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: 3,642
Hermione wavered a bit, unable to decide what to do about Malfoy's invitation. Somehow visiting him at his home didn’t seem like such a good idea. It seemed too... intimate. Too dangerous. Too much like something that could lead to misunderstandings. "Maybe," she finally said in reply to the invitation.
"I don't know..."
"Feeling guilty now?"
She shrugged. Whilst she actually had no reason to feel guilty, something about him made her feel cautious. It was all well and good to indulge in fantasies of being wanted every once in a while, but to get too used to it from the likes of him... that couldn't be good.
She shivered a little. It really was getting cold.
"Come here," he muttered, drawing her up in his oversized chair to snuggle against him, and summoning his cloak. It was a nice, warm cloak.
"My robes are right over there..." she pointed out, feeling too snug to actually move.
He kissed the top of her head and massaged the side of her hip. "I'll just warm you up for a minute." His arm brushed her breast, and she shivered for a reason that had nothing to do with being cold.
He hesitated and then slid his hand to the front of her knickers. They were soaked and he made a strangled sound when he realised it. "I really should've stopped..." he muttered, lightly rubbing her through the cloth. "Paced myself to give you what you needed."
It felt far too good. She couldn't help but open her legs a little wider. He carefully slipped a few fingers inside her knickers and began rubbing the bare flesh.
She whimpered before she could check herself and buried her face in his neck.
"Come see me tonight," he whispered. "I'll take you any way you want to be taken. It won’t be a problem."
She pressed against him, simply afraid he would stop touching her now. But when he removed his fingers it was only to press a couple of them up inside her, stroking, massaging, making her desperate to feel more.
She grabbed his head and kissed him rather forcefully and he kissed her back, never stopping his caresses.
She was so close. So close. All she needed was... was... He moved his other hand up and squeezed her breast, palming her nipple, and she immediately came. She arched up against his hands and rode it out, whilst he breathed those sweet things she'd wanted to hear earlier in her ear, forcing her to hold back just a little bit out of fear that she'd otherwise accidentally show him exactly how susceptible she'd become to him.
Afterwards, she felt about as shattered as he looked. "I should get back to work..." was all she could think of saying.
"Stay for a little bit. They'll merely think we're arguing again."
She grinned. "I need more of these kinds of arguments." Although she could live without the emotional drain.
"As do I..." He pulled up the cloak to cover both of them better and yawned. "A nap would be nice too."
"We can't nap during office hours."
"Of course we can. I do it all the time."
She couldn't help but snort a laugh. "Of course you do."
"Come to me tonight," he whispered.
"I'll think about it."
"No. Don't think. Just do. He'll never know."
That woke her up a bit. He still believed she was cheating on Harry. That... actually grated, but she wasn't certain why. "Can I ask you something?" she said, before she could think better of it.
"You can ask..."
"You keep saying it's been a long time since you... you know, slept with anyone before me. How long?"
"Argh." She could feel him recoil at the question. Interesting.
"Come on..." she coaxed.
"Not exactly the post-coital conversation I want to have," he muttered, sounding less than pleased with her.
He sighed. "You’ll never let this go if I don’t tell you, will you? All right. Fine." He paused before reluctantly going on, "It was shortly after I was first able to leave my sickbed."
"You were already up to it then?"
She could feel him cringe. "Not... entirely. But it had been a really long time already. And I was lonely. People weren't exactly standing in line to see me when I was confined to my bed."
"Oh. Right. But you sound like it only happened once?" She twisted to look up at his face. He was squirming and didn't look at her.
"Yeah... It... It wasn't quite what I'd hoped it would be. Can we drop this again?"
"Why are you so uncomfortable with this?"
She could feel his throat working as he swallowed. "Like I said, not my favourite post-coital conversation..."
It had to be bad. She should probably let it drop, but she found herself unable to. "What happened?" she quietly asked. "Were you too ill to go through with it?"
"No, no, nothing like that. It was just... I paid her, all right?"
Hermione blinked. "What?"
"I was randy and desperate to feel like a human being again and... well, long story short, I didn't have the energy to go about finding someone who'd be willing to work around my physical condition the old-fashioned way."
"Huh." That was kind of sad.
"I was worse off back then."
"Yeah, I figured."
He groaned. "I told you. Not the best of topics."
Hermione frowned. "No, that's not it. It's just... why did it disappoint?"
"Ah. That." He looked more uncomfortable than ever. "I'd been spoiled before my curse, I suppose. My fiancée was passionate and fun in everything she did, including sex. The one I paid was... well, uninvested would be the nice way to put it, I suppose. It made me feel dirty. Like I'd forced her. I tried getting rid of the feeling by overpaying her but it didn’t work. That wasn't something I cared to try again."
Hermione struggled to sit up, leaning on an elbow. "Fiancée?" She knew she was missing the point of his story, but what could she say about it, really? It sounded like it had been a miserable situation for everyone involved and she was beginning to pity his discomfort.
"Oh. Uh, ex-fiancée now, of course." He relaxed a bit. He seemed to find this topic safer, which was funny considering how Hermione was feeling a rather irrational sense of dread and upset stir inside her. She tried to push it away, but it was too persistent to disappear that easily.
"She left you because of that?"
He snorted a short laugh. "You didn't know her to even ask that. She would never have left willingly. She was determined to come see me every day, no matter if I was lucid or not. " His eyes gained a faraway look as he got lost in his past. "If I slept, she’d climb into the bed with me, even though one time I had a seizure and gave her a black eye. She'd tell me about everything that was going on and make my wretched existence bearable."
Hermione once more tamped down the intensifying dark sensation of dread in the pit of her stomach and forced herself to dig deeper. "But then what..?"
It took him a while to answer, and when he did, it was with a fair bit of reluctance. "I couldn't let her live like that, could I? I was of no use to her. Even when I was awake, I was hardly good company. I couldn't go out to dance with her—she loved to dance—could barely even walk. I couldn't go anywhere with her because even if I did manage to leave the house, I'd either faint, vomit or get violent seizures. And then I learned that I wouldn't even be able to give her that child she'd always wanted, even if I'd get well enough to have sex again, which was highly doubtful in and of itself at that time."
"So you let her go," Hermione whispered, the churning inside her now so strong it was making her physically ill.
He smiled rather sarcastically. "'Letting someone go' sounds so peaceful, don't you think? She'd have none of that. I had to painfully cut her out of my life. I had to be the biggest arse to her that you can imagine, and I'm certain you can imagine a lot... Only then was I able to convince her to go."
Hermione had a sudden flashback to something he'd once told her about love.
I know more about it than you’d think. 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's the one," she murmured, feeling an odd numbness spreading through her. What had she expected, really? At least there had been someone and he hadn’t simply made it all up to mess with her.
"The... the one you told me about. The one you loved."
"Ah..." By the wariness in his eyes, it was clear he'd forgotten ever saying anything.
She didn’t really want to think too much about the night he’d first kissed her either. "Didn't you try to make up with her when you got better?" Why was she doing this to herself?
He seemed largely ignorant of the effect this conversation was having on her. "What would be the point of that, Chubs? I was still sterile. Besides, she'd married. There's even a child now, as far as I understand. She has the life she always wanted."
"But you're not in it!" The words were out before she quite knew what she meant by them. "I-I mean, she intended to marry you first." She ducked her head, happy that he would have a hard time seeing her flaming cheeks the way she was curled against his chest.
"Life happens to all of us and changes our plans as you well know. I'm certain that she's perfectly fine. More than fine. Happy. Happier than I could’ve made her."
"If she loved you, she might not have minded not having children."
"And because I loved her, I spared her that choice! I was hardly any prize then, and I'm not much of one now. I still can't go dancing or travelling or anything to that effect. Being with me would have meant denying everything she was. I couldn't have lived with that."
That cemented Hermione's suspicions. Draco still loved his ex-fiancée. He probably even loved her too much to attempt to drag her into some sordid affair, talking her into cheating on her husband.
That this knowledge made it feel like the bottom fell out of Hermione’s stomach, leaving a vortex of emotions she couldn’t even begin to identify, was incidental. Also, nonsensical. So they’d messed about a bit—what had she honestly expected? That he’d start caring about her? The notion was laughable at best. Pitiable at worst.
"I'm sorry things didn't turn out better for you," she forced herself to say.
He shrugged. "It's past."
Except she didn't believe that. She believed it was very much present. Her naked skin burned against his, reminding her what had happened mere moments ago. Reminding her of how she’d begged to be wanted and how she’d got her wish but it wasn’t enough. She needed to get away—get away from the heat of his skin, from his ex-fiancée, from him. Oh, how she wished she hadn’t come here today.
She began to get up.
"You're leaving?" he asked.
"I really need to get some work done," she said, avoiding his eyes by scanning the room for her robes, although she already knew where they were.
"I see. About tonight..?"
"Oh." She’d already forgotten he’d wanted to see her again. How could she even consider it, knowing what she now knew? How could he? "I... really don't think that's a good idea. You know, Harry and everything." She quickly got to her feet and grabbed her robes, pulling them on.
He sighed. "Of course."
"I'm sorry about not delivering on my promise."
"To ride you."
He laughed. "You have nothing to be sorry about, love. I thought my enthusiasm had shown that."
She shrugged and awkwardly looked away. She didn't know what to say next. Out of all the things that could have happened, she'd never thought she'd find herself in this position. She felt as devastated and guilty as if she'd really just cheated on someone. She had to remind herself that it wasn’t possible to cheat on a memory.
It didn’t help.
"It's ok," Draco finally said. "He'll never know. There's no need to tell him. It didn't mean anything."
It didn’t mean anything.
She took a few deep breaths. No, of course it didn’t mean anything. She was overreacting. It must be some sort of post-coital hormone cocktail doing this to her.
Even she was becoming sick of her own excuses. But she couldn't face the obvious.
"Is that supposed to make it any better, though?" she could not help herself saying. "To do this... for no reason? At least if it meant something, there’d be a defence."
He leaned back and gave her a weary look. "Then tell him. He won't be happy, but I doubt it will break you apart. If it will make you feel better, don’t let me stand in the way."
She snorted. "He'd hex the hell out of you."
Draco slowly shook his head. "I doubt that, actually. But if he does... then I suppose I deserve it for sleeping with his girl, don't I?"
"Technically, I don't think we made it past foreplay." This time.
"Technically, I don't think that matters."
"Right. You're right, of course. Well... I'd better go."
She made a beeline for the door.
She'd almost succeeded in opening it when Draco said, "And, Chubs?"
"Yes?" she asked without turning back around.
"If you do change your mind... you can always come by."
She opened the door and fled.
Harry narrowed his eyes at Hermione as she took a long, healthy swig of the glass in front of her. She'd made him come down to a bar again, so she wouldn't have to be alone with her misery. She really couldn't handle being alone right now. "I’m really not going to keep support you doing this," he warned her.
"It’s water," Hermione said, referring to the clear liquid.
Harry snorted. "Yes. Of course."
"No, really. See for yourself!" She offered him the glass.
With only a short hesitation, Harry took the glass from her and then first sniffed it before having a careful sip. Eyes widening, he exclaimed, "It is water!"
"Told you. " Hermione took back her glass and put it down, staring into it as she’d been doing before Harry arrived.
"Um, any reason we’re going to a bar to drink water?" Harry carefully asked.
She shrugged and took another unsatisfactory yet still healthy mouthful. "It was either that or sit at home drinking alcohol. Drinking water at home completely lacks any kind of effect. "
Harry grinned before being able to help himself but then coughed into his hand. Hermione appreciated him checking his amusement. She was far too glum to be able to laugh at her own idiosyncrasies right now.
"So... him again?" Harry guessed.
She didn’t even have the energy to deny it. "It’s really becoming pathetic, isn’t it?"
"What did he do?"
She stared at her glass. Oh, nothing. I simply discovered that I don’t want him to be in love with someone else, which is sort of a big problem, considering how he definitely is.
"He wants me to cheat on you," was what she said.
Harry snorted. "You didn’t tell him the truth yet?"
"No. Don’t plan to."
"What does it matter?" She took another miserable taste of the woefully tasteless water.
"Oh, I don’t know. Maybe once you sort out that no cheating is necessary, you will stop dragging me down to bars in the middle of the week."
"Didn’t drag. You’re free to leave." She drained her glass and motioned for more. The barman gave her an odd look as he refilled it. She really had hit rock bottom. Well, if Harry left she would revert to actual alcohol and everyone would be happy... or something.
"You know I’m not leaving," Harry scoffed. "But I honestly don’t understand any of this."
"He’d never ask her to cheat," Hermione muttered, more to herself than Harry. "He’d never interfere with her happiness." She shook her head. She knew that if Malfoy had rejected her, she’d have been moody about that as well. Still, nothing could stop her from feeling hurt right now so she’d damn well wallow in it.
"He wanted me to visit him tonight. But I can’t. I just... can’t. I won’t."
"I’m not. Can’t you see that I’m very actively not?"
"Ah. I see."
Hermione felt completely unbidden and perplexing tears welling in her eyes. She knew that there was no real problem, so how was she supposed to explain how she felt? This whole thing had gone beyond embarrassing. She had somehow developed feelings for someone who had preyed on her insecurities for his own amusement for the better part of her life. Someone who clearly loved another. Someone who was likely to mostly want her because she didn’t require any work at all to seduce.
When she didn’t speak, Harry began drumming a staccato on the bar top with the tips of his fingers. There wasn’t much else for him to do, after all.
"I suppose..." she finally muttered. "I wish things were a little different." Understatement of the year.
"Like..." She bit her lip. How to put this? "Like he didn’t only want some sordid affair. I mean, I’m not saying I want to be romantically involved with him—" Liar "—but why did he have to believe I was with you before he wanted to sleep with me?"
"You could ask him that."
She shook her head. "No, thanks."
Harry hesitated. "You do know about... I mean, since you’ve been a little too candid about what’s happened between the two of you, I assume you’ve noticed... that things are... off about him?" He was clearly looking for words to phrase his question as vaguely as possible without losing its meaning entirely.
"He told you about his curse?" Hermione was more than a little surprised that Draco should show Harry that kind of confidentiality.
Harry gave her an odd look. "Told me? Hermione, I was there."
"You were there?"
"Yes. I was making my first pickup as an Auror when Malfoy was attacked." He scowled. "From the looks of it, he neglected to tell you that little detail. No matter. I only eventually saved his life."
"Oh. So you are ‘some Auror’."
"That’s how he referred to me?" Harry looked incredulous. "Prat. Next time, I’m saving the heroics for someone more deserving."
"You never told me this."
Harry shrugged and shot her an awkward glance. "I’m really sorry. His mother asked me not to tell anyone. I made a promise. We all thought Malfoy was going to die and I felt sorry for the lot, not to mention guilty for what had happened. Prior to the heroics, I mean. We agreed that no one needed to know he was cursed by some filthy madman in the courtyard of Azkaban on the day he was supposed to have been released."
"He was supposed to be released that day?" Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"Yeah. That’s why I was there. I was supposed to escort him out. Obviously did a bloody fine job of it too." The last bit was delivered with a bitter sarcasm Hermione had never heard from him before.
"You couldn’t have known, Harry," she said, trying to soothe him. "And didn’t you just say you saved his life?"
"I did save his life. Barely. But if I’d done my job properly, he wouldn’t have suffered at all. I’m quite certain there’s some kind of irony to that, but I can’t be arsed to find it." He knotted his hands on the bar top in front of him. "Anyway, I lost sight at what I was getting at. What was it? Oh, yes... he’s damaged, Hermione. In more ways than one, really, but mostly in this one. He’s been recovering very slowly and you can’t expect him to have many resources left over for... other matters."
Left over for silly things like commitment, he meant. Romance. Relationships.
Who’d said she wanted any of that, anyway?
"Point taken," she said in a clipped voice.
He shot her a wary look. "No need to get cross with me, Hermione. I only meant—"
"I know what you meant, thanks."
Harry sighed. She didn’t really blame him. She knew she was being too harsh on him, but somehow she didn’t seem to be able to stop scowling. She should apologise, but she didn’t feel like it. She would have to do that later.
Right now she was too busy feeling sorry for herself.