided to torment her.
He had done it on accident first. Hermione had just been taking a sip of her drink when a image ran through her mouth, of that night, and the wave of lust that hit her had stayed with her all night. Once Malfoy figured out he could send her dirty images, he didn't stop. She would be talking to somebody when bam, she'd be picturing him backing her into a wall, trailing hot kisses down her collarbone, and she'd start stammering and blushing while the other person looked on with confusion.
Damn him. Hermione supposed she could send him something back, but that would be just fueling the fire. The best thing to do was to practice blocking it and monitor her thoughts .
Hermione had been there for a couple hours, and she was getting pretty tired. She had wandered into the Manor through a back door a few minutes earlier, trying to find the bathroom, and had managed to get lost in the upstairs level. The quiet was deafening after the clamour of outside, but she quite liked it.
Hermione, who didn't really have to go to the bathroom anymore, opened a random door and peered in, intending to close it immediately.
Instead, she found herself looking at a positively beautiful study that could only be Malfoy's. The study was done in muted colors of brown and red, a nearly Gryffindor combination that would have shocked Hermione if she was in the mood to notice it. There were shelves and shelves of books, a wide desk, a large window overlooking the gardens. It was open and airy but not empty, and as she sat in his leather chair, she decided she quite liked it.
"Snooping around in my house, Granger?"
Of course he followed her. Why was she not surprised? "Is this your study?"
Why do you sound so surprised? His mental question came out of nowhere, even as he verbally answered, "Of course it is, Granger."
"I like it," she said honestly.
He smirked at her. "You're drunk."
"So are you."
"Fair is fair, I suppose," he said, perching himself on his desk. "I'm handy with those Soberis charms, though."
She shook her head and closed her eyes, liking the buzz the alcohol gave her. "You're likely to fuck it up," she mumbled, before mentally regretting it. Where is my filter?
I like it when you lose your filter, came his amused reply. "Language, Granger," he chided her, and she wrinkled her nose as she tried to follow both conversations.
Shut up, Malfoy, she responded to both his mental and verbal comment. She yawned, relaxing in his chair. "I think I'm going to sleep here," she announced.
He laughed, and she saw the image he had of her, all sleepy and relaxed. You should get drunk more often, Granger, it suits you.
She cracked open an eye. "I'm not drunk," she told his disbelieving stare. After a beat, she amended it: "Yet."
"Want to get drunk?" Malfoy offered, murmuring an incantation under his breath. A few bottles of Firewhiskey floated up.
Hermione briefly considered the ramifications of getting utterly smashed with Malfoy alone in his study, before shrugging and grabbing a bottle. Oh, she was exhausted, and she could read his mind. What could go wrong? If he was planning to abduct her and lock her in his basement, she'd see it happening before he could tie her up.
"Adventurous, Granger," he snickered, popping the top off of his and hers with another spell. He touched his bottle to hers. "I like it."
A few gulps later, she was feeling a buzz. Cocking her head to the side, she stared at him, brow wrinkled. "Malfoy," she said suddenly, but fell silent. Why me?
"Why what?" Malfoy answered out loud. He had long since slipped into a couch he'd conjured up, kicking off his shoes and leaning back. He looked utterly relaxed, and the emotions emanating from him were calm, for once.
"Why am I your mate?"
Malfoy took a swig and gave her a small shrug. "You know, Granger," he said, his voice barely slurring. "I've wondered about that quite a bit. Why you? We have absolutely nothing in common. I mean, we're both intelligent, but I'm also proactive, resourceful, innovative - "
"Oh, shut your mouth, Malfoy," Hermione replied without heat, her lips turning up. She knew he was just teasing her. This bond was bloody useful. "Answer me seriously."
(Draco Malfoy's P.O.V)
He closed his eyes as he considered the question. "I don't know, Granger," he mumbled, fighting a yawn. He was bloody exhausted, and the alcohol wasn't helping.
She sighed, and he felt her confusion acutely. "I've been thinking about our school years a lot," she admitted, "And I don't see anything, no hint that we ever would end up...well, like this."
Even without opening his eyes he knew she was gesturing to their situation, drinking alone in his study as a party raged outside, inexplicably thrown into each other's company without any other option. "Theo thinks it makes sense," he replied, after a beat. "Something about how you always could rile me up back in school."
He felt her amusement as if it were his own, and it was a rather odd experience. He cracked open an eye to see her suddenly grinning. "I riled you up in school?"
"What, are you crazy, Granger?" Draco asked, closing his eyes and flashing back to their school days. He felt her presence in his mind and he remembered the first time he'd seen her, all bushy hair and large teeth and attitude, storming the compartment to inquire bossily about a toad and snapping back when he'd told her rudely to leave. "You always riled me up."
He felt a weight next to him on the couch, and he opened his eyes in surprise to see her sitting next to him. She was still smiling, but it was wistful, now. Curious to see what she was thinking, he shut his eyes again.
She was remembering when she'd slapped him. They watched the memory, and he winced as the crack of her hand rang out. "That bloody scared me, you know," he said out loud, the connection breaking. He opened his eyes. "No girl had ever decked me before."
She laughed at him, and in his slightly inebriated state he rather enjoyed the sound. "I always thought Harry and Ron riled you up," she said.
As if he would let the two idiots irritate him like that. "That's where you're wrong," he mumbled, leaning his head back. "I hated Potter and the Redheaded idiot, still do, but I never hated you." As he said it, Draco realized it was true, and wasn't that odd? He blamed the alcohol.
"Why, Malfoy, that's almost a declaration of love," she said, giggling, and he nudged her shoulder with his. Shut up, he sent her in his mind, not wanting to open his mouth any more.
You seem exhausted, she observed in her usual blunt manner. It's your birthday. Why aren't you outside?
Because I've not gotten any sleep the past couple of days, he answered her first comment. And I know it's my birthday, but I don't want to talk to the hoards of drunk idiots out there.
So you chose to talk to one drunk idiot who riles you up?
He peered at her, noticing how she blushed slightly and glanced away. What was she implying? Was she...fishing for compliments? Speaking aloud this time, he asked, "Granger, why are you obsessing on the fact that you riled me up?"
She gave him a shy smile. "I don't know," she said honestly, the alcohol most likely loosening her tongue. "Maybe it's because I rather like the idea that I riled you up when we were little."
"Still do," was out of his mouth before he could help it. Shit. He winced, waiting for her angry reaction, but she only grinned and leaned closer to him.
"I like that I rile you up," she whispered, and before he could react she was kissing him.
(Hermione Granger's P.O.V)
She didn't know why she kissed him.
Okay, maybe she did. Maybe it was because he looked so exhausted and vulnerable, laying back on the couch, eyes slipping shut. Maybe it was because she felt special at the idea of being the one who was responsible for riling him up. Maybe it was the alcohol, or maybe it was because they were having an honest, peaceful conversation and he was looking absolutely delicious. Maybe it was because she was acting on impulse. Hermione wasn't one hundred percent sure, but the fact of the matter was, her lips were on his, and she could taste him and alcohol swirling together. Hermione could even feel his lust and desire mingle with confusion as his lips began to move, and his emotions mixed with hers.
It was too confusing for her in that quiet Sunday morning at 4:30 in the morning, and Hermione did something very unusual: she shut down her brain and opened her mouth.
Granger, what are we doing? The thought floated through her mind as they shifted so that she was practically on his lap.
Giving in to the bond? She suggested, threading her hands through his head. She would regret this in the morning, she knew it, but right now she couldn't think straight - and honestly, didn't want to.
He pulled back and smirked softly at her as if he knew what she was thinking. He probably did. Hermione knew that if she made the effort to peek into his mind, she could probably catch a few stray thoughts. "Let's not mention this tomorrow."
"Agreed," she said breathlessly and kissed him again.
His hands were sliding down her back and cupping her bum and she arched her back, pressing herself against him. She was acting ridiculously, maybe like a slut, but she willed herself to forget that - if only for now.
(Draco Malfoy's P.O.V)
He heard her call herself a slut before he lost the connection. He didn't know why Granger had kissed him, but he didn't mind one bit. You're the opposite of slut, you prude, he thought to her, a consolation wrapped in an insult. Not his finest work, but she was practically grinding against him and his hands were full of her arse, so he supposed it was passable.
She began kissing down his jaw. I am not a prude!
And damn, the way her mouth moved, he could believe her claims that she wasn't prudish. However, it was Granger, the Frigid Bitch. She was the definition of prude.
He concentrated on Granger, pulling her so that her lips met his again. He sliding his hand under her skirt, hoping for a chance to tap her, again, but she only moaned and shook her head. No, she thought firmly. I'm not going to sleep with you.
Well, he'd take what he could get. Draco kissed her harder and began playing with the buttons on her shirt. Fuck, was she wearing lace?
(Hermione Granger's P.O.V)
She awoke the next morning curled on a couch, pressed into Draco Malfoy and smelling the remnants of his cologne and alcohol and leather, feeling content and a little hung-over.
She yawned and buried deeper into Malfoy until the realization that she was cuddling with Malfoy made her flinch violently.
She rolled off the couch so violently that she fell to the floor with a crash. She stifled her scream and began crawling away as fast as possible. Shit. Fuck. Why - Merlin, Hermione! She cried to herself angrily. One civil conversation with the git and you're practically all over him.
Wand. First, wand. Where was her wand? Hermione bit her lip as she searched for it. Malfoy groaned from the couch, and she froze guiltily, creeping into his mind with whatever tact she could summon.
She could only make out blurry images and color, vivid, bright color. Was he dreaming? The scientific mind considered the fact that she was seeing his dreams, while the practical part of her told her to hurry up and get the hell out.
She spotted the tip of her wand sticking out from under his desk and crouched down, feeling blindly under the furniture. As her fingers curled over it, Malfoy spoke.
"Not gonna lie, Granger," he said, his voice slurred with sleep and the after-effects of last night's drinking, "I like that position on you."
She blushed furiously and yanked her wand out, getting up in a move that almost made her bang her head against his desk. "Shut up."
She turned to face him, and was struck by the image of Malfoy lounging in last night's clothes, blinking sleepily as sun streamed through the window. it was a stark contrast to the hard, stony Malfoy she usually saw.
And then he opened his mouth again. "Sneaking away? Didn't take you for the Walk of Shame type, Granger."
She ignored his comments and said, "Malfoy, last night was a - "
"Stop," he said, cutting her off rudely. "Don't do the cliché 'Last night was a mistake' thing. I despise living a cliché."
"What do you suggest, then?" She snapped back.
Lazily, "Last night was the first time we actually got along, Granger, don't ruin it."
Hermione shook her head, gathering her things. "We only got along because of the copious amounts of alcohol consumed."
Malfoy shrugged, utterly unconcerned. "Wars have been forged and ended over copious amounts of alcohol, Granger. It's a veritable force. Shall we get breakfast?"
"Excuse me?" Did he just offer...to get her breakfast?
He shot her a lazy smirk. "I'm hungry," he said, "and you look like the type of person who has nothing in her organized ice box."
What? Hermione glared at him. "How do you know what is in my ice box?"
(Draco Malfoy's P.O.V.)
"It was a guess," he covered, before pointing at himself. "Draco Malfoy, mind-reader, remember?"
Granger looked at him, disgruntled, and he pasted an innocent smile on his face. He wasn't sure why he was inviting Granger to breakfast. Maybe it was by the same impulse that drove her to attack him last night. He wasn't complaining.
He could tell she was over-analyzing his gesture, and decided to speak up. "Granger, stop it. I'm not asking you to get married. All I want is some expensively prepared breakfast, and you have to admit, we have a lot to talk about."
"Fine," she spit out. Damn. She was not a morning person. "Let me go home and change first."
Because he was Draco Malfoy, he couldn't help but hive her a lavish grin and say, "But Granger, the just-been-ravished look is wonderful on you. Those hickeys really accentuate your collarbone."
Her hand shot up to her neck and he smiled. Point for him. To be honest, he liked seeing prissy little Granger with love bites from his mouth trailing down her neck. Granger could be passably attractive if she got a hair cut, wore some makeup, and walked around with a morning-after air.
I do not need a makeover, Granger thought to him snippily.
Oops. He forgot this mind-reading thing was a two way street.
"Sorry, but it's the truth," he said apologetically. "Weren't you going to get ready? I'm not going to wait all day, you know."
He was treated to Hermione Granger's best sneer - a lacking effort - before she disapparated.
As soon as he left, he grabbed some parchment from his desk and scribbled a terse note. Theo, he wrote, Going out to breakfast with G. He folded it up into a paper dragon and, with a spell, made it disappear. Hopefully he would receive it.
Seconds later, Theodore Nott appeared in his study. Even before he landed, he was talking. "What the hell happened last night, Draco? Don't fuck this up."
"Firstly, I didn't sleep with her, and secondly, when did you become a fan of Hermione Granger?" Draco asked, nonplussed. Was the world going crazy?
Theo rolled his eyes. "You're an idiot, Draco. Hermione's not that bad."
"Does she call you Theo?" Draco didn't understand it. Granger was a weak, sad, prissy girl around him and apparently somebody worthy of his friends' respect around them.
"As of last night, yes. Let's talk about last night, Draco. What happened?"
Draco exhaled. "We talked. We got drunk. We made out and fell asleep on my couch." He saw Theo's mouth opening and quickly continued, "Now, tell me why you like Granger."
Theo surveyed him with shrewd eyes. Draco hated feeling surveyed like this, at a moment when he'd just woken up and his defenses were down, but he stared back defiantly. He must have passed Theo's little test because his friend began talking. "Shit happened to her, alright? I don't know what it is, but you can tell. She's absolutely miserable."
"Who the fuck cares? I was miserable for at least twenty years of my life, Theo! I don't go around with a 'poor-me' attitude like she does!"
Theo shook his head. "Of course you don't," he countered. "You're a Malfoy. You would never show weakness."
Draco groaned and turned away, stripping off his shirt. He didn't care that Theo was there; they lived in the same dorm for seven years and the same house for three years after that. He had a closet in his study with work clothes so that he could change at any time, and he picked out a shirt and started rifling through his pants. "Theo, I don't understand," he said honestly. "Maybe the Granger you see is not the Granger I see, but - "
"Of course it's not," Theo huffed, walking over to stand next to him. "Pick the blue shirt, it's better on you. And anyway, you've had the upper hand in that relationship since it started. In school, we both know that Granger was in charge, but now, she doesn't stand a chance."
"Is that wrong?" Draco asked, pulling the shirt over his head. "Payback."
"She can't deal with not having the upper hand," Theo said, "And so obviously it escalates. The Granger you see is the Granger of her insecurities."
Draco willed the bags under his eyes from the drinking to disappear, and they did. This talent was bloody useful. "When did you become her psychiatrist?"
Theo gave him a look, and Draco relented. Theo had always been scarily good at reading people. "Just tone down the bastard, okay? Give her some power."
Draco dismissed his friend's advice, but inside he was thinking about it. On one hand, he could help Granger. He knew what Theo was saying was true. It was obvious in the way she interacted with him. Draco was a master of manipulation, and he knew that he could restore Granger to what she used to be.
On the other hand, it meant helping Granger.
"And think," Theo said, a smirk sliding over his face, "Imagine Weasley and Potter's expressions if Hermione became herself with your help."
This would require further thinking.
(Hermione Granger's P.O.V)
She landed in her bedroom and immediately raced to her closet.
Hermione wasn't exactly one to fill her closet with clothes for every occasion. That was Ginny's style. Hermione most likely had five books for every article of clothing she owned, and as she rifled past jeans and sweaters, she wished that wasn't the case.
Hermione was faced with a problem that all woman had been facing since the beginning of pre-arranged opposite sex meetings, a problem even her massive brain could not immediately solve:
"What the hell do I wear?"
She shimmied into a red shirt and grabbed a scarf, wrapping it around her neck to hide the numerous hickeys present. A glance in the mirror told her that she looked entirely too Gryffindor, and so she pulled her shirt back over her head. Okay. She could do this.
Hermione didn't want to wear red, but she wasn't about to wear green either. Maybe blue? Blue was a nice, neutral color, barring the fact that it was a Ravenclaw color. That took out yellow as well. Damnit. Why did her school colors have to cover the major color groups?
She rifled through her closet until she found a short purple dress that Ginny had given her for her birthday last year. She pulled it on over grey leggings and surveyed herself in the mirror critically -
I like that one, Granger.
Hermione shrieked. Get out of my head! That pervert! Have you been watching me change?
She could feel his smirk spreading over her body. No, he said teasingly, I closed my eyes. Now come on, Granger, grab some shoes and let's go.
We're not done talking about this, she warned, slipping her feet into boots and tying up her hair into a ponytail. She grabbed her purse and was about to disapparate when she paused. Where do I go?
Come here, he told her, and she disapparated to reappear in his office.
In the time she had been gone, all traces of their late night rendezvous had disappeared. The couch's pillows were straightened and neat, the carpet cleaned of traces of alcohol, the glasses and Firewhiskey bottles secreted away. Malfoy, damn him, looked like he had taken a long, luxurious shower and changed into fresh clothes. Hermione felt dirty in comparison.
"You look surprisingly good," he told her snarkily.
Was that a compliment? Hermione looked at him oddly and said hesitantly, "Thanks, I guess. You look surprisingly good yourself."
He preened and smoothed back his hair. "Naturally," he said cockily. His eyes took her in and he looked at her quizzically. "Why do you look so scared, Granger? I'm not going to abduct you - too much bad publicity, you see."
"Of course," she said sarcastically. She did not look scared. "Heaven forbid you do anything to garner bad publicity."
He shrugged and waved his hand at the newspaper folded neatly on his desk. "The press play a dangerous game," he said airily. "You have to be on top."
She rolled her eyes and changed the subject. "So, where are we going? You said you wanted an expensive breakfast, so I'm expecting something along Breakfast at Tiffany's."
He looked at her, brow cocked. "Tiffany's? I've never heard of it."
After years of living in the wizarding world, she still let Muggle references slip through. "Never mind."
"No, tell me," he insisted. "Where is Tiffany's?"
"Nowhere you'll ever go," she said, smiling to herself. He looked at her curiously but didn't press the thought. "Malfoy, where are we going?"
He smiled mysteriously. "Nowhere you'll be recognized, don't worry," he told her. "I don't eat at small Muggle cafés."
Malfoy... she frowned at him, tired of his games.
Granger... Malfoy mocked her before he offered his arm. She looked at it as if it were a dangerous snake. "I'm not going to hurt you, Granger," he said tiredly. "You're ruining my appetite."
She turned up her nose at that and took his arm. If you take me somewhere horrible, you're dead, she warned.
"Duly noted," he replied with a dry smile before disapparating them away.