Disclaimer: JKR owns anything that is obviously hers. I own the rest. I do not make any money off this.
Characters: Draco Malfoy, Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley
Genres: Angst, Drama, Health, Humour, Romance, Smut
Story Warnings: Epilogue? What Epilogue?, Profanity, Physical Trauma, Smut
Overall Rating: NC-17
Summary: Hermione is far too fond of cake and all but attached to Harry at the hip. Generally, it's working out for her, but lately Draco has been annoying her to death by mocking her weight and her relationship with Harry. One day she spots some logic in his claims that she and Harry ought to be more than friends. Uncertain how to proceed, she agrees when Draco volunteers to help. This turns out to get very confusing very fast, as Hermione finds herself becoming attracted to the wrong person...
Extra Note: Thank you to mazvn and dollfaced for the beta and handiangel for the Britpick. You guys are brilliant. :)
Chapter Length: 3,426
Malfoy didn’t show up for work on Monday. It was so typical of him to owl in sick to prolong his weekend. Especially considering the hot new scandal about their illicit affair on page twelve of Witch Weekly. Tuesday, he was allegedly there, but Hermione failed to get in touch with him to reschedule the meeting they were supposed to have had on Monday. Of course, there was technically an assistant she could go through, but she’d always found that rather tedious.
Wednesday, he waltzed into her office as if he hadn’t kept her hanging for two days. "I see you disregarded my advice about robes," he said without preamble. "Does that mean you’re going to give me more trouble?"
She scowled at him. "Are you here to reschedule our meeting, Malfoy?"
"I suppose." He shrugged. "We can have the meeting now if you’d like."
"Aren’t you behind on work?"
He grinned, completely unabashed by the implied accusation. "I think you vastly overestimate the amount of work I do."
She glared at him. It was typical of him to rub in how he could get away with doing almost nothing for his pay packet. "I can’t today. I have another meeting in twenty minutes."
That merely made him shrug, apparently not caring much about work at all. "Hm. Too bad. So, about your robes..."
She gave up. Really, anything else would be a waste of her time and energy. She’d have about as much luck attempting to change Malfoy’s values as she would attempting to teach a cat to bark. "I’ll be following your advice the next time I need new ones."
He walked over to her chair and sat down uninvited before he leisurely put his hands behind his neck and shook his head with displeasure and what appeared to be disappointment."I don’t think I was quite clear, Granger. You need to replace all of them if you want to make certain that he'll be interested. He does see quite a lot of you, after all, and a decent neckline could help him see even more of you, to your advantage. Besides... don’t you simply want to look your best?"
He really was a classic example of someone so privileged that he couldn’t imagine anyone else not having the same fortune.
"I don’t have your budget, Malfoy, " she said, enunciating each word very carefully so he might hear them. "I can’t simply replace my wardrobe at a whim."
"Is this your way of trying to get me to pay for it?"
"No!" The very idea horrified her. What kind of person would expect someone else to randomly pay for her wardrobe? Not to mention, what kind of person would jump to the conclusion that it was expected? "In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m in the near-process of purchasing a house. I can’t afford all of this."
"So sell some of those formal robes you’ll never wear again back to the shop and use that money to get some everyday wear?" He shrugged like this solution was a given. "That’s what I’d do. Not that I’d need to."
She stared at him. "You can do that?"
"I’ve been told it’s possible, yes. You won’t get what you paid for them, of course, but it should be better than nothing."
"Huh." The thought had never even occurred to her and she had a closet full of the blessed things.
There was that grin again. "For someone really clever, you know surprisingly little about the ways of the world."
That snapped her out of it and she scowled at him again. "Shut up."
He pursed his lips. "Need help shopping for the new robes?"
"Too bad. I could see that being fun..." He winked at her and then got up and left.
Yeah, she’d bet. He’d walk around calling her ‘Chubs’ and making bad puns about her weight whilst she suffered the indignity that being measured and probed always was. No, thank you. She’d rather not be subjected to that. But she was going to go buy new robes after work.
"I approve, Chubs," Malfoy murmured in Hermione’s ear and this time she jumped. She hadn't seen him all day and had thought she'd be safe from him.
She’d been caught sneaking down to buy cake when she’d thought everybody else would be back from lunch. Bugger. He always had such impeccable timing.
She whirled around, feeling extraordinarily guilty. "Of what!?"
"Why, your new robes, of course," he said without even blinking. She noticed the slight twitch at the corner of his mouth, though. Cheeky git.
"Yes... I, um, picked them up yesterday. If you’ll excuse me, I’m rather busy."
He raised an eyebrow. "I know you’re not taking that back to your office, and I doubt you’ll be so busy eating that you can’t talk..."
"Aren’t you busy? Isn’t your lunch break over?" She swiftly walked over to a table, hoping he’d take the hint.
Of course he merely followed her and sat down uninvited. As always. "Actually, I’m having a late lunch today."
"But you aren’t eating," she pointed out.
"I’m not hungry."
"You’re too skinny. You should eat."
He grinned at that. "Yes, mother. I’ll grab something later. But right now, I want to talk about your robes."
"You were right about them," she admitted. "Even if your schemes don’t work, this cut does look better on me. So, thank you."
"It’s a common mistake amongst women."
"To buy clothes for the body they wish they had, rather than the one they actually do have."
"Ah." Suddenly she lost all taste for the cake. It was a pity to waste it, but no point in forcing it down when it might as well be gruel for all the enjoyment it gave her. She pushed away the plate.
"You keep taking mentions of your body type as a bad thing," Malfoy quietly observed.
"Nah, it’s just... I wish the Ministry had more stairs." She sounded pitiful to her own ears.
He groaned. "Seriously, Granger. You have curves that many of the stick-figured witches envy. Use them to your advantage!"
She shot him a dubious look. "How?"
"Show the world that you’re comfortable in your own skin and they will stand up and take notice."
She made a face. He expected her to change her entire self-awareness? "Yeah, that sounds easy."
"I never said it would be easy."
"And what do I do about Harry in particular?"
Malfoy seemed to consider that for a few seconds, tilting his head and watching her intensely. "Make him aware that you’re not only his friend but also a warm-blooded witch. Make him notice your body and hint that you have... urges."
"Urges. Right." The only urge she’d had lately was for cake.
"Frankly, it wouldn’t hurt to hint that you miss sex. Especially not if you can be sensual about it."
"And what if I don’t miss it?"
"Trust me. You may not realise it, but you do."
"Oh, is that a fact?" She just barely suppressed the ‘urge’ to roll her eyes.
"The tension in you is palpable, Granger. Your body is desperately trying to get your attention, but you prefer denying, silencing and punishing it over giving it what it really wants and needs."
She snorted, trying to ignore the implications of him watching her like that, whilst reassuring herself that he was wrong. "Yes, I punish it so dreadfully. With cake."
"Maybe if you had other pleasurable things in your life, you wouldn’t need the cake to substitute for it."
She bared her teeth at him. He was entering dangerous territory. "Spare me the armchair psychology."
He shook his head and changed the subject. "So, when are you moving in together? I assume you found a place?"
"Not yet. But we plan on having settled on something within the next couple of months."
"You should get this thing out of the way before then."
"So living together won’t be awkward for you, of course. Getting used to living with someone is difficult enough without that added stress."
She really hated listening to him analysing her life. Even if he was probably right about this last bit. "You’re a veritable fount of wisdom these days, aren’t you?"
"If you don’t want my advice, you shouldn’t have asked for it."
He had the shadow of a point there. "I’m sorry." She just wished he would stop noticing things.
"When do you plan on making your next move with Potter?"
She shrugged. "Maybe this weekend? I don’t know."
"You need a better plan than that."
This was becoming unbearable, fast. "What exactly do you want from me?"
"A bit more enthusiasm would be a start. " He leaned forward to pin her with a glare. "And if you’d embrace my makeup advice, that would be good too."
"I don’t wear makeup to work."
"You do now. But, remember, no eye shadow."
"You’re annoying, you know that?"
"I’ve been told before."
She sighed irritably. "I think you get off on telling me what to do."
At that he slowly smiled. "You don’t even want to know what gets me off, Granger."
Suddenly, Hermione wished the conversation would go back to where it had been before. This here was entirely off-topic. "Well! Some of us actually do have work to do, so if you’ll excuse me..." She began getting up.
"You didn’t finish your cake."
"You finish it, scrawny. You need it more than I do."
He chuckled, but she didn’t stay to see if he actually ate it. She did have work to do, after all.
The mirror was more than a little cracked, but apart from Hermione appearing to have three eyes and a rather fragmented face, it didn’t affect her looks too much. Hermione refreshed her dark berry hue lipstick to the best of her ability. This really wasn’t the most reputable of pubs, but tonight Harry had done the asking, so...
And right now, Hermione felt better than she had in ages. The clientele might be a bit rougher around the edges than she was used to, but some of them were quite fit and more of them than usual were shooting her looks and—in one case—even buying her drinks!
Tonight, life was kind of fun.
She smiled at her broken face, hoping the lipstick was something that resembled even in spite of her slightly intoxicated state and the uselessness of the mirror, and then she went back out to the main room.
She’d made it halfway hack to the table where Harry was sitting, having a heated discussion with some other wizard—probably about Quidditch of all things—before she heard a hoarse voice behind her going, "Hermione?"
She slowly turned around. Ron. She hadn’t seen him in months, and now he was here? "Yes?"
He looked tired and surprised to see her. "You look... brilliant!"
She glanced around. "Where’s your girlfriend, Ron?"
"Oh." He scratched his neck, looking embarrassed. "She’s at home. She, ah, doesn’t like it here."
"Really? I thought you made it a habit to ditch the things she doesn’t like."
He shook his head. "Don’t be like that, Hermione."
She was surprised herself at the bitterness she felt as she saw him. She’d thought she understood. No, she’d tried really hard to understand, and now she realised that she didn’t.
The fact of the matter was that Ron had decided that his new girlfriend was more important than his relationship with one of his oldest and closest friends. One time, the two of them had been so close that they’d thought that they’d spend the rest of their lives together. After they’d realised it wouldn’t work, they’d agreed to stay the best of friends and never let anything take that from them.
And then a witch had come along and he’d thrown it all away.
"I’m kind of busy," she said, "so if you don’t mind..."
"I miss you."
She stared at him in disbelief. "That’s your own fault, isn’t it?"
"I know... I know... I’ve been trying to sort that out."
"Well, let me know when you succeed!" She turned her back on him again.
"Wait!" Ron’s voice stopped her in her tracks. "I was wrong."
Yeah, you were! "And what are you going to do about it?"
"You mean, what did I do about it?"
Hermione slowly turned back around. "What?"
"I told her... I told her it was dragon dung to try to control my friendships like that and she had to trust me if we were to be together."
"And how did that go?"
"I’m crashing at Harry’s."
"Harry’s?" She glanced back at Harry. "Was he the one who invited you here?"
"Yeah, how did you know that?"
She narrowed her eyes at Harry and swore under her breath. So that was why he’d suddenly taken her here? So she and Ron could make up? She could appreciate the meaning behind it but not so much the act itself. She felt manipulated. And a little bit hurt. She didn’t appreciate being forced into a position where she either had to forgive and forget on everybody else’s schedule or look heartless.
"Ah." Ron said, interpreting her glare at Harry correctly. "He invited you too? I thought it was odd to see... I’ll go if you want."
"No," she said with a sigh and a wave of her hand. "Come on. Drinks are on Harry tonight!" And every night for a very long time.
Many drinks later, Hermione decided she needed some fresh air. Harry and Ron both tried to insist that they needed to go with her, but for one thing, she could hardly come onto Harry with Ron right there, and for another... she wasn’t some helpless little damsel that needed the big strong men’s protection at all times. So she very firmly declined and then left them to their own devices.
She went to the back and pushed open the door, breathing in big gulps of the fresh, cool air before manoeuvring around a very enthusiastic young couple to cool off better in the narrow alley.
"Didn’t your mother ever tell you how dangerous it could be out all alone at night, Granger?"
Hermione almost squeaked with surprise. This time, she had certainly not expected him. She swiftly turned towards the source of the voice. "Are you stalking me, Malfoy?"
He chuckled. "I wish it were anything that pleasant. I couldn’t sleep. This place isn’t likely to have anyone I know... Or so I thought."
He looked tired enough to lend truth to his statement. So he’d merely been looking for a diversion? The thought made her relax somewhat. "Harry and Ron are inside."
"I saw. That’s why I was leaving. Discreetly." He gave her an inscrutable look, probably wondering why she hadn’t made any discernible progress with Harry in spite of all the help he’d given her.
She wrung her hands, feeling the weight of her failed task weighing her down. Malfoy had done everything in his power to help her and she’d done... nothing, really. "I can’t do anything with Ron there."
"That sounds like an excuse to me."
"But what wouldn’t he think?" she insisted.
"He’d find out eventually if you began seeing Potter."
"Yes, eventually. After I’m not in danger of making a fool of myself any longer."
He pursed his lips as if she amused him. "The thing about love, though, is that you’re always in danger of making a fool of yourself."
She snorted, not feeling reassured at all. "What do you know about love?" Again she had to cringe at the harshness of her own words. "I’m sorry, I didn’t mean—"
"Yeah, you did." He watched her for a few moments, making her shrink into herself in shame. "I know more about it than you’d think," he then quietly said. "More than I want to know. I know that when it’s there, it doesn’t simply go away again, no matter how much you want it to. I know it makes you want things you should never want, hope for things that can never happen. I know it makes you want the other one’s happiness, even when the road to it is killing you inside. I know that it makes you a bloody fool every single day because you can’t stop thinking about them, even when they don’t spare you a second glance. I probably know more than you do and I honestly wish I knew less about it."
She stared at him. She’d never even considered that he was capable of such feelings. But of course he was. He was, all evidence to the contrary, a human being. "I’m sorry."
He looked away, his lips twisting in his very own brand of dark amusement once again. "Don’t be. It doesn’t have anything to do with you."
"Who is she?"
"Leave it alone, Granger!" The statement was just forceful enough to stop her badgering him. For now.
She shrugged. "Maybe we should be helping you, rather than me."
He shot her a wry smile. "You don’t even want to know what would help me right now."
It took a few moments for her alcohol-fogged brains to process his meaning and then she scrunched up her nose. "And here I thought we were having a decent conversation for once!"
He laughed. "Decent? Are you out to ruin my reputation?"
"I don’t get it. Why do you say things like... that?" She shot him a dubious glance and made an uneasy flourish with her hands. "To me?"
Fortunately, he didn’t force her to elaborate. "Why not? I’m bored and I’m not invading anyone else’s territory... yet. No harm done. Besides, it’s fun to see you jump away and hide."
She blushed a little, but then reminded herself that he was merely messing around because he was bored. "I’m hardly your type."
"What’s my type, then?"
"I don’t know. Beautiful. Skinny. Pure-blood. Someone who’d appreciate your political work."
"Funny... I thought you appreciated my political work."
She gave a confused sort of half-laugh. "What? I appreciate you blocking my proposals?"
"You know that’s not what I do..."
"What do you do, then?" Looking up into his eyes, she was suddenly feeling a little breathless. He seemed different all of a sudden. Oddly sincere. He seemed to look straight at her. It must be the alcohol and the dark and the guise of intimacy out here, but it seemed like he saw... a lot.
He brushed a lock of her hair back over her shoulder. "Silly Granger..." he murmured. "You know I do my best to help you whenever I can."
Her heart skipped a beat. Of course she knew, but to hear him say it like that... She’d never thought he’d admit to it. "Why?"
"I can’t stand pure-bloods."
That answer took her aback. "What?"
He smiled again, this time more softly. "Nothing you need to worry yourself about. And nothing I’ll ever admit to again. I’ve simply wanted to say it out loud for a while now... for my own reasons. Sometimes I feel like I’m going insane from the discrepancy between the truth and what people think they see."
"But you can’t tell me why?"
"You really talk too much, Granger."
He moved closer and something got stuck in her brain as well as her throat, preventing her from articulating any thoughts, should she manage to have them. She tried to force out sound, but nothing but a pathetic little squeak emerged.
Get it together.
She lowered her head and shook it with her eyes squeezed shut. There. That should dislodge the problem. She looked back up, but before she managed to take advantage of her now presumably functioning brain, he did the unthinkable and his lips were on hers, effectively shutting her up once more. Her eyes widened and she felt like her heart stopped for the longest time, but then she noticed the warmth and softness of his lips and her heart resumed beating at double pace. Unable to remember why she shouldn’t, she leaned into him to feel more of this intriguing new thing, but he withdrew almost before it had begun.
"See..." he murmured. "If you only stopped thinking and talking so much, you’d be able to kiss Potter in no time."
The words shocked her out of her fuzzy-brained state, but before she could think of a reply, he was gone.