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, Others
Genres: Angst, Drama, Humour, Romance, Smut
Story Warnings: Epilogue? What Epilogue?, Mild Kink, Mild Violence, Polyjuice (Body Switch), Profanity, Psychological Trauma, Smut, Threesome
Warning Note: I do not warn per chapter. What I warn for may be in chapter 1 or chapter 39 and they may or may not be what you expect them to be. If you have a very specific trigger, you can PM me for details pertaining to that specific thing, otherwise tough luck, cookie.
Overall Rating: NC-17
Summary: Through a series of uncontrollable events and deliberate decisions, Draco and Hermione are now, a little more than a decade after the war, both working as Aurors. Draco is a complete git and the only one who'll pair up with him for anything is Hermione. This is suiting her less and less, though, so she tries to open his eyes to all the things that have changed. An open-eyed Draco, however, is a force to be reckoned with.
Extra Note: Thank you to margotlefaye, dollfaced and mazvn for the beta and robs55 for the Britpick. You guys rock! You saved this story. :D
Chapter Length: 5,149
Hermione was sitting in the living area, reading, when Draco finally made a--very dishevelled--appearance. She didn't deign to say good morning.
She was still annoyed that he hadn't simply respected that she was over his implied slur. It wasn't like it was any great surprise that he was a bigoted arse. He had always been a bigoted arse. He wasn't nice and she didn't like him. The only new thing was that she wasn't sure she could trust him any longer.
Trust was probably the single most important thing to Hermione and had been ever since the war. Trust made all the difference between life and death, suffering and salvation.
He stopped halfway to the kitchen area to give her a puzzled look and scratch his head. 'How far gone was I?' he asked in his hoarse morning-voice, before clearing his throat.
She raised her eyebrows. 'I don't know? As far as always, I suspect.'
'But I usually wake up when you hit me,' he muttered, now scratching his chest. She seriously hoped he didn't plan on scratching any areas below that in front of her.
'I didn't hit you,' she coldly said. She had abandoned her morning ritual of battering him with her pillow in order to enjoy a nice, quiet morning all by herself. And she had. It was well past noon by now.
He stared at her. 'You have a strange idea of punishment,' he then said, shaking his head and disappearing into the kitchen, where she heard him helping himself to a glass of water.
Punishment? He thought she was punishing him?
Why would she punish him? If she felt the need to punish him, it would mean she cared. She didn't.
He would rot before she'd bother to punish him.
Draco lay on the couch, openly staring at Hermione, who was ignoring him in favour of yet another book. It had been this way for hours now. For someone who adamantly claimed she was not mad and not punishing him, she certainly made a good impression of giving him the silent treatment.
It was so typically female that it almost made him laugh. He knew that Hermione hated most feminine stereotypes, but she certainly fit them well enough sometimes.
'So, what's for dinner?' he casually asked.
She looked up and blinked. 'What?'
'You want me to cook?'
'Yeah, that would be nice. It's been either my cooking or that awful Muggle take-out food all week and--' he glanced at the window '--it's still pouring down, so I'm not volunteering to go get more of that.'
'Fine,' she said with a shrug. 'I think we still have cereal.'
'But we're out of milk again.'
'That's really not my problem.'
'You know, Granger, for someone who's not mad, you're remarkably bitchy.'
'And for someone who's not suicidal, you're remarkably annoying!'
He flashed her a grin, which she completely ignored. 'I'm not going to keep saying it, Granger,' he then said.
'Keep saying what?'
'You've been telling me for ages that I'm a prude. Why would my prudish behaviour now suddenly be a personal insult to you?'
She barely looked up from that damned book. 'Oh, that's what we're on about. I repeat--It's not; I'm over it.'
Draco got to his feet, finally feeling fed up with her pouting. 'But you're not! If we go home like this, you're going to get me fired!'
She blinked, still not looking up. 'What? Of course I won't!'
'You heard Potter,' he said. 'Either we get along or we get fired. You may have some sort of immunity, but I most certainly don't. If I lose this job, I'll...'
Now Hermione looked up. 'You'll what?'
'I'll have nothing,' he dully replied, shoving his hands into his pockets. There it was, the sad and pathetic truth. He had nothing in his life to be excited about except his work, and he was depending on her not to lose it.
'That's not what I heard,' Hermione said. 'I heard that you have enough money to retire, and didn't you recently buy some cosy little cottage in Wales?'
Draco waved his hand irritably. 'What good is money when it can't buy you anything you actually want? And I sold that damn cottage again; it wasn't me who wanted it. It was a stupid spur-of-the-moment thing.'
'Money could buy you time to pursue what you do want,' Hermione said, looking down at her book again.
Having had it, Draco took a few long steps over and snatched the book from her hands. 'What I want is this job. Why doesn't anybody understand that?'
She reached for the book, but he held it away from her, and she narrowed her eyes. 'No, what you want is for something to replace your dead girlfriend,' she coldly said.
He could have hit her just then. With remarkable self-control, he threw the book onto a nearby table and said, 'No, I want this damn job. Unlike the rest of you, I know what never knowing feels like. I don't want that to happen to anyone else.'
'You never cared about anyone but yourself, Draco, and now you expect me to believe that you want to help others?'
He clenched his jaw and glared at her. Sometimes she really made him want to forget that he didn't hit women. Not even women who could probably kick his arse. 'It makes me feel better to solve murder cases, all right? I like knowing that if I had had someone like me, then maybe Asteria's death wouldn't have been so carelessly handled!'
That seemed to get through to her, because her facial expression softened. 'I'm sure they did everything they could.'
'No, they didn't,' he bit out. 'They refused to listen to me. I told them that she hadn't gone willingly, that she wasn't with someone she knew. She'd never have left like that. Not without me. But they refused to consider the option until it was much too late and he'd got away. I found her, and then they suspected me. They wasted so much time! She might even have been alive...' His voice broke slightly, so he decided not to finish the sentence. Damn it, but that part always got to him.
Asteria might still have been alive if the Aurors had listened to him right away. They could have found her in time. Her death had been slow. He knew that from the report he'd sought out as soon as he'd finished his training, even though it had meant begging Potter for access to the files. Slow, painful, and terrifying. And lonely. He hadn't been able to get to her and she'd died alone with that sadist.
'You know that we have to go with our instincts,' Hermione quietly said. 'Yes, their instincts might've been wrong, but it was right after the war and--'
'And my fiancée deserved to die and her killer deserved to get away because I'm an ex-Death Eater and the Aurors couldn't be arsed to properly investigate?'
Hermione's eyes widened. 'Fiancée?'
'That doesn't change the scenario, Granger.'
She shook her head. 'No, sorry, I just didn't know that you'd... I mean... you were awfully young, weren't you?'
'It was right,' he bit out. 'It would have been right.'
'Of course,' she said, nodding as if in thought. 'But that was still a long time ago. You can't--'
'Don't try to analyse me again,' he interrupted. 'You're no good at it. Someone close to me died, it was shoddily handled, and I decided I wanted to handle it better for others for the rest of my working life. That's it. If you want to analyse anyone's reasons to be an Auror, please start with Potter.'
'All right,' Hermione conceded, getting to her feet. 'Then I suppose we'd better work harder on becoming better partners.'
Draco looked pleased. Well, he wouldn't for long. 'So you'll forget that silly notion of yours?' he hopefully asked.
'Yes,' she promised. 'As soon as we sort this.'
'Sort--?' He got that wary look on his face again. Smart boy. Well, she supposed he was technically a man, but somehow whenever she looked at him, she only saw the boy she'd once known. She supposed she was little better than him in that regard. Still, at least she recognised the mental changes, if not the physical.
'We have to do better,' she said, unable to keep the dismay out of her voice.
He nodded, tensing up even as they spoke, and went to the middle of the floor, looking mostly like he was going to his own execution. Obviously he'd figured out what she was talking about. 'I hardly think this is something we can practice, though, so do you intend to be discussing techniques?' He frowned slightly.
Hermione pursed her lips. 'A little bit of both, I guess. Do you need to get drunk first?'
He scowled at the suggestion. 'No.'
'Ok.' Hermione nodded. This was about as easy as she'd thought it would be.
She recognised the awkwardness he was feeling, but she herself was mostly just feeling put out because of his repeated resistance. He acted as if they were still in third year or something. Sooner or later he'd have to grow up.
She slowly moved closer to him. 'It's really not that difficult,' she said. 'When I get too close for comfort, simply close your eyes and pretend I'm whichever witch you wish I were. Anyone in the vicinity will think you're focused on the act.'
'I can't do that,' he replied, shaking his head.
She stopped a couple of steps away from him. 'Why not?'
'It's just... I can't. Picturing someone else is really not something that works for me. I'm always very aware of who I'm with. Believe me, I've tried.'
Oh, wasn't that a load of praise?
'It's not only with you,' he hurried to add. 'Either I'm with the person I'm with or I'm... not.'
'You lack the imagination,' Hermione concluded.
He shrugged a bit awkwardly. 'I guess?'
She nodded and stepped up to him, putting her hands on his shoulders and reaching up, but then sighed irritably and backed down without doing anything else.
'What?' he asked, sounding confused.
'You just made your first mistake,' she said.
'I didn't move at all!'
'That's a mistake in itself. If we go into a town and expect people to think that we're somehow together and it's a happy union, you need to be less passive.'
'I didn't think that applied here,' he muttered.
'Why do you think I'm doing this? For fun?' she sharply asked. 'But even if it didn't apply here, you still did it wrong. You drew back.'
'I did not!'
'Yes, you did! Your back stiffened and you drew away from me.'
She stared him down until he looked away. 'I didn't mean to!' he said.
'What's with you?' she angrily asked. 'You're supposed to be a grown man of almost thirty, yet you act as if you're afraid of my cooties!'
He didn't reply.
'If you're not even going to try--'
'What do you want from me, Granger?' he sneered. 'I'm trying, ok? It's hard to unlearn almost two decades of instinct in five minutes.'
'Maybe we should wait with this until we get back,' she suggested. She might as well admit defeat when it was obvious he wasn't going to let go of the disgust he felt towards her as a person. 'Look into potions and such that would make it easier,' she continued, honestly not really caring about this any longer. Her partner had just proven that he was too repelled by her to even play pretend--how could she even consider going on more cases with him? 'Or brainstorm,' she blathered on, 'to come up with a list of other covers to choose from. If worst came to worst, we could just reject the cases that--'
'No!' he said very firmly. 'I won't be rejecting any cases. We can make a list of covers, but we both know that lovestruck and looking to impress your significant other is often the easiest way to explain away odd scenarios, not to mention that it's the one they're most likely to believe. And I can't rely on potions forever.'
No, he couldn't. Usually, it wouldn't be a big problem, really. Hermione had refrained from smooching many a male Auror with a jealous wife or girlfriend at home, but the underlying issue here was what would be the death of their partnership. Hermione refused to put her life in the hands of someone who seemed to think he'd get a deadly disease from inadvertendly touching her.
She sighed. 'You're simply not capable of letting go; it won't work.'
'Kissing is just something I consider personal,' he insisted. 'I'll learn to get over it.'
'You've had this job seven years, I don't think--'
'I never had much reason to try before, ok?'
Hermione stopped arguing to think for a bit. Feelings of betrayal aside, he seemed to genuinely want to try. She held little hope that he'd change his mind about her at this point, but maybe that didn't mean she should stop trying to change it. How else was she going to change the world if not one bigot at a time? 'It's just the kissing, then?' she asked. 'Lips against lips?'
He regarded her suspiciously. 'What are you thinking about?'
She shrugged. 'I was only thinking that there might still be a shot.'
Draco warily eyed Hermione as she once again stepped up to him, this time carefully running her hands down his chest and stomach to his waistband and then back up to snake around his neck.
'Good,' she muttered. 'You didn't even flinch.'
Well, no. It was only a touch, albeit a fairly prolonged one. Did she have a point?
She threaded the fingers of her one hand through his hair and softly tugged, baring one side of his neck. 'You're not supposed to be passive,' she reminded him.
He awkwardly put his hands on her waist. 'I'm not sure what we're doing any more,' he told her honestly.
She merely smiled without any humour or happiness. 'You dislike me near your face, so I'm trying out a theory.' She tightened the hold on his hair, and ran the fingers of her other hand down his neck.
It was a little odd and he'd much rather she didn't touch him like that, but so far he could live with it.
She pulled him down a little towards her and at the same time went up on her toes, to press her lips against the spot at the base of his neck where his pulse was strongest.
He tried his best not to squirm with unease. It was a rather sensitive spot she'd chosen, and normally that would be too personal as well.
'I don't know,' she muttered against his neck, and then she flicked out her tongue before giving him a light nibble. When he didn't push her away, she hesitated, before sucking slightly--it wasn't forceful enough to give him a love bite, but it did bring the blood rushing and--
He pushed her away, a light blush spreading on his cheeks.
He was barely aware that he'd done it before after the fact. It had just-- She had just-- He had suddenly become extremely uncomfortable.
She shook her head at him. 'It's no good.'
'I thought there was progress!' he argued.
'The very fact that you thought that only proves how badly we're off.'
'Come on, give it another go,' he coaxed.
'I don't enjoy being rejected, even if it's only by you, so I'm going to give it a pass,' she calmly said. 'I'm sorry, Draco. If it's any consolation, I really don't think Harry means to fire you for something as minor as this. As long as we marginally get along, it'll be fine. Plenty of Aurors have other covers rehearsed that they can choose from instead. I mean, not everyone's spouses like the idea of their husband or wife snogging their partner when they're out.'
'Wait!' Draco took a deep breath and then took a step forward. He needed to get past this. He couldn't let such a stupid block dictate his life. Besides, he knew she was lying to his face right now. Not about there being other options in general, but about being willing to try those other options with him. He could see it written all over her face. If they'd been going out with each other, he'd say she was sporting her let's-break-up face. Not good.
'It's fine,' she said, seeming to misunderstand. 'I will choose to believe that it's not my blood status doing it and it won't be an issue.'
He knew that was a lie as well. She very clearly thought it was her blood, which was absurd since he'd actually been seeing a Muggle-born for a few weeks a couple of years back. Without replying, he clenched his teeth and cradled her face in one hand whilst placing the other hand on her waist again. So far, so good. She looked most of all patient. And sad. The don't-even-bother-because-it's-over face.
This was a witch who probably put a lot of her self-worth into appealing to men, and he'd shown and told her time and again that she didn't appeal to him, not even bothering to consider that she might take it to heart in a rather unfortunate way. It shouldn't have mattered, but it did, and he couldn't allow that mistrust to fester because then it would get him fired. He finally understood that snogging had nothing to do with it, really. It was all about how she thought he saw her and how that would destroy their partnership if he didn't attempt to stop it.
It wasn't her looks that he objected to. He'd never even assessed her looks. She was... Hermione Granger. He knew her so well that he didn't see her. He'd had no reason to be looking. For instance, he'd never noticed how full her lips were, or how thick her eyelashes. He'd also never really given much thought to the hint of freckles on her nose and cheeks. Her hair had been a constant source of mockery on his end for years, but to be honest, it really wasn't bad at all. Her hair curled, certainly, but she'd managed it quite well, and it was mostly big and frizzy if the weather was humid or she was stressing and making it untidy by running her hands through it over and over.
Her eyes were probably her prettiest feature. They were a rich brown, and in spite of her intellect and her at times disillusioning work, they managed to look innocent and vulnerable most of the time. They didn't look like the eyes of someone who didn't want anything but sex from a bloke. Either she was lying or she was a world-class deceiver. He couldn't believe that she was a deceiver, he simply couldn't. He'd trusted those eyes so many times and to have that be a lie was simply unthinkable. He needed to believe that he could look into them and see the truth, because if he couldn't... what would be left?
Thank God he didn't have to notice anything below the neckline.
'You're not actually bad-looking,' he murmured, either trying to reassure her or steel himself; he wasn't sure which.
She didn't roll her eyes or snort or push his hand away, but simply gave him a dull look. 'I know that, you dimwit,' she said.
He bent and placed his lips on hers. Hesitantly at first, and unsure what could be achieved by this, but just kissing her like she was any other witch to be kissed.
She remained passive. How ironic.
He supposed he had to do better to convince her and settle this stupid argument forever.
He carefully parted her lips with his own, feeling a disturbing kind of stirring in his belly as he tasted the moist hotness that was her mouth. It wasn't quite nausea, but it was a very uncomfortable feeling. Damn it, how far did he have to go? Didn't she realise that he hadn't had sex in a very long time and could be in danger of forgetting everything but soft lips, sweet breath and a nice, soft bottom... wait, when had his hand gone there? And, Merlin, he was pressing her against him! He could feel every curve as it moulded to his body. It felt delicious. He hadn't had a woman pressed against him like that in so long and he was afraid he could forget who the woman was--and not in the way she'd advised him to, but in a way that only led to disaster. He didn't want to use and disrespect his partner like that. He didn't want the awkwardness that would arise when she realised that he might want to.
His immediate urge was to shove her away in panic, but he suppressed it. Another shove would cement her belief, and if he lost her as a partner... He couldn't. He honestly had never thought he would have to save their partnership with a bloody snog. If he'd known, he'd probably have chosen to do it at a time when he was less frustrated, but he didn't suppose she could wait for that.
Carefully, he broke the kiss and lifted his head, looking down at her. Her eyes had a slightly dazed quality to them, her cheeks were a faint pink, and her lips were darker, moist and swollen. He stared at them as if transfixed.
She blinked a few times and then gave a short, throaty laugh. 'There, was that so--'
He never allowed her to finish the sentence.
He might as well be thorough whilst he was at it, after all. They couldn't have any lingering suspicions remain.
Before Hermione knew what had happened, she found herself backed up against a wall. Whoa! What was this? Was he trying to see how long he could endure or something? Attempting to burn out the distaste by immersing himself in the offending act?
Shrugging it off, she decided she didn't care. She'd always appreciated a good snog, and this did serve a purpose--whatever that purpose was--after all. Also, it felt really nice. He was quite apt at finding all those little sensitive spots that made her shiver with pleasure. Maybe this could tide her over for a bit.
She didn't know what he was doing to get past whatever had him shove her away before, but she approved. Maybe he'd found a good fantasy, after all? The kiss made her almost wish it were real, so she could feed her starving libido. Remembering seeing Draco naked just a few days ago, watching his face as he orgasmed, did nothing to deter this. All Aurors were in good shape, and Malfoy was tall and lean with broad shoulders that simply begged for someone to hold onto them. If he hadn't been such a disinterested git, she might have tried to start something casual ages ago. Seeing him completely naked, seeing to his own needs, and now being on the receiving end of this searing kiss? Well! She would need some serious alone time after this.
He grabbed her around the waist, lifting her up, and she was compliant, wrapping her legs around him, but confused about how far exactly he was going to take this. Then he pushed his hips forwards, connecting with the soft spot between her legs, and she gasped, completely blindsided by the lovely hardness pressing against her. Maybe this wouldn't be a sexless trip anyway. If he was willing to bury that inside her, she certainly wasn't going to put up a fight.
'I know,' he moaned against her neck. 'I wish I was drunk.'
That cooled her ardour and left her feeling stupid. For a brief second, she had actually forgotten that he was forcing himself to do this. 'No one made you go this far,' she said a little shakily, resenting him for doing just that, leading her on. What was he proving, anyway? That she was "easy"? Well, he could consider it proven if he wanted to, she didn't care. At least she wasn't some prissy tease like he was. She certainly didn't hurt people by making them feel wanted and then denying them what they needed in the very heat of the moment. Well, ok, maybe she'd started something she'd never finished with Jack, but he'd talked it to death long before she'd decided to go, and she'd never started out intending to play with him like that.
'But I have no excuse for this to happen,' he continued. 'None. If I'd been drinking, I could blame bad judgement and loss of impulse control and go on.' He slowly lifted his head. 'I don't want to stop, Hermione. I...' His voice trailed off and he shook his head. 'I shouldn't be doing this. But you feel good and I haven't... I haven't... been with anyone like that in a very long time...' He closed his eyes, leaning his hands on the wall, leaving her to either hold on to him or slide down to her feet. He muttered, 'This is why kissing your partner is a bad idea.'
It took her a second to decide, and then she slid down, making him groan as she rubbed against him. If he did want her, then what was the problem? 'Why do you need excuses?' she asked. 'Why can't you simply enjoy yourself and do what you want?'
'There are some things one shouldn't want,' he ground out. 'You fall in that category. This is what I was afraid could happen if I allowed it to.'
'You were afraid you might want me?' she asked, unsure whether that was a compliment.
'Sex complicates matters. I never wanted to want anyone at work. Did you miss the part where my boss never liked me and wouldn't be sad to see me leave?'
'You're paranoid,' Hermione said, crossing her arms in front of herself, grabbing the edges of her shirt, and pulling it over her head. 'You began your training a decade ago. I'm quite certain Harry has had plenty of excuses to get rid of you since, if that's what he wanted.'
Draco's eyes had flown open at the motion and he stared at her. 'What are you doing?'
'You got me worked up, so now I'm going into the bedroom to do something about it, whether you're joining me or not.'
His face got a pained look. 'Now you're being evil.'
'You're complicating matters that really are very simple. Who cares if we sleep together? What matters is that both are willing and understand it's only sex.'
'And you're willing?' he hoarsely asked.
'That surprises you? After all your digs about my sleeping around?' She began unbuttoning her trousers, noticing how he tensed and refused to look down.
'Yes, because of those digs. Don't tease me, Hermione. Don't make this ugly. We don't need more reasons to fight.'
She pushed her trousers down and got up on the tip of her toes to whisper in his ear, 'I'm not like you. I'm not a tease. If you follow me, I'll only fight you if that's what you really want...' Then she ducked under his arm and sauntered into the bedroom.
Draco stared after Hermione. Just stared.
Well. That had got out of hand quick.
He didn't know what to do, didn't know what to think. If only his body would calm down for a second so he could hear his own thoughts!
But how could it, when she was in there, waiting for him, pleasuring herself...?
He shouldn't join her. He really shouldn't. He tried hard to get a grip on himself. He had two options: Wank a lot or sleep with her. Obviously he had to choose the first one, because... because... because he couldn't sleep with a fellow Auror, damn it! Especially not the one who was almost always assigned to be his partner. Sex complicated things. Sex brought other things like... like jealousy, hurt, awkwardness, fighting, mistrust. There was no such thing as "just sex" between two people that had to be around each other on a daily basis. He had to be reasonable and do the right thing here. He had to preserve his way of life. He couldn't throw everything away, merely because he was too randy to check himself.
But she'd worn black lace knickers and a red lace bra and he wanted to remove both with his teeth so badly that he was physically shaking.
This was crazy. It was illogical. He'd seen Hermione's bloody underwear before, and it had never really elicited any kind of response. Certainly not any response that couldn't be quickly reined in. Now, however, he was breaking into a cold sweat merely thinking about what might lie underneath, what it might feel like in his hands and in his mouth...
He'd seen her damn breasts one time. Well, breast. But he assumed one was much like the other. It had been an accident that he'd walked in on her before she was fully dressed and he'd walked straight out again, without having any kind of response that he could recall, so why suddenly this?
He had to assume it was the context.
Fact: he hadn't had sex in almost a year.
Fact: forcing himself to think of her as a woman and enjoying her as such had bit him in the arse.
Fact: he was going home to a cold bed.
Fact: Hermione was experienced and she would make it good--very good, if so far was any indication.
Fact: he was pathetic and horny and lonely and even if he didn't do this, he would probably end out at some seedy bar within the week, easing some of the desperation.
But then there was the other side of the coin.
Fact: she was one of Potter's best mates, and tangling with her could easily get him fired.
Fact: in spite of the bickering, he sort of liked and respected her and didn't know how to use someone like her just for sex.
Fact: he didn't want to risk losing his partner, even if he could still keep his job.
Fact: this wasn't what he wanted and only a fraction of what he needed.
He lowered his head on his arms, closing his eyes, and then opening them again on a frown, glaring down at his trousers. 'Would you stop being so damn insistent?' he muttered at the offending bulge.