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: 3,694
Hermione was quite good with numbers, she really was. Still, she couldn’t seem to make these match up in any way she wanted to. She sighed, banging her head against the back of her hands that were placed flat on her desk.
In spite of how she’d resented the beautiful red robes some of the night when she’d worn them, she’d discovered that she really wanted to keep them. But she couldn’t keep them in good conscience without at least donating what she would otherwise get for it to the new fund. She’d had an estimate of what she could get for it at the shop, and that number was ridiculously high and far beyond her budget. She didn't even want to know what it had cost as new.
Especially if she were buying a house with Harry. She wasn’t so certain about that any longer, though. If Harry and Ginny did manage to work out their relationship, they’d probably move in together and she’d be stuck at her flat. Bugger.
But, hey, if she stayed there, she’d only have to pay the robes off for a minor eternity. Unless there were other unforeseen expenses...
She really needed a rise.
But most of all, she needed to march down there and sell those damn robes. It wasn’t like she could ever wear them anywhere again. She wasn’t some child playing princess!
"Financial problems, Chubs?"
She couldn’t keep her mouth from turning down in a petulant frown. Malfoy was the last person she wanted to see today. Why did he always drop by for no reason at all? "No. Go away."
He snatched her parchment. "Funny. That amount right here looks a lot like what I imagine you must earn."
"Isn’t that strange?" she merely asked, resting her cheek against one of her knuckles and not bothering to try to cover up what she’d been doing. She was so far beyond caring it wasn’t even funny. Besides, she felt fairly confident that he wouldn’t figure it out and that helped.
He narrowed his eyes, studying the figures she'd scribbled down, and then looked back at her. "What is it you want this badly?"
"None of your business!" she snapped, taking some pleasure in being vicious to the wizard who’d introduced her to this beautiful thing she couldn’t have.
"No need to take my head off for being curious." He put the parchment back down.
"But you know you’re more than curious. This is the lead-up to you rubbing your privilege in my face. I know this kind of money is nothing to you, but we aren’t all that blessed, and it’s aggravating to have to hear you go on about it all the time!"
He watched her, accepting all of her criticism without blinking. "Are you done yet?"
She spread her fingers in surrender. "Yes, I suppose."
"Good. I didn’t mean to rub anything in your face today, so I’m sorry I came across that way. I was considering offering you the means to get whatever it is you want so much, but maybe that also counts as rubbing it in, in your book?"
She shot him a horrified look. "You can’t do that."
"Can’t do what?"
"Give me money!"
"I certainly can. It’s mine to give."
"No!" She shook her head, grabbing onto it with both hands as she felt a splitting headache coming on. "I can’t accept it from you."
"That’s something entirely different. And equally wrong. You can but you won’t because you’re letting your pride get in the way of your own advantage. You’d make such a rubbish pure-blood."
"Yes, silly me, why would I be opposed to being your whore?"
He looked genuinely flabbergasted at that. "Excuse me?"
"You never do anything without getting anything in return and I do remember your comments on what obligation a deal like that would bring." Obligation... oh, how rich! He’d already shown how far his interest in that went. But then again, maybe he’d feel free to continue to use and disparage her if he’d paid for her. Yes, a pair of robes were certainly worth that blow to her dignity. Not.
"If I said something like that, I certainly wasn’t serious!" he said, still looking rather shocked. "Merlin, Chubs, if I wanted to buy sex, I could get it from far more... professional witches, I’m sure. Besides, I can’t strain myself like that too often. I had to go into a drug-induced coma for the rest of the weekend!"
Great! So now it hadn’t even been good for him? And had he lied about the strain before, or was he lying about it now? It seemed like he was constantly changing his story to whatever suited him. The lying certainly didn’t hurt her at all! Although she was rather surprised that anything he said could even hurt her any longer. "So you’re saying you don’t even want sex with me?" she asked, far beyond subtlety at this point.
He stared at her. "There is no way I can win today, is there?"
She groaned, covering her face with her hands. Was she being unreasonable? Maybe a tad. She took a deep breath and muttered her most pressing concern into her hands.
"What?" he asked. "You might want to uncover your mouth if you want me to hear what you’re saying."
She removed her hands and glared at him. "I said that we forgot to use protection! I can’t even believe that it took me so long to realise." She’d been so busy living a stupid fantasy that she’d completely disregarded her own health and potential consequences.
"Oh, that." He visibly relaxed. "You needn’t worry."
His lax attitude brought her hackles back up. "Why? Because you have money?"
"No," he calmly said. "Because I’m sterile. And, like my leg and many other side effects, that’s something that won’t change, even if they do find a way to get rid of the lingering curse."
Harry sat watching Hermione as she once again tried to kill her problems with ethanol at their friendly neighbourhood pub. "Can I be frank?" he asked.
She grimaced after her latest gulp and asked, "Can I stop you?"
"You’re developing some very unhealthy habits."
She snorted. "Get off it, Harry. It’s Saturday! Aren’t I supposed to have fun?"
"You’re not having fun."
That killed her pretence and she scowled at him. "Can’t you at least let me pretend?"
"Bah." She pouted.
"So... who is he, Hermione?" Harry quietly asked. "I mean, you’re obviously not going to tell me on your own."
"Who’s who?" She faked ignorance even though she knew it was a silly thing to do. Harry only wanted to help her. But how could he possibly help her with this? She only needed him to be there and then she’d deal with this on her own.
"The mysterious kisser who tried to push you into my loving arms," he calmly replied. "It has to be the same bloke. Don’t deny it. You’re not that much of a liar."
"Ah. Him." So Harry had connected at least two of the dots. That was a bad sign. A very bad sign. She wasn’t quite ready for anyone to know the truth and once Harry began connecting dots, the whole thing always seemed to reveal itself.
"Yes, him," Harry confirmed.
"You know, Ron kissed me too." It was a weak deflection, and they both knew it.
Harry nodded his head once. "I heard. I told him he was a twit."
"Really. He should know better than to put the both of you through that again. But we weren’t talking about him."
"Could we be?" she hopefully asked.
"Why not?" She was whinging and she cringed inwardly that she was, but she couldn’t go there. She simply couldn’t.
"Because he isn’t the one bothering you."
She looked down. "Nobody is bothering me any longer." In a sense that was true. Malfoy thought he’d achieved his goal, so he wasn’t going to push for her to be with Harry any longer. Hooray, she was free of his insincere praise. At least until he realised she'd been lying to him. If he realised. And then only maybe. Who knew if he’d bother with her again even if he got the chance?
"Why is it that I don’t believe you?"
"I don’t know. Maybe you’re naturally suspicious? You should work on that."
"Or maybe it’s because my otherwise sensible friend is desperate to pretend she’s having fun?"
She winced. "Never heard the proverb ‘fake it until you make it’?"
"It’s a rubbish proverb. Come on, Hermione. Tell me what's going on."
She really couldn’t go there, so she stared very intently at her drink. "There isn’t much to tell."
"Then tell me what there is to tell."
"It was only a kiss." She was a big, fat liar. "There you have it, all right? Someone kissed me. And they didn’t mean it."
"There’s more than that."
She shook her head. Would he never let this go? "I simply fell for it, that’s all. He’s so good at telling someone what they want to hear. Each time, I thought he really found me pretty, really wanted to kiss me, really wanted to..." She blushed and then grabbed her drink again. "But it wasn’t about that. It was about showing me how to pursue you, about taking the edge off for himself!" She tossed the drink back, praying for oblivion.
"That had to hurt."
She nodded. It had hurt, damn it! "I didn’t really ask for much. All I wanted was for him to go through with pretending he meant those nice things or shut up. Is that too much to ask? It’s not like I ever thought we’d be together."
"Are you in love with him?"
She shook her head violently, stopping abruptly as the world tilted for a moment. "God, no. Never. That would be stupid, wouldn’t it?"
"So?" Harry quietly asked. "Sometimes our hearts are stupid."
Her jaw set. "No. I refuse to be in love with him. Can we talk about something else now?"
Harry watched her for a few moments. "Hm. Fine. We’ll change the topic."
She drew a relieved breath and raised her glass to her lips again, frowning when she found it empty and signalling with some coins that she wanted another one. It pleased her very much that she got it almost immediately.
"Hey, did you know that Malfoy fancies you?"
She choked on her drink and was caught in a coughing fit violent enough to make her face turn scarlet and her eyes water.
Harry simply sat there, watching and grinning, without seeing the need to save her from certain death.
"Preposterous," she finally managed to get out.
"Not really," he calmly said as if she weren’t wheezing for breath. "I think it’s been obvious for quite some time." He took a sip of his Butterbeer and waited for her reaction.
"Obvious to who?" Hermione insisted. "It certainly has never been obvious to me!"
"Yeah, that’s the part I don’t understand," Harry said, leaning back in his chair. "Why can’t you see it? You see so much but apparently not this."
"You misunderstand his need to bother me."
"Do I? So you’re saying he doesn’t have a soft spot for you?"
"Then why did he buy you those robes? And that pendant? It was him, wasn’t it? I don’t know who else has that kind of capital..."
"That was only to—" She cut herself off.
"Thank you, Hermione. You just confirmed that he was the one you were talking about before."
She scowled. More dots connected. How she hated Harry’s penchant for solving mysteries right now. "I did no such thing! You’re confusing my poor alcohol-fogged mind!" She couldn’t keep the dots straight in her head right now. Here she’d thought he’d agreed to change the topic. Ugh. She needed another drink. Why didn’t this place have cake too? She needed the cake to dull the hum she’d felt in her body ever since she’d slept with Malfoy. Damn, she missed sex. He’d been right about that. She hated it when Malfoy was right about something; it was always at the expense of her inner peace.
Harry shook his head. "Don’t try that one with me. You told me that night that a rich friend bought you those robes to make you pretty for me. So, he’s bought you clothes and kissed you and... I don’t really want to think about what else, yet you still don’t believe he likes you? The bloke must be doing something very right or very wrong, depending on what his goal is."
"Money doesn’t seem to matter to him. It was spent for his own amusement."
"And the kiss?"
Why was he so relentless? Couldn’t he see the obvious manipulation here? "He was demonstrating how easy it would be to kiss someone. Using lies and flattery and fake sincerity. I hate him."
"Of course you do." He sounded strangely resigned.
She pointed at him. "Sound that patronising one more time and I’ll castrate you, using something very dull and dirty!"
He winced. "Graphic, Hermione!"
"Besides, you don’t want to set me up with Malfoy."
"No, I really don’t. I’ve tried to get you to get rid of him for months!"
She’d been about to take another drink from her glass but stopped in mid-motion to stare at Harry and then lowered it. "You’re not honestly saying that is why you wanted him gone?"
Harry ignored her question, making her glance at him through the corner of her eye, wondering what else he thought he knew. He continued, "At the functions, he’s obviously only there to talk to you. He’ll do a bare minimum of socialising if he has to, but he inevitably always ends up at your side. He’s not interested in connections or funding and doesn’t seem to give a fig about having a career beyond what he’s currently doing. In fact, before he began fancying you, he never even went to any of the events."
Hermione shifted uncomfortably. He probably hadn't gone because he'd been ill, but she couldn't quite betray that confidence, no matter what Draco had done to her. "I don’t like where this is going. Are you forgetting that he tried to make me go out with you?"
"Honestly?" Harry softly said. "I think he believes that’s what you’d want. You and I see so much of each other, and you know how some people don’t understand that we can be nothing but friends. We know that though selfish, he’s capable of putting at least certain people above himself."
I know more about love than you’d think...
She stared blindly ahead.
"Finally see the light?"
"If the light is that you’re bonkers, certainly!" she responded, rather automatically.
Harry pursed his lips, looking far too smug to suit Hermione. "You’re right. It’s not like he’s ever done anything detrimental to himself in an attempt to please you."
You wanted me to take charge.
She shook her head, trying to clear the webs. "He calls me names!"
This time it was Harry’s turn to snort his drink and choke, but for him it was a result of uncontrollable laughter. "You’re right," he finally managed to snigger. "That’s one malevolent name. Scarring, even."
She shot him a wounded look. "You know how sensitive I can be about my weight!"
"Honestly, it sounds to me like he finds you adorable. As do we all."
"He’s said I looked pregnant several times."
"Come on, Hermione. Don’t make me defend the bugger. We both know how he is. He’s probably trying to hide his attraction to you by insulting you, but he’s doing a really lousy job of it. His heart isn't in it."
"Even if it were true, he’d never admit it." And why would he? She wasn’t exactly someone he could condescend to be with, being a blood bigot and all.
I can’t stand pure-bloods.
But who knew when he was saying the truth and when he was lying to show her how easy it was? It was all so confusing to her poor inebriated self.
"Now there we can agree," Harry said. "I mean... unless you make him admit it." He took a slow sip of his Butterbeer, watching her.
She shot him a sideways glance. "Remind me again why you’re doing this?" And why would she want Malfoy to admit to anything? What good would come from that? He was still Malfoy.
He shrugged. "I really hope this is a temporary state, but you seem like you need to get it out of your system before you completely pickle that brain of yours."
"And if it isn’t temporary?" She really had to be drunk to ask that.
"Then I’d hope your kids would be more like you than him."
I’m sterile. And, like my leg and many other side effects, that’s something that won’t change, even if they do find a way to get rid of the lingering curse.
She pushed away her glass and got to her feet.
"Finally had enough?" Harry asked.
"I think I’m going to be sick," she said, and then she turned around and left.
Avoiding Malfoy at work wasn’t really that easy, Hermione soon discovered. His office suddenly seemed very close to hers, as he’d be going past her door if he were to meet with anyone else in any of the departments that pertained to his interests.
Of course, she could close and lock her door, but considering how her door was always open unless she was having a meeting, Malfoy would see through that in no time.
She wasn’t even completely certain why she was avoiding him. Nothing had changed, really.
Except Harry messing with her mind and making her think that maybe she might like Malfoy in some way that would be nothing if not extremely unhealthy.
Obviously, hiding until it all went away was the only option.
It wasn’t really all that difficult to set up a ton of meetings that took her far away from her office. Besides, Malfoy wasn’t exactly known for showing up five days a week anyway.
Not that he didn’t have a reason for that.
She immediately felt ashamed of how she was still automatically scoffing at Malfoy’s ‘lazy’ ways. It wasn’t like he could exactly help it when he was in pain and needed rest or medical attention. It was just... he’d done such a good job of keeping up the lazy front that it was still hard to remember the actual truth.
Damn him for being so confusing and full of lies.
She’d only just snuck back into her office for her—homemade—lunch on Wednesday, when the bugger pounced.
Or maybe he didn’t as much pounce as knock on her almost-closed door and swing it open, causing her to start and spin around like she’d been caught doing something she oughtn’t.
He’d obviously noticed, because he pursed his lips and shook his head as if she were a lost cause. "Lunch meeting?" he asked.
"Can’t today," she was quick to say. "I have lots of work."
His eyes narrowed. "You’re skipping meals now?"
"No, I brought something to eat..." She made an uncommitted gesture towards her bag. She wasn’t about to show him the lunch she’d packed at home. "Maybe you should go the traditional route and set up a meeting with my assistant?"
He leaned his shoulder against the door frame, something Hermione suddenly realised he did to take the weight off his bad leg. Why did she have to know this? Why? "I didn’t even think you remembered you had an assistant," he calmly said. "I mean, as far as I can tell, you don’t actually use his services. Didn't you reassign him to some office further down the hall?"
"He’s kept busy."
"But you don’t use him to make your own life easier."
"No, why would I? My job isn’t supposed to be easy."
Not that it was very hard these days, because Malfoy chose not to make it hard. Why was that again? Did he honestly hate pure-bloods or did he, as Harry seemed to think, like her? She really found the last option unlikely.
Malfoy shook his head. "My successor won’t be as easy to deal with and then you’re going to wish you had got used to using the available help."
She blinked. "Your successor? Are you leaving?"
"No," he muttered. "No... Not yet. But eventually it’ll have to happen."
He smirked at her. "I don’t know if you noticed yet, Granger, but I’m not actually very good at my job. Some day they’ll realise that and want to replace me." Then he pushed away from her door frame and left.
Hermione frowned. His words made sense, but something else didn’t. She had a very distinct feeling that he was using the truth to lie to her again.