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Hermione’s heart hammered an unknown rhythm in her chest cavity as realisation and recollection caved in on her. With eyes wide and glazed, she focused on the only other person in the small room. Him. She swallowed hard as he stared back at her with the same intensity. She could only hope he was unaware of the quivering of her thighs and the ragged quality of her breath.


Oh dear.

‘That was,’ she swallowed again, ‘vivid …’

He nodded in response, his gaze not leaving hers. Really, she thought, this was not something she was equipped to deal with, not after what she’d experienced in that dream. She quelled the urge to fan her flushed cheeks and resolved to talk to the twins.

He was still staring at her, and not moving.

She shifted uncomfortably in her chair. ‘Er … are you all right, Malfoy?’

The sound of his voice, low and rough, was the exact cadence it had been in the dream. She cursed the clarity with which she recalled every single second. ‘Fine … I—’
 
‘—should go,’ she interjected. The desire to escape and hide for fear that he would somehow know was killing her. ‘I … er—it’s late and … cats …’ She had partially moved out of her chair then.

He stood too, and was much, much too close for her comfort. He cocked his head to the side. ‘Cats?’

 

‘I, well … Crookshanks is a cat … they eat.’ This was now embarrassing. He was standing right in the way of her getting to the door and seemed disinclined to move.

‘How astute,’ he whispered, and she felt a fleeting envy for his ability to articulate. ‘Fleeing your office for fear of neglecting your cat. Such concern …’ He leaned down a bit so that when she tilted her gaze toward him, she was conscious of the heat radiating from him and the familiar scent.

She should have pushed past him straight away, but curiosity was a funny thing and so it made the words tumble from her lips. ‘Did you … er—enjoy yours? The dream, I mean.’

She could barely differentiate between his iris and the dark outer rim of charcoal. His eyes were pretty, she thought.

‘Oh, yes …’ She swallowed and he seemed to watch the movement. The air around was too thick to choke down, so she did all that she could, and pushed past him toward the exit.
 
‘Good … that’s,” she coughed, “good—okay, bye then.’ She flew out the door before he could say another word.



*


The vast store was an explosion of colour and noise: reds and greens, clanging and laughter. Squeals of delight rang out over the two floors as all manner of people sampled the merchandise in the Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes’ flagship store.

This was not altogether surprising, given the fact that it was a Saturday afternoon, and very much prime time for all the children to be running amok in their favourite prank store. As crazy a place as it undoubtedly was, Hermione always felt a rush of warmth when she came here. It reminded her that even when they were young and so much horror loomed ahead, there had been good times too.

‘It’s madness in here!’ Hermione exclaimed to one of the twins, George, based on the earless left side of his head.

He shot her a grin before shouting to one of the harried looking staff members to cover the front. He then led her to the back room where they met Fred, with tea in hand.

She had come, as promised, to regale the twins with an uninterrupted flow of praise for their latest product. Or so they no doubt hoped. In actuality, she would not dare criticise the extraordinary magical ability and creativity they had put into the Patented Daydream Charms. What did concern her, however, was the very unexpected nature of her own.

A quick flush, not the first, rose upon her cheeks as she recalled the awkward moment the night before, when she had fled her office and, most particularly, Draco Malfoy.

She hadn’t slept a wink for thoughts of it all. Rather shocking thoughts at that. Even though it hadn’t really been Malfoy, but some dreamed up vision of him, she couldn’t quite get by the fact that she’d seen his bits. And, well, experienced them. She flushed again.

‘So,’ Fred spoke up once she was seated at the small lunch table, a piping cup of sweet tea before her. ‘Have fun?’ She stared at him in horror before realising he was asking an innocent question.

Well, she thought. Where to start?

‘Yes, it was … well, the magic was amazing,’ she said. ‘Really, I could see what you meant about the mindscape, because there was just so much detail in the dream … lots of funny little things.’ She paused. ‘And it was vivid.’

She coughed as her mind began to stray. ‘Really, really vivid.’ Both twins raised their brows in response to that, and she continued, taking on her most disapproving tone. ‘But … it’s really not appropriate for children, is it? What with all that, er—adult content.’

A matching pair of grins unfurled across the two freckled faces. ‘What adult content, Hermione?’

 

She felt, in that moment, like the proverbial deer caught in headlights. ‘Er … Malfoy said the same about his …’

Silence fell and the twins exchanged a very curious look. ‘Malfoy tried one too?’ asked George finally.

‘Well … yes,’ she said, ‘he was getting nosy about the whole thing and so we both just ended up doing it together … well, not together … at the same—’

She heard a whispered something, which sounded distinctly like kinky, muttered under breath. Before she could appropriately respond to that insinuation, she was interrupted.

‘You’re not actually supposed to share them,’ said George. ‘It says so on the box. Because the magic on both charms is interconnected … they’re a set.’

Fred, taking on his best patronising-teacher-to-an-unruly-child voice, spoke up also. ‘Now, Hermione, these are perfectly safe for children of 16 or above … it’s justyour mind that’s been in the gutter.’

She was unutterably mortified.

Her cheeks burnt red, and she would have liked nothing more than to flee the merciless grins beaming down at her, but she had one more question. ‘Er … one more thing … are there any side effects?’

They looked at her, red brows raised in unison once more. ‘Such as?’ asked George.

She coughed. ‘Such as thinking certain thoughts about someone because I was—er, well … interested in that someone in the dream?’

‘Hermione, the dream is just a distorted version of your own fantasies … with a different backdrop and storyline,’ said Fred.

‘So if you like someone enough to shag him in the dream,’ George added, to which Hermione gasped, ‘then it’s because you like him enough to shag him in reality.’

Well, damn, she thought.

‘But really, Hermione,’ said Fred, his face contorted to show either his distaste or confusion. ‘Malf—’

‘I never said it was him!’ was her screeched response.

The pitying looks from both of them said quite enough on that score.


*


Monday was excruciating for Hermione. She had never really been one for concealing her emotions all that well, and was constantly informed by all and sundry that she was the worst liar known to mankind. She personally thought that repeated accusation was a bit presumptuous. Surely, there was someone worse out there.

In any case, she found as the day drew on, and her discomfort at work increased, that she was indeed very bad at feigning a lack of concern about what had happened. The worst part about the whole thing was that she couldn’t very well blurt it out to one of her friends, or worse to Malfoy. It wouldn’t bear thinking about.

Not that she’d had much interaction with him since Friday night. She wasn’t entirely certain whether he was only responding to her clearly awkward behaviour, or whether it was something else entirely, but she did know that he seemed to be avoiding her. She told herself that this was a good thing, because she needed some clarity before facing the man. Memories of him like that kept flashing before her eyes when she saw him.

It wasn’t quite true, though. In actuality, she turned quickly at every sound from his office, which was located next to hers, and was constantly wondering what he was doing or thinking.

Tuesday was much the same, and Wednesday was possibly worse. By that stage, all possibility of avoiding one another had ceased and they were thrown into poring over heavy texts together once more. By Thursday evening, Hermione was just about ready to claw her way out of her skin. They had spent the last two days cooped up together in an office, which until recently had seemed amply sized for two people, but now felt entirely lacking in air.

Every time she looked at him, she remembered the touch of his lips on hers. She remembered the scent of his skin, how his touch caused her blood to pulse in her veins. It was dizzying to recall. Moreover, on more than one occasion she had resurfaced from those recollections to realise that his gaze was boring into hers, searing in its intensity.

She wished, most fervently, that she had never volunteered to test out Weasley products. Regardless of what the twins said about her apparently having an existing attraction for Malfoy—and try as she might, she now could hardly deny—it had never been quite as visceral as this. The urge to touch his hair, and brush fingers across his jaw was intolerable.

‘Alright, I’ve had enough,’ he almost barked at her, jolting her from another internal dialogue, before storming out of the room.

She was utterly perplexed by his outburst until the fair-haired man returned a moment later with a bottle of Ogden’s finest held firmly in his grip.

Hermione gasped, scandalised. ‘What are you doing?’ she hissed. ‘We’re at work!’

He placed the bottle and two small glasses on the desk, shoving aside the ancient text he’d been perusing. ‘It’s after hours and, frankly, after you brought those charms into the office last week, you can’t talk … I rather think they were more scandalous than any amount of liquor consumption on Ministry property could hope to be.’

He raised a brow as though daring her to refute his logic. She blew out a sigh. He had her there.

‘Well, anyway,’ she said, ‘we’ve loads of work to do so you shouldn’t really—’

‘No,’ he interrupted. ‘Enough work. And it’s not me … we will both be partaking. Bottoms up, Granger.’ He handed her a glass with a generous allocation of amber liquid.

She was absolutely determined to reprimand him further, before an insidious little voice inside her head told her otherwise. ‘Oh, all right … just the one, then.’

An hour and an innumerable amount of those little glasses of alcohol later, Hermione felt like singing on the tabletops. This was an absolutely hilarious urge, she thought, because she really was an atrocious singer.

‘Granger,’ said her thoroughly unscrupulous companion. She leaned in conspiratorially to listen. ‘Tell me,’ he whispered, a funny little grin creeping upon his features, ‘what did you dream about?’

‘You know,’ she said, forgetting about his question entirely. ‘The twins said we weren’t supposed to doit together.’ She nodded her head to show her authority on the matter, before noting the rather lecherous expression on his face.

‘I bet,’ he said, by way of response.

‘No, the dreams … that’s disgusting,’ she said, and she swatted him to punctuate the statement.

His eyes unfocused for a moment before he stared back at her, through the fog of amusement and liquor. ‘That’s not how I remember it.’

Hermione wasn’t aware she’d responded with her mental agreement aloud and rather breathlessly, until something flickered across his features. Silence rushed into the room, thick and laden with tension. He stared at her, his eyes widening a fraction and his pupils dilating.

‘Why weren’t we supposed to try the dreams together?’ he asked, and she was rather confused by his change of topic. He seemed suddenly very interested in a conversation, which had, only moments ago, held very little intrigue for him.

‘Oh, I don’t know … it’s the magic, they’re sets, you know? So they’re just intended for one person.’

He leaned back quickly then and stared at her. She couldn’t begin to imagine what was going through his head, until he spoke again and she stopped to think more clearly about their conversation.

‘What did you dream about, Granger?’ His voice was low and rough as he repeated the question from earlier.

Her eyes widened. ‘I … was,’ she paused, her throat dry and her heart hammering a wild rhythm in her chest. ‘A boat … I was on a boat. With Ron.’

He was shaking his head at her, and looking across at her with the strangest expression she’d ever seen. ‘Never took you for a coward.’

She narrowed her eyes at the prat, finding it typical and very unforgivable of him to hold this against her. ‘I am not a coward … and what makes you so sure I didn’t dream about Ron?’

‘Because that would not explain why you’ve gone bright red every time you looked at me this past week.’ A lazy sort of grin unfurled across his lips. ‘Tell me something, Granger … do you think about me naked often?’

Hermione’s stomach dropped to somewhere in the vicinity of her ankles. The knowledge, that sudden burst of clarity, was entirely too horrifying for her to process.

‘You are insufferable,’ she mumbled through hands that came up suddenly to mask her features, which were indeed as red as he suggested. She pulled a deep and dizzying gulp of air to her lungs and tried to calm herself. ‘Look, it was a glitch obviously … because we shared a set it automatically put us in the same dream and it wasn’t our fault.’

He rolled his eyes at her before responding. ‘The irony of all this is that I think you actually believe that is true.’

Her tone was defensive when she finally replied, ‘I have no idea what you mean by that.’

He sneered at her, and it was a look of such disdain that she almost felt bile at the back of her throat. ‘That’s entirely the problem,’ he replied, before standing up and leaving the room without a backward glance.

She wanted to die, quite literally, from humiliation. With a sob of unmitigated horror, and something less definable, Hermione let her face drop into her hands. It was one thing to acknowledge an attraction in the safety of her own mind, but knowing she had somehow dragged him there as well made the whole thing more torrid.

And she just knew that all of this was on her, because there was no conceivable way that Draco Malfoy would ever fantasise about her, and certainly not in the context of some fanciful romance novel, like those her mother had always read.

 

 

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