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 (chapter 1-5), dollfaced and mazvn for the beta and robs55 (chapter 1-7) and filigree (chapter 8+) for the Britpick. You guys rock! You saved this story. :D
Chapter Length: 5,216
'This is where the missing witch was last seen?' Draco squinted at the small Muggle village lying in front of them, positively brimming with electrical light on this already dark December afternoon. He disliked Muggling it so much. Why did all of their more involved cases suddenly have to involve Muggles?
Hermione nodded. 'We might have to go back and question her friends and family but Burke actually did an impressive job of that as well as asking around down here.'
'Burke...' Draco frowned. 'He's been out of training a year, hasn't he? He couldn't have partnered up and gone?'
'No, he had to stay at home for personal reasons.'
'Oh, right. His wife is having a baby soon. I forgot.'
Hermione wrinkled her nose. 'Yes. He's just a kid!'
'Exactly. Like I said, a child. Who plans to have children at that age?'
'And you think I'm judgemental, Hermione?'
Hermione rolled her eyes at him and then began walking down towards the village.
'I wish we could simply Apparate home each night. I have a very comfortable home, you know,' Draco muttered.
'Yes, yes, camping out at random houses with me is dreadful. I heard you.'
How she'd heard that, he had no idea, because he'd never said such a thing. Not recently, at any rate.
'Do you think it'll be a one- or two-bedroom place?' he asked, not certain how he felt about either prospect.
'With our luck, it's probably one. We can always hope for two, though.'
She didn't want to share a bedroom with him? Well, he did suppose that if there wasn't going to be any sex, then sharing a bed was more than a little inconvenient at this point. Especially considering how hard it would be to fall asleep in that bed. He could vividly imagine it; lying next to her, almost but not quite feeling her body heat, listening to her breathing... He was already half out of his mind over her and that would probably push him over the edge.
'Yeah, separate bedrooms is the only way you can keep your hands off me,' he said with a smirk.
The way she snorted at him suggested that maybe she didn't consider that a problem. His vanity didn't like that. She'd initiated sex with him twice, so obviously she must be attracted to him. No need for her to pretend that that wasn't the case.
He at least had no problem acknowledging that he still wanted her, but it mustn't happen again. He couldn't sleep with his partner like that. It was... unprofessional. He didn't mind Hermione wanting to sleep with him, but he couldn't afford hormones to get the better of him again. He wasn't a teenager. He was a grown man who had to do whatever he could not to cause drama with his partner, because he knew very well what damage she could do to him if she should so choose.
'What's the matter?' she asked, nudging him to take a turn. He hadn't even noticed they'd reached the houses.
He realised he'd been frowning and quickly smoothed out his features. 'Nothing. Simply thinking about the case.'
'Ah, indeed,' Hermione said with a sigh. 'Are we siblings, friends, or a couple this time? You know, maybe you could be her boyfriend.'
'She's more than a decade younger than us!'
'Not unheard of, Mr Judgemental.'
Draco scowled at her. He would not even pretend to be seeing someone not yet out of her teens. 'Still a bad idea. They might be suspicious as to why she'd run away from me. Besides, Burke made a note of someone she appeared to be seeing here.'
'Fine. So we're simply two of her friends, looking for her.' She stopped in front of a house, frowned, checked the number and moved on.
'And I'm never playing your brother again,' he said.
'That's usually what you want!'
'That was before I slept with you.' That was a little more blunt than he'd meant it to be. Still, there was something to be said for the truth.
She stopped and stared at him, before getting her bearings enough to say, 'That doesn't--'
'But it does change things, Hermione,' he said, his voice quiet. 'At least a little. I can't pretend to be your brother any more.' He wasn't that competent an actor.
She looked away. He was sorry that he made her uncomfortable, but things had to be clear between them. 'This is us,' she muttered, hurrying up to the front door of a quaint little house and unlocking it.
Perhaps Draco did have a point. Pretending to be someone's sibling when you'd known them carnally might not be that easy. What if lingering attraction or tiny hints of intimate knowledge showed? But then again, it wasn't as if people would be looking for any signs that they weren't siblings. People had a tendency to accept things at face value--which was largely why Draco's cold kisses had been able to pass for this long.
'All right,' Hermione said when they were inside. 'We'll say we're friends of her and each other.'
'Such a stretch,' he drily commented before going in to check on the rooms.
Well, it was, wasn't it? They'd never been friends. They'd barely got along or even liked each other. They'd just kept each other alive. And had sex sometimes. If twice could be called sometimes. But this time they wouldn't have sex. He was as far as she knew in a relationship and even if he should stoop that low, it wasn't Hermione's way.
'Two bedrooms,' he called out. His voice was neutral about it.
'Oh, good!' Hermione said, honestly feeling the relief. She could sleep next to him again if she had to--she could!--but she just preferred if she didn't have to. There was simply something about sleeping next to a warm male that you sexually desired and couldn't touch that was extremely frustrating. If the circumstances had called for it, however, she would have done it. She could be mature and professional if she absolutely had to.
Draco appeared back at the entrance. 'Both kind of tiny, though. Odd place, this. What kind of house doesn't have a master bedroom with a decent bed?'
Hermione shrugged. 'A house that doesn't need it? Where do you want to go first?'
He shot her an odd look. 'No rush or anything,' he muttered. 'Relax. We'll be out of here before Christmas. It's two weeks away!'
'Uh-huh. Haven't heard that one before. And it's only ten days away.'
He rolled his eyes at her. 'Ok, fine. How about an early supper whilst we sort out the details?'
She nodded. 'All right. But I suppose I should change then.'
'Into what? You're already Muggled up and I sincerely doubt this town even has a restaurant that requires the staff to have cooking skills. Let's just go.'
Hermione's eyebrows rose. He certainly had a way of provoking her. Was it really so difficult to give her five minutes to change? 'Wow, if that's indicative of your understanding of women, no wonder you get dumped a lot.'
'What, you consider this a date?' He wrinkled his nose in what had better just be confusion.
'No! But I still want to look presentable when I go out.' Seriously, who did he think she was?
He snorted and shook his head. 'Presentable? What, like with that tarty skirt you wore in Firrhaven?'
'You'd better have meant tartan,' she said, narrowing her eyes at him.
'It barely covered your arse!'
Oh, he was asking to die.
'My arse is what won us that case whilst you were sleeping it off!' she hissed.
'Dragon dung! Why do you suddenly think you have to promote yourself like a common scrubber?'
Hermione blinked, not sure whether to scream, beat him, hex him or just lock herself in one of the bedrooms.
She reminded herself that Draco Malfoy had always called her names. The difference was, however, that now when he called her names, she didn't have the same defences. That's what you got from sleeping with an arsehole. Why couldn't he have been as crappy in bed as he was outside it? Now she was stuck with stupid lust for his stupid body, whilst his personality was as rotten as it had ever been. If only she could gag him and tie him up and never have to deal with his personality again.
'I know you think I'm some kind of worthless whore,' she finally said, 'but just remember that you didn't mind that so much when you were the one using my services.' She slowly turned, meaning to put away her things before gritting her teeth and enduring his presence again.
She was flung back around and shoved against a wall. 'You're missing the point,' he growled at her.
He was seriously invading her space and she wasn't appreciating it. However, he probably needed to feel that he was in control, even if only physically, and she would endure it for a few minutes if it meant getting him to stop acting like an arse. If all else failed, she could hex his bits off.
'And what's that?' she sneered back at him.
'You're not going out there, flirting, snogging, and shagging your way through this case.'
'You're not the boss of me, Malfoy.'
'No, Potter is. I wonder what he'll say if I put my complaints in an official report.'
She pursed her lips in thought and spent a few seconds considering that. Harry wouldn't be able to turn a blind eye to it if it went on record, but she'd hardly lose her job either. 'What's it to you?'
'There was a time when you didn't rub this... little hobby of yours in my face. Could we please go back to that?'
Hermione thought that sounded like an odd request and she opened her mouth to say so, when he moved, and she caught a whiff of his soap. It was his usual. Nutmeg. A classic, she supposed. But also a dead give-away to her that he probably wasn't with the apple-witch any longer. Now this ridiculous show of dominance suddenly made sense. 'Just because you broke it off with yet another witch doesn't mean I'm available to you,' she said. 'The sooner you get that through that thick skull of yours, the better.'
'Interesting you should say that, considering you're the one that was jealous,' he said.
She gaped. 'What?'
'I saw the look on your face back when you thought you'd figured me out. You were ready to scratch someone's eyes out.' His voice was low and insinuating he knew something about her that nobody else knew. He didn't really. He was mistaken.
'I do not get jealous!'
'Right.' He had an insufferable look that made her want to smash his face in. Well, more than she wanted to smash his face in for still having a grip on her arms and forcing her up against a wall. At least their bodies didn't touch. After these most recent insults she wouldn't have been able to handle it if they were. She would have castrated him on the spot. Certain things were simply not sexy.
'Right! If anything, I was just surprised that you--' She cut off, realising too late that there was no good way to complete this sentence. Crap. She still had to work with the man.
'That I what?' he very predictably asked.
She sighed. 'That you'd had sex first, ok? You're so repressed; the fact that you managed to be first made me aware of exactly how... how I can't be me in our tiny wizarding world.'
'So you didn't care; you only saw it as a sort of competition?' He looked like he didn't believe a word she said.
'I'm not a possessive person.' She would have loved to explain that it didn't have anything to do with him but rather her whole life philosophy in which monogamy didn't really play a part any longer, but she suspected he would just brush it off as her not having met the right wizard yet. Who knew, maybe she hadn't. All she knew was that Malfoy wasn't that wizard.
'So, did you go out and have sex then?' he asked.
She blinked. 'What?'
'Did you? I mean, since you obviously cared about who got some first, you wouldn't want to be left behind, right?' His hands were gripping her arms so tightly she was certain she would bruise.
'That's really none of your--'
She winced. They were yelling now? 'No! Ok? But that has nothing to do with you.'
He cocked his head and looked at her for a moment before stepping back, letting go of her. 'I suppose not,' he then said. 'But it's been an awfully long time for you, hasn't it?'
'Not really. You simply don't get it, do you?' She wearily leant her head against the wall. Maybe she needed to see if she could make him understand. At least so he wouldn't draw the wrong conclusions again. 'The Ministry is a very conservative place, so I can't just go about my personal life any way I want to. I am a witch with political ambitions. My only chance to ever have sex is either by going to Muggle venues or only engaging people I trust explicitly.'
She really hoped he wouldn't make a thing out of the fact that she'd just said she trusted him. Of course she did. She had to in order to put her life in his hands. They were partners and usually he didn't sell her out.
He stared at her. 'That's the oddest reason I've heard yet.'
'I've given up many things in my life to get where I am now--some were easy sacrifices, others weren't--but I'm not giving up sex too. I just need to be discreet or they won't take me seriously. They will only think about how promiscuous they find me and wonder how I can have any opinions worth listening to, because obviously people with vaginas can't both have something to contribute intellectually and be a warm-blooded person with needs and desires. I mean, look at you and how you lost all respect for me as soon as I let you find me out.'
'Yeah. You did. You wanted me but you didn't respect me as a person any longer. All I want is the right to be judged by my work and not by my personal life. I won't rub anything in your face. I've always been very discreet around you in the past, haven't I? Why should I change that?'
He didn't reply. He didn't have to. Yet again, he'd been an absolute wanker, thinking her nothing but someone who was led around by her twat. Her words might have given him food for thought, but it wouldn't be long before he'd dismiss that and go back to being a wanker again. Oh, the joys of Draco Malfoy.
A meal and a strictly work-related conversation later, Draco was still not sure how to deal with Hermione.
How did you deal with that kind of attitude at all?
He didn't understand her. She made everything much harder on herself than she had to. If she was really as devoted to her grand plans as she claimed to be, then a relationship was exactly what she needed--to join forces with some pillar of society, like one of the other War Heroes, and present a strong, united front.
It made him wonder what had really happened between her and Ron Weasley about five years ago to turn her off relationships to the point where she'd rather make things much harder on herself than they need be than trust someone else with her heart.
Something had to have happened. She simply wasn't the type to be living like this.
'Stop staring at me,' she coolly told him as they were making their way back. 'I wore my prissiest outfit and most boring make-up just for you.'
He scowled at her. He knew she was angry with him for criticising her behaviour and the way she dressed, but didn't she understand why it frustrated him?
Well, fine, maybe he didn't entirely understand it himself. The fact of the matter was that he didn't quite know how to act or feel around her. He disliked knowing about her casual sexual habits. And he didn't like seeing her flirting with other men because he didn't quite know how to cope with how casual their sex had been to her. He wasn't used to being that easily discarded by witches. Additionally, every blow landed so much heavier when he and Hermione fought now and he hated it. He still trusted her implicitly when it came to having his back, but not only had she said that she didn't trust him any longer, but he didn't know who she was any longer.
He'd never slept with a witch like Hermione before. Not even once. He'd never met anyone that clever and independent, and he'd made it a life philosophy never to touch any witch who wasn't a potential mate. Either he didn't like the witch, in which case he would avoid her like the dragon pox from the beginning, or he did like her, in which case he would do his best to see her again.
Hermione fit into neither of Draco's two neat, uncomplicated categories. He didn't not like her, but obviously going out with her couldn't be an option even if she had wanted it. Not only would his family be more trouble than any witch could be worth, but their personalities seemed to continuously clash. He couldn't imagine six months of a relationship like that, let alone thirty years.
She let them into the house whilst Draco was trying to figure out a way to voice all of this.
'I'm going to bed,' she then said as she was taking off her coat.
'What? It's still early.'
'Yes, well, I'm tired, you're draining, and I'm counting on an early start tomorrow. Night!' She disappeared into one of the tiny bedrooms.
Hesitantly, because he was well aware of Hermione's temper, he decided to brave her mood and knock on her door. They needed to sort things between them.
'Apology accepted, now go away!' she called out, not opening the door to him.
He couldn't help but grin at that. Ok, so maybe he did need to apologise. 'I actually am sorry,' he replied.
'Of course you are!' she scoffed. Had nobody ever told her that nice girls weren't supposed to be sarcastic?
'I am! Honestly didn't mean to say you were a... were morally loose. I mean, who am I to talk, really? I was just as bad, wasn't I?'
Her door swung open and she eyed him sceptically. 'But you're a man and men have needs.'
'So maybe sometimes I think like that,' he admitted. 'But that doesn't mean I'm insincere.'
She crossed her arms and leant against the doorframe. 'You must really be feeling the heat from Harry's scrutiny.'
'Let me put it this way: I'm more certain than ever that he's just itching for an excuse to sack me.'
She arched an eyebrow. 'Why would he need an excuse when he has so many valid reasons?'
'Oh, clever. Forgive me?'
'Fine. In the spirit of getting along, I'll forgive you. But if you ever talk down to me again, I will remove your bollocks very slowly with a very dull and rusty saw whilst you're under a sensitivity curse.'
'And I suppose you will give Potter his excuse as well?' he asked, not quite able to refrain.
'No. But if you supply any new reasons, I might share them with him. I don't care what you think of me, but you can't let it affect your cases.'
He didn't believe her when she said she didn't care what he thought of her. She reacted far too strongly not to care. He did, however, believe her when she said she wouldn't be petty enough to get him sacked. 'All right, then,' he said. 'Thank you, Granger.'
'Goodnight, Malfoy,' she said and closed the door in his face.
Hermione didn't get much sleep that night. Fortunately, it seemed that neither did Draco. She heard him moving around, the bed creaking as he tossed and turned, and then he was moving around again, even going to the loo at one point. In the morning, he looked like he hadn't slept at all.
That would teach him to be such a git.
It was odd, though. In all the time since they'd first slept together he'd never outright admitted he still wanted her. The second time they'd had sex hardly counted; he'd been so worked up from the case and anger at her for taunting him. Everything had been heavily flavoured by his distaste of what they were doing, she was neither stupid nor naïve enough not to know that. Yet now he seemed partially motivated by jealousy. She was fairly certain that he didn't realise it and would never admit it if he was, but the warning signs were definitely there.
She hadn't quite decided how to handle that. She knew he wasn't infatuated with her in any way, so it must just be some kind of natural possessiveness on his end. Jealousy did not equal any kind of tender feelings, after all. It just meant that someone thought that someone or something else belonged to them. She did not belong to him, nor did she have any intention of ever belonging to him, but calling him on his stupidity could possibly bring further discontent into their partnership.
Come to think of it, maybe the partnership was to blame. They had been on many cases together and that tended to create a rather unique bond--even if that bond didn't particularly help them get along--and now with the sex, he thought he had a say in how she ran her life. She knew he didn't approve of her ways and would rather see her settled down like a good little witch, but, really, if this was how he chose to show that, he was severely out of line. He'd never have the right to tell her what to do with her life, no matter what happened between them.
'Do we really have to do this?' Draco was scowling at her.
She barely hid a smirk. Getting up early to check the nearby forest areas before there was barely even any light had been her idea. It was a classic and in December it was very uncomfortable. Draco liked his comforts. Especially when he hadn't slept well.
'We need to find the witch,' she reminded him. 'She could simply be lost in there. Or have had an accident. This seems like the only thing Burke didn't investigate at all.'
'Because it's rubbish! She would have brought her wand and this smattering of trees is hardly the Forbidden Forest.'
'If she can't heal, then her wand won't do much good to a broken limb.'
He sighed with great exaggeration as if she didn't have a perfectly valid point. 'Fine. We circle back in time for lunch?'
She smiled deviously and opened her backpack to show him the food there. 'I went out this morning when you were still passed out. Finding something to bring with us was surprisingly easy.'
He looked anything but pleased. 'I bet those sandwiches are dry,' he muttered.
'You just be glad I didn't pack dinner as well.'
Hermione couldn't help but roll her eyes at his surly mood. He'd been the one wanting this case, and now it was a huge issue that they had to go solve it? She got out her wand. 'So, I was thinking I try to detect the magic from her w--'
'Whoa! Magic around Muggles?'
'It's a missing person, Malfoy. We can't do it the slow way. You'll just have to Obliviate anyone that asks too many questions.'
'That's not what you said the last time a person had gone missing.'
'Last time they turned up dead.'
There was an awkward pause. This topic simply didn't lend itself to petty squabbles. 'Point taken,' he then softly said. 'But it wouldn't have made much difference, even if...'
'And what if it would this time? It's Christmas, Malfoy.' The last bit came out sort of pathetic and she flinched.
He was quiet for a second, but then nodded and said, 'Right. You use magic, I'll keep an eye out for... whatever might be relevant.'
Sometimes he was quite understanding--for a clueless git.
Hermione enjoyed tormenting him far too much, Draco decided. She didn't understand how their history was eating his brain and ruining his ability to think clearly. He didn't want to be in some stupid, cold forest, looking for some lost witch with her. He didn't know what he wanted, but this was not it.
This was all very worrying. Without Hermione he did not seem to have a career, so he couldn't afford to not want to be here with her.
Sleeping with her had been a bad idea. A really, really, really bad idea. But once Hermione had set her mind on seduction, it had been impossible to say no. She had such a strong confidence in herself and her abilities that simply permeated everything she said and did. He'd always known that, of course, but to see it used to promote that sexy body of hers... he'd like to see any man that could reject her. Possibly, such a man did not exist. Differing sexual orientations be damned, she was simply that magnetic. Thinking was not an option when she'd decided she wanted you. Damn her games.
Draco didn't enjoy games. He liked things to be simple and easy. He liked to go out with witches with traditional values that matched his own. True, he wasn't going out with Hermione, but he knew she was pushing his buttons just because she could and didn't let a little thing like the truth get in her way of doing that. She'd always been fond of winding him up. Never before had it made him want to shag her senseless, though. He'd just been annoyed with her or--possibly more commonly--wanted to strangle her.
But bloody hell the sex had been good. He tried not to think about it too much--he didn't want to put more strain between them than he had to by continuously lusting for her--but even though both times had clearly been a mistake, he couldn't be sure that they were mistakes he wouldn't repeat if he had the chance.
Damn these Muggle trousers--jeans, he believed Hermione had called them--he'd worn today for being so tight in the groin area. But good thinking on his part to wear his new Muggle-style coat that he'd bought after Firrhaven just on the off-chance that he might have to be outside in a Muggle area for any length of time in the cold again. It wasn't too bad for a Muggle coat. It didn't stop short of the arse like too many of their garments did. This meant he got to keep his arse nice and warm and it hid any physical reactions he had to forbidden thoughts.
'You're very quiet,' Hermione observed, not looking at him, but keeping her eyes on her wand as she slowly moved forwards along the path. The fact that they barely had any light in spite of the Muggle torch--which had nothing to do with a torch, so the name puzzled him--she'd made him hold for her so she could see where she went, only made the process even slower.
'Just tired.' He didn't mind admitting this too much.
She smirked again, the annoying witch. 'No, I noticed you didn't sleep that well.'
'Neither did you,' Draco pointed out. 'The walls are very thin and I heard you moving. A lot.'
'Maybe I just moved in my sleep.'
He snorted. 'Hardly. You sleep like the dead. One time, I actually thought you'd really died.'
'Did not!' she scoffed.
'Did too! And I was about to call it in when you let out this really loud snore...'
She stopped to stare at him. 'I do not snore!'
'Uh-huh. Yeah, you do. Sometimes I'm surprised we even have a roof in the morning.'
Her mouth dropped open. He was loving this. A lot. 'This from the bloke who tosses and mumbles in his sleep and gropes poor unsuspecting people!' she grumbled.
'Sorry. Sometimes in my sleep I forget that you're not actually a woman.'
'Excuse me!' she gasped.
'Well, you know, a normal woman instead of some cold harridan who completely loses it if someone seeks her warmth in their sleep.'
'I can't be both cold and have any warmth,' she icily said.
That was the problem, wasn't it? Her body was so warm and inviting, but she was completely emotionally unavailable. That was not how a witch should be. A witch should be warm and soft and sweet. A witch should smile and flirt and want to fall in love. A witch should care about more of a wizard's parts than his cock, and she shouldn't scoff at the idea of something as simple as staying the night. A witch should want a family of her own and not claim happiness with nothing but a job and sex and an empty house.
But then again, maybe this witch had been burnt by her failed engagement and he couldn't really blame her for that. It had taken him a long time to move on after his own fiancée had been killed. Getting the tremendous amounts of guilt down to a bearable level had seemed almost impossible at times. It wasn't the same thing, of course, but losing someone you cared about was never a good thing. Maybe Hermione was stuck waiting for Weasley to want her again. Considering their easy familiarity, Draco wouldn't be surprised at all if that were the case.
'Just mind your search,' was all he said, making her harrumph and resume trying to find any signs of the magic.
The search went on. The weather was actually rather mild, but after a few hours he was cold, tired, and still hungry after a much too small lunch--which, by the way, had been dry. When would Hermione learn that those Muggle pre-packed sandwiches were always rubbish?
Also, he was bored. And much too mesmerised by the way Hermione crinkled her brow and worried her lower lip in frustration that she hadn't picked anything up yet.
He didn't feel like they would find their wayward witch out here. The reports had been too detailed for Burke to miss something as obvious as a forest stroll gone wrong. Being out here was a waste of time, but at least he could enjoy the scenery.