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, handiangel for the Britpick, and wh3tst0n3 for the extra beta on 9+10. You guys are brilliant. :)
Chapter Length: 6,209
"You arsehole," Harry said, his voice quiet from shock. "Can’t you say anything redeeming? Anything at all?"
"Why would—" Draco cut off as realisation seemed to dawn on him and he shot to his feet, loudly knocking over his cane. "You didn’t!"
"Don’t worry," Harry’s voice had gone hoarse. "By now she probably hates us both so much she doesn’t care whether we live or die, much less who you’re planning to be with."
"I’m not planning to be with anyone!" Draco almost shouted, his voice sounding like he might be looking around. Fortunately, nobody else in the pub really responded. Apparently a bit of drama was par for the course around here. Hermione hunched forwards, surreptitiously wiping her eyes. There was little hope of escaping now, but she could always hope he’d simply leave. "I was antagonising you, you nosy sod," Draco continued in a low growl. "She’s the leading specialist in—" He seemed to catch sight of something because he apparently lost his train of thought.
Hermione sat completely still, wishing he’d disappear. Or she'd disappear. Someone definitely needed to disappear.
"Go away, Potter," Draco then said.
Hermione finally gathered the courage to look up and over her shoulder, keeping her eyes veiled by the hat, and it became painfully obvious that she had been found out as Draco was staring right at her. "It’s all right, Harry," she said, surprised at the calmness in her own voice. "You’ve done quite enough."
"I know," he said. "I thought if only I dug harder..." He swallowed. "You know I just wanted to help."
"I know." That was all the concession she could make right now. It should be enough. Although she didn’t turn far enough to see him, she heard Harry's reluctant departure.
Draco was simply staring at her.
She shrugged. "He tricked me too," she said. "And I think it’s quite obvious he'd misunderstood a few things..." He’d certainly misunderstood how Draco felt, but at least now she could know that for certain. There was something to be said for closure.
At least she hoped there would be, as soon as the pain went away.
He still didn’t talk. Clearly, he felt mortified. She didn’t blame him. He’d been rather frank in a way she was certain he’d never meant for her to hear. He could still be cruel, true, but not quite to that extent. He would've been kinder in saying the same things if he'd known she could hear him.
"Here’s what will happen," she said when he didn’t make a move to fill the silence that seemed to be stretching between them, even in the steadily noisier pub. "I will get up and walk away and we will each go on as planned. All right?" She got to her feet, quickly turning her back to him so there was a chance he wouldn’t notice she’d been crying and began walking away.
"Wait," he said, sounding a bit lost and confused and scrambling to pick up the dropped cane. "The part about my ex..."
She hesitated but didn’t turn back around to face him. Facing him seemed impossible right now. "It’s all right, Draco."
"No, damn it. I didn't want to tell him, but she’s the leading specialist in treating chronic damage caused by unknown curses. They’ve been trying to get me to see her for years, but... I’ve been putting it off."
"Do you?" he sounded almost aggravated. "She’s living in Spain with her family. It’s not a trip I can make easily. Obviously, she can’t bring all of her equipment to Britain either, so that’s why I will have to leave."
Hermione nodded. It made sense, really. Everything made sense.
"I didn’t... think of her," he said. "With you, I mean."
She blushed. They were in a public place and she was dressed as a crone and he chose to talk about that? "I didn’t think you did."
"Then why won’t you look at me?"
She took a deep breath. It was a good question, really. "Because I don’t want to," she admitted. "I’d rather you simply follow your original plan and be gone without a word." She began walking again.
She didn't want to say goodbye to him in person. She couldn't. His mind was made up about what could and could not be done and there was nothing left to say.
Unfortunately, he was following her. "I’ll go," he whispered so low she almost missed it. "I don’t actually have much choice in that matter. Just... don’t..."
She waited for him to finish the sentence but he didn’t. They reached the door that led outside to the crisp night air. Noises could still be heard from inside the pub but out here was a separate reality, one cloaked in cool darkness. She preferred it out here. Out here she felt like she could hide better. Also, home was only a few steps and an Apparition away and she very much wanted to go home right now.
However, she had to ask. "Don’t what?"
"Don’t hurt. It’s not worth it."
"People don’t choose when to hurt, but I’ll keep your recommendation in mind." Wild dogs were currently fighting over her insides so she could hardly claim not to hurt. The funny thing was that right now she didn’t even care if he knew.
He moved in front of her, eradicating any vain hope that he hadn’t seen her face yet as she made the mistake of looking up and the light of a nearby lamp post illuminated her features.
"I might be getting worse, Hermione," he said, carefully studying her. She had to concentrate very hard on not wincing at what she knew he saw, all brought out to perfection by her hideous hat.
"You don't want to deal with that."
"Thank you for thinking so highly of me." She was quickly losing patience with him. Why couldn't he simply be swift about it and go? She hadn't asked him for justifications. All she wanted was to be allowed to go home so she could cry over everything he had said tonight in peace.
"We could never be an option."
"No need to keep saying it. I heard you the first time."
"I have to keep saying it or I might forget." He looked genuinely upset. She supposed that he felt like he'd taken the only course of action available to him and needed her to agree with him.
"Look." She took a deep breath. "Of course you have to go. I’m not asking you to stay. I’d never ask you to stay." She felt a powerful pang in her chest as she said it. No, she'd never ask him to stay, but she wished that things were different so she wouldn't have to accept his going. "You need to take care of yourself. It’s very fortunate that you seem to have inspired your ex-fiancée to become the very person who could save you. Harry was simply... he’d misunderstood the situation with us."
"If he'd misunderstood that badly, then why were you crying?"
Her back stiffened with betrayal at him thoughtlessly bringing that up to her face rather than accepting the excuse she had conveniently provided them both with. "Because I’d misunderstood a few things as well," she said. "At least when you were simply gone there could be doubts."
"And now there aren't?"
"Should there be?"
He looked away. "Probably not."
Every time she thought it couldn't hurt any more, he found another way to increase the pain. Why would he call her on her feelings like that if he wasn't going anywhere with it? "I think we've said it all, don’t you?" She brushed past him without waiting for an answer. She needed to go home and spend the rest of the night not thinking about never seeing him again.
She’d only just made it a few steps when he grabbed her arm and forced her to turn around.
She tore her arm free. "What do you want now?"
"I'll be damned if I know, really!" His expression was almost panicked. "I just... feel like you shouldn't go right now. Not like this. Not when things are so... ugly between us."
She was running out of charity. It was like he wanted everything but wasn't prepared to give even the tiniest bit back. He'd never given her anything but empty flattery and love-making that didn't mean anything to him. "No, it would've seemed prettier to you if you hadn't had to actually deal with me, wouldn't it?"
"Damn it, Hermione!" Draco gritted out. "You were avoiding me. I thought you were with Potter. How was I supposed to know you’d feel anything at all about me leaving?"
Hermione flinched. She might be above caring that he knew but she really could live without him constantly mentioning it. "You weren’t supposed to know," she forced out past her hurt and humiliation. "You weren’t supposed to know any of it. Harry took that away from me and I will never forgive him that."
For a moment, Draco looked completely taken aback. "You're not actually saying...?"
"Oh, wouldn’t it be convenient for you if I denied it?" she scoffed, getting angrier by the second and deliberately using it to push back those stupid tears she didn't want him to see. "I deny it and you go off, happy to be rid of someone you don’t know what to do with."
"You think I want things to be the way they are?"
"No, of course you don't! It's not like you could have chosen to go in any number of ways that would have made me understand and yet chose to... do this!"
"I didn't choose for you to overhear my conversation with Potter. I had no idea you were there!"
Hermione deflated a little bit. "No, I suppose you didn't."
"Neither did I have any idea you had feelings for me."
She closed her eyes, her cheeks burning from the constant mortification of this conversation. "Could we stop talking about that? Preferably forever?"
He swallowed. "I regret starting anything with you."
"Oh, we've moved onto your regrets now? That's—that's just lovely. Because I was just wondering how to make tonight any worse."
"I should never have touched you," he forced out through clenched teeth. "Don't you see? It would never have come to this. I thought I could control it."
"But those robes were too gorgeous, I know."
"No, it was you!"
"Clearly it wasn't me, or we wouldn't be having this conversation." Her voice threatened to crack and she hated it. Tears threatened to spill again and she hated that even more. It made her furious at him, herself, and the whole world that she should be reduced to this, and for what? It was all her own fault because she didn't know how to guard her feelings better.
"I don't know what to say to that, Hermione."
That did it. "So maybe I’m not perfect like some stupid outfit—" once again she was reminded how she was dressed right at this moment and she tore off her hat and threw it to the ground "—I’m an actual person and we can’t have that, can we? So you leave me behind, not bothering to say goodbye, and play the martyr for sparing me your presence, is that it?"
"Here, unfortunately I don't have the other robes to give to you as a parting gift, but have this set!" She tore at the ugly robes and the padding, not caring that she'd be cold in the thin clothes she'd worn underneath, throwing it to the ground. "Why don’t you remember this version of me instead? What’s the matter? Not glamorous enough for you?"
He stared at the clothes on the ground for a moment but then shook his head. "What do you want from me?"
Her chest clenched again. "Nothing." He clearly hadn’t taken a million hints. He wasn't going to suggest that they work something out. It made all the anger drain away, leaving only a hollow feeling inside her chest.
And with the hollowness came the realisation that she was now freezing. Draco seemed to notice that fact and hobbled over, heavily leaning on his cane, to put his cloak around her. She’d refuse but she was far too cold and unhappy to summon the will for it.
"I don't want you to worry about me," he murmured. "I'm past getting that kind of attention. It would be better if you could forget about me."
Instead of replying, she took the tiny step needed to get as close to him as she could and, before he could register what was happening, pulled down his head to place her cold lips on his. She wasn’t really working under the best of conditions, shivering even under his warm cloak, but she had to get her point through somehow.
His entire body stiffened and he didn’t respond immediately. She hadn’t counted on it. In fact, at this point she fairly figured this would be their last kiss. It was saturated with feelings of desperation and an early onset of bitterness on her end.
But at least she would have a last kiss before he stubbornly left her behind.
He raised his hand, as if to push her away, but then hesitated when it touched her cold arm. He was surprisingly warm, considering how pale and thin he was.
Just push me away one more time and be done with it.
His hand curled around her arm and he pulled her closer, deeper into his embrace, almost burning her. And his lips were so soft, so gentle, like they’d never dream of uttering the kind of hurtful things he’d say in a heartbeat if he thought it would get him the results he wanted. He was still leaning on his cane with his other hand and she realised she’d been keeping him on his feet for an awfully long time. He’d need to rest soon.
Her time was running out and she was beginning to panic.
She forced herself to pull away and took some satisfaction in his unwillingness to let her go. But she couldn't let this kiss continue. Not when he was leaving her. She did allow his arms to stay around her, though. It felt so nice and it was merely one last little indulgence.
Draco finally managed to hoarsely say, "You’re so cruel."
"Funny. Here I was thinking the same about you." Hermione countered.
"You’re not making this easy."
"Good. I don't want it to be easy for you."
He looked down, his teeth gritted. He obviously didn't like hearing this. Then he looked straight into her eyes as he said, "You’ll get over it."
It was like he’d punched her straight in the chest. She couldn’t breathe for the agony, and her heart screamed at her to get the hell out of there before he mangled it so badly she’d never be able to put it back together again. She had no choice but to step back, out of his arms. Trust him to even ruin that small pleasure for her.
"Will I?" she asked, her voice strangled and breathless from her own internal struggle. "Like your ex-fiancée did?"
"She’s happily married now."
"She’s also the leading expert in treating curses."
He shook his head, dismissing her. When did he ever not dismiss her? He'd never actually wanted them to be together. Not even once had he looked at her and thought, how can I make this happen?
That knowledge hurt worst of all.
"That has nothing to do with her feelings for me," he said.
She swallowed, working hard to keep her tears back long enough to finish this. "Of course it does. You can hurt those who love you all you want, Draco. You can cut us to pieces with that treacherous tongue of yours and make us wish we’d never even met you. But whether we love you or not... that’s never going to be something within your control. Neither is whether we are happy without you. Your ex learned to go on with her life, but I can assure you that the one that has the least credit for her happiness is you."
His face had become completely inscrutable at the mention of his ex's happiness. "You're wrong. She has the child she always wanted. Something I could never have provided. And she has found her purpose."
"I don’t suppose you’ve ever heard of adoption, then? Or is that another bit of pure-blood idiocy—to only want to raise biological children? As for her purpose, I think she found that the minute you were hit. You simply didn’t stay around long enough for it to mature."
He shook his head. "Look, Hermione, I just don’t think..."
"Don’t worry, I’m not stupid." Damn, the world was getting blurrier. "I realise you don’t care that Portkeys and Apparition are no issue for me and that you’re only using this excuse to be rid of me."
His eyes snapped to hers. "I’m most certainly not—"
"I even realise th-that I’m nothing like your ex-fiancée to you." The thin front she'd managed to put on was truly beginning to crack. "I took a hint quite well, even before you had that talk with Harry. I only want for you to realise that you aren’t protecting anyone but yourself by doing this."
"Hermione—" he began again.
"No!" She held up her hand. "No. I know. It's done. It's over. I hope you have a long and happy life."
She knew when she was beat. She'd tried everything she could possibly think of and it hadn't changed a thing. It was time to stop embarrassing herself and start facing the facts.
He didn't love her or even want her enough to accept her love.
She Disapparated before he had a chance to grab her again and prolong her suffering.
Ignoring how she felt didn't seem to be an option for Hermione any longer. She felt everything. Yet whilst she knew she would be feeling like death on legs for a very long time, she'd already decided by the time the sun rose not to let it show.
Her pain was private.
Besides, it could hardly compare to someone who'd actually lost something, could it? Draco wasn't dead, he was leaving her. Voluntarily. And they hadn't even been together to begin with, so who was she to make her own disappointment into more than it was?
Oddly enough, scoffing at herself didn't make her feel any better.
Still, she got out of bed. She ate. She bathed. She got dressed. She even put on makeup.
After this enormous effort, she congratulated herself, feeling like she deserved a medal for having such a great start, and even considered going down to Diagon Alley for lunch, to show everyone that she was fine.
Because she would be fine, she'd decided. Maybe not today, but if she pretended to be fine long enough, sooner or later it would become the truth. She hoped.
But then there was a knock on her door.
She didn't particularly care for company right now, but answering the door would be a great first step towards showing the world that she was managing. Also, if it were Harry, she could slam it in his face. True, that would probably be a hint that she was somewhat affected, but the gratification would be worth it.
It wasn't Harry.
She blinked a few times at the blond wizard leaning against her doorpost, and then she slammed the door in his face. How dare he! Why would he even show his face here!? She frowned, realising there was only one way to answer this question, and then reluctantly opened the door again. He hadn't moved. He looked cautious but also a little amused.
"What?" she greeted him. She had no patience for someone who could laugh in her face after hurting her so badly mere hours before. Okay, so maybe he wasn't laughing but that was definitely almost a smile. She couldn't take any more heartbreak right now. She'd reached her limit. Any more and she couldn't picture herself getting out of bed, let alone convincing the world that she was fine.
"You forgot your costume last night," he said as if that was a perfectly valid reason for him to be there. She had half a mind to slam the door in his face again.
"I didn't forget anything."
"Oh. That long walk all for nothing. And my leg is even aching quite a bit today..."
She narrowed her eyes at him. He wasn't carrying anything. It didn't take a genius to be suspicious... and a little hopeful in spite of her own best attempts to squash it. "Why are you here when you're leaving the country?"
"I'd really appreciate it if you'd let me in."
Reluctantly she moved aside because chances were that his leg actually was giving him pain. She wasn't thrilled about his presence in her flat, though. What if she forgot her decision to be fine and began weeping again? "I still require an answer."
He carefully made his way past her into her sitting room and heavily sat down on her sofa. "I should've been on a boat about an hour ago."
So soon? "Then why aren't you?" Don't be here unless you mean it. No, not even then. He simply shouldn't be here. Damn him for not allowing her to be fine.
"Because, Chubs, you made it impossible for me to go."
He leaned forward. "If I'd gone, I would've never seen you again. After last night, I realised I couldn't. So I didn't."
The way he looked at her and the full meaning of what he'd said was undeniable. He couldn't go. Because of her.
No. She mustn't feel happy about that. She mustn't. Because then she would be the selfish one. She could never accept him like this. "That's ridiculous!" she forced herself to say. "What about your treatment?"
That broke his gaze as he looked away. "I don't need it."
His avoidance told her everything and her heart sank. "So you're just using me as your excuse not to go."
That clearly took him aback. "I'm what?"
"You're afraid of going and I'm convenient."
"That's not—" She raised an eyebrow at him and he cut off. "All right," he then admitted, "perhaps I am looking for excuses not to go. But this is partly why I didn't want to have to say goodbye to you!" He put his elbows on his knees and leant forward, burying his hands in his hair.
"Is it really that scary?" she quietly asked, trying hard to bury this new hurt. This wasn't about her. She could cry later. "Isn't it possible that she'll be able to cure you?"
"Forget about cures. She's my last hope of ever even learning what's wrong with me and what to expect. To know whether I'll live or die if no cure can be found. And maybe she won't be able to figure even that out and I'll be left with a lifetime of not knowing if I'll suddenly drop dead or if I have a chance of growing old." He swallowed. "So, no, it's not scary. It's bloody terrifying."
She sat down next to him and put her hand on his arm, even though she knew she shouldn't be touching him at all if she wanted to come out of this even somewhat intact. "You have to be on the next boat."
He raised his head again and shook it, still not looking at her. "That's in a week. And it's not even certain she'd agree to treat me any longer. She always did have a temper."
"Of course she'll agree," Hermione scoffed. Someone who'd chosen her life's vocation to save someone else didn't turn around and deny them treatment simply because they were scared and sabotaging themselves.
"Ok. She probably would. I'm still not going."
"Yes, you are."
He finally looked at her. "You want me gone?"
"You know better than that."
"Then I stay."
She shook her head. How could she be with someone if it actively endangered his life? She couldn't and she resented him for putting her in this position. If he really wanted to give them a chance, it had to be in another way. "If you stay, I can't be with you."
He bared his teeth in an annoyed sneer. "Then what was last night?"
"Forget last night." Sometimes she very much hated her life. She didn't want to have to be the one to reject him. Not even after all the crude and insensitive things she'd overheard him say yesterday.
"Forget last night?" He sounded incredulous. "Do you even realise what you're asking? You admitted you were in love with me! I didn't think that could ever happen."
Please don't remind me. "It should've remained a secret, considering the circumstances."
"That's not it, though, is it?" He seemed to deflate. "You don't want to be tied to someone who's sick. And it's not like I can't understand that. What do I have to offer?"
She had to grit her teeth against the implied accusation that she'd only want to be with someone who was completely healthy. "More if you go."
He sighed and shot her a dull look. "That doesn't even make any sense, Hermione. If I go, I'll lose you. But if I stay, I've lost you as well because you want to force me to go. I really can't ever win."
"We could attempt to sort something out," she carefully suggested.
"Like what? You'll grab a Portkey to Spain every other weekend? Every month? A couple of times a year? And if we do sort something out, then what if—"
"Oh, sod your what-ifs!" Hermione hissed, fed up with this poor excuse for a wizard who wouldn't even try. "People die, Malfoy. Every day. It's awful but it's no excuse to stop living. And they break up too. And struggle with things like long distance relationships, infertility and obesity. How come you can’t see that life isn’t perfect and stop asking for all or nothing? I can't give you perfection, I can only give you me."
He stared at her in honest bafflement. "You really mean that?"
"Of course I mean it!" She hesitated, but then she gathered all of her courage and ventured, "And I've been thinking about taking a leave of absence anyway."
"Leave of absence?" he echoed.
"Yeah. I want to write a book. And if that goes well, maybe I'll write another. I heard Spain is nice this time of... well, all times of year, really." She wiped her suddenly clammy hands on her knees, trying in vain to tell herself to stop being nervous. If he rejected her offer, it would be his loss. She had a life here too. A life without him, granted, but still.
She really ought to know better than to try to lecture herself at this point. She never listened.
Draco's eyes were inscrutable. "And what about your job at the Ministry?"
She cleared her throat. "Well, it's come to my attention that I have this very competent assistant who's never had an opportunity to shine. Now he will get every opportunity he ever wished for. He could maybe even hire his own assistant."
A slow smile spread across his features. "You really are adorable."
"Adorable?" She was slightly piqued by this reaction to her offer of completely redesigning her life to be with him. She felt rather generous even talking to him after last night! "I’m not your pet!"
His grin widened some more. "If I did have a pet, though, I’d absolutely call it Chubs."
"What, like a cat?" She was completely distracted by this odd turn of conversation.
"I was thinking more along the lines of an owl. You do have that owlish look." He reached over and tugged at one of her wayward curls.
"Or a unicorn."
"That’s absurd! A unicorn’s not even a—wait, why are you suddenly joking?" She shot him a dubious glance.
"Aren't I allowed to be in a good mood? You just said you're coming with me, didn't you?" he asked, looking far too pleased with himself.
"I wouldn't say I'm coming with you..." she said in a vain attempt to keep a little of her independence.
"Would this be the wrong time to tell you that I never returned the necklace and try to use it to bribe you to acknowledge that you're coming with me?"
She blinked. "You stole it?"
"No, you ninny. I paid for it. I went back to the shop with money instead of jewellery."
She shot him a dubious look, but decided he couldn't know how she'd felt about that necklace. "Why?"
"Because it was a physical reminder of you. Of making love to you. I know you think I only found you beautiful because of the robes and necklace, but they mean nothing to me outside of the context that is you."
"And yet you kept the necklace and not me." She knew he could tell she was still hurt, but she hadn't completely forgiven him, not yet. Perhaps it was good that he knew that.
He swallowed and shot her a very cautious look. "I actually didn't mean to keep it. I wanted to give it to you, but I didn't know how. I wanted you to see how I saw you that night. How you were the one to make that stupid mix of minerals and metal shine. But I knew you wouldn't accept that, so I just..." He shrugged. "I suppose it was a bad investment. I can get rid of it. Would you prefer that?"
Hermione shrugged a little awkwardly. This was a lot to parse. "Let me think about it for a while."
He pursed his lips. "I guess there's still time to argue about that as well then, but all in all you’re right."
"Of course I’m right!" She paused and frowned. "About what?"
"Life happens. And I want you with me. Besides, I just remembered that I don't mind being selfish enough to ask you to come along." He pursed his lips. "But I have to warn you..."
Uh-oh. "About what?"
"My ex is going to have her revenge, one way or the other. I predict her at least making me very ill for a while. Intentionally."
Hermione relaxed a bit. "Oh, is that all? Good."
He shot her a rather resigned look. "Good?"
She nodded enthusiastically. "I think she deserves a bit of payback. You were horrible towards her, after all. And now you aren't even on that boat! In fact, I'll be cheering her on to do her worst."
He seemed to be fighting a grin. "So... this is how you're planning on being supportive?"
"That’s just mean, Chubs."
She made a face at his nickname of choice. "Didn't you hear? Hell hath no wrath like a woman who has to endure the nickname Chubs."
"Guess I'll have to endure your wrath, then... Chubs." The hand that had been playing with her hair slid down to cover her neck.
"You're never letting it go, are you?"
"Hm." She pondered that for a second. "Then I guess I'll have to lose weight."
"You could labour under the delusion that that might work," he said and drew her closer.
Hermione was torn. On one hand, she wanted nothing more than to spend the rest of the day kissing Draco, but on the other hand, she wasn't done sorting things out.
"What?" he asked, against her lips when she didn't immediately respond to the caress.
"Why do you call me Chubs if you supposedly find me attractive?"
He drew back and looked at her for the longest time. Long enough to make her squirm and wish she hadn't asked. "If you really don't like it, then I'll stop," he then quietly said. "It's just... it's come to mean something to me."
"What does it mean?"
"You. Everything I love about you. I don't simply mean curves; I mean... you. And it's a version of you that is all mine."
Damn it. When he put it like that, she couldn't argue. When he put it like that, it seemed like its own declaration of love, which made her feel like she was going to melt into a puddle at his feet.
But being Hermione, it also made her think of another question.
"So why did you try to set me up with Harry?"
"Ah. That." He grimaced. "I thought it was what you wanted."
She frowned. "I'm not certain I believe that."
"Believe it. I hated every second of it."
"So why did you still do it if you hated it so much?"
He shrugged. "Because I'd fallen for you and I thought it would make you happy. The way the two of you acted together. The jealous way he tried to warn me away from you. I was trying to be selfless, you know."
"The what way he tried to what?" Hermione found that very hard to believe of Harry.
"Yeah. He caught me staring at you and issued a warning."
Peculiar. Annoying. Intrusive. Who was Harry to warn off anyone? Ugh, these men! "And that didn't make you try to get in my knickers immediately?"
"I might have tried, if I hadn't had such strong feelings for you."
She blushed. She definitely liked this conversation better than the one they'd had yesterday. Even if both Draco and Harry had been a couple of overbearing gits, trying to decide for her who she should be with. "Ah. I see."
"I also suppose that I felt I owed him a life debt or two. But if I hadn't thought you wanted him, I would never have tried to get the two of you together. My debt wasn't that big."
She couldn't help but grin at his priorities.
"But, Hermione?" Draco softly asked.
"I just thought you might want to know, now that you're stuck with me, that you might want to be wary of my mother."
That sobered her a bit and she sighed. "I know. She'll hate me for being Muggle-born."
"No. I mean, sort of, yes, but that's not it. We'll cure her of that, eventually." He seemed to not even question that fact and it warmed Hermione like nothing else he could say.
His eyes gained a mischievous glint. "You won't believe it, but she makes the best fairy cakes known to the wizarding world."
"What?" She drew back to give him an incredulous stare. "I refuse to believe that."
"Believe it. She has to spend her time doing something, doesn't she? You should see how she decorates them. Almost a pity to eat, really."
Hermione blinked a few time, trying to process this new information. "I knew that woman was pure evil!"
He sniggered and drew her closer again. "I think being with you is the best idea I ever had. Or worst. I'm leaning towards worst, so it's good I'm so fond of bad ideas."
"Technically, I think this was Harry's idea."
That wiped the grin from his face. "Crap."
"I know!" she agreed. "He'll be insufferable once he learns that it worked. He'll never stop meddling now."
Draco wrinkled his nose. "I vote that we never tell him. How would you feel about never talking to him again?"
She considered that for a very short time. "At the moment? Not that bad, actually."
"Good. Then that's settled. But I do have one problem."
"What would that be?"
"I missed my boat. I have no place to stay until the next one."
He was clearly lying, the opportunistic prat. He must have been staying with his parents until now. But two could play that game. "Oh, I'm certain we could work something out."
"Yeah?" The way he leaned into her was all suggestion.
"Yeah." An impish grin spread over her features. "Let me just owl Harry. You two do seem to get along so swimmingly, and after what he did to me, he'll have to take you in. Now he owes me, after all, and we don't have to tell him a thing."
Draco scowled at her. "Come to think of it, I'm sure that won't be necessary."
"Of course it will!" she insisted. "We can't have you living out on the streets, can we? Besides, in case I do ever forgive Harry, it would be lovely if you'd made friends with him as well. What better way than to share close quarters for a while?"
The horrified look on Draco's face was all the answer she needed. She hid a smirk. She couldn't wait to see Harry's reaction when she told him about his new temporary flatmate. If that didn't teach the two men in her life not to try to manipulate her, nothing else would.